Chapter 4: Point of No Return
Finally! Updated! Praise be.
"All right men!" Ginyu said crisply, pacing before his assembled team. The four most powerful and dangerous men the galaxy had to offer. It never failed to amaze him that Guldo was so often overlooked. Though with a lower power level than even Cui or Vegeta, Guldo was by far more dangerous in many situations. Situations like this, for example.
"Guldo," Ginyu suddenly barked out as he turned sharply to face the diminutive fighter.
Guldo straightened as much as his stature allowed and replied with as much discipline as he could muster. "Yes, Captain?"
Ginyu eyed him with a calculating gaze. "Do you know the plan? Backwards and forwards?"
Guldo-slightly bolstered by the fact that this was something he was naturally good at, a real chance to prove his worth to his peers on the force-gave a slight smirk as he answered, "Yes sir!"
Ginyu returned the smirk in full, having achieved the desired reaction. It took more than power or strength to become one of the prestigious Ginyu Special Force. No, Ginyu only took those who had strength or skill backed by intensely burning passion: Recoome was powerful, a bit slow mentally, and a little juvenile and yet believed in both Kind Cold (and Ginyu to a lesser extent) and his vision of a unified universe with such reverence that it landed near fanaticism. It didn't hurt he was a near sadist against enemies either. Burter and Jeice both came into team by their exceptional teamwork and skill as a unit, but it was the fact that they didn't just rest on their laurels and kept working to improve that teamwork and natural ability that really made them stand out.
But it was perhaps Guldo who had the greatest passion. He knew he was not worthy of the position when he tried out, but gave it his clumsy and awkward best. Even with his abysmal performance, something had caught Ginyu's eye: no matter how bad he stumbled or tripped up or caused general disorder he never lost that zealous air that practically shouted 'I will do this even if it's in spite of myself!' He had learned the fighting poses fastest of any candidate. Any shortcomings in his style (an unspoken law in the Ginyu Force was that style was a requisite) his special unique skills as well as that fiery drive to prove himself worthy of the honour of being chosen outweighed it.
Ginyu knew one thing about passions, and that was they tended to bring out the best results. Loyalty or conscription were not guarantors of performance. But you get an impassioned man the same task and it was near certain it would be done at any cost. A trait worthy of the Ginyu Force, if only to be exploited.
Much like Guldo, Ginyu mused, all fired up about being on the squad. Tormented by those with greater fighting strength because he is not as powerful. Put down at times by his teammates when he makes mistakes. But all that tempers his passion and makes him push himself harder. His single-minded pursuit for acceptance and self-worth makes him easily the most trustworthy and efficient. Ginyu frowned slightly as a thought occurred to him. Unless Vegeta assisting us is going to cloud his judgment. Of course, I may be able to head that off by using it to motivate him instead!
"I'm glad you're so determined, Guldo. This is a chance to show up Vegeta after all. I have a communication from Raditz that he almost took down Dodoria single-handedly." Guldo's four eyes narrowed slightly, trying not to show any surprise. Ginyu couldn't suppress his smirk, so used it. "The only thing better than taking out Zarbon yourself would be tricking Frieza into doing it for you."
Guldo seemed to brighten at that. The near-maniacal gleam showing in his beady eyes seemed perfect to Ginyu. He loved motivating his men; it was almost as enjoyable as a fight with a decent opponent!
Recoome gave Guldo a slap on the back, nearly flooring the smaller male by accident. "Hey Guldo, this should be cake walk for you!"
Despite the reassuring words from his teammate, Guldo could not shake the suspicion that although Recoome acted casually enough the extra force was a silent 'or else'.
Jeice didn't help matters. "Careful, Recoome," he warned sarcastically when he caught the slight signs of Guldo's center of balance shifting, "Guldo here isn't quite as tough as some of us." He folded his red arms over his chest with a patronizing smile as Burter smirked next to him.
Even though it was a normal occurrence, even if the emphasis on 'some' Jeice added was not a direct snub, and even if that big blue snake bastard Burter wasn't grinning like a cat with a canary; Guldo felt that well of resentment he buried within himself smoldering just a bit more. Those idiots don't get it, he told himself, I am here because I am the only one who can handle this type of mission successfully! Me and me alone!
"Now, Jeice," Ginyu reprimanded with half of a smirk, "Guldo is a member of this team. Do you remember what makes us the most feared team in the universe?"
The haughtiness in Jeice's eyes diminished slightly when he replied, "The Ginyu Force is the shining example of strength, teamwork, and style Cap'n." He heard the point his leader was making: Don't drag down the team with infighting.
Jeice crouched to look Guldo eye to eyes (man, the bugger having four eyes was plain creepy!) and smiled in a more apologetic way, "Sorry mate," he placed his hand on Guldo's shoulder in a friendly manner, "I was bang outta line. You might not be physically as strong as Recoome or Burter or I; but you could make right short work of all three of us!"
Guldo stared intently at Jeice, but he couldn't detect any sign of lying from the red bodied man. Guldo returned the smile and pumped his fist in the air, "I'll have this done in no time at all! Count on it!"
"Always, Guldo. You are one of us after all."
Zarbon knew the consequences, should he be caught. Supplying information to an agent of Cooler's would not be well-received by his master. However, the deal was quite a profitable sideline, and one of Frieza's few failings was a lack of thoroughness when it came to monitoring his underlings' finances-the tyrant himself had no need for money, being after all supreme ruler of most of the known galaxy, so it tended to slip his mind. Hence, it was quite easy for Zarbon to earn a little extra on the side, completely unnoticed.
Or so he'd thought. Captain Ginyu hadn't been assigned to Frieza for nothing-for every one of the ruler's failings, his right-hand man was well-equipped to counter it. He'd known about Zarbon and Salza's information dealings for a while now, and had been saving it for use as blackmail material-but now, it served a much greater purpose: the mission. And the mission, to Ginyu, was paramount.
But Captain Ginyu wasn't the one deployed to be stowed away on the interstellar cruiser, for this phase of said mission. No, it was Guldo, the least physically imposing member of the force, but no less deadly for it. In fact, unremarkable power level helped him escape detection, hidden among the crew.
Currently, he was tiptoeing along the corridor, edging up to the doorway behind which he knew the two soldiers were meeting. Their scouters would be set to low sensitivity, to avoid setting them off every time a cleaner or something wandered by, but they'd be alerted the moment someone entered the room.
Unless, of course, the person entered and left in no time at all.
"...and finally, the newest double-agents in your intelligence agency are Barrhub, G'Gentlap, and Thoomise," Zarbon was saying. "Appule's the only one of ours who supposedly knows, other than Frieza, but he's not smart enough to encrypt anything properly."
"I see," Salza said, nodding and sliding the agreed payment across the table. "They will be, ah, taken care of. I 'ave no doubt Frieza will not trace this back to you or I."
"Undoubtedly," Zarbon agreed. "Appule will take the fallout, if anyone. Not that Frieza will suspect him of treachery; he doesn't have the initiative. But incompetence is also a punishable offence..."
Salza stood up, idly brushing back his hair. "Well, if that will be all..."
FREEZE! At the mental command, the world around Guldo ground to a halt, taking on a greenish tinge. Holding his breath, he scurried into the room, reached up and placed a small black file on the table. This was the second time-stop he'd performed that day, the first being used to turn on the record function on Salza's scouter, to capture the whole treacherous conversation. Now, he'd planted the coup de grace. He then beat a hasty retreat, collapsing against the wall outside and finally exhaling-quietly, of course.
The green haze lifted. The world sprung to life again.
Salza blinked, picking up the file, which had to their eyes appeared in an instant. "What is this...?"
Zarbon peered over the top of the page, his eyes widening. He made a grab at it, but Salza effortlessly dodged out of the way. "Give me that!" Frieza's right-hand man snapped.
"This...details the exact location of all of Frieza's bases and the troop strength at every location..." Salza said in disbelief, leafing through it.
"I don't know how it got here, but...it'd be all you'd need to win a potential war. I may be prepared to sell out minor information, but I'm not disloyal to this extreme." Zarbon clenched his fists. "Hand it over, before I make you."
Salza laughed. "Please. As if you could lay a finger on-"
Salza glanced wildly around. "What in the-" The file was gone, as was his scouter. Zarbon's scouter lay smashed on the floor.
Zarbon ground his teeth. "We've been set up. Both of us. But who could have...hmm." He scratched his head. "Frieza or Cooler wouldn't bother with this kind of subtlety. The Ginyu Force, perhaps. One or two of them might be fast enough that they could avoid setting off a scouter before moving out of range..."
"No." Salza shook his head. "Your Ginyu Force are like children to a soldier like me. My power level is far 'igher than any minion of Frieza's."
"They'd have to have literally moved instantaneously..." Zarbon snapped his fingers. "Guldo! How could I forget? He can stop time! Damn it, we've got to find him before he gets away! Don't just stand there!"
"Captain!" Salza sprinted up to the ship's bridge, Zarbon struggling to keep up. "Get me all surveillance cameras, on-screen now."
"Yes, sir!" The ship's captain saluted. "Also, one attack pod has just jetissoned! Was this authorised?"
"Within weapons range?"
"Unfortunately, no. Destination unknown."
Zarbon pounded a fist into the wall, tearing through the metal and surprising crewmen on the other side. "D...Damn you, Ginyu!"
The message, when it arrived about half an hour afterwards, sent a chill down Zarbon's spine.
I've just received a very interesting video.
You can run, but you can't hide.
He knew it was right. He'd never hide forever. He had to clear his name. He had his story straight. Turning the whole thing on its head, placing the blame squarely on Guldo (Zarbon could claim he was working alone, as any suggestion of disloyalty from Ginyu himself would be met with incredulity), wouldn't be hard when dealing with someone as narrow-minded as Frieza.
"It looks like Vegeta and Nappa will be in the tanks for about thirty minutes." Raditz punched the last couple buttons on the console and turned to his brother. Kakarot was leaning against the wall in a relaxed posture with his head back, staring at the ceiling. Sometimes Raditz could swear that someone switched his brother's brain with a rock at birth, "Did you hear me brother?"
Kakarot merely closed his eyes, "Vegeta isn't happy with us, is he?"
So he isn't completely brain-dead. "Vegeta doesn't like anyone really, Kakarot. However," Raditz folded his arms over his armored chest, "his patience is thinner the less...useful his allies are. Since you and I are weaker than Frieza's average foot soldiers and we're on the same side as the Ginyu Force - Super Elite class fighters whose weakest member is stronger than Nappa - we're a constant reminder of how weak the Saiyan race had become."
Kakarot nodded, not really lowering his head much. "I feel like if we were ever in his way or beaten he'd kill us without thought." He sighed as he opened his eyes, and Raditz would've sworn it was his father turning and facing him. "Raditz, no matter what we need to stick together. If not all the Saiyans than at least us."
Raditz glanced at the still unconscious Prince before hissing at Kakarot, "Are you a fool?! Do not say things like that! If Vegeta thought you were rebelling against him-"
Kakarot cut in, "I'm not!" Raditz looked at his brother with a stunned expression, so the younger Saiyan went on, "My place is with our race. But Raditz, let's be honest: we could die trying to take out Frieza. I'm going to do my best to help all Saiyans. There's no point in being the strongest of our race if it comes at the cost of being the last Saiyan."
Raditz appraised his brother wordlessly. To Saiyan warriors strength was all that mattered. Yet here was a low class warrior talking like a, well, non-Saiyan! What was he trying to pull, saying things like that? Did he believe that the continuation of his race was worth more than power? Was it? Were they wrong all these years?
Kakarot seemed to sense his confusion and smirked slightly, "Hey, I think about more than food and fighting you know!"
This broke Raditz's troubled mood, and he snorted, "That's news to me, Kakarot."
A beep interrupted them as the two pods opened behind Radtitz. A soaked but perfectly healed Prince and his General were climbing to their feet as they stepped out of the healing tanks. Kakarot grinned, but it was his brother who asked, "How are you two feeling?" He knew the answer already, but he had carried the near dead Vegeta to his space ship and seen how close his brush with death came to being the real deal.
"Unlike you, I'm better than before." Vegeta sneered, full of brash pride. He could feel his power had grown substantially after his battle with Dodoria; he estimated he was now even stronger than that dead waste of space. Maybe even Zarbon would fall before him!
Nappa grunted at the question before turning to Kakarot, "I could've handled Dodoria. You didn't need to get involved."
Kakarot shrugged; still grinning, "I know, Nappa! But with the strain of transforming from Oozaru to your normal form I figured he might get a lucky shot off."
Nappa nodded. "I see. Well, thanks runt." He turned away, but Kakarot could've sworn that he saw the big guy's lips curve into a smirk. He winked at Raditz before whistling low as he tapped his scouter to get a number reading for the increases that he could already feel in his kin.
"Wow, Vegeta! Your power has gone through the roof! Yours too, Nappa!" The numbers had stopped rising finally. Nappa clocked in at an impressive 11,000 while Vegeta had a massive boost to 25,000.
Vegeta chuckled low in his throat. "Have you forgotten already? We only grow stronger after every battle. Of course our power levels increased, you idiot!" Vegeta squared up to face the younger Saiyan with a frown. "Then again, maybe you aren't such an idiot. You knew Dodoria arrived before the scouters notified us." Now there was a slight edge to Vegeta's voice. "How is that, Kakarot?" He demanded with narrowed eyes. The other looked back and forth between the low class warrior and their Prince; they were just as intrigued by that almost prophetic moment.
"Oh, that!" Kakarot rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, "I can sense people's fighting energy. I can usually even tell if someone is holding back, but not by how much." The other three Saiyans stared at him in wide-eyed astonishment for a moment, and he sweat dropped as he added nervously, "It's how my Instant Transmission works. I find a person's energy signature and lock onto it mentally."
More stunned silence. It was Vegeta who recovered first. "This ability allowed you to feel Dodoria's presence before our scouters?!"
Kakarot nodded, "I recognize it pretty easily since we saw him whenever we reported to Frieza. Knowing a person's energy lets me feel it from farther away."
Raditz piped up, "That sounds like a very useful skill to have little brother. Could you teach it to us?" His expression was thoughtful, and he seemed to be thinking of the possibilities such a technique could lead to.
Nappa grumbled, "Neat trick, but we have our scouters and they do the same thing." He picked up his own and fit it in place. "Seems like a waste of time to me."
Vegeta growled as he turned to snap at the hulking Saiyan, "Think Nappa! What if your scouter is broken in combat? What if it's disabled by some kind of power surge it can't process or electrical pulse? You'd be fighting blind!" He glowered at Nappa a moment longer before turning to Kakarot with a frown. "I think you've been hiding something from us. What's your power level?"
Kakarot looked at Nappa, who clicked on his scouter. A brief pause before the big man said, "It reads like the last check Vegeta; Power level measures at 1,100 units."
Vegeta eyed Kakarot suspiciously for a moment. "When we have time to focus our energy for attacks it grows to our maximum. Raditz's maximum is 1,300; we don't know Kakarot's maximum yet. We've never bothered to check." He gave a sly smirk. "Let's see how you measure up."
Raditz stood to one side. He was silent as he considered what Vegeta was implying: Kakarot was stronger than he, Raditz, was. It had occurred to him of course. He'd seen his brother fight, and he was almost always in control of his every motion to a noteworthy degree. Maybe that wasn't his brother reigning in his battle lust that all Saiyans feel and relish. Maybe he was controlling his power output to match his enemies, or only use enough to best them so as not to waste his strength? His fists clenched tightly at his sides, nails gouging his palms almost to the point of bleeding. He watched, and wondered.
Kakarot finally stepped away from the wall. He gave a cocky smile to Vegeta, "All right, I'll show you." His stance widened slightly and a white aura sparked to life around him. Nappa and Raditz both watched the numbers climb on the digital displays of their scouters: 1,500; 2,100; 3,000; 3,800; 4,400; finally resting at 4,950. Kakarot relaxed his stance and the aura around him vanished. The reading remained at just under five thousand.
Nappa was amazed by the reading: He's almost as strong I was before fighting Dodoria!
"You... you've been using less than a quarter of your true power?!" Raditz's voice was harsh and accusatory. His face glistened with beads of sweat and his teeth were grinding in both frustration and shame. How could he have surpassed me so quickly? I thought he was amazing for matching up to me before, and now I find out he's been making sport of me for years! "Grrrrr..."
Kakarot looked at him with a confused expression, "What do you mean, Raditz? I can raise and lower my power as needed while fighting. I think your scouters just can't detect the difference since I can do it so quick now. I've used my full power when I needed to."
Raditz snarled, "When you needed to? So what, you didn't tell us so it'd be more dramatic when you showed off instead of us knowing for tactical and planning reasons?"
Vegeta cut in, "SHUT UP, RADITZ!" Startled, the long haired Saiyan quieted. He shot an angry look at his brother, but it was cut off when Vegeta got into the taller man's face, or rather his hair got into Raditz' face until Vegeta looked up to his eyes, "You have no right to talk, weakling! All these years I thought you and he were simply born weaker than we elites. Now that your brother has somehow burst that bubble you want to throw a tantrum? I think not." Vegeta jabbed his finger hard into Raditz armored chest, cracking the plating. "You are a waste of Saiyan blood. If there were more than just us four left I'd kill you for your pathetic power." He stepped back from the cowed Raditz and gave a disparaging noise in his throat. "Hmph; as much as I may want to do that you did manage to follow simple instructions, and because of that I need you alive. But make no mistakes Raditz, this is just to see if you can claw your way from pathetic to tolerable." He turned away and walked out of the room, pausing long enough to say mockingly, "You've got a chance to prove me wrong; don't waste it." Then the doors shut with a hiss, and the three others were left in silence.
All these years working with him, all my suffering, all the people I killed with him, after all the battles we've been through he's willing to end my life?! A slight haze surrounded Raditz as the sweat dripped from his nose and chin to the floor. Vegeta would toss me aside like a broken tool? Not even any passing remorse?!
"Grahhhhhhhhh! Damn it!" Raditz yelled in anger, smashing a nearby table with both fists.
He stared down at the massive dents in the table, the only sound his harsh breathing. The metal was specifically made to withstand such things. The twin craters were wide but not deep. He glared at them in his furious state. They were a testament of his pathetic weakness. Nappa could've punched through that table with ease. Vegeta would be able to crush it until it fit in the palm of one hand. He was so caught up in his inner rage he didn't hear anyone approach or notice anything until a hand came down on his shoulder.
He growled and spun, expecting Kakarot to be standing there. However it was Nappa who withdrew his massive mitt from the startled Raditz. His expression was hard to read, but his words made Raditz more surprised than anything.
"Vegeta won't kill you, at least not until his honor is satisfied." The large man had a strange glint in his eyes as he continued, "He realizes that both of us would've died without you two. In his own way, he's thanking you for saving him. Think about it," Nappa actually smiled awkwardly at the disbelief on his underling's face, "he could kill us all without any effort, in the blink of an eye. The fact you're still breathing means something."
Seeing as how Raditz was trying to process this; Nappa's eyes fell on Kakarot once more, who'd suppressed his power again judging from his scouter's reading. "Much like I owe you. But unlike Vegeta, I've got a far more practical approach to paying you back."
Kakarot took up his restful posture once more against the far wall, "You don't owe me anything Nappa." He closed his eyes again, "I did it. Now it's over."
Nappa took in Kakarot's appearance: black sleeveless body suit under the same armor style as Raditz, lower back resting against the metallic wall, legs at about a 45 degree angle with his arms folded loosely over his chest. The picture of nonchalance, his feral Saiyan nature momentarily appeased after the planetary purge and killing Dodoria. Even if he was less than half Nappa's current power, the potential was there. He could feel it inside the young Saiyan before him. Just needs a hand coming to the surface. Maybe even Raditz has sleeping power. They are Saiyans, so it is worth a shot. Or two.
Nappa laughed at the cool exterior Kakarot had put up, "How long can you be serious, runt?"
A vein throbbed on Kakarot's forehead before he twitched and his tail flicked. Suddenly it bushed as he turned to yell at the larger Saiyan, "STOP CALLING ME RUNT!" Nappa could've sworn for a moment Kakarot's head had been as large as he was tall with pointed fangs and a throbbing red vein in his temple. So surprised was the General that when Raditz snickered it took him a while to realize that the little punk was laughing at him.
Nappa pointed at the now openly laughing Saiyan for a moment before he turned to Kakarot and declared, "That's it! You two are mine! I'm taking over your next training session!" He watched with satisfaction as the two younger Saiyans froze, their faces paling as they looked at him with horror etched onto their features. "This way we'll be even, runt, and your brother can stop bitching and get stronger before a light breeze knocks him over." He laughed, leaving two very unlucky brothers behind as he headed out to catch up to Vegeta.
Slowly the last two in the room faced each other. Raditz still was pissed off at his brother, but when Kakarot smiled at him apologetically he grudging said, "Look, I get why you hid your power from Frieza or Vegeta," He took a steadying breath, "but why lie to me?"
Kakarot shook his head slowly, "I wasn't hiding from you, not really. I just never bothered to let loose. Besides," He smirked, "I happen to like having a couple aces up my sleeves."
Raditz nodded; still somewhat moody, "Fair enough. But how in the blazes did you get so strong?" It was clear this was something bothering Raditz greatly, but Kakarot just adopted a thinking pose with one hand on his chin. He appeared to be about to say something of great portent, some deep secret integral to unlocking one's dormant power.
"I just train a lot."
Nappa heard the angry cry of "KAKAROT!" echo down the corridor as he rounded the corner.
The tyrant sat in his personal ship, comfortably esconsed in his hoverchair, slowly sipping from a glass of wine. The bright light gleamed off his horns, and the fresh polish on his armour. His relaxed eyes gazed out through the viewing-port into the blackness of space, idly scanning the stars that dotted his field of vision. Every one of those belongs to me, he thought with some satisfaction, or will soon enough.
His scouter flashed up an alert-a power level of 23,000 approaching quickly. He always loved reading others' power levels, these constant reminders of his utter superiority. Simple, numerical fact: He, Frieza, was better than them. He was the mightiest in the universe. So, of course he ruled over them all. The fool's come running to me, I see. Begging for his life, no doubt-doesn't even have the stomach to follow through with his little rebellion.
Zarbon burst into the room, out of breath. "Lord Frieza-" A pair of thin pink energy beams darted out from Frieza's eyes, piercing his henchman through the heart. "Ggg...guh...kk...uh..."
"There are three things I refuse to tolerate, Zarbon," Frieza lectured the bleeding corpse, as Zarbon's head finally collapsed, his last breath leaving his body. "Cowardice is the first."