As far as introductions went, that hadn't been a poor one, I thought to myself as I looked down at my bloody hand. It wasn't a single cut, but several small and deep ones from where the magic had cut into my skin like broken glass. That had been a surprise - Raven, for all her versatility, had seemed to lack raw power. Only it turned out that she had it in spades, she just didn't use it.
There was a story there, but I doubt that she would share it. A Medicine Ball formed in my hand, its soothing purple light bathing the palm of my hand to mend the cuts. I left it there as I started to fly up, intending to get a birds eye view of the city. The Medicine Ball would heal their wounds. Possibly wake them up too, but if they didn't understand the gulf between us, I would happily display it again.
For now, my attention was elsewhere. I floated up, sailing past the roof of the T-shaped tower. I turned my attention to the city before me - I felt no other notable presences within. That didn't mean that there weren't any, but they were lost in a sea of humans.
The situation had changed, I noted as I flew towards the city. The Titans revealed that the people of earth had no clue that I owned this planet. Given that it was a secret from even fellow guardians of the planet, there was a significant chance that the governments of Earth were left in the dark. Meaning that it was unlikely that they would peacefully surrender their sovereignty and dissolve to be replaced with my regime.
"This is why Frieza just killed everyone," I noted to myself as I flew over the city, intent on heading to another. It was difficult for a civilian population to protest your leadership when they were all dead or enslaved. I had no interest in becoming another Frieeza - A ruthless tyrant that would slaughter every human on this planet for the sake of bureaucratic convenience. But, I could at least admit to myself that conquering planets was vastly simpler when you didn't care what the natives had to say.
Now, the people of earth were my citizens. They were entitled to certain rights. I haven't exactly ironed out what those rights were exactly, but I wouldn't infringe on their potential rights now, only to backtrack later.
"Fleets 114, 119, and 334, move to my location. Show of force," I ordered various fleets and received confirmations from them all. That would help my case when I ordered the governments of Earth to dissolve. But, it would be remiss of me to at least not try some level of diplomacy.
For now… I think it was time to fix one of my weaknesses - my empire, at the moment, consisted of freed slaves and the military. There was a comparatively small civilian population that had helped support the war effort, but given that I closed my borders, that would soon collapse. My empire was a blank canvas and now was the time to decide what it would look like rather than letting the citizens decide for themselves.
To that end, I flew to another city and dropped down to land on a building. From there, I looked down at the humans of Earth. For my entire life, I think it might be the first time I've seen civilians do anything other than evacuate because my armies were invading, or be killed for trying to form a resistance. It was the first time I saw what non-military personnel did when they weren't at war - invading the enemy or being invaded.
It looked shockingly aimless, yet driven by some unseen purpose, I noted. Streams of traffic, both from people in vehicles and on foot. Rather than moving to a collective goal, each one had their own individual task for the day that they went out to accomplish. It seemed so messy. I don't think I liked it. Though, that could be difficult to tell without actually experiencing it.
Pressing my lips into a thin line, I stepped off the building and plummeted a couple of hundred feet. I landed lightly, having learned my lesson from the previous fall. The concrete remained firm under my feet, and the men and women that walked by me barely offered a glance before they continued on their way. I stood still for a moment, forcing the crowd to go around me for a moment.
Did this planet not have a planetary-wide alert system? That was a major oversight that I would take care of first. If I were invading, how many civilians would die because they weren't in a bunker? Or get in the way of military personnel that responded to my invasion? In my near two decades of experience, civilians were only good for getting in the way.
But, I swallowed my thoughts and opinions before I chose to follow the flow of foot traffic. My gaze drifted over to a billboard that displayed a woman attempting to sell face paint by giving the camera smoldering looks. The visual changed to that of a truck that was performing rather tame stunts.
"Primitive," I summed my thoughts up with a single word. LED lights rather than hologram projectors. The vehicles were barely fit to serve as cover in war, much less as a means of transportation. The infrastructure to compensate for the congested traffic was also completely insufficient. Not to mention, the city smelled of pollution. It was better than poisoned atmospheres or machine worlds, but it was a far cry from the clean air of Planet Vegeta.
It was also loud. That came with the territory when there was a notable population in one place, but these humans were all fighting to be heard. It was noise pollution at its worst.
Crossing my arms, I continued walking until a flash of green caught my eye. Looking over, I saw a park. Most notably, I saw a statue of a figure. Walking over, I crossed a busy street. Something that the cars found annoying based on the honking they directed at me. One revved his engine, as he cursed, his car lurching forward until he bumped into me.
His fender fell off. Then the anger was replaced by fear when I looked over at him. He sucked in a breath and shook his head and said nothing, so I thought nothing of it before continuing walking. I reached the park after a moment and walked around to see the face of the statue.
His face was covered, leaving only his mouth bare. Lightning marked where his ears would be, as well as there being a bolt of it on his chest. A theme I noticed, spotting similar jagged lightning bolts at his boots. A plaque at the base of the statue simply read - In tribute to Central City's hero, the Flash.
I looked around, seeing men, women, and children going about their day. Some doing nothing at all as their children waddled about. Even so, they seemed happy.
"Uhh…" I heard, this stammering sounding like it was directed at me. Turning around, I saw it was the Flash - clad in a bright red skin-tight costume with white and gold lightning bolts dotted about. Our eyes met, and he seemed to be at a loss for words.
"This is the second city that has been protected by a hero. Do all cities receive one?" I asked him, turning to face the Flash. His presence felt… odd. In a way, he didn't feel any different than those around him, but it was like a small puddle that was vastly deeper than what it appeared. Almost as if he was hiding his true strength, much like Broly once had.
Flash looked away for a moment, scratching at his chin before he shook his head. "No? Heroes tend to pop up wherever they live. Would you mind me asking… you are Tarble, right? A Saiyan? Here to wipe out all life on earth?"
What has Hal been telling these people?
"I would never do such a thing to my citizens," I dismissed the idea outright before I returned the question with one of my own. "Is that not poorly optimized? Jump city had half a dozen heroes, whereas this one only has you? And there are cities with none?"
Flash stared at me for a long second as if he had no idea how to respond. I suppose… this system must work if he never bothered to think of an alternative. Or, at the very least, it wasn't so utterly broken that they felt the need to change it. "Citizens?" He questioned, tilting his head.
I met his look with one of my own, "You are a citizen of my empire. No one will threaten your sanctity of life. Not even myself," I answered his unspoken question. "Are you perhaps a member of the Justice League? From what I understand, Hal Jordan only saw fit to share my ownership of Earth with them."
"I am," Flash agreed, his lips pressing together in a thin line.
"Then send a message to your colleagues - Earth is mine. The real estate laws for you to argue that point currently do not exist, but I will allow you a chance to convince me that Earth does belong to you. I understand that this might be a difficult task, but to meet you halfway, I will learn about your real estate laws to see things from your point of view. Is that acceptable?" I asked him and I really didn't like his half mask. It made it difficult to tell what he was thinking.
His body language spoke that he was tense, yet uncertain. Puzzled was perhaps the best word for it.
Hal Jordan being the main source of the Justice Leagues' information about me clearly didn't do me any favors. For the most part, I didn't particularly care. Hal Jordan was free to think what he wished of me. The only issue that was arising was the fact that Earth was… a breeding ground of sorts for powerful individuals.
I wanted them to be a part of my empire. I wanted them to expand their scope beyond a few cities and police planets. They would be a deterrent to any force in the galaxy that wished to resume the war. And, as of right now, that was an unlikely outcome. The Justice League did not hold me in high esteem based on how the Teen Titans reacted.
So, I would try to use diplomacy to convince them that Earth was mine and better off as a part of my empire. Failing that? I would use force.
"Okay… yeah, I can do that," Flash decided, nodding. "We can try to talk all of this out," he added, sounding hopeful but it was clear that he thought that conversation wouldn't go my way.
"Good," I said, floating up and saw a flash of panic in Flash's posture.
"Where are you going?" He quickly questioned, tensing for action. It was fairly easy to guess his thought process - he wanted me to stay where he could see me. Where he could manage me. That just wasn't going to happen.
I met his gaze, my eyes narrowing into a glare, daring him to challenge me leaving. "To further inspect my property and find a source of information about your real estate laws," I told him, and I could feel him growing more nervous by the second. Was that because of me leaving, or he feared what I would find about this nation's laws?
"Well, you could stick around. I could show you the library?" He offered, but I lost interest. He was stalling for time.
"I don't care for this city," I dismissed, flying directly up until I nearly reached the upper stratosphere, leaving Flash behind me. I looked down at the continent I found myself on - I had initially landed on the Western-most coast of it, and made my way to about halfway. What would the east coast have for me? Comparatively speaking, it seemed to be the most developed with several cities dotting the coastline. I would investigate them all.
Earth wasn't unified, I recalled as I flew down to one of the cities. There was a number of governments and nations across the planet. It was… different than what I was used to. Throughout my life, every planet that I came to was completely unified by a single government, typically one that stretched beyond the borders of a single planet.
It seemed so much smaller, I thought to myself as I blasted through some clouds and sailed towards my next target. It was a cluster of three cities in relatively close proximity. Flying over a sign, I saw the one I was heading to was called Gotham city. My gaze landed on a building that was marked with the word Wayne on it, so I picked it as my destination. Once again, I landed on the top of the building and looked at those below.
"This city is terrible," I remarked, finding it remarkably worse than Central City. Every problem that it had, Gotham had a much more severe iteration. Huge swaths of the city were openly left in disrepair, the building looked like they were crumbling to pieces, trash littered the streets while people went about their days. There were people sitting on the sides of the streets, holding up signs that requested aid from those who walked by them.
No one helped them. They just walked by without saying a word, pretending that they weren't there.
I narrowed my ki sensing ability to the limits of this city, and I felt people dying throughout it. One here or there. Their death's marked with the sound of gunfire that reached my keen ears, or sirens that came from the police. Crossing my arms, I frowned down at the city. This one… the closest equivalent I had for it was that pirate den that I had helped Komand'r conquer. Though, I barely saw the interior of it because the pirates had wisely surrendered.
A sigh escaped me as I once again dropped to the ground, intent on exploring the city more thoroughly. Gotham, it seems, was a perfect example of what a city shouldn't be. There were millions of people in the city, and it wasn't remotely equipped to house them. The streets were broken and poorly maintained, the sidewalks were more of a stained gray than those in Central city.
Overall, I was not impressed.
I wandered the city, ignoring the looks that I got from the citizens. They seemed to sense my growing foul mood the more I saw. As bad as the city was, I could have accepted it - in the end, if there are those with wealth, there will be those without it. If this city was simply poor, then I could accept it, but there was a clear division between the poorly maintained parts of the city and the rich parts of the city. They contrasted so much because you could have a poorly maintained street, only to walk a bit and then find that the next one was almost immaculate.
The stench of shit reached my nose, and my eyes drifted to a sewer manhole cover.
Shaking my head, I continued to explore until I found myself standing in front of an alleyway. The scent of putrid garbage was powerful, but I had smelled worse. What I was more interested in was the makeshift housing that was being set up inside the alley. Tarps and wood and what seemed to be cardboard. There were a handful of men and women loitering about, who eyed me warily.
"What do you want?" One of them asked as I inspected the housing.
"Are the conditions in this city so terrible that you choose to build your own?" I asked them, entering the alley.
The group exchanged a quick glance as if they couldn't understand the question. However, the one that spoke looked down at the tail that wrapped around my waist before he looked back at my face. "Forgive me for askin'... But you aren't human, are you?"
I shook my head, "I am a Saiyan. I've recently come to Earth," I confirmed. He was the first civilian that had noticed. Humans were worryingly oblivious.
A woman let out a breath of laughter, "And they don't have homeless people in outer space?" She questioned, sounding fairly excited.
Well… "There are barracks and slave pens, the latter is probably worse than these conditions, but no. I don't believe there were homeless people. Though, I didn't interact much with civilian life so I could be mistaken," I answered. The woman seemed to mull over that, a good dozen emotions passing over her face.
"Heh," she laughed, deciding on amusement. "Good to know that things are shit across the universe instead of just on earth." That was one perspective, I suppose.
The man spoke up, "Civilian life, huh? You a soldier?" He asked, and I turned my attention to him. I knew that tone - someone searching for familiarity. His beard was messy and unkempt, his hair long and greasy. His clothing wasn't in much better condition, but he had a posture that the other humans lacked.
I gave a slow nod, choosing not to voice my suspicions. "Yes. I was the Supreme Commander for the Trade Organization," I answered, making his eyebrows shoot up.
"Supreme Commander, huh? Sounds impressive. Me, I ended up leaving the military when I was just a private," he remarked, a bitter edge in his tone. That was… the lowest possible rank for the military if I recall. "Ended up dishonorably discharged for… eh…" he shrugged without continuing. "What made you give up the life?"
"I killed my boss," I answered, earning a slow blink from the man while the others tensed. With the revelation, I felt far less welcomed in the alley than I had been a mere moment prior. Unfortunate. "You didn't answer my question."
The man opened his mouth, seemingly swallowing down his initial response. "Uh, we can't afford anything else? Look, we… some of us made choices that ruined our lives, now… we just can't get a leg back up on life. No one wants to hire anyone with priors or a dishonorable discharge on their record. That's just how it is, but we get by just fine."
Hm. "I see," I said with a nod before turning around and beginning to walk away. That was an understandable answer, but… not an acceptable one. In the end, I understood that people made their own choices and sometimes those choices had devastating consequences. But, that conflicted with my reason.
That was never made much clearer when the dumpster at the opening of the alleyway popped open, revealing a scrawny and foul-smelling small human that seemed to be around his second growth spurt. He looked to me with wide eyes, as if he didn't expect me to see him there. His presence was faint. Weak. Weak enough that I could mix him up with the presence of the rats in that dumpster.
A hand went to my belt and I took a capsule from it. Looking back, I tossed it to the ground where the contents were revealed - a pallet of military rations. "Eat that instead," I ordered the child, who scrambled out of the dumpster. He barely even glanced at me as he rushed by. The man from before looked at me, stunned. "Tell me where a library is?"
"It's… down the street. Big building with a statue of a book held up by hands above the doorway," he answered. "Th-"
I wasn't listening. I flew up over the buildings of the alley, looking for the building that he spoke of. I spotted it fairly easily and flew over before touching down in front of the door, startling a red-headed woman. She flinched back, her body tensing as she narrowed her eyes into slits. Her posture spoke of surprise, but also readiness for conflict. That she expected conflict.
She knew who I was.
I opened the door and met her bright green eyes with my blazing yellow, "Take me to your real estate laws. The fate of your planet is at stake," I ordered her. A name tag pinned to a light purple piece of fabric that covered her torso said her name was Barbara.
"Right this way," She agreed easily, offering a practiced smile that failed to hide her tension. She moved stiffly as she turned around, leading me inside of the building. A man looked up from the counter.
"Barbara? What… oh," he said, looking at me, his gaze roaming me. He threw on a much more genuine smile, "Let me know if I can help you with anything." He said, giving Barbara a pointed look. He didn't seem to know who I was.
I looked around - looking at… "What are these things?" I questioned, grabbing a book from a shelf that was weighed down heavily by them. Barbara tensed, looking over her shoulder at me.
"They're books," she pointed out, her voice so tightly constrained that it was clear she intensely disliked me. I opened it and saw pages filled with letters.
That helped click it into place. I'm pretty sure I had liked books when I was human, but they hadn't been a priority when I searched for human memories to keep. Now, when I looked at them, all I saw was…
"A primitive and wasteful way to store information," I decided, returning the book to the shelf.
"Well, no one asked you," Barbara retorted. "Just follow me," she said, frustration leaking into her tone.
I looked at her back and let out a small sigh before my gaze drifted over to a computer. Also very primitive but better than books. "I'm not impressed by this casual attempt at sabotage," I told her, making Barbara go very still. Slowly, she turned around to meet my gaze, and despite her best efforts to hide it, there was fear there. "I'm allowing the Justice League a chance to convince me. An action I took in good faith. But, there's no point in it if you're going to not return that good faith."
Barbara tensed, turning around fully as she adopted a slightly puzzled expression, "I'm sorry, I don't-"
"Yes, you do. You know exactly who I am. Are you a member of the Justice League as well?" I questioned her, crossing my arms as I stared her down. I'm sure she could fool humans all day long with that act, but she already tipped her hand. "You were ready to fight me the moment I arrived. I don't know much of your race, but I know that is not the typical reaction to being surprised."
Barbara said nothing for a long moment, silently considering her options. "Or, maybe, I'm not happy with the guy that beat up Robin suddenly being here." She pointed out, making me tilt my head in thought.
"You have a connection to Robin?" I questioned, but that explained it. Robin had discovered my existence with something called the Batcomputer. Given that the Justice League was Earth's most powerful heroes, it seemed odd that she could be a member and still be in this building. She should be preparing for battle now in the event… in the likely case that the talks fall through.
Barbara offered a stiff nod but said nothing.
"Robin fought well. There is no shame in losing to a superior opponent," I offered some consolidation, but it sounded empty to my own ears. Robin fought with the belief that the entire world was at stake. No matter how well he fought, he had still lost. That wasn't a defeat that he would be able to swallow easily, I'm guessing. I knew I wouldn't. She continued to glare at me, prompting a sigh but I said nothing.
There wasn't a point. Nothing I could say would make her less angry with me, so I would only be wasting my breath and time.
"The real estate laws," I said, prompting her to return to the subject at hand. "I will be checking various sources, so tamper with them at your own risk." I warned her - I had no tolerance for fools.
"Or you'll execute me?" She questioned, an edge in her tone to match mine. She wasn't backing down. Barbara was brave, I would give her that.
I stared into her eyes, "Yes," I confirmed, my voice flat. I offered no other explanation. If she was foolish enough to tamper with the records, knowing that I would be checking various sources, then she was a fool that was putting the entire planet at risk because of her personal feelings. Not only would she be a fool, but she'd be a traitor.
Barbara met my gaze for a long moment, seeing the sincerity of my answer. She looked away, "Then you'll want the primitive storage method then. I doctored the files when Robin told me you were looking to debate real estate laws." She admitted, and I nodded.
I wasn't angry or even surprised. I would be disappointed if she hadn't - when the world was at stake, every possible recourse was acceptable. That being said, I was annoyed that she would think I would be so foolish that I wouldn't verify the information that I received.
"Lead the way," I ordered, and Barbara did exactly that. She led me to a table towards the back of the library that was sparsely populated with other people reading up on the law. Turning to a shelf, she looked at me.
"This is what we have on real estate laws." She informed me before she stepped back. My gaze went to the book titles before I picked one that said for idiots. It would give me a foundational understanding to build off of. Ignoring the fact that the others at the table were looking at me, and Barbara was hovering as if she thought she was some sort of deterrent, I began to read.
I was right - books were a primitive storage device for information. References to various laws and clauses and cases had to be looked up manually, which made the process take longer. Before long, I had a pile of books on the table that I flipped through to absorb the information within.
In terms of studies, I was possibly the most learned Saiyan alive. Technician, my old mentor, had seen to that. At first, learning had simply been a way to create more advanced techniques - much like learning about biology to create the Medicine Ball, but at some point, I just began to enjoy it. It scratched an itch that I couldn't always satisfy by training.
Even by sitting down and doing math equations, I was still improving in some way.
So, studying was something I was used to, but it was still hours later that I came to my conclusion.
"According to your laws, Earth is still mine," I remarked to Barbara, standing up as I closed a book.
Barbara's lips tugged into a frown, watching me pick up the books to return them to their rightful places. "... Yeah, that doesn't surprise me," she admitted.
"It's also a convoluted mess that's needlessly complicated," I added, returning the books to the shelves. "Precedence is a foolish thing to base the law on. Judges are not created equal. A foolish decision should not be used to determine the outcome of another trial even if they are similar," I continued, finding myself continuously dissatisfied with the situation.
"Laws are built based on what society deems fair. There are outliers, but most cases fall inside a normal threshold. Precedence gives validity to the outcome of a trial and the punishments for the convicted." Barbara argued, crossing her arms as all the books were returned to where they belong.
"For humans. My empire stretches across millions of planets and is populated with hundreds of thousands of races that each have different needs, cultures, and desires. Law built on precedence can not work for my empire. In a decade it will be too messy and inconsistent. The law needs to be consistent, simple, and fair to all," I responded, my answer catching her off guard based on the look she gave me.
Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly, "You weren't just researching how to take earth from us?" Barbara questioned, a frown in her tone.
"My empire is filled with freed slaves that just left a war beyond your comprehension. I understand that my legal ownership of Earth is a big deal for you, but it is not for me. I have more pressing concerns," I dismissed. Overall, my stay in this library had been informative, but ultimately disappointing. Though it was nice that I could argue that the ownership of Earth could be settled using their own law system - at least giving me legal ownership of America - I didn't solve my more glaring concerns.
My empire needed stability. It needed more than me issuing orders to function. I had hoped that I would find the perfect system, but instead, I found a system that I knew I didn't want.
"You're right - Earth is a big deal to us humans. It's our home," she pointed out, meeting my gaze.
"That changes nothing," I told her bluntly. How many races had been displaced from the war if they weren't outright exterminated? My own race lost our home planet. It was like talking to a brick wall that thought that a pebble was the only pebble in existence. In the end, I… I don't think we could understand each other.
Barbara's view - humanity's view - was just too narrow in scope.
"Thank you for your time," I told her, walking by Barbara. I heard her taking in a breath to say something, but whatever it was, she swallowed it down. A good thing too. I wasn't interested in listening to her complaints, though it was for reasons other than I found them irritating.
A powerful presence entered my range. A powerful one that moved at great speeds. Feeling a ki signature wasn't as accurate as a scouter, so I was forced to rely on comparisons. The one that just entered the city limits… the only one that I could compare it to was Frieza. Whoever they were, they were stronger than me at my best. However, that didn't mean my defeat was certain.
I strode out of the library just as the presence dropped down into view. A man that was nearly a half foot taller than me, his hair short and wind kissed. His face was marked with a strong jawline that contrasted his soft baby blue eyes. He wore a skin-tight blue suit that revealed a powerful build, a red cape draped from his shoulders much like the kind that me and my brother used to wear as children.
Most noticeably was the symbol on his chest - a shielded S.
My memories as a human were few and far in between. However, I knew that S, even if details escaped me.
"Superman, I presume?" I asked him, stepping outside of the library, undaunted.
Superman met my gaze, equally unflinching.
"You wanted to talk. So, let's talk."
I think I'm having too much fun having Tarble unknowingly fuck with the Justice League. Space Ghengis Khan shows up at your doorstep, so you expect a fight, and he just goes flying around checking out the sights. So, how do you react to that?
The next chapter is currently available on my Pat re on and Subscribe Star, so if you want to read it a week early, all it takes is a single dollar in the tip jar. Or, for five dollars, you can read the chapter after that two weeks before its public release! I hope you enjoyed!