The final saiyan, his clothes tattered from ki blasts, long-distance long-nailed grappling, and a plummet from the edges of the atmosphere where air was thin and he’d been held till the last puff of breath squeezed out of his lungs, had been defeated. The entire planet celebrated. There hadn’t been a single victim but the dirty ape who died with every bone in his body broken save for the ones in his ears. He’d fought hard, but New Namek was once again clean of his kind and the people prayed at the festival that night that it’d stay like that.
The warriors had contests to chug barrels of water, letting even youngsters join in just so they could tip up the jug a bit too much for the kids who would then get soaked, crying as the adults laughed. The day the kids stopped crying at this little joke, the day they laughed at their own misfortune, the day they did it to their younger siblings was the festival they were accepted into the group and never had their water spilled again. Elders sang songs passed down, always slightly altered, by the great elder who brought them from the real Namek. He was the only survivor of that great tragedy. He was still young. Or he was young relative to the grand elder before him. But he never smiled like his grand elder. He rarely spoke to anyone but the warriors. It took many drinks to get him singing folk songs during these festivals, and though the songs had once been happy, he sang them bitterly between tears and the children knew not to tease. No one had ever told them, but they knew not to stare. They knew not to look at him at all.
But tonight, he told what happened on Namek. He told about the saiyan invasion.
How he saw his people wiped out for the dragon balls.
How the villages and villagers burned. That smell. Those sounds.
How the grand elder had died, passing on nothing to him but the burden of keeping his people alive.
And he told his people how proud he was of them for defeating that saiyan.
Months later, it’d been a year since the dragon balls on New Namek had been used. For the same wishes as they always were in Universe 9. They were happy months for the Namekians between the time they needed to be used and could be used, but after they were available, after the wishes were made, there was a general ire in the air.
“I cannot,” Porunga bellowed beneath the only night sky Namekians ever saw.
“You’ll let the boy die?”
“Death should be the end of all things. You cannot flout it for your purposes. Not again.”
“You’ll do as I say or you’ll be locked in limbo. This is your only purpose. The defense of our people.”
His miracle pierced the air and in other world, the boy’s halo disappeared, as did his grin. He went to hug King Kai of the North Quadrant before the next wish and though it lasted a minute, it wasn’t long enough. It never was.
“Now teleport him to this spot.”
King Kai’s stubby arms closed in on themselves as the boy vanished, returning to New Namek once again.
He was 16. Tall. Lean. His hair pointed back with a slight curve. Two bangs drooped over his ears. And his eyes, the eyes of a warrior scarred so badly he wished to never fight, were soft. And a tail.
“Welcome home,” the great elder said seeing the boy. His arms were still out from the hug and the Namekian gave him one more. He was much shorter than the boy. Thicker. Softer at the core but still very rough to touch. Scaly. His people weren’t, but somehow, despite fathering people of every degree of kindness, he was like a lizard.
The boy leaned over for his Namekian father.
The clothes King Kai had given him for training with his symbol on the back were singed off him by a ki blast filled with killing intent.
The boy collapsed, seizing from the electric blast he should’ve known to expect. “Throw me a healer,” the great elder called to his warrior posse. Someone lobbed the little runt inside the circle of reptilian demons. He was cursed with a natural talent and when the great elder awakened it further, he was assigned to this slave labor. Healing the boy.
The boy pulsed with power—zenkai boost.
“I wish you’d die,” the Saiyan Tate muttered to the little Namekian healer when they were left to their hut.
“Too bad the old man already wasted the wishes on you.”
“Yeah, what about the third one?”
“Made himself taller.”
The boy pictured how tall the elder had been before—about chin-level on the boy, and now, he was chest-level. “Porunga really blew it on that one.”
“Probably revenge. Wasn’t specific enough. Also you can’t measure against yourself--you grew like another foot, you dirty monkey!”
“Shut up, iguana breath.”
The two friends laughed in smiles because they couldn’t audibly or one of the warrior guards would come in and there’d be trouble.
“How was it this time?”
“He taught me math.”
“Hold out your hand. Fingers!” Tate did too. He counted them all. Then counted them again. “18! Wait. There should be more. I can go higher. Why aren’t I…?” He didn’t realize his healer had only 4 fingers per hand and that neither of them had taken shoes off yet like King Kai had done.
“That’s pretty neat.”
“I guess. Why do I have the day off?” He normally wouldn’t. Normally when he was wished back (this was his 9th time), the warriors had been so long rested that it was right back to sparring, lately group battles which was why things went so wrong before and he got that vacation with King Kai.
The Namek flicked his antennae and winced a little. They weren’t as sensitive as the Saiyan’s tail but still not exactly durable. “You’ll be busy soon. Waiting for them to land. Three small ships. No more than ten passengers and they’re coming. Fast.”
“And no one thought to bring me some fish?”
“Don’t be spoiled.”
The first fireball crashed through the cliffs like Tate’s ship had so long ago, but his was a single pod that quickly lost momentum and these new invaders were housed in the newest, sturdiest technology that only stopped when it hit the water, washing waves upon the shore that uprooted trees and farms and a door floated out with the ebbing. When the spaceship lifted from the water, its boosters boiling the fish, the tides landed more gently upon the local farms.
Three invaders stepped out.
Tate was waiting.
One stretched his neck, shoulders, legs, and looked right over the boy. He was massive. Purple. Vascular even in his shins so there was just a constant rope of veins wrapping his muscular form. His joints were covered by katchin pads, almost like turtle shells or protection pads for kids. He strode toward Tate.
“Please leave,” Tate asked.
The purple alien tapped his scouter to get a reading but his was an older model. It needed a baseline before it could read Tate’s. He pointed it elsewhere to adjust to the planet’s natural energy and that zeroed it out. So when he looked at Tate, it seemed to also say zero.
The second ship landed. The disc-like design was more refined and gentler on the environment. It kicked up dust and left claw prints in the landscape, but no major trauma that’d scar the planet. Not yet. The captain looked out the bubble windows with his assistant, who asked, “What’s that wildfire in the distance? It seems spread across the continent.”
His furry tail uncoiled from his waist. “Tell me this isn’t the first time you’ve sensed an aura,” the captain said in a way that sounded like a gleeful threat. It felt familiar.
The purple alien, Wurtle, the sort of fighter who could quickly gather energy in his fingertip and fire a beam that’d incinerate the usual ilk that asked him to leave, pointed at Tate. It took him a second to muster a response because it wasn’t his default tongue but he knew it. Distantly. Not even enough to have a dialect. He croaked, “Soon.”
A few Namekians landed behind Tate. The warriors. There seemed an army to fight these three aliens.
“Now,” Tate asked.
The warriors were waiting for violence, savoring whoever might lose. To be free of the saiyan for another year or to defend their home from more invaders with nefarious ideas about the precious resources. They would become the stuff of legends that the great elder might one day pass on. They wouldn’t let it be a tragic tale.
Tate turned so he had an eye on each group: Wurtle and his two and the warriors. He was ready to fight either.
So to Wurtle, he saw a native people defending their land and a ruthless savage with a tail that could have been on the other competing ships his sensors had picked up.
His finger, still pointing, blasted the third unwelcome party without warning. It wouldn’t take much, he knew, and so he held back so as not to hurt the natives. He wouldn’t want to interfere with their natural evolution, biological or technological and perhaps one of these were the future of that. The beam should have pierced Tate’s eye. It was direct and fast and potent and right on target, but it fizzled in the air. It seemed consumed by the aura of the planet itself, which felt off. The planet’s gravity wasn’t significantly different. It had very little life on it, maybe a few hundred sentient powers and a few dozen notable powers. He’d scouted it out before coming. And yet, when he fired again, stronger now, the blast dispersed to nothing.
“This is all the warning I’m giving you,” Tate announced.
One of Wurtle’s companion’s rushed from the shadows of the ship. It was a young human girl, Fea, who had been staying back to let Wurtle handle the invaders. She was—back up. She was gentle. She was scared. “Please stop! We just need the dragon balls.”
“Return to your ship and never return to my planet.”
“Your planet? How could you?” she demanded of him.
“The dragon balls have already been used. There’s nothing left for you here.”
“And now that you’ve had your wish, what will you do? Huh? Destroy it? Enslave it? You selfish--” She charged past Wurtle before he could stop her. The atmosphere felt thick. Her moves heavy. The air suffocating. Wasn’t there enough oxygen?
The sweeping kick was too slow to hit Tate who swayed back. Her toe just grazed his nose.
But the next kick came right after. Hit his cheek. She landed on her hands, coiling like a spring, before bouncing up with her into his gut which sent him flying back toward the clouds. She chased him. As he arced downward she dragged him faster toward the water, letting him rocket the final meters and a big ki bomb trailing him so when he flopped into the water, the bomb hit him, exploded, and the water lapped the farm worse than when their ship had landed. She wouldn’t let him or his people hurt anymore Namekians.
But when the water rushed back, filling the void evaporated by Fea, Tate was lying atop the water, wet but unharmed. He was at greater risk of defeat by drowning than from that.
It was all Fea had had. That and a spirit that refused to break. So she launched more bombs until the ocean rained down upon them all and she only paused to suck in a rasping breath. She’d lost sight of her target. She couldn’t sense him either. Was he dead?
Of course not.
When the waves stopped toppling him, he just lay there, looking over at the warriors and the invading ship and the girl hovering above him, sinking back to her ally. If he could, he would’ve just stayed there. But he could not. The great elder would hear from the warriors and his healer would be punished, replaced if he died, never wished back. And so he rocked to his feet. Then launched at the girl.
He’d finish it in one hit.
She blinked and he was gone.
But Wurtle saw his trajectory and jumped in the way.
That was all Fea saw. Wurtle’s back. Then Tate’s blast burning through till it also caught Fea. And they both fell into the sea.
“Perfect,” the captain said. He was a speck high in the green sky against one of the suns and as he lowered with his squad, the warriors readied themselves. The captain’s jet black hair, slicked back, covering his ears, fell into his eyes and he pushed it back. His tail, the same tail Tate has though slightly darker color, swayed in the breeze. His whole squadron, save for one fishy alien, had the same tails. “We’re here to save you.”
“I have it covered,” Tate said.
The captain looked to the victims, just dark figures sinking below the glistening waves, and then to Tate. “Not them. Them.” The warriors. The Namekians.