Second-best was the fourth Brady Patrick story, and the second of the additional ten stories added. This was the last story I wrote before a hiatus spanning the end of 2012 and early 2013. In addition, although this was the third story on the new list of ten, it was not the original idea for the #3 slot of a story. The original number three was a story about Upa, which I came up with during my quick brainstorm of 10 ideas for a story (of which, I used most of for the additional Brady Patrick stories). But fuck Upa. So I replaced that with the story of King Vegeta sending off Tarble.
The origins for this story were not something I had been thinking about, but instead improvised on a whim. While I released Second-best on October 14, I had written it around the time I changed Spoils (the name of the Upa story) to Second-best on September 24. My reason for not posting it was that I was incredibly busy and didn't have time to read it over yet. Once I read it over, it was posted.
As for the story, I've felt that King Vegeta is a somewhat misunderstood character. There is bravado and classic kingly instincts within him, but he's also a very caring person. He challenged Frieza to rescue his son, knowing he had no chance of surviving. In The Forgotten, King Vegeta was a major character of the first saga, but his emotions were rarely seen. Being king, he often put on a kingly role, and acted mature and calm. Only in private with Frieza did he show his emotions for a brief moment. In this story, he is basically alone, before the battle - in the deep breath before the plunge - and his emotions can be freely expressed, which helps to give his character the development it deserves.
Tarble is not the focus of this story by any means. What is the focus is how Vegeta felt about his son, and a last moment of redemption where he decides to do something nice for his son for once. In essence, Vegeta saves Tarble from the fate he knows the rest of his race will befall should he not beat Frieza. Because of this, Tarble is more of an object, driving certain emotions, than a character. That was intentional, and I really liked doing it. Being how I was able to write King Vegeta completely in character, it worked well to show him in a moment of sadness at the end. Perhaps it is sadness at his own fate, his race's, him not being able to see either of his sons again, or remorse at the life he had lived that caused him to break down in the end; although, I feel like it could be a combination of all of those.
It was in a little hole, in a small, unguarded and unknown corner of his royal palace, that the king found himself. He had rarely been down here – in fact, not since his son’s birth. That fateful day, his chest had been filled with pride at ushering in a new prince. He had run into the room, his face beaming, with little Vegeta (his eldest son, who shared his name) in his arms. But like so many things, it was not to be. The second son was nothing like the first. Tarble had been born with a meager power level of 1. It was pathetic, worthless. Vegeta hadn’t looked upon his son since seeing that reading.
Now he was here, months later, the same man. No, he was not truly the same. Where once was nobility, where once was a kingly aura, there was nothing. Since those few months, Vegeta had been broken. His eldest son had been taken by the tyrant Frieza. That was two days ago. Since then, the king hadn’t slept, hadn’t eaten. He was an emotional wreck. He had paced his palace up and down, killing those who looked at him the wrong way, and screaming at everyone else. It had been humbling enough to pay tribute, to bend the knee to the far stronger alien, but now? Taking his son? His only son, as far as Vegeta was concerned. No, he wouldn’t stand for that.
He didn’t know how he had gotten there. The little room, where his shameful son was being taken care of by a single old Saiyan woman, was alien to him. It was a part of him that he hated, that he didn’t want to see ever again. Yet still, on the eve of his rebellion against Frieza, Vegeta was here. He had strode in, unaccompanied to find Tarble playing with a small toy in his bed. The woman was smiling warmly, sitting next to him, and encouraging him on. But seeing the king enter in full armor and with death in his eyes, she quickly got up and took leave. He sighed as she closed the door, placing his large hands on the edge of Tarble’s crib.
Tarble was a prince, with royal blood coursing through his veins. That alone had spared him. If Vegeta had been anyone else, of any other rank, he would have killed the boy himself; if only he could have, and spared himself of the humiliation. Vegeta looked down at Tarble, who continued to play, as if he didn’t even know his father was there. And why should he? Vegeta had never spent time with Tarble. The hapless weakling had no way of knowing who he was. Vegeta shook his head. He was alien, a foreigner in his own palace.
“Sire, I have mobilized the guard. We are ready and at your command. Frieza won’t stand a chance,” a voice crackled out from the king’s scouter.
“Very well, Commander. I will be there momentarily,” Vegeta replied, gruffly.
The king turned off his scouter, before looking back down to his son. Apparently startled by the sudden noise, Tarble had dropped his toy, and was looking up at his father, bobbing his head, opening and closing his quiet mouth. His huge, dark, round, sparkling eyes pierced Vegeta’s heart. Vegeta quickly blinked away tears, for such things were not kingly. He was struck with the sudden realization of how cruel he had been to Tarble. While prince Vegeta had been spoiled and given all of the king’s attention, here his son, his blood sat in the lonely corner getting no love. And he was too young to appreciate it. Too young to care. But it was, that for a brief moment, Vegeta felt regret over hiding his son in this way.
He composed himself in the next instant. He was about to go to battle. He was about to go kill Frieza, free his son and his people. He could not be compromised. Perhaps, though, there was something left he could do. The king picked up his son, holding him close to his armor. It was the first time he had ever made contact with the boy. Quickly, surreptitiously, Vegeta left the room. He briskly strode out, folding an edge of his cape around to conceal the boy. Even then, his vanity had returned, and his pride prevented him from letting anyone see the little disgrace he was carrying.
King Vegeta found his way out to the space pod control center. There was no one around, as all his men were gathered to help him fight off Frieza. He found the nearest pod unattended, and with gentle care, he opened the door, and placed young Tarble inside it. Then, closing the door, he stepped back and found its associated launch pad. The king scrolled through the available options, until finding the furthest planet away. Pressing the button, he input the coordinates to Tarble’s pod, and began the launch.
Tarble was awake, sitting still on the chair which was far too big for him. Even as the pod disengaged from its port, even as it rose into the air, Tarble did not move. He simply looked at the man who put him in there – his father. And Vegeta, for what little worth he had left, stood there and gave his son the honor of seeing him off. And then, the pod gained speed until it was no longer visible. Yet Vegeta could still see those wide, innocent eyes of his second son.
He had not been a good father, really, to either of his boys. For the neglect he had given Tarble, he had spoiled and pampered Vegeta. It was all his fault. And it was time for him to redeem himself. Frieza had one of his sons, but he would never get the other. If Vegeta failed today, and his race was exterminated for treason, at least Tarble would be safe. At least his son would live.
He regretted not the fact that Tarble would never know how he had saved him. For this small act of parenting did not make up for how Vegeta had scorned and hated his son previously. No, his son need not know who he was. He was not a noble man. They would not write songs of him. Vegeta turned back on his scouter, and spoke with a quavering voice:
“I am ready now, Commander. Frieza will die by my hand for what he has done to us. We are going to get back the prince at any cost. I will lead the army.”
He killed the comm, and got into his own pod. His men were loyal, and they would die for him, that much he appreciated. He closed his eyes as he left the surface of his home, and the legions of pods formed behind him. They sped upward toward Frieza’s hovering ship, which seemed to be waiting for them. No matter. Their mission was simple. Kill the head, and the body will fall. Frieza’s death would save the prince. And though his men knew it not, Vegeta had already saved one prince today. His eyes remaining closed, Vegeta could see only one thing as he approached the ship; the eyes of his son, Tarble. Again, his eyes welled up with tears, his throat swelled, and he didn’t know why.
He didn’t know why.
- This is the only Brady Patrick story title to employ the use of hyphenation.
- The original description for the Upa version of this story was "3. Simous - the heroic journey of upa, starring magpie jones". The name was later changed to Spoils before being completely abandoned.
- The new description for the title, after choosing the King Vegeta story was "3. Second-best - The story of King Vegeta's other son, Tarble".
- This story is named second-best because Tarble is second-best, compared to his older brother, Vegeta.
- Though never stated, the Commander who talked to Vegeta over the comm was likely Zorn, since Nappa was a General, and Layeeck a Captain.
- "Kill the head and the body will fall" is a reference to Gears of War, being a Queen Myrrah quote.
Second-best is a great story. Having read through it just before doing my commentary, I was struck with the amount of emotion it brought out in as I read it. King Vegeta's relationship with Tarble is something that hasn't been explored often (or at all), and my way of doing it was something I really enjoyed. Keeping all characters in character throughout wasn't the easiest, but it definitely was necessary, as it helped keep Vegeta an honest character. This is really a strong Brady Patrick story, not only because of the raw emotions, but because of the development it gives Vegeta before his death. I am really proud to have written this one. I would give Second-best an A+.
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