Dragon Ball: Red Ribbon Son (Part 1)

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“What if Goku was found by the Red Ribbon Army?”  If you keep up with MasakoX's what-if streams, you know this premise is frequently suggested, and has thus far been dismissed as resulting in a Bad End™.  But maybe that doesn't have to be the case.  So for a change of pace, let's explore it ourselves!

For starters, he's not Goku in this version of events, because that name came from Grandpa Gohan, so we're going to call him Kakarot going forward.  His Attack Ball lands in the far west region of Earth and is recovered by Red Ribbon Army scouts.  The unprecedented discovery of an extraterrestrial space craft and its living occupant would be of great interest to the army's top scientific mind, Dr. Gero.

Episode 18 of Dragon Ball Z's original run included a filler segment in which Goku's old Attack Ball reactivates and projects an image of the Moon, causing Gohan to transform into a Great Ape.  This doesn't work for a lot of reasons (established geography, later plot developments, etc), but the basic idea is sound.  It is feasible that Gero would find this function while studying the pod ('Subject A') and its effect on the occupant ('Subject B').  But Gero's son thinks this is an awfully cold way to address a child, so “Kakarot” is as good a name as any.

Speaking of Gero's son, we can draw some logical assumptions about Android 16's template based on context.  We know A16 was designed to look like him and was left inactive because Gero couldn't bear the idea of harm coming to his son's image.  This suggests a degree of sentimentality on Gero's part, despite his otherwise myopic fixation on revenge.  This suggests A16's gentle nature was shared by his template.  After all, why else would Gero deliberately repeat the 'failure' of Eighter?  And unlike DBZA's version of events, in which Gero's son is killed when Goku attacks the Red Ribbon Army HQ, he was officially killed-in-action before then by the bullet of an enemy soldier.  We'll get to that.

That aside, Gero's name pun isn't known, doesn't appear to be food-based, and isn't a color like other members of the RRA.  The only thing that makes sense is that it literally comes from the mechanical part “gear,” so that establishes our theme.  For the purposes of this story, Gero's son will be “Coggo.”

(Disregard that last paragraph, his canon name is “Gebo” as per the DBZ: Kakarot art book.)

So little Kakarot is raised in a lab, like Eleven from Stranger Things.  And he's a savage little kid, having not suffered a concussion like Goku did.  It's not all sterile observation for Kakarot, however.  He probably imprints on Gero as his father, and Gebo as his brother.

As Kakarot's power grows with age, Gebo takes on the task of teaching the alien child not just discipline and self-control, but also an appreciation for nature, what little of it there is to see outside the lab.  Gero's research results in advances of material science and navigational programming.

A certain battle wages on into the night and Commander Red orders his secret weapon to take the field.  The Moon is full and a Great Ape demolishes their opposition.  This timely intervention wins the battle for the RRA and Gebo's life is spared.  The RRA is already said to be stronger than Earth's military and now they have no equal!

Elsewhere, Bulma – teenage heiress of Capsule Corporation – embarks on a mystical adventure to find the seven fabled Dragon Balls.  (1) The super rich aren't as affected by little things like a dramatically shifting political landscape as the rest of us, so her quest to wish for the perfect boyfriend probably isn't going to be interrupted by current events.  (2) This first arc takes place in the hinterlands anyway.  So Bulma meets Grandpa Gohan, whom has been living a quiet bachelor life in the mountains.  He's a sweet old-timer and elects to be her bodyguard for this quest, what with all the dangers on the road.

Let's fast-forward through the comings and goings!  Gohan recognizes Sea Turtle and takes him home to the sea, retrieving Master Roshi for a master/student reunion.  Gohan has no need for Flying Nimbus, so on behalf of Bulma, he requests the Three-Star Ball instead (and she is spared the indignity of flashing her panties).  I foresee everything playing out more or less the same from here, to a point.  Oolong is recruited, Yamcha challenges Gohan, then flees upon meeting Bulma.

At Mount Fry-Pan, Gohan is able to help put out the flames around his old training buddy Ox-King's castle without getting carried away like Roshi would have.  Yamcha has the same run-in with Chi-Chi and brings her back to Ox-King, making a play at nobility and happenstance.  Pu'ar pretends to be Yamcha, since he still can't stand to be close to Bulma.  The Seven-Star Ball is already promised to Bulma's group, so Ox-King offers Chi-Chi's hand in marriage.  Now, Pu'ar is a kid too, so he agrees without a second thought, and now Bulma thinks Yamcha is a lolicon.  Sorry, my dude.  At least this way, P!Yamcha can be the mole in Bulma's group while Yamcha follows behind.

Encountering Monster Carrot goes the same as well, with Yamcha swapping in to help Gohan.  The Dragon Balls are later stolen by Mai and Shu.  Yamcha joins the group for real and they infiltrate Pilaf's castle, but are captured.  Some *ahem* misconceptions are cleared up.  Just as Pilaf is summoning Shenron, Gohan's Kamehameha is strong enough to blast a way outside.  Mai and Shu use their mecha to fend off the fighters and it still comes down to Oolong interrupting Pilaf's wish.

Ultimately, the Pilaf Gang is no match for Gohan and Yamcha combined, so they are forced to flee.  (There's no overnight stay in the dungeon and no Great Ape running amok.)  Bulma is won over by Yamcha's heroism and he finds his confidence to be around pretty girls.  Gohan heads home, satisfied with this one last grand adventure.  The End?
I wasn't sure when I started writing, but it turns out that the Dragon Balls just aren't going to be a factor in Kakarot's life yet. I definitely have ideas as to where this can go in the future, so maybe I'll return to it when I need a break from my flagship what-iffery. Stay tuned!

(BTW the title is inspired by the comic mini-series Superman: Red Son, for obvious reasons.)

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Interesting, i'm curious to see if this Goku is going to take the Red Son's route (aka Superman is still Superman despire having a different childhood) or if Goku would become a very different person.
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I'll get into it more with the next part, but I'm aiming for a personality somewhere between classic Goku and the sort of Kakarot that most people tend to assume he'd be, i.e. outright evil like Turles (which is literally the point of that character).  The titular "Red Ribbon Son" does have some positive influences in Cogo and Springa, but even they are still members of a paramilitary organization whom have no qualms with using him as a child soldier.