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Basket Ball Z: Perfect Steph Saga

In honor of the start of the season, GBB proudly presents a season preview as told by Dragon Ball Z characters, featuring art by Flemdawg.

[For a completely immersive experience, please click here for some background music to listen to while reading.]

Previously, on Basket Ball Z…

In spite of the best efforts of the Z Ballers, Imperfect Steph was able to absorb Android 35 and achieve his perfect form. Now at full strength and possessing the sort of power never before seen, Perfect Steph has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging the world’s greatest ballers to a battle to decide the fate of the basketball world.

Now, the Z Ballers have gathered beside Perfect Steph’s court, knowing that they’re the only thing standing between this monster and the complete annihilation of everything they’ve ever held dear…

Steph absorbs Android 35, unlocking his perfect form.

The court had been set up in the middle of nowhere for obvious reasons. Putting so much power, and with it the chance for so much destruction, in the middle of a city, surrounded by innocent onlookers, had the potential for catastrophic levels of destruction and chaos. Better to let the stage for earth’s deciding battle be built here in a wasteland, walled off by a line of mountains, so that the average viewer could watch from the safety and comfort of their living room.

The cameras had already been set up, and now, with only hours left before the battle commenced, television crews rushed to do their final checks. They’d picked spots as far away as they could get while still managing to fit the court into their view. Above, a traffic chopper hovered over the scene like a wary fly, keeping, like its counterparts below, on the outermost fringe of safety.

As they waited for the battle to start, the cameras trained on the handful of people standing clustered on the far side of the court. They’d started gathering just hours ago. So far, there were only five, all clothed in basketball attire and the same grim, determined scowl.

These were the first members of earth’s last, greatest hope. These were the Z Ballers.

After achieving his perfect form, Steph almost immediately announced the tournament, but, whether out of hubris or pity, he granted a brief break before the tournament’s start. The break was a single summer, but it was still better than nothing. The Z Ballers happily made use of the reprieve, squeezing every ounce of training that they could into those hours. Now, there was nothing more to do to prepare themselves. The wait was nearly over. Soon, it would be time to battle.

They’d started gathering that morning, arriving one-by-one to stand courtside so that they could wait alone, together. Five had come so far; the last two would arrive shortly to complete their party.

Standing off to one side, Russ Shinhan could only look on quietly, well aware that there was nothing he could do to stop Perfect Steph. He’d already given his best fight to the Imperfect version. Every ounce of energy had been poured into those tri-beam attacks, a violent onslaught that should have kept Steph from absorbing Android 35, keeping the monster in his imperfect (and much more vulnerable) form.

It had failed. And with no chance to recover, Russ was all but useless in the upcoming battle against Perfect Steph. The best Russ could hope to offer was weak resistance, the same thing he’d tried before. Only this time, the attacks had even less hope than before.

Russ sighed and clenched his fist. He knew it was futile, but that didn’t mean he would run.

From the middle of the pack, a gruff voice broke the silence. “I can’t believe we’re here,” LeBreta said, punctuating his contempt by spitting. “I had him beaten. And you bunch of fools just let him achieve perfection. I ought to leave and let the rest of you deal with this fight yourselves.”

Most of the group, accustomed to LeBreta’s braggadocio and short temper, simply rolled their eyes, but Z-Piccobo snickered loudly. “Shut it, LeBreta,” he said. “You know as well as the rest of us that your arrogance was as much to blame as anything else."

LeBreta turned to sneer at the Namekian. "Is that so? Well, I didn't see you jumping in. Oh yes, that's right. You were still trying to regenerate all the limbs you’d have torn off. Face it, you wrinkled old fool, you're too old for this."

"And yet I'll still put up just as much of a fight against Perfect Steph as you do."

That was too much for LeBreta. He'd tolerate arguments, but any slight against his fighting ability was tantamount to an assault on his character. And for someone whose ego was so full of pride, that was intolerable. LeBreta roared, throwing his head back to scream as his hair flashed from black to bright gold. "How dare you talk to the King of all Saiyans like that! I ought to destroy you right here before Steph even gets a chance at you!"

Trunks Paul stepped between them. "Guys, now isn't the time," he said, fixing LeBreta with a firm stare. "We have to stick together. If we're going to slow Steph down now, we can't worry about who could've stopped him before."

LeBreta shot one last glance at Z-Piccobo before nodding. He let his power level fall, and his hair quickly returned to its original shade. "Fine," he said gruffly. "But don't forget, I'm the only one here who could've stopped him before."

"Oh, I'm sure you won't let us forget," Trunks Paul muttered.

A few feet away from the argument, Hardin could only bite his tongue and hang his head in shame. LeBreta wasn't wrong - he'd been the only one who'd bested Imperfect Steph - but Hardin had had his own chance to dismantle the monster before he'd even gotten going. Instead, he'd let it slip through his hands, and now things were worse than ever. A little indecisiveness on his part had unfolded into complete disaster.

Above them, there was a rush of air. As two pairs of feet hit the ground beside them, the Z Ballers all turned to locate the source of the noise.

All of them, that is, except LeBreta.

“Well, I see Duncarot and his little brat have finally decided to grace us with their presence,” LeBreta scoffed.

The rest of the Ballers ignored the comments, circling around Toku (their name for Duncarot, as LeBreta called him) and his son, Goban, to greet them.

Trunks Paul appeared the most excited to see the pair. “Great to have you, Toku!” he said as they shook hands. “How’d your training go? What do you think our chances are against Steph?”

“It’s going to be tough,” said Toku, his casual smile never disappearing from his face. “Steph in his perfect form is nothing to laugh at. But I think even as powerful as he is, we may still have a shot.”

At those words, the Z Ballers smiled and exchanged relieved glances. Toku, the strongest of the group and the de facto leader, had always possessed a calming presence. When he wasn’t fighting, Toku was the picture of serenity, with a manner that was laid-back, carefree. Even now, as he held on to the same sort of power that LeBreta had latched angrily onto earlier, Toku was smiling, looking as if he hadn’t a care in the world. And maybe, the other Ballers thought, he didn't.

"Does that mean you can take him?" Hardin asked, unable to keep the hopefulness out of his voice.

"Probably not," said Toku.

The Z Ballers all nearly collapsed in unison.

"WHAT?!" screamed Trunks Paul. "What do you mean you don't think you can beat him?"

Toku laughed nervously, reaching a hand up to scratch the back of his head. "Well, I just don't think I can, heh. While we were training, I just sort of hit a wall with my power level, and I don't think I can reach the levels that Steph has in his perfect form."

"Then why did you say you thought we had a chance to beat him?" Z-Piccobo asked.

"Because," Toku answered with a wink, "I think we may have a secret weapon. Isn't that right, Goban?"

"Huh?" said Goban, clearly taken by surprise. "Oh, yeah. Right! We've got a secret weapon."

For the second time, the Z Ballers exchanged glances, this time with looks of bemusement. What was Toku talking about? And how could he be so confident even while he thought his own power wasn't sufficient to beat Steph?

It was LeBreta who put a voice to their concerns. "So this is your grand strategy, Duncarot?" he asked with a sneer. "You plan to beat the most powerful force that ever lived with an ace in the hole? Ha! Forgive me if I seem unconvinced."

Toku's smile never faltered. "Don't worry, LeBreta. You'll see."

"I doubt it. I plan to fight first, so I should have him taken care of before the rest of you even have to break a sweat. If you'll recall, I was the only one who managed to beat him in his imperfect form. I don't see why anything should change now."

"Of course you don't," Hardin muttered under his breath.

LeBreta spun on him in a flash. "What did you say, you bearded pipsqueak?"

"I...uh..." Hardin stammered. "I was just saying..."

Hardin was saved the trouble of coming up with an excuse by a bright green figure shooting across the sky with a low roar. It flew overhead, then stopped, dove, and finally came to rest in the middle of the court. The Z Ballers silently turned. There they found Steph, staring at them and grinning arrogantly around the mouthpiece that dangled from his mouth.

"Well, I see some of you bothered to show up," Steph called to them. "I actually expected more. But I guess I can't blame some people for having a little sense."

The Z Ballers answered with sneers and silence. Steph’s brashness had been bad enough before he'd achieved this form. Now, he was insufferable. There was no use responding to his insults; that was what he wanted. Better to ignore him than to let him gain a mental edge before the fighting even started.

Out on the edge of the scene, the television crews leapt into action. The reporters, who'd been standing idly by, grabbed their microphones and began their narrations, while the men working the cameras focused their lenses on Steph in the middle of the court.

When the Z Ballers didn't respond to his taunts, Steph finally shrugged. He turned and walked off to one end of the court. "Well, if no one's going to indulge me," he said, "let's get this over with."

Having reached the end of the court, Steph turned. The arrogant grin hadn't slipped. If anything, it had grown wider. Steph raised a hand, pointed at the Z Ballers, and beckoned with two fingers. "Alright, then, let's have our first victim," he said. "And remember, don't hold anything back. I want to know that I've gotten your best before I crush the life out of you."

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