Categories
Fanfiction

Bulma and Vegeta Fanfiction – A Glad Day

WARNING: This is an extremely dark story. Contained within are graphic depictions of rape, extreme violence and death. If you feel that you won’t be able to handle the unpleasant emotions contained here, or have unfortunately had a similar experience, I advise you to turn back now.

FORWARD: This is a WHAT IF scenario that Toshiba and I
discussed initially, and from those conversations grew this dark, dark story. I’ve been accused, on occasion, of having a very evil imagination. I may have outdone myself here. For all those who enjoy the often-used theme of “Bulma is taken to Vegita-sei as a slave and catches the eye of the Saiyan no Ouji”, here’s my version of the tale.

Author: Lisalu

Vegita woke as a shaft of the orange light of dawn fell across
his eyes, feeling the warmth of the soft body curled against his. His hands roaming the rounded curves and delicate silk of his woman’s cream-colored skin, his mouth finding the hollow of her throat, tasting the sweet light sheen of her sweat. Vegita-sei was far more hot and humid than the world of her birth, and she always seemed to be covered in a shimmer of faint perspiration, even when her body was at rest. It made her taste all the better, he thought, grinning
sleepily. She roused at the feel of his hands moving over her, tensing like a trapped game animal for a second or two. After more than three years in his bed, she still woke with a start some days, with fear and cringing terror flitting briefly across that beautiful face, before her mind righted itself to the present. Then she smiled that enigmatic smile, lips curling wickedly, and wrapped her arms around him, accepting him eagerly, and with joy. He went into her, diving inside that warm inner embrace that always, no matter how many times he had her, laid his pride and self-control to waste, and she moved beneath him, legs entwined around him, making soft, bird-like noises in his ear. He moved within her, slowly at first, then harder and faster, then lost to all control and any semblance of thought, taking her in a rage of rising need that was almost a madness, battering into her until her soft gasps rose to cries of
something that was an intoxicating mix of pleasure and pain. He came inside her with a bitten-back cry, every nerve and synapse in his body and brain washed in a rolling wave of fire that never failed to bring him to some terrifying precipice of feeling. He had never wanted to give a name for what she made him feel for her. It was so powerful and unnatural in its dependence on her, it was all he could do not to snap her neck sometimes when control finally reasserted
itself. Because of the power she had over him in simply being. He lay above her and inside her, nuzzling her breasts and throat, shaking like a yearling tree in a storm. No control whatsoever…

If he had any where she was concerned, he would have
killed her for exerting such a mind-numbing influence over him. She was a liability in many other ways, he thought, stroking her face, feeling her heart still pounding beneath his, her breath slowing to little catches of air in her  chest. She was helpless and frail and utterly defenseless in every way that really mattered. And he valued her. Greatly. So much it terrified him sometimes.
Which meant she could be used against him by an enemy. But he would not lose her, or see her slain, by his hand or any other’s. In moments when he was completely honest with himself, he knew he would lose his mind if someone took her from him, stole her, threatened her in any way. Lose all objectivity and the cold fighting stillness that he had worked all his life to achieve in battle.
The wild rages and tantrums of his boyhood had been channeled into
purposefulness and direction in manhood, but there were still times when he barely held them in check. And there were triggers that always seemed to break through his control. His Chikyuu woman was one such trigger. The strongest and, perhaps the most deadly, because she seemed to pierce his breastbone and the heart that lay beneath each time he touched her. Each time his eyes fell on
her.

A prince, a crown prince of the mightiest empire the galaxy had
yet known, had enemies on every side, and no truly trusted friends. And anything in his life that he…treasured was a danger to him. It would not have mattered so much had no one known of his regard for a simple pleasure slave. Had no one known…

But, because of the manner in which he had gained ownership of
her, everyone in the Capital knew. It had been a subject of gossip and speculation and more than a little outrage in his father’s court. It was also been the subject of his father’s extreme displeasure of late. Not displeasure that the crown prince of the Saiyan Empire had a courtesan he doted on. His father, he knew, had taken and kept many mistresses in his day, both slaves and free concubines. But as his father had told him sternly less than a week ago, the Saiyan no Ou had always put them aside after an appropriate amount of time,
so as not to seem entranced with his woman in an unseemly fashion. So as not to put his mistress in danger, if he held a measure of affection for her. If she had pleased him greatly, she would be given wealth and freedom when he cast her off. This was just and proper.

But, his father had told him with disdainful anger, a crown
prince of the Empire did not keep the same mistress for three solid years and keep to her bed alone as faithfully as if she were his moonbound bride. And more, he did not jeopardize the reputation of the throne and the honor of the royal house for the sake of one foolish wench. Again, Ottoussama harping on the specter of how he had attained her in the first place. His father had never forgotten, nor truly forgiven him that. He knew it had damaged the trust his warriors held for him as prince, though not irreparably. He also knew that the only way to regain that trust completely, the only way his father would ever forgive him for what he had done, would be if he put his woman down. He propped up on both elbows above her, brushing her lips. The time had come, his father had told him during that last tense interview, to be shed of her. Before the whispers of the Elite, which had apparently reached the King’s ear through his army of informants around the Capital, turned to mockery. A Prince could survive
a scandal easily enough if he were strong and charismatic. But he could not so
easily rise above becoming a laughing stock.

“See to her, boy.” Ottoussama had said flatly. “Quick and
painless, while she sleeps.”

He should have felt nothing more searing than supreme annoyance
at his father having butted into his private affairs once again. He should have
grumbled and cursed Ottoussama angrily for a few days, then done the deed. But
his chest and the heart inside begin to cinch up at the mere thought of not
having her, of never holding her again, of her lying in this bed, cold and
lifeless, dead by is hand.

He shook his head irritably. Nothing would come to a head today
between himself and his father in this matter. Nor any time soon. The throne had
and would have far too many matters to attend to in the next months for
Ottoussama to take time out to bitch at him about such a relatively minor issue.
Today—

“Today will be a glad day,” he murmured aloud.

“Yes,” she agreed softly. “I heard the ship engines all night
landing in the space port. Everyone who is anyone in the Empire will be here
today for your father’s centennial.”

He grunted at the mention of his father. She had no idea how
much thought his father had given her and the subject of her death. It had been
a source of constant friction between the king and his heir for three years now.
“Do not go into the city today,” he said without explanation. She nodded
obediently, her blue eyes shadowed. Perhaps she knew or had heard more than he
thought of her own situation.

“Can I go to medlab?” She asked quietly, one small hand
stroking his face. “There are some things I need to take care of, and it should
be deserted because of the festival.”

He frowned, considering. “I will be back at sunset,” he said
finally. “See to it you return before I do.”

Her eyes narrowed, lips curving minutely. “Oh? Do you have
plans for me, Ouji-sama?” The soft hand caressing his cheek moved down his back
and brushed the base of his tail, a taunting, light gesture. His arms tightened
around her again, and he moved inside her, slowly, very slowly, and gentle. This
time would be for her. There was an inexplicable sense of power in this, in
giving her his body, in taking her the way she wanted him to, making her cry out
in pleasure instead of pain. It was a skill he had learned almost too late, he
thought in a kind of feverish, trembling ache of rising desire. And then he
could no longer think at all.

When they finally collapsed together again, tangled and sweaty
and straining for breath, he carried her to the bathing pool in the next room.
The house slaves had drawn the bath at dawn, but the water was still more than
warm. She sat behind him, bathing him in gentle sweeps with her sponge, the soft
soothing lilt of the Chikyuu-jin song she was humming lulling him into a
meditative thoughtfulness. He knew that melody she was humming, had heard her
sing it before. When?

His eyes snapped open as he touched on the memory. She had been
singing it the first time he had laid eyes on her. Three years ago, in the house
of Raditz…

 

 

 

He had fought beside Raditz on a number of purging missions,
before taking him officially into his royal squad, an honor no commoner’s son
had ever received as far as Vegita knew. He had taken an interest in the man
because his low-born blood was so at odds with his uncommonly strong fighting
power. And though the king and his old sensei Nappa had both informed him
bluntly that common soldiers were unsuitable companions for a prince, he had
been drawn to the man’s honest forthright sense of honor and the simplicity in
which he saw the world. It was a new thing to have a man at his side who neither
knew nor cared for any of the intrigues of court. Who saw the arc of his life as
all Saiyans should if they remained true to their basic nature—as a
never-ending quest for the next battle, the next challenge to test a warrior’s
strength, the next chance to grow stronger. These things were pure and unsullied
by greed or solicitude in Raditz. And the man had truly wanted nothing from his
prince but to fight beside him. He was prince, Vegita had reasoned in the end,
and would make his own rules, and take into his personal squad whosoever he
chose.

It was just that lack of sophistication that had led Raditz to
ask his Prince to sup at the hearth of his back country villa, as though the two
of them were truly squad brothers and not master and servant. Nappa had gone
into a rage, threatening the man’s life and the lives of all his house for such
presumption. But Nappa, Vegita had learned long ago, had a penchant for
developing a raging hatred of anyone or anything that seemed to threaten his
place at his Prince’s side. Vegita himself found the invitation charming and
intriguing. He had never dined in the house of a simple soldier. It was a chance
to enjoy the man’s company, and see a piece of the lifestyle of the common man,
of only briefly. So, he accepted the invitation. And because he had done so,
many things had changed.

Raditz’ house was perched in the tiered mountains of Turrasht,
in the wilds of the southern continent, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest
city. It was simple and rustic, but surprisingly tasteful, sprawling across the
grassy plain of a mesa that looked out on a breath-taking panorama of spired
peaks. And the kitchen slaves were some form of genius savants, Vegita decided
by the third course of the meal. Everything they brought to table was
mouth-watering and exquisitely delicious. Even Nappa calmed and began to enjoy
himself as the meal wore on, as the food and wine never stopped until everyone
was sated and full. The conversation waxed late into the night, as the men sat
around the hearth pit that was the heart of every Saiyan house, speaking of
battles fought and won, as each man in turn told some tale of a war or battle
from ages past.

“It is always a tale of some war from days gone by that we must
tell now,” Vegita murmured solemnly at some point in the evening, his head
spinning pleasantly with too much wine. “There is no more galaxy left to
conquer. There will be no more wars…” He frowned pensively.

Nappa grunted in response. “You were born late, Ouji-sama. In
the days of your father’s youth, there was battle on every side, and strong
enemies who opposed Vegita-sei’s rise. There was always a war to be fought.
Now…purging rebellious systems that we have conquered already is not a fitting
substitute. It makes me sad for young men such as yourselves, that you will
never know the joy of all out battle. We have slain all our strongest foes…and
that is not necessarily a good thing.”

Raditz nodded. “We need true battle to survive as we are.
Without it, we will slide into decadence within a few short generations. If we
do not have it, we will not grow stronger. And we may be forced to change into
something else in its absence.”

“Change is a dangerous thing,” Nappa rumbled, glaring at the
younger man as though he had suggested high treason.

“The Tsiru-jin were strong,” muttered one of Vegita’s
retainers. “Had they not all died untimely we would have fought them
eventually.”

That would have been a war to end all wars,” Vegita
said. “My Lord father says they were monstrously powerful. Raditz…you told me
once you went to Tsiru-sei on a mission with your father five years ago, did you
not?” He smirked. “Is it as barren of life as men say? Are there not one or two
survivors of the race that we might hunt down and fight?”

Raditz shook his head sourly. “I have never in all my life had
such a mind-bogglingly boring four days in my life as I had on that little
expedition. My father asked me as a friend to accompany him on his ‘scientific
mission’.” He said the word with distaste. “He got leave from your father to go
and try to ferret out the cause of their over-night death. Bardock is a strange
man. He thinks knowledge for its own sake may yield good things. If only to
learn what mistake they may have made or what silent, unseen enemy might have
killed the lizards in the space of a day, so that we do not repeat their folly.
Or so that we may guard against that same enemy. Your father broke the
quarantine around Tsiru-sei, and allowed our mission. It had been forty years
that no one had dared to venture to the world to learn what actually happened.
So we went. My father found the records of experiments one of their scientists
had kept. A fellow named Hayull. He had been working on a project to make his
people immortal, Bardock said. I don’t know all the gritty science details of
what was involved, but apparently, it was supposed to be a virus designed to
make Tsiur-jin DNA not…fall apart as they age. That, my father said, is the
reason living things grow old and die. But it back-fired on them. It made their
cells replicate perfectly, without aging, for about twenty days. Then it began
to tear them apart from the inside out as their immune system kicked in and
caused it to mutate, and—” Raditz stopped, gazing around at the ring of blank
faces. “Anyway…it killed them in just a few hours when it went bad. They all
died coughing up their own hearts as their insides turned to liquid. A bad death
for a race of warriors.” There were rumbles of agreement from all around. And
Vegita hid a grin at the relieved look on Raditz’ face, as the quizzical looks
the others had been giving him shifted, and their thoughts turned to the horror
of dying such a helpless coward’s death, felled by a virus. Bardock, Vegita
suddenly realized, was not the only one in his line who bore an uncommonly quick
mind. Raditz hid it well, but the man had understood the principals of
everything he had just said, both the science and the medicine. Which was
probably why his father had asked his help. It was widely held that a soldier of
common birth need only know the basics of arithmetic and how to read. To learn
more, to even express curiosity in things beyond that narrow scope, was
presumptuous. And so the man hid his good mind from others, though he was
possibly every bit the closet scholar his sire was. The fellow just kept on
surprising him.

“It was, as I said before, a miserable four days,” Raditz went
on. “We were bound into Madrani bio-hazard suits day and night, couldn’t even
take them off to sleep. Even when my father and the medical slaves found that
the virus would only affect Tsiru-jin, we still had to keep them on, and then we
had three fucking weeks of quarantine before we could return home, being poked
and prodded for blood samples by one of my father’s weakling Madranis every
three damn hours. And all we brought back from the entire ‘mission’ were a
couple of Tsiru-jin corpses for the med slaves to study and a pile of medical
notes!”

Someone snickered. “Your father must have owed you the hide off
his back for that little favor!”

Raditz grinned then, and there was something distinctly odd
about that expression. His face looked like a man half-fallen into one of his
life’s best memories as he spoke. “Oh, he made it up to me.” He didn’t elaborate
any further. The night wore on, and the talk wound its way this way and that, on
until dawn. Just as the first rays of light began to nudge over the western
peaks of Turrasht, Raditz suddenly sat bolt upright in the chair he had been
slowly falling asleep in, his eyes sharp and wide awake. He sprang out of his
seat and left the hearth room through the great wooden doors that lead to the
sheer cliffside of the mesa, with only a hurried, “Your pardon, Ouji-sama,” as
explanation.

But Vegita’s curiosity had been sparked. He cast his senses
along the rim of the small estate, and caught…something. The presence of someone
moving outside the house, along the cliff’s edges, the faint, soft sound of a
female voice calling out, gentle and coaxing. Followed by an indignant squawk. A
moment later, Raditz set down in the courtyard, carrying a wiggling bundle in
his arms. Vegita watched silently, through the half-open doors that led from the
hearth to the garden in the house’s central courtyard that the house slaves had
pushed ajar to let a light breeze trail through. Raditz set his burden on its
feet and began to scold it. It was…

His heart caught in his throat, and he realized after a moment
that he had forgotten to breathe. Oh gods, it was beautiful! He heard a faint
growl of appreciation at his shoulder and saw that the others in his entourage
had followed him and were looking out on the strange scene.

“…cannot even obey me in one simple thing for less than twelve
hours!” Raditz was glaring down at the young woman before him, speaking in a
hushed voice.

“He got out through the open window,” the alien girl whispered,
holding something to her breast closely, wrapped in a small blanket. Vegita
narrowed his eyes, but could not see at this angle what sort of pet the girl was
cradling. It sounded like a hop cat, a very young one. “I was going to wait to
go look for him, but he must have gotten himself stuck on the cliffside. I
couldn’t just lie there listening to him cry for help. I—I had to go get
him!”

Raditz glowered down at that porcelain face for a moment,
before growling softly. “The fall would not have hurt him, you foolish little
thing.” His lips twitched, and he was rewarded for his leniency with a smile as
warm and radiant as daybreak in high summer. And Vegita stood transfixed, as the
tall warrior bent down and brushed a stray lock of that shimmering, exotic blue
hair from his woman’s face, touching his lips to hers. She smiled and silently
vanished through a side door into another part of the house. A soft, growling
chuckle from one of the other men caught his ears as he watched her go, and
Raditz turned and saw his audience, his face reddening. He approached the other
men, entering the hearth through the courtyard, closing the doors slowly behind
him. He turned and regarded Vegita’s amused face with a strange look of
relief.

“That girl,” Nappa said unkindly, “has the look of contraband,
Raditz. Since when do common soldiers own a beauty like that without so much as
a by your leave from their betters?”

Raditz, so normally unresponsive to the older nobleman’s
blatant dislike, turned on him slowly, his face hard. “A soldier has the right
to any fruits of his own conquests, Nappa-san!”

“Where did you find her?” Vegita asked curiously. “I’ve not
seen coloring like hers before.”

“Nor will you again, Ouji-sama,” Raditz answered slowly. He
grinned faintly. “She’s a gift from my father. I told you he more than made it
up to me after that trip to Tsiru-sei.” He drifted over to the hearth, sitting
back in the chair he had vacated a moment before, and the others followed him,
sensing there was a story here.

“About a month after we went to Tsiru-sei, my father and his
squad went on a retrieval mission, to collect my younger brother Kakarott from
his infant purge. Some of you may have heard part of this tale. Bardock found
the world still full of life, and when he located Kakarott…The brat had been
injured in his first days on Chikyuu, his wits scrambled by a blow to the head.
He thought he was one of the natives!” Raditz shook his head in regret. “A great
waste, my father said, because he had grown very, very strong for his age.
Kakarott was about 13 standard years, I think. Anyway, Toussan put the brat down
quickly and mercifully. The kindest thing for the poor little half wit really.
And then he and his squad finished the boy’s mission and purged the planet. But
they took this girl alive. Toussan said she shot him with a gun of her own
construction that put a hole clean through his shoulder, and he knew in that
second she was a perfect gift for me. And her family had cared for Kakarott,
taken him in as their own brat, I think. So, Toussan thought he owed her house
something.” Raditz took another deep sip of his canter of wine, and Vegita
suddenly realized that the man was, in a very subdued way, more in his cups than
he had ever seen him. And speaking of things he would never have told sober.
“She was seventeen years old, and…like a wild thing when they brought her to me.
And completely untouched. My father and all his squad are mated, so no one had
ever laid hands on her before me…”

“She still seems only half-broken to me…” Nappa said thickly,
inches from passing out in his chair. “Needs to be…taken in hand a bit
more.”

“Courtesan slaves are best when they are not broken,” Raditz
said coldly. “Otherwise it’s like bedding a breathing doll. I like my women with
life and spirit. It makes them more troublesome, but the…the end result is more
than you can imagine.” He took another full draught of wine, draining the cup,
setting it down unsteadily. “I had the kitchen slaves prepare a meal, a very
good meal, when Toussan brought her to me. She hadn’t eaten in days. I sat and
ate with her all evening, and listened to her talk, listened to her weep for her
home and her kin. And kept pouring the wine. Then, I laid her down in front of
the fire and…” He grinned faintly, his eyes growing heavy, his voice softer.
“And I seduced her. Very slowly, and very gently. Took all night with it.”
Raditz’ eyes slid shut, and he spoke the last words in a soft whisper that
Vegita could barely hear above the snores of the other men. “She is the most
precious thing I own, Ouji-sama…”

The sound of a soft voice, singing in a strange, lilting
language, brought Vegita out of his light sleep an hour or two later. He rose,
eyeing Raditz and Nappa’s inert forms with more than a little envy, and picked
his way over the sprawled bodies of the other men, following the sound of the
music. It was coming from the courtyard, and as he pushed his way through the
swinging hinged doors he was greeted with a soft gasp, as the young woman who
had been pouring water on the bright flowers in the garden turned and met his
eyes with a lack of fear that was amazing in a slave. But then, Raditz had
spoiled her outrageously, from the sound of his tale. Looking at her again,
Vegita didn’t really blame him.

She was painted in cream and sea blue, those brazen eyes
matching the azure of her hair. And she was utterly beautiful, even more so than
he had thought from a distance of several meters. He approached her silently,
eyes trailing over her, taking in every curve of body and detail of that lovely
face, rising again to find those pale cheeks reddening, the blue eyes snapping
with anger.

“Did you get an eyeful?” She asked waspishly, and for a few
seconds, he could only stare at her in open-mouthed shock. That a slave would
have the abject audacity to speak sharply to him! Then he grinned. Raditz hadn’t
been exaggerating when he said he didn’t break his mistresses. Apparently the
over-indulgent fool didn’t believe in reigning them in at all. And she would
have no idea who he was, other than another of her master’s guests. His hand
shot out, lightning fast, and caught her chin, holding her in place. She gasped,
tensing with fear, and again fury, at his touch. He stepped closer still then,
his free hand trailing through her soft, fine hair, savoring her scent. She
smelled like the flowers around her.

“Take your hands off me, you son of a bitch,” she hissed in his
face, and he nearly laughed aloud. “You don’t own me, and you’re insulting your
host’s hospitality unforgivably to touch what isn’t yours!”

“Raditz is my leigeman, woman,” Vegita said amiably, drawing
his hand down her pale face, seeing those brilliant eyes widen in realization.
“He will not begrudge me the use of one of his slaves.” A part of him knew, was
screaming at him, that the woman was right, that he was abusing Raditz’
hospitality unforgivably to lay hands on his favorite without asking. But he
couldn’t seem to take his hands off of her, couldn’t seem to even think straight
as he brushed her breast lightly and saw, felt, an involuntary flash of terror
laced with desire ripple through her.

She was going to be something exquisitely entertaining.

“You—you’re the prince?” She whispered.

“I am Vegita,” he murmured. “And you…” he smirked, stepping
back from her, regaining some measure of control. “You are something that should
not be hurried in an open-aired garden. I will do things properly.” He turned
and strode back into the hearth to find Raditz and the others groggily waking
up. Raditz began to speak, and held his tongue suddenly, his eyes widening in
shock. He could smell the woman on Vegita’s clothes and hands probably.

“Ouji-sama—” He began. The bigger man’s face seemed to have
lost all its color.

“I will give you your pick of any twenty of the professional
courtesans belonging to the royal house of Vegita-sei,” Vegita told him,
watching the other man’s face begin to work in an odd way, watching Raditz
swallow hard. “Sell her to me.” It wasn’t a request. Raditz swallowed again, and
Vegita waited expectantly for the man to take his more than gracious offer.
Then…

“I thank you, Ouji-sama…I am very flattered by your offer.
But…I must refuse.”

“You what?!” Nappa barked. “You back water bumpkin! You do not
refuse your prince the least thing he—”

“I meant to say,” Raditz went on hurriedly, “That I must refuse
for the moment. I have—I have promised her to my friend Kyouka for a week.
He—he saved my life on that purge of Corsaris that went so wrong, a few weeks
ago. He has admired her for some time, and it is a matter of honor that I have
given him my word he may borrow her. But, if I do not offend you, my Prince, I
will give her to you with joy in one week’s time.”

“You do not offend, Raditz,” Vegita said graciously.
“Anticipation makes possession all the sweeter, as my father says. One week
then.”

“One week, Ouji-sama,” Raditz had nodded in agreement. But
something…something was wrong in the look of the man’s eyes. And Nappa had seen
it, too.

“He’s utterly besotted with the little trollop,” his old sensei
told him bluntly during their flight back to the capital. “I do not put it past
the fool to hide her away, and try to say she has died in some chance accident!”

Vegita eyed the older man thoughtfully. Nappa hated Raditz with
little reason, it was true, but the odd, distant look in Raditz’ eyes as they
had taken their leave had given Vegita pause. The fact that he had declined an
invitation to return to the capital with his prince for several days, pleading
that his estate needed tending, was also unlike him. But Vegita had not been
outside of his rights to ask for anything that the man owned. He was prince, and
one day would be king, and all of the Saiyan Empire, and everyone and everything
that lay within it were his to command. And anything that Raditz or any of his
subjects owned was Vegita’s by right if he wished it. Anything. It had been a
test of the man’s loyalty, perhaps, to ask of him the thing he valued above all
his other possessions. But Raditz had shown that his devotion to his Prince lay
above his love of anything he owned, and Vegita had never known the man to balk
on his oath. “He has given me his word, Nappa. He will not break faith with me.”
And they spoke no more of it.

Then, four days later, the big man came to him at dusk, his
eyes gleaming in the failing light with malicious delight, and Vegita knew
before his old trainer even opened his mouth that he had been betrayed in his
trust of Bardock’s son.

“You look like a feline with a bird in its mouth, Sensei,”
Vegita said grimly. “Tell me what you have found.”

“It is better if I show you, Ouji-sama,” Nappa rumbled. “But we
must be quick.”

Vegita followed silently him to one of the more isolate space
ports in the southern continent, a secondary over-flow base that received the
excess shipments of imports from the capital’s six landing bases. Ships, great
cargo ships from all corners of the empire, littered the port. There was one
stand out, sitting isolated on the western wing of launch pads, one small, fast
Madrani ship, so stripped down it looked like a smuggler’s skiff. And standing
under the floodlights of that little ship, holding her little hop cat bundled
under a wrap in her arms like a sack of precious gems, was Raditz’ woman.

It all went horribly wrong then. Vegita watched Raditz come
bolting out of the ship, his face a mask of panic, and knew that the man must
have picked up his steadily rising Ki on his scouter. Vegita moved to the
boarding ramp where Raditz stood in the space of a heartbeat, his energy soaring
upward in rage. The bastard had been about to leave Vegita-sei, probably never
to return! He had lied, deliberately putting Vegita off, so he could have the
time to make good his escape with the woman!

Vegita did not even given Raditz the courtesy of a word. He had
simply rammed his hand through the treacherous oath-breaker’s chest, seizing the
heart within, stopping it forever. And the woman—the woman was uttering a high
keening wail, as though she had been the one killed, struggling like a mad thing
in Nappa’s arms. But she was not wailing for the loss of her man. Vegita turned
his head just in time to see Nappa crush the life out of the thing the woman had
been holding in her arms. It was not a hop cat. It was a child. A boy, less than
a year old, with black, spiked Saiyan hair…and bright blue eyes.

 

 

Vegita turned around in the bath, and gathered the woman in his
arms, pulling her before him, to slowly bathe her body, his face blank of any
expression, thinking back on that scene. It had been ill done. The half-breed
brat would have been put down, of course. There was no choice in the matter,
even for a prince. But it didn’t have to have its neck wrung right in front of
her. He did not understand it, but he had seen this kind of thing countless
times in the heat of a purge. Lesser races valued their young above their own
lives, would hurl their bodies in the path of an on-coming blast to save their
brats. She still dreamed about that, still woke screaming the boy’s name, even
after three years. If he could, he would raise Raditz from the dead and kill him
again for letting the boy be born in the first place. For giving her that grief
that would have had to come sooner or later, and had nearly broken her mind. He
had beaten Nappa to the point of death, while the woman sat nearby, holding the
baby’s body, rocking it, singing to the child. Singing that same song she was
humming now, he thought with a chill.

 

 

 

The first night in his summer palace, in the low, hilly islands
off the cost of the capital, she sat like a doll, not responding or reacting to
anything as his house slaves had bathed and prepared her for his arrival that
evening. He had come to her early…and departed after a few moments in disgust,
as she simply stood like a living body sapped of its soul by some succubus as he
touched her. He deserted the island estate and a burning fury, tearing toward
the mainland to train until dawn, beating his four strongest sparring partners
to death in his rage, beating them even after they were dead. And when he saw
Nappa again that morning, bleary-eyed and shaky from the regen tank, Vegita beat
the man like a mongrel canid once again for the bad taste and stupidity of the
act that had more than likely robbed the woman of her senses.

Then his father descended upon him. He had not been aware that
the news of how he had stopped Raditz’ defection had been received so poorly at
court until his father advanced on him in a frothing rage in his private
audience chamber.

“You have dishonored the royal house for the sake of a whore,
boy! The man was a member a your personal squad! That is supposed to mean
something, you back-stabbing little bastard! Do not tell me he went back on his
word, or that he had sired a half-breed with the alien woman. Yes, his life
would have been forfeit under law. But you should never have demanded of him
what was his, knowing he prized it so highly. Who will trust you now,
‘Ouji-sama?!’ Who will trust or follow a king who would betray and slay his own
squad brother for the sake of a bed slave?!”

“They will follow me because I am strong, Ottoussama,” Vegita
ground out. “Because I am the greatest warrior, the strongest our race has seen
in a thousand years! I am strong, old man!! Is it not the foundation of Saiyan
law that the strong may take from the weak anything they desire?! Our people
will fear me and obey, or they will die!”

“You are a brainless young fool if your mind cannot discern the
difference between ruling with a hard hand and tyranny,” Ottoussama said coldly.
“Saiyans do not bend to the whip like lesser races. Who will you rule when your
people are all dead by your hand, boy? Who will you rule when they dessert the
tyrant they no longer have any respect for, and scatter to the four corners of
the galaxy, tearing the Empire I have spent my life building to pieces?” His
father shook his head in disgust. “You have your stolen prize now. They tell me
she has lost her wits. She is useless to you now, unless you have a sick taste
for bedding the walking dead that I do not know about. Put her down, and pay
Raditz’ father a blood price. Do it publicly, and the Empire will see that you
have been young and hot-blooded, as young men are in their passions. But that
you have regretted your actions, and become wiser for your folly. Do not
challenge my will on this, boy. Not unless you are ready to rule in my
stead.”

Vegita stood for a long, bone-chilling moment, hands clenched
in anger, fighting for control. He was not ready to be king. Did not wish to be
king for many years to come. And he knew that if he went against his father’s
will in this, the King would force him into a confrontation that would end in a
death match. A very short death match, that would leave Vegita holding the
reigns of an Empire he had neither the seasoned years of experience nor the wish
to rule right now. And so, slowly, he forced himself to relax, to let go of his
fury. Even a crown prince, even a king, may not have all things as he desires,
his father had told him more than once. It was a bitter lesson, but there was no
help for it. He bowed his head in curt agreement, and went to see to Bardock’s
blood price.

Three days later, he flew back across the stretch of ocean, to
the sanctuary of his island, nearly growling aloud in seething rage. The public
blood price ceremony earlier that day had been the most humiliating several
hours of his life. And Bardock…the low-born bastard had had the nerve to look
him in the eye with a flat reproach that bordered on disgust! It was a look he
would have cheerfully killed Bardock for had they not stood in the center of his
father’s great hall, with every eye in court fastened onto both of them. And the
instant it was over, his father had suggested bluntly that it might be prudent
if he absent himself from the Capital for a few months. And so, Vegita had left
to return to his summer estate. And see to the mad girl’s death. The last,
pitiful bit of unfinished business in the entire sordid affair. And found, to
his surprise, that she had come out of her stupor. With a vengeance.

The house slaves had prepared her for him days ago, as they
prepared all unbroken bed slaves, by Silencing her. A simple, local muscle
relaxant that worked on the vocal cords alone, Silencing the recipient. It made
things far less noisy. Of course, she hadn’t needed it until now. The instant he
opened the door to her rooms, she attacked him, and he remembered Raditz’ tale
of how she’d fabricated a weapon that had put a hole through Bardock’s Ki shield
and his shoulder. She hit him with a jolt of some kind of electrical current,
from a weapon cobbled together from the gutted appliances scattered about the
room, that took him completely at unawares, and sent him to his knees. Then she
jumped on him, brandishing a carving knife from the kitchens, slashing at his
throat viciously. It was a rowdy little battle for all of one minute, just long
enough for his senses to bounce back from the shock she’d given him. Then he
caught her swiping arm in one firm hand, grinning at her in honest admiration,
as her mouth moved, screaming silent curses at him, and pulled her to him.

And it was…Oh gods, it was sweeter than he could have ever
imagined, especially in the invigorating wake of that little battle, as she
fought him for each stroke he drove inside her, biting and clawing like a Saiyan
woman in the grip of moonbound heat, and his heart had felt as though it was
threatening to burst out of his chest at the end.

And after that, it became like an addiction, his need seeming
to grow with each taste he had of her. He did not chain or bind her in any way,
giving her the run of the island estate during the day, and it was always a
surprise to see whether she would attack him with some new toy of her own making
on his arrival, or whether she would have simply fled the grounds and the
island. On one or two occasions, as the sweltering summer dragged on lazily, she
actually managed to wound him with the ingenious, wicked little devices that had
built over the course of the day from things as innocuous as the mechanized
cookery of the kitchens and standing lamps. Little by little, as the weeks went
by, she slowly stripped the entire estate bare of every construct more complex
than a bread toaster in her tireless quest to defeat him. Each evening when he
flew back from the Capital, the battle would be joined. Except, of course, on
the days when he would find her fled. He began to enjoy the escape attempts and
the hunts that followed a great deal, more than her ambushes in fact. But
whatever game she chose to play, however long the warm-up bout dragged out each
evening, he was always the victor in the end. In the end, he would always sate
himself inside that silken-skinned body until the need for sleep overcame him,
while she fought him until the last of her frail strength gave out. Week after
week, drawn out through the months of that over-long summer, sidled by in this
manner.

The end came the day he found her in a foundering sea skiff,
seconds from being devoured alive by the razor-toothed sea predators that were
encircling her sinking little ship. She gazed up at him, as he flew her back to
the island, her face calm and reflective as she shivered against him, soaked to
the skin. It was one of the few times since that first glimpse of her in Raditz’
garden, that he’d seen her features in something other than a mask of fear,
pain, or rage. And she was breath-taking. She fixed those enormous blue eyes on
him, glittering with brimming tears like the sea beneath them. The first tears
he’d seen her shed in several weeks. She raised her head then, and made some
sort of gesture, mouthing a question. Why? Why hadn’t he just let her die? He
shook his head, holding her against his body a little more securely as he
flew.

“I do not want you to die,” he said gruffly, and one hand
strayed, almost of its own will, to caress her face softly, brushing the damp
blue locks from her face. She stared at him, her face a wash a mixed emotions,
for a long moment. Then…she sighed against him, seeming to wilt. And he knew
that the wrestling matches that had always accompanied their bed play were over.
She had run a long, desperate race, but the cold fact was that if you rode a
mount long enough, and hard enough each day, even the wildest of fillies would
break to the bit in time. Though he suspected that the thing that had finally
bent her to his will was not his constant hard use of her or her flagging
spirit. It had been that one little spark of gentleness that defeated her in the
end.

And he was right. When he lay her down on his bed, peeling of
her soaking clothes, she did not fight him. And because of it, he took his time,
laboring upon her body like a man crafting a precious work of art, doing all the
things that he had been waiting to do to her once her will finally snapped. He
used every skill, every trick he could remember, gleaned from years of
instruction by the royal house’s retainer of Maiyosh-jin courtesans, the best in
the galaxy. He made her arch and strain and buck beneath him in silent screams
of pleasure as she came over and over under his efforts.

And if he had found her to be an obsession before, she was a
madness in his blood after that night, after she began to receive him willingly.
Slowly, he began to realize on some unsympathetic level, why Raditz had done the
things he had done. Even the child. A lesser man like Raditz had probably been
so spell bound by this woman that he would deny her nothing—not even a
half-blood son.

The summer wound its way down into fall finally, and still he
gave no thought to returning to the Capital, to moving his household back to the
Palace. Each day, during the last few months, he had flown into the great city,
crossing the water, to attend to his duties and training. He had avoided all
public appearances, avoided the company of his squad members and retainers,
everyone. Slowly repairing the breach between himself and his father, slowly
letting go of his anger toward Nappa. The big man had been a pitiful sight
during those months of estrangement, having never been shut out of his Prince’s
service and companionship for any amount of time. Not since the day of Vegita’s
birth really. And when the truth was said, Nappa had only done what had to be
done, though he had done it in his characteristically brutish and heavy-handed
fashion. His old sensei’s poorly veiled expression of grateful relief and
affection when Vegita formally received him once again into his service, the
familiar presence of the man’s looming shadow hovering at his right shoulder
once again, gave Vegita an odd feeling of warmth. If was as though something had
been missing in those months he had turned his back on the big man. Something
that had been steady and sure and ever-present his entire life. And in this, his
father nodded his approval as they dined together that night.

“It is good that you have reinstated him,” Ottoussama said
firmly. “Your mother told me once, that on the day of her birth, her father set
his young kinsman Nappa to attend her and guard her, knowing that she would soon
be betrothed to the heir of Vegita-sei because of her extraordinarily high Ki at
birth coupled with her noble blood. He was seven years old. And for over a
hundred years, he served her as attendant and squad lieutenant, and vassal, her
right hand in all things. Even after I took the throne and wed her, she kept him
at her side, which many of the Elite in court found scandalous. But she would
not put him aside for the wealth of the Empire, and I indulged her in that.
Mostly because she came to my bed still virgin, and thus I knew he had never
been her lover.” Vegita fought to keep his face carefully expressionless as a
mental picture of Nappa and the mother he had never known flickered briefly
through his head. The thought Nappa as anyone’s lover was one that he couldn’t
wrap his mind around without fighting a fit of laughter. “When she died bearing
you,” his father was saying, “I thought he would take his own life in his grief.
So, I set him to serve the son as he had the mother. Do not take him for
granted, boy! He is an incorruptible servant, whom you may trust implicitly,
though I will be the first to say he is not quick of mind. But a man a king may
trust with his life is to be valued above riches.”

The evening ended with his father issuing a pointed invitation
to Vegita to return to the Capital. “You were wise heed my command to keep a low
profile these last months and let the talk die down, brat. But it is time to
return.”

So, he returned, reopening his favored residence in the hills
just outside the Capital, the villa he preferred to the cold, stone halls of the
Royal Palace. He was twenty-three standards years this winter, he told the King,
and two strong-willed men should not dwell under the same roof if they would
keep peace between themselves. Especially if they were father and son. Ottousama
chuckled gruffly at that, and the matter was settled.

But a week later, his father coldly informed him that the fact
that the Chikyuu woman still lived was news to him. “I told you to put her down,
boy!”

“You told me to kill a madwoman, and I agreed,” Vegita said.
“When I went to do just that, I found that she had come back to her wits. You
have not seen her, Ottoussama! She would make the greatest courtesans of
Maiyosh-sei and Serulia hide their heads in shame. I spent the summer breaking
her, and now she is a prize a man might pay the wealth of whole worlds to
own.”

His father regarded him silently for a long moment, his face
hard and thoughtful. “You will do as you wish, boy,” he said finally. “I cannot
curb you with greater strength or force you to do a thing you do not wish to
do.” Vegita’s mouth nearly dropped open at those words. The truth both men had
known for years, that he had never thought to hear his father admit or utter
aloud. “When you were an infant, Nappa once told me that you would not hear that
the fire would burn your hand until you had tried to grasp it and singed the
flesh off your fingers. I will let you learn that lesson in another fashion.
Midwinter will be upon us in another two months, with its banquets and
tournaments. Do no blame me if you find you social calendar a bit bare this
year.”

And Gods, he soon learned that his father had never spoken
truer words. Vegita found himself, in the height of the season of food,
tournaments and merriment, a virtual pariah. He received less than two dozen
invitations during the month of Midwinter, and only from the oldest, most
faithful of his father’s councilors, when he should have had to chose between as
many affairs in a single night. And aside from the worshipful cheers of the
crowds as he hammered his opponents into the blood-soaked dust of the arena at
each celerbatory contest of strength, his reception at the festivals of the few
noble houses of Vegita-sei who did not suddenly find his company distasteful,
was cool at best. Though no one had quite the suicidal gaul to say a word to his
face, the stares, watchful and speculative, the gossip that sometimes began
before he was even out of earshot, nearly sent him into a homicidal rage,
curdling his enjoyment of the few feasts he had attended. Much of this, he
should have expected. He had absented himself since the incident with Raditz,
and his return to the Capital was the subject of much talk. The rumors that the
Chikyuu woman still lived, that Vegita had indeed reaped the fruits of what
everyone in the fucking Empire seemed to see as the wrongful death of his squad
brother, had only added extra spice to the scandal. It seemed to sit ill with a
great many people. The most telling aspect of the entire affair was the fact
that not one of his own squad members, other than Nappa, of course, offered him
their hospitality this season. As though to say that they feared he would covet
something in their own households and kill them as he had Raditz.

His anger continued to rise, growing to something deadly and
almost tangible with each slight as the month progressed, until the night his
father’s first minister of strategy, Articha, stopped him an instant before he
stormed out of the great hall of her Capital residence, away from the hundreds
of whispering guests, away from the ever-growing temptation to release his pent
up rage and sweep every fool in the hall away in a storm of fire and death.

“No single subject may presume to call a Prince to accounts,”
the scar-faced woman told him softly. She drew him back to her sitting rooms off
the main banquet floor, as the guests began making their way to the arena to
watch and participate in what would be the season’s second largest tournament.
“But an entire kingdom can voice its displeasure as one. This would have
happened whether you kept the girl or not, Ouji-sama. Hold your peace, and do
not let them provoke you. It will only add fuel to the fire. Your father, I am
sure, had made much of this. But only because he would not see such behavior as
you have shown in this matter turn to habit, and threaten the stability of the
Empire when you take his place. The truth is, it is not a great matter, and all
things will be as they were by spring. By then, all these indolent fools will
have some new scandal to buzz about. But…if you would see this foolishness end
all the sooner, give them a brilliant show tonight as you fight, and they will
leave in the morning whispering the legend of the Super Saiyan, and think no
more of stolen slave girls.”

His father’s advisor proved as crafty in her political tactics
as she was on the field. Vegita made a mental note after that night to reward
her in some suitable fashion at some point in the near future. He fought like of
maddened demon that night, and on every occasion that presented itself in the
next few weeks, sending the crowds into a swoon of blood lust and worshipful
howls of adoration. And by the end of Midwinter, his popularity with the both
the noble houses and the common people was greater than it had ever been. And
even his father had nodded his head in grudging admiration.

“It was a clever way to divert their attention from your
indiscretions without having to lower yourself to speaking a word in your own
defense,” Ottoussama rumbled, shaking his head. “I have always ruled by
pragmatism, the code of the warrior, and the letter of the old laws, but…You
grow more like my father each year, boy. He made law and broke it as he wished,
but he had the kind of charisma that made men worship him even as he was killing
them. Perhaps we’ll make a king of you yet.”

Throughout the days of winter and into that spring he fought at
every exhibition he could find, whipping the adoration of those who saw him kill
higher still, driving his fighting power through the roof of its previous
limitations with constant battle, far beyond anything Nappa had ever pushed him
to achieve. Through the days that grew steadily longer and warmer as the winter
waned, he drilled himself like a slave driver, pushing his body to the breaking
point. He had learned an invaluable lesson in the last months. Adoration, not
strength alone, gave a man license to do whatever he wished. And having all
things as one would wish them to be was the only true freedom. If his people
worshipped strength, he would become strong beyond the scope of their
imagination. And they would deny him nothing.

And after he beat his body to a broken pulp each day, gaining
power with each new set of injuries the increasingly complex and dangerous
Madrani training gauntlets gave him, he would return to his woman and drive his
body to its limits in a different fashion, very often until dawn.

He nearly started visibly one night, early in the spring, when
he entered the villa and his private rooms, and she greeted him with a smile and
a chilled glass of wine. “You look a little more tired than usual, Ouji-sama,”
she said softly. In the months since the end of their war of wills, he had
lavished every luxury and gift within the reach of his imagination upon her. And
her behavior, in return, had been exemplary. He would not have thought it
possible for another living creature to please him so well and completely. And
suddenly, he had found he wanted to speak with her, hear the sound of her voice
crying out in pleasure as he took her. He had forgotten that he had told the
house slave medic to discontinue the Silencing relaxant a week ago. It took
several days for the vocal cords to reassert themselves when they had been
stilled for a long period of time. He took the wine from her and drained it in
one gulp.

“Your voice is as lovely as the rest of you,” he said, tossing
the glass aside and grabbing her. “Let us see if I can make you scream.” And so
he did. Again and again, teasing climax after climax out of her, until she wept
his name, until she shrieked in his ear with pleasure…until she collapsed
beneath him at the end, shuddering in a storm of tears that he realized
belatedly were grief-stricken and nearly hysterical. He held her against his
body, stroking her hair, utterly at a loss to say what was wrong with her.

“Speak,” he said softly.

“Arf arf,” she said. Her broken sobs had tapered down into
little gasps, and now she laughed softly at the look of confusion on his face.
“The cooks told me today that you’ve defied your father and the whole of
Vegita-sei’s nobility to keep me alive. Is that true?”

He had not thought of it in that way. “I suppose.” He drew his
mouth over her damp cheek, savoring the salt of her tears, kissing her lightly.
He liked that Chikyuu-jin gesture a great deal. It was like tasting her mouth.
“Do not fear. I will let no one harm you.” And unaccountably, she began to cry
again, softer this time, tears rolling slowly down her beautiful face.

“Damn you, Vegita,” she whispered, turning her face away from
his. “Why couldn’t you just keep on hurting me?”

He was silent for a few seconds, before answering with a faint
frown. “I never wished to. I only hurt you as long as you forced me to,
woman.”

Her blue eyes searched his, wide and wondering. “Kami…” She
said softly. “You really believe that, don’t you?”

His hold on her tightened angrily, and he was rewarded with a
faint cry. The ungrateful bitch! Did she have any concept of the hell he had
endured all winter for her sake, of the abject humiliation and he had born from
his own people, all because he had kept her alive?! “I never bound you in my
absence. If you had truly objected to my attentions, you could have taken your
own life a hundred times over last summer!”

“My people believed that suicide is…giving up,” she murmured.
“That while there’s life, there’s always hope. The only way you can ever be
defeated for all time is if you give up. And killing yourself is giving up.”

“That is a very Saiyan idea,” he said, glaring coldly down at
her. He had indulged her too much in the last weeks, perhaps. She needed a firm
reminder of her station in life. “But you have been defeated, woman. And I have
spoiled you, it seems, with too much privilege of late. I was wrong to give you
back your voice. I will have my staff medic repair that mistake in the morning!
And if you wish me to hurt you, I can more than obligee you!” Then he had
flipped her on her belly, pulling her hips roughly up to his waist, her face
pressed down on the bed, and used her harder than he had since the heat had
broken last summer. And…she did not cry out once, except as she came at the end,
arching her back like of feline, rising off the mattress to meet his last few
thrusts with surprising strength. And as she thrust backwards into those last
fevered strokes, he was the one to cry out like a slave in pain, not her. He
withdrew from her, every nerve in his body quivering, feeling in some dazed
fashion that she had somehow taken control away from him, even as he hurt her.
He staggered out of bed, seeking the tankard of wine on the table by the open
window that looked down on the Capital, still dizzy with the after effects of
having her like that, still furious with her. He stood gazing down on the
lights, growing calmer by slow degrees, until he felt soft arms wind around his
waist from behind

“I’m sorry,” she said, brushing his tense shoulder with her
lips. “I spoke out of turn. It’s just…a lot of things I would have screamed at
you months ago if I’d been able to speak are still sort of poised in my lips. Or
they were.” She moved around to stand before him, and kissed his lips, slow and
savoring, until he thought his knees would buckle with desire. “I’m sorry, my
sweet Prince. Please don’t take my voice away. I’ll behave myself.”

Gods help him, if he grew any more enraptured, he would be
powerless to deny her anything she asked of him. At least while she was touching
him, at any rate. “See to it that you do, woman,” he said shakily. “If you do…I
will spoil you beyond all reason.”

She kissed him again, deep and slow. Then she…she had him.
There was no other word for it. And again, it was as though she were the
mistress and he the slave. She pushed his unresisting body down beneath her,
displaying a ferocity and skill in love play she had never shown before, playing
his body like the strings of a finely tuned lyrt as she moved above him. And
once again, he was the one to cry out as though he had been speared through the
breastbone. Later, much later that night, as he lay wrapped around her against
the chill of the still-cool nights of early spring, he gazed down at the odd
little smile that played around her lips in sleep, and a strange thought
occurred to him. In a way, she had just rebelled against him yet again, taking
power over him and making him bend to her will in the only way she could. He
smirked at the thought. She could rebel in this manner to her heart’s content as
far as he was concerned.

She proved true to her word, had behaved herself without
incident. Until one day in late spring, when he commanded kitchens to served a
special meal, to deck his villa’s little hearth hall with fresh cut flowers, and
dress her in the finest silks the Empire could furnish to await his arrival. He
returned after a grueling day of training to find her seated at table, staring
blankly at nothing. She did not responded to his voice, or even the sound of her
own name, and a cold shiver of dread began to creep up his spine as he
recognized that look of disconnected madness. He pulled her up roughly from her
chair, shaking her, saying her name loudly, his voice unsteady. She blinked, and
suddenly seemed to see him. Then she leaned into him, arms tightening around his
body as though she thought she might drown if she let go. He had not told her
the occasion this evening, but she was not a mindless fool, and could count the
days on the calendar. It was one year today since she had become his. How could
he have failed to think what this date would mean to her?

“I almost lost myself again…” She whispered against his neck,
and he lifted her without thinking, carrying her away from the untouched meal,
to the open window. He sprang into the sky, hurtling upward past the orange glow
of the sunset that rimmed the planet’s western edge like a ring of fire, and up
though the fluff of clouds, glowing red and radiant in the light of the fading
sun. He crossed his legs, and sat upon a giant nimbus, stroking her hair idly.
She raised her head and gazed around and down in wonder like a child. “My
gods…it’s beautiful…”

“I have come to sit upon the clouds at sunset since I was a
boy. Whenever I was troubled by anything.”

“It makes us and our little lives seem very small, doesn’t it?”
She said softly. He grunted something in response, and she turned in his arms to
meet his eyes. “Was it my fault?”

“What?”

“The first time we met…in my flower garden. You—you scared me
to death, and you pissed me off. But when you touched me… It was like—My body
reacted to you against its will. And I know you felt it. I could see it in your
eyes.” She clenched her teeth together, her eyes glowing and wild. “Was it my
fault you wanted me so badly? If—if I hadn’t reacted to you, would Raditz
still be alive? Would—would my b-baby—?” Her little hands were clamped
around his arms so tightly her fingers had gone white, her entire body was
shaking apart with emotion. Was that what had driven her to near madness? Not
the deaths of her man and son alone, but thinking she might have been to blame
in drawing his attention to her?

“After the first instant I laid eyes on you,” he said
truthfully, “I think I would have set half galaxy to burn to have you.” And she
collapsed again in another round of tears, while he held her, feeling like of
fool for encouraging this sort of hysteria, but powerless to do anything but
rock her gently against him. A slow, creeping fear that he had not been able to
place of define had finally given itself a name this evening. In one year, he
had come to dote on her like—like nothing else in his life. Raditz had kept
her as his woman for…five years? Would Vegita be as utterly in her power when
she had been his as long? Willing to fly in the face of death and dishonor,
willing to desert his world and his people for all time to keep her if need be?
No. It was a fool’s thought. Nor would he ever have to. He was the heir to the
greatest empire the galaxy had ever known, strongest son of the greatest race
ever to draw breath. And he would do as he wished! No one had the authority or
the strength to take her from him.

They passed a long space of time in silence, watching the sky
and clouds strewn about and below them fade to the color of dark smoke, watching
the stars kindle in the night sky one by one. The feel of her, warm and drowsing
in his arms, here in his private place of peace, was—He didn’t have a word for
this kind of contentment.

“Thank you,” she breathed softly, just before sleep took her.
“Thank you for bringing me here.” So strange…The way she said those words in
that unguarded moment. Speaking to him like one warrior to another, in gratitude
for a gift received from an equal. Or as one would address a bitter enemy who
had just shown some shred of unlooked-for honor. There was, he was beginning to
believe, an integral piece of her that he had not touched, would never touch.
That he only caught glimpses of now and then. He wondered with a puzzled frown
if he had ever truly broken her, and indeed, if he even wished to anymore.

That thought began to plague him when he trained by day, and
while he held her in the dead of night, as summer came round again. And the
words of Raditz as he told the tale of how he had gained her devotion, if not
her obedience, explaining why he had not curbed the girl or bridled her in any
way. The result is more than you can imagine…That smile she had given
Raditz as they stood together in her garden, because she adored him as a man
rather than a master, had come from that true, deep self she had only shown him
a few times since that first summer. And on each of those occasions…he had taken
quick, brutal steps to train her to hide the true woman who lay beneath the
obedient slave’s mask.

 

What do I want? he wondered a few weeks later, staring out
the arched window of his father’s Privy Council Chamber, as Councilor Turna
droned out an eye-glazing list of facts and figures, an estimation tally of the
wealth and tribute the Empire stood to lose were the planet Shikaji summarily
purged for the crime of harboring insurrectionists. He could have a “breathing
doll”, as Raditz had called them, for the asking. The courtesans’ wing in the
Royal Palace was full of them, the most beautiful and skilled to be found in the
Empire. He’d had the use of them since he had grown old enough to desire such
things, and they had taught him all they knew of the arts of loveplay, so that
the next queen of Vegita-sei might be well pleased when she came to her lord’s
bed. But now he found the mere thought of them…distasteful. He always had, on
some level. Perhaps it was his innate revulsion for whores, creatures without
pride or sense of self, that was tempting him to try a new game. To give his
woman her head and let her run, but spoil and pamper her still. To try and coax
that wild, indomitable creature, the one who had tried more times than he could
count to take his life during her first few months as his property, back out
into the light of day. And then win her adoration. Have it freely given, not
taken, nor trained to mere obedience. What would it take? A long leash, he
thought. With enough slack that she might begin to feel some semblance of
freedom. And the patience of a deity, to let her speak her mind, though only in
private. But the mere thought of having her turn those sapphire eyes on him with
the same look of…of true heart-deep affection she had shown Raditz, was enough
to make him—

“Would you like a pillow, boy?!” His father’s voice snapped him
out of his thoughts, and his face reddened as he saw that every eye in the room
was on him. “If you are too disinterested in the affairs of the Empire to stay
awake in Council, perhaps I will send someone else to head the purging strike of
Shikaji!”

“I will go, Ottoussama!” Vegita sat upright in his chair, eyes
gleaming with excitement, all thoughts of his woman fled for the moment. Shikaji
was a world populated almost exclusively by Maiyosh-jin, a race with an
abnormally high fighting power. The purge would not be another boring roast of
mewling, semi-sentient cattle. It would be true battle!

“It is good to have your attention, brat,” his father said,
still glowering. “You will take a full compliment of six crack purging squads to
command, and as many baubles of artificial moonlight.”

“Moonlight?” Vegita frowning irritably. “They cannot be so well
organized or strong as to warrant that!”

“They can and they are,” Articha said quickly, before his
father could voice a loud rebuttal. “We now have proof positive that since
Vegita-sei purged Maiyosh Prime, more than thirty-five years ago, the refugees
who dwelt on Shikaji have been paying their tithe to the Empire with one hand,
and furnishing aid and comfort to terrorist armies such as the Red Demons with
the other. Now, we have learned that the Red Demons have, in fact, been
quartered on Shikaji for over a year now. This raid is a chance to put paid to
the Maiyosh-jin underground once and for all. And to tie up lose ends,” she
murmured, gazing pointedly at Nappa.

“It is not my fault the little bastard escaped, you vicious
bitch!” Nappa shouted. “I had accounted for all the royal house when we blew the
planet’s core. Was I supposed to run a fucking DNA screen on the corpses to make
sure the babe Garida Maiyosh held was the true Maiyosh-jin prince?!”

“It might have saved us all a great deal of trouble had you
done so,” Turna said with a mirthless smirk. “That one infant you allowed to
slip through your hands has given the Empire more grief than his entire race
combined.”

“What does intelligence say of Jeiyce of Maiyosh’s
whereabouts?” Vegita asked eagerly. “Will he be on Shikaji when we strike?!”

“So we have been told,” Ottoussama rumbled, eyeing him in an
odd way, as though trying to come to a decision. “Do not take the Red Prince
lightly, boy. If you meet him on the field, it will not be an easy victory,
perhaps not even for you. He is very, very strong. Saiyan strong. He has never
faced a son a Vegita-sei in single combat who lived to tell the tale.”

“I do not take him lightly, Ottousama,” Vegita said, nearly
shaking with joy. “I take him as a gift from the gods. Something I have never
had in all my life. An enemy who will test my full strength!”

The older warriors seated around the table growled soft
chuckles at those words, nodding their heads in approval. And his father grinned
openly. “So be it. You leave tomorrow.”

He vaulted into his villa an hour later, feeling like a child
who had received his fondest wish, and swept his woman up in his arms, swinging
her around, rising off the floor as he whirled with her.

“Jeiyce of Maiyosh…” She had said slowly. “Isn’t he the rebel
prince who killed so many Saiyans in the battle on Corsaris eighteen months
ago?”

Vegita nodded, grinning ear to ear. “He is the only survivor of
the royal house of Maiyosh Prime. The planet was purged in the years when my
father was still forging the Empire, but Jeiyce escaped as a babe, and was
raised by the Regent of Corsaris. He is the Empire’s greatest and strongest
enemy. And tomorrow, I will face him!”

“It will be a glorious victory for you, Ouji-sama,” she told
him, smiling that sweet smile that he suddenly realized did not touch her eyes.
He regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, his exuberance slightly dimmed. There
was no time like the present to begin his plan to enslave her heart.

“When I return,” he said softly. “I will give you a gift of
your choosing. Tell me, woman. What do you truly want? The truth.”

“I want only to please you, my—” He lay his finger over her
lips, silencing the lies. Gods…how could he have ever found this…this mummery
appealing? And he had no one to blame but himself for training her so well and
brutally.

“Speak to me as Bulma of Chikyuu, not as a slave in my
household. Tell me truly. What do you want?”

She stared at him, her eyes suddenly wary, the facade of her
smile slipping a bit. “The truth? The…the real truth?” She frowned at him
suspiciously, and he had to hide a smirk. If only because if was a completely
unaffected expression. And in that moment, his mind finally latched onto an
exact definition of what he wanted from her. He wanted to see this real woman
who he now held in his arms, the glitter of a sharp, fierce intelligence
flickering in her eyes, receive him of her own free will. And adore him as
greatly…no, more than she had that fool Raditz.

“A few years ago, during my first year on Vegita-sei,” she said
quietly, “I would have asked you for the head of Bardock on a silver platter. He
purged my homeworld, and killed Son-Kun…his own son. Like he was putting a lame
colt to sleep.”

“That I would give you with great joy, woman,” Vegita said,
drifting back down to the floor with her, to sit in the great armchair before
the window that looked down on the Capital, positioning her in his lap. The warm
breeze tugged at her hair, ruffling it lightly. “But you no longer desire
that?”

She smiled coldly, gazing out the window, her face lost in
thought. “His mate Romayna is an interesting person. Not your typical Saiyan
woman. She has a strong maternal sense, and she’d had hard feelings toward
Bardock for giving Son-Kun to the pod seeding unit in the first place. She was
furious at him for murdering Son-Kun—Kakarott. She told him what the hell did
a soldier’s son need with a full set of brains anyway. He had been strong and
brave. So what if he didn’t remember his infant conditioning. He could have been
taught his heritage. She…she won’t ever forgive him for killing their son. And
he’ll love her til his dying day, and live in agony because I doubt she’ll ever
take him back. So, he’s better off alive, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Cruel woman,” he murmured softly, grinning. “So, then…” Vegita
said, watching her face closely. “If not Bardock, what?”

“I guess a fast ship and my freedom is out of the question,
huh?” She paled, realizing what she had just said without thinking. But he only
shook his head slowly, forcing himself to not react at all, forcing down the
anger and the impulse to repay her viciously for the surprising sting those
words had given him. “I’m sorry, my prince…I—” He put his hand over her lips
again, speaking gently.

“Do not be. I commanded you to tell me the truth. But I will
not lose you. Anything else is yours for the asking.”

“Even if I ask you to kill Nappa for me?” She whispered. The
hand he had been tracing her face with froze. She regarded him with a cool,
steady gaze in the sudden chill silence, smiling oddly. “He’s your squad
lieutenant now, and your aid. But he used to be your governess, didn’t he?”

“Governess?”

“Your care-taker when you were a baby.”

“Yes…Woman—”

This time she put one soft hand on his lips. “It’s okay. I
won’t ask you for that either. I wouldn’t want anyone in the galaxy to kill him
except me.” She paused like a cho-deer scenting danger, gazing at his troubled,
angry frown. “So…let me think of a present that doesn’t involve anyone killing
anyone else. Can I have time to think about it, or do I have to decide right
now?”

He considered. “Tell me when I return from Shikaji.”

 

 

Shikaji was of world of monumental god-sized forests, and they
were all on fire. The six squads had carved up the planet by sectors and dropped
from their carriers, each on a separate part of the globe. And it was an all out
battle! Maiyosh-jin, as a rule, had an average fighting power of seven or eight
hundred. Dangerously high in a slave race. Shakaji, with its nearly two million
of Maiyosh-jin inhabitants, had been spared for so long because the folk who
dwelt here had never shown any interest in anything other than pleasing
whichever master held the whip hand. But the ancient reputation of that race for
treachery had proved true once again, and now Vegita-sei would pay for her
leniency with an enormous loss in the revenue this rich world brought. And more
than a few casualties. Every son and daughter of Maiyosh Prime old enough to fly
had risen to the air when the air raid sirens had begun, and now Vegita saw the
wisdom of his father’s insistence in taking along the artificial moonlight
baubles. The added size and strength of Oozaru was all that was keeping his
squad from being over-whelmed by sheer numbers. He slammed a fist through the
bole of a great tree nearly two miles high and belted a breath of blazing fire
at the rushing scores of defenders, his blood soaring with the thrill of real
combat. The titanic tree began to list and fall, shattering the earth beneath it
as it crashed, and half of the ground structures of the city below. The air was
full of fire and the smell of blood, and he screamed with mad joy.

 

Ouji-sama! Nappa’s mental voice seemed to be originating
from his right, and he turned and snarled a ferocious grin and the monster who
hovered just beside him. We have lost contact with all three squads below the
equator! They have not—!
A red blur flew through the moon bauble directly
above their heads, shattering it, and the world grew large again, as he watched
Nappa shrink beside him, morphing down into—A bolt of Ki struck the big man
through the chest, and Vegita had one moment of frozen horror to watch Nappa’s
face turn gray and bloodless, as he gazed down in shock at the hole through his
heart. Then a fist slammed into Vegita’s jaw and he flew back, spitting blood,
snarling as though he were still in the grip of the Oozaru madness. The
Maiyosh-jin warrior burned toward him and…and Oh Gods, they fought! It would
have been like a joyous song of blood and violence, ringing in his ears,
thrumming through every nerve in his body, to fight with every ounce of strength
he possessed, against this opponent who was matching him blow for blow. But the
vision of Nappa, death already blanching the flushed pallor of his face as he
fell out of the sky, was like a knife in his stomach, twisting in a kind of pain
he couldn’t fathom. Quickly turning to murderous, blind rage.

“You will die today, son of Maiyosh!” He screamed. “And when
you are dead, I will make it my business to seek out every member of your
worthless, weakling race who lives, and build my sensei’s pyre on the heaps of
their slain carcasses!”

The man grinned nastily and caught Vegita with a sucker punch
to the balls that doubled him over. Then he found himself being hurled to the
burning earth, the other man’s body bearing him downward, crushing him into the
smoking ground with the impact. Vegita bit back a shriek as he felt the bones in
both legs snap, as he landed with them bent underneath his body. Then he was
hauled upward by the scruff of the neck, struggling in the grip of a bloody red
fist that was locked around his throat in a hold he couldn’t break. It was not
so! It could not be possible! This son of a bastard race of cowards and
back-stabbers could not be stronger than him! He could not!

“Prince Vegita, I presume?” The Red Prince said amiably, as
though he were a guest of the Empire at some festival tournament. A fist drove
into Vegita’s ribcage, pounding the bones to fragments. “Damn! I’m disappointed.
I thought you’d be a little stronger that this.” Vegita howled and spat blood,
trying desperately to tear himself free.

“…kill you…debt of blood and honor, you Maiyosh-jin fuck…”

“What? For killing the big fellow?” The man’s knee rose,
connecting with Vegita’s ribs once again, driving the splintered bones into his
lungs. “Debt of blood and honor, huh? I like the sound of that. Take a message
to your daddy for me, little Prince. I will repay Vegita-sei, her King, and all
her children for the destruction of Maiyosh Prime. I will repay them for the
murder of my foster father, Lord Corsaris.” Another blow to the ribs. Vegita was
strangling, choking on red froth with every breath he drew now. “I will repay
them for the murder of my wife, Jula.

And the next time we meet, laddie, I will repay Vegita-ou in
kind for the death of my son Jahan by taking your life!” A soft, mocking chuckle
pierced through the grinding pain and the gray haze that was pulling him slowly
downward, away from the shores of consciousness. “Train harder, boyo. Maybe
you’ll last a little longer against me next time.” The blackness closed in.

 

 

He woke to the sound of his father’s voice, growling quietly at
the Madrani slave medic. He focused on the man’s face, hovering anxiously over
him, and frowned. The Madrani was part of Vegita’s own staff of house slaves. He
was in his own bed, in his hillside villa.

…not dangerous at all?” His father was asking in a threatening
voice.

“He is out of danger, Ou-sama,” the medic said humbly, still
adjusting some piece of a monitoring device that seemed to be connected to
Vegita’s body. “We had to remove the pieces of his rib bones in manual surgery,
because the tanks will heal, but they will not extract bone fragments embedded
in other organs. After that, we were able to repair the bulk of the physical
trauma with a regen tank, but again, the pneumonia caused by the injuries to his
lungs must heal naturally. A tank cannot cure that. We are siphoning the fluid
out at regular intervals, to lessen the duration. He will begin to regain his
strength in a day or so, though he will not be fully recovered for a week. What
he needs now, is only to lie still and not move while he heals.”

“You will have your freedom for this, fellow,” his father
rumbled. “The palace medics on my payroll gave him up for lost. Report to me his
condition every three hours. I will be in War Council if there are any changes.”
The sound of their voices faded away, and Vegita’s eyes grew too heavy to hold
open any longer.

After what seemed like only a moment, though he knew some
stretch of time must have elapsed, his woman’s voice spoke softly, just beside
his bed. “What will you do with you freedom, Scopa?”

The Madrani medic didn’t answer right away. “The Royal Palace
has free medics on staff. They’re paid very handsomely, take
vacations…What?”

“You don’t want to leave?” She sounded aghast.

“Not really. I want to be free, certainly. But, I’ve been a
slave on Vegita-sei since I was three years old, and Madran is gone. This world,
warts and all, is the only home I’ve ever known. And I have someone dear to me
that is still a slave. I want to save money to buy his freedom as well. He used
to be Vegita-ouji’s head chef, but he…he doesn’t really have a gender
preference. Likes women and men about the same. So, the Prince rotated him,
along with all his other male staff, back to the Palace when you came to us. I
couldn’t exactly say, ‘Hey, Ouji-sama, it’s okay. He’s with me.’ ”

“I’m sorry…”

“Not your fault, love. The fortunes of a slave of the
Empire.”

A little silence. “You look exhausted, Scopa. I’ll watch him if
you want to catch a few winks.”

“No way, Bulma.”

“You just said he was out of danger—”

“I mean no way am I leaving him alone with you in his
condition.” An uncomfortable tension seemed to seep into Vegita’s muscles, even
thought he couldn’t move or even open his eyes.

“I wouldn’t—” The girl began.

“Bulma.” Scopa said firmly. “I am charged by my calling to help
and not harm the injured. Whoever they may be. You’re forgetting that I was the
one who put you in a regen tank nearly every morning of that first summer after
he’d finished with you. And I was the one whose entire medkit and mini surgery
you dismantled each afternoon building weapons to try to kill him. I was the
only one you could talk to, because I know how to read lips, love. And I
distinctly remember you telling me that you would ‘kill the motherfucker who
murdered your husband and baby with your own hands if it was the last thing you
did.’ You told me that after he was dead, you would gladly ‘damn your soul to
Hell just so you could have the pleasure of watching him burn.’ These are not
things that make a physician comfortable leaving him in your care, even for a
few minutes.”

“I know you don’t believe me,” his woman sighed. “but it’s
true. I wouldn’t hurt him now. Not while he’s helpless like this, anyway. I
can’t even explain why in words that would make sense to anyone. If I tried, it
would sound like madness. Except to say that…maybe when hate achieves a certain
magnitude, it can become mixed up with passion and love, because those emotions
all live on a level that hate seldom rises to. You know…I think he loves me,
Scopa. As much as he’s able, since he’s never really been taught how. That’s the
saddest thing I can conceive of. To love, and not even know what it is you’re
feeling, or how to express it. So, you just grab the thing you love and squeeze
it til it dies…”

“Bulma!” Scopa’s voice sounded horribly afraid for some reason,
and Vegita thought he knew why. He could almost see that look of ‘not here’
beginning to wash over her face.

“I’m okay,” she said sharply. “I’m okay…”

Sound and consciousness faded, and he knew no more.

 

 

 

He opened his eyes to see her gazing down at him, one soft hand
stroking his forehead. “How do you feel?” She asked.

“Like a man who very much wants to go to war,” he rasped. “Has
my father…” He broke off, shuddering in the grip of a deep, wracking cough.

“Declared war on the Maiyosh-jin?” She nodded. “Yes. You just
missed him, in fact. He wasn’t what I expected. He told me not to smother you in
your sleep unless I absolutely had to.”

Vegita tensed. “He was here?” He wondered if she even suspected
how lucky she was that she had managed to charm his father in some way, after
the embarrassment of the scandal that had surrounded her. “You are very lucky to
be alive, woman,” he said. And to his shame his voice shook slightly as he spoke
those words.

She nodded again. “I believe you. He didn’t notice me until he
was ready to leave, then he came over and tilted up my chin with one finger, and
just stared at me for a minute. Then he grinned, and said, ‘Now I see what all
the fuss was about.'”

Vegita uttered a weak, croaking chuckle, or tried to. His eye
caught Scopa hovering on the other side of the bed, running a med scanner over
his chest. “Doctor…leave us. I will send the woman to bring you back in a
moment.”

“Ouji-sama, I—”

“Now.” The medic left reluctantly, eyeing Bulma with a worried
frown. Vegita regarded her silently, and she returned his gaze with no
expression whatsoever on her flawless, porcelain face. “What would I have to do
to make you want me, woman?” The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could
stop them.

“Are we still speaking absolute truth, Ouji-sama?” She murmured
softly.

“Still.”

“Nothing. I do want you. And I hate myself because of it. It’s
not madness that a man could kill my family, rape me a dozen times a night for
months on end, and force me to eventually do what he asked of me. It’s madness
that I could love my husband, but nearly burn alive with desire the first time
you put your hands on me in my garden. It’s madness that, after you had done all
those unforgivable things to me, you could make me come the first time I gave in
to you. Make me want you against my will, against my mind, against my reason,
like a fire in my blood. I think that is…is the worst thing you’ve done to me.
But that’s not what you’re asking, is it? You’re asking what can you do to make
me love you.”

He was silent, his eyes burning into hers, waiting to see if
she would answer. “I don’t know,” she said. “It seems like it would be
impossible, doesn’t it? But a year ago, I would have thought it was impossible
that I would ever…ever want you. So, maybe it’s possible. But even if I did come
to—to love you one day, I would still…I’ll always hate you, too. I wish I
didn’t. I wish I could stop, because hate hurts like a knife in your heart. And
my father always said that if you hate your enemy, you’ll eventually become him.
And that’s the worst kind of defeat.” She sat on the bed, and bent to kiss his
lips. “I won’t tell you it couldn’t happen. But I can’t tell you how. Because I
don’t know. But…maybe I can tell you where to start. Empathy is putting yourself
in someone else’s shoes, feeling what it would be like to be that person,
imagining how everything you do to that person effects them as though it were
being done to yourself. That’s one of the foundations of love.”

And she rose without another word and left him pale and staring
after her, closing the door quietly behind her.

 

 

He woke again, after another full day of sleep, rising to shaky
feet, pulling on his clothes. He turned a deaf ear to Scopa’s plaintive please,
except to suggest that the man take his business and few belongings to the
palace, as Vegita had no mind to pay the doctor of freeman’s wage. His woman
watched him weave across the floor, and put one hand on his chest, stopping his
unsteady progress.

“Tomorrow,” she said. “Do you want to fall on your way to the
palace and have people see it?” He stopped. He did not want that. He sat in the
largest chair in the hearthroom, sipping gingerly on the wine she poured him. A
thought occurred to him.

“I never gave you your gift.”

Her mouth quirked. “I guess it kind of slipped your mind. I did
think of something, though. Do you remember me telling you your father had
declared war on the Maiyosh-jin?” He growled softly, nodding. He wanted to be at
the War Council, dammit! The only thing that kept him from raging toward the
palace like a mad thing was the thought of the abject humiliation of passing out
in front of his father’s Councilors. “You haven’t missed anything yet,” she told
him, reading the frustration on his face. “They can declare war on the
Maiyosh-jin all day, but to fight them, they have to find them first. There were
about seven planets comprised mostly of Maiyosh-jin former refugees. After
Shikaji, within a few hours, they just up and evacuated without a trace. Whole
planets full of people.” He frowned in annoyance at the admiration in her
voice.

“Plus…about three quarters of the people on Shikaji managed to
escape.” His low growl turned to a full-throated snarl, and she stepped back,
away from him, her eyes becoming veiled again. He was…he was forcing her back
into hiding, he knew, but it was all he could do not to blast the villa to
pieces around them, as the cold truth sunk in and cut to the bone. He had been
defeated. He had been beaten like a mongrel animal by a—by a—! He closed his
eyes, fighting for calm. Save it. He must save the fury for the rematch.

“Go on,” he said after a moment, with some measure of
control.

“The problem now,” she went on slowly, “The issue they are
discussing in Council right now, is where to find them. The Maiyosh-jin have
simply disappeared. Though they really

needn’t—” She stopped herself.

“Needn’t what?” He prodded.

“Needn’t look,” she told him, eyeing him uncertainly. “They’re
putting together an organized rebellion now. No more of this strike and run
skirmishing. You won’t have to look for them. They’ll find you soon enough.” He
felt a slow grin begin to spread across his face. She was right. And in the mean
time, he would take the Red Prince’s mocking advise to heart and train. Train
like he had never done before. So that when they met again, he would ram each
poison, bile-laden word down the Maiyosh-jin’s throat!

He stared at her curiously.

“How do you know these things?”

“Some I hear from Caddi and Batha in the kitchens, things they
heard from slaves in the palace. Some of it is…just common sense.”

“Uncommon sense, I think,” he said, thinking of the dozens of
little weapons she had built to try and—He wondered abruptly just how
intelligent she was.

“My gift is sort of related to the fact that the Empire will
soon be at war,” she said suddenly.

“Tell me.”

“If there’s going to be a war, there will be casualties,
right?”

“I suppose.”

“I want to work in the Capital’s main medical and research
center during the day. Scopa said I can apprentice under him, and learn
medicine.”

He stared at her blankly for a few seconds. “Why?”

“I—it has to do with my homeworld being destroyed,” she said,
easing back toward him, sitting at the base of the hearth pit before his chair,
warming her hands against the morning chill. “I’ve seen more death than I ever
could have imagined possible as a young girl. And I want to…to learn how to heal
people because of that. To sort of combat death wherever I can. That sounds
weird, even to me, but it’s a true wish. And you are always training until
evening anyway. You’ll be training late into the nights now, won’t you? So, I’d
always be back to the villa before you.” He nodded in vague surprise that she
had seen into his plans and the inner workings of his mind. He wondered with an
uneasy chill just how well she knew him. “So…what do you think?”

She was correct that he would be throwing all his will and
effort into his training now. And as long as she was there to greet him when he
returned…But the thought of her in the presence of other men, of having their
eyes roving over her, the thought of another man touching her in any way—! He
took a deep breath, thinking hard. He could work around that with creative
staffing. It would—it would give her a semblance of freedom. And he had
promised her such a gift. And she was notorious, thanks to the scandal of
Raditz’ death. Everyone on Vegita-sei knew who she was and to whom she belonged.
No man who was not out of his mind would so much as cast his eyes in her
direction. And it would make her feel…good. She must feel confined, that
brilliant mind of hers forced to lie fallow. As he was being forced to keep
inactive now, barred from the training fields by his injuries. He was fighting
the urge to grind his teeth even as he spoke with her, in frustration at not
being able to do the thing the gods of war had wrought him for.

“Go with him tomorrow and begin your training,” he told her
quietly. And…God of gods….She smiled at him. A real smile.

* * * * *


Table of Contents
Chapter 2

The faces of the Royal Councilors were carefully expressionless
as they watched him slowly take a seat on his father’s right hand, hiding the
fact that they had just seen him stumble and nearly fall, trying to mask their
knowledge of his shame, his defeat. He fought to keep his hands and body from
trembling with rage and humiliation, knowing they would see it and think he was
on the point of collapse. They needn’t have bothered with this discreet foolery.
They knew what every sentient being in the Empire knew.

He had been defeated in battle, in single combat. Jeiyce of
Maiyosh had beaten him like an animal within an inch of his life, and worse,
left him alive out of contempt. The day had been lost, his soldiers decimated.
His first lieutenant slain…

His gut twisted again at as the image of Nappa falling from the
sky, impaled by Jeiyce’s Ki bolt, dead before his great body struck the ground.
That knowledge, the stark finality of it, had been slow to sink in as he had
lain weak and too injured to rise. The big man was gone. The sure, rock-steady
presence that had been a constant in his life since—since well before his own
birth, was missing. And the absence could not be shouted down, threatened,
blasted away or ever taken back. Irrevocable. His father’s eyes, sharp and all
seeing, watched his son’s gaze fall on the empty Councilor’s chair Nappa would
have occupied.

“Nappa’s body has lain in med-stasis while you were recovering,
boy. He was your faithful servant, and would have wished you to build his
pyre.”

Vegita nodded silently, his face like stone. “I will see to him
this evening. Atop Cho-Tal mountain.”

The other members of Council murmured in approval. A warrior
who died in defense of the Royal House should be burned atop that speared peak
reserved for Kings and heroes of Vegita-sei. Ottoussama broke the solemn-faced
silence that followed, his own face growing hard.

“We are arresting every Maiyosh-jin that is to be found within
the breadth of the Empire, and bringing them to Vegita-sei. They will be
thoroughly questioned by the Minister of Intelligence.” His eyes turned to the
pockmarked, mottled face of Mousrom. The Inquisitor nodded with a kind of ugly
eagerness that set Vegita’s teeth on edge. Only the basest manner of coward
gleaned pleasure from torturing a bound enemy. Mousrom was terribly efficient at
what he did, and his intricate network of spies and informants hidden throughout
the Empire was a thing of beauty. Systematic torture of non-combatants was an
ugly means to an end, and grim necessity. But there was no honor in it, or in
the torturer himself.

“We have rounded up twenty thousand of them from Arbatsu
already,” Mousrom said with an unpleasant grin. “There was a sizable community
nestled within the cities of the Arbatsu natives. To this number, I have also
added the entirety of the Maiyoshi-jin courtesan whores who were under contract
to the Throne and other noble houses on Vegita-sei itself. You may be sure,
Ou-sama, that if one of them has one scrap of information as to the whereabouts
of the Red Prince and his followers, I will wring the truth from them.”

“I have no doubt,” his father murmured. The King’s face showed
no hint of distaste for the man, but Vegita had the sudden impression that his
father had a roiling contempt for the Inquisitor that rivaled his own.

“The Red Prince will find us soon enough,” Vegita said,
thinking of his woman’s eyes as she had given his this insight, burning with
intelligence like a blue flame. “He will seek us out. He told me what he plans,
what he most desires, as we fought,” the last words tapered down into a soft
snarl of hatred. “Lord Corsaris fostered him from infancy. The planet Corsaris
was where he made his base and quartered his mate and his son. When we took that
world eighteen months past, we slew his woman, his foster father, his heir, and
put the world he knew as home to the torch. He means to repay Vegita-sei for
these losses. And you personally, Ottoussama, for the death of his son, by
slaying me in combat.”

His father’s face had gone black with rage, perhaps thinking of
how very, very close Jeiyce had come to doing just that. “He will find us. And
when he does, I shall be ready or him! If I must break my own bones and train to
the point of death each day from this day until we meet again, I will! And the
next time, Ottoussama, I will rip him limb from limb!” A low rumble of agreement
rolled through the chamber, and his father studied him with grim pride.

The next hour consisted of Turna bringing forth a list of
possible retaliation targets, worlds thought to have had dealings with the
Maiyosh-jin rebels in the past. Turna droned on, weighing and measuring the
losses in revenue against the potential strategic threat each world might pose
if it became a hive of rebellion. Vegita felt his mind begin to wonder after a
while, and he began to wonder idly what his woman was doing this moment at Med
Center. Today was her first day apprenticing under Scopa, and

she—Mousrom’s wheedling voice snapped his attention back to
the here and now.

“…but Med Center here in the Capital would be the most
convenient location to set up a mass interrogation facility. We could make use
of the personnel who labor there in keeping the subjects alive much longer if
we—”

“Med Center,” Vegita said flatly, before his father could
answer, “is a haven where our unborn warriors grow to viability, and where we
heal our wounded. It would be an insult to the blood our soldiers shed to use
the same facility as a torturer’s hovel!”

Mousrom’s marred, fat face paled, his lips going thin with
anger. He turned a questioning eye to the King’s chair, but found no support
there.

“The boy speaks the truth,” Otoussama said shortly. “Do your
business in the old slave pens in Kharda City to the north. They have a full, if
outdated, med lab there.”

Mousrom nodded obediently, but his eyes had shrunk to twin
slits in submerged anger, though he dared not to so much as turn his gaze in
Vegita’s direction.

Another hour of decision making, while Vegita sat in silent,
seething contemplation of all the things he would do to Jeiyce when he and the
Red Prince came to grips once again. As the Councilors filed out of the great
circular chamber, Vegita did not move from his chair. His father eyed him
silently for a moment before speaking.

“Mousrom will not forget that, boy.”

“Good,” Vegita said irritably. “His behavior borders on
insolence at its best. He is an insult to all true warriors, and I will kill him
gladly if ever he speaks out of turn.”

“He is my Minister of Intelligence, boy. He knows every secret
in the Empire. Mine included.” His father frowned. “Knowledge is great power in
the right hands. He will find a way, sooner or later, to repay you for such a
heavy-handed slight.”

Vegita frowned himself, this time in genuine curiosity. “If he
is so dangerous, why do you not kill him?”

His father grunted. “He is very, very useful. He has given me
information on more than one occasion that has saved the Empire the trouble of
putting down a full-scale rebellion. And thus, saved the lives of many Saiyans
warriors. It is a game we play, he and I. He knows his life will end the day I
suspect him of disloyalty, or the instant he ceases to be of great use to the
Throne. And thus, he is carefully loyal, and very motivated to always be of use.
And we will need him in this war we are about to fight.”

Vegita’s eyes narrowed angrily. “He gives you a full account of
my private business, does he not, Ottousama?”

Ottoussama’s lips curled minutely on the end. “You are thinking
of that business with Raditz last year? Yes.” The almost smile slid away to be
replaced by a warning look. “Your business is mine, boy. I’ve invested nearly a
quarter of a century in you, and occasionally, you show great promise. I would
have been very annoyed to have to begin the tiresome business of raising another
heir to manhood again. So, I keep close tabs on you through Mousrom.” His father
paused thoughtfully, before going on. “And as we are speaking of the business
with Raditz…I have seen with my own eyes now just how handsomely you profited
from the man’s death. The prize you stole from Bardock’s son is a dangerous one,
boy. Tell me…has it occurred to you yet that you wish her to look upon you
with complete devotion? To stay as yours of her own will, even should you set
her free?”

Vegita stared at him in such open-mouthed shock that the King
chuckled outright. “On the fifteenth anniversary of my birth,” his father went
on. “My father gifted me with the contract of a free red-haired Zapria-jin
courtesan. She was a very beautiful and crafty woman, wise in the ways of
politics and power.

In the year she spent in my bed, she instructed me as much in
the psychology of ruling over men’s minds and hearts as she did in the arts of
bed play. And because I was an heir to a throne who might not wed where he
chose, and must hold his affections in trust for a future queen, she also taught
me which manner of woman to take as my mistress…and which sort of avoid. One
lesson she emphasized in particular was how to spot an ‘unbreakable’. That is
what she called this sort of woman. You may bind her, chain her, over-power her,
crush her body or kill her. In time, you may force her to do to your will…but
only on the surface. But whatever you do to her, she will always remain
essentially as she was on the first day she came into your possession. She will
never bend or break to your will. Like the women of our own race, she cannot be
tamed. But she can be won.”

“Yes,” Vegita murmured with a smile. “You see the thrill of
such a challenge, then.”

“I see the danger she represents to you, boy,” his father said
flatly. “Because by the time the idea of winning her true heart occurs to you,
it has already become unclear who is the master and who is the slave. And should
you succeed in this fool’s errand, should you win her adoration, you will find
that she has ensnared your heart as well. For all of your life, most likely. And
whether you cast her off in the end, or put her down, she will haunt you til
your dying breath.”

Vegita snorted indignantly. What kind of weak-willed fool did
his father take him for? “What would you do with such a woman, Ottoussama?”

“I would not have taken her to my bed in the first place. But,
having done so already…I would kill her. With my own hands. You may still
dream of her all your days, but at least she will gain no greater power over
you.” He studied the carefully blank expression on his son’s face.

“She has no power over me!” Vegita said as sharply as he dared.
But deep within him, an internal grain of doubt began to fester, as he thought
of his sudden over-whelming desire to know her, the real woman, not the doll he
had trained to mere obedience, and his inexplicable desire to win her heart. He
could not even explain where the need had come from, when the whim of a new
game, the challenge of one last scrap of her will to be conquered, had shifted
to this bone-deep want to see her will unchecked…and have her want him still,
adore him still. But…no! His father’s concerns were errant foolishness. He was
the master and she the slave, and so it would always be!

“I will be rid of her when I have had my fill of her,
Ottoussama. But that day is not yet here. I do not prize her as greatly as you
seem to think—”

“Is that why she entered into an apprenticeship at Med Center
with your former house medic this morning?” His father asked, frowning. That
fucking sneak-spy Mousrom again! Vegita issued a low, barely audible growl, and
his father smiled grimly. “Adamant will would not matter so much, were she not
such a great beauty. The kind of beauty that makes of man’s blood boil in his
veins. Nor would I deem her dangerous, if she were some brainless bit of fluff.
But when I looked into those lovely blue eyes as you lay injured in your bed, I
took the measure of her. She must have been reared in a ruling house of that
back-water world Bardock found her on. She has a mind like a spring trap, boy.
She will probably out-pace her mentors at Med Center within the month. In a
year, she’ll be running the place.” He snorted. “Were you not so tangled up in
her arms as you are, I would say leave her there. She is wasted as a whore.
Still…the best course of action would be to have done with her. Iron will, a
brilliant mind and a motive for revenge are a wicked combination, brat. And do
not mistake her. Unless you have the surgeons selectively pair her memory, she
will always want vengeance. She will not forget the death of Raditz or her cub.”
He sat a moment in silence, regarded his son’s hard, implacable expression. “You
will do as you will, as ever. But if you truly believe she has no power over
you, tell me this. Had I killed her myself two days ago in your villa, as my
instincts bade me, what would you have done? You are too young and green to rule
in my place, boy. And I flatter myself to think that you have not yet tired of
my company. But I think, had I slain her, you would now be sitting on my
throne.” His father stood, and Vegita stood with him, his mind rolling through
the scenario his father had just presented him again and again. Gods…he
would have killed the old man in his rage, though he would have regretted
it later.

Ottoussama spoke the truth. He would have gone insane if he had
awakened to find her dead by his father’s hand. The King did not speak, only
watched the younger man silently, letting this all sink in.

“Come, boy,” he said after a moment. “Nothing need be decided
this instant. I will come to you to see to Nappa. I never liked the man, but he
served my House loyally all his days.”

 

They burned Nappa’s body upon the sheered peak of Cho-Tal with
a great many warriors, common and Elite, in attendance. The funeral seemed to be
a herald of the war to come, and all the Capital turned out to watch. Besides
Vegita’s own, not one hand raised wood to the big man’s pyre. Nappa had been
almost universally disliked and feared, even among Vegita’s own squad. Had I
died on Shikaji, who would have built your pyre, Sensei?
He could not think
of anyone, even his own father, who had called the man friend. His face bore no
expression at all as he set the bier alight, as he stood beside his father,
watching the blaze lick upward into the darkening sky.

“You are old to have lost a friend you valued for the first
time, my son.” Vegita nearly started visibly in surprise, though he didn’t look
away from the flames. His father had called him ‘my son’ perhaps half a dozen
times in his life. Always in a moment of some great importance. “I should have
seen that you were hardened to this sort of thing long ago. But we have had no
strong enemies for most of your life, and Saiyans are hard to kill in the worst
of times. You will see others fall before this war is won, boy. Mousrom says
there are rumblings from every corner of the Empire. If this bastard Jeiyce can
persuade even a fraction of the slave worlds to rise against us as one, we will
have a hard fight not to be overborne by sheer numbers.”

Vegita turned to stare at him. His father had not mentioned a
word of this in Council. “You have always said that war is a good thing,
Ottoussama. It sweeps the weaklings from our gene pool and makes the strong
stronger.”

“No victory is ever assured,” his father said grimly. “Though I
would not voice doubts before my ministers, or any of my subjects, under threat
of torture. If we are strong, we will survive. If not, we don’t deserve to live.
But a war, a real war, will bring you that much closer to viability as a king.
And that is a good thing. There are lessons a Saiyan no Ouji should know that
can only be learned on the field, with his back up against a wall. And you will
learn them all in the next year. They will help you to become a strong, cunning
King in a very few years.”

Vegita shifted uncomfortably. “You are not old,
Ottousssama.”

His father turned to study the utterly blank expression on his
son’s face. “I should have kept more distant from you, brat. It will be harder
for you to take your rightful place when your day finally comes, because I have
not. But…” His father turned back to regard the flames that spiraled up from
the pyre. “It has been difficult not to be overly proud of such a strong son. I
am 230 years next winter, my son. Just on the cusp of middle years. If you have
any regard for me at all, you will spare me the dishonor of gray hair.”

“I will not fail you, Ottoussama,” Vegita whispered, barely
above a breath.

His father only nodded. “It is good.”

 

He touched down on the threshold of his villa, so wound up in
troubled thoughts, none of which he wanted to untangle and examine too closely
at the moment, that he did not at first notice the wreckage in the entryway and
the hearth room…or the smear of bright red leading from the shattered glass of
the crystal dining table to the open arch of the great east window that faced
the back of the villa, looking out on the rolling green hills, rather than the
Capital. He followed the blood trail, his heart in his throat. She was sitting
in the window seat, propped up against the stone sill of the window, and—Oh
gods, she had opened up her wrist and her life was pouring away through the gash
like water through a fissure in a punctured damn. She turned her ghost white
face to him, trying to speak, trying to move her lips. He didn’t bother to try
and decipher her words. He snatched her up in both arms and shot out the open
window in a burning streak of speed.

The medics let out a collective shriek as he slammed through
the ceiling feet first, and set her on a med cot. He swept the room, fixing on a
familiar face. “The rest of you—out!” The other medics scattered like
terrified vermin, leaving Scopa to face him alone. The doctor was already
hovering over her, not waiting for a command.

“What have you done, you fool girl?” The Madrani was muttering
softly.

“Fix her!” Vegita snarled. Every nerve and muscle in his body
seemed to be trembling. “Your life depends on it, doctor!”

Scopa nodded absently, working in silence as he patched up the
wound in her wrist with a med swab and injected a blood transfusion tube in one
of the Chikyuu woman’s arms. “I have to give her more blood before we put her in
a tank.” He patted one of her blanched cheeks where a tiny bloom of pink was
beginning to materialize and heaved a sigh of relief that had nothing to do with
fear for his own life. “You got her here in time, Ouji-sama. She’ll be all
right.” The Madrani took one limp wrist and turned it gently, his worried frown
unfurrowing slightly. He jumped as Vegita slammed his fist through the cot
beside his woman’s bed, shattering the thin metal to pieces.

“There is no remedy for this, doctor,” Vegita said bleakly.
“Neither medical nor forcible. If a living thing wills its own death, it will
find a way. It is only a matter of time.” But why now? When she had begun to
wheedle some semblance of freedom from him, when all things in her life seemed
to be moving toward betterment. Why now, and not—not last summer?

“Was there a mess in the villa when you arrived, Ouji-sama?”
Scopa asked tentatively.

“She tore the place apart,” Vegita said.

“She—she didn’t do this to herself on purpose, my Prince.”

Vegita stared hard and the Madrani and the man swallowed before
continuing. He held up the woman’s arm, and examined the rapidly healing wound
once again. “I’d say she smashed her hand through the glass plate of the dining
table and accidentally opened a vein when is shattered. Dammit…I knew
something wasn’t right when she left!”

“She was very pleased when I sent her to you this morning,
doctor,” Vegita said. He raised a baleful, deadly eye to the Madrani. “What
displeased her?”

The man didn’t raise his eyes from the stats readout of his
bio-monitor. “The funeral, Ouji-sama. She’s very isolated from any kind of news
in your villa, though I can’t think of why Batha and Caddi didn’t mention it to
her. She hadn’t heard that Lord Nappa was slain until we all saw the smoke on
top of Cho-Tal. We watched the funeral from the steps of Med Center. Everyone in
the Capital did.” The man’s face had grown particularly blank as he continued
speaking, taking on the careful non-expression of a slave schooled since infancy
to hide his thoughts and feelings from his betters. “Bulma…she had a
particular interest in Nappa-san, Ouji-sama.”

“I know her interest,” Vegita snapped.

“When she learned he was dead…She was like a warrior who has
just seen his greatest, most hated enemy slain by another’s hand, my Prince. I
haven’t seen her in such a rage since—” He stopped his words, his face once
again carefully blank.

I don’t want anyone in the galaxy to kill him other than
me,
his woman had said. The face of Jeiyce of Maiyosh swam before his eyes
for a instant, mocking him, beating him down again. He had an inking of the kind
of rage she had been feeling. He might tear the Capital itself to pieces in his
rage if he learned someone other than himself had slain the Red Prince. Vegita’s
did not shift his deadly gaze from the Madrani’s amber face, as these thoughts
made their way through his head. He smiled coldly. “Since last summer?” He
finished the doctor’s sentence for him.

“As you say, Ouji-sama,” the man stammered.

“It is your professional opinion that this was not a deliberate
attempt to take her own life? Think well before you speak, doctor. If she dies
by her own hand because I have set no watch on her, I will see that you are
weeks in Mousrom’s care before you finally depart this life.”

The Madrani shook his head confidently. “My Prince…she would
not have been so incompetent. If she had wished to die, she would be dead now.
She will not die like that, though. She will go out kicking and screaming.”

“Yes…” Vegita murmured finally, after turning the doctor’s
words over in his head a moment or two. “I think you are right.” This was the
strangest conversation he’d had in longer than he could recall, standing beside
this lowly freedman, speaking to him as though he were almost an equal. But the
heavy leaden weight that had closed around his chest had eased up by the time he
stood watching the tendrils of the woman’s soft, blue hair float in a halo
around her face after Scopa placed her in a regen tank.

 

An hour later, he wrapped her in a thick blanket the Madrani
provided and bore her half-waking body home to his villa in the dark. She
slumbered restlessly beside him, tossing and murmuring in her own language,
until he began to wish he had commanded the doctor to sedate her. Just as dawn
began to burn the black into russet on the horizon, she sat bolt upright,
shrieking a name he had heard her mutter in her sleep before, the name she must
have given the son she had born Raditz. He caught her before she bolted from the
bed, holding her down as she wailed against him, small fists pounding on his
chest. He shook her lightly after a moment or two of this. The piercing noise
she was making was lancing through his head, and this on top of a long sleepless
night plagued by the shade of Nappa and the vicious laughter of the Red Prince
set his temper on edge.

“Stop it!” He said harshly. Her eyes were suddenly wide with
full wakefulness. “The dead are dead! And no amount of wailing will raise them
again!” His voice cracked on the last words, as he saw again Nappa’s body
falling like a cloven tree. She went still in his arms, calming slowly, blue
eyes searching his face. She finally shook her head despairingly, more tears
marring the porcelain perfection of her cheeks. “When will the pain stop?” He
realized to his horror that he had spoken the thought aloud, his voice a raw
whisper.

“When someone you care about dies?” She asked softly. “Never.
But they say in time, you get used to it. I’m starting to doubt that though.
Karot-chan…” Her words failed her for a moment. “His death is like a wound that
never heals. I always thought that if I could kill Nappa myself, it would start
to heal. Now, I’ll never know.”

“Why…” He paused, wondering if the question in his mind,
something that had always puzzled him, would set her to shrilling again. “Why
the son and not the father? You were Raditz’ woman.

He would have spurned his world and his people for your sake.
You knew him. Adored him, I think. The boy could not even speak yet. You’ve no
way of knowing if he would have grown into a man worthy of your affection.” She
was silent, staring at him incredulously for a long time.

“It’s almost impossible to explain to someone who’s been
conditioned to have no inherent familial love,” she said slowly.

“Raditz was very good to me…and I grew to love him after a
while. But…” She closed her eyes, sighing sadly. “He never lost sight of the
fact that I was his. That he owned me. He never understood what was wrong with
that, or that his father had done anything wrong when he destroyed my homeworld.
And more than that, he was a strong man who could defend himself. Karot-chan was
helpless. And innocent. And all mine. I carried him under my heart for ten
months and…he was a part of me. That’s the real reason your women don’t carry
their children to term, Vegita. If they did, they’d rise up and gut all the men
who wanted to take their babies away from them.” He was silent. She shivered
lightly against him. “Kami…I’ve never spoken about him aloud, not like this…I
feel like I just forced up a belly-full of poison. For so long, all I could
think of was one day killing my son’s murderer. I think that was—was poisoning
me as well.”

His spoke very softly, so as not to frighten her into a
pleasing lie, so he might hear the cold truth. “Do you hate me as greatly as you
did Nappa? Do you dream of killing me still?” He watched her eyes go wary
suddenly. “Tell me truly, woman. I slew Raditz in single combat. My hand did not
take the boy’s life, but I would have ordered it done just the same, though not
before your eyes.”

“I would have ordered Nappa’s death if I could have,” she said
slowly. “But I didn’t. And you would’ve ordered Karot-chan killed. But you
didn’t. Might have beens aren’t the same as deeds done.”

“No,” he said bluntly. “But the blame is still at my feet,
woman.”

“Yes, it is,” she said flatly. “But I wouldn’t kill you,
Ouji-sama. Ever.”

He felt a tiny, indulgent grin begin to pull at one corner of
his mouth. “That is a relief.”

Her eyes glittered like blue agates, brilliant and cold. “You
don’t think I could kill you if I wanted to? I have a lot more resources at my
disposal than I did on that island you kept me on those first months, Vegita.
The pouza spice flowers that grow wild in these hills can be harvested for their
roots, did you know that? Boiled down into a lethal poison that could kill you
in half a minute if I pricked your skin with a diamond blade while you were
sleeping. The synthetic fabric that covers the chairs in this bedroom will burn
almost forty- percent cyanide if I set if on fire. Both terrible ways for a
warrior to die, don’t you think, Ouji-sama?”

His body had gone still as a stone as she spoke. The gentle
hand that had been stroking the soft fall of her hair stopped at her delicate,
defenseless neck. He took a long, slow breath before speaking, trying to calm
himself. Nappa’s ghost voice floated through his head, scolding him as a tiny
boy for some childish tantrum. If you break your toys, you cannot play with
them thereafter, my Prince.

“You’ve given this some thought,” he finally managed to say
coldly.

“Yes,” she agreed. “Quite a lot. And I decided against it. At
first, only for the same reason I’ve never stolen a ship and escaped.

Scopa finally explained to me when we moved back to the Capital
that when one slave escapes, all the others in the household are put to death.
If I did you in, your father would probably kill every slave on Vegita-sei.”

“That he would,” Vegita agreed.

“I also decided that if I were to take revenge on you, I
wouldn’t’ kill you.”

“Ah,” he smirked. “A fate worse than death for me? Like that
fool Bardock. So, how do you plan to torture me, woman?” Something was beginning
to stir inside him, shifting the anger to an almost unbearable excitement, a
thing that he sensed was close kin to the biting insults and mutual predatory
stance of a Saiyan courtship spar.

“The same way Bardock is being tortured,” she smiled wickedly.
“With love. I’m going to make you love me. Real love, Vegita no ouji. Mad and
boundless and forever, like the twinned souls of moonbound warriors. I’ll make
you love me…and when you do, when I’m absolutely sure I have your whole heart,
I’ll use that love to destroy you.”

He laughed aloud. “You have a very elevated opinion of your
place in my life, woman.”

“Think so?” She kissed him, one hand smoothing down his back to
brush his tail. He rumbled low in his chest, tightening his arms around her.
“You’re half-way there already.”

It was like ice water tossed on his bare back during deep
sleep. A chill and a deep, atavistic ripple of unfamiliar fear went shooting
through him. And on its heels, anger. “You…insolent bitch!” He snarled, arms
clenching reactively, hearing her faint cry and a dull snap only dimly through
his rage. He pulled back, drawing back his hand to deliver a blow that would
have very probably broken her neck had it fallen. And froze, staring into eyes
that were the color of the sea at sunrise, full of pain, but strangely calm. He
had over-powered her countless times during the first months that she had been
his, but he had never struck her. Not once. And now…now he could not. His hand
and the arm attached to it would not obey. He let his hand fall limp to his
side, his breath gripping once more in his chest as he shifted her gently,
probing her ribcage with a light touch. He had held her so tightly, he had
cracked a rib.

“Is the tank in Scopa’s old surgery still there?” He asked
softly.

She nodded. “I don’t need a tank for this. There’s a bone
sauter in my wardrobe beside the bed. I can mend it myself. It’ll be knitted
good as new by the time I go to Med Center.” She eyed him worriedly. “I can
still go to Med Center, can’t I?”

He grunted. “I gave you my word, did I not?”

“Good,” she smiled to herself, taking the bone sautering
instrument he pulled out of the wardrobe and examining the tender area with
experienced fingers. “It’s not that bad. Just a hairline fracture.”

“How would you know, woman,” he asked irritably, watching her
as she knelt on the bed, running the device over the bone, repairing the—the
damage he had done to her. He nearly hissed aloud, furious at himself for the
unnerving shudder that ripped through him each time she winced. She blinked at
him in surprise.

“Vegita…You’ve broken my ribs more times than I can count. Just
from holding me too tightly. A couple of times while you were asleep. This is
the first time you’ve ever noticed.” He swallowed hard against the icy coolness
in her voice, growling again with barely checked rage as his stomach twisted in
a slow rolling somersault. What the fuck was wrong with him?! She was a bed
slave! A whore! To be used up at his pleasure and thrown away when he tired of
her! To—to be—

But she winced again as she probed the skin over the newly
healed bone, that would still be sensitive, still painful for several hours
after knitting, and a vivid stab of sense memory swept through him. The sense of
tearing agony as Jeiyce had shattered his own ribs to splinters, ramming the
shards into his lungs like shrapnel with a second blow, all the while holding
Vegita helpless, pinned by the Red Prince’s greater strength. She raised her
eyes again to meet his, and looked startled by what she saw there. How many
times, he wondered, even after she had begun to submit to him, had he broken her
bones without realizing it, and continued on through the night oblivious to her
injuries?

“It’s not as bad as your injuries were,” she said, reading his
mind apparently.

“Have I ever—?” He stopped the words before he uttered them,
clamping his teeth down over them with a hiss of fury. At himself for having
spoken, at her for being so damnably frail of body, for making him wrench
internally at the thought of having damaged a creature as lowly and unimportant
as herself.

“Never as bad as Jeiyce hurt you,” she answered the question he
had only half spoken, again seeing into his thoughts with no effort.

 

You’re half-way there already, she had said.

No!

And no and no and no! His father’s warnings were the ravings of
a man whose blood had run cold for women since the death of Vegita’s mother. He
was the master here! He bared his teeth, and pulled her body roughly against
his, making her yelp in pain. He set his jaw against the knot in his gut and
growled murderously into her face. “Do you think I give a damn about you?! You
live and continue to live for my pleasure. You are nothing outside of that! You
are my whore until I see fit to have done with you, and nothing more! Nothing
more!”

“Which one of us are you trying to convince, Vegita?” She
asked, blue eyes burning mockingly into his as he threw he down and shoved her
legs roughly apart.

“Woman,” he rasped softly, his mouth against hers. “I do not
give a damn about you.”

Her lips curled in a smile so evil it would have made a prince
of Hell sigh with adoration. “Yes, you do.” She hooked her legs around his hips
and pulled him deep inside her, and he choked on an answering cry of pain that
echoed hers. His body, independent of his will, drove into her sweet warmth
again and again, while his soul seemed to writhe on a bed of coals each time she
gasped, every time her beautiful face cinched up in pain as he battered the
newly healed bone in her ribcage with each thrust. He came in less than a
minute, like an unschooled virgin boy, and she shrieked out as she finished with
him, her cries a sickening mix of pleasure and agony.

“I will win this game of yours, woman,” he managed to husk in
her ear after a moment, still gasping like a drowning swimmer. “I will make you
adore me, fawn upon me, give me every piece of yourself that you have held back,
until I own you. All of you, body and soul! I will make you—” But the word
clogged in his throat.

She brushed his lips with hers, delicate fingers caressing his
sweating brow. “Love you?” Her soft laughter was sweet and cruel. “You don’t
know how, Vegita. You can’t even make yourself say the word. You don’t know how
to fight a battle that doesn’t involve brute strength and fighting power. I do.
You’re going to lose this little war, my beautiful Prince. And when you do,
you’ll be the one who is enslaved.”

That wild, anticipatory thrill of a challenge, of a new and
delicious sort of battle, began to fill him again, and he returned her kiss,
slow and deep. “We shall see,” he said. He withdrew from her gently, eased her
up on her feet as though she were made of delicate cobweb strands. He began
pulling on his clothes, slowly helping her do the same, noting the red marks on
her flawless skin, already mottling to angry bruises. There would be no victory
in his future if he continued to—to hurt her like this.

“My word to you, woman,” he said softly. “You will not receive
so much as a bruise from my hands hereafter.”

He left before she could answer. It was past time for him to
train.

 

 

He trained. Day and into the night, pummeling his flesh and
breaking his bones in the high gravity domes the Madrani techs began to build
and rebuild in a constant state of frantic construction, so that he would
immediately have a new dome to demolish each time he shattered the last. They
knew their lives depended on it. The only thing he lacked, burned for in a
constant rage of frustration, was a sparring partner to equal his own strength.
He went through the databases of fighting power counters for every warrior in
the Empire, looking for someone, anyone that even came close. There was no one.
He began searching Mousrom’s records of captives held at Kharda city. There were
some Maiyosh-jin with untapped potential to be very, very strong fighters, but
the Red Prince’s people were not warriors by nature. Jeiyce was an apparent
anomaly among the sons of his race. He could have had these men trained to
fight, whipped into shape to become amazingly powerful sparring partners…in
the space of a year or two perhaps. But he did not have that much time. He began
searching even the slave records each night before he slept. At long last, he
found something. A possibility anyway. A mercenary type taken in a raid decades
ago during his father’s wars of conquest. It was easy to see why the big,
lumbering fool had been spared the death that had greeted most higher powered
captives in those days.

The man was just short of having been disqualified as sentient
life in the brains department. He had spent the better part of the last two
decades as a dock porter, but in his youth had been a mercenary in the service
of Tsiru-sei. The big moron had not lifted a hand in violence for twenty years,
he told Vegita sadly. But even a man as slow-witted as this one would soon
remember the training of his soldiering days if properly motivated. Rikkuum,
Vegita soon learned, was more than eager to become sparring partner to the
Saiyan no Ouji, and lacked the native intelligence to fear having been selected
for a duty that no Saiyan warrior had ever survived more than a few weeks. To
his delight, Vegita soon found out why. The man was monstrously powerful, and
faster than any being so large and lumbering should be.

In their first bout, the big bastard side-stepped Vegita’s
head-on attack and nearly cold cocked his master in one, hamfisted blow. Vegita
staggered back, and roared with rage, firing a blast at the man that should have
left him a smoldering pile of ash. Rikkuum blocked it easily and sprang forward
again, catching the prince with an upper cut jab…and knocked the Saiyan no
Ouji on his royal backside. He stood watching Vegita rise painful to his feet,
and blinked amiably at the murderous expression on the Saiyan’s face.

“This is what you require, Ouji-sama?”

Vegita stared at the giant man, this mountain of fighting
strength that had lain fallow, untapped and unknown for 20 years. He had, by
some benevolent miracle, stumbled onto exactly what he needed. Someone who would
beat him to a pulp each day from morning to night, increasing his strength,
speed and stamina with each new bout. He went to his bed that night, aching and
shaky from a half hour in a regen tank and more content than he had been since
the battle on Shikaji.

And each night, he returned home to besiege his woman in a new
round of the merry war they had begun. He gave her utter autonomy to come and go
as she would and to order all things in his household as though she were its
mistress. He now realized that the gifts of clothing and luxuriant niceties had
been tossed aside with nothing more than a cursory word of thanks from her. That
freedom, or its closest simulation, was a thing she truly craved. She cleared
out a spare room in the villa and moved a small mountain of medical texts,
machines and engineering equipment into it in the space of an afternoon, and he
soon became accustomed to seeking her in that “workshop” each time he returned
home.

She in turn, showered him with affection and worked his
exhausted, sore body to its limits each night, doing things to him that made it
difficult to concentrate the next day if he thought on them overlong, that
forced him to discipline himself sternly not to hurry through his training so
that he might return to her again all the quicker.

But each evening at table, after his mocking courtesy and her
sweet false submissiveness had waned, he saw a little more of the woman he
sought to draw out. He slowly came to realize that she could debate him to the
wall on any subject he cared to name, on things as diverse as hyper drive
mechanics and Saiyan pre-interstellar history. The more he let her see that she
might speak her mind uncensored—though he had to bite his tongue to keep from
doing so a dozen times a night—the more she showed him her true self. And the
more spellbound he became, by each mercurial flicker of wit, temper and
intellect. He own tactic—to simply give her more and more freedom until her
gratitude for all he had given her warmed her heart and melted it into his
hands—seemed to be working, though slowly. He had assumed initially that her
strategy was to bed him as well and creatively as his schedule allowed, but…He
began to wonder if the simple act of showing him who she truly was might not be
some sort of subtle on his heart assault as well.

“How many others like Rikkuum do you think there are,
Ottoussama?” Vegita asked his father after the King had summoned him one
morning. The word on his constant use of the tanks, nearly every day now, as
Rikkuum continued to happily pound him into tenderized meat each time they
fought, had reached his father’s ears. “Men that strong, who slipped past our
purges of all the strongest races. Men with both intelligence and fighting
power.”

“It is a big galaxy, boy,” his father answered pensively. “More
than we imagine. You are thinking that if you could find this Rikkuum so easily,
what manner of fighting power has the Red Prince managed to amass in his
followers?”

“If he had 100 such men, he would be unstoppable,” Vegita said
soberly. “He could mount a successful siege of Vegita-sei itself.”

“You are beginning to think like a king,” his father chuckled.
“Now you know why I rarely sleep more than an hour a night. I must contemplate
this and every other potential situation that might threaten this world and our
people, and try to form a plan to avert it should that situation arise.” His
father smiled grimly. “You have been so caught up in your training that you did
not notice the orbital moon baubles that Bardock and his weapons squad have been
launching over the last few days. There are even more on the ground to be sent
up in the event of attack. Let the Red Demons try their hand against an entire
planet full of enraged Oozaru if they will.” Ottoussama bid him a good-humored
farewell and left for Taldai, Vegita-sei nearest neighboring solar system, to
spend the day forcibly galvanizing the ship foundry there into completing
Vegita-sei’s new fleet ahead of schedule.

By noon, he stood over the bleeding, unconscious body of
Rikkuum, winded, bloody himself, but very pleased. This was the first time he
had put the big man down before midday. He went out into the sun, commanding the
medics who hovered on the edge of his training dome to see to the man, and the
palace cooks to bring his lunch outside. He stepped out into the bright light of
day, squinting upward at the giant troop carrier that seemed to be listing
horribly to port as it set down on the upper launch pad of Med Center with a
resounding metallic thud. An instant later, an alarm claxon began to shrill
throughout the Capital, but Vegita was already moving. He set down at Med Center
in the midst of an insect hive of running men and women. He caught sight of a
familiar face, standing beneath the under belly of the carrier. Bardock. The man
was easing his shoulder out from under the hull, shouting at the warriors around
him to get inside.

“What the hell is this?!” Vegita barked out.

“We were working on a moon bauble array for your father,
Ouji-sama,” Bardock said, breathing heavily. “The carrier came down out of space
like a rock. We couldn’t raise the bridge on our scouters, so we just grabbed it
and set it down here. It looks like its taken heavy fire. There are score marks
all over—”

“Ouji-sama!” A tall, lanky man, one of Bardock’s warriors, came
tearing out of the carrier. “The carrier is from Ansou-sei! The pilots say the
garrisons there were hit by the Maiyosh-jin this morning. They fired some sort
of magnetic disruption blast that fragged all their communications equipment.
The men inside said that this is the first of ten carriers, all bearing Saiyan
wounded!” As the man spoke, a rush of stretcher bearers began loading the first
of the wounded warriors from the ship. Or what was left of them.

“Get the armor off these men now!” The Madrani Scopa was
shouting like a squad commander in the field, barking out orders to his own
staff and the Saiyans that were now rushing in from all parts of the Capital,
responding to the alarm. The bio-monitor in the doctor’s hand was screaming like
a dying bird. “The armor’s hot! Bulma!” His woman was there at the Madrani’s
side, carrying a med satchel that was nearly as big as she was. “Set up a rad
inoculation triage right here, both for the wounded and the men going inside the
ship—” His eyes lit on Vegita, and he raced over, eyes frantic. “Ouji-sama! I
must humbly ask you—”

“These are my warriors, doctor,” Vegita snapped. “What do they
need?”

“Their armor is irradiated, Ouji-sama! It must be disposed of
quickly—off planet. The ship is hot as well. From the looks of the wounded,
the Maiyosh-jin must have used plasma atomics!”

Vegita cursed viscously. The honorless cowards! The doctor was
right. The plasma missiles would have cut through a Saiyan’s Ki shield like a
knife through new bread. And melted the men’s flesh inside their own armor. “All
the other troop transports that will be arriving in the next few hours will be
hot as well. I can cure rad poisoning with an injection, my prince, but if we
let the crippled carriers land, or worse, if they break up as they try to land,
they could irradiate the entire Capital! Ouji-sama, I cannot give orders to
Saiyan warriors, but you can!”

“We will empty this carrier, then launch it into the sun,”
Vegita said quickly. “I will set warriors to physically hold the other carriers
in position just inside the atmosphere, while others ferry the wounded down to
you. Then we will hurl those carriers into the sun as well. Captain!”

“My Prince?” Bardock barked out smartly. Vegita did not miss
the man smooth out the hearty dislike from his face. Raditz’ father was an
insolent bastard, he thought grimly. But he was also a very bright, capable
bastard. “Take command of the men emptying this transport, and all the others
that arrive. I will marshal the stronger Elites to catch the ships as they
arrive and hold them in place while you pull the wounded out.”

“Bardock!” Bulma caught the warrior’s arm. “Wasn’t Romayna
stationed on Ansou-sei?” Bardock nodded shortly, his eyes softening as they fell
on the girl’s pale, worried face.

“Don’t fret for her, brat,” he said with a grim, tense grin.
“She is strong and clever. She will have survived.” He wheeled away and began
shouting orders at his own squad and dozens of others.

Vegita didn’t pause to reflect on that strange exchange, or the
squad captain’s oddly affectionate manner toward the young woman who hated him
so deeply. There was no time. He began to shout out orders to the Elites that
were beginning to cluster around him, anxious for orders.

 

The whole of that long, mad day was a blur in his mind ever
after. He rallied and organized both the soldiers and slaves that poured into
the medical quarter as the day wore on and streamed in from the surrounding
countryside to aid in porting the wounded to the surface. Once each transport
was empty, the teams of stronger warriors hovering below the ship, faces
straining with effort from holding the great weight steady, sometimes for
several hours, would gather the last of their combined strength to shove the
carriers out of the atmosphere and into the sun’s gravitational pull . And by
the time each ship was ditched, another transport would arrive. The faces of the
Saiyan soldiers, some twisted in agony or burnt beyond recognition, all spitting
gouts of blood from blistered lips as the poison of the rad plasma ate them
alive from inside—all these images began to burn inside Vegita’s mind. He knew
they would stay firmly etched there all his days. He thought he had felt anger
when Jeiyce of Maiyosh had beaten him down, but now he realized he had never
known true fury until this day. He might have killed any one of these men in
tournament without a second thought. He did not value a single one of them
personally. But they were his. His soldiers, his people, all sons of
Vegita-sei. A half million troops cut down in a single bombing strike. The enemy
had used the cruelest, most cowardly far range weapon known to sentient life.
Plasma atomics. Cruel because it killed the bulk of its victims slowly. Cowardly
because the soldiers on the surface had been given no chance to fight back. The
missiles had struck the garrison bases without warning in the dead of night.

As each carrier was hurled into the sun, the men beside him
would fall away, dropping down in exhaustion from effort and rad exposure. The
flushed, unhealthy visages of the Elites around him told Vegita that having
over-taxed their fighting powers was not causing collapse so much as the fact
that they were being poisoned themselves. He passed the command down through
Bardock and his squad members that each man bracing the carriers should drop
down to Med Center himself for a rad inoculation the instant he began to feel
weak. Vegita himself felt nothing. He held onto his rage throughout that long
day, unable to release it, unable to allow himself to stop and rest until all
his warriors, his warriors, were on the surface. He did not know if it
was adrenaline or his own Ki shield, drawn from a fighting power so many times
greater than any of the men around him, that kept the sickness at bay for him.
But as the last carrier spun upward in a whirling silhouette into the sun, a
wave of weak, sickened nausea rose up and pulled him down into darkness.

 

“Young fool,” a familiar voice said gruffly. He opened his eyes
to see his father standing by his bed, arms folded. “You are a man, you young
idiot! Not a god. Nor are you the Legendary reborn to us again…yet. Did you
think your royal blood a sufficient shield against plasma radiation?” The king
shook his head angrily. “Come to me when you are fit to fly, boy. We must talk
of what to do next.”

Vegita nodded silently, and his father seemed to fade into a
bank of mist. The sound of his woman’s voice, weeping softly, brought him back
to full consciousness. She was a few meters away in the crowded recovery ward,
bent over the body, horribly burned and still horribly alive, of a Saiyan woman,
her slim shoulders shaking with grief.

“Do not dishonor her death with tears, daughter,” Bardock told
her softly. His voice sounded broken, as though the man were choking on shards
of glass.

“Let her weep,” the dying woman whispered. “She is neither
Saiyan nor a warrior…though only for want of fighting power. I…knew you would
survive when Raditz and the babe were slain.”

A coughing rasp of a chuckle. “Tell me, Bulma…have you bent the
Saiyan no Ouji to your will as completely as you did my firstborn?”

“Romayna-san…” The younger woman’s voice was a soft sob.

“I think…he will learn that it was folly to make an enemy of
you before the last dance is done. All my goods and chattels I bequeath to you,
girl. And what lies safe in the incu-ward below us as well…to ease your
grief.”

“Romayna,” Bardock said. “The girl is not her own mistress. All
you will to her, you give to the man who slew Raditz.”

“Bar-kun…” A long labored breath in the woman’s half-melted
lungs. “Nothing is forgiven, beloved. Not yet. You have not yet earned it. You
will know when you have…But I will not look on you as I die. Go.” Bardock
uttered a low, choking growl that was more than half a sob, though his face
remained impassive. He turned without another word and left the two women to
themselves. Bardock’s mate began to speak softly to the Chikyuu woman, too
softly for Vegita to hear the words. He slept again.

 

His eyes snapped open and he sat up in the silent recovery
ward, easing himself slowly to his feet. It was morning, though of what day he
wasn’t sure. He could feel his body growing stronger by the minute, telling him
more accurately than any physician that he had rested long enough. He caught
sight of the Madrani doctor Scopa as he made his way out of the complex, and
smirked. The man was lying on his face on an unoccupied gurney, snoring softly.
Let the fellow sleep, Vegita thought. The weakling had earned it. He found his
father cloistered with the entirety of the Privy Council, huddled around a halo
star chart.

“Are you fit for battle?” His father said without preamble as
Vegita entered the chamber.

“I am more than fit, Ottoussama,” Vegita snarled softly.

The king nodded curtly. “The whole planet is buzzing with word
of your doings yesterday. Medical managed to save more than a third of the
wounded. It would have been more, but you gave the surgeons leave to let those
who would have lived as cripples die with honor. A merciful command, boy.” The
note of pride in those abrupt words sent a faint tremor of warmth through
Vegita’s still shaky body. “Intelligence has given us a list of targets known
now to harbor Maiyosh-jin rebels and civilians, or to have had dealings with
them in the past. At this juncture, it’s all one. We will kill their race, all
their kind, wherever we find them. To this list, I have added several dozen more
worlds, all high profile hubs and space ports of interstellar travel. You will
take ten thousand warriors in ten troop carriers and wage a campaign of
annihilation against these worlds. Where it is feasible, take any Maiyosh-jin
you find alive, to be returned to Vegita-sei and put to questioning.”

“This is a campaign of terror,” Vegita said, surveying the
targets red-marked for destruction on the star chart. They were all dispersed
evenly throughout each quadrant of Imperial Saiyan space, so that every part of
the Empire might feel the sting of reprimand. “By your leave, Ottoussama, I will
wait three days between each purge. Beginning with the third or forth world on
this list, I will send a wave comm message to the surface informing the leaders
and general populace that if they give up information concerning the Red Prince
or the location of any hidden colonies of Maiyosh-jin, they will be spared.”

Articha nodded to his father. “It is sound strategy, Sire. And
if he strikes at the same hour, every three days, it will put the entire Empire
in a panic, each world wondering if they will be next.”

“A good plan,” his father said. “You will take Articha along as
your field marshal, boy. You leave tomorrow.”

“But before you depart, Ouji-sama,” Mousrom’s piggy eyes bore
no hint of insolence, but Vegita could feel angry spite rolling off the fat man
in waves. “You should see the crux of the enemy’s new ‘weapon’. It allowed the
Red Demons to launch plasma nukes through our sensors nets undetected. This is a
fairly innocuous example of the technology.” The Inquisitor lay a thumb sized
pellet on the council table, pressing a tiny catch on its side. The pellet
‘popped’ in a burst of metallic scented smoke. And a full mini-surgery satchel
appeared from nowhere, spread across half the table. “It is a kind of
miniaturization science we have never seen, Ouji-sama. My weapons teams have not
been able to replicate it, but they say there is no limit to the size or variety
of its scope. The Maiyosh-jin used this technology to miniaturize their plasma
torpedoes that must have been timed to ‘expand’ just before they struck the
surface of Ansou-sei. I also believe it is how the Maiyosh-jin populated worlds
were able to evacuate in the space of a day. The possibilities are endless.
Ships, food, medical supplies, housing…weapons. And…” The man’s eyes glittered
in ugly anticipation. “I have learned something in the last hour that may alter
your majesty’s benevolent policies toward the slave population of Vegita-sei.
This morning, one of our Maiyosh-jin captives led me to a technical slave who
toiled in the palace itself.

In the slave’s rooms, we found this.” Mousrom laid another
pellet, identical to the first, on the table, and paused for dramatic
effect.

“We must face the very real possibility of a slave network in
league with the Red Prince here on Vegita-sei. The potential for terrorism on
our own soil is one we cannot ignore, Ou-sama.”

“What remedy would you suggest?” Ottoussama said quietly in the
sudden cold silence.

“A clean sweep, Sire,” Mousrom said eagerly. “Either execute or
rotate off world all the general labor slaves. And I would ask leave to put to
question selected segments of the more intelligent, highly skilled slaves and
free alien residents here in the Capital. Especially those whose duties require
them to travel off world, or give them access to those who do.”

“Yesterday, I would have agreed with you,” Vegita said, eyeing
the man with open disgust. “And seen no harm in letting you gut the every slave
and freedman on the planet until you sated even your apparently unquenchable
taste for torture.” An almost inaudible chuckle escaped Turna. “How skilled are
you at medicine, Mousrom-san?” Vegita drawled. “Without the slaves and freedmen
in Medical, our losses would have been 90% yesterday, not a ‘mere’ two thirds.
When our soldiers die by the tens of thousands after you have depleted our slave
population of its medical staff, I will send their mates and heirs to your
doorstep to ask for a blood price.”

His father cut off whatever reply the seething, red-faced
Inquisitor might have made. “Seek out this ‘red network’ in your conventional
manner, Mousrom. There will be no wholesale purge and torture of Vegita-sei’s
homeworld slaves until you show me they are all in league with the enemy. The
boy is right. We will weaken ourselves greatly if we put our labor force to the
sword.”

“Or the wrack,” Articha murmured. “The slaves at Med Center and
the Capital at large showed great loyalty to their masters yesterday. Your
tactics would drive them into the arms of the Red Prince.”

“I—I beg your pardon, Ou-sama,” Mousrom said solicitously. He
cut his eyes back to Vegita, full of veiled malice. “And yours, Ouji-sama. I am
guilty of presumption in my zealous wish to serve you. I will continue as you
have previously bade me proceed. I will only arrest and question those slaves
whom I have just reason to suspect. Both those slaves in the general
populace…and those in Med Center, for whom you have such a great affection,
Oujisama.” There were several levels of barbed threat and insinuation in those
words. Vegita regarded the Inquisitor coldly, dropping all pretense of
civility.

“Take care, fat man,” he said softly. “If you over-step your
station, you may trip and fall.”

“Enough,” his father said irritably. “Try not to goad the boy
into killing you, Mousrom. I can little afford to lose your services on the eve
of all out war.” Vegita took the point as well, and hung back after the others
had departed, arms folded over his chest, glowering down at his feet in
suppressed rage. The Inquisitor well knew his woman was now apprenticed to Scopa
at Med Center. Mousrom had given his father the information in fact. Would the
Intelligence Minister truly have the suicidal gaul to strike at Vegita through
his woman, Mousrom’s petty revenge for past and present insults? Trump up some
suspicion surrounding her, then….then take her to his torturer’s nest in the
north while Vegita was away at war? And when he returned, the deed would have
been done, his woman’s fragile, defenseless body torn to pieces upon Mousrom’s
twisted machines. However long Vegita took killing the misshapen Inquisitor
would not matter then. No amount of revenge would bring her back after she was
dead.

“Heed Articha’s experience on the field, boy.” His father’s
voice cut through the worried, angry run of his thoughts. Vegita regarded the
other man’s face, so much like his own, though harder and no longer young. “Your
strength is great, but even a large predator may be over-whelmed by an army of
stinging insects…and these insects will soon rise against us by the trillions.
It is the nature of every living thing, however weak and lowly, to wish to be
free.”

“Those trillions you speak of need a focal point to look to and
to lead them,” Vegita said softly. “Without it they are nothing more than
stampeding live stock, a directionless mob at best. Jeiyce is that symbol for
our enemies. When I crush him, they will be lost.”

“They will be lost,” his father agreed, but his perpetual frown
sank even deeper. “But a mob set in motion is a force of nature. They will not
cease their struggles when you have slain Jeiyce of Maiyosh. This rebellion will
be long and bitter in putting down. But…it is good that our warriors have a
symbol of their own. After yesterday, our troops would cheerfully follow you to
lay siege to Hell if you commanded them. It is good that you have learned a
lesson I despaired of you ever truly understanding.” His father’s face remained
hard as granite, but the cold black eyes warmed again with pride. “That our
warriors, our people, are yours. To command, to rule…and to protect. And as
their lord, you are theirs as well.”

He spent the day making ready, assembling and organizing his
ships, his men, his supplies, caught up in an almost unbearable feeling of
childlike excitement. At every step of the way, Articha hovered silent and
steady at his shoulder, voicing neither approval nor disapproval at any decision
he made until all was in readiness.

“You have a gift for leading men, and a knack for organization,
Ouji-sama,” she said curtly.

High praise indeed from Articha. He began to realize the reason
why he liked the normally taciturn woman, why he would have chosen her himself
had his father not commanded her to advise him in this campaign. She was blunt
and utterly honest, a rare thing even among the Royal Councilors, and would not
keep silent where she felt he had fallen short, or praise him for anything less
than excellence.

Late in the evening, he flew back to his hillside villa,
scanning for the tiny, but distinct Ki that should have lain sleeping within. He
wheeled about with an annoyed curse, burning back in the direction of Med
Center. What the hell was the woman still doing there this late? Gossiping with
her girlfriend Scopa? He barged rudely into the main infirmary, still
overflowing with wounded, and was greeted by a pale-faced Scopa. The
amber-skinned man, so calm and professional as he had orchestrated the treatment
of more than 100, 000 wounded, seemed on the point of tears.

“Where is my woman?!” He snapped angrily. But something in the
man’s face stilled the annoyance he was feeling, and froze into something that
bordered on fear. Mousrom…

 

“Did they take her? The Inquisitors?!”

The Madrani shook his head in mild confusion at the question.
“No. I took a short nap in the wee hours this morning when things began to calm
down…I left her sleeping near your bedside. But…Oh gods, Ouji-sama! I beg you…I
beg you, think a bit before you act in this matter!”

“What the hell are you talking about, you fool?!”

“She is below, Ouji-sama,” the doctor said softly. “In the
incu-ward.”

The incu-ward. The endless subterranean warehouse of incubators
housed beneath Med Center, where Saiyan embryos were placed to grow to
viability…Vegita felt the lump of ice in his chest grow colder still.

“Show me,” he said curtly.

He followed the Madrani to the lift that led down to what was
the largest storage facility of infants in the Empire, through half lit
corridors of sleeping brats in all stages of development, to a wing that seemed
to house the children ready for emergence. Ready to be sent to the infant
barracks for aggression conditioning if their Ki was acceptably high, or tossed
to an uncertain fate in the pod seeding unit of they were weak. She was sitting
on the floor beside an open incubator, rocking a naked babe in her arms, smiling
and weeping at the same time. A few feet from her, Bardock knelt, still in the
blood smeared armor he had worn the day before, speaking to her in soft,
soothing tones. She did not seem to hear him or even notice the man’s presence.
Bardock turned as Vegita and Scopa approached, edging back from the woman
slowly, his movements leaden as though his limbs were weighted.

“One of you will explain this to me now!” Vegita hissed softly,
his eyes locked on the woman’s face, her fragile smile as she looked down at the
boy in her arms.

“The boy is my son, Ouji-sama,” Bardock said in a hushed voice.
“My—my mate discovered herself with child six years ago, and put the embryo in
cry-storage. When we found ourselves suddenly without an heir a year ago, she
had him unfrozen and placed in an incu-pod.” Vegita narrowed his eyes balefully
at the couched reference to Raditz’ death, but kept silent as the man continued.
“Romayna and I were estranged, and she—she had a particular fondness for the
Chikyuu girl. She willed the boy to Bulma on her deathbed, Ouji-sama.”

“My Prince…” The doctor said tremulously. “I would implore
you as her physician to tread lightly here…”

“He’s trying to tell you,” Bardock whispered harshly, “that if
you snatch the brat from her arms, her mind will most likely snap. Permanently.”
The man’s brows drew together in a frown of open disgust. “And you’ll lose your
favorite fuck toy for good.”

Vegita’s hand was around Bardock’s throat before he even
finished the sentence. He would have snapped the bastard’s neck in another
second, but a low cry from the woman made him turn. She was on her feet now,
staring at him in absolute horror, clutching the baby to her chest. Then she
wheeled and ran, tearing down the pitch black corridor, sobbing with terror. He
shot forward and caught her lightly in his arms an instant before she would have
gone tumbling headfirst dark a dark stairway. She began shrieking incoherently,
trying to keep the boy away from him, as he shook her gently, trying to make her
hear him.

“I will not harm him, Bulma!” He finally roared, his voice
rising over her screams. She went immobile almost instantly, staring at him
wide-eyed. Then…she began to collapse in his arms, sinking slowly her knees
before him while he stared down at her in shock.

“Please…Please, Vegita…Oh gods, please let me keep him!
I’ll do anything…Anything! Please don’t take him away from me again!”

The two fools rushing behind him in the darkness had been
right, he thought numbly. What he did and said in the next few moments might
very well mean the loss of her. “Woman…” He said slowly, carefully. “This is
not the same boy.”

“I don’t care!” She wailed. “Please….oh, Kami, please….”
Her voice tapered off into a low moan. She sounded like a damned soul begging
for mercy on the threshold of Hell…and expecting none. He swallowed his anger
at the dead woman who had put them both in this situation, trying to think,
trying to reason out a solution that would not leave her mad. But he would be
damned to a coward’s hell himself before he fostered any whelp of Bardock in his
own household! He would not—

There was a solution. “Keep the brat here,” he said finally,
watching the hope that dawned in her eyes with a small internal smile. This
would go a long way to winning the little war he and she had been waging during
the last weeks. “I will not have the son of Bardock sleeping under my roof. But
you may keep him at Med Center. Scopa will attend him at night. Will you not,
doctor?”

“With all my heart, Ouji-sama,” the Madrani whispered.

“You understand that he must go to the children’s barracks at
four year of age?” Vegita asked sternly. She nodded reluctantly. “It is done
then. I am leaving Vegita-sei in the morning to hunt the Red Prince, and to give
our enemies an answer to their attack yesterday. It may be months before I
return. You will dwell here at Med Center while I am gone. Keep the boy by your
side night and day if you wish.”

“Vegita…” She sighed softly, unable to speak more.

He turned to glare at Bardock. “You are familiar with Mousrom
of Intelligence?” The warrior nodded shortly, and the Madrani gasped softly at
the mention of that name. “He is not my friend, and may try to avenge himself
upon me in some spiteful way while I am off planet.” Bardock’s eyes cut to the
woman in grim understanding. Vegita did not like this man, would have killed him
out of hand for the words he had spoken moments ago were he not such a strong
clever soldier. And Vegita-sei needed all her strong soldiers now. Every single
one of them.

Daughter, Bardock had called the girl as she wept over
the body of his dying mate. As a man would address his son’s bride. For whatever
reason, he looked upon her as a man looked upon a woman of his own blood. He
would not desire her for his own. In fact, if the man held true to the bent of
most Saiyan widowers, Vegita’s own father included, he would probably never
desire another woman again after the death of his mate. Bardock was not a man
Vegita would ever willingly trust with his own life. But somehow, Vegita knew
the man would give his life to protect Bulma. And for all the want of a single
drop of noble blood, he was stronger than most Elites.

“I appoint you my chatelain in my absence, Bardock. Watch over
all that is mine, guard it with your life if you must, until I return. Do not
leave her side. And if the Inquisitors come for her with some convenient bit of
manufactured suspicion, I command you to kill them in my name, and hide her away
in the back country until I return.”

“I will do all these things to the last of my strength,
Ouji-sama,” Bardock growled softly.

An hour later, Bulma had nested the boy in a set of rooms Scopa
had given her in Med Center’s residential wing. She turned to Vegita, and drew
him to the little apartment’s narrow bed, her eyes shining with standing tears.
It had not struck him until this moment that he would not see her again for
months. The thought seemed to wrench at him in some empty, lost fashion. Months
until he touched her again, held her, heard the sound of her voice.

She leaned down and kissed him lightly, and one bright tear
escaped, rolling slowly down one perfect cheek. He cupped her face in his hand
and wiped it away.

“I have seen you weep in sorrow, anger and joy,” he said
softly. “Which is it now?”

“All three,” she whispered. “And one thing more.” She kissed
him deeper this time, her damp eyes beginning to burn with desire.

“Thankfulness.”

 

 

For three months, he burned and butchered, and was occasionally
blessed with a stand up fight. In addition to the fixed relation targets, they
managed to rout out four separate Maiyosh-jin nests on uncharted worlds. The
locations had been given up with great eagerness by worlds anxious to save their
own hides. It was amazing and unnerving, however, just how many of the enemy
strongholds held firm and refused to talk. Only three worlds of the first twenty
his fleet laid siege to in those first weeks had given over their loyalty to the
Red Prince in the blind terror of staring the end of their world in the face.
None of these worlds yielded a scrap of information as to the whereabouts of
Jeiyce himself.

On each world that collaborated and led him to a nest of
Maiyosh-jin rebels, he left behind a garrison of a thousand soldiers to hold the
planet under martial law. This he did to better motivate the next world his
forces called upon. If they knew that the Saiyan no Ouji would remain true to
his word and spare their worlds should they talk, each new system would be far
more likely to spill all they knew to save themselves.

On the sixth week of his campaign, they struck such a
Maiyosh-jin colony. And found something new. The base was more of a hidden
bunker, comprised of more than 90% non-combatants. Children and weaklings, in
other words. He hung behind in his flagship while he sent ten squads to blast
everything that stirred on the planet below, fulfilling his father’s command to
utterly exterminate the Maiyosh-jin as a race. He had grown to detest these
kinds of raids. There was no challenge and no honor to be found in mass butchery
of enemies who could not defend themselves. It was demeaning to a true warrior,
and abysmally boring. Like hunting squealing, toothless game. The clarion call
came in less than twenty minutes after the battalion made planetfall, a choked,
guttural cry over a comm link that made no sense.

“Can’t fly…can’t see….Everywhere!”

Vegita slammed his fist through the comm console and whirled,
heading for the lift that led to the drop hatch in the belly of the ship, with
Articha bitching at him every step of the way.

“Ouji-sama, this is an unknown situation!” She said harshly.
“You cannot rush headlong into the face of what may be another volley of plasma
nukes or some even more deadly technology!”

“Our scanners detected no radiation signatures on the surface,”
he snapped. “I will not sit idly by while my men are gutted!”

Seven minutes. It could not have taken him an instant longer to
arrive at the scene of the battle that was already over. And he found that the
enemy, an undefended colony of babes, geriatrics and weaklings, had slaughtered
all but a handful of the seventy warriors sent to dispatch them. And then simply
vanished. Or so he thought, until the call came from the bridge of his point
troop carrier, crackling inside his scouter through a wedge of static. The
scanners had picked up a hyper light signature. Then another…then another.
Ships jumping to hyper light speed all around his fleet, whipping past them
unseen by the eye or his ships’ scouting equipment.

He roared with rage like a maddened Oozaru, blasting the world
beneath him to smoldering grist as the Elites from his own royal squad dodged
back from his anger, bearing the few, bloody survivors from the ground before
Vegita set the planet’s atmosphere alight with a heat blast, flash frying the
world and everything on it, still spitting with fury.

He was no calmer as he watched the medics labor ever the half
dozen men who had survived the ambush, not one of whom looked as though he would
survive the night.

“What manner of weapon did they use, soldier?” He asked the
bloody squad commander on the surgery bed. The man looked to be in better shape
than any of his fellows.

“Never saw, my prince…Invisible…” The warrior whispered.
“Hit us…looked like a simple beam cannon blast. Nobody even thought to dodge.
It was like…having your Ki ripped out of your head. We fell out of the
sky…couldn’t fly. And then the old men and brats took us out with blaster
rifles.” He laughed weakly. “Clever little bastards….” His eyes lost focus and
his breath stopped.

Vegita cursed softly. His rage had burned down into something
calm, cold and deadly. He had been played for a fool. He had been
defeated…again.

“The pellets again,” Articha muttered, almost under her breath.
He glanced at her sharply. “That is why we detected no ships on approach,” she
went on urgently. “They must have had an escape contingent of ships hidden with
that miniaturization technology. And now it seems those pellets were not the end
of their new technology.”

“Invisibility shields,” Vegita snarled. “And…Ki rupturing
weapons.”

“It is not good,” she said grimly. “I have never seen such a
thing. Though when I was a girl, men said that the Tsiru-jin had something
similar. A thing that could shield a warrior from his own Ki, and render him
helpless. We must inform your father of this new weapon, Ouji-sama.”

“Send out a hyper wave message to all our garrisons and colony
worlds,” Vegita added, as a cold thought struck him. “It is good that the bulk
of our off world Saiyan colonies are moon locked worlds. Oozaru strength does
not need Ki.”

Articha paled slightly. “But the change dulls the wits. And a
soldier cannot easily fight what he cannot see.”

“Mousrom says there are whispers of some secret ‘mastertech’,”
his father told him an hour later as he sat before the hyper wave screen,
frowning at the fuzzy image of the king’s glowering face. “Whoever he is, he is
well-hidden. Not a breath of a whisper as to the location or identity of this
mysterious weapons wright had reached the ears of Intelligence. I suspect we
will find him when we find the Red Prince. Were I Maiyosh, I would keep such a
treasure close.” A pause, then his father growled angrily. “I am sending 100,000
more troops to aid you in your search, boy. And another 500,000 to strengthen
the off world garrisons and colonies defenses.” Defenses. The very word seemed
to stick in his father’s throat, and brought back the mad, animal rage Vegita
had felt earlier that day. Machines that put a Saiyan warrior on the defensive,
that laid his fighting power to waste so completely he could be killed by a brat
with a blaster rifle. Whom he could not even strike at, because he could not see
them. “This is all out war now, boy,” his father went on. “The thing all your
generation has spent its entire life pining for is here.”

“We will win,” Vegita said, unaccountably unnerved by the
almost imperceptible shadow of worry in his father’s eyes.

“In strength alone, we are unmatchable,” Ottoussama muttered,
“but this is quickly becoming a war of wits and clever machines. Watch your
back, boy. Your reinforcements will join you in two days time.”

They sacked thirty more targets in as many days, without
pausing to rest, without asking for a shred of information from those they slew.
Vegita split his new armada of ships and men into six fleets, sending them to
separate sections of the Empire, so that the hard hand of their Saiyan masters
might be felt everywhere at once by any who would think of joining with the
rebels. And as they moved from system to system like gods of death, burning
everything that lay in their path, word of attacks on Saiyan outposts and Saiyan
inhabited worlds came, sporadically at first, then daily. And Vegita found that
he had only banked the black rage that had taken him on that nameless
Maiyosh-jin base world. Each new world his forces greeted saw it flare to near
madness again as he recalled how he had been played for a fool, as he pictured
the hundreds of thousands, grown to millions now, of his people slain by the
enemy’s cowardly ambush attacks. He began to order his ships to hang high above
each world, just on the cusp of space, while he personally summoned up the kind
of energy blast only one in ten million Saiyan warriors could muster. Core
bomb
, the purging squads called it, a blast that sank to the center of a
planet and broke it apart from the center out.

After a week of this, having calmly watched him vent his fury,
Articha tactfully suggested that perhaps they should again begin to demand
information from those who awaited their fates upon the planet’s surface. Behind
them, rose the low, viscous rumbles of his flag ship’s command crew. His
warriors wanted blood for blood. Three colony worlds had fallen to the enemy in
the last seven days. Ten million Saiyan lives, felled by cowards hiding behind
invisibility shields, their Ki laid waste, their bodies blown to bits by simple
pulse cannons an instant later. But Vegita knew she spoke sense. He soon found
that his month long killing spree had not been such without its tactical
advantages. The very next world his fleet approached nearly fell over themselves
to give him the location of three separate Maiyosh-jin bases.

They took each base with a carefully staged attack that gave
the enemy no chance to bolt or prepare. No one had yet captured a live enemy,
but in the heat of a pitched battle against the first of these Maiyosh-jin
hideaways, Articha devised a baiting tactic, an edge to use against the unseen.
The enemy could not move quickly or use Ki themselves without being detected by
scouters. Firing a volley of power in the general direction that a Ki-killing
blast usually yielded up a number of corpses, and blew their invisibility
machines to bits along with their bodies. The scraps of the weapons, he sent to
Vegita-sei to be dissected by his father’s techs, but the bodies…they were not
Maiyosh-jin. Not all of them. There were Serulian, Corsarians, Canid-jin, and
two score other races, strewn across the charred battle fields. All bearing the
devilish little invisibility belts, all wielding the ‘Ki Killers’, as his men
had begun to call them almost fearfully.

Nine of ten worlds his fleets had fallen upon in the last weeks
were taken completely at unawares. But one in ten…One in ten, they found
vacated. Their entire sentient population simply fled without a trace.

“There is no way to tell where they have gone,” Articha told
him, her scarred face twisted in frustration she would never have displayed
before his men. They had come to Avaris-sei with high hopes of finding some
truly relevant information. The Avaris-jin had been mercantile allies with
Maiyosh House since time out of mind. Now the two of them stood upon a
mountainous peak and surveyed the ghost world and the empty city that lay spread
out before them. He had wished to see this with his own eyes, had refused to
believe that such a thing was possible in the space of twenty-nine hours. One
day ago, this world had held a population of roughly three billion people.
“There are hundreds of thousands of inhabitable worlds out there, my prince,”
Articha went on. “It will be like hunting a single grain of dirt in the
grasslands of the Southern steppe!” She cursed softly, her long raven hair
whipping in the high winds. To the east, a great storm was building. “I
sometimes wonder—” She stopped herself, the strong, handsome lines of her high
cheekbones drawn down in a deep frown.

“Tell me true, General,” he said quietly. “What is it you
wonder?”

She grinned faintly, something the older woman rarely did.
“Something that is perhaps both seditious and blasphemy. I wonder if we are
unwise to have held the Madrani and other craftwise races in such contempt. It
is an old, old tenant of strategy to manipulate one’s opponent into
underestimation, and thus, over-stepping himself. ” She shook her head with grim
admiration. “Every battle, every war, is unique, my Prince. But I am constantly
amazed how one hand, one individual, can turn the tide of any struggle. In this
case, not with raw strength, but with cleverness. The master engineer the enemy
harbors, this one person—who is very probably someone we would overlook as a
weakling and view as no threat at all—is the true author of every loss the
Empire has suffered in the last months. Whoever he or she is, this one person is
a far greater threat to Vegita-sei than Jeiyce of Maiyosh will ever—” She
broke off, her entire body frozen in a posture of shock, her normally impassive
face paling. “Ouji-sama! We have been fools! If this master tech could
devise

miniaturization pellets to fit an entire space ship in the palm
of my hand, he could just as easily craft an invisibility shield to cloak an
entire planet! Perhaps even the combined Ki’s of the inhabitants and—!”

A thick beam of luminous energy flared to life from a hidden
cradle in the valley below them, streaking upward to its target high overhead,
bursting into an incandescent shower of light and noise. Then another, followed
by a screaming burst of deafening static roaring through their scouters. They
never had time to react. A blade of icy, numbing weakness struck them both and
Vegita felt the world torn away from him.

 

 

 

He woke to the sound of desperate struggle and harsh male
laughter. He tried to raise his head to see where he was, to see what was
happening around him, but he could barely move. He was in a dark room, lying
upon a cold, metallic floor in a pool of his own blood and sweat. Something icy
and sickening seemed to be wrenching at the deepest part of him, tearing away
his fighting power and physical strength. Somewhere nearby, he could hear
Articha’s voice choking and cursing, and the sound of labored breathing.

“This room is shielded by Tsiru-jin Ki-dampers, little Prince,”
a man’s voice said lightly. “It’s an old Tsiru-jin technology Maiyosh House
bought off Cold-sama before the whole slithery race up and died a while back.”
Vegita made some sort of gasping animal noise as the face of Jeiyce of Maiyosh
moved into his line of vision. “Feeling a little weak, are we?” That mocking
laughter that had haunted his dreams since Shikaji rippled through the echoing
walls of the dark prison.

“I will kill you!” Vegita tried to shout, but his breath failed
him, along with his strength, and he collapsed back onto the floor.

“You won’t do shit, boyo,” Jeiyce said coldly. “You monkeys
have been busy, haven’t you? Must make you feel like quiet a little man to have
killed nearly 50 billion people in less than four months.” The man smiled
amiably at him. “I won’t try to make you understand. Never try to reason with
drunkards or rabid animals, my foster father always said. But cheer up, laddie!
You’re not going to die. Neither you nor that fine looking lady general in the
next cell. I’m going to use the pair of you to give your dear old dad a taste of
what he’s been dishing out, lo these many years. To my people. To all the
peoples unfortunate to come in contact with your abomination of a race. Let him
learn how it feels to have your children butchered, your women raped to death or
beaten down into cringing whores, your sons tortured and broken until they
grovel on their bellies like canines. I’ve given your companion a new
occupation—battalion whore for my men. Most of them have lost their wives,
mothers or daughters to Saiyan hands, one way or another. They’re very anxious
to return the favor.” Vegita spat out a round of curses, trying to rise, trying
to fling himself at the man before him. “And you, Prince Vegita…I will see you
weep like a child for me to kill you. Before I’m done with you, I’ll see you
belly crawl and call me master like a good little slave. And when I send the two
of you back to Vegita-ou, mad and broken, maybe he’ll understand some small part
of what he and his Master Inquisitor have done to my people!”

“Fuck…you,” Vegita hissed, trying to close his ears against the
noises drifting over from the next cell, the knowledge of what must be happening
to Articha. That these red bastards should dishonor a warrior of Vegita-sei
so—!

“Sorry,” Jeiyce said. “You’re not my type.” His face went blank
for a moment, devoid of all the false good humor. “I used to be a good man, you
know. The kind of man who would have killed someone for doing what I’m about to
do to you. For what my men are doing to your companion right now.” Then he
shrugged as though it were nothing. “Well…I guess a sentence in Hell is a small
price to pay if I can wipe your race out of existence. Let’s get started, shall
we?”

 

 

They left no external marks on his body. No one even drew his
blood…no one except Vegita himself. He did not sleep in all the time they held
him in that dark metal pit, though he lost consciousness again and again. At
first, anyway. After it became apparent that he was gaining some small measure
of strength and mental rest each time he passed out, they began to inject him
with shock stims. And even that brief oblivion was taken from him. They took his
torture in shifts, around the clock. Jeiyce, a fat pinkish-orange Aquir-jin
named Dodoria, and a nameless Corsarian whom Jeiyce informed him had been a
doctor before a Saiyan warrior had ripped out his tongue. No sleep, no rest, no
dreams…Unless he counted the hallucinations that began on his third or forth
week without so much as a wink of rest.

He saw his woman most often, beautiful and warm, standing in a
green field over-flowing with flowers, smiling at him distantly. Her face was
like a beacon of comfort and rest that he could never seem to reach no matter
how hard he tried. Sometimes his father seemed to be wandering in a fog,
searching for him, calling his name…and in the end, giving him up for dead.
Nappa, cold and bloodless, a gaping hole in his chest, telling him to be strong.

As the weeks began to draw out, sleepless pain and the mocking,
tireless hatred of his tormentors his only companions, he began to lose touch
with time and reality more and more often. Sometimes he would think he was very
young, almost too young to stand unaided, and he would begin to shriek for
Nappa-sensei to make the hurt stop. Just for a moment, just for half a second.
But Nappa was dead, and he knew, when his senses returned, that the pain would
never end.

They were terribly inventive in the things they did to him.
Neural disruption shots and cerebral manipulators strapped around his chest and
skull gave him the false sensation of any sort of agony within the reach of
their imagination, without harming him physically in any way. With the correct
sequence of brain stimulus and neuro injections, he would imagine and feel any
sort of torment they could conceive of as though it were real. But as bad as it
was, all this he might have born, might have fought and held firm against it. If
they had only let him sleep…

Week after week, that bled into months, wore him down, frayed
the edges of his sanity, and stripped away his resistance with his pride, one
agonizing ounce at a time. Sometimes, in his more lucid moments, he could hear
Articha’s voice, growling and sobbing, mere meters away. On one occasion, he
managed to raise his head enough to see her through the bars of the next cell,
and he saw—he saw her, naked, pinned beneath the grinning man on top of her,
her mouth a gaping, silent scream. And as he looked on, the image blurred and
shifted, and…oh gods…And he saw himself moving upon his woman as she
struggled helplessly, battering into her over and over as she tried to scream
without the benefit of a voice. He rolled on his side, wretching, sobbing like a
child, screaming soundlessly. His own voice had deserted him early on, as he
shrieked his vocal chords to bloody shreds. Was this what it felt like to be
Silenced, he wondered, shaking and curling into a ball, trying to make himself
small. If he became small enough, maybe they would leave him alone.

They did not leave him alone. If anything, their efforts after
that first spate of tears became more vigorous as they sensed he was approaching
some sort of breaking point. They began to use other devices, new machines, that
hurt in different ways. That hurt worse. That hammered through the last of his
control, that left him sobbing for Nappa-sensei, for Ottoussama to come save
him, to make them stopstopstop…

Jeiyce began to speak to him then, kindly, like an older
warrior would speak to a young soldier he had known since boyhood. “It’s not a
big thing, laddie. Just a word or two, and then you can take a little rest.
Wouldn’t it be nice to stop all the nasty hurting and take a nice long nap?”
Vegita nodded weakly. It would be nice. He couldn’t think of anything nicer, in
fact. “Just say it like a good lad, do as I tell you…and you can sleep.” He
moved his lips, trying to frame words, but no sound would come out.

“Hmm…” The Red Prince murmured. “I guess you wouldn’t have much
of a voice left. I’ve got another idea.” Jeiyce told him his idea.”

“Saiyan no Ouji!” Articha’s voice, raw and broken, sliced
through the haze around his mind. “Remember who you are!”

“Shut that bitch up!” Dodoria boomed harshly at someone he
couldn’t see.

Vegita drew in a deep, shaky breath…And spat in the Red
Prince’s face. A black boot connected with his head and he sank into blessed,
blessed night.

The roused him moments later, cursing angrily. And they began
again.

He held onto himself for a long time after that. Held onto his
will and his pride and his hatred for them. He did not know how much longer it
was. But at some point, time washed away from him. His name slipped from his
grasp next, and with it his will and his memory of who he had been. In the end,
there was only the pain.

And then Jeiyce told him once more what he must do to make the
pain stop. To sleep. Was the smiling red man his friend, he began to wonder? He
must be. He was telling him how to make the hurting go away.

“That’s it, laddie,” the friendly, red-skinned man told him
encouragingly as he crawled inch by torturous inch to where the other man stood.
“Just a little farther. You can do it.” He reached his destination with a
grateful sob, and did the simple task that the red-skinned man said would make
everything better. He placed his lips on the shiny black boots of the Red Prince
and kissed them.

 

 

He slept each night in peace. Sometimes he dreamed strange
things. His master told him these were fantasies from the brain fever he had
barely survived. The memory of that pain was something his very soul wanted to
cringe away from. Whenever he tried to sift through those fragmented dreams, to
make sense of them, the pain would come, quailing any lingering bits of
curiosity. They gave him medicine daily to keep the fever from returning. It
made him feel sluggish and confused, the same way the belt he wore around his
waist day and night made him feel terribly weak. But it was better than the
illness. Sometimes the orange man came to his cell and beat him for no reason.
Sometimes others came with him. They told him he had been an evil man, a son of
an evil race, and that the beatings were his just deserts, a thing he must
endure. His master explained that they were teaching him to be less evil. That
didn’t seem to make sense, but he couldn’t think clearly enough to puzzle out
why. It didn’t really matter though. Each night they would leave him in peace,
and he would sleep until he woke feeling rested and at peace.

On the second week after the fever in his brain broke, he woke
with a terrified cry as a deafening boom sounded in the sky, lighting up the
night. He shrank back in his cell, listening to the noises grow louder and
louder, hearing the sound of harsh shouts and running feet overhead. As he sat
shivering and sobbing in the darkness, a woman’s voice began to speak to him
gently. To call him by a name. He shrank away from her, further into the back of
his cell, away from that name and the memory of the pain that lay entwined with
it. Heavy footsteps were coming down the corridor, slowing apprehensively. A
moment or two of dead silence, then the sound of a man’s harsh sob.

“Beloved…oh gods…”

“Turna…”The woman whispered, her voice paper thin. “Do not let
them see me. I will not be pitied.”

“Out!” Another man’s deep voice roared. “Get the hell out of
here, all of you! If one of you repeats to a living soul how we found her, I’ll
give the whole lot of you to Mousrom!” He shivered and whimpered faintly at the
familiar sound of that voice.

“Sire…” They were right outside his cell. He scrambled back to
the wall as the footsteps drew near.

“Look at me, boy,” the harsh voice said. He raised his head and
looked into the eyes of the bearded man who knelt before him. A spear of memory
drove into his mind and with it came the pain. He shrank back and began to
shriek, sobbing with terror. Strong arms caught him, held him as he tried to
escape. “My son…” The man whispered, his voice unsteady. “My son…” Something
struck him hard and he slept again.

 

 

“No one will see him other than the three of you,” the bearded
man’s voice as saying somewhere through a thick fog. “I have let it be known
only that he and Articha were near death when we found them. The three of you,
Turna and myself alone know the full truth.” A tired rumble of a sigh.” He will
either return to his senses or he will not. Do not leave his side, girl. I have
some idea of how overly attached he was to you. Your presence may help to bring
him out of this—this—”

“I won’t leave him. Ou-sama,” a girl’s voice said softly. It
was beautiful, like something he had once dreamed about.

“I will give him a month to come back to us. If he does not…”
A long pause. “If he does not, I will put him down myself.” A heavy, callused
hand on his face, drawn through his hair, like a warm memory forgotten since
earliest childhood.

 

Her name was Bulma and she was as beautiful as her voice. She
had a baby son that she carried with her everywhere she went. Sometimes she and
Bardock would argue about that. The big, frowning scar-faced warrior seemed to
think she was spoiling the boy, making him dependent on her by always keeping
him in her arms. Bulma gave him an odd, wary look the first time he asked if he
could hold the boy himself, but slowly sat the child in his arms. He regarded
the yearling baby with curiosity and a little fascination. He was sure he had
never been this close to a child this young, though he could not say how he knew
this. The boy stared back up at him and smiled toothlessly, and Vegita grinned
back, laughing delightedly.

His name was Vegita, they told him—Bulma, Bardock, and the
soft-spoken golden-skinned Doctor Scopa. He didn’t remember that. He didn’t
remember anything at all except that it was agony whenever he tried to remember.
Doctor Scopa said his mind and spirit just needed time to rest. When he was
strong enough, rested enough, he would remember everything.

They were in a big house on the edge of an endless, rolling
expanse of hills and grasslands that stretched out as far as the eye could see.
Bardock said this was his home. Vegita thought it was beautiful and told him so.
The solemn-faced soldier thanked him quietly. He seemed to avoid Vegita’s
company whenever it was possible, as though Vegita made him very uncomfortable,
but he liked the sad-eyed man anyway.

On his tenth day in the house of Bardock, he dreamed of his
forgotten past for the first time. He saw himself at the center of a hellish
firestorm of violence and death, a storm of his own making. He saw himself
bathed in the blood of his enemies. And with these terrifying images came the
horror of a pain that was never-ending, a waking nightmare where he would never
sleep again. He woke choking, his voice seizing in his throat, unable to scream
or make a sound. He lay weeping softly, curled into a fetal ball in his bed, as
the memory slowly receded. A soft click of the door opening, and Bulma sat down
beside him, stroking his head gently until the tears stopped. He stared up at
her, at her half-lit, porcelain face, and…An entirely different set of
memories flooded in. If her in his arms, soft and warm and too sweet for words,
as he moved within her, as he made her sigh with pleasure…

“I remember…”

“What?” She whispered quietly.

“You.” He gathered his courage to ask his next question. “Were
we…Are you my mate?” How painful must it be for her, if they had been wed and
he didn’t even remember her?

But she slowly shook her head. “No…we were…we..”

“Lovers then?” His breath seemed caught in his chest when she
smiled, looking relieved. She nodded.

“Will you stay with me?” He whispered. She didn’t reply, only
gently disengaged herself and pulled her night shift over her head, crawling
into the bed beside him. She was warm and naked, her arms wrapped around him,
and she kissed him softly. She seemed to be waiting for him to do something
more. His heart skipped a beat as he suddenly realized everything that ‘more’
might entail.

Her body felt willing and eager against his, she was almost
trembling with desire for him. But…an image, another harsh flash of memory, of a
Saiyan woman’s face, twisted in agony and sickened shame, curdled the want
building inside him. So, he only kissed her back, almost shyly. “Thank you,” he
said shakily. They slept.

 

His mind grew stronger, sharper, less childlike as the days
passed. He discovered Scopa’s collection of medical books and galactic histories
and began to make his way slowly through the entire library. The historical
accords of Vegita-sei were not a pleasant read, but he pored through the tomes
end to end. This was his world, the Saiyan were his people, and he knew nothing
about them accept minuscule odd bits of memory that filtered through the veil
around his past. Bardock had told him what had happened to him.

He was a crown prince of his people, the heir to a great
empire, and he had been leading a war against Vegita-sei’s enemies. For a long
while, the Empire had thought that their Maiyosh-jin enemies were moving whole
worlds full of people over night. It was now known that they had used
unimaginably complex halo-projection arrays couples with a new invisibility
technology. They had simply lain low on most of the worlds the Saiyan’s had
thought vacated, and hidden, trusting the greed of Vegita-sei for rich worlds to
keep the Saiyans from blowing the seemingly empty planet to bits. As they slowly
acquired the resources to mass produce these defensive weapons, the Maiyosh-jin
began to distribute them to their allies first, then to any world that asked.
Given the window of time that the camouflage machines afforded them, most worlds
managed to evacuate in reality over the space of a month or so.

Avaris-sei had been a carefully laid trap. The Red
Prince—Vegita fought to keep from trembling at the sound of that name—had
known through his own intelligence sources that Avaris-sei was one of Vegita’s
prime targets. Jeiyce had simply camped out on that camouflaged world and waited
for Vegita to arrive. They had blown his war ships and troop carriers out of the
sky with plasma torpedoes, and taken Vegita and his general Articha alive with
their Ki-Killers, all unseen. He and Articha had only been found because of the
general’s moonbond with her mate Turna. The Royal Statistician had tracked her
slowly but surely across the breadth of light years through the bond they
shared, leading Saiyan forces after months of searching, to the hidden base
world where Vegita had been found. Each evening, he sat on the sill of the
hearth beside Bardock and the two of them listened intently to the toll of
losses the Empire was taking on a daily basis now. During the six months of
Vegita’s captivity, a simple war of resubjegation had become a war for survival,
in which Vegita-sei was fighting for her life alone against every sentient race
in the Empire. The garrisoned slave worlds had risen up, ushering the Red Demons
into their systems, back-stabbing their overlords. The attacks on colony worlds
were growing closer and closer to Vegita-sei itself each passing day.

The one good bit of news was that no new super weapons had
surfaced in more that ten months. Some rumors held that Jeiyce’s secret weapons
smith had perished in some random skirmish. The king, however, was not of that
opinion.

“Maybe he’s just tired of all the killing,” Bulma suggested
thoughtfully one evening. Vegita’s father eyed the girl on the other side of the
chess board shrewdly. The King would come to visit the isolated back country
house unannounced once every few days to see how Vegita’s ‘mending’ was
progressing. The grief shadowed behind the grim, bearded man’s cold eyes
whenever he looked on his son and saw no recognition there made Vegita want to
turn away in shame. He knew what had happened. He had a pretty good idea anyway,
and occasional horrific flashes of memory. The Prince of Maiyosh had…broken
him. Taken his pride, his memory, even his name, and left him this…this man
with no past who started at even the mention of his torturer’s name. He knew
that he had been left alive to be rescued out of deliberate malice. And worse,
that if the Red Prince had killed him outright, it would have grieved his father
less than seeing Vegita as he was now.

Vegita folded the book he had been reading, one of Bardock’s
medical science treatises from the Imperial scientific congress on his findings
during a research mission to Tsiru-sei years ago. Everyone in this house seemed
to know more about medicine than himself, with the exception of the baby Rom-kun
and Bulma’s dogs. One of the hounds loped happily along beside him as he moved
to sit closer to the two opponents. On his first or second visit, Bulma had
explained the game to Ottoussama one time. His father had nodded curtly and
beaten her at her own game in half an hour. The King had been highly amused at
the girl’s sputtering reaction. Apparently she’d never lost a game in her life.
Now she was on a vendetta. This game had lasted over an hour already.

“Tired of killing, girl?” His father snorted. “Is there such a
thing?”

“It’s an alien perspective, Ou-sama,” she murmured. “I am an
alien, after all.”

Ottoussama took one of her rooks with a predatory smirk. “Give
me some perspective in this man, then. I would know my enemy, the better to hunt
him.”

“Well…” Her brow furrowed, as she chose her words with care.
She slew his bishop with her remaining knight as she spoke. “If he is not
Maiyosh-jin himself, he very likely sought out this Jeiyce out of a wish for
revenge. For his people, for his family. Possibly for himself. Whether he is
working in hiding on one of the Maiyosh-jin rebel bases, or traveling with the
Red Prince himself, he can’t be oblivious to the carnage his inventions have
caused. Many races find violence and bloodshed terrifying and painful, Ou-sama.
Both to give as well of to receive. They may match Saiyan ferocity and bloodlust
for a while if properly motivated, but after a while their revenge begins to
wound them as deeply as their enemies. So, he may have lost his taste for it.
Another possibility is that this man was…taken in by the Maiyosh-jin.”

“Taken in?” His father seemed nonplused by such a suggestion.
“This bastard has single handedly turned an paltry uprising into an all out
war!”

“Think about the ‘weapons’ he constructed, Sire” she said,
retreating her queen into a defensive posture as his own queen advanced. “He
might have built each one of these devices thinking he was saving lives. They
are all defensive in nature. Even the Ki-Killer guns are nothing more than an
equalizer for races with no fighting power to speak of. Invisibility shields and
halo projectors to hide civilians, or entire worlds, from the Empire’s soldiers.
Miniaturization technology to transport food and medicine, to hide get away
ships. And plasma nukes are not his invention. They are an old Maiyosh-jin sin,
a dirty weapon they’ve used many times in the past if you read their histories.
Jeiyce’s own techs simply took this mystery engineer’s machines and combined
them with other weapons to warp them into something truly deadly.” She raised
her clear blue eyes and met the hard black stare of her opponent across the
table. “But that is only my humble, uninformed theory, Ou-sama. For all I know,
this man may live each day of his life with no other hope than to destroy you
and your entire race.” She took his king with the pawn she had quietly
maneuvered into enemy territory.

“Checkmate, Sire,” she said meekly, eyes lowered.

His father stared at the board, then at the young woman before
him in shocked silence. Then he burst out laughing, deep and hearty. “Another
game, girl!”

“He’ll be here every evening, now, Bulma,” Vegita said with a
poorly hidden grin. “In all the Empire, he can count on the fingers of one hand
those who can best him in a game of strategy. Even Articha cannot—” He broke
off, paling, his breath coming short.

“Boy?” His father was suddenly gazing into his face, eyes
intent. And it was suddenly there, or pieces of it. A myriad of segmented
images, jumpy and incomplete, memories of the mad before him. His father.

“Ottoussama,” Vegita whispered. “You…you were standing at a
stone bier on a mountain top, showing me the land that stretched out to the
curve of the world. You told me my mother’s ashes were strewn out over the whole
of our planet’s surface. That she was part of Vegita-sei now.”

“It is true memory, boy,” his father said. “You were not quite
two years old, I think.” One of Bulma’s dogs ducked its head under the King’s
hand, fawning for affection. His father glanced down at it, growling irritably,
and the animal retreated under Vegita’s chair with a yip. It knew a pack leader
when it saw one.

“I remember you,” Vegita said again. His father gazed into his
eyes a moment longer. But whatever he saw there brought that look again, the
look of a man mourning a son who had suffered a fate worse than death.

“It is coming, Ou-sama!” Scopa told his father tensely, before
the King took his leave of them that night. “A little at a time. He will come
back to himself completely if he has enough time. But he will need longer than a
month.”

Vegita listened intently as the King made no reply at first.
Rom-kun grabbed both his fingers for support and began toddling around him in a
circle. Scopa and Bulma were outside the house with Ottoussama, just on the
other side of the hearthroom walls, and he could hear their words clearly,
though he doubted they knew that. One of Bulma’s dogs raised its head and whined
as Vegita-ou made a low growling noise deep in his throat. His father seemed to
be choking on something, his energy was surging with a sickened, murderous fury
at someone who was not present. At the man who had done this to his son.

“I sent a strong, fierce son to war. The strongest our race has
seen in a thousand years. That gentle boy in there cannot follow me to the
throne. And I will not see him live to be shamed and mocked by his own
people!”

“He is making progress, Ou-sama,” Bulma said.

“It is as I said from the first, Sire,” Scopa added. “When it
comes, it will most likely come all at once.”

His father was silent for another long, tense moment. Then he
made some sort of noise, a snarling agreement, and he was gone.

Much later, Bulma came to put Rom-kun down for the night. The
boy had crawled into his lap as he sat reading by firelight and nodded off.

“He is ashamed of me,” Vegita said softly as she took the baby
from his arms. “That I was so weak. That I let them break me.”

She shook her head. “He’s just afraid you’ll never remember who
you were.” Gods, she was so beautiful.

“I think I dreamed of you while they were torturing me,” he
whispered. “Waking dreams. Your face was like a light in a hell of darkness.” He
lowered his head, thinking of the words his father had used to describe him, the
man he had been before. Strong and fierce. He was neither of those things now.
He must seem like a walking shade of the son Ottoussma had been so desperately
proud of. Of the man the woman before him must have loved.

“I—I want to tell Ottoussama that I could have stayed strong.
I could have…no matter what they did to me. If they’d only let me s-sleep…”
She put her arms around his shaking shoulders, holding him, kissing his
face.

“There’s no shame in it. Everyone has a breaking point, where
their strength and will just gives out. We’re all just flesh and blood…not
gods.”

He drew back, peering into her face. “Am I such a fool now? Is
that why you don’t want me? Because I am…not as I was. Not whole?”

“I do want you, Vegita,” she said softly, putting her lips to
his. But he pushed her back again, gently.

“No…You—your body wants me. But…you don’t. Or you wish
you didn’t. I do not understand it.”

She bit her lip, tears forming in her eyes. Finally she spoke
again. “You’re not a fool. And you are whole. You’re just…you. As you would
have been left to follow your own nature. You’re the good man you might have
been, if you hadn’t been raised to be a—Oh Kami! I wish I had met you first!”
She began to cry softly, kissing him again. “I think I could have loved you more
than my own life if you had been like you are now.”

“I was unkind to you?” He couldn’t imagine it, but…he had no
way of knowing if he had treated her well or ill.

“You…” Her face went still and thoughtful. “You were as good
as you knew how to be.”

His chest tightened. A more diplomatic and cryptic answer he
could not have hoped to receive. He was a prince. He must have been arrogant and
spoiled as many sons of the ruling houses in Scopa’s histories seemed to be. He
had most likely been a spoiled, arrogant lover as well. A thought, a question
suddenly leapt into his mind, and with it a crushing wave of pain and nausea.
The picture of a woman’s face, half-obscured by her tangled raven hair,
screaming as—He doubled over, nauseous and gasping.

Oh gods…Articha….

 

“Where is Articha?” He asked tremulously, when he could speak
again. He shut his eyes, trying to wipe the images from his mind. Bulma paled to
bloodless white, and did not answer.

“She is dead,” he said bleakly. “It would have been almost
impossible to survive—to survive what they did to her.”

“It is possible.” Her voice was suddenly so unaccountably cold,
he flinched away from her. She stared at him blankly for a long time, then her
face softened, her hand caressed his face. “Turna took her to one of their
country estates to recover. She won’t die. She says she won’t give them the
satisfaction of having destroyed her. She’s a very strong woman.”

He nodded solemnly. “I dream sometimes of fighting and killing.
Of enjoying it. Even now, when I think of those memories, the thrill of battle
seems to sing inside me. I think violence and love of battle must be bred into
my blood and bones. I understand them. But I do not understand how a man could
use a woman so.”

She began to cry again, perhaps out of sympathy for Articha and
her pain. He carried her to his bed, laying the sleeping baby between them,
holding her until she slept herself. He realized, just before he nodded off,
that he did not want to ever sleep again without her beside him.

 

Another round of days, then weeks passed. The cool winds from
the mountain heights breezed away the oppressive heat of high summer. Rom-kun
was walking now, running, following him everywhere and trailing behind Bulma’s
dogs like a tiny predator, trying to catch them and ride them. Vegita read when
he pleased, sparred with Bardock each day at morning and dusk, and listened to
Bulma and Bardock argue each night at supper. Mostly over the way Bulma was
raising Bardock’s son.

“You are warping him against the bent of his own nature, girl!
How will I make a warrior of him after you’ve had four solid years to coddle him
the way you’re doing? He can barely speak, and he is already what the drill
instructors in the children’s barracks will deem abnormal!”

“That’s because I pulled him out of his incubator before they
shifted him to the infant conditioning unit, and then to the infant barracks!”
She shot back, violently slicing the roast cardu-boar she was serving the men at
the table. “This is what a Saiyan child is like naturally, when he hasn’t had
his head pumped full of subliminal aggression tapes for the first fucking year
of his life!”

“Bulma…” Bardock said finally. “If, at four years of age, his
drill instructors decide that he is defective mentally, or that he lacks the
normal will to fight, they will put him down.”

She froze, the knife in her hand aloft. She seemed on the point
of flying at the scarred man across the table. Then she spoke coldly. “Then
train him yourself, when he’s old enough. It’s your right as his father. Any
Saiyan parent can assume his offspring’s training personally if he wants, right?
It’s just that most warriors don’t want to be bothered.”

“Girl, I have—”

“You have a chance to make up for your sins, Bardock,” she said
in a soft voice. “Romayna-san said you would get a chance, that you’d know when
you had earned her forgiveness. She was so close to death, she must have seen
that Son-Kun’s soul had come back to her in Rom-kun.”

“Bulma…” Bardock said tiredly. “You are speaking
madness.”

“You didn’t know Son-Kun, Bardock,” she said emphatically. “I
did! Everything about Rom-kun is the same, not just the fact that he’s virtually
identical physically. It’s everything, from the way he smiles to the way he
carried himself since he started to walk.”

Bardock shook his head. “It is the same because both boys had
the same parents.”

Vegita and Scopa kept wisely silent on the matter, letting the
two of them edge their way to a detante. Bardock would not agree for any amount
of wealth that the boy was his second born son reborn. Bulma would not agree
under any circumstances to curb her gentle, nurturing ways toward the child.
Eventually they reached some sort of compromise, and Bardock began to train the
boy in basic stances of fighting techniques.

He spent his evenings playing chess with Bulma, talking to her,
listening to everything she would tell him about herself. Wishing with a kind of
torn yearning that he could remember how it had been to be her lover. He knew
now that the shadowed pain behind her eyes was from having lost her world, her
people, to a Saiyan purge years ago. There was more to this story, something
that neither she nor Bardock would tell him, and he suspected it had something
to do with the scar-faced soldier’s son, the one Bulma insisted had been reborn
as Rom-kun. Bardock’s second chance, she said cryptically. He wanted to know
her, as he must have known her before, to relearn every turn and twist of her
brilliant mind and rememorize every smile, frown and gesture. He asked her
finally, late one night when the others had already gone to their beds, why she
did not hate his people, all his people, if they had killed her race, purged her
planet. The whole idea of purging sat ill with him, seeing it through the eyes
of the victim, not the conquering warrior race.

She didn’t answer at first. “I would have hated you all if I
hadn’t seen something almost immediately, a truth that most of your enemies
don’t want to think about. That you’re not monsters. You’re just men. Very, very
strong, and so entrenched in your violent warrior culture that you can’t see
beyond the end of your own noses most of the time, but…The men who came and
destroyed my world…they were friends. They loved each other like brothers, even
though they’d never admit it in a million years. They loved their mates, and
their children once they got to know them. They were…just people. Raised in a
violent, murderous society, trained from the cradle to kill anything not Saiyan
without turning a hair. But beneath all that, they were all like Rom-kun. Or
like you.”

“I am not a child,” he said softly.

“No,” she said softly, her eyes reflecting the flames of the
glowing embers from the heart pit, reflecting the heat that was gathering inside
him. “You’re not a child.”

“I want you,” he said simply. “For all that I have forgotten, I
have not forgotten that. But…I will wait. For a day when you want me, and that
wanting does not bring you grief. ” He kissed her, and went to seek his own bed.

 

 

Several mornings later, he found her in a state of near
hysteria, tossing wires and metal and mechanical diagrams in all directions in
the little work room she had set up for herself next to her bedroom. Bardock had
left for the day, taking his son with him to accustom the boy to the sensation
of flight.

“I guess it would be pretty sad,” she said weepily. “A Saiyan
child with a fear of heights, and I know I can’t teach him those things,
but…He’s not been away from me for more than a few moments since—since Romayna
gave him to me!”

“You should not stay in here,” he said thoughtfully.

“Yeah?” She sniffled. “Why not?”

“You will destroy your…thing,” he gestured vaguely at the
bell-shaped medical machine she had already half dismantled in a less than
gentle fashion. “Come with me. Outside for the day.”

The fields were littered with tiny crimson flowers,
moonflowers, Bardock called them. They walked all morning, making good time,
even on foot, with her nervous anxiety to spur them on. Slowly, as she began to
tire, she began to think more clearly, rather than simply feel, and she grew
calmer. She began to take in the perfect day around her, and enjoy it.

By afternoon, they were lying side by side upon a low hillside,
a few miles from Bardock’s house. Her eyes seemed to reflect the perfect blue of
the sky overhead. Her long hair was tangled in the grass beneath them.

“How did you…” He let the question trail off, thinking better
of it. It might bring up painful memories for her.

“Don’t start a question and not finish it, Vegita,” she said
tartly. He grinned, turning on his side to face her, propped up on one
elbow.

“How did you breed the dogs if your world is gone?” He watched
her face tense, saw the contentment wash away and cursed himself for a fool.

“My jacket,” she said, turning to face him. “My parents kept
dozens of animals at our estate. When Bardock brought me to Vegita-sei, I bagged
the clothes I was wearing the day my world died, to sort of save them. A couple
of years later, I realized that Vegita-sei had cloning technology far more
advanced than Chikyuu’s. I asked Bardock’s wife, Romayna, to put the hairs from
my clothes, animal hairs, into cryo-storage for me at Med Center. When I started
working at Med Center, after you went away, I suddenly remembered that, and I
grew two clones of Baka and Yaro, my dogs back on Chikyuu. I could have grown
Scratch too, but…he was my father’s cat. Poppa always kept a cat with him when
he worked, a workshop cat to help him think better, he said. I think it would
have made me cry every time I looked at him.”

“You loved him greatly?”

“Yes…” She smiled sadly. “I loved him very much…”

“Bardock told me,” he said pensively, “that I should never say
such a thing to my father.”

Her mouth twitched, perhaps visualizing such a scene, or trying
to. “That you love him?” He nodded. She sobered, and regarded him seriously.
“Don’t. It’s against Saiyan custom to say it aloud, or even openly admit to it.
And it would only upset him if said said it.”

“You are not Saiyan,” he said, the words tumbling over his lips
before he lost his courage. “Would it upset you if I said it to you?”

She stared at him, her face a mask of shock and indecision
and—and emotions so complex and conflicting he could not put a name to any of
them.

“I—I could love the man you are right now. Kami…I think I
already do. But—but you won’t stay this way! You’ll go back to—to the way
you were before!”

“I do not think that is possible,” he said, tracing the
furrowed line of her beautiful face with his hand. “I believe there is no way
back to my memory of before Avaris except through Avaris—through J-Jeiyce,” he
stumbled over the name, but kept his eyes on hers. “When I do remember, as Scopa
says I shall, when I have passed through that hell….Bulma, a man could not
emerge from such a thing unchanged.” His arms seemed to have wrapped themselves
around her of their own will as he spoke, pulling her body slowly, gently
against his. “I think I must have been a prideful, selfish lover to you. That I
must have hurt you greatly. I am sorry for that. I must have been the basest
sort of fool to take your lover for granted” His lips touched hers…

And it all seemed to happen at once. He was drowning in those
sky-colored eyes, inside the heat that was blooming in his mind and body, so
sweet it was almost agony. Their limbs were becoming entangled in a slow,
lingering kiss that seemed to last an eternity. It was all hauntingly familiar,
each soft sigh she uttered, every curve of her body, and all new at once. He did
not press for more, only lay beside her, caressing her body through her clothes,
holding her, as he kissed her again, and again, and again, until she made some
sort of low demanding moan. She sat up, pulling his tunic over his head, her
mouth trailing down his throat, as he began to pull at the light, flowing dress
she wore. In another moment there was nothing between them, not a stitch of
clothing separating his skin from hers. It all became a burning blur of soft
warm skin and quickening need as she moved over him, touching him, her mouth and
fragile, bird boned hands everywhere.

“Do you want this?” He asked softly, trying to look through her
eyes, into her heart, almost weeping with joy as he saw the sweet, full smile
that bloomed on her face.

“Yes…” She said. “Yes.” Her arms were around him, legs
encircling him, and then—He gasped and half-sobbed as he slid inside her. She
moved above him, her eyes too bright, sparkling with unshed tears.

“Don’t…” He tried to say, his voice a shuddering whisper, “I
want you to be happy…” He inhaled sharply as she squeezed him gently, her warm
tightness contracting around him. “…want to make you happy…I…” He sat up,
wrapping her inside his arms, moving with her, building toward some sweet
breaking point together.

“I am,” she breathed against his lips. “Vegita…I…” She sobbed
his name as the end crashed over her, through her, sweeping him over the edge
with her like a tidal wave. They clung together like exhausted children, shaking
and gasping. The sense of…rightness, that this, this, was how it should
always be, struck him like a lightning bolt from the clear sky above them. That,
somehow, it had had never been right, though he knew he had held her a hundred
times before. And that having had this once, just one taste of how it could be,
he would never again be able to settle for less.

“Bulma…” He raised his eyes to meet hers, his entire body and
soul poured into the pale, insufficient words that only touched on the tiniest
fraction of the meaning they were meant to convey. “I love you,” he whispered,
taking her face between his hands, his mouth against hers. “I love you…”

And it all came back in one shattering instant. His body went
rigid, stone still with shock for a second or two. He cold not move, he could
not breathe. His heart seemed to have lurched to a halt in his chest. Then he
screamed. And screamed. As he had in that black steel pit where they had held
him until his voice had frayed and bled and died. The full weight of memory
crashed down on him like a thousand jagged shards of glass, slicing into the
half-mended fabric of his wounded soul, each reflecting an image of the things
they had done to him in that sleepless, unimaginably horror for half a year.
Until he had shrieked like the maddened thing he had become at the mere sight of
the Red Prince’s face. Until he wept like a craven mongrel, pleading for them to
stop, begging them to kill him. Until he crawled on his stomach to kiss the
Maiyosh-jin’s boots…He had broken in half, and all that remained of his self
had poured out into his enemy’s hands.

She was still holding him, speaking to him softly, while he
wept as he had not since he could walk unaided. Another wave of recollection
rushed in, and he convulsed under the new blow. He could feel it shifting and
reshaping him as it came. Though nothing was the same. He had been right. He
would never be as he had been before. He would never—

He saw her face, every memory of her, every instant since the
first moment he had lain eyes on her in Raditz’ house to this instant, and every
second in between…and he wrenched away from her with a broken wail. He lay on
his face in the tall red-petal strewn grass, sobbing softly. For her. For
himself. For more things than he could give voice to if he lived a thousand
years.

A soft hand touched him again, stroking his hair, caressing the
back of his neck, still speaking to him gently. Slowly the words began to
register with him. She turned him gently over on his back, brushing the tears
from his face.

“What did you remember?” She asked softly.

“Everything…” He saw her face change, saw it grow blank, and
felt her began to crumble inside with the loss of the man he had been moments
ago.

“Do you…” Her face had begun to convulse with pain, as though
he had somehow died. Perhaps in a way, he had. “Do you know who you are?”

“No,” he said, watching her eyes begin to brim with a pitiful
kind of hope. “I am Vegita who went to war to annihilate the Empire’s enemies. I
am Vegita who lay six months in a Maiyosh-jin dungeon tortured day and night
until…until I was no one at all. I am Vegita who dwelt with you in the house
of Bardock these three months. I am…I am all three men…and one. But I do not
know who that man is.” The words gave her no more comfort than they gave him.
She turned slowly away from him, weeping as she must have wept for Raditz and
her firstborn. Wept in Silenced agony each day as she built her little weapons
on that green, sheer sloped island. That island that must lay housed in a place
of horror in her mind, in the same way that black, steel Maiyosh-ijn cell would
forever dwell inside him.

He knew he should let her cry herself out, that any comfort he
might try to give would only mock her pain…because it came from him. But he
could not stop himself. He could not hear her voice, breaking up in tearing
sobs, and do nothing. He pulled her into his arms, and to his wonder, she clung
to him as he rocked her naked body against his, until she was simply too tired
to weep any more.

A long silence stretched out between them, broken only by the
sound of their breath and the light winds sweeping in from the open plains.

“You win, Bulma,” he said at last.

She turned in his embrace, gazing up at him. “Win?”

“The fool’s ‘game’ we began before I went to war,” he said
hollowly. “When we each vowed to enslave the other’s heart. You are the victor,
woman. You will not hear me give it voice again, but…I meant the—the words I
spoke. I still do. And I know that should we both live until the sun above us
burns cold and dies, you will never feel the same. I did not understand that
before, or even why. I do now.”

“And I swore I’d use your love to destroy you,” she said
thoughtfully. “But I wonder…if the man I made that promise to isn’t destroyed
already. You’re right. You aren’t the same now.

“The man I was two hours ago had your heart, did he not?” He
whispered.

“Yes…” She said just as softly. “But he’s gone now.”

“And now…” He shook his head despairingly. “You could no more
care for me than I could take the Red Prince as my sworn brother. There is no
road back from that launch pad where Raditz and your son died. And no road away
from that island in the Western Sea where we began.”

She seemed to be thinking, wracking her mind, scouring her
heart for something to give him hope, for some way back to what she had given
him with all her heart a few scant hours ago. “Maybe there is,” she said
hesitantly.

“Tell me.”

She fixed him with a stare that seemed to flicker between
deathly coldness and a banked furnace of sweet warmth. The unattainable warmth
of her heart. “Give me back everything you took from me,” she said steadily. “If
you can understand what it was you took, if you can overcome your pride enough
to give it back…then…then maybe I’ll be able to see the man I loved this
morning inside the man you are now.”

He closed his eyes, swallowing down the spate of angry,
demanding words, swallowing the knee jerk impulse to grab her, to shake her, to
command her to give him what he so desperately needed from her. It would not
work. And if it was not freely given, it was as sickening and twisted as those
moments when he had kissed Jeiyce of Maiyosh’s boots and called him master.
But…oh gods…he did not even know where to begin.

A crowing, piping voice, followed by an answering canine yip
and a faint spike of Bardock’s Ki warned him they would soon have company.

“Mommma!” The boy came tearing over the flowering moors, just
as they managed to pull their clothes back on in a hurried rumpled fashion. The
brat’s father came trailing behind him, carrying the carcass of a cho-deer slung
across one shoulder.

“Edeeeta!” The boy cried, mangling his name, barreling into his
arms, embracing him in a fashion he would have thought impossible for a Saiyan
child.

His woman had frozen, her face a still mask of veiled fear.
Bardock had paused as well, from his stance on the crest of the hill above them,
sensing the difference in his Ki. The man was poised like an arrow in a bow,
ready to spring forward and give his life for the child if need be. A year ago,
he would have found the man’s reaction impossible to fathom, the mark of a
sentimental weakling and a fool. Vegita slowly pealed the brat off his chest and
held him up in both hands, studying the boy with a puzzled frown while Bulma’s
son continued to babble about “Fy-yin’ all day wit Toussan.”

The memory of how he’d lain beside his woman with this cub
nestled between them, feeling an unthinking acceptance of such a thing as normal
and natural, feeling a kind of peace he doubted he would ever have again—It
was nauseating to the man he had been, an image he might have slain both the boy
and the woman to erase from his mind one year ago. To the man he was now…he
did not know. There were too many changes to take inventory of in so short a
time, too many conflicting impulses raging in side him to be sure of anything.
He would have to learn to know this stranger he had become. But one thing had
not changed, he decided with an internal snarl of defiance at the years of
reactive conditioning that told him he should hurl this warm, squirming thing in
his hands away with a violent, vicious curse. He would do as he wished. He would
make his own law and custom, as he wished, and pity the man who tried to gainsay
him. Slowly, very slowly, he sat the boy in the crook of one arm, and turned his
gaze to meet Bulma’s.

“Sleep in Med Center when you wish, or in my bed when it
pleases you. Bring the boy to my house when you come. I will not have my foster
son sleep alone at Med Center with only that Madrani Scopa to attend him.” He
fought the surge of hope that burst inside him as he saw the brief, brilliant
spark of warmth flare in her blue eyes as he spoke. The unspannable chasm that
lay between them would not be bridged overnight. He was seeking the path across
in the darkness without so much as a map to guide him.

Vegita grunted disdainfully, and she uttered a soft laugh at
his next words. “The brat might be permanently damaged by such company and grow
to become a physician.”

* * * * *

 

(COMING SOON: Chapter III: The war comes to Vegita-sei, Mourom
is closing in on the identity mysterious “mastertech”, and Vegita finds he’s not
as recovered as he thought—He can’t bring himself to kill anymore.)

 


Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 3

He shook off the foolish chill that had just shivered down his
spine with a barely audible snarl. He became aware that he had been making a
soft, deep noise in the back of his throat without realizing it. It was a low,
animal’s purr, vibrating inside his chest, as his hands threaded through the
silky locks of his woman’s hair, washing it clean. His hands began moving over
her now, as he slowly sponged her body clean of the night’s sweat, his eyes
half-lidded. It was just past daybreak and already the heat was becoming
oppressive. He could not remember a hotter fall. Or perhaps the heat was coming
from him, he reasoned with a hazy smile, radiating out from where his body and
that of the woman who sat before him in the bathing pool touched. He frowned
angrily, trying to order and command his thoughts, but there was a red-tinted
glamour encircling them. He knew it was pressing down on his reason, shifting
his perceptions, tossing his emotions and desires into a swirl of bloodlust and
violence. And he knew it would continue to grow as the day wore on, as—

He blinked, gritting his teeth with the effort it took to think
straight. He should send Bulma away now. Had he said something to her just after
they woke this morning? Some mad command for her to return to him this evening
before nightfall? He shook his head for clarity, and kissed the side of her neck
lightly. Foolish woman, to have come to him last night.

“I told you to return to me this afternoon,” he said frowning.
What the hell had she been thinking, to have come to the villa last night?! “Do
not.”

Her body trembled with faint laughter. “I wasn’t going to.”

The heat gathering inside him seemed to be feeding of the
flame-colored light streaming through the shutter slats on the windows of the
bathing room. Stupid, reckless woman, to have some to him last night, instead of
staying in Med Center where she would be safe! Instead of obeying his express
command to stay there, he thought with a soft growl of anger. Disobedient,
uppity, disrespectful bitch! His fingers dug into the soft, pliant flesh in her
arms, and he felt it give way with a rumble of viscous satisfaction, feeling her
softness pressed against his hardness—and then all thoughts of sending her
away, all thoughts of anything, vanished like the steam rising off the water
around them. He growled deep in his throat, and turned her roughly to face him,
shoving her hard against the side of the bath. He caught one soft, water beaded
breast in his sharp teeth, drawing a cry from her as her sweet, sweet blood
streamed into his mouth. He pressed forward against her, pushing her legs
apart—

He froze.

Clarity and cold horror descended on him like an ice storm in
spring. His stomach had launched itself into his throat, his breath was ragged
and harsh. He felt the blood leave his face as he gazed at her, truly seeing her
now. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound would come out. He looked down
at his hands, clenched around her upper arms, at the razored nails of his
fingers that were slowly shifting back to normal. He had—he had gouged her
arms and back, and as he looked down at the water swirling around them, he saw
that it was bright with her blood. Her body…oh gods…She was covered in bites and
bruises!

“Bulma…” He choked out.

“Don’t,” she said softly, one soft hand caressing his face. “I
should have stayed away last night.”

“I am—” His throat contracted against the words, but he
forced them out. They would not be silent. “I am s-s-sorry…I—”

“You,” she said firmly, “are in the early stages of moon
madness. And I should have stayed cloistered with the others below Med Center
like you told me to.” And she smiled that serene smile, the same one she had
given him the night before, when she had come to him, the same smile that had
made his entire being shudder with relief and joy, knowing that the agony of the
weeks of coldness between them was over. That she had forgiven him for
withholding the last piece of the blood debt he owed her, that she understood
that it could not be. Her face had been utterly sure and decided, as it was now.
“I knew better, and you weren’t enough in your right mind to send me away. I
just wanted to be with you one more time before…” That sweet, unnerving smile
faltered slightly. “…before I went below with the others.” She kissed him
gently, smoothing away the furrows in his face with her lips, and he held her,
gently rocking her body against his. Neither of them spoke for a long
moment.

“You must see to yourself,” he said, pushing her back slowly,
reluctantly. “You and bleeding, and—and—”

“I should go,” she agreed.

“I swore to you,” he said numbly, “that you would never again
have so much as a bruise from my hands.”

She stood gingerly, and he helped her towel dry and pull on her
clothes, watching her in silence as she moved about the bedroom with that same
air of eerie calmness, gathering her things as though the bruises and wounds on
her body were nothing.

“The children are secured then?” He asked with more calm than
he felt when she had collected the last of her medical trinkets into her
satchel.

“All tucked away. The entire subterranean sector of Med Center
is jam packed right now, and very, very loud. Nail says he may go mad before the
week if over.” She had moved to the east window and he stepped around to stand
behind her, though he did not follow her gaze upward. Above, he knew the moon
was burning like a red inferno in the morning sky, drawing ever nearer, turning
the heavens the color of blood. Tonight it would be even closer, and full…

It was a great and momentous omen, the oldest warriors said,
that the King’s centennial should fall upon the season of the moon. Even with
his eyes lowered, the crimson light seemed to be boring into his brain,
threatening to shred his sanity in broad daylight. Tonight…tonight would be mad
and joyous, a festival of blood, death and battle.

“We have had all the little ones from the infant conditioning
units and more than half the children from the children’s three, four and five
year old barracks on Vegita-sei already sedated now,” she murmured. “All thirty
thousand of them. Bardock said he had a couple of words to offer you for giving
him and his squad baby-sitting duty down there, and they weren’t ‘thank
you.’”

Vegita smirked wanly. “Was Rikkuum a help to you, or did the
big fool simply get underfoot?”

She leaned back against him. “He’s good at keeping the rowdy
ones in line. He told me he used to be a drill instructor on Tsiru-sei. And he’s
surprisingly gentle with the little ones…the babies…” She was silent, her slim
body shivering lightly against his, even in the steadily rising heat.

He turned her to face him, bowing his head, laying one cheek
along side hers. “You are still angry with me.” He was not speaking of anything
he had done this morning or last night, and they both knew it.

“No,” she whispered. “Anger’s the wrong word. I wish…oh gods, I
wish so many things.”

“I cannot give you what you wish,” he told her intently. “But I
will give you the closest thing approaching it. I swear it on my life. It will
not be this year of the next, but I will honor all the oaths I have sworn to
you.”

She sighed against him, deep and sad. “I believe you.” And she
wrapped her arms around him, holding him tightly, her head buried in his chest.
They stood like that for only a few seconds. One moment of contentment in
nothing more than the other’s arms. Then she straightened, and squared her
shoulders. And she kissed him once more. “I’m going,” she said softly,
resolutely. “I’ll see you again soon. When it’s all over.”

He stood still as a statue, watching her go.

 

 

 

He stepped through the arched doorway of his villa and paused
on the threshold, surveying the empty hearthroom, spotless of even a spec of the
dust of disuse. The housemaids had kept the villa open, Bulma had told him,
tending his house and her flower and herb garden, awaiting the master’s
return—which had been, by no means, a certainty before yesterday. The two
serving women, Batha and Caddi, bowed low as his eyes fell on them. Both their
pleasantly blank faces froze in apprehension as his gaze lingered on them. The
master of the house never looked directly at a domestic slave, any more than he
would at a mechanical appliance—unless the slave had displeased him. Both
women were ivory-skinned, of middle years, their black, overly large nocturnal
eyes huge as they gazed back at him in shock.

He had sent no message or signal to anyone of his impending
return. The others behind him—Bulma, Scopa and the boy climbing out of her
little flyer, Bardock standing at ease in the doorway, were watching him
closely.

“You have kept the house and grounds in good repair,” he told
the women finally. “I am hungry.”

Both pale women dipped again in hurried bows and scurried into
the kitchens. Bulma’s dogs leapt from her flyer and bounded past Bardock into
the house, circling the hearth in a mindlessly exuberant chase. He watched them
silently as he sat slowly in his own hearth side chair, feeling terribly strange
to be doing so, as though he were only half-waking. Both animals skidded to a
halt before him as he made a clipped, commanding growl, their tongues hanging
from their slobbery mouths idiotically. Bulma had trailed in after him, Romayn
cradled sleepily against her breast.

“If,” he told the dogs with soft menace, “either of you
relieves yourself inside my house, we will dine upon roast dog this night.”

They stared at him blankly for the space of a half-second, then
‘woofed’ happily and resumed their merry race around the hearth.

“Worthless beasts,” he said disgustedly.

Bulma chuckled softly at his shoulder. “Yes, they are,” she
said. “I’ll take them back to Med Center with me in the morning. They’ll have a
good time digging up the garden conservatory in the central quad.”

“Leave them,” he said after a moment’s thought, staring up at
her. “Pack animals should not be caged, even in such a large cage as Med Center.
The servants will feed them, and they may run wild through the hills as they did
at Bardock’s house.” The thought of cages, of caging anything with wit enough to
draw breath, gave him a sense of shuddering horror he could barely mask behind
the hard mold of his face. But his woman smiled, a pleased, hesitant turn of
expression that stilled the internal shuddering.

She left, without comment, carrying the boy into their private
rooms, the dogs loping along behind her.

“Ouji-sama,” Bardock said quietly.

Vegita turned back to see the soldier seated on the circular
rim of the hearth pit. Scopa had vanished into the kitchens for some reason.
“There are things I did not tell you—things your lord father bade me keep from
you while you were still recovering.”

“Tell me now,” Vegita said grimly.

“Your father has been off world for nearly ten days, but he is
returning just before dawn tomorrow. In your absence, and with the loss of
Articha as well, he has been obliged to lead much of the war in the field
himself. You will find the Capital and Vegita-sei itself much changed, my
prince. The King became far more severe in his domestic policies after you were
lost…and even more so after you were found. And because of your father’s need to
see to much of the war personally, he has been forced to appoint a steward from
among his chief ministers to keep the homeworld in hand while he is away.”

Vegita swore softly. “Mousrom.”

“Your fears for Bulma’s safety were well justified, Ouji-sama,”
Bardock growled. “Twice I had word from sources of Scopa’s acquaintance that
they were coming for her, twice I moved her and the boy just in time. On both of
these occasions, your father was off world.”

Vegita felt cold inside. How close had they come to taking her?
And how much would the fat sadist dare even after Vegita had officially returned
to the Capital?

“There is more,” Bardock went on. “The entire slave population
of Vegita-sei has been either rotated to ship foundries and weapons factories
off world…or given to Mousrom’s hands. The only exception is Med Center, because
we need them so desperately.”

“Why?” His father did nothing without a reason, and rage for
the loss of his heir was not sufficient to rid an entire planet of the bulk of
its slave labor force.

“Since you were lost, there have been three separate attacks on
Vegita-sei itself. Rad nukes smuggled onto the planet and detonated at three of
the smaller port cities in the north. We contained the fallout with atmospheric
scrims, but the cities were lost, and Mousrom’s own informants uncovered a forth
attempt to set off a bomb in the Capital itself. In addition…there have been two
assassination attempts on the King himself. It is a bad business, my prince. And
the worst of it is that much of what the Inquisitor spouts in defense of his
torturers’ dens is founded in truth. The enemy has a technology in their
invisibility shields that allow their operatives to move among us unseen,
undetected, even here on Vegita-sei. It is a monstrous weapon in the aid of
terrorism. And each plot was traced to Red Network operatives here on
Vegita-sei. Slaves and freedmen.” Bardock paused, surveying him with a
penetrating gaze. “Scopa has learned from former members of his own medical
staff who have been pressed into the service of the Inquisition that Mousrom has
been lobbying to have you ‘put out of your misery’ since the day you were
rescued. Those Council members and Elite nobles he has not bullied or
blackmailed into his hand, he has worked into a frenzy by poisoning their minds
against you, my prince. He has told them that Vegita-sei’s greatest liability in
its hour of need is a weak, half-mad heir to the throne.”

The words hung there in the cold silence, as Vegita sat utterly
still, numb to the bone with rage that could not be quantified. He was literally
afraid to move or speak until it began to subside, fearing he would uproot the
entire hillside beneath them if he exploded. “It is good,” he snarled softly
after a long time, “that I sent no word before me that I was returning. I will
have the element of surprise when I greet the Royal Council tomorrow.” He had
not stopped to think for one moment of the last few hours just what he would be
returning to. He was publicly dishonored and disgraced as a warrior and a man in
the eyes of his people now. Mousrom would have somehow found out the state he
had been in when he had been rescued, would have leaked whispers of it to the
right ears in such a way that it could never be traced back to him. And now…the
entire Empire knew. In the wake of such a smear campaign, he would have an
uphill battle to win back his honor in the best of circumstances. And now he
was…Vegita saw again the image of himself curled into a ball of agony, felt the
gasping, drowning sense of his own lungs rebelling on him, as he remembered the
thing—the thing that had happened an hour before leaving Bardock’s house. The
secret only he and Bardock knew.

And beyond that considerable obstacle, there was another factor
he would not be able to hide at all. He was not as he had been. And they would
see it, in every word and gesture, take note of the differences within seconds
after he greeted them tomorrow. One thing had not changed, he knew
instinctively. He was no liar or play-actor. They were skills he simply did not
possess and never would. He could be nothing other than what he was, whatever
that was now. He would not even know how to begin feigning ‘normalcy’. But…he
could not lose sight of the fact that no one, no one, could do a thing to
him he did not allow. He would be the strongest man in the room tomorrow in
Council, and—he smiled grimly—if he greeted Mousrom as he planned, in thanks
for the fat man’s attempts on Bulma’s life, it would go a long way toward
proving the Minister of Intelligence’s rumors as just that. Rumors.

Vegita stared into the hard eyes of the man before him. “You
know I am not as I should be. Not fully recovered.”

Bardock snorted. “It depends what you mean by recovery. If you
are saying you are not longer that vicious, spoiled, blood-thirsty brat prince
you were, and will never be again, that is not a thing to mourn.”

A year ago, he would have torn the man’s heart from his chest
for those words. Now, he only eyed the older soldier narrowly. “Bardock, father
of Raditz,” Vegita said pointedly. “Why do you advise me? Why do you not fly to
Mousrom and my father and tell them the secret you know? Why would you not
rejoice in my downfall and disgrace?”

Bardock’s eyes never left his. The cold, stony stare never
softened. “If you were an ordinary man, I would have killed you long ago. Though
you are far stronger than I am, I would have found a way. But you are not an
ordinary man. The war is going very, very badly for us, my prince. Though it is
treason now to say such a thing aloud. We have won many victories, but the enemy
has beaten us back at every turn on a larger scale, and Jeiyce is now striking
at the core systems, pushing closer and closer to Vegita-sei. We are in mortal
danger of losing this war and being eradicated as a race. Unless we find a
savior.”

“A savior,” Vegita whispered bitterly. “You saw with your own
eyes today how very inadequate I am to that task at the moment!”

“You will rise to the need of your people, Ouji-sama!” Bardock
said harshly. “You will find a way to overcome this impediment the Red Prince
left mined in your subconscious, and you will save us all. You must. Gods of
war, boy! Hasn’t it occurred to you yet how strong you must be now?!”

“Stop speaking in riddles, man!” Vegita snapped furiously.

“You lay in that torturer’s cell six months,” Bardock said
impatiently, like a tutor with a slow student. “What will half a year of
teetering upon the threshold of death have done to a power already as great as
yours?”

Vegita stared at him in utter shock. Bardock was right.
Gods…the Saiyan healing factor that brought a warrior back from death’s doorway
with half again his former strength. And how many times had they taken him to
the edge of death with their tortures, stopped his heart or burst his organs
from nothing more than the pain they were inducing, only to revive him, heal
him, and start again? More times than he could count…

“The old legend of the Super Saiyan,” Bardock intoned, “says
that he suffered pain at the hands of Aiysa-sama of Tsiru-sei to equal the
torments of the damned before he achieved his destiny. Our world’s first,
violent meeting with a space-faring race—the Tsiru-jin Invasion. We thought
they were demons come from the skies, because we had never seen star ships
before that day. They laid Vegita-sei to waste, and took all of our kind that
survived back to Tsiru-sei as slaves. Among them, the Saiyan King, Vegita. They
crucified him, the tale says, in the White Hall, and tortured him before the
court, while the lizards mocked him and made a sport of new ways to hurt him.
Our entire race would have died beneath Tsiru-jin heels had he not saved them. I
gave you those histories of Vegita-sei to read while you were convalescing, my
prince, so the story might be fresh in your mind.”

“It does not say how he accomplished it,” Vegita said. “Only
that, ‘His heart broke in grief and rage for his people, and he cast off his
bonds and slew Aiysa-sama in a storm of righteous, golden fire.’ Very poetic,
but not exactly a specific historical account.”

“It does not tell what the last straw was,” Bardock agreed.
“The event that ‘broke his heart’ and pushed him over the edge. But I think…I am
sure that the Tsiru-jin themselves took his raw power level to the edge of Super
Saiyan unwittingly, by torturing him repetitively. Just as Jeiyce did to
you.”

Vegita was silent, barely breathing, as he tried to absorb the
magnitude of what the man was saying—saying very convincingly. Super
Saiyan…

“When you left Vegita-sei sixteen months ago,” Bardock said
grimly. “I hated you as much as you imagine, my prince. I still do not like you.
But I think you are our hope. That you are poised to do what no one has done in
a thousand years, and that you can save us all. To this end, I will follow you
and aid you in all that you do, Ouji-sama. I will not see our people die and be
forgotten.”

“All my liegemen and vassals are slain on Avaris,” Vegita told
him slowly. “There is no warrior still living to whom I may safely turn my back.
Will you swear to my service, Bardock?”

A flicker of something midway between fear and hope danced in
the other man’s eyes, and Vegita smiled inwardly, seeing again that core of
intractable honor in the man, the honor that made him as poor a liar as Vegita
himself. All that the older man said or swore was the utter truth as he saw
it.

Bardock nodded curtly. “That I will, Ouji-sama. And all my
squad will follow suit if you will have them. Two of my band I have fought
beside, shoulder to shoulder, since we were in the children’s barracks together.
The others are the brats of those of our number who have died. We are all of one
mind in this.”

“I will not have them sight unseen,” Vegita murmured. “I will
meet with them first, but I will take your word on their worth. You might have
slain me a hundred times in the last three months if you wanted. You have
cause.”

“That I do,” the other man said coldly. This strong, loyal
soldier of Vegita-sei would willingly swear a lifetime of faithful service to an
enemy, because he saw it as best for his world. There were no apologies for
deeds done, nor forgiveness either. But there was redress. And honor.

“When my position is once again secure,” Vegita told him in a
low formal tone. “I will have Romayn formally declared my foster son, to be
raised in my own household as an Elite—foster-brother, body guard, and first
lieutenant to my heir. In this way, I will mete out true payment of the blood
debt I owe your house. Each day of the boy’s life.”

Bardock stared at him long and hard, then swallowed, bending on
one knee. “I pledge to you, Ouji-sama—my faith, my strength, my body and my
life. I will serve you all my days…and thus, serve my people and
Vegita-sei.”

Scopa emerged from the kitchens a moment later, his face
shining with a kind of eager anticipation. The Madrani drew up short, surveying
the two Saiyans. “Did you—?”

Bardock nodded. “I told him everything.”

“Ouji-sama…” The Madrani began slowly, unsure of whether to
speak or not. “I am not a warrior, but I can be of use to you where Mousrom is
concerned. He has taken members of my staff to work on his torture units…I am
not Saiyan, but Vegita-sei is the only home I have ever known. I will not
pretend that being a slave was anything less appealing than it was, but…You may
not see it from where you sit, Ouji-sama, but he has made this world a Hell
within the mortal sphere. And he is using my medics to aid him. I am in contact
with a great many of my people who labor in Kharda City. They hear much of
Mousrom’s private plans. They will be more than willing to pass information to
you through me that might help bring about his downfall.”

“I cannot kill him,” Vegita ground his teeth at the words, the
double meaning they bore. They tasted like bile in his throat. “Yet. He is too
valuable to the Empire while we are in crisis. So, I must bring him to reign. I
need leverage. Enough information to control him. Tell your folk to find out
anything they can. Let them know I will grant freedom to all those who aid me in
this and their kin.”

“I will do as you say, Ouji-sama,” the doctor said.

“If I should fall in the next few weeks,” Vegita said slowly,
watching both their faces tense at those words. Because of that very real
possibility. And because, he realized belatedly, it was another sharp reminder
of how very different he was from the man they had feared and served a year ago.
How would he counterfeit normalcy under the close scrutiny of his father, who
knew him better than anyone?! “If I am thrown down,” he went on grimly. “Or if I
fall in battle on some late day, I command you both to take Bulma and the boy,
and flee Vegita-sei. Take them somewhere in the outer spiral arms, beyond the
reach of the Empire.” Both men murmured quiet oaths to do so. They took their
leave moments later. The Madrani seemed in a great hurry for some reason,
leaving without even bidding Bulma farewell.

“His lover is on Vegita-sei for a few weeks,” Bulma told him
around a small mouthful of food, as the serving maids piled the table high with
every dish he had ever shown any remote interest in. Vegita wondered how she
stayed healthy eating so little. “Scopa doesn’t get to see him very often these
days. Zarbon got tapped as part of Lord Turna’s morale project when the war went
into full swing. He travels to garrisons worlds, protectorates, colonies, pretty
much the entire Empire, and schools the chefs there. Lord Turna told him a
well-fed Saiyan is generally a happy Saiyan, so he feeds them as well as
possible.”

Vegita grunted in agreement around a huge mouthful of roast
meat. Beside Bulma, seated on a pile of cushions so he could reach the table,
Romayn was doing his Saiyan heritage proud as well, though he seemed to be
getting as much on the floor as in his mouth. The dogs hovered below the boy’s
chair, wolfing down each windfall eagerly.

“Would little master like some more meat pie?” One of the
ivory-skinned maids asked with a poorly hidden smile.

“Uh-huh!” The boy crowed, shoving another handful in his mouth.
Three helpings later, the brat began nodding, teetering atop the mound of
cushions.

“I guess that’s normal for his age,” Bulma said with a
frustrated frown.

Vegita nodded, still shoveling the last few rounds of his meal.
“We eat like that when we are growing. When we reach our full growth, we stop
before we pass out. Most of the time.”

“Dammit,” she swore softly, hefting the boy up on one hip. “No
one can seem to tell me what is and isn’t healthy for him because no one raises
their own children. I try to ask Bardock things like that and he just shrugs and
says, ‘It won’t kill him.’”

He followed her silently to their rooms, through their own
bedchamber to the adjacent study she had converted into a second bedroom. He
wondered with a vague sense of unease where she had magically produced the new
furnishings in less than an hour. There was a modest sized bed under the window,
and a child’s pallet bed in the antechamber that was set off from the study,
separated by a swinging shutter door. “I thought we could try sleeping in here
tonight, if it’s all right with you,” she said softly. “It catches the southern
winds after nightfall and it might be cooler.” The dogs lay down on either side
of the brat’s cot like drooling bodyguards. Vegita turned away from the sight of
his her face as she lay the boy down. It was an expression so full of her heart,
sweet and unequivocal and unconditional. He found himself in their master
bedchamber again, staring down at the bed. His bed. The bed he and she had
shared for more than a year before he had gone to war. Since the day he had
brought her to the Capital, his falsely smiling, newly-broken, doll lover…

She yelped at the sound of the blast, rushing in to see him
dousing the smoldering rubble with a gust of pressure from his Ki. The entire
room was a charred mess. He turned and met her wide frightened eyes, and took
her hand, drawing her back into the other room, closing the door behind him. His
breath was painfully tight in his chest.

“I will not lie beside you in that bed or that room ever
again,” he said hoarsely, shutting his eyes against the images, hundreds of
them, of her face twisted in pain and rage and grief as he used her in that
room. Pain and grief and rage that he was giving her body pleasure, that she
wanted this hated enemy, who broke her bones as he took her, without realizing
it, or caring. It’s madness, she had said long ago, one of the first
times he had commanded her to speak to truth, that you could make me come
even after all the unforgivable things you’ve done to me…make me want you
against my mind, against my will, against my reason. Like a fire in my blood. I
think that’s the worst thing you’ve done to me…

 

He closed his eyes, seeing himself thanking Jeiyce meekly for a
beating, thanking that smiling red face for helping him to be less evil, the
booming laughter of the Aquir-jin Dodoria, the tearing pain of those
razor-barbed whips—

Soft hands on either side of his face, gently pulling his
shaking hands down, easing him back onto the bed by the window. She began
pulling at his boots, his tunic, his pants. He gazed down at his bare chest and
upper arms and—gods, what must his back look like?! He had taken no note of
these things before recovering his memories, but now…He was scarred with whip
stripes and other like injuries. There was probably no part of his body they had
left unmarred except for his face. The scars were deep, and they were permanent.
No amount of time in the regen tank would erase this.

She curled up next to him, her head resting on his shoulder,
her arms around him. “Try and sleep,” she said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a hard
day.” She kissed him lightly and he stared at her, swallowing hard.

“No one did this for you,” he said. She did not misunderstand
him, and her body tensed against his as he had known it would. She did not say
anything for a long time. “Scopa did,” she finally whispered. “And Batha and
Caddi, too. They were both garrison pleasure slaves when they were young women.
I’ve had the life of a pampered princess compared to what they must have lived
through.”

Garrison whores…His stomach clenched, as he saw again
Articha’s screaming face. Another door was opening in his mind to a new chamber
of nightmares. Nothing would be the same, ever again. He would see Vegita-sei
through new eyes, and everywhere he turned, he would see things he had never
taken note of become the stuff of horrors. That twisting sensation again, as his
eyes fell on her.

“What is this I am feeling?” He hadn’t realized he had spoken
the words aloud until she answered softly.

“Is it like shame at having done something dishonorable, only
different, more personal?” He made a noise of agreement. That was it
exactly.

“It’s called guilt,” she spoke the alien word in her own
lilting native tongue. “It’s…it’s a sense of a blood debt so strong it
swallows you up in shame if you don’t find a way to make reparation.” “It is
cho-gugol,” Vegita whispered. “Debt of blood and honor. A warrior can
only pay such a debt with his life’s blood.”

“Death is an easy out,” she said coldly. “You big, strong
warriors always talk about dying nobly to absolve your sins.” She snorted
indelicately. “Bullshit. It’s harder, more noble, to live with the evil things
you’ve done and try to make up for them. You’re right, Vegita. You do owe me
this cho-gugol. But I’ve told you how to be free of it.”

 

Give me back everything you took from me, she had said.

“So you have,” he said, stroking her face. He wanted her. Gods,
how he wanted her. But…he closed his eyes, savoring the memory of her in his
arms, her wind-tossed hair strewn with the red petals of moon blossoms, her eyes
brimming with that same wealth of love that had shown on her face moments ago
when she had tucked Romayn in for the night. Had that really been today? Less
than six scant hours ago? Perhaps it seemed like a lifetime because he had
recalled a lifetime in that small space of time—and lost her in the same
instant. She was here, lying beside him. And if he began to make love to her,
she would receive him eagerly. But… It would not be as it had been today. And
that one, fleeting taste of how it should have always been between them had
soured his desire for anything less. He could not bear the thought of touching
her and seeing that look of haunted self-hate in her eyes as he held her.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

“What have I done to warrant your thanks?” He asked, sinking
into the sky-blue depths of her eyes. “For telling Bardock and Scopa to take
Rom-kun an myself to safety if anything happens to you.” “Eavesdropper,” he
growled, with a faint twitch of his lips.

“Yes,” she said unrepentantly. “Trust your instincts about
Bardock. He’s sworn to you now, and I never met a more honorable man. I don’t
think he knows how to lie.”

He frowned at her in perplexity. “I do not understand what it
is between the two of you. He treats with you as though you were his own
daughter. But he slew your kin, destroyed your world, killed your childhood
lover—” He stopped as she began to shake all over in short ripples of laughter
he realized with surprise were giggles. It made her look very young.

“Son-kun was…” She paused to catch her breath. “He was
not my boyfriend. He was four years younger than me. More like my little
brother.” She sobered abruptly, caught up for a moment in the memory of things
loved and lost. “I can’t explain it, Bardock and myself. I hated him so much at
one point. More than anyone I’ve ever known. My first year on Vegita-sei, I
tried to kill him more times than I ever even thought about killing you. Every
time he came to the house in Turrasht to visit, and sometimes I’d send little
presents home with him as well—bombs wired into the metal of his armor and
stuff like that. He seemed to think it was cute. I stopped when I realized the
murder attempts were becoming a family joke. ‘How will the Chikyuu girl try to
off Bardock this time?’ I wounded him critically a couple of times, and even
then, they all thought it was hilarious. Bardock’s squad lieutenant, Toma, began
taking garrison bets on whether he’d come back to the barracks wounded or not,
and which part of his body I’d injure, and they’d all sit around and laugh like
hell when he came back bandaged and bleeding. Your people are just
incomprehensible to me in some ways.” She sighed irritably. “But in spite of
this, or maybe because of it, he just adored me—from the first moment when we
met, when I put a hole through his shoulder. He treated me as though what I had
with—with Raditz was a real marriage and not just his son loving a slave he
owned. Now…I don’t hate him anymore. And that’s good. It’s like I cut some
black poisonous tumor out of my heart.”

“What made you stop hating him,” Vegita asked intently. “After
all that he had done to you.” She regarded him thoughtfully. As ever, she saw
through his words to the heart of his question. “The day Arbatzu fell, when he
fought so hard to save as many lives as he could, only to lose the one person he
loved the most at the end of the day. The way she didn’t forgive him, even at
the end, and the look on his face when she sent him away. The way I’ve seen him
sit and listen to the hyper wave news feed over the last year, as the reports of
more and more Saiyan worlds destroyed began to come it, and feel that
helplessness of knowing your people are dying and that you aren’t strong enough
to save them. I thought it would feel good to see him hurt so badly. But it
didn’t. And now he has a second chance to do right by Son-kun.” Vegita
suppressed a worried chill at her emphatic assertion that Romayn was the boy
Kakarott reborn.

Her eyes were veiled and fathomless blue, watching his face
closely in the darkened room. “You’re wondering if I still hate you. I—I don’t
know. Sometimes…I catch myself thinking of the you before and the you now as two
separate men. Maybe because you’ve been so different since you were rescued. Or
maybe for the same reason I stopped hating Bardock. Because what they did to you
was—was worse in most ways than what you did to me. You never took my mind or
memory of who I was away. When Scopa told me what they’d done to you, how long
it had lasted, and tried to prepare me for the state you’d be in—I thought it
would make me happy to see you so horribly wounded, inside and out. But it just
hurt. Because I know how bad it is.” He was silent, struggling with every
impulse, every want and desire and need, to speak his next words. “You are
free,” he choked the words out. He was losing her…losing her. “I will give you
a—a ship if you—”

She lay her hand over his mouth, stopping the stumbling words.
“I will stay.”

“You…” He knew he was staring at her open-mouthed, like an
imbecile.

“Will stay,” she said again. “Partly because of Rom-kun, but
also because of what’s going on in the Capital and on Vegita-sei now. I won’t
run away with my own freedom and leave all the other slaves in the Empire to
that monster Mousrom. If I can do anything to help stop him, I will. And don’t
think he’ll stop with non-Saiyan’s, Vegita. He’s about two seconds away from
petitioning your father to allow him to interrogate Saiyans as well.”

“That will not happen,” Vegita said firmly.

She shook her head slowly. “Tell me that after you’ve been to
Council tomorrow. I can help you stop him, Vegita. The same way Scopa’s going to
help you. And…I can help with other things too. Give me tomorrow to get some
things ready and I’ll show you what I mean.” She went silent, lying so still
beside him he thought she must have drifted off to sleep. Then, softer… “And
I’ll stay because of you. Because…I think you’re as different from the man who
went to war a year ago as if you’d died and been reborn. And because of that, I
think you might become a king the likes of which Vegita-sei has never seen. A
king who might hold an Empire together because it wants to be held
together—not just out of brute force. I’ll stay…for the hope of what you
might become.” It was almost the same reason Bardock had given him, spoken in
different words. The hope of what he might become…to Vegita-sei and to her. He
fell into sleep with that hope wrapped around him like a warm blanket.

 

 

Bardock met him at dawn, his old, but polished armor gleaming
with the newly emblazoned crest of the royal house. He nodded curtly and
followed Vegita as they made the short journey over the foothills to the
Capital. Vegita drew up short as the older man signaled him when they reached
the Palace, hovering directly over the dome of the King’s council chamber.
Bardock turned to face him in the air.

“If one of the assassination attempts on the King had
succeeded,” he said grimly, “Mousrom would have seen you slain in less than an
hour. Can you picture him on your father’s throne, Ouji-sama?”

Vegita hissed angrily, nodding his approval, letting the rage
begin to build inside him. Bardock was one clever, clever bastard. He meant to
whip Vegita into a murderous fury before he entered the Council, to drive him
into a mental state that would be almost indistinguishable from his former
self.

“It almost makes a man wonder,” Bardock said. “If those
attempts on your father’s life were truly the actions of the Red Network, or
well concealed attempts at a royal coup.”

Vegita stared at Bardock, his teeth clenched, his mind racing.
Gods, even Mousrom would not dare. Or would he? The blame for each plot could be
so easily laid on a few hapless slaves, all of whom would confess under
Mousrom’s arts of persuasion. They would confess to having done anything if they
spent enough time in the Inquisitor’s care. And there was no check nor any
balance set in place to curtail the fat man’s newly granted powers. No one who
had authority to question the Minister of Intelligence himself—none save
Ottoussama. Vegita felt the chill of ice down his spine melt away in rising
fury. He was nearly vibrating with rage now. But Bardock did not stop there.

“It is a good thing, is it not, Ouji-sama, that I received word
from Scopa’s folk in time to relocate Bulma and the boy when they came for her?”
Vegita nodded, a low growl rumbling inside his chest. “Can you see her in
Mousrom’s hands? Can you imagine the things he would have done to her? Can you
picture that fat beast laying hands on her—”

Vegita uttered a howling shriek of maddened fury and dove
downward, crashing feet first through the roof of the Council Chamber. He barely
heard the collective gasps of the assembled Councilors as he strode forward,
wrapped in a red burn of power, tail lashing, teeth bared. He could see no one
and nothing but his father’s impassive face. The others fell back before him as
he came, a bit more quickly than was needful. Ottoussama did not moved or speak
as Vegita stood before him. He slowly knelt down before the King’s chair, the
energy of his aura crackling the wood, warping the steel.

“I am returned from the gates of Hell, Ottoussama,” he growled
softly. “Give me your blessing that I may serve you once again and be revenged
upon my enemies.”

The cold, bird-black eyes searched his face for a long, deathly
still moment. Behind him, Vegita could feel the Council holding its collective
breath. Then Ottoussama lifted one hard steady hand, and lay it lightly on
Vegita’s head. “Welcome back,” he intoned softly. “…my son.”

Turna and several others broke the stillness that followed with
a shout of joy. But one voice cut above the others. “We are all glad and amazed
to see you recovered so quickly and completely, my prince.”

Vegita was still staring into his father’s expressionless face.
Now, he rose, blazing like a torch inside the aura of his own power, and turned
to gaze at Mousrom’s thick-jowled, false smile—and he felt his power soar
upward like a rocket. The Inquisitor seemed not to notice. He continued speaking
in that same effusive, sugared tone. “We had thought you might be lost to us
forever.” The man never spoke a word, Vegita thought coldly, without giving it
at least two shades of veiled insinuation.

“Hoped, more like,” he said, too softly. Behind him, his father
remained silent, letting the Inquisitor speak out of turn as though the
presumptuous bastard spoke for the entire Council.

Mousrom’s piggy eyes narrowed, but he continued to smile.
“Ouji-sama, you mistake me—”

Vegita whipped forward and seized him by the throat, snarling
like and enraged animal. “I have never mistaken you, torturer!” He slammed the
fat man down onto the Council table, still gripping his neck. “I know you have
besmirched my name in Council and among the nobles, though never through your
own lips. I know you have schemed to have me slain before I was completely
healed of my wounds.” He squeezed the doughy flesh beneath his fingers and was
rewarded with a gurgle. “And I know you have attempted more than once to take
what is mine and rend it to pieces out of nothing more than spite!”

“Ou-sama…” Mousrom croaked. “…boy is unstable…help!”

Turna was laughing softly somewhere nearby.

“You are a panderer of rumor and half-truth,” Vegita hissed
into the Inquisitor’s face. “You order a man’s name disgraced, but never face
his wrath in combat. You have slain millions, but never braved the danger of
battle. You plant your enormous ass in my seat at Council, on my father’s right
hand, and do not expect a beating?! You are a coward, and an affront to every
Saiyan warrior who ever shed blood for Vegita-sei. You are not worthy to be
called Saiyan! Or to draw breath in my presence!” His fingers began to squeeze.
It would take nothing to wring the life from this craven throat-slitter—but
his hand froze as the big man lost consciousness with a rattling sigh. His heart
was in his throat suddenly, and he was grateful, very grateful, that he had been
trembling from head to toe with rage an instant before. For nor he was simply
trembling with the effort to keep his face hard and immobile, to not cry out and
sink to his knees under the weight of a host of memories, under a crushing wave
of remembered pain. He knew he must do something, that me must speak, but his
throat was so constricted he could barely breathe. “It is good,” said a woman’s
voice at his shoulder, “that our Prince has learned to better master his temper,
Ou-sama. A year ago, he would not have considered our need for
such…necessities as Mousrom over the pleasure of pulling off his head.” A
rusty feminine chuckle. “Though I confess, I am disappointed that he did
not.”

Vegita stood slowly and tossed Mousrom’s slack form against the
nearest wall. He turned to meet the dark, dancing eyes of Articha. “I will call
him out in single combat when the war is over,” he told her through gritted
teeth, trying to master the shudders still coursing through his body. “That will
be and entertaining five seconds,” she said.

One corner of her mouth was quirked up, the nearest she ever
came to a smile. There were no questions that were seemly to ask or answer as
one warrior to another. It occurred to him that she was pleased, honestly
pleased to see him come back to himself. He heard her voice in the haunted
depths of memory, calling to him, telling him to be strong, speaking gently when
he finally crashed into the abyss of madness, as gently as Bulma soothing
Romayn. And she looked…fine. Though he knew it was not so, knew the scars they
had cut into her mind and body ran as deep and permanent as his own. But none of
this could be said. And it would be unthinkable even to offer thanks, because of
the memory of disgrace and humiliation it would raise.

 

She is a very strong woman, Bulma had said.

“It is good to see you, General,” he said in a formal tone.
Because there was nothing else that could be spoken aloud.

She stood straight and tall, her arms folded on her chest. “And
you, my prince.” “Dine at my house tomorrow night, you and your mate,” he told
her. She would be able to tell him all that Bardock had not been privy to, and
all his father might withhold from him until he had truly proven himself
again.

“You honor my house, Ouji-sama.”

“Out!” His father commanded abruptly. “All of you. And take
that—” he gestured at Mousrom. “—with you. I will speak to my son
alone.”

Vegita stood motionless until he and his father were alone. The
King stood and approached him, cold, black eyes boring into his, trying to read
the soul inside. “How is it with you, boy? The truth.” “I am well,” Vegita said
slowly. “But…I am not as I was.” That was purest truth, at least. “That I can
see,” his father muttered. “What did you do, boy? Have someone drive you into a
rage before you arrived?”

Vegita kept his face from flushing into a deep scarlet with a
great deal of effort. “It worked,” Ottousama grunted. “On all of them, except
perhaps Articha. She has told me some of what was done to you both, perhaps
things you have no clear memory of yourself. Can you go into battle as you are
now?”

Vegita was silent. Here it was…and now that the moment had
come, he found that the lie he had intended stuck in his throat. I cannot…the
lie would endanger the whole of the Empire. And when I meet Jeiyce in the field
again…gods, how can I know how many triggers he left mined in my subconscious?
He might turn me upon my own soldiers with a word!
He met his father’s hard
stare, saw that there was gray at the older man’s temple’s that had not been
there a year ago, saw the dark shadows of utter exhaustion playing around his
eyes. Saw that he did not need to answer the question.

“I would not have returned until I was sure that I am not a
liability to you and to the Empire, Ottousama. But I have listened to the hyper
wave broadcasts for weeks now, and I knew that there is no time left.” He set
his jaw and sank to one knee before his father’s chair a second time. “Do with
your servant as you judge best, Ou-sama. I will bow to the needs of
Vegita-sei.”

“You are less of a liability now than you were two years past,
boy,” Ottousama said with a gruff chuckle. His cold eyes were sparkling with
pleasure. Vegita regarded him in open confusion. “You think before you speak,”
his father said. “Consider before you act. Check the full force of your rage
when necessity demands it. And you put the good of the Empire over your own
interests. The rest will come in time. When you are ready to lead this war
again, I will send you out to face your enemy a third and final time. Until
then, there is much to do on Vegita-sei, as you have relieved Mousrom of his
stewardship in single combat…”

 

How? Vegita wanted to ask. How had things come to such a
pass that Mousrom had come so perilously close to tipping the scales of power in
his favor? But he knew. The Inquisitor had made himself so indispensable in the
absence of a royal heir, taking advantage of the King’s need for a strong right
arm, taking more and more liberties as his position became more and more rooted
in utter necessity. Playing power games when the survival of the Empire was at
stake. And Ottousama had given way to the man…choosing solidarity over his own
security upon the throne. For his world. For his people. The King stood slowly,
and did something he had seldom done unless ceremony demanded. He lay one hand
on Vegita’s shoulder. His grip was warm and firm.

“What you have endured will give you strength, boy. It will
cool your youthful rages to cold cleverness in the heat of the moment. You have
in you the makings of a king out of legend, though you still have much to learn.
Bring Mousrom to heel here on Vegita-sei, and I will look to winning the war
until you are ready for the field. Resilience is the greatest strength of our
race, my son. And the old saying holds true. What does not kill a Saiyan…”
Ottousama grinned wolfishly. “…will soon have great cause to regret not having
done so!”

 

 

He took his leave of his father and strode through the dark,
sepulchrous halls of the palace, so lost in his own thoughts he barely took any
note of the hushed murmurs and whispers that followed him.

Disgraced…dishonored…And powerless to kill the one who had
made the full extent of his—his injuries public knowledge. He made his way
past the throngs of court officials, of petitioners, of barons and lords of the
realm and simple guardsmen, not speaking or responding to any who were bold
enough to address him, his temper growing more frayed with each step. Whisperers
and stone casters! They had no concept or measure of the word pain, of the word
torment. It was easy for a fool to judge what he did not understand…and feel a
bit higher in his own little place in the scope of things by looking down upon
the fall of the mighty. He was snarling with rage by the time he had reached the
Great Round, the hub of the palace’s spider’s web of administrative offices. The
more prudent fell back before him as he came. Those who stood and stared he
tossed out of his way with an angry swipe. It soothed his ire in a direct,
temporary fashion, but it would make no difference really. Wherever he went, all
eyes would fall upon him…and most would turn away after a moment in agitated
shame. He had been their leader, their general, their strong god of war. He was
the Saiyan no Ouji. And he was their pride, the measure by which all warriors
were judged. And his—his defeat and his captivity had wounded their sense of
themselves, crushed their morale badly enough. The rumors of his broken madness
were eating his people alive with a very personal sense of having been—been
raped as a people. Of knowing their best, their strongest, their most favored
son, had crawled on his belly at the enemies feet. He stopped, still fuming, but
considering now. He knew he must take a measure of how deep the obstruction in
his mind ran. He knew he must begin to push at the edges of the barrier the Red
Prince had erected in his mind. But there was a more immediate matter he must
attend to first, a matter that lay hand in hand with exploring the full extent
of his new power, the unimaginable strength he must have gained…He set off in
the direction of his own personal training domes, wondering what use his father
had found for them in his absence. Nothing could have prepared him for what he
found. The largest high gravity structure was a stinging fly’s nest of very
young warriors, all of them Elites of noble birth judging by the markings on
their armor. “Get your tail around your waist, Cabaj, or I’ll cut it off for
you! Don’t—!” The giant who was barking out commands and threats to the pack
of adolescents scrimmaging above him had an air of confidence Vegita had never
imagined possible in the man. The big warrior glanced down as Vegita stepped
beside him casually and went pale with abject shock. In the metal rafters of the
dome, the boys had halted as well, staring. Rikkuum frowned up at them and
bellowed like a space port alarm.

“I didn’t tell you little bastards to stop fighting! Get back
to your bout or I’ll gut the lot of you and feed your carcasses to the sea
shrikes!” The young soldiers went hurriedly back to their battle. Rikkuum turned
back to Vegita, a tentative, almost unbelieving smile poised on his lips.
“Ouji-sama,” he said slowly. “They told me you were wounded so badly you might
not survive. Are you all better now?” There was no guile or mockery in those
words, nor in the earnest expression on the big man’s face.

“I am well,” Vegita said curtly. “And ready to train. I have
not fought in…in a very long time. I must prepare myself to destroy my
enemies.”

“I am to train with you again?” The great lummox looked like a
child gazing upon his fondest dream when Vegita nodded. Rikkuum snapped his head
up and shouted at the boys in the air. “Everyone out! We will train tomorrow if
Vegita-ouji’s schedule allows.” He grinned down at Vegita as the youngsters
zipped out, nearly bursting to run and tell the entire city that the Prince was
alive and whole, preparing to fight again. “I am happy you are alive,
Ouji-sama!” Rikkuum said as he began stripping off the weighted plates he wore
in the high gravity bubble, and donning his old Tsiru-jin blast shield armor,
the armor that had kept him alive in many of his bouts with Vegita.

“You father made me a teacher for some of the stronger cubs on
Vegita-sei, but…a warrior pines for a challenge, an opponent stronger than
himself, to test his limits and increase his strength.” His grin turned
ferocious. “I was feeling my life was over when you found me, Ouji-sama. I have
not had a worthy, strong master since Lord Frieza-sama died. A true soldier
lives to serve a master stronger than himself!”

Vegita stared into the giant warrior’s open, fatuous expression
of faithful devotion and hid a grin when it occurred to him that the look on his
face resembled nothing so much as Bulma’s dogs, trotting adoringly at his heels.
A flicker of movement caught his eye and he saw Rikkuum’s training class peering
in through the shield view ports on the dome, jostling and shoving each other
for a position in front of the glass. There were several older faces pressed
against the high, overhead windows. Word of his return was spreading.

If they wanted a show, he would give them one. An exhibition to
remind them forcibly of his strength would go a long way toward quashing
Mousrom’s slanders, that had left many in the Capital whispering that Vegita was
hidden away, a mad, raving wreck, never to recover…He hissed through his teeth
as the rage boiled up inside him again. These were hearsay, unfounded rumors the
Inquisitor had seeded here and there, that grew with each retelling. None of
which bore any hard facts. To have given out an exact account of his injuries
and mental state would have been to betray himself. Vegita must give his people
concrete tales of things witnessed with their own eyes. And when the evidence of
things seen conflicted with fifth hand tell-tales, they would put aside the
accounts of his broken madness as slanderous untruth, swearing each to the other
that they had never put any stock in such foul liable. It would not erase his
disgrace at having been defeated and taken alive, or restore their faith in his
leadership. But it would douse the bulk of the added fuel Mousrom had thrown on
the fire of public opinion, and give lie to the worst of what his people
believed.

“Rikkuum.”

“Vegita-sama?”

“It is a good day. The air is warm and the sky is clear. I do
not wish to fight indoors.” He marched out of the dome with Rikkuum behind him,
trailed now by a growing throng of others as they passed through and out of the
interior training grounds. The big man kept pace with him as he rose slowly into
the air above the Palace. Half a dozen figures ascended to meet them, sweeping
upward in an arrowhead formation. Bardock and the other warriors behind him
halted. An eager smirk was lighting his scarred face, giving it an almost boyish
air.

“My prince,” he said with a grin. “Could you use a few more
sparring partners?” Vegita bared his teeth with an answering smile. “All of you
and Rikkuum at once! Now!” They leapt at him as one, Rikkuum’s greater strength
and speed granting him the honor of being the first Vegita pummeled. He began
increasing his power by slow increments, flaring steadily upward as they darted
in and out, circling him like pack predators. His Ki—his Ki was rising like a
missile, filling him with a wild, fierce joy that sang inside every fiber of his
body. He threw them down, sending them crashing into the blade spires of the
Royal Palace, slamming through roofs and walls of the city below them. He caught
fleeting glimpses of upturned heads on the ground, of ever-growing crowds of
people watching, open-mouthed. And his power soared higher still, threatening to
spin out of control as though he’d caught a hurricane in one hand as it lashed
in from the Western Sea…and still there was more he had not called upon, could
not yet summon because he lacked the control to hold it in check. It was that
enormous.

They burned the crystalline blue of the morning sky to red with
their auras. He was shining like a newborn sun, he realized. They fought on. And
as time passed in a glorious, quick step blur, as the morning gave way to
midday, others began to join in as Bardock’s squad members grew too injured to
move. And gods, he was still holding back to keep from killing them. Vegita
sensed, deep inside the well of his power, the he had only tapped the surface of
what he was now capable of summoning. That ten fold this near god-like power lay
just out of his reach, just beyond some intangible barrier in his mind and
heart. If he could grasp it…he would be a god indeed. Nothing would be beyond
him.

By the time the shadows began to lengthen toward evening, he
had seen a dozen complete rotations of fresh Elites, groups he was vaguely aware
that Bardock was changing out at the top of each hour. None of the
higher-powered nobles had blinked at Bardock’s command in ordering Vegita’s
opposing sparring squads. They were too eager to try their hands and feel in
their own battered bones just how strong their prince had grown.

Vegita left the central beaurocratic offices and large sections
of the palace itself in need of serious repair by the time they broke for the
day at dusk. He had very deliberately hurled his opponents into and through the
main offices of Central Intelligence most often, but the entire Capital took a
beating as the day wore on.

He was rusty and imprecise, the wages of a full year of
physical idleness. But the power…again, he was struck by the mental picture of
himself holding the tail of a cyclone that might tear himself and everyone
around him to pieces if it slipped free of his grasp. He would need to train
like a madman to simply control this new power.

Incredibly, Bardock and Rikkuum were still standing at the end
of the day. Vegita did not have so much as a nick or a bruise. No one had even
come close to tagging him. He left the Capital humming like a live wire with
talk as he departed.

“Next time,” Bardock said painfully as he limped behind Vegita
into his hillside home’s hearthroom, “I will mark you, my Prince.”

“It is good for a soldier to have goals,” Vegita told him.
“Unrealistic though they be.”

“Edeeta ‘n Poppa!” A high voice called from beneath roughly two
hundred pounds of dog. Bardock frowned irritably, perhaps because Bulma had
taught the boy to call him by such a foolish nickname as ‘Poppa.’ Or perhaps
because Romayn had greeted ‘Poppa’ second. Vegita lifted the boy from beneath
his slobbery attackers and sat him on his feet, while Bardock eased his bruised,
bleeding body onto the hearthrim. The older man snickered at his son’s damp
appearance. The animals had licked the brat until he was soaked from head to
toe. Vegita knelt and frowned down at the boy, watching in fascination as the
child drew his own eyebrows together in a deliberate, perfect imitation of
Vegita’s expression.

“You enemies have overborne you, boy.” He turned Romayn back to
face the dogs. “When you are out-numbered, you must move faster.
Understand?”

Romayn nodded eagerly, still glowering, looking like a furious
miniature of Bardock. The boy waded back into the fray. He whipped around the
dogs, darting in and out like one of the flower-sipping insects in Bulma’s
garden. Bardock stood up, his half-grin slipping off his scarred face, to be
replaced with wide-eyed amazement. Then Vegita saw it too. The boy was streaking
around the yipping animals, circling and rushing in to yank a tail before
darting back again…and his feet were not touching the floor.

“He’s not even eighteen months old,” Bardock said softly.

“I did not fly until I was well past three years,” Vegita
muttered.

“Gotcha!” Romayn bawled. He caught Yaro in a headlock and began
aggressively licking the hapless beast’s head.

Vegita sat down slowly, more unnerved than he would care to
admit. Had anyone ever measured the boy on a scouter? No…of course not. Romayn
had never seen the inside of the infant conditioning units, never been through
any sort of official evaluation. Vegita frowned internally. When he had been a
boy, less than ten years old certainly, a child had been born with a birth power
level of…had it been ten thousand? Something that monstrously high. His father
had commanded both the brat and all his kin put down, and their bodies tossed
into Vegita-sei’s sun. Because of the threat such a child presented to the
throne. The King of Vegita-sei ruled by the old laws, the rule of the fittest,
the strongest. And if the King was no longer the strongest, if any warrior felt
he was sufficient to the task, he had every right to challenge the King for his
throne. If the boy was indeed some sort of prodigy, Ottousama would—He shook
off such foolish concerns. The boy was an uncommonly strong child of strong
parents. And perhaps…perhaps the unconventional mode of his rearing was creating
anomalies in his development.

“Should he be speaking at this age?” Vegita wondered aloud,
sitting back in his hearthside chair. His muscles were pleasantly sore, burning
with the good, familiar sting of over-taxation. Bardock shrugged in answer to
his question.

“The child development texts in the incu-ward say no.” Bulma
was carefully skirting the child/dog melee as she carried a tankard of goldberry
wine, followed by two whirring, vaguely anthropomorphic machines. The
contraptions were bearing a mountain of food in their six arms. They began to
set the table matter-of-factly, then they whizzed back into the kitchens for
more food. Vegita noticed Bardock was eyeing the things warily as well. “Not in
whole sentences anyway,” she went on, pouring both men a cup of the warm, amber
wine. “I think it’s just inherent Saiyan preciousness and an uncommon amount of
early mental stimulation that—what?” Bulma put her hands on both hips,
frowning at their uneasy expressions. “Have neither of you seen a servo-bot
before?”

“Momma made ‘em,” Romayn said.

“They can do everything a humanoid slave can do, and they don’t
need to sleep or eat. And they tend to make fewer mistakes. Try them this one
time. If they still give you the creeps, we can have Batha and Caddi, or someone
else replace them.” She scooped the boy up under one arm. “Are you hungry,
Rom-kun? Or did you fill up on dog hair?”

“I’m hungry!” He cried, wiggling to be set on his feet again.
She sat him down with a sad little sigh. The boy’s days letting her tote him
everywhere were past forever. She regarded both men with raised eyebrows. “How
about you two? Did demolishing half the city work up an appetite?”

Vegita forgot about the serving machines and dug in, nodding
absent, full-mouthed permission for Bardock to join them at table. They ate like
slaves shoveling admantium ore for over an hour before Vegita was sated enough
to turn his mind to anything else. “You made these…things?”

She rose and pulled Romayn off his perch atop one of the bots
in question. The boy had been riding it back and forth as it cleared plated and
added new ones from the kitchens, eating as he went. “They’re my father’s
design. My people didn’t believe in slavery, so we built our servants. I told
you I would have a surprise for you tonight, Vegita. Stop.” The servo-bot halted
instantly, and she leaned down and touched a latch shielded button on its side.
It erupted in a burst of metal resin smoke, and vanished. Bulma raise a
thumb-sized pellet from the floor and laid it in Vegita’s hand.

“I cracked the Maiyosh-jin miniaturization technology secret,”
she said simply. “Mousrom’s techs were going down the wrong theoretical path.
I’ve diagrammed the entire construction schematics.”

Vegita and Bardock stared at her.

“There’s more,” she went on. She lay another pellet on the
dining table and sprang its catch with practiced ease. A holo-projection of a
solar system spun lazily around inside a—Vegita frowned. The bluish force
field encircling the small star and its satellites was not a hologragh.
“Bardock,” she said, stepping back, behind Vegita. “Try and blast it.”

Bardock raised a hand slowly and released a small ball of
energy at the glowing orb. It struck the pale, bluish light around the miniature
and rebounded. Bardock quickly hurled a quelling rush of Ki to keep the ricochet
from tearing a hole in one of the walls.

“Boom,” said Romayn softly.

“It’s a shield that will screen out even the capsulized plasma
nukes Jeiyce and his friends are so fond of,” Bulma said softly. “Nothing short
of a planet’s sun going nova will pierce it, and it can expand to cover a world
or an entire solar system.”

Bardock was shaking his head in stunned amazement. “I wondered
what the hell you were doing day and night last winter. Why you threw that fit
when we had to abandon your work and relocate a second time. But—but gods,
girl!”

“You—” Vegita was trying to process the magnitude of this
achievement. “Woman, you—” He knew he was sputtering like an imbecile, but he
could not seem to get a full question past his lips. It had taken her less than
a year, working alone, to work out the miniaturization science that every master
engineer in the Empire had failed to crack. And that did not even address this
shield she had wrought…

“We had a technology very, very similar on Chikyuu,” she told
him. “I started out with pieces of the puzzle no on else knew. But the safety
shield…” Her eyes glowed. “That’s all my own. I’m pretty proud of how well it
turned out.” She held Romayn a little tighter, her eyes darkening. “It will save
lives. No more Saiyan colony worlds nuked from orbit in their sleep by invisible
attackers, the soldiers and the—the children alike.”

“This will need to be tested on a grander scale, but—” He
shook his head, feeling dazed. “Woman…this will give us the breathing room we
need from their cloaked sneak attacks!”

An hour later, Vegita stood beside his father, Turna and
Articha—the only two members of the Council still in no way under Mousrom’s
sway—as they crowded around the little villa’s dining table to watch Bulma
demonstrate her ‘capsules’ and the shield a second time. Vegita had summoned
them all to his own home rather than transport the devices to another location
and be seen by unfriendly eyes. Ottoussama was silent for a long time, turning
over each and every implication of such a defensive technology in his mind.
Slowly his mouth curled into a grin. Then he burst unexpectedly into a loud,
hearty chuckle.

“I have seldom been so glad as I am at this moment to have
spared someone’s life, girl!” He sobered after a moment, and studied Bulma’s
lovely face and humbly downcast eyes shrewdly. “Though I think you are too
dangerous to run loose in my Empire,” he said cryptically.

“We can set the factories in the east to construct these
shields in mass quantities as soon as the integrity and durability of the
technology is tested on a grand scale by the royal college of engineers,
Ou-sama!” Turna told him eagerly.

The King grunted. “The girl will have to sit down and explain
it to the fools first.”

“I will make the necessary arrangements, Ou-sama, and we
can…”

His father and the grizzled, smaller man were striding outside,
the King issuing a steady stream of commands, Turna already on his hyper wave
link, calling a team of techs to come and take charge of the prototype and
Bulma’s design files. Vegita watched them go. He knew his father would expect
him to be at his shoulder, but something was niggling at his mind, a shadow of
an idea. He moved down the darkened hall to the room Bulma had converted at some
point into a small medical library, and began searching furiously through the
shelves of books and discs for what he sought. He found it after a moment, a
copy of one of the same medical journals Scopa had brought to Bardock’s house,
and flipped through the text for something he remembered having—he found
it!

Back in the hearthroom, he found Bulma and Articha deep in
conversation. He did not stop to wonder what two such dissimilar women could
find to talk about so intently.

“Bulma!” He thrust the medical treatise at her. “Can you build
this, with a few modifications? As an added feature of your shield?”

She stared at the specs for the rad plasma stabilizer invented
by the physician scholars of Zapria-sei to permanently convert the lethal
weapon’s heavier elements into a lower energy solidity that might be fed to
Kobal-jin amphibians as a treatment to impede the growth of cancerous
viroids.

“It could be designed,” Bulma said slowly. “To be part of the
shield system. And it’ll turn the hot components of the nukes to rock when the
missiles strike its field.” She glanced up at him with a small smile. “Yes. I
can build it.”

A bit later that night, Vegita found his father and Turna
hammering out the last details of the quickest possible manufacturing scheme for
Bulma’s surprises should the tech’s report prove favorable in the morning. The
addition of the rad plasma stabilizer to the shield sent Turna into another
furious set of recalculations.

The black of full night was giving over to blue when they
concluded the last of the details of production. “If it is what it seems to be,
I will set every other production facility aside for its manufacture,” his
father said. “This is your project, boy. Appropriate any and all resources of
the Empire you need to get it done. We must have these shields in place before
the moon arrives in the fall.” His father stopped with a sharp eye before he
left. Behind them, Turna was still hunched over the Council table, scribbling
furiously.

“Bardock has taken Nappa’s place as your lieutenant?” Ottousama
asked quizzically.

“Yes,” Vegita said slowly, unsure of where this was
leading.

“And you have taken his son to foster?”

“It is a more fitting payment of blood debt than any amount of
wealth, Ottousama,” Vegita told him.

“Your bed slave designs counter weapons in her spare time,
struts through your house with her head high as though she were its mistress,
and the pair of you guard your affections in company less well than Turna and
Articha when they were first bound under the moon.” His father snorted. “And,
worst of all, you brought that pair of useless, yipping beasts back to the
Capital.”

Vegita’s chest tightened. His father was right. He
had…forgotten himself in his urgency to let the King and his chief councilors
see Bulma’s new machines. He had forgotten how the world expected him to behave.
But…it would have been ‘normal’ for him to have joined Ottousama and Turna after
Bulma’s initial test in his house. It would have been ‘normal’ to have given no
pause and no thought to the medical treatise he had read more than a month ago
and how it might be used to destroy plasma nukes inside their missiles. There
was no defiance in his words, no trace of it in his voice, but he stood his
ground, and shook his head firmly.

“I am different, Ottousama. They will see it soon or late. But
I cannot go back, only forward. Nor would I wish to. If…” He paused, trying to
sort out how best to speak his thoughts. “If they had not taken me craftily on
Avaris, I would have soon fallen through my own folly. Because I lived and
breathed inside my rage at not having all the galaxy ordered as I wished each
instant of my life. Because I never once stopped to think before I acted or
considered any course of action other than brute force. Before I went to war,
had the throne fallen to me by some mischance, I would have led Vegita-sei to
her doom by now.”

“I know all these things, boy,” his father snapped. “But you
must have a care how you are perceived. You have only been back one day.
Tonight, your people are in a joyous uproar over your return, over the strength
you so cleverly displayed all this day. But Mousrom’s next ploy will be to
discredit the stability of your mind, and the smallest twitch in an unfamiliar
direction will be seen as proof of his lies. Articha and Turna are to be
trusted, but you must guard your every waking move in other company. And as to
your private life…” Ottousama glowered at him in the dimmed light of the
darkened Council Chamber. “This—” His face twisted in distaste. “This ‘family’
you allowed to form around yourself during you illness will be noted. It will be
seen as weakness and softness of mind on your part.”

“I will guard myself more closely,” Vegita said curtly.

“Anything a ruler or a crown prince dotes upon openly is a
danger to him, boy,” his father said balefully. “And may be used to control him.
If the thing he dotes upon is not already controlling him herself.”

“I am governed by no one and nothing,” Vegita snarled softly,
“but necessity and my own honor.” He took a deep breath, willing the anger
rising up inside him to still itself, willing the cold words poised in his lips
to be silent. “Have you not always told me it is just to reward faithful
service? She drew me back to myself, Ottousama. But for her, I might have
remained ‘that gentle boy’ with no past forever. At least until you were forced
to put me down.”

“I do not discredit what she has done for you,” his father
said. “Or these counter weapons she has devised. She is not mine, but for such a
great service to the Empire, I would set her free.”

“I have done so already,” Vegita murmured.

“And still she stays…” Ottousama’s face hardened with
displeasure and something like worry. “Then set her aside and take another
concubine.” It was not a suggestion. Vegita did not answer for a long, tense
moment.

“Not,” he said at last, with cold finality, “For all the wealth
in the Empire, my father.”

Ottousama regarded him another moment in glowering, almost
tangible tension. Then he uttered a soft growl of a sigh. He shook his head and
spoke the next words like a chill foreboding of the grave. “As you wish. But
mark me, boy. No good will come if it. And I fear you will weep blood before the
end of it. Before you look your last on her, she will make you wish you never
drew breath.”

 

 

By the time he returned to the villa it was less than an hour
til dawn. He passed Bulma’s workroom, heard a metallic clang and soft
conversation, followed by the sound of women’s laughter. Articha’s voice drifted
in through the closed door.

“…trained all three of my sons in my own household before they
went to the children’s barracks at four. He is a very early bloomer, but they
say his father is uncommonly intelligent.”

“I’ve been so worried they’ll think he’s…defective in some
way,” Bulma said softly.

“You have not gentled the boy as greatly as you fear. He has a
strong will to fight.”

So, she had found someone to answer all her questions about
Romayn, Vegita mused. It was odd though that Articha should take even a passing
interest in a royal concubine, a former slave, no less. But then, perhaps the
general was…different now. As different as Vegita himself, after the sentence in
Hell they had each endured. But…his stomach clenched in shame as he heard her
voice calling to him, telling his to be strong, to remember who he was. Offering
him the surplus of her own strength, regardless of what had been done to her.
Articha had never lost herself. Never broken. Perhaps this odd affinity between
the two women was like calling to like. The fact that they were both
‘unbreakables’.

He sensed a flicker of Bardock’s muted Ki in the library and
pushed open the door to see the older man pouring over a thick ledger volume.
Romayn was lying on his back on the cho-deer skin in the center of the room, a
sleeping canine on either side.

“I had an idea, Ouji-sama.” Bardock held up one of the high
pile of volumes, all bearing the crest of Maiyosh House, and handed it to
Vegita.

“I brought these from the great library at Med Center. It is a
financial history of Maiyosh-sei. A paper trail of all worlds that have ever
been owned by Maiyosh House. I’ve found three already that are not on any
standardized star charts.”

“Edeeta’s my friend,” Romayn said from the floor with a
drowsing smile.

“Go to sleep, boy,” Bardock said absently.

“You are thinking,” Vegita said, studying the accounts of
worlds bought from the Tsiru-jin planet trade or colonized by Maiyosh force of
arms, “that one of these worlds might be Je—” he ground his teeth, and began
again a few seconds later. “—might be his main base?”

“It would have to be a world his people knew intimately,”
Bardock nodded. “You cannot simply find an uncharted system and set up base
sight unseen. That is suicide.”

“Yaro’s my friend,” Romayn murmured.

“I am in auspicious company,” Vegita said with a faint
smirk.

“With your leave, Ouji-sama,” Bardock said. “I would like to
search the whole of Maiyosh House’s records archived in the Royal Library for
something that might give them away. It will take a bit of time, but it may
yield great results.”

“Do so,” Vegita said firmly.

“Poppa’s my friend,” Romayn said.

“I will only be your friend if you go to sleep,” said Bardock
with a glowering frown that looked as though it was hiding a grin.

“…you said so…” The boy said around a huge yawn.

Bardock gestured to the pile of large books on the study. “I
can review everything here first and feed the relevant information into a
computer to cross-reference everything a self-sufficient military base would
need with each world’s resources.”

Vegita smiled grimly. It was a search strategy no one had
thought of as yet, and there was a great deal of logical merit to it.

“…said we’d be friends next time…” The boy on the floor sighed
softly.

Bardock froze in mid-gesture, his mouth poised to frame words.
He turned very slowly and stared at his son, a strange, almost frightened
expression dancing across his scarred features. “When did I say that, Romayn?”
He asked softly.

The boy issued another bone-cracking yawn, his eyes closed, one
arm draped over Baka. “Before…when I was a big boy.” He was asleep.

Vegita frowned curiously as Bardock’s face drained of all
color. The older man sat down unsteadily in the chair behind him. “She could not
have told him…”

“Bulma?” Vegita asked, eyeing the man’s blanched pallor. He
looked like a man who’d just seen his world unceremoniously inverted.

“She was not there when I killed him,” Bardock whispered. “We
found Kakarott easily when we landed on Chikyuu. He was training under the
apprenticeship of a native warrior. A strong old fellow. My son attacked me when
I killed his sensei, and the other boy fled to seek help. Gods, he was a strong
brat…But he’d failed his infant purge mission, and his—his wits were addled as
well. Some injury he sustained on planetfall, probably.” Bardock took a deep
breath. “In any case, the law is clear on the fate of a child who fails an
infant purge. I—I told him I was his father. I pointed at my tail as proof…and
he stood down and dropped his guard. He said he could not forgive me for slaying
the old man. I told him perhaps we would be friends in his next life. And I put
a hole through his heart.”

Vegita felt an icy chill shoot down his spine. “No one else was
present?”

“No one. I told my squad to stay well back while I did what I
knew I must do. God of gods…” he said softly. “I thought the girl was mad the
way she keeps insisting the boy is—” He broke off, and shook his head as
though trying to get a firmer grasp on a new ripple in his reality. “While you
were at war, Bulma told me that Chikyuu’s guardian demi-god spoke to her when my
crew began the purge. He told her his god bade him give her a message. A
prophesy. He told her that Kakarott’s soul would return to her soon, because one
day, the lives of every living thing in the galaxy would rest upon his
shoulders. He told her she was to guide the boy to his destiny, but that she
must walk a long, dark road first…And that she would fail her charge if she let
herself give in to hate.”

Vegita gazed down at the sleeping boy. “You are speaking of
things out of legend,” Vegita said with false certainty.

“Rebirth is everyday magic, Ouji-sama,” Bardock muttered. “All
men accept it as fact. And it is said that those the gods choose of their
instruments are sometimes reborn with the memories of their past lives
intact.”

Vegita was silent, wondering how much he owed to the
Chikyuu-jin god’s admonition to his woman that she not give way to hate. He
wanted to bark some harsh reprimand to the man for such a fool’s fancy. He would
have like to shrug it off as another sign of his woman’s superstitious bent.
But…

 

Before…when I was a big boy…No child of sixteen months
would say such an unnerving—

“It does not matter,” Vegita said finally. “Believe he is some
divinely graced savior of all life if you wish. We must look to the enemy at
hand.”

“You are right, Ouji-sama,” Bardock agreed quietly, falling
back into his comfortable pragmatism with relief.

 

 

 

There was too much to do in the days that followed, too many
shortages of supplies, too many problems that seemed to have no answer until
late into the night, too many decisions in the simple day to day administration
of the Empire piled atop the production of the shields. After only a week of
this, he began to develop a new respect for his father that bordered on awe. And
in the midst of all this, he must also find time to beat and tear his muscles,
his reflexes, and his stamina back into peak fighting efficiency. Three weeks
and the royal engineers had replicated a small rad shield based on Bulma’s
specs, and were ready to test a planetary scale prototype on the second moon of
fifth planet in Vegita-sei’s own solar system. Six carriers, loaded down with
hastily manufactured plasma nukes, launched enough missiles to turn Vegita-sei’s
frigid sister world to dust. The shield held without a hitch. In the secondary
test, Bulma’s suggestion to the elite engineering core, who would have
cheerfully burned her at the stake out of nothing more than green-eyed jealousy,
a series of bombs were taken through the initial net around the planetoid, in
simulation of a nuke smuggled onto Vegita-sei under the enemy’s invisibility
cloaking technology. The two terrorist bombings in the south had been
accomplished with bombs brought to Vegita-sei on Saiyan ships.

The second test went off as flawlessly as the first. The plasma
stabilizer field built into Bulma’s shield turned the nukes into canisters of
harmless coal dust rock. Vegita commandeered a dozen plants in the eastern
seaboard region and began to work through the plans to refit them for mass
production each night, with Turna and Bulma adding organizational and technical
amendments to his original ideas.

All this while, his father led the war. All this while, his
father fought in combat, leading the fleets and forces of the Empire in a
foundering attempt to buy Vegita the time he needed to raise a buffer of safety.
It was not long before the whispers began, before eyes began to look at him in
askance, in silent apprehension, as it became more and more apparent with each
passing day that Vegita had no intention of returning to the field. As
speculation, fueled by Mousrom’s rumor mill, as to why this was so began to earn
him apprehensive glances everywhere he went. But there was no help for it at the
moment, and in any case, the shields were all that mattered. Once they were in
place, the entire Empire would see why this secret project had been set before
every other manufacturing effort on Vegita-sei. And why their Prince had thrown
all his might into it instead of a head on battle with an invisible enemy.

Each night, he sat in Bulma’s garden, working to overcome
the…the obstacle that prevented him from going into battle. Each morning, he sat
on his father’s right hand in Council, or led the meetings himself if the King
was off world, marking Mousrom’s ominous submissiveness. Bardock’s report on
previously Maiyosh-owned worlds, all meeting the criteria of a potential base,
gleaned from more than a month of eye-straining research on the scarred
soldier’s part, sent Turna into a fit of self-deprecating morose that the royal
bean counter had not thought of such a thing first.

On the night before the first and largest of the shield
production plants was to go on line, Vegita sat frowning over the security plans
for the factory—a factory which could not under any circumstances be left open
to sabotage. He frowned down at the scattered specs strewn across the dining
table. If there was a hole in the security strategy, he could not see it—but
that did not mean it was not there.

“It is done, my prince,” Turna told him, scribbling hastily on
his hand comp, pulling up stats on potential sights to ground the shield
generators on the nearest of Vegita-sei’s colony worlds. “The plants are as
secure as they can be. We must turn our minds now to securing the finished
product when we distribute the generators among the colonies.”

Yaro and Baka, lazing beneath the table, suddenly raised their
heads in unison. They growled, haunches arched, hair bristling. It was a sound
he had never heard either animal make in earnest, though they snarled and nipped
in play with Romayn every day. Vegita had left the garden doorway open, to let
the cool, damp breeze that held a promise of rain later that night sweep in and
take the heat humid summer heat with it.

Vegita scanned the projected completion dates. Three weeks
until the first planetary scale shield would roll off the line, ready to be
erected on Vegita-sei. Another month before the first shipment of the
carrier-sized devices could be encapsulated and transported to the colonies. Too
much time. There had to be a way to cut the production time even more.
Perhaps…perhaps Bulma’s little army of servo-bots could be juiced up to increase
speed on the assembly line.

“Woman!” He bellowed. He had not seen her since they had all
taken a hasty meal together just after nightfall, and it was nearly midnight
now. Below the table, the dogs continued to rumble and whine.

“The strikes on Skirat, Pikach, Maytu, and a dozen other worlds
were accomplished without the benefit of miniaturized nukes,” Turna was saying.
“The tech slaves, or rather, the Red Network operatives masquerading as loyal
tech slaves, sabotaged the shields and sensor nets on those worlds.”

Bulma emerged from her workshop, a smudge of something black on
one side of her nose, her mussed hair bound up above her head in a top knot. The
same black grease on her face was covering the front of the engine mechanic’s
overalls she was wearing. She looked hot, tired, irritable…and utterly
beautiful. He felt a foolish smirk begin to slide across his face, which only
seemed to annoy her more.

“How may I serve you, Ouji-sama?” She asked waspishly. His
smirk widened.

“The plants use a full compliment of your servo mechanoids for
production,” he told her, after explaining what was needed. “The facilities are
guarded by Saiyan warriors with above average technical expertise. The planet
based hubs of the shields will need heavy guard as well. What we need is better
security and faster production.”

“Two things,” she said crisply. “I can go around to each of the
plants and tweak the bots one at a time, for higher speed. It’ll burn their
processors out quickly, but we’ll only need them for a few months anyway. Also…I
can add another layer of security by personally inspecting the shields, every
one of them, before they go on the transports. I could also—”

Yaro bared his teeth and snarled hatefully, as the thing both
animals had sensed made itself known. Mousrom lumbered slowly into the arch of
the door, and bowed low. How long, Vegita wondered coldly, had the bastard been
lurking by the door, listening? Turna echoed his own thoughts, in his quiet,
gravelly voice, an instant later.

“If you ever breed these animals, Ouji-sama, I would gladly
have one for my own household,” he murmured. “An animal that can scent an
enemy’s presence quicker than we can is a valuable creature.”

“My humblest apologies for disturbing you at such a late hour,
my Prince,” the Inquisitor said. “But there is an urgent matter that needs
addressing.” His oily gaze swept the others, lingering on Bulma for an instant
too long, crawling over her body in an assessing manner that made Vegita snarl
like one of the dogs beneath the table.

“Mousrom,” he said softly. “If you so much as glance in my
woman’s direction again, I will gut you where you stand.”

The big man’s eyes glinted with quickly hidden fear laced with
malice. But he lowered his eyes obediently.

“Tell me your errand!” Vegita snapped. He did not invite the
man past his threshold, so Mousrom merely stood there, fingering a stack of
documents in his hand.

“I have a list of names of suspected enemies of the Empire, all
of whom have been put to question, Ouji-sama.” Mousrom smiled like a kindly old
tutor, watching Vegita’s face avidly. “Vipers in my own bosom, in fact. They are
all former medics from Med Center whom I took to aid in…extending the life
expectancy of the more valuable suspects under my attentions.” Bulma had made a
soft little choking noise. Vegita snatched the list from his hands.

Less than two months. It had taken Mousrom less than that to
find all of Scopa’s contacts, medics whose knowledge in the service of healing
had been perverted under the Inquisitor’s command. Medics who had sworn their
service to Vegita, though they had yet to give him any useful information of the
fat man’s movements and designs. Mousrom would have spotted such rank ammeters
in no time.

“I have the name of the man to whom they report, their cell
leader,” Mousrom went on. “But he is a free employee of Med Center, and thus,
under your personal protection. In fact, I believe he was at one time a slave in
your own household. In any case, I need your permission to take him.”

Scopa…

Vegita eyed him coldly and said the last thing Mousrom could
have expected. The truth. “They were not Red Network. Scopa’s folk were
monitoring your actions at my command. I must be sure of all my servants,
Minister.”

Mousrom blinked at his in abject surprise. “Surely you do not
doubt my loyalty to Vegita-sei,” the fat man said, almost incredulously.

Vegita wondered which had thrown the Inquisitor off
more—being spied on, or his own blunt, flat honesty. It must be something the
man seldom encountered. “You always swear your loyalty to Vegita-sei,” he said.
“But never to the throne.”

The Intelligence Minister’s face went beet red with fury.

“A prince has the luxury of trusting no one, Mousrom,” Vegita
went on coldly. “You will return my servants to me…if they are still alive.”

“They live,” Mousrom’s lips twitched. “After a fashion. Though
I fear they may never be quite right again. The broken never are. But…you know
that, do you not, Ouji-sama?”

The Inquisitor was hurled into the stone tiles of the
threshold, indenting a circular section with his body, before Vegita even
realized he had struck him. He knelt, gripping the man’s collar and shaking him
like a rag doll. “You must take as much pleasure in receiving pain as in
inflicting it to constantly tax me so, Mousrom!”

“I spoke the plainest truth!” Mousrom spat through a mouthful
of loose teeth. “I shall do it again. You were a thoughtless, spoiled young fool
before the Red Prince took you into his care. A danger and a liability to the
throne and the Empire. Now, you are a weak, mentally-unstable, soft—”

Vegita roared an enraged oath and drew back his hand to ram it
through the fat man’s heart—and collapsed with a shriek as the pain rose up
and swallowed him inside memory, the images of a hundred, a thousand recollected
torments, all set to the song of Jeiyce of Maiyosh’s soft, mocking laughter.

“My Prince!” Turna was trying to turn his spasming body
over.

“He’s not breathing!” Bulma was saying .

He could not breathe, could not draw in even a tiny gasp of
air.

“I thought as much,” Mousrom’s voice bore an odd mix of poorly
veiled admiration and clinical detachment. “Subliminal mines!” A short bark of
malicious laughter. “He cannot kill. Gods, what a devilishly cruel and clever
thing to do to a Saiyan warrior! You will have to knock him out, my girl. I
imagine he’ll asphyxiate if you don’t.”

A single solid blow fell and he knew nothing more.

 

 

He woke to a soft hand caressing his forehead. Bulma’s face
faded in, and she only stared at him, her expression an artful mask that would
have done a Saiyan proud.

“Close the door behind you, girl,” his father said shortly.
Bulma rose and left quietly. Vegita sat slowly, staring up into his father’s
hard, angry face, feeling more shame than he would have thought possible. It
clenched inside him like a dose of deadly poison.

“I do not need to tell you that you should have told me,”
Ottousama said.

“I did not know how deep the geas ran until tonight.” Vegita
set his teeth. “I learned as I was preparing to return to the Capital that there
was a…block around the act of killing in my mind.” He closed his eyes,
remembering how the simple act of swatting a summer insect off his arm, of
willing the thing dead and following through on the act, had sent him into a
seizure of gasping, debilitating pain. Only Bardock had been present to see it,
and the attack had been over in minutes. Since his return, he had wrestled each
evening with the compulsion in Bulma’s flower garden, trying to kill the garden
slugs that had begun to feast upon her plants and drink from the rich soil as
the weather grew hotter, the rain less frequent. The reaction was stronger,
perhaps because the slugs were larger, more intelligent, but little by little,
the fits were becoming less violent, as he killed the things in practice each
night. Bardock had suggested that, judging by the severity of the attacks from
killing such lowly creatures, it would be very dangerous to experiment with
killing a sentient being until he had…worked his way up the food chain, so to
speak.

“I knew that when I set my will to kill any living thing, it
would come upon me as—as though I were in their hands once more. Since I
returned, I have made progress in…breaching the block. Though obviously, I have
a great way to go.” He met his father’s eyes. “I would have waited until I was
completely healed, Ottousama. But…there was no more time left to me. I was
needed. Even as I am now, I am needed.”

His father was silent. “By tomorrow,” he said finally, in a
voice like the bass toll of death bells. “The entire Capital will know. No one
will follow you, or even heed your words now, boy. And I—” The King grated out
the words as though his mouth were full of razors, as though the act of speaking
his next sentence sliced his jaw open to the bone. “I must give you place in
Council to your enemy…and discard you as an unfit successor to my throne.”

“Father…” Vegita choked, before he could stop himself from
speaking.

“There is no time left, as you say,” the King went on
mechanically. “The moon is coming in three months time. Vegita-sei will be at
her most vulnerable and ripe for an assault. We must be united, and your
presence at my side would cause dissent.” His father studied him with an eye
that saw through all his pretensions of normalcy. That saw though everything,
and had from the beginning. “I have no doubt that any attempts to slay you will
be painfully unsuccessful, though not lethal, to the challengers who will seek
your life after tonight. I will not see your dispossession be a permanent thing.
I will help you as much as I may to set yourself to rights, my son, and take
your rightful place, once again. I will not let the Red Prince take my son from
me. He shall not have that victory!”

He lay staring up at the ceiling after his father departed.
There was no grief, no pain, no shame. No rage. He could not seem to feel
anything at all. He was utterly numb. The quiet click of the door latch, and
Bulma reentered the room. She sat beside him, not speaking, only staring at him
for the longest time, her blue eyes like bottomless wells of still sadness. Had
her eyes always held that deep, almost immeasurable sink of mourning? He had
never once noticed it until he woke to the sight of her face at Bardock’s house.
The first beautiful memory impressed upon the blank slate of his memory after
Avaris.

“You cannot be grieving for me,” he whispered.

“I’m not,” she said. “You aren’t dead.”

“No,” he replied dully. “I am worse than dead.”

“No,” she snapped. “You are feeling sorry for yourself.”

He frowned up at her, stunned. There was no anger at her for
those hard biting words, where before, he would have been hard put to reign in
his rage, hard put to keep from killing her. And though this was not a bad
thing, it was another glaring statement of how much of him they had changed,
muted…broken. He had no words of reply to her cold response, though he could not
have been more taken aback by them if she had suddenly gained fighting power and
beat him senseless.

“You don’t realize it,” she went on, less angrily. “But you
love your world and your people more than you’ll ever love me or your father.
You started to realize that on the day Arbatsu fell, and since you came back,
you’ve used every means at your disposal—not just your fighting strength— to
save them. Even if your people are fickle, bone-headed fools who can’t see that
there’s more to being a ruler than brute strength and killing, do you want to
see Vegita-sei fall? Do you want to see your people wiped out and this beautiful
world burned?”

“No!” He said harshly. “I do not want that! I will not
allow it!”

“The do your duty by them as their Prince and get up tomorrow
as though nothing were wrong,” she said. “Keep working on the rad shield
project, keep training with Rikkuum and Bardock’s people, keep looking for
Jeiyce’s base, and keep trying to break the conditioning triggers he left in
your head. Scopa and I have treated hundreds of Mousrom’s victims, people he
released after he broke them and found they knew nothing. I can tell you where
to start.” She thrust a deactivated vidpic into his hand. “It’s Jeiyce of
Maiyosh’s image, taken at his wedding on Corsaris eight years ago. It’s the only
picture I could find of him. The prime factor in breaking through any wall of
conditioning is to shatter the personal control of the one who did this to you.
We can start slow. By looking at his picture. Ready?”

He nodded grimly. She switched on the vidpic…and he uttered a
soft sob, his insides churning with sickened shame, as he turned away from that
smiling face, his limbs and spine contracting into a defensive ball. “Try
again,” she said softly. He growled defiantly, and forced himself to turn back,
forced himself to look. His hands flexed on the device, smashing it to bits, as
he gasped for air as though he had just fought a battle to the limit of his
strength.

“Ten seconds,” Bulma said gently, lifting his head into her
lap, stroking his sweat-covered face. “That’s a very good start. And squashing
his picture is an even better sign. Say his name.”

He did not speak, his throat constricting at the mere though.
“Bulma…” He rasped faintly.

“Say his name,” she said again. “Don’t let him keep that power
over you. Take it back, Vegita. Who is your enemy?”

“Jeiyce!” He spat the word out. “Jeiyce of Maiyosh! The Red
Prince! The—” He broke off, staring at her in amazement. Not once since they
had carried his limp body from that black, sunless cell had he spoken the man’s
name without stumbling over the word, without some deep, integral part of him
quailing. She leaned down and kissed him, slow and deep, one hand slipping
around his waist to gently stroke his tail until he reached up with a low growl
and pulled her down, drawing his mouth down the bare line of her throat. “What
was that for?” He asked breathlessly.

“Positive reinforcement,” she said with a tiny, wicked smile.
“You have to do this as often as you can. Look at him, say his name again and
again. And keep trying to kill the leaf slugs in my garden.”

“You knew,” he whispered.

“I knew,” she replied softly. “One step at a time, Vegita.” Her
hand tightened on his tail and her sly smile widened marginally as he growled
again.

It had been agony…agony….lying beside her each night, holding
her, and not…not… “Bulma…” He husked against her collarbone, his mouth seeking
lower to the swell of her breasts, nuzzling the hardened nipple through her
blouse. “Gods, I want you…”

Her own breath was becoming labored. He could hear her heart
pounding inside the frail cage of her chest, feel her body’s heat rising in pace
with his desire.

“I’m right here,” she gasped. Her eyes were closed, her body
pressed against his was trembling with want. He could feel, smell, the heat of
her desire for him. He raised his head to brush her mouth with his, meeting her
eyes—and all the fire raging inside him died in a heartbeat at the sight of
the haunted swirl of desperate desire and self-loathing blazing there. He drew
back from her, leaving her gasping with unfulfilled need and
incomprehension.

“Don’t…please don’t stop,” she almost sobbed.

“I cannot,” he said unsteadily. “In Bardock’s house, I told you
that I had looked in your eyes and seen that you wanted me, but that wanting
gave you grief.” He reached up and stroked her beautiful porcelain face. “I
cannot hold you with that look in your eyes…even if it means never having you
again.” He drew her back into his arms as silent tears began to course down her
face. She lay her head against his chest, her whole body quivering.

“I keep thinking it wasn’t supposed to be this way,” she
whispered. “We were supposed to meet another way, begin another way. And
everything just got twisted…and now—now, it’s all ruined.” He wrenched his
mind away from the stark, unrelenting truth he felt in those words, and pushed
her hair back from her eyes, peering into her face.

“Why do you stay, Bulma? Why do you help me? I listened to you
speak of what you believe, the things you think are right, when we were at
Bardock’s house. I hung on your every word. I know you. Why are you not working
with the Red Network to destroy the Empire?” “Because of the things the
Maiyosh-jin rebels have done since the war began,” she said without hesitation.
“Jeiyce started out on a righteous mission in my opinion. And Vegita-sei created
the ‘Red Prince’ the day they purged Corsaris.” Her eyes were distant, looking
back to a past littered with countless ghosts. “Raditz led that purge, you
know,” she said softly. “I–I loved him. I did. But he killed all those poor
people, Jeiyce’s wife and baby included. And he couldn’t figure out why I went
cold toward him afterwards.” She shook her head wonderingly. “I couldn’t even
think about what he’d done after—after he died. It’s taken me more than three
years to stop idealizing him and see him as he was, the good and the bad. But
Jeiyce…” Her eyes snapped back to his, cold and clear. “He was the good guy.
He was the hero fighting the uphill odds against the evil Empire.”

“Woman…” Vegita said, soft and warning, feeling something
that bordered on the old half-remembered rage brewing inside his chest to hear
her speak of—of that man in such a way. “I said was,” she went on. “What he’s
done with the nuke attacks, the way he’s made war, has destroyed any good he
could ever have achieved. The wholesale slaughter of colonies and garrison
worlds, slave worlds and planets loyal to the Empire, the way he’s killed the
Saiyan warriors along with the civilian populations of those worlds, what he did
to you and Articha…and more than all those things, that attack on Auberj-sei
colony, where he and his men took out all the warriors hiding inside their
invisibility shields, then—then pulled all the babies out of the colony’s
miniature incu-ward and had a party butchering them.” Her eyes had gone flat
with hate. “For all that your people have done, all the children they have
murdered, they’ve never tortured or toyed with them. A Saiyan warrior’s honor
forbids giving non-combatants anything other than a quick death! Jeiyce’s hands
are filthy with innocent blood, and the worst thing about him is that he knows
better. He wasn’t raised to think people of other races aren’t really people. He
wasn’t taught that fighting and killing are the best entertainment this side of
heaven. Corsaris was a parliamentary monarchy, and his foster father raised him
to respect life and freedom and—and now, he’s worse than what he believes your
father to be, because nothing, no rule of honor or morality, no horror of
atrocity, is beyond him.” She seemed out of breath from the force of the fury he
saw surging behind her eyes. “As bad as I think the Empire is, the galaxy-wide
chaos and in-fighting that would follow Vegita-sei’s fall would kill more people
than this war has. The men who began the rebellion have lost their way. They’ve
become the thing they hated, without the stay of Saiyan honor to stop them from
becoming monsters as lawless and ruthless as Bardock’s histories depicted the
Tsiru-jin Empire. And you…You’ve changed as much as Jeiyce since this war
began. If Jeiyce and his men have become evil, you’re becoming…”

“Good?” He prodded with a half-smirk.

“No,” she said. “Not yet…but you’re heading there.” She
kissed him. “Vegita-sei’s been my home for eight years now. It’s like you.
Beautiful and horrible in its great goods and great evils. I love it as much as
I hate it…so, I’ll fight to save it.”

 

 

To his shame, he had to fight a constant battle to not succumb
to fresh bouts of self-pity in the weeks that followed. He could do nothing to
silence the mutterings and silent contempt that dogged his footsteps wherever he
went, but he put a violent, abrupt end to open mockery instantly. The first day
after his expulsion from his father’s counsels and favor, he beat three Elites
to a hammered pulp for outright insolence. As when he trained, if his intent was
not to kill, he was more than capable of vanquishing any enemy. It gave all
those who might think of challenging him to a death match pause. It made the
wrenching loss of his father’s company and faith easier to bear. He worked, he
trained, he poured over Corsarian ledgers, Tsiuru-jin accounts, Maiyosh
histories and records, looking for something the search of Maiyosh finances had
not yielded. Each potential base from Bardock’s initial search had yielded
empty, long-abandoned colony settlements, or nothing at all. He shuttled Bulma
from plant to plant, recalibrating each of the servo machines for the greatest
potential speed, heedless of how this looked to anyone, driven by the inexorable
approach of the red light in the sky, the ever-waxing moon nearing Vegita-sei in
its decade-long elliptical orbit, bringing with it a dangerous loss of thought
and reason. As his father had said, Vegita-sei would soon be ripe for
attack.

He took guards for the manufacturing plants of Bardock and
Turna’s choosing, soldiers who would follow Bardock, Turna or Articha’s
commands, though they would turn their faces away in shame whenever Vegita was
near. The mere fact that he still lived, that he had not chosen to end his life,
maimed and dishonored as he was, gave most soldiers a twisting sense of personal
disgrace. To see the public ideal of Saiyan pride and strength cast down,
reduced to nothing more than an orchestrator for the production of defensive
mechanical weapons, too cowardly in their eyes to even die, was a crippling blow
to their morale. He bore it all, the stares and the shunning alike, though there
were days when his gut was knotted in frustration and rage that he could not
even eat. He rested little and slept less, counting off the tic of days until
Moontime, as his body grew stronger, his reflexes and strength rising higher
each day in step with the soaring, titanic swell of his Ki. It was…gods, he
had never imagined he cold grow so strong. And still, he could not kill. He sat
in Bulma’s garden each night before sleep, killing the leaf slugs his woman
worked so diligently to keep from her flowers, spoke the name of his enemy,
blasted his vidpic and holo-pic a thousand times. But each foray into slug
slaying left him weak and gasping for breath, fighting to keep his windpipe from
contracting.

“I stomp ’em,” Romayn told him conversationally one evening, as
the boy rooted in the soil with a tiny spade a few feet from where Vegita sat,
planting what appeared to be a dead dryweed beside one of Bulma’s rose
bushes.

“Do not track their guts inside,” Vegita muttered irritably.
Even a brat of less than two years could kill these squelching things…and he
could not. He raised his hand, a dot of power beading on the tip of one finger,
pointing at a hand-sized invertebrate that was diligently making its way toward
the stone bed of deep purple pansies. He released it, searing the slug to ashes,
doubling over on the bench beneath him, nearly sobbing with relief when the
spell passed, and he could breathe again.

“Edeeta?”
“You,” Vegita sat up straight again, willing his
body to relax, willing the shaking to stop. He eyed the boy almost accusingly.
“You speak all the words in your vocabulary without impediment. Except my name.
Ou-ji-sa-ma.” He took another deep, steadying breath. “Try that.”

“Ou-dee-tah-ma.”

Vegita considered thoughtfully. “I think I prefer ‘Edeeta.’ You
have until the end of the summer to say it correctly. Then I will feed you to
the dogs.”

Something that sounded suspiciously like a giggle came from the
boy’s direction. “I wanna go boom too.”

He gazed at Romayn narrowly, pondering the sort of question
Bardock had avoided like a contagion in the last weeks. “Do you not remember
how?” From ‘before…when you were a big boy? He thought, with a flicker
of superstitious unease.

“I forgot,” Romayn said. “The Ojjiisan said it’s bad for
babies. I’m a baby.”

The ‘Ojjiisan’, whoever or whatever He was, had been wise to
take the knowledge of how to harness Ki away from the hands of a newborn, Vegita
mused. He could feel his curiosity to know more of what the child remembered of
his last life and of—of being dead beginning to whither under the boy’s
matter-of-fact gaze. Whatever he asked, he sensed, the boy would very probably
answer to the best of his ability. His mind instinctively wanted to veer away
from the sense of philosophical vertigo that looking things in the eye which
should be hidden from the living awoke in him. I will ask…I will. When he
is older…

 

“Do you wish to learn?” He asked after a moment’s thought.

“Yes!” The boy leapt up and bounded over to where he sat.

“It is much the same as when you fly,” Vegita began.

“Can’t fly,” Romayn said sadly.

“You hover over the ground and propel yourself where you will.
Flying is the same thing, only higher.”

“Oh.”

“The same energy you use when you fly is the energy a soldier
uses when he fires a Ki blast. You—” He had taken the boy’s small hands and
framed them in a cupping pose before his chest. Something was hauntingly
familiar here, though it felt inverted. He latched onto the memory a moment
later.

 

Great ham-fisted hands, so incongruously gentle, taking his
tiny hands, molding them into half-moon shapes a few centimeters apart. Nappa’s
deep voice speaking slowly. “Push your energy into the space between your palms,
Ouji-sama. Make a ball of it, then throw it with all your might.”

 

“Push the energy into the space between your hands,” Vegita
repeated the words softly. The small face scrunched up in furious effort, and
slowly, a tiny dot of incandescent power began to form.

Vegita suppressed an apprehensive frown. It had taken him
several attempts over several long, strenuous hours, to do this the first time,
and Romayn had just—just done it. Savior of the universe… “Now that
you have it in your hands,” Vegita said. “It is yours to command. Throw it.” He
glanced down to see a slug making its slow, plodding way across the courtyard.
It had almost reached one of the rose bushes. “Our enemy has almost reached his
goal. Stop him!” It was a good throw. The leaf slug burst apart into burning
bits as the minuscule volley struck it—as did the rose bush beside it.

“Oh no,” Romayn said in mild horror.

“Great goddess,” said a soft voice behind them. Vegita had been
so intent in the lesson, he had not heard Scopa’s flyer set down on the grassy
flats behind the garden. “Did Rom-kun do that?” “Momma’ll be mad,” the boy said
mournfully, staring at the ashen bits of pink petals settling around them. As
though he had conjured her by her name, Bulma emerged from the house and uttered
a soft gasp as her eyes fell on the murdered bush.

“My aim was off a bit,” Vegita told her unrepentantly when she
looked at him questioningly. “Do not glare at me, woman. The root is
salvageable.”

She eyed them both suspiciously for a second, then turned and
stomped back into the house with only a, “Bedtime, Rom-kun!” as a reply. She had
not even noticed the doctor’s presence. “You fibbed to Momma,” Romayn said. The
boy seemed caught somewhere between horror and admiration.

“Go to bed, boy,” Vegita told him sternly. He nearly jumped
when two small arms wrapped themselves around his leg, tightening for half a
second, before the boy darted inside. A warrior and a prince does not embrace
anyone other than his mate, and only in private, Ouji-sama…
Nappa’s gruff
voice chastising him for just such a gesture toward his sensei when he was
younger even than Romayn.

“I wonder which is stronger in your people,” Scopa said,
voicing Vegita’s own thoughts. “Nature or nurture.”

“I would not use that boy as an indicative test case,” Vegita
said shortly. “What is your errand, Doctor?” “Mousrom has gained your father’s
leave,” Scopa said bleakly, “to set up a specialized inquisition unit in Med
Center for his own personal use in questioning high level Red Network
operatives.” Vegita was silent, his face a cold mask that veiled the sickened
fury churning inside. “How did you come by this knowledge, doctor?”

“Mousrom’s clean sweep of all my informants in Kharda City was
not as clean as he thinks,” Scopa said quietly. “And my friends have made it
clear to me that even should they suffer the same fate as the others, it is
better than the daily torture of aiding Mousrom’s Inquisition. And even if they
die, they know their families will be freed, Ouji-sama. Many people would gladly
give up their lives to see their children grow up free.”

“When does he plan to begin?” Vegita growled.

“At dawn tomorrow.”

Vegita smiled grimly. “Clear your folk from the entryways. I
will greet him when he arrives.” “Thank you, Ouji-sama.” The Madrani seemed on
the point of rethinking his next words, then thrust a holo-disc into Vegita’s
hands decisively. “I developed this for you, my prince. It is a hardlight
holographic sparring program. It will integrate with the projection software in
the high gravity domes. I designed the sim opponent to look like Jeiyce of
Maiyosh.” He watched Vegita’s perfectly inexpressive face nervously. When Vegita
made no comment, he bowed briefly and turned to leave.

“I will not forget your good service to me, Doctor,” Vegita
said.

The Madrani smiled, and bowed again. It was an easy, boyish
expression of an utterly clear conscience. The effortless smile of a good man.
Vegita watched him leave in silence. He remembered sleeping easily each night,
being very happy with his life and all things in his world. But it had not been
a clear conscience so much as the absence thereof. No regret, no true honor or
sense of duty that conflicted with his own desires. No burden of
cho-gugol each time he touched his woman as they lay together at night in
a chaste embrace. No depth of feeling for anyone or anything. Three years ago,
he had been a vicious, spoiled boy-child, even though he had been a man in
years. Worthless to his people an his world, Mousrom had said. A political
liability to his father. And…it had not been true happiness or peace of mind
he had felt. It had been thoughtlessness. He did not wish it back, or the white
hot, blinding rages that had been more than kissing cousins to the tantrums he
had thrown as a babe. That ever-present child’s fury at being balked in any way
had followed him to war. It had burned through what should have been clear cold
judgment and cost him the lives of tens of thousands of faithful soldiers. He
could not go back, he had told Ottousama. Only forward, wherever that led.

 

 

He met Mousrom at dawn as the Inquisitor set down on the main
cargo landing pad before Med Center, a host of hundred or more warriors at his
shoulder. Behind him, tech slaves were landing three large supply ships, the
gusts of hot exhaust from their engines heating up the already warm morning
air.

“I told you long ago, fat man,” Vegita ground out. “Med Center
is not a torturer’s hovel.” “If my actions displease you, boy,” Mousrom replied,
watching Vegita’s face tense at the lack of any honorific, a malicious reminder
of his loss of rank. “You are more than welcome to kill us all.” The soldiers
behind the Inquisitor erupted in nervous snickers. A hundred men as his guard.
As though that would protect Mousrom from him. Vegita smiled.

“I do not need to kill you to stop you, Torturer,” Vegita said
coldly, watching Mousrom’s smug expression give way to consternation as Vegita
failed to rise to the bait. That was the fat man’s intent, of course. To whip
Vegita into a fury, to manipulate him into trying to kill the Inquisitor. An
action that would end in Vegita’s collapse.

“I have heard men speak of the beauty of the whore you stole
from Raditz, boy,” Mousrom went on, his beady eyes full of calculating malice.
“She is indeed a sweet piece of—” Vegita blasted forward, his mind focused and
cold. He began to tear through the soldiers surrounding Mousrom as though they
were paper targets, stunning and breaking bones with surgical efficiency. As he
beat each soldier down, he deliberately hurled him in the general direction of
the Capital’s center. It was over in less than five minutes.

“Out! NOW!” Vegita roared at the techs and flight crews of the
transport ships. They scampered away from their vehicles in terror, and Vegita
calmly blew each ship to scrap metal. Then he turned back to Mousrom who stood
quivering like a frightened pudding as Vegita advanced on him.

“I will not kill you, Mousrom,” Vegita said with a nasty grin.
“But I am going to hurt you very, very badly.”

He took his time, breaking the bones of he man’s extremities
first with slow, methodic cruelty. By the time Vegita reached to man’s spine and
pelvis bones, the Lord Inquisitor had begun to whimper and sob, sounds the man
must have heard countless times, though never from his own lips. When Mousrom
finally lapsed into unconsciousness, Vegita hurled him toward the city as he had
the others. He had expected to feel a great deal of pleasure as he beat the man.
For some reason, he only felt nauseous. He cursed softly and leapt into the sky.
The first round of rad shields were two days from completion, three weeks from
shipment. Far too perilously close to Moontime. He had no more time to waste
fighting his own kind.

 

 

Turna and Articha petitioned the throne officially for leave to
distribute the shields among the colonies personally. No one opposed them. No
one dared after the tale of Mousrom and his hundred warriors circulated. As the
first of the shields neared completion, Vegita turned his mind to erecting
shield upon Vegita-sei itself. The actual activation was a simple matter,
especially with Bulma’s growing army of bots and Bardock’s folk to aid them. The
logistics of space traffic control, security and guarding the generator during
Moontime was another thing. The shield ‘windows’ that Bulma had configured to be
authenticated with the specific Ki signature of officers on each ship in the
fleet still needed shepherding, a living being to run traffic control. Bardock
took instruction from Bulma, and in turn, took over the tutelage of a selected
number of warriors in the service of Articha’s barony. They were unenthusiastic,
to say the least. Therein lay the problem. Any warrior who sat in the shield
operations post, allowing Saiyan ships in and out of the protective net around
Vegita-sei through the authentication windows would consider it a punishment. It
was a job for a lowly Madrani tech slave, not a Saiyan soldier. It was also a
job that could not be trusted to anyone other than a Saiyan.

“That’s it,” Bulma said softly, as they lay together the night
after the shield went online at last, their stomachs pleasantly over-loaded by
the celebration feast her servant bots had prepared. He had not even thought to
question the wisdom or propriety of having Bardock’s folk and Scopa to table. It
had not occurred to him in the state of euphoric relief he was bathed in that
night that having commoners and freedmen sup at his hearth was an outrageous
allowance. It was odd how this fellowship of unlikely allies had broken down
barriers of class, even in his own mind. He had watched in mild disbelief as
Bardock and the Madrani doctor began to sing tipsily, some alien tenor descant
Vegita did not know. Let the ‘party’ tonight bring more talk or not, Vegita
thought with a mental shrug. He could not be more disgraced than he already was.
And let the moon come. There would be no attack during this season of the moon,
and no more colonies lost to bombing strikes. Turna and Articha would leave with
carrier full of the shield to distribute them among all Saiyan worlds at dawn
tomorrow. But there was still much to do.

“There are still the smaller shields to be fitted on the
carriers,” he said.

“Yes,” she agreed. “But that’s it for the war. You’ll
eventually find Jeiyce and his Red Demons, but…for everybody else, that’s it.
Vegita-sei can’t see or detect the rebel worlds in hiding because of their
invisibility technology, and they can’t touch you now because of the shields.
Stalemate. No one else has to die.”

He was silent, thinking of the mass purges that would follow in
the wake of a Saiyan victory, the eradication of every world that had so much as
smiled on the Maiyosh-jin, of every race with even one son or daughter fighting
for the rebels. She was right about the rebel supporters at least.

He did not need to tell her he would have ordered it done. It
was simple pragmatism, to prevent enemies from rising again at some later date.
But Vegita-sei could not destroy what it could not find. And there was no loss
of face in this scenario.

“It is not over until Jeiyce is slain,” he murmured against the
soft perfume of her hair. “We have a little less than nine weeks until Moontime.
I would rest easier if he were run to ground before then.”

“This will be my first Moon,” she said. “Have you ever heard
how Articha and Turna got together?”

“Only that they are bonded by the moon,” he said. It was
uncommon enough to take note of, but he had never been told the particulars.
Every Saiyan who remained on the homeworld for the coming of the moon would be
given a cerebral neuro-trank to prevent the high level of empathic openness moon
madness triggered in their kind. And thus, as all the females went into
moonstruck heat, they and the strongest men who won their attentions for the
night would only couple inside the rage of moon madness. But they would not
bond.

“Have you ever been with a woman under the moon?” She asked
curiously.

He smirked. “I always preferred to fight. This will be my first
moon as a man grown. I was only seventeen last time. Tell me Turna and Articha’s
tale.”

She smiled. “He is back country nobility, and only moderately
high powered. She was super Elite of heir to an ancient, powerful barony. But
she told me they wanted each other from the first moment they met. The problem
was, if he initiated a courtship spar, her honor would have demanded that she
couldn’t throw the fight. And she’s about twice as strong as him, and would have
just pounded him flat. So, they refused their neuro-suppresants at moontime and
they went to the bad lands in the north where no one lives—and bonded under
the full moon.” She sighed so dreamily, he chuckled.

“It is not the sweet encounter you imagine,” he said.
“Moonbonding is very, very violent. The two ‘lovers’ nearly tear each other to
pieces as they couple.”

“But Articha said it’s as though he were inside her mind and
soul,” Bulma went on. “The other half of her heart.”

Vegita snorted. “And if one of them is slain, the other will
pine and die within a day—if the shock of the loss itself does not stop their
heart. It is not ‘romantic’ to draw your partner down into death with you. If I
should die, I want you to live long and happily, woman! Not die with me as Turna
would have died had Articha been killed by the Maiyosh-jin.”

A small wondering smile touched her lips, though she did not
reply.

 

 

He rose that morning and flew north and east to begin
over-seeing refitting the largest of the factories for the construction of
shield adapters for the fleet for the first half of the day.

“Terrorism is a real threat,” Bardock muttered grimly, as they
stood in the air watching the ships come and go through the authentication
windows over the Capital. They circled in a wide wheel around the city, hovering
above the main shield generator that lay bunkered beyond the western rim of the
Capital where the spaceport looked out upon the Western Sea a few miles outside
the gates.

Vegita nodded, frowning in frustration. The shields were
flawless as they were, but could be sabotaged as easily as any other mechanism.
“It will need Saiyan hands to guard it constantly, and Saiyan hands to man it.
We have enough people trained at this point to alternate the duty in shifts, so
no warriors are saddled with the responsibility indefinitely. We have two main
worries at this point.” Vegita glanced up at the red sphere in the sky, already
tinting the blue of Vegita-sei’s skies to violet with its approach. “Even after
all our worlds and ships are equipped with new shields, the ships may still be
high jacked by rebels with invisibility shields. They may still arrive on
Vegita-sei bearing a load of invisible stowaways. And the guards we set upon the
generator cannot kill what they cannot see.”

“Bulma’s has built guards bots designed to detect movement and
minute changes in air temperature, and to open fire on warm pockets,” Bardock
said. “No one knows this because no one has seen the shield bunker but our own.
Terrorists will not be prepared for it, and even it they anticipate such a
security measure, even an invisible man will stir the air around him when he
moves.”

“A squad of invisible warriors could do much damage,” Vegita
said. “Even if they cannot get directly at the shield. As for Moontime…Turna has
kept my father abreast of all we have done. He has commanded that the shield
windows be deactivated during full moon. No one will be allowed in or out for
the three nights of full moon. We will key a lockout combination sequence known
to only you, myself and my father. But that does not solve the problem of who
will guard the generator when we are all out of our wits. The bots will not
suffice.”

They landed and toured the generator itself, pondering its
strengths and weaknesses. “Scopa was telling me something last night,” Bardock
said. “About how he is dreading the madhouse Med Center will become soon when we
cloister all the very young brats and alien women below in incu-ward. The cubs
will be sedated so the low-powered medics can maintain some semblance of order.
Incu-ward, Scopa said, is bunkered below ground, but in addition, it is shielded
from the moon wit lunar reflectors. They are a simple construct, merely the
inverse of a moon bauble. Bulma and I can fit the generator bunker with the same
sort of reflectors, so the guards inside will not be affected at moonrise.”

A burst of agitated Ki rippled the air to the east as they rose
up again over the spaceport. The figure of a small girl was speeding toward
them. Vegita recognized her as Bardock’s youngest squad sister, Anyan.

“Ouji-sama! Bardock-san! We’ve found him!!”

Bardock leveled an indulgent grin at the small soldier. “Who
have you found, brat? The Red Prince himself?”

“Yes!” The girl gasped out. She stared at the openly smirking
faces of both men and opened her mouth to curse them both like lazing dock
hands, before she remembered one of them was royalty. “We were baby-sitting the
bots at factory 3 when Toussan received an encoded hyper light transmission from
Lord Turna about the war in the colonies—The Red Demons struck Payah Colony
today, an hour after Lord Turna erected the shield there. The plasma nuke
capsules popped and just died in the air!”

Vegita felt a huge fierce grin spread across his face. It had
worked! It had all worked perfectly! And just in time for Payah.

“The enemy was cloaked,” the girl went on, “But the colony
governor general sent out ships through the shield window, against Lord Turna’s
advice. They fired wide scatter bursts in every direction and blew one
Maiyosh-jin ship out of the sky with a lucky shot, and crippled another. The
ships were cloaked, but the debris they shed when you wing one wasn’t, so our
ships stalked the second ship for a while. They caught a mayday signal from an
encrypted code we broke only a week ago. Lord Turna said the exact words were
this: ‘Dead White Command! Dead White Command! Do not approach, my Prince! The
monkeys have a new defense weapon!’ Their engine core blew before they could be
taken prisoners, Ouji-sama, but Lord Turna says we managed to jam their
transmission.” The girl grinned breathlessly. “The King will order every world
in the direct line of that transmission, from Paysah to the edge of the galaxy
purged. Now, it is only a matter of time until we find the Red Prince’s
hide-away!”

“No!” Vegita said, frowning. “He will get wind of it if we
purge in a straight line toward him. He will be long gone before we reach his
base!” Vegita swore softly. To be so close and know that the bastard would elude
the Empire once again! But…no. His father would not act so rashly. He would
think the matter through first. And this would buy Vegita some time to find
Jeiyce’s base world on his own!

Bardock had gone suddenly pale with shock. He turned blazing
eyes to Vegita’s. “My Prince…we must go back to your villa! I think…I am afraid
I will jinx what I suspect by speaking until I know!”

They set down moments later at the villa and Bardock nearly
tore through the house to the library. He pulled up a holo starchart from the
desk computer and did a furious calculation. “Give me the co-ordinates of the
transmission, girl!”

Anyan recited the numbers with studied care, reading the off
the hyper wave print out in her hand. Bardock laid another set of co-ordinates
into the equation, and stared down at the nearly instantaneous result on the
screen.

“We have him, Ouji-sama,” he said softly. “I knew it. ‘Dead
White Command.’ There are seventy-nine systems in a direct line of transmission
between Paysah and Jeiyce’s base.” He glanced up, his eyes shining. “Tsiru-sei,
my Prince. A dead, white world of snow and ice, where no one would look or even
venture because of the quarantine.”

“Dead White Command,” Vegita repeated with a soft snarl.

A shrill alarm sounded, high and angry, from the comlink on
Bardock’s wrist. The man glanced down in annoyance, then his face tensed. He
rose to his feet, clattering the chair to the floor behind him. “It’s Bulma’s
personal emergency page,” he said sharply. “There must be trouble at Med
Center.”

“That persistent, fat fuck!” Vegita spat. “He must be very
enamored of injury to try setting up shop in Med Center again so soon!”

They did not find Mousrom at Med Center. The main entrance
facing the landing pad was a cluster of frightened-looking medics, several of
whom turned and ran at the sight of Vegita’s angry face. Bulma was not among
them. One man, a tall, green-skinned fellow with the build of a warrior, a young
man Vegita remembered as having been one of Scopa’s surgical staff physicians,
stepped forward. His face was bleak.

“I sent the message, Ouji-sama,” he said urgently. “We—we did
not realize what had happened until a few minutes ago, my Prince! Please believe
that!”

Vegita began to grow cold all over. “Where is Bulma?”

“She took an early lunch with Scopa and her son in the garden
conservatory,” the surgeon said. “The gardens are open to the sun so the—the
flowers there will grow. They—they must have taken her then.”

“Taken?!” He grabbed the man and shook him. Vegita felt his
breath begin to seize in his chest.

“She is nowhere in Med Center, Ouji-sama,” the other man said.
“Neither she nor Scopa nor the boy. They have not been seen for more than five
hours!”

A hard hand clamped on Vegita’s shoulder, bringing the world
back into sharp focus. “Kharda City,” Bardock hissed. “Mousrom will have taken
them there!”

The flight north was the most frenzied, lightning fast trip of
his life. He flew hounded by a thousand horror-struck visions of what Mousrom
might have done to her in five hours of having Bulma in his hands. It took less
than a quarter of an hour before the mesa of the stark mountain fortress city
loomed into view. They fell upon it like angels of destruction.

Bardock’s feet had not touched the ground before he began to
kill. He tore through the first round of guards, howling curses like a mad
thing. Vegita simply waded through them, locked inside a cold, deathly calm rage
the likes of which he had never known. He blasted everything, living and
inanimate, from his path, burning his way to the Inquisitor’s cells. A face
loomed up before him, one he knew he should recognize. Urima, one of Mousrom’s
chief lackey’s.

He reached out, deaf to the meaningless words the man was
saying, and shook him like a fish in a sea shrike’s mouth. “Where is she?”

“I—I cannot—”

Vegita tore the man’s right arm from its socket at the
shoulder. “Where?!” He roared over Urima’s screams.

“In—in the n-new special su-su-suspects facility…the old…old
courtesans’ wing…royal palace…”

Vegita hurled him away like a stone and launched himself into
the air, burning the air around him, without a glance back. He felt rather than
saw Bardock lob a monolithic blast at the city as he rose into the sky on
Vegita’s heels, his face black with fury. Kharda City vanished in a fiery
mushroom cloud of black rock and dust.

Half an hour to Kharda and back! Another half hour for Mousrom
to hurt her, rend her, mutilate her! Vegita shrieked and threw every ounce of
strength he possessed into his forward movement, feeling a tidal rush of new
power roll in with each nightmare image that flashed before his mind’s eye.

A swirling, rising vortex of terrified, sobbing horror laced
inside a strangely familiar Ki struck him like a blow as he reached the eaves of
the Capital.

 

MommaMommaMomma!!!

 

Romayn’s Ki soared upward like a fuel-doused fire, shrieking
inside a hurricane of newborn rage. A great section of the Palace antechambers
blew apart in a hailstorm of fiery debris. An instant later, Vegita struck
ground zero of the blast like a falling star, honing in on the weeping child’s
voice, still resonating in his mind through the boy’s Ki.

 

Momma…poor Momma…

 

He tore through chunks of rubble, his heart frozen in his
chest. There was no name for the kind of fear he was drowning in, for his terror
of what he might find. He lifted a solid section of smoldering ceiling stone…and
he saw them. Bleeding, battered and covered in ash and mortar, Bulma was huddled
beneath the stone slab holding Romayn in a death grip.

“Edeeta…” Romayn whimpered.

“Vegita?” She didn’t sob hysterically as the boy was doing. She
lay limp and docile in his arms as he lifted her, cradling her against his
chest. She was alive alive alive! He could not speak. He seemed powerless to do
anything but hold her.

“Soft, lunatic weakling,” said a hoarse cackle. Mousrom had
clawed his way out of a pile of burning masonry. All around them, the rubble was
shifting as the Inquisition guards began to do the same. “Weeping like a mewling
newborn. The Saiyan no Ouji and his little ‘family’!” Mousrom spat out the
word.

Vegita suddenly noticed Bardock standing at his right shoulder,
growling like a leashed dire cat. “All of them except Mousrom,” Vegita told
him.

“Thank you, my Prince!” Bardock uttered a low snarl and fell
upon Mousrom’s men like an avalanche.

“I am within my rights!” Mousrom shouted, flinching back as
Bardock began killing the men around him. Vegita sat Bulma down very carefully.
He began walking toward Mousrom slowly. “The—the orders for the arrests were
signed by your father!”

“You lie!” Vegita hissed, still advancing, still ice cold and
calm. He had come to a place so far beyond rage it was almost serene. The
Inquisitor saw it too. Just as he saw his death in Vegita’s eyes.

“The Madrani had a liaison with an—an exposed Red Network
operative!” Mousrom babbled. “Your own former serving wenches gave up the name
of Zarbon of Rashia-sei under questioning. They had been leaking information
from your own home to the Red Network for four years! It—it—it is only
logical to infer your entire household was Red Network, and the doctor their
go-between! The whore had to have been involv—”

Vegita smashed his fist through the Inquisitor’s forehead,
shattering his skull and all that lay housed within. Mousrom fell backwards
slowly. Dead as a post.

Vegita did not even watch to see the corpse strike the ground.
He turned back to Bulma, burning the gore off his hand with a tiny burst of Ki.
He knelt again, taking her back in his arms. He pulled her fine-boned hands up,
catching a flicker of red. He uttered a sobbing snarl when he saw why. They had
torn out her fingernails.

“Bulma…” He managed to say.

“They killed Scopa,” she sighed sadly, her voice remote and
soft. “They really thought he knew something about Zarbon. But he didn’t. He
didn’t spy for Zarbon. He just loved him. He had no idea—” She shook her head
as though it would erase the events of the last few hours from her memory.
“After…I don’t know how long, Mousrom decided he really didn’t know anything.
And he just—just killed him. He broke Scopa’s neck. Then—then they started
on me…my fingers…” Her eyes were huge and unblinking, glassy with reactive
shock.

Bardock was beside him, peering intently at Romayn, trying to
ascertain if his son was injured—though he was not so foolish as to try and
take the child from her.

“I kept cursing and yelling and screaming at him,” she said
softly. “He watched me for a while, then he shook his head and told me my
threshold of pain was far too high for such a pretty girl. So, he decided to try
something else. They had taken Rom-kun away from me and locked him in another
room. Mousrom told me I could confess or watch them cut my baby into
pieces…”

“Bulma…” Vegita said hoarsely. “Do not try to tell this tale
now.”

“When they brought Rom-kun in, he saw what they’d done to
my—my fingers, and he blew the building apart.” She was speaking with a
frighteningly disconnected smile. “My baby loves my so much…”

“Ouji-sama,” a deep, strangely gentle voice. The green-skinned
doctor from Med Center. Nail? Was that his name? Vegita didn’t question where
all the other people surrounding them had suddenly come from. “I should sedate
her.”

Vegita kissed her brow and nodded to the man in answer. “Do so.
Bardock!” The man looked like a demon out of legend, covered in blood, still
smoldering with rage. “Carry them back to Med Center. They are to be under guard
at all times. I will be there shortly. I must speak with my father.”

The icy, still-watered killing rage had not left him when he
found his father taking his evening meal alone in the smallest of his audience
chambers, an oddly homey room Vegita and the King had often dined in. He entered
to room and said no word as he took a seat opposite the older man.

Ottousama broke the frost-bitten silence. “You have something
to discuss, boy?”

“Why?” Vegita whispered.

“You are reinstated with full rank and honor as prince and heir
to the Empire,” his father said.

“I asked you a question, old man,” Vegita said with deadly
gentleness.

“You killed Mousrom, did you not?” Ottousama asked with a grim
smile. “Did you hesitate or react adversely at all?”

Vegita was silent.

“I think you have your answer, boy,” his father said. “Now, go
see to your concubine before you make yourself king before this war is won.”

Vegita rose and left quickly…before he did just that.

 

 

 

Before the sky had completely given way to night, the medic
Nail released Bulma from his care. They had treated her hands with regen bandage
swaths and sedated her heavily for the shock. Bardock bent over the bed as
Vegita laid her down and pried his son from her sleeping arms. She would not
release Romayn while the medics were treating her, had held onto him even after
she was unconscious.

“Momma?” Romayn said softly, starting awake.

“She is well, boy,” Bardock said. “We must let her sleep now.
Would you like to sleep in the hearthroom with Anyan and Kyouka and the dogs?”
The entire squad was camped out in the villa in a subdued vigil.

“Okay,” Romayn said uncertainly. He heaved a tired, sad little
sigh. “Scopa died…”

“Yes, he did,” Bardock said grimly. “Very bravely. We will
mourn him tomorrow.” His son nodded silently and fell back into sleep with one
last tiny sob of grief.

“There is a communication from the palace,” Bardock muttered.
“The details of the arrests.”

“Destroy it,” Vegita said. He tore his eyes away from the still
face of the woman on the bed, and moved to the desktop comp, staring down at the
scan of Tsiru-sei’s planetary specs and orbital calendar. Fool! He
thought. To have chosen such a world as his base.

 

It was now, tonight, or never. Tomorrow would be too late. Even
now, twelve hours after the intercepted hyper light message, there was no
guarantee the Red Prince would still be there.

“The medic said she will not wake for more than twenty hours,”
Vegita murmured distractedly. The prototype of the scouter skiff is at the
factory. It is the only one fitted with a rad shield at present…
“Guard her
well, you and your soldiers, until I return. There is a matter I must attend
to.”

“We are still at war, Ouji-sama,” Bardock said softly. Gods,
the man was quick. But Vegita only smiled, a mirthless twist of his lips, at the
man’s veiled caution against doing anything irrevocable to his father in a fit
of rage while the Empire was still in a state of emergency.

“I have no immediate aspirations to the throne,” Vegita told
him. “Guard her with your life.” He left without another word, before the
frighteningly perceptive bastard worked out what he was actually planning.

 

 

The brilliant audacity of setting up camp less than five hours
flight time from Vegita-sei only full impressed itself on him as he dipped the
skiff into a high orbit around the pearl white orb of Tsiru-sei. The first shock
wave rocked the small craft, rippling over the shields as the sensor net
detected his skiff and began firing round after round of plasma grenades.
Apparently such a small ship wasn’t worth a missile.

He gunned the ship downward just as they hit him with a second
barrage. For all the effect it had, he might had merely hit a pocket a nasty
chop in his descent. He could almost smell the fear, blooming into full blown
panic below as it became quickly apparent the attacks had done no damage at all.
He set the ship on autopilot, programmed to circle the general region above the
center of concentrated fire, and keyed the shield window to his own energy
signal with a small rush of Ki into the authentication sensor. He opened the
hatch below the small ship’s belly, a burst of icy night air lashing his face.
He took a deep breath. Now or never… He would not get another chance.

He stepped out of the skiff, the shield window tingling his
skin as he passed through it. And he fell upon them out of the night sky like
the wrath of the gods, a roaring mountain of power and rage, killing everything
within the reach of his hands. Above the carnage, Tsiru-sei’s three moons glowed
brilliant and full, illuminating the night sky as bright as a storm-tossed
morning.

“Jeeeeeeiyce!!!” Vegita howled, slamming one gigantic fist
through the icicle-shaped spires and turrets of the beautiful White City around
him. “Jeiyce! Come out and face meeee! I will let the others escape while we
fight! Come out, Prince of Maiyosh-sei!” He felt the stings of their Ki-killers
here and there, though he was moving too fast for them to tag him with more than
a glancing blast. They will have to construct of bigger gun, he thought,
chuckling through fanged teeth. His strength…his strength was so great now,
that even the Ki fracturing weaponry would not bring him down—though he knew
he would be too weakened to do what he meant to do if he shifted back to man
form. But none of this mattered. The Oozaru change had no tie to a warrior’s Ki.
It was born of the body, of the inherent were-nature of his kind. He flickered
here one instant, there another, too fast to let them draw a bead and take aim
at his tail, burning and smashing and pulverizing everything in sight, reveling
in the mad, long-lost joy of battle.

“I am here, monkey! Come and get me!”

Vegita saw him. And even lost inside the singing madness of the
moons overhead, he froze, his gut suddenly full of razors, his blood running to
ice in his veins. This was no vidpic or nightmare or even a sparring program.
This was the smiling man who had stroked his head as though he were an obedient
dog, as Vegita had kissed the tops and the Red Prince’s boots. This was the hand
that had taken him to the realm of madness and left in there alone, screaming in
the dark like the terrified child he had become. He roared defiantly, bellowing
fire at Jeiyce…but he could not, could not, advance, or even look at
his enemy.

The Red Prince had begun to chuckle softly, darting forward and
back, narrowly evading the great, swinging claws, the sound of his laughter
ringing in Vegita’s sensitive animal’s hearing. He shot upward, knowing he
appeared to be quite literally turning tail in flight, knowing in the deepest
part of his heart that this was more than half truth. He burned higher and
higher into the frozen air, leaving the base’s defenders far behind. And Jeiyce
was there on his heels in seconds. Only he had the strength to keep pace with
Vegita.

“Stop!” His enemy screamed.

And Vegita felt his muscles rebel against his will, as he
slowed and halted in his ascent, hanging motionless in the air, caught in the
dark, hate-filled eyes of the Red Prince.

“Change back, boyo,” Jeiyce said softly.

Vegita howled like a chained beast, sensing the other
Maiyosh-jin closing fast. They knew that though their Prince had frozen their
titanic enemy in his tracks for the moment, Jeiyce was still in terrible
danger.

“Change back, Vegita!” Jeiyce repeated sternly, like a drill
instructor barking out commands to a children’s platoon. “Do as I say,
monkey!”

Vegita changed, shrinking out of the giant, unmatchable Oozaru
strength, head lowered, chest heaving with exertion, his entire body shuddering
with the loss of size and sweet, ringing fury. He tipped his head back,
searching for the pin point of light in the sky, praying to all the gods of wars
that he found it before he buckled and collapsed beneath another of the Red
Prince’s commands. “Good boy.” Jeiyce had closed on him, that hated, grinning
face only a few feet from his own. The others were almost here, cheering their
master as they came, taking aim at Vegita as they neared weapon’s range. Far,
far in the distance, he could hear the sound of cloaked ships screaming upward,
the roar of invisible transport carriers leaping to hyper light speed. There it
was! The light of his salvation, winking down at him from its wide wheeling arc
on the very edge of the sky!

Vegita whipped his head down and looked his enemy directly in
the eye. He aimed the palms of both hands downward and fired with all his might.
The on-coming warriors vanished in the heat blast, and Vegita grinned viciously
as the perpetual smile slipped and fell from the Red Prince’s face. And in that
one instant of unguarded shock, Vegita darted forward and seized him in a
strangle hold. He rose up through the sleet-edged clouds, dragging Jeiyce with
him, running before the backdraft of the blast as it struck the ground like a
meteor and ignited Tsiru-sei’s thin atmosphere. Vegita fired another round as he
flew, a sharp debilitating spear of energy into the Maiyosh-jin’s vitals. Jeiyce
convulsed against him.

Then he was in the skiff, tearing like a beam of light through
the man-sized window in the rad-shield, tossing Jeiyce’s inert form onto the
deck and slamming the ship’s controls into hyper light speed. He slid down the
wall of the little bridge, breathing in great exhausted gulps, as the shots he’d
taken, the pain and the bloodloss he had given no thought to in battle, began to
hit him. They’d hit him more times than he had realized. Was there a field
trauma kit in the medic’s chest?

Jeiyce lay gasping weakly several feet away in a widening pool
of blood. Vegita crawled painfully over to the man’s prone body and studied the
Maiyosh-jin’s injuries with cold expertise. He would need to bleed another few
minutes…

“Congrats, laddie,” Jeiyce croaked. “I would have bet all the
lost wealth of Maiyosh House that you’d be weaving baskets permanently after we
finished with you.”

“You were a fool not the kill me,” Vegita said coldly.

“Damn, you’ve gotten strong…” A soft chuckle. “Did I do that to
you?”

Vegita only stared back. He had sunk back into that cold still
place that words like ‘hate’ and ‘rage’ were insufficient to describe.

“So,” murmured his enemy, “You didn’t kill me. Planning a
little payback, are we? Got the wrack and hooks all ready for me?”

“Saiyan warriors,” Vegita rasped. “Kill their enemies cleanly,
Maiyosh-jin.”

Jeiyce snickered. “Like Mousrom and his Inquisition?”

“Mousrom was not a warrior, or even a true Saiyan!” Vegita
snarled. “And now he is a corpse!”

“So I hear.” Jeiyce eyed him closely, his eyes growing serious
and hard. “Well, well…I guess it’s true that if you beat him long enough, even
the stubbornest monkey will learn a lesson or two. You’re different, laddie. No
belligerence, no tantrums, no bullshit or bluster. No pleasure in causing pain.
Less the princelet and more the king to be…Too bad you’ll never wear the
crown.”

“What the hell do you mean?!” Vegita hissed, gritting his teeth
against the numb weakness beginning to pull at his limbs.

“Oh nothing…just that you’re still going to lose this war. You
think my people are going to turn up their toes and die when you’ve killed me?”
Jeiyce cackled weakly. “I’ll be a martyr, a tragic hero, whether you kill me in
combat or gut me like a heard beast in some public execution. They’ll fight on
without me.” He sighed deeply, his dark eyes filling with bleak relief. “I’m
ready to die. Been ready for five years. Ever since your soldiers destroyed
my…my everything when they took Corsaris. I…gods, I hope Jula can’t see me from
Heaven…the things I’ve done, what I’ve become.”

Vegita shook his head against the lightheadedness and the pain,
remembering Bulma’s words about Jeiyce. “You became the thing you fought.”

Jeiyce blinked at him in surprise. He was silent for so long,
Vegita begin to think the man had passed out. “No death by torture…” he said
finally. “That’s a bit of good news.”

“No torture,” Vegita said coldly. “I will simply kill you and
call us even.”

Jeiyce’s expression was unreadable. “My good friend Zarbon
nearly got himself nicked by Mousrom yesterday, I hear. The fat fool arrested
everybody around him and let the one real Red Network spy slip away. You won’t
find him either. He’s a slippery fellow.” His breath was growing steadily more
labored and shallow. “Zar—Zarbon tells me you’ve got a little foster son—two
years old, right? A gift to your lady love to replace her real son. The one you
murdered.” He ignored Vegita’s low growl of anger. “Zarbon also says you dote on
the girl, your pretty Bulma of Chikyuu, as though she were your moonbride. That
Mousrom has used reports of your open affection for the woman and the boy to
discredit your sanity in Council. It’s nice to have a family, isn’t it?” Jeiyce
didn’t seem to notice the dangerous rise in Vegita’s Ki. The mere thought of
Jeiyce speaking Bulma’s name, of how horrifyingly close his agents had been to
her and the boy all this time, jolted Vegita’s flailing consciousness. The
Maiyosh-jin’s eyes were like dead windows, looking in on a hell of grief and
hate. “You want to kill me and call us even, you Saiyan fuck?! You think you’re
being gracious? When your pretty lady is dragged out of Med Center by her hair
and raped to death by your enemies, then we’ll be even! When your foster son is
taken by his feet and his brains dashed out against a wall, when your father is
cut down and torn apart by my warriors, and the world you love is burned to a
spinning ball of slag around Vegita-sei’s sun—then I will call us even! Not
before!” Jeiyce heaved a wet, shallow sob of fury, his eyes fluttering as
consciousness began to desert him. “Not before…”

Vegita leaned forward unsteadily and lay his hand on the
Maiyosh-jin’s belly wound, sealing the blood flow with a gentle pulse of heat.
He’d had to wait until the Red Prince lost enough blood and grew too weak to
move or wake during the five hour trip back to Vegita-sei. The energy for that
simple task took all he had. Vegita slumped forward onto the deck beside Jeiyce
and slept.

 

 

The alarm cut through the shallow sleep laced with pain and
fatigue. Vegita clambered slowly to his feet, tottering over to the nav computer
and keying in his authentication code, waiting a long, impatient minute for
traffic control to open a window for the skiff. He grinned faintly, laying in a
distinct set of landing coordinates, before sinking down into the pilot’s chair
as he watched the moon’s red rays filtering through the clouds as he descended
through them. He had sunk into a light doze by the time the soft jolt of the
ship touching down jostled him awake. He stood slowly, straightening his back,
and made his way carefully to where Jeiyce lay, still unconscious. He gripped
the Maiyosh-jin by the collar of his armor, and drug him along the ground as he
hit the hatch control and strode down the ramp into bright morning sunshine. The
ring of guards stood down, and the wave of murmuring wonder rippling through the
throng of warriors gathered around the rim of the roof of the royal palace’s
Council Chamber.

A figure stepped forward, his black opal eyes shining with
pride and joy. “What gift have you brought me, Prince of Vegita-sei?” His father
asked in a loud voice.

“The first of our enemies, Ottousama,” Vegita responded in
kind. “Jeiyce of Maiyosh, the Red Prince of Corsaris! I have defeated him, and
beg your leave to give him a coward’s execution two months hence, on the day of
your Centennial. For you and the Empire, my father!” Vegita knelt down in the
sudden silence, knowing his father alone could see the black rage still welling
inside him as their eyes met, knowing Ottousama knew well that nothing was
forgiven. But a small, pleased smile crooked the edge of his father’s mouth
nevertheless. The King lay his hand on Vegita’s right shoulder, a formal
blessing.

“You have done well, my son.”

The cheer that rose up around them was deafening, but Vegita
only heard the quiet words his father spoke, for his ears alone. “Rest this
night, boy. Come to me tomorrow and we will reach an understanding.”

 

 

 

He arrived at the villa and commanded the warriors he had left
standing watch over Bulma’s sleep to leave in a quiet voice that silenced their
joyous praise. He rejected Bardock’s offer the send for a physician to tend his
wounds. The older man left with only a solemn nod, carrying his son under one
arm. Vegita bathed and bandaged the host of superficial burns and gouges he had
taken on Tsiru-sei in med patches, feeling the worst of the fatigue from the
Ki-killer blasts beginning to fade. Jeiyce’s allies would have to design
stronger weapons in the future.

They would not stop fighting, as Jeiyce had said, just because
their prince was slain. There was still Dodoria to hunt down, and the hidden
mastertech. Whoever he was, the rebels’ secret weapons smith was simply too
dangerous to be allowed to live, even if he had ceased to build for the Red
Demons. Though Vegita doubted the hidden engineer would ever be found alive.
Jeiyce would never have let such an asset escape him or quit his ranks if the
mastertech still lived.

He moved silently into the bedroom that had begun life as a
study and slipped into bed beside his woman. He raised one fine-boned hand and
inspected her fingers. The nails had grown back perfectly. His enemy was
overthrown and captured. His disgrace reversed, his rank and title returned to
him under the grace and good will of his father. His people were as safe as it
was possible to keep them. And none of these things gave him as much peace and
joy of mind and spirit as the woman who’s frail body lay warm against his. He
kissed the palm of her hand lightly and sank into sleep.

He woke to the soft sound of weeping, his arms tightening
around her instinctively. He propped up on one elbow, not speaking, only holding
her, as she wailed as though her heart were torn in half. Little by little, the
sobs tapered down into streaming tears, then sniffles, then sad-eyed silence.
And still he said nothing.

“It’s my fault,” she whispered. “I—I could have said
something while they were—were hurting him, but I was afraid of what would
happen to Rom-kun. I should have spoken up! I should have confessed to anything
they wanted to save him!”

“It is not your fault,” he said sharply. “It is Mousrom’s
fault. And he has paid with his life.”

“Scopa…” She moaned the name softly. “He never hurt anyone in
his life. He saved more lives than I can count. And he—he—” She sat up
slowly, her eyes beginning to burn. “Everything that’s good and decent always
gets torn to pieces! All my life…everyone and everything I’ve ever loved or
cared about. And I just get back up every time my life is destroyed and start
building another one, when I know…” She sobbed brokenly as her voice continued
to rise angrily. “When I know it’ll all be blow to hell in the end! Romayn and
Scopa and—and you and everyone in my life. I’m going to wake up one day and
find Rom-kun’s been killed in a training exercise after they take him to the
children’s barracks in two years. Or that you or Bardock or Kyouka or Articha
has been killed in battle somewhere. Or that your father has finally ordered you
to put me aside, and you pack me off world as a free woman, but—but I’ll have
to leave Rom-kun behind, and—”

“That will not happen,” He said flatly. “Not if I live to see a
thousand years. Bulma…hear me!” He rose up to sit facing her and took her slim
shoulders, drawing her closer to him. “I will not tell you no one you value will
die. That will happen. But my father will not command me in any way ever
again.”

The words hung there in the air between them, as her
tear-streaked face paled slowly. “You didn’t—”

“No…” He growled. “But it was a near thing.”

She shook her head sadly, grief coating every syllable. “Your
father told you that he would ‘help you set yourself to rights.’ He knew seeing
us in Mousrom’s hands, would break the geas in your mind. And all it cost him
was your love and Scopa’s life…”

“The war will soon be over,” He told her, not wanting to sort
through the truth of her words. He was still too angry. He breathed deeply and
told her all that he had done while she slept. “I will execute him on the first
night of Moontime, the day of my father’s Centennial, in eight weeks time. In
spite of what Jeiyce believes, the war will die with him, though not
immediately. We will hunt the rebels still. Seeking them out and battling them
where we can find them will keep us vigilant and in fighting trim for many years
to come, but, as you have said, they will be difficult to find. And with your
rad shields, they cannot strike at us.” He held her eyes in his, shaking with
the effort it would take to say the things he meant to say aloud. “When Jeiyce
is dead, and the Empire is once more stable and strong, I will take the throne.
My father—” He stopped, swallowing hard, as a sudden, vivid visualization of
that day leapt to his mind, dousing the burning rage…a picture of Ottousama
lying cold and dead. Dead by Vegita’s own hand.

“He knows,” she said softly. “He knew signing that arrest order
would make it easier for you. He knows you’re ready.”

He nodded silently. “When I am king, I will serve my people and
protect them and lead them. I will give my life for them, if need be. But I will
order all things in my own household as I wish, custom and propriety be damned.
I will take no queen. I will find a strong warrior to bear my son…but he will be
yours to raise. You—you have proven yourself a gifted instructor of kings to
be. Romayn will be his foster brother, his first lieutenant, and his body guard.
As such, he will be trained in the Palace alongside my heir, and he will not go
the barracks. You are free, woman. Go if you will, you and the boy. Or stay and
help me rebuild my empire. It is your right, since you have helped to save
it.”

She kissed him, shaking in a renewed storm of weeping, though
her tears seemed to be equal parts sorrow and joy mingled. She pressed closer,
soft and pliant against his naked body, drawing out the kiss until his breath
began to come short and his blood began to burn as it coursed through his
heart.

“Make love to me,” she whispered, a soft command.

“Bulma…”

“I need you,” she sobbed. “I want…I want to stop hurting. I
want to feel like I did that last day at Bardock’s house. Happy and loved and at
peace. I want you, Vegita…please…”

There was no guilt or inverted loathing in her eyes, no doubt.
Not a wisp of hesitation. Oh gods…the long nights of lying beside her, barred by
his own heart from anything sweeter than a child’s innocent embrace… He plunged
his fingers into the sapphire silk of her hair and lay her down, trembling as
though he were in the grip of a heart seizure, forcing himself to touch lightly,
with the same gentle caress he had used when they lay together in that flowered
meadow, forcing himself to remember that the least uncontrolled flex of muscle
or thrust would hurt her. He kissed her mouth again, nipping the lower lip
slowly, and began to work his way down her body. Neck to breasts, tasting and
suckling her nipples until she began to gasp for breath. Breasts to the flat,
smooth plain of her stomach, his body suspended above hers, barely touching, as
his mouth sought lower still. Stomach to kneecaps, brushing over all the lay
between lightly and quickly with his tongue and lips, feeling a pleased smirk
tug at his mouth as she made a low growl of protest.

“Patience, woman,” he chuckled softly, kissing the inside of
one silken thigh, as he rolled his mouth upward with maddening slowness. Tasting
and teasing, tongue darting and flicking with delicate, sweet cruelty, he sent
her tumbling over the edge without him again and again. Until she threaded her
hands through the stiff, black spikes of his hair, her back arched like a
taut-strung bow, and shrieked for him to take her.

He kissed his way up her body, retracing the route he had
taken, eye to eye with her now, face to face. He brushed her lips again,
deepening to a fevered, desperate kiss…and slowly, gently, moved inside her. And
stopped, hard and still, less than an inch inside.

“Vegita…” She whimpered.

“Shhh…” He fought with all the will he possessed to keep his
own voice steady, to keep his entire body from shuddering apart with desire.
With the terrifying joy of what he was about to do. If she would allow it. If
she gave him leave. He drew back and pushed in again, still gentle, in a searing
slow agony of slow, shallow thrusts, never more than an inch deep, tilting his
hips from side to side, then up, then down, lost in the endless blue of the eyes
of the woman beneath him, deeper than Vegita-sei’s deepest sea.

“Please…” She was gasping. “Vegita—”

“Do you want me?” He whispered against her lips.

“Yes…Yes!”

He drew in a long steady breath of air, laden with her scent,
still sinking in and out of her. “You are free, Bulma…Romayn is yours to keep.
This world is yours, your home.” He stopped moving, raising up, his hardness
withdrawn to her threshold, drenched in sweat with the effort of holding back,
of banking the fire that was threatening to burn him alive. “I swore to return
to you all that I took. Home and child and freedom are yours, as much as a
mortal man can replace such things—everything except your mate. I will give
you that if you will have me, Bulma.” He kissed her again, still trying to
fathom her heart through the windows of her eyes. “Will you have me?”

Her face was quiet, though her heart was hammering against his.
“Do you love me?”

He opened his mouth to speak, but his jaw clenched around the
words instinctively. “Bulma—”

“Do you love me?” She repeated implacably, her brilliant azure
gaze hardening. “The man I loved at Bardock’s house, the man you should have
been, told me he loved me. I see him inside you. More than I ever imagined
possible. He’s not gone…he’s a part of you. I see him in everything you’ve done
since we returned, but you have to bring him out a little more. You have to say
it!”

But he could not. The words would not have left his lips if his
life hung upon the utterance. “I—I—” He growled in frustration. “Bulma…”
There was another way. He drew her up with him, astride his lap as he rose to
kneel on the bed…and sank his teeth deep into the base of her neck, pushing all
that he felt gently into the doorway of her heart through the tenuous,
half-wrought mental bond he had just initiated. She felt the brush of his mind
against hers, recognized it for what it was, and all that he was offering, the
entirety of his self. She opened like a morning flower at daybreak, and let him
in. And all that she felt for him poured back through the link, the whole
measure of her heart, even as he gave her all that he was.

She flowed into him, black boiling hatred entwined with
selfless, soul-deep love, pain and degradation and horror hand in hand with a
sighing girl-child’s heart that leapt for joy at the mere sight of his face, at
the thought of his touch. It was all inextricably intermingled, heart-breaking
love and lightless, remorseless hatred. And he had earned every ounce of both.
He began sobbing softly as she swept through him, as he saw the world repainted
through her eyes, the monster he had been, the man he was now.
Everything…except…There was one place he could not reach, standing in her mind
like a locked and bolted door, encircled in a gray, horrible cloud of guilt and
shame and regret. Perhaps it was the one piece of herself she would always keep
separate.

Ages of shame, an eternity of sorrow and regret, would not
erase the deeds he had done. But the miracle that shook him apart with soaring
joy was that she loved him at all. That her love was in equal portion to the
hate he so richly deserved. That the depth and breadth of her heart could reach
across the chasm he had dug between them, across the hate for the man—the
spoiled, fool boy—he had been, who she thought of as an enemy, dead and
unmourned.

“Say it, Vegita,” she said again, her voice breaking under the
weight of all he felt for her, that she was the measure and definition of love
to him, his instructor in all its unwritten laws, his first realization that the
word was not a feeling, but the deeds of a lifetime.

“I love you!” He choked, nearly weeping like a child again as
the joy inside her surged into him, over-flowing the well of her soul.

 

I love you, Vegita…you are the Vegita I loved! You are!

 

He cried out as she enveloped him completely, as she sank down
over him, taking him deep inside, her mouth against his, her blue eyes full of
tears. He rose into the air above the bed, moving with her in a steady slow
rhythm, as a ripple of her delight at being airborne flowed into him. Faster and
harder, he let her set the pace in slow increments. His thrusts deepened as she
urged him on without words, tangled in the strands of her thoughts, spiraling
upward with her to an unscalable summit, higher and higher, on a wave of love
and hate and desire and need that seemed to sweep away his mind as the crest
broke inside them at the same instant, leaving him as forgetful of past and duty
and debts owed as the man who had held her in that flower-strewn field.

The words left his lips without hesitation this time, as they
clung together, drifting back down on the bed to lie side by side, wrapped
around each other in a damp tangle. “I loved you, Bulma,” he breathed raggedly.
“Oh gods, I love you…”

“I can feel you,” she whispered, her voice trembling. “…still
inside me…everywhere.”

“We went so deep because of the moon,” he said softly, his own
voice unsteady. “It will be dangerous soon, for us to share the same bed…”

She kissed him, soft and lingering. “But not yet.”

“Not yet,” he agreed. “Sleep now…tomorrow will be a better
day.”

 

 

 

Bardock’s sharp eyes noticed Bulma’s high-necked collar the
next morning, but no one else seemed to take any note of it. It occurred to him
too late, as they bathed and dressed, that he had been a moon mad fool to put
his mark on her visibly. Taking an alien to mate was taboo, even for a common
soldier. For a crown prince—it was a death sentence for her if they were
discovered, at least until he sat uncontested on the throne. But she would be
working at Med Center, with Bardock hovering near at all times, until Moontime
was past. Cloistering the few alien women still left on Vegita-sei after the
mass rotation of all slave labor off world under Mousrom’s ‘reign’, keeping them
safe from a world full of Saiyan males in rut. Securing the youngest Saiyan
brats below as well, none of whom would survive the festival. Administering the
time release cerebral neuro-trank injections to every single Saiyan past
adolescence on the planet, to prevent accidental moonbonding. It was a very real
danger, even two to three weeks before Moontime.

“Do you wish to…stay home today?” He watched her face closely,
watched her think it over.

“No,” she said after a moment. “I need to keep busy. It’s the
best kind of therapy for me. And they’ll need me with the moon coming and—and
Scopa gone…” A silent tear slid down her face and she wiped it away angrily.
“Are we…are we moonbonded? I can still feel you…” A wan little smile. “I can
feel how worried you are right now.”

“No…” He said. “We went deeper than we should have, as I said,
because of the moon. It is more than a simple marriage bond, but the intensity
of the empathic link will fade as the day goes on. You understand how important
it is that no one knows what is between us?”

“Yes,” she said softy.

Still frowning worriedly, he watched her touch her shoulder
wound lightly.

He bent to kiss the tender spot. “You must heal my mark as a
first priority today. It is only an outward symbol, and dangerous for you.”

Half an hour later, his hands clenched, nails cutting into the
meat of his palms, he pushed open the door of his father’s sitting room. He
bowed low and formally, sinking into a chair without a word of greeting.

“They tell me,” his father began casually. “That it was
Bardock’s son who blew up the questioning unit and half the south wing of the
Palace with it. Is this true?”

“It is,” Vegita said shortly. “He is uncommonly strong.” He
clamped his hands on arms of his chair, thinking of that long dead nameless
child, the son of Paragas. If his father suggested a similar remedy to the
threat he might see in Romayn, Vegita would…he would try very hard to control
himself. And perhaps fail.

But Ottousama only nodded mildly. “The scouters mounted in that
section registered nearly five thousand. There is a wild, powerful strain in the
brat’s Turrasht ancestry. There’s royal blood in the mountain folk of that
region. They have been known to show bursts of amazing strength from time to
time in moments duress, but it is always short lived. What are your plans for
the boy?”

“I am training him. I will keep him close and set him to guard
the cradle of my heir. As Nappa guarded me.”

Ottousama made a noise of approval. “And having been coddled
and fairly drowned in affection by that woman of yours during his formative
years will give him an unnaturally strong sense of devotion. A wise choice.” His
father did not fail to notice the black wave of fury radiating from Vegita at
the mention of Bulma. “You did not read the arrest report I sent you.”

“I had other more pressing matters,” Vegita snarled softly.

His father smiled slowly, baring all his teeth. “I suppose the
capture of the Red Prince would take precedence.” He chuckled, a rich sound of
genuine pleasure. Vegita eyed him closely, and saw the dark, hollow circles of
care and exhaustion around his father’s eyes were slightly faded. It suddenly
occurred to him that Ottousama must have had his first full night’s sleep since
the war began. The deep lines in his face, the hints of ray flecked through the
auburn-tinted black of his hair were still there though. Vegita saw again the
image of Ottousama’s face, bloodless and still, saw his father’s life’s blood
staining his hands—

“Hold onto the anger, boy,” the soft growl of his father’s
voice broke through those black thoughts. “It will make it easier when the time
comes.”

But it had slipped away, at least for the moment. “I will find
it again when the time comes, my father,” Vegita replied without any outward
exchange in the hard set of his features. “But until then…I will enjoy your
company.”

“A hundred years is a goodly amount of time to have ruled,” the
King of Vegita-sei murmured. “I wish to see the moon shine red upon our world
once more. I wish to celebrate my reign, and honor my son, who has shielded
Vegita-sei from attack with his left hand and torn out the enemy’s heart and
brains with his right. And then…then, I wish to rest, my son.”

“It will be as you wish, father,” Vegita said softly.

 

 

 

They burned Scopa’s body that evening atop Med Center as though
he were a Saiyan son of Vegita-sei slain in honorable combat. Bulma stood
dry-eyed, shaking with grief, as she lifted the torch to the wood. The number of
medics, slave and freedmen, who attended was not surprising. The shock lay in
how many Saiyan warriors hung above the funeral in silent respect for the hand
that had pulled so many of them back from death’s door. Articha and Turna stood
by, newly returned from delivering the shields to the colonies. Both raised wood
to the pyre, as did Bardock and his squad—a thing unheard of. Though if that
sent a ripple of surprise through the ranks of the assembled warriors, it was
nothing compared to the gasps of astonishment that greeted Vegita when he lay
his own shorn branch upon the blaze.

“It is just,” he said in a loud voice, glaring up at the
warriors hovering above them in the air, “that a Prince honor his good and
faithful servants. Whosoever they be!”

“A good speech,” his father told him later. “And a clever one.
Word of it will spread throughout the Empire and serve to mollify the more
valuable worlds—worlds we cannot afford at this juncture to purge—that are
reluctant to climb down off the fence they’ve been sitting on for the last two
years.”

“It was not a political gesture,” Vegita growled coldly. “A man
who saved the life of the Prince of Vegita-sei more than once deserved better
from us than to die in torment as a means to an end!”

“That is a lesson you will not learn until you sit on the
throne, boy,” Ottousama said grimly. “A king will sacrifice his servants—any
one of his servants, from the highest to the most humble—for the good of the
Empire.”

And to that, Vegita had no answer. Because he knew with chill
clarity that he would never have broken the geas without the rage and terror of
seeing his woman in Mousrom’s hands. Nothing less would have sufficed.

In the weeks that followed, all of Vegita-sei prepared for the
coming of the moon. And Vegita…he reveled in a kind of content and joy at simply
being alive he would never have imagined possible. By day, he trained and
labored upon the portable rad shields for the fleet. In the evening…gods, had he
ever imagined he knew any state of true happiness before this? She was his…all
his. Mind and body and heart, twined around and within the fabric of his soul.
And he was hers.

They had four weeks of perfection.

Four weeks, as the sky grew a deeper shade a crimson with each
passing day, as tempers began to fray, as duels and brawls began to spring up
everywhere like small tremors heralding a volcano’s eruption, as Jeiyce lay in
stasis inside the royal dungeons awaiting his death, guarded as no prisoner of
Vegita-sei had even been. Four weeks in which Bulma built and refitted a half
dozen troop carriers with her army of servo-bots, equipping the ships to haul
twice the number of soldiers. Articha had petitioned the King formally in
council for a royal requisition for the raw materials.

“Many of the younger females warriors—those no longer small
children, but not yet of age—do not survive their first moon because their
body’s have not yet matured to desire and they are not yet strong enough to
defend themselves against a world full of rutting males,” the older woman’s
voice was bleak as the dead of winter, her eyes hard and haunted. “In decades
past, I have nodded at this, thinking it just that only the strongest survive,
remembering that I was only twelve my second moon and defended myself well
enough. But I was uncommonly strong. Our numbers have been decimated by the war,
Ou-sama, and we can ill afford to loose the girl children who will be lost
during Moontime. Saiyan women are scarce at the best of time. The Chikyuu girl’s
ships can carry the full tally of girls between six and fourteen who are
stationed on Vegita-sei.”

The process of sequestering some twenty thousand Saiyan brats
between the ages of infancy and five, would have been insurmountable had the on
world population of youngsters been larger. But only a small percentage of
Saiyan children were deemed strong enough to grow to maturity on the homeworld,
and there were no brats in the incu-pods at present. The King had put a ban on
all breeding a year ago for the duration of the war because incu-ward took up so
many resources. As the entire ward was empty, it was a simple matter of sedating
the bulk of the children and storing them in the incu-pods. But this only
accommodated three quarters of the children, and even sedation and a shield of
lunar reflectors would not put some of them out completely. As Scopa had said,
Med Center would soon be a madhouse of hyper active brats.

At thirty days til Moontime, the process was nearly complete
though the moon was still more than a month away. The brats were the first to
loose their minds in the days preceding full moon, so it was necessary to knock
them senseless earlier.

Four more weeks until Moontime…

He stood at the east window, watching the sun boil up into the
reddish sky. Fall was here by the count of the calendar, but gods, it was hot…He
listened to the sounds of morning, hearing Bulma stirring back in their rooms,
the whir of the servo-bots preparing breakfast, hearing Romayn tearing through
the garden and the yips of the dogs.

Perhaps it was the unusually strong link with his woman that
anchored him to her cooler blood, or perhaps it was the heady joy he had been
emmersed in since taking her to wife, since she had accepted with a glad heart
all he wished to give, but at thirty scant days until moonrise, Vegita felt no
ill effects. No shortness of temper, no increasing, irrational desire to change,
to tear and crush in the sweet mindless joy of the Oozaru form. No insatiable,
violent need to have his woman in an animal madness—

It was time to send her away, he thought grimly. Before, not
after, he began to show symptoms of moon madness. A high yip of pain, followed
by a terrified wail cut through his thoughts. He found Romayn sitting beside the
whimpering figure of Yaro, sobbing in horror, one small fist crammed into his
mouth. Baka was hiding under the trailing vine flowers nearby, whining in
fear.

Vegita knelt and examined the prone beast. Its ribs and sternum
were cracked. He touched a nerve at the base of the animal’s skull and it
stilled, unconscious. Romayn moaned faintly.

“You were playing tag with them?” Vegita asked quietly, though
he knew already what must have happened.

The boy nodded. “I caught him and I—I hugged too hard…”
Romayn was shuddering with hiccuping sobs. “I’m a bad boy! I h-h-hurt him!”

“Yes,” Vegita said solemnly. “Do you see the sky, boy? How red
it grows? More so each day.”

“The moon?” Romayn sniffled.

“As it draws closer, we begin to go mad. We grow more violent,
it becomes difficult to think, we become increasingly unable to control our
basest impulses. Or to control our strength. That is why you hurt Yaro. The moon
effects us more when we are very young.”

“Edeeta…” The boy said with soft, dawning horror. “What if I
hug Momma too hard?”

“That will not happen,” Vegita told him. “Today you will go
with her to Med Center and she will fix Yaro. Then she will give you an
injection that will make you sleep for a month…until the moon had passed. When
you wake, it will be all over.” He glance up at the sudden sense of Bulma’s
presence in the garden doorway. She was watching them silently, her face as pale
as bone. “And Bulma will stay with you, cloistered in the incu-ward…so that I do
not hurt her.”

 

 

 

She left him with a kiss and sweet words and departed, child
and animals in tow. But she returned that afternoon, her beautiful face flushed,
her eyes shining with fear and worry and joy.

“What is it?” He could not work out what the mismatched
emotions playing across her features might mean.

“I’m pregnant,” she said softly.

He simply stared at her, the words refusing to register in his
mind, even as his mind played back through the delirious happiness of the night
he had made her his mate, how he had held nothing in reserve as he made love to
her…

Slowly, he knelt before her and lay his head against her flat
stomach, searching inward. Oh gods…it was there. Strong and vibrant and growing
and…

He closed his eyes tightly, thinking furiously, trying
desperately to turn away from the truth he already knew, trying in vain to see a
way around it.

But there was no way.

“What do you do,” he had asked Scopa one evening during his
months of forgetfulness in Bardock’s house. “When it is a choice between saving
the mother and saving the child?”

“I save the mother,” Scopa’s solemn ghost voice replied.
“Always.”

“I cannot let it be, Bulma.” He said the words with more force
than he intended.

She stared down at him for the longest time, her face almost
confused, slowly blanching of all color. Then she sagged, sinking down to her
knees beside him, limp as a doll in his arms. He held her tightly, waiting for
some sort of reaction, tears of curses, but nothing came. A cold fist of ice
locked around his heart as he drew back, staring into her slack face…Oh god…he
knew that look, that unplugged, blank expression of ‘not here’.

“Bulma!” He shook her, terror growing with each second she
failed to react. “Bulma! BULMA!”

She shivered and focused on his face at the sound of his
scream, and he wanted to sob like a child Romayn’s age with relief. Slowly,
gently, she disengaged herself from his arms and stood, straight and proud as
the queen she would never be. When she raised her eyes to his again, they were
clear and cold, her face a cool emotionless mask.

“It cannot be, Bulma,” he repeated slowly, staring her down. “I
am not yet King. The Empire is not yet out of danger. Even if these things had
come to pass…Bulma, it would rend the Empire in half. You know this. There would
be civil war, perhaps even open rebellion if my people decided I had lost my
wits to have sired a half blood as my heir. And more than that…you would not
live to bear the boy. Every warrior of my race will turn his hand against you
when it is known what you carry. It is likely even Bardock’s folk, and certainly
Articha and Turna, would turn against us. I will not see you die!” He stood, his
face hard and resolute, ready to battle her to the wall with the logic of his
words, ready to command her as he had not in…in a very long time.

But she nodded her head in understanding, still cold and aloof,
the threads of the invisible bond silent and motionless, telling him
nothing—only that she was holding her heart separate from his be sheer force
of will.

“I understand,” she whispered. “I’ll take care of it tonight.”
She turned on her heel and left, speaking softly as she walked away, not
pausing. “Enjoy the festival, Ouji-sama,” she said distantly. She left him
kneeling, too stunned to speak or follow after her. She didn’t look back as she
went.

 

 

The days that followed were a red-rimming blur. He knew he must
have added the finishing touches to securing a secondary shield around the
shield generator itself, but he had no clear memory of any details. The villa
was too quiet, silent as a tomb by night.

Bulma locked Med Center down two days later, buttressed and
sealed in strictest quarantine now, shut away from the moon, even the air above
which would carry the maddening scents of blood, battle and sex soon. From his
woman came nothing but ominous silence, though he needed no medic underling on
the vidlink telling him that Doctor Briefs was occupied at the moment to know
that he had been…shut out. He could not feel her, any part of her, except a
sense, an almost tangible mental image of a locked and bolted door that vented a
cold gust of ice whenever his spirit drew near.

She was well guarded, at least. He had commanded Bardock, his
squad, and as an afterthought, Rikkuum, to go into cloister with her, keeping
order among the older brats too old for the incu-pods—and keeping her safe
from any mishaps that might occur in the presence of so many over-excited Saiyan
children.

The hurt, the numb, hollow helpless incomprehension of how
quickly it had all gone to hell between them, lay down with him each night and
worried at his every thought by day. Not that he was thinking too clearly as the
last days before moonrise crept by. But he could not have let her keep the boy!
He could not! To do so would be to destroy all they had fought to save, and
condemn her and the boy to a violent death at the hands of his own people,
sooner of later.

As the days drew out into weeks without a word from her, as the
season of the moon drew closer, shredding the edges of his sanity, turning pain
and loss to anger, a sweet, burning anticipation of the festival began to take
hold of the foreground of his thoughts.

Eight days before moonrise, his father called him to a private
audience that went…badly. Vegita sat before the older man, his eyes
red-rimmed, hard with the effort it took to simply concentrate. The King seemed
calmer, his eyes still coal black, his hands still steady. The moon always took
the old in its teeth less violently.

“The Chikyuu woman,” Ottousama ground out.

“Now is not the time for this conversation, Ottousama,” Vegita
cut him off in a low, tense voice, the image of Bulma’s bloody, nailess little
fingers leaping to his mind’s eye, forcing him to clench his hands together…so
that he would not wrap them around his father’s throat.

“Do you know what they call her throughout the Capital, boy?”
Ottousama went on as though he had not heard, as though he did not sense
Vegita’s rising anger. “The ‘Saiyan no Ojo! You are the hero of the day today,
but public opinion is a fickle mistress. At the moment, they look upon your
devotion to the girl with indulgent amusement. But it will soon become readily
apparent that she is more than an eccentric passion, and that you have no plans
to set her aside. Ever.” Vegita stared at him stonily, not contradicting this
truth. His father uttered an irritable growl. “Your people have not forgotten
that your sanity was in question, that your rank and title were stripped from
you only a few short weeks ago. What will you do when they begin to whisper that
the ‘Saiyan no Ojo’ is the true heir to my throne? That she controls your weak,
broken mind and rules through you as—”

“What do you want, old man?!” Vegita snarled, standing up,
leaning forward into his father’s face, red eyes blazing murderously into the
old man’s black gaze.

“See to her, boy,” Ottousama said softly. “Now. Tonight. Quick
and painless while she sleeps.”

The silence stretched out between them, cold and deadly.

“Not tonight, my father,” Vegita finally whispered. “Not
ever.”

“You never read the arrest report I sent you,” the King
snapped. “Distance yourself from the fact that the girl is your most treasured
possession and think like a king! Your former chef was a top Red Network
operative. Your kitchen wenches were high level informants, passing information
to Zarbon, and through him, to Jeiyce. The Rashai-jin passed stolen council
notes and records, war plans and fleet movements to the Red Prince even after he
began to travel about the Empire as part of the morale corp. Through the kitchen
slaves? Perhaps…but in the year before you left to go to war, who had better
access to your personal effects? Who had the best reason to hate you and every
Saiyan alive, of all the slaves in your household? I do not believe she was a
servant of the rebels very long. I think the attack on Arbatsu soured her toward
the rebels, and the gift you made to her of Bardock’s son sealed her loyalty to
you for all time. And now,” his father snorted. “She is every pit as besotted
with you as you with her. But she was inside their ranks at one point, and she
knew Zarbon for what he was. Who could have warned Zarbon, and thus Jeiyce, of
the purge of Shikaji? Not the maid servants. Who did you tell before you left,
Saiyan no Ouji? Who, outside the royal council, knew?!”

Vegita shook his head. “No…no! You are discounting too much!
Surveillance and—and the Madrani pilots and tech who flew the troop carriers,
and…” He did not wish to, could not, have this argument now! He could barely
think coherently, let alone list the dozens of possible leaks surrounding the
assault on Shikaji that did not point to his woman. “Later…” He managed to say.
“We will speak of this after…”

“Later then,” Ottousama growled into the tension-riddled
silence. “When you are thinking more clearly.

 

 

 

 

 

On the eve of moonrise, he sat in his chair by the west window,
gazing out at the bloody sunset, growling softly like an animal in the early
stages of rabidity. Thinking of her face…cold and beautiful as she stood there
hating him for choosing her safety, her life, over their son’s.

 

And she was there, lovely and serene, an ocean of bottomless
sadness sunk inside the blue of her eyes. She took his shaking hand silently,
laying it aside her face. Her mind and heart were still a barred, opaque vault
shut against him, but her eyes were…serene, without doubt or reserve, as she
pressed her lips against his.

“Woman…” He growled softly, through clenched, too-sharp teeth.
“You must go…please…” But his hands were already reaching for her. She melted
against his body, a perfect fit, soft to his hardness.

“I had too see you!” She breathed against his mouth. “I had
to—to hold you again…Oh Kami help me, I love you! I can’t stop loving
you!”

He didn’t answer. He lifted her off her feet in both arms and
carried her back into the bedroom.

 

 

 

 

He watched her until she was out of sight, the haunting strains
of her sweet durge still ringing in his ears. His heart was caught in his
throat, his stomach snarled in a twisted knot. Fool! Why had he not
turned her away last night?! Why?! To have taken her to his bed on the very eve
of moonrise was beyond unforgivable!

But it would be well again. I love you, she had said.
Kami help me, I can’t stop loving you! It would take time for things to
be right between them again, but…I love you, Vegita…She was his and would
remain so, her anger forgotten if not her grief. He had not lost her or her
heart. He wanted to shriek at the sky with joy, even through the horror of what
he had done to her.

Today he would begin the festival with the execution of the Red
Prince at sunset. And with that first victorious bloodletting, the season of the
moon would begin. A glad day, he thought, closing his eyes, his chest
vibrating as he purred softly—and he saw again the nightmare image of the
wounds and claw marks he had put on Bulma’s body—

Damndamndamn! Why had she come last night?!

But there was no reason to reign in grief or regret or—or
anything today, was there? Not today. Tonight the moon would come and he would
rage and roar to the blood-red heavens and it would be good!

He flew over the Capital, eyes brushing across the overflowing
spaceport on the rim of the coast. Some of the newest arrivals had been crammed
onto the same landing pads. All the children of Vegita-sei who could find the
means to come home had returned for his father’s Centennial and the coming of
the moon. The city was still. Ominously so. All guard duty and barracks drills,
all work and formality of any kind was set aside for the next three nights, with
the one exception of those warriors he had hand picked to guard the shield
generator. Everyone would lie inside in a fitful sleep all this day, fighting
the growing urge to change until the celebration commenced. He wheeled in the
air, swooping lower back toward the Palace. The streets of the city were
littered with the bodies of wounded who had taken the worst of some fight or
brawl during the night. They lay in their own blood, untended, nursing their
injuries as best they could. Med Center was a shielded fortress now, and no help
or aid would come from the healers inside until the moon had passed. He had
never once in his life thought to question this, he mused darkly, but…so much
Saiyan blood had been spilled in the last three years. And now they would
celebrate victory by killing each other. He shook his head with a soft snarl,
trying to clear it, wiping the sweat from his face. The heat was rising
steadily, burning inside his skin, even with the warm wind whipped in his face
as he flew.

He knew it was foolish to be out of doors before nightfall, but
there was something he must do. There were questions he must ask his enemy, and
tonight would be too late.

The route he took through the palace passages, down into the
lowest level of the royal dungeons, was a dim blur, but with each floor he
descended, he felt his mind clear a bit more. The guards before the energy
stasis field were cool and lucid, their eyes black and unclouded by moon
madness, though they seemed to be as drenched in their own sweat as Vegita. It
was only marginally cooler here, even this far below ground.

“Feeling a bit out of sorts today, laddie?” Jeiyce asked him
cordially. The bastard was lounging inside his cell, only a few hours from a
gruesome, violent execution, and he showed no concern, no expression other than
his habitual easy grin.

“It is nearly midday, Prince of Maiyosh,” Vegita said grimly.
“In seven hours, I will tear your heart from your chest and eat it. Then I will
toss your carcass to my nobles and they will devour what remains.”

“Decent of you to kill me first,” Jeiyce murmured.

“There are two things I wish to know. If you tell me true, I
swear to you as Saiyan no Ouji, who will very soon be king, and upon my honor as
a warrior of Vegita-sei, that I will spare the lives of all the non-combatants
and children of your race when they are found. They may live planetbound and
unmolested on the worlds you have hidden them on, so long as they never raise a
fist against the Empire again. You will die, your war will be lost, but your
people will live on.”

Jeiyce was no longer smiling, but eyeing him with a sharp wary
frown. He knew enough of Saiyan law and custom to know how binding such an oath
would be on Vegita’s part. “Just for the sake of argument,” he said quietly.
“What two things would you like to know?”

“Where is Dodoria?”

“Oh,” Jeiyce grinned. “I guess you would want to tear his heart
out too. Fair enough. But I haven’t a clue. He was on Tsiru-sei, but he left in
a hurry just after you arrived. He had an appointment to deliver quite a number
of packages to our mutual friend Zarbon.” The Maiyosh-jin’s grin widened. “Not
to worry though. I don’t know precisely where Dodoria is at the moment, but I do
know he has plans to call on you very soon.”

“Here on Vegita-sei?” Vegita said with a grim smile. “He must
be very anxious to die.”

“Next question?” Jeiyce asked amiably.

“Who is the mastertech? The man who built the miniaturization
capsules, the invisibility shields and the Ki-killers?”

“Again, no idea,” Jeiyce leaned forward, peering into Vegita’s
damp face, smiling slightly. “Zarbon was my go-between. The stubborn bastard
would never give up the engineer’s name or location to us, even after the
squeamish little gearhead backed out and stopped making new weapons. The
Mastertech could be anyone. Could have been Zarbon’s little Madrani boyfriend
for all I know. How’s that fever of your, Prince Vegita? Still rising?”

“What the hell are you talking about?!” Vegita snapped. The man
knew more than this. He must! He was lying through his—

“Dodoria left Tsiru-sei with a shipment of packages for Zarbon
and his cell of spies,” Jeiyce said softly. “They all have specialized long
duration camo-shields that allow them to move around for weeks at a time unseen
and masks their Ki as well. Three weeks ago, Saiyan no Ouji, Zarbon of
Rashia-sei brought a gift to Vegita-sei and all her children. The Tsiru-jin
Plague.”

“What…Vegita hissed. He was shivering in the cloying heat,
trying to absorb the man’s words.

Soft laughter, the stuff of nightmares, rippled out of the
stasis shield. “It’s part of the reason we set up shop on Tsiru-sei in the first
place. We re-engineered the bug that killed al the Tsiru-jin, boyo. Redesigned
it especially for the Saiyan race. While I’ve taken a well deserved vacation
these last few weeks, Dodoria and Zarbon have been busy as hive insects, making
sure every planet in known space infested with your kind had been thoroughly
hosed down with the virus at the same time. It’s a nasty one, too, Vegita.
Hemmoragic. It’s been incubating inside your entire race for twenty days now. We
timed the release of the bug bombs so we’d have a special present to give your
father on the day of his Centennial. And because of the moon’s arrival, no one
on Vegita-sei would think twice when they began to show symptoms. Clever,
huh?”

“You lie!” Vegita slammed both hands against the stasis force
field with a roar of rage. It was a lie! A foolish, desperate, dead man’s
fantasy.

“Your people started dying last night and no one noticed,”
Jeiyce crooned. “Anyone who saw bodies lying around in public just took them for
early casualties of Moontime. If you disbelieve me, laddie, go back up and look
around. Do it quickly though. The plague hits like a Ki burst—all at once. By
the time the fever sweats start, you’ve only got an hour or so left. Go up,
Prince of Vegita-sei. You are the strongest of your race.” Jeiyce laughed
merrily. “You’ll probably last long enough to see your whole world die before
you.”

He shook like a leaf with the effort it took not to kill the
man before him. But some deep instinct, the horror-ridden eye of his own
imagination that could visualize his world burned, his people hunted and
butchered like vermin, his woman and all those he valued slain, told Vegita that
death would be a mercy to this man. It was what Jeiyce wanted. He wheeled and
hurled himself into the lift to the surface, twisting his mind away from the
flushed, feverish faces if Jeiyce’s guards.

It was a lie! A lie, a lie!

He hit the landing as the lift slowed to a halt and sped
through the palace, not thinking, not questioning where his feet were taking him
until he reached his destination, not looking to either side to note the hot,
crypt-like silence, the empty, still halls until he stumbled over the stiff,
gore-splattered corpses of the Elite Royal Guards who had stood outside the
King’s private wing of rooms. No one would notice the blood today, or even think
to wonder why the King had not yet risen, well past noon…

Nonono!

He tore the doors of their hinges, scanning with bleary senses
for the presence he knew as well as his own Ki signature. He stood on the
threshold of his father’s bedchamber, trembling like the tiny boy who had stood
in these rooms years ago, awaiting punishment for some tantrum or misbehavior.
He pushed through the swinging door to the bedroom, cursing himself for a
shivering coward…

“Ottousama,” Vegita said in a remarkably steady voice. He sat
down in the chair of the bedside study, a testament to the axiom that a King and
sleep were never well aquatinted. A surreal wave of horror washed over him, a
shaking denial of what his eyes were seeing…and all that it meant.

The King of Vegita-sei had never made it out of his bed.
He—he must have begun to bleed out in his sleep and awakened too weak to move
or call out.

“Boy?” The dead man whispered, a hellish, cracked echo of his
deep, harsh rumble.

“I am here, Father,” Vegita whispered.

“Poison…” Ottousama murmured. “…bad death for a
warrior…sneaky Maiyosh-jin…finally got me.”

Vegita said nothing. Gods of small mercies, let him die
believing that! Without knowing that—that all his race were—were—

“I’ve lived long…” Vegita-ou choked and spat black, thick
blood, heart’s blood “Sooner have died fighting…man cannot have everyth…”
One red-stained hand gripped Vegita’s, his entire, thick-muscled frame
convulsing with effort as he fought for his last, blood-choked breaths.
“You…made me proud, boy! So very prou…”

No trump sounded. The heavens did not fall. No cry or herald
hailed the passing of Vegita, Saiyan no Ou, Emperor by his own strong, bloody
hand of all the galaxy. He simply died.

Vegita heard himself make some sort of soft snarling moan. The
room was spinning in a scarlet whirl of horror. It could not be so! Not all of
Vegita-sei…not everyone! He launched himself through the roof with a shriek of
denial, whipping low through the city, looking down with new eyes, seeing the
bodies strewn through the streets, curled into poses of wrenching agony in their
rigor. The blood…the blood looked like nothing more than some weakling who’d
been fool enough to get himself beaten to death. He was not aware of just when
it really struck him, the full weight and inescapable, horrific scale of it all.
He did not know when he began to wail like a grief-maddened shade, for his
father, for his people, for his world, tearing in aimless, burning circles in a
wide, flaming wheel above the Capital, giving way to the change in a screaming,
sobbing fury that grew to a monstrous roar. And because of this, he did not see
the beam of light that cut him down.

He was lying on his back, unbound, on a soft bed of grass.
There was a biting, burning pain, lancing up his spine from the raw wound where
his tail had been. His tail…

A hand slapped his face hard, and he shuddered, his guts
twisting like a knot of writhing vipers, and he spat a burbling mouthful of
clotted blood. The sun had moved round, dipping low in the west, since he had
fallen. Or had someone struck him down? Memory rolled back over him and he
sobbed weakly, trying to rise. A booted heel pushed him back down. He sank back,
gasping. His blood was on fire, boiling inside his veins like lava pumping
through a fissure in the earth, blistering his heart with each beat. He slowly
focused on the face hovering over him.

“Jeiy—je—”

“Don’t die yet, Vegita,” Jeiyce grinned down at him.

“He’s not even close to snuffing it,” said another familiar
voice. Zarbon. “Take care, my Lord. He looks bad off, but most of it’s from the
cannon and having the shit kicked out of him after we shot off his tail. He’s
still strong.”

He was lying in the center of a growing legion of alien
warriors and slaves, men and women of every description, every race. The gentle
slope of the grass hilltop was one he knew well, a green range of ridges on the
south edge of he Capital that looked across a forest valley gorge on the white
gleaming walls of Med Center.

Bulma…

“He’s already begun to bleed out, Zarbon,” Jeiyce disagreed.
“He won’t be getting up again. Ever. His strength is a curse in this. He’ll take
a long time to die.”

“We can’t penetrate the shield with the cannons or Ki blasts,
my Prince,” a man shouted. “And if we send men closer than half a click the
reactive field fries them!”

“Bitch,” Jeiyce swore softly. “Get her on the vidcom.”

“Bul…” Vegita moaned in a cracked whisper.

“She’s just fine,” Zarbon told him. “At the moment, she’s being
an obstinate pain in the ass!”

How long…how long since she had locked Med Center down…Oh
gods, yes! Zarbon and his legions of invisible assassins had released the virus
twenty days ago, but Med Center had been sealed off in quarantine for
twenty-eight days! With nearly thirty thousand Saiyan children slumbering below,
isolated and uninfected! Thirty thousand!

“It’s not over until we break the seals and take care of every
little monkey inside!” Someone shouted harshly. “They’ll come back to haunt our
grandchildren if we let them be, my Prince!”

“No one’s walking away from an incomplete purge,” Jeiyce said
firmly. “If that spineless Namek hadn’t ratted us out—”

“She’s on the vid!” The tech’s voice said.

“Knock-knock, lovey,” Jeiyce said with soft menace. “Let us in
or we’ll blow this planet out from under you.”

“We don’t want to hurt you or your staff, Bulma,” Zarbon said
anxiously. “We just—”

“Want to come in and kill all the children,” Bulma’s voice was
like a razor hewn from ice. “Fuck you both! Bang away at the shield until you
all drop dead of old age. You don’t have any weapons that can stand up to mine.
The two of you should know that better than anyone.”

“Bulma—” Zarbon’s voice sounded strained, like a man being
slowly ripped in half by divided loyalties.

“Don’t Bulma me, you goddam baby killer!” she hissed. “Scopa’s
in Heaven right now cursing you for what you’ve done!”

“Scopa’s in Heaven because of those vicious, murdering monsters
whose brats your protecting!” Zarbon spat. “He was the best man, the kindest,
most good soul either of us have even known and they repaid him for all his good
deeds by tearing him to pieces! They—they—” The blue-skinned man stepped
back from the vidcom and turned away, choking with hate and grief.

“Fine,” Jeiyce said, with no outward sign of regret. “But we
will have them, Lady. By hook or by crook.” He shut the transmission off with a
snap and glanced down at the tech at the small communication’s field console.
“Any word from our man on the inside? Is he even still alive?”

The tech grinned, pressing an old style, binary communications
headphone to one ear. “He’s not been able to take care of the kiddies, for some
reason…” The mad paused, listening. “He’s at the shield server right now….He
says five minutes!”

 

Bulma…

 

Vegita squeezed his eyes shut against the increasing sense
of…of fullness behind his eyes, a growing pressure that seemed to be feeding
from the fever that was slowly ripping his body apart from the inside. He pushed
the heat-soaked edge of his consciousness out, through the cords of the too-deep
tie, the link that was something less than a moonbond, but far, far deeper it
should have been.

 

Bulma!!!

Ve—Vegita? Faint and hesitant, but she was there.

 

The shield around Med Center! The server! Jeiyce had a man
inside Med Center, Bulma! He is seconds away from sabotaging the shield!

Oh Kami…it’s Hiru! The sense of her voice, strident and
terrified. Bardock! Toma! Rikkuum! Vegita says Hiru’s at the shield server!
He—he’s going to—!

 

A deafening shockwave blasted over the little army on the
hillock as their ranged pulse cannons fired point blank on Med Center in
unison.

“The shield is…” The tech checked his scanner. “He’s done it!
Hiru’s fed it some kind of virus! It’s weakening!”

 

No! Bulma’s voice in his head. No…

 

“Blast ’em again, lads!” Jeiyce cried.

“Bulma…” Vegita croaked to the blue-skinned man standing
above him. “Your friend?”

“Yes,” Zarbon seemed to see Vegita for the first time, as the
words jostled him out of his own dark tortured thoughts. “She was my friend.
She’s brave, good woman, and you made her a slave and a whore. She deserved a
lot better than you, you bastard.”

“…could say the same of…Scopa…He would have been…proud
of you…killing children.”

A boot slammed into his gut with bone-breaking force. “Don’t
you speak his name, you piece of shit! Don’t you dare!”

Another thunderous boom, as the cannons fired again. “Don’t
kill him yet, Zarbon!” Jeiyce cried. “Not until he sees Med Center fall. Not
until he and I are even!”

 

How bad is it, girl? Bardock’s voice was saying.

I can stabilize it! But I need a few minutes…oh gods, just
a couple more—

 

“Even…” Vegita locked one shaking fist around the
Rashia-jin’s ankle. “Bulma…and Romayn…Jeiyce means to kill them…payment
for…deaths of his woman and son!”

The man’s golden eyes flickered with doubt. “Bulma won’t be
harmed. And Rom-kun…” He stumbled over the boy’s name. “I—I can’t help him,”
he said sadly, “But Bulma—”

“Bulma,” Jeiyce cut him off coldly. “Should have thought of the
consequences before she turned traitor to the Red Network! Too bad for her. I’ll
grant no quarter to collaborators!” The assembled throng of rebels roared in
agreement, a mob scenting blood, as another volley of shot rained upon the
shield and it seemed to buckle this time.

“You said she’d be left alone!” Zarbon wheeled on him, suddenly
nose to nose with his Prince, gripping the smaller man by his forearms. “You
swore she would—”

The sounds of the two mens’ escalating shouts and curses were
being drowned inside a rhythmic thunder, ringing inside Vegita’s ears, drumming
inside his chest. It was his own heartbeat.

 

Bulma…

Oh gods, Vegita! A sense of maddened, furious effort.
We’re not going to make it! I need more time to fix what he’s done! Oh God,
oh Kami…they’re going to kill all the children!

 

Vegita lay on his back, forgotten in the tussle between Jeiyce
and Zarbon, in the furor of the men repriming their cannons for the blow that
would shatter Med Center’s shield like brittle glass.

 

When you have seen your woman dragged out by her hair and raped
to death, Jeiyce had said. Your foster son taken by his heels and his
brains dashed out…then you and I will be even! Not before!

 

Bulma, Romayn…his people, his worlds, his father, his—his
everything!

“We will not be even!” Vegita whispered, his eyes wide and
crimson, hitching shallow gasps of wet, labored breath. He smiled through fanged
jaws at the red orb, rising over the hilltops to the east, drowning the image of
everything else in the heavens. Fools…to have thought that taking his tail
would matter, now that the moon had come!

His back arched in agony, his eyes stinging with his own blood,
full of the moon, the red, glorious moon, that blotted out a full third of the
night sky as it rose. A jolting wrench, as though his spine were being tore out
through his backside…and his tail grew back.

He rose up like an erupting volcano, morphing into the
razor-clawed, fanged beast of rut and Moontime, not Oozaru not yet wholly a man.
He scattered the men around him in all directions, like dead leaves blown before
the winds of an on-coming storm, wailing in an ear-shattering roar of loss and
fury and grief. Something was tearing loose inside his chest, his guts,
rupturing behind his eyes. It was crack in his self, deeper and more mortal than
any depth Jeiyce’s tortures had ever managed to plumb. He could feel something
slipping loose from his grasp, something fracturing irreparably in his soul. Too
many things lost in too short a time.

And he broke a second time in his life. Not in agony, not in
despair, hovering inside a rising storm of power. Not for glory or for
revenge…but because he simply could not lose. The last lesson of kingship, a
weeping, bitter epiphany, and a truth Jeiyce and his men had somehow
forgotten—that a man who fights for his own hate and vengeance will never be
as strong as a man with something left to lose. A man protecting everything that
matters to him in the universe. His entire being had caught fire, his blood, his
body, his brain, bathing him in an amber flame of power, burning inside a golden
nimbus that lit the deepening red skies of dusk bright as daybreak. He
splintered the cannons surrounding the besieged fortress, feeling the fever in
his body leap higher still, like the fires of a dying star, burning brightest
just before it fails…

 

Super Saiyan… Bardock’s hushed voice, echoing through the
filter of Bulma’s mind, full of awe and hope. He will save us in the hour of
our greatest need…

 

Slashing and crushing weapons and flesh in a blinding blur of
lightning quick strikes…they were no match for him. He could feel the ripping
finality of something giving way terminally inside his head. Blood was flowing
freely from—from everywhere, the sign of the virus taking him into its death
cold arms at last.

 

That’s it! Bulma was crying ecstatically. I did it! It’s
back online, it—oh gods, Vegita…Vegita!

Bul…

 

The red night pressed in on him, pulling him down. As he spun
downward, he propelled himself with one last burst of strength, to the best
place, the only place on Vegita-sei, he wished to sleep in death.

 

He woke in dim light, fresh dew soaking his face and hair,
morning mist clinging to the hills around his villa, threading through the
trailing ivy and blood-hued Chikyuu-jin roses that lay around him, their sweet
scent hanging thick in the cool morning air. The morning smelled of fall. The
heat must have finally broken during the night. If he must die, there was no
finer place to fall than this garden…

The soft pillow under his head shifted and warm lips touched
his bloody mouth, blue silk hair brushing his face as she bent over him. He
tried to speak, to ask her if she was a dream. He tried to move his mouth, but
he could not. He was spent.

 

Med Center?

 

“The shield is in place,” she answered softly, smiling sadly.
“You did it, Vegita…you saved us. Your people will live on. Because of you.”
She laid her fingers over his lips as he fought to speak. “Shhh…I don’t have
much time. They…they scooped up a section of land under the rad shield
generator and tossed the whole thing up into the inner shield barrier. The rad
shield is gone, and Jeiyce’s back-up will be here any hour now. Listen to
me…Nail was Red Network, but when he learned about the virus he warned me. He
said he wouldn’t be party to the murder of innocents. We only learned about the
plague bombs after they’d released the virus on every world in the Empire, but
it was after I sealed up Med Center in cloister, so no one inside was exposed. I
have a vaccine, Vegita. For all the children, for Bardock and his people, for
Articha and Turna and all the girls on their ships if we can find them before
they become exposed. But it will only work if you haven’t already contracted it.
It can’t help you…” Her voice was measured and calm as she spoke…too calm.
He suddenly knew that she was reliving the death of her homeworld even as she
grieved for this world of enemies she had begun to call home. Those brilliant
crystal blue eyes were dry and unblinking as she held him, sitting in the ruins
of her flowers garden, as he fought against each stalling falter of his own
heart to spare her what she would surely see if she stayed longer.

 

Bulma, go…Do not watch me die…

 

“I had to tell you,” she said gently. I had to let you
know…”

He pushed into the link a little further, and through the
stunned swirl of her grief and sorrow for the death of the world that had made
her a slave, he saw the entirety of everything that was her…and he saw the
door, that door that had remained barred and bolted as he made her his, even
while she opened her heart to him in every other way. But there was no barrier
now. That door was swung wide…

It coalesced in his battered mind as he saw dozens of pieces of
information weaving themselves together to tell him a secret that should have
been no surprise. She had been the Red Network’s hidden engineer. Jeiyce’s
Mastertech. It was she who had drawn up the plans and meticulous specs of
construction for the capsules…for the invisibility shields…for the
Ki-killers. She had run to the open arms of the Rebels during her first year as
his slave, almost from the first day he had brought her to the Capital.

She had turned from the Red Network in horror, just as
Ottousama guessed, when she saw firsthand the use Jeiyce was putting her
inventions to. Her inventions were responsible for…oh gods, for billions of
Saiyan deaths, responsible for his capture at the hands of the enemy,
responsible for the army of spies who had moved about every Saiyan world,
unseen, as they released the plague that—

 

No…

 

Yes. Of course. And here, as he lay numbering his last breaths,
he could not look away from the second truth he saw. His hands were as filthy
with the blood of his people as hers. If not for his own deeds—the death of
Raditz and the child, the months of that first summer when he had used her like
an animal, breaking her body, crushing her spirit; if not for the year that had
followed, when he had enjoyed her as a thing he possessed, pampering and abusing
her as his childish, mercurial moods dictated—if not for him, she would never
have wrought, unknowingly, the engines of his world’s destruction. An entire
empire felled in the space of a day. Dead by the hand of Jeiyce of
Maiyosh…dead by the hand of Zarbon of Rashia-sei….dead by the hand of Bulma
of Chikyuu….and dead by the hand of Vegita, Saiyan no Ouji.

“No…”

“Oh Kami…” She moaned. “I didn’t mean for you to see that!”
She shook her head slowly, brushing away the tears that had brimmed at his eyes.
“It’s not your fault! It’s not! I did it! I was stupid and gullible. I didn’t
know what they would do with the things I made…and I trusted Zarbon. I only
wanted the Rebels to be able to defend themselves…to be able to hide their
families with the camo-shields.” She sighed like a woman on the verge of tears,
but still, she didn’t weep. “I’ll save the children, Vegita. The shield bubble
around Med Center can withstand even the quantum stresses of hyper light speed.
I have two carrier engines built into the foundations, on the focal point of the
shield. In one hour, I’m going to blast Med Center off and drive it like a ship
to a new world. Somewhere no one will find us. I didn’t mean for my work to be
used the way Jeiyce used it, Vegita. But I have cho-gugol to all of your
people because of it. And I won’t let them down. But none of this is what I came
to tell you.”

He saw what she had come to tell him, cradled in her heart like
the most precious thing in creation…which it surely was.

 

Our son…

 

She stroked his face, feather light, her voice still gentle.
“Do you really think I would let you kill another child of mine, Vegita?”

He shuddered in her arms, shifting weakly, trying to move,
trying to ride out the force of the icy blast of hate, of betrayal, of screaming
grief for the love she had felt for him. The love he had torn to bloody shreds
the day she told him he had put her with child, along with a goodly portion of
her sanity. The sweet, lilting song she had sung this morning, the lullaby dirge
she had sung to her firstborn after he was dead, was echoing inside her head, a
haunting anthem of quiet madness. She had stood strong and unbowed by all the
long list of evils he had done her…and he had destroyed her, in the end, trying
to save her.

 

I chose you, Bulma! You above the boy…you above…above
everything!

 

“There’s always another option,” she said softly, implacable as
admantium steel. “I put him in an incu-pod and let you think I’d aborted him.
I’ll tell him when he’s older how his father was brave and strong…how he died to
save his people. He’s going to be beautiful, Vegita. All the good in you and me
and none of the bad. I wanted you to know about him. I wanted you to know that
something of you will go on. That it won’t be as though you never lived.” Her
blue eyes were chill and distant, like frozen waters lying beneath a glacier.
Cold and incongruously full of love as she looked on him. Mad. She stroked his
brow, smiling sweetly down at him.

“Your fever’s broken. The virus…if you’re strong enough, you
can survive it. At a price. The cerebral swelling and hemorrhaging ruptures and
destroys the centers of your brain where your power resides. Your Ki. If I gave
you enough blood, you would survive…but you’d live the rest of your life
powerless.”

Was she offering him the chance to die with his world, with
honor, as a warrior, rather than live on? King of a dead world. A Ki-less
weakling…

“Bulma…” He whispered, raw and broken. “I will live…take me…”
I will live. I do not care about—about— His mind snagged on the very
thought of living without Ki, a cripple and a weakling, but he ground his teeth.
I learned late that the greatest measure of a King’s strength does not lie in
his fighting power. Bear me to Med Center. I will live to lead my people. I will
live to be yours, woman, if it can ever be made right again! Take me
back…

 

“No,” she said with soft finality. She eased his head down onto
the bed of thorny flowers, red as his own fresh blood, and stood above him,
gazing down at his upturned, agonized face. “I can’t love you anymore, Vegita. I
can’t have you in my heart and my head. It’s killing me, one little piece at a
time. I finally realized that when you told me to kill our baby. It’s killing
me…And I have to live for Rom-kun and our son and all the other children. I love
you…I’ll always love you.” She sobbed, a tiny little choking noise, though her
eyes remained dry. “So, I have to let you die.” Her gaze swept the ruins of her
garden, most of it blasted by the heat and force of his fall.

“All my pretty flowers…” She brushed the tears from her face,
almost absently. “I’ll make them grow again. I always do.” Then she reached down
and calmly took the hem of her dress, pulling it gently from his clutching
hand.

The world was swimming in tears, for all that was lost and
ruined and rent beyond repair or redress. And for the love—mad and boundless
and forever, like the twinned souls of moonbound warriors, just as she had said
it would be when she drove the blade home, straight through his heart, and
finally took her revenge. The love he could not shed for all the deaths and
crimes that lay between them. He would love her until his soul itself shriveled
and died.

“…love you…forever…” He whispered.

She bent and kissed him, deep and warm, like a promise that
would never be fulfilled. “I love you, Vegita,” she said. “I love you…” She
slowly pulled away from him…and she was gone.

He lay for a long time, slipping in and out of consciousness,
watching the sun rise on the last day of his world, weeping softly. I will
die now…I will die. There was nothing left to live for. Nothing at all.

A gust of wind struck him hard and lifted him into the air.

 

 

 

He was lying on his back, on a hard barracks cot, listening the
low, even hum of ship’s engines. A large, anxious face bent over him,
heavy-browed under a shock of bright red hair.

“Rikkuum…” Vegita said in a cracked rasp.

“Your Lady said you were dead, but I knew it was not so,” the
big man said. “I have seen this plague before. It does not kill the strongest. I
knew what to do to make you live.” He gestured to the clumsily rigged infusion
drip needled into the Vegita’s arm. “I found some others alive, too.”

Vegita did not respond. He only stared at the giant
warrior.

“Your—your Lady carried this ship, made tiny with her
capsules, in her med satchel. She showed it to me. I took it.” Rikkuum held up
the pilfered satchel in one huge hand. “It has many things inside. I found the
blood supplies to give you in here also.” The warrior swallowed apprehensively
and leaned forward, his expression strained. “My last master, Lord Frieza, slew
himself when he survived the plague and found he was—was without any power. Do
you mean to live, Ouji-sama?”

Vegita sat up shakily, feeling through the rhythms of his still
weak body for a long, measuring moment. There was no sense of his power.
Nothing.

It would be easy, so easy, to die now. It would be a mercy in
almost every sense. But…his Saiyan body, his own integral nature, would not,
could not, lie down and die. He could feel his body beginning to slowly rebound.
The healing factor of his kind was already rebuilding his cells, rekindling his
physical strength. “I am hungry,” he said softly.

He dragged himself to his feet as Rikkuum went to seek food,
and staggered past the inert forms of the other men the big man had saved.

There were four of them. He made it through the hold and onto
the small bridge without collapsing and sat down heavily in the captain’s chair,
staring at the endless expanse of streaming stars flickering past on the forward
view screen.

“I will find you, woman,” he whispered harshly. “I
will.”

 

* * * * *

 

(COMING SOON: Chapter IV—Vegita searches for Bulma and the
other survivors of Vegita-sei, but Jeiyce is searching as well. And we finally
get a look inside Bulma’s point of view…through the diary Vegita finds in her
med satchel.)

 


Table of
Contents

Chapter 2
Chapter 4

EXTRA WARNING: This chapter contains graphically detailed
descriptions of rape and large scale terrorism.

For four months, they traveled here and there aimlessly,
avoiding contact with other space-faring races. At the end of the third week of
meandering, Vegita set his mind to a course of action, and plotted a direct
course to their destination. He did not respond to any of his companions’
tentative questions as to where they were going. Four months, and they finally
reached the outer-most frontier of the Empire…the Empire that was no more.

Of the four other survivors Rikkuum had rescued from
Vegita-sei, two took their own lives in the first week after the end—the end
of everything. The remaining two, young warriors of an age with Vegita, were
made of sturdier stuff.

Vegita ate little and spoke less as they traveled. Bleak, gray
day bled into dream-harrowed night, growing in a steady progression of time into
weeks, then months. He began to train with Rikkuum for the better part of each
waking day out of habit, and to relieve the nervous energy of unaccustomed
inactivity. His body was still strong, his reflexes and fighting skills
undiminished. If the big warrior did not use his ki in any way during a bout,
Vegita could still best him every time. If he didn’t use his ki…

“Perhaps it will heal,” Rikkuum suggested hopefully, as the
four of them fought into the tenth hour of a tag team match. The ship had
reached the outer spiral arms a few days ago, the very edge of civilized space.
The systems they still carefully skirted were growing less dense, less
technologically advanced. “Your head, I mean,” the great fool elaborated
helpfully, dodging Vegita’s furious roundhouse and the flurry and lightning fast
blows that followed. “All men say that your people always heal from what does
not kill them…and return all the stronger.”

Vegita snarled a wordless affirmation. The lunkhead had
finally, after several months to think it over, touched on the thing that kept
his two Saiyan companions going, when there was nothing else to live for. The
hope, distant and fragile, that the centers of their brains that governed ki
would heal slowly, given time.

Vegita had taken turns with the other two survivors of the
wreck of Vegita-sei, spending one-hour, therapeutic sessions in the ship’s on
regen tank. They had done this every day since the fall of their homeworld.

Thus far…thus far, it had not helped a wit.

He could feel nothing, touch nothing, sense nothing, of the
near god-like power that the Tsiru-jin plague had burned from his brain like a
wildfire consuming dry grassland. Nothing…

The medical texts filed in the ship’s database, a compiled
generalized knowledge from scores of worlds, held nothing that could give him an
answer one way or another, and nothing related to this sort of malady where his
Saiyan’s were concerned. The sons of Vegita-sei did not take ill under any set
of natural circumstances.

Hope was a cruel, taunting siren to his companions, he knew.
Lying down with them each night, soothing them into troubled sleep—and fleeing
at the beginning of each new day. For Vegita, not weighed or baited by hope
himself, waking was worst. Rising through the waters of sleep to the phantom
scent of dying rose petals and the sweet sound of his woman’s voice singing
softly…

“Will we stop soon, Ouji-sama?” Coran gasped from where he lay
bleeding and perspiring across the width of the ship’s hold. He had been
Vegita’s warm up match and had taken the worst of the Prince’s morning battle
with despair that only found a voice through his fists. Coran’s brother and
squad lieutenant Okuda sat silently beside him, waiting his turn to spar with
wordless patience, sunken inside his own thoughts. Coran was well-spoken and
educated, a nobleman ranked as super Elite—a welcome relief from Rikkuum’s
loyal but dull-witted retainership on those rare occasions when Vegita felt like
conversing at all. His younger brother spoke only when addressed, sometimes not
even then. At first, Vegita had merely assumed that this was a sign that the
younger warrior would shortly be opting out of a life without power, home or
people—as their other two companions had done months ago.

Coran had shook his head at this suggestion. “No. He has always
been that way. He never says much.”

Okuda had inherited his taciturn nature from their mother. It
had taken more than a month before Vegita and the two brothers were sufficiently
emerged, each from his private place of shock and grief, to be capable of
holding any sort of sustained conversation. More than a month before he learned
he was traveling with two of Articha and Turna’s three sons. This fact, even
though both men were strangers to him, had given Vegita an inexplicable sense of
gladness. Coran and Okuda’s eldest brother had died early on in the war, in a
Maiyosh-jin nuclear strike on the colony he was stationed on as deputy governor.
It was only logic, Vegita thought solemnly, that the sons of Articha and Turna
should have been too strong in body to be felled by the plague.

“If we run across Okassama and Toussan,” Coran had told him
several nights past, “We will have to flee them, or risk exposing them to the
virus. We may be carriers now. And if they are lured into any port in the Empire
before they learn what has befallen our people—”

Vegita made a soft growl of disagreement. “Neither of them is
gullible or slow to suspicion when things do not seem right. They will had
monitored hyper light transmissions, and be on their guard.”

“Okassama told me the full count of girls on their carrier
convoy was eleven thousand,” Coran murmured. “Another eleven thousand
survivors—and that added to the brats in Med Center. We must hope your Lady
manages to contact them before they are exposed. She has saved our entire race
single-handedly with her vaccine.”

Vegita had given both brothers an extremely edited version of
his last meeting with Bulma. He had told them she had left him to die with his
world at his own insistence. That neither of them had known it was possible to
survive the plague. He had told Rikkuum to hold his tongue on pain of his life,
though the big man seemed convinced at this point that ‘Bulma-sama’ could not
have known Vegita could be saved.

The truth…the truth was between Vegita and his woman alone.
The truth held too much pain and sorrow, love and murderous rage, to put any
words to. He could barely contemplate what he would do, what he must do, when he
saw her again, much less speak of it.

Vegita drove an elbow into Rikkuum’s kidney and the giant
warrior stumbled, gasping. He finished the bigger man off with a quick, brutal
jab to the temple. Rikkuum fell with a reverberating, metallic crash as his
armor struck the hold floor. Vegita pulled a towel off one of the wall rails,
wiping his face, thinking over Coran’s seemingly casual question. The power
cells would last a hundred years or more, but life support and provisions would
not. They were running dangerously low on water, food and oxygen. There was no
longer a choice, but he would prefer not to stop until they reached their
ultimate destination. It was time to tell them what he planned.

“We will stop soon. Come.”

Moments later, the three of them stood around a holo-projected
star chart, while Coran pulled up file after file of information on every system
within a week’s travel from their present location.

“This one,” Coran said decisively, pointing at a binary system
with two viable worlds. “It is six hours travel from our co-ordinates and
doubles our chances of finding what we need. And…none of these worlds in the
outer rim territories will have heard the name Saiyan. They will not attack us
on sight.”

Okuda did not speak. He simply pulled up an enlargement of a
small, singe star system with one habitable satellite. It was eighteen hours
travel still…less than a day. Okuda eyed Vegita questioningly, a small quirk
at one corner of his mouth making him look very like his mother.

“You knew,” Vegita said. “How?”

Okuda shrugged. “It is in our direct line of flight. The
Imperial expansion records list it as being purged, but never colonized. Each
recorded purge is filed in the database with a short report by the commanding
officer, giving cursory details of the battle and mop up. It is a good guess
that she would go there—it is the only other world she knows.” That was the
most Vegita had ever heard the man say in one breath.

Coran sat down heavily. “I am a slow-witted fool. Nine years
for the dust to settle, the skies to clear. The vegetation and the sea life will
have begun to rebound. It was only a flash fry purge…just enough to destroy
the indigenous population, not enough the wreck the world’s biosphere for
re-colonization. Yes! Gods, it is a brilliant hiding place for the brats as
well! It is months from the center of populated space, and who would think to
search for them on a purged world!”

“It is not certain that we will find them there,” Vegita said
curtly. “But it is my best guess. If I am wrong and we find no one and nothing,
there will still be fish, water and air aplenty to restock the ship. In any
case, we will be there tomorrow.” He was growing tired of talking, tired of even
this limited interaction with Rikkuum and Articha’s sons. “Do not disturb me
until we are approaching orbit.”

He made his way to his cabin and closed the door behind him.

Chikyuu…

It was by no means sure that Bulma had hidden her precious
cargo there, but, as he had said, it was the best guess possible. He sat down on
the narrow bunk, breathing hard, trying to still the shaking of his hands. In
less than twenty hours, he might very well be standing face to face with his
woman.

And then…

There was no honor left for him among his people. No honor in
continuing to live. He should let them think him dead, a heroic martyr of
legends, the savior of his people. He should die. But he could not. Not yet. His
duty to his people and to her would not allow it. He must find her. He must hold
her again. He must speak the three words his people did not say, the words that
did no justice to all that she meant to him, to all that lay between them. And
then…

And then, by the debt of vengeance and honor she owed him for
her crimes against his people, and by the love he owed her as her mate…he
would kill her. Quick and painless, as his father had commanded him, implored
him to do, time and again. And in that final act of love, he would end the
misery of her madness. He would end her life and his own in the same breath. His
Ki was gone, but he was still sufficient master of his own body to stop his
heart at will.

And perhaps, the gods who had smiled on Bardock and Romayn
would let them meet again, love again, under a happier sun.

He lay back on his bunk, pulling his woman’s med satchel, the
satchel Rikkuum had taken from Med Center, up to his lap. The great, faithful
oaf had snatched the entire sack of her personal effects in his hurried pilfery,
knowing there was an encapsulated mini troop carrier somewhere inside, though he
had no time to rummage for the one pellet that contained what he sought.

Vegita had indulged himself with a solitary pleasure, once
every ten days since this journey to nowhere began. Every ten days, he would
choose one pellet, one thing that had belonged to her, and open it. It was a
game he played, a thing to anticipate, as pathetic as it seemed. But it had kept
him alive.

At first, the capsules yielded nothing but medical necessities,
but he quickly discovered the internal pouch that contained her personal
effects. The first pellet had produced a single red rose, encased in a tiny
cryo-stasis orb, frozen in the perfection of full bloom for all time. The
second, ten days later, yielded a light blue summer dress that perfectly matched
the color of her hair. Even clean and freshly laundered, the garment had carried
her scent so strongly Vegita had destroyed it after two days. He kept waking in
the night, rising out of sleep for a few blissful seconds of forgetfulness,
smelling her, reaching for her…and finding himself alone.

He took one pellet from the satchel and smiled grimly, scanning
the encapsulation volume measurement to be sure the contents were not bigger
than the ship itself. He had found several that had such an enormous reading he
was certain they must be other ships.

He popped the capsule, waiting as the metallic smoke cleared to
reveal a small data disc. He turned it over in one hand. Music? She would
frequently blast his more sensitive ears to near deafness when she thought
herself alone in the villa as she worked in her workshop. She had collected a
selection of rhythmic noise pollution from several dozen different cultures and
worlds over the last months…

But she also used these discs to record her work and help order
her thoughts as she moved through the steps of a medical or mechanical project.
It might very well be a disc full of the sound of her voice.

Bulma’s voice…

He rammed the disc into the bedside computer and ran a file
scan with shaking hands. It was tri-partitioned—one tiny section of audio,
followed by a slightly larger section of written text. The last section of the
disc went back to audio…strange. He took a deep breath and opened the first
file.

His woman’s voice, sweet and so young sounding, began to speak.

 

 

Raditz gave me this data disc today. He said I could ‘do
whatever fool-girl thing I wanted with it.’ Which is his macho, Saiyan way of
saying, ‘Here, darling, I brought you a baby shower gift.’ This morning, we
finally pulled Karot-chan out of the portable incu-pod Bardock pilfered for us.
He opened his eyes, his big blue eyes, and frowned at me. He looks just like his
father, except for his eyes…and he has Son-kun’s hair pattern. Raditz picked him
up by the scruff of the neck, counted ten fingers, ten toes, and one little
brown tail.

Then he smirked and said, “You’ll do just fine, brat!”

He says the baby looks completely Saiyan except for the eyes.
Bardock says he can get someone to die the baby’s eyes black permanently when
he’s a little older. So, no one will ever know he’s half Chikyuu-jin. Bardock
and Romayna-san have both told me at different times that this happens a lot
more often than you’d think because of the twenty to one ratio of men to women
among Saiyans, and in spite of their inherently violent nature, they are an
instinctively monogamous race.

So it’s not common, but it does happen. Warriors developing
“foolish affections” for their alien courtesans—which is a pretty way of
saying “pleasure slaves.”

I asked Raditz if he had developed “foolish affections” for me
and he humph-ed angrily and said, “No! But I am careful to appease you because I
am afraid of waking with one of your bombs wired to my tail.” Which is Saiyan
for, “I love you, too.”

Why am I recording this? I should explain that, shouldn’t I? At
first, I thought it might be a diary for Karot-chan to hear when he’s older, so
he can know the part of himself that is me, the Chikyuu-jin part. But now…I
think it’s more. So that some history of me, of my world, of who and what I am,
will go on. And maybe one day, someone will read this, my son or one of my
Saiyan great grandchildren…and maybe they’ll grieve for Chikyuu and all the
other purged worlds and peoples that are lost and unremembered.

I looked into Karot-chan’s eyes when Radtiz set him in my arms.
I thought…I had been sure he would be the one. But Kami-sama said I would
know Son-kun when we meet again. And my baby…isn’t him.

One thing has been worrying at the back of my mind all day
today, a sort of tiny dark spot in the middle of a good day. What Kami-sama
said…what he said about the “long, dark road” I would have to walk. This isn’t
it. My world and everyone I ever knew before Vegita-sei is gone. I am not a free
woman. I get desperately lonely when Raditz is gone, even with Noira and her
family to talk to, and I have very little to do in the way of work or any sort
of project other than my garden. I got so lonely when Raditz left on that
‘mission strike’ on Corsaris that I even taught that fucker Bardock to play
chess. But…I’m not as sheltered as Raditz thinks I am. Romayna and the house
slaves—Noira, her little girl Dusca, and her husband Hiru—have all told me
how bad it could have been, how unbelievably lucky I was to be given to a man
like Raditz, who loves me and thinks of me as his wife in everything but law.
So, if I’m occasionally lonely and bored, if I still sit and cry some days all
day for my family and my world, if I have to let Raditz be the undisputed boss
in our relationship, and if I’m still sick at heart because I couldn’t make him
understand why I was so cold and angry after the purge of Corsaris—I know it’s
not as bad as it could have been. My life has a great deal of happiness as well
as grief. And today… The soft, gurgling sigh of a very young child, followed
by his woman’s soft, wondering laughter.
…today I’m very, very happy.

 

 

 

Vegita hit the pause control on the computer. After a moment of
motionless silence, he began to realize that he had stopped breathing and
inhaled slowly.

He would hear it all. From beginning to end without omission.
Even if it took every waking hour from this instant to the moment they landed on
Chikyuu. Even if this tale cut and gouged his heart like a razor-whip drawn
through his innards. Even if he wept like a babe before the end of it. He would
hear the story of her life on Vegita-sei in her own words without turning away.
He owed her this debt.

He lay back on his bunk and unpaused the disc.

 

 

If I tell you the story of how I came to Vegita-sei, maybe
it’ll explain my flower garden a little better.

There was a chill in the air on the morning of the last day of
my world. I had just pulled a jacket out of summer storage in the attic. Momma
always packed my clothes away with a potpourri of petals from her own gardens in
the pockets. As I went down to breakfast, my boyfriend Yamcha called to me from
his room sort of pitifully, asking if I could bring his food up to him after I
ate. He had finally decided what he wanted to do with his life a few weeks ago.
He had left to go train with Son-kun and Krillan under old Kame Sennin, and then
broken both his legs on the first day of training. There were no ripe senzu to
be had, so he was having to heal naturally. The boys brought him back to Capsule
Corp. I had told him that it served him right. That he was only posing anyway,
going to Kame House to train because his friends were doing it, not because he
had any great commitment to be a warrior or a hero. I ignored his pleas for food
and went downstairs. That was the last time I saw him. The first boy I ever
kissed, my handsome, gentle, desert bandit wanna-be. Kami, I was so mean to him,
not just then, but all the time. And he just took it, hunkering his shoulders
down and looking hurt when I would yell at him. Poppa said once that Yamcha was
a good boy, a strong, brave boy…but that he was not strong enough for the kind
of woman I would become. The last thing I ever said to him was something snotty
and rude. I wish…oh gods, I wish I had treated him better.

I went to my workshop and collected the little ‘project’ I had
been working on, then went outside for some target practice. As I passed through
the kitchen, Momma asked me to water her petunias while I was outside. I took
the watering pot with me, but I forgot to do any watering. I wish I had.
Instead, I played in the quad yard with the dogs for a little while as Momma
cooked. Poppa passed by me as I began recalibrating the energy wave burst
pattern on my ‘project’. He had been in his own workshop all night working on
something. He kissed me on the forehead as he passed by, but I was so absorbed
in what I was doing I didn’t look up, just mumbled, “Morning, Poppa.” I never
saw him or Momma again.

The instant the kitchen door closed behind my father, I heard
it. The Voice in my head.

 

Bulma.

“Kami-sama?” I whispered, suddenly very afraid. Not of him,
but because, even at seventeen, I knew that god didn’t just strike up a
conversation with you for no reason. Even if you had met him in person.

 

Take your flyer and go alone to Kame Sennin’s island. Go now.
Don’t go back in your house or stop to think about it.

 

I remember thinking that this was the start of another
adventure. I remember jumping into my flyer and gunning it into the air. And I
remember how the next words he spoke killed all the happy excitement inside me.
Listen to me now, child. Time is short. Piccalo Daimo is locked in a battle
he will shortly lose, and when he dies, so shall I.

 

“No!—” I said.

 

Be still, Bulma! And hear me. Son Gokou is slain and Kame
Sennin with him. And all of Chikyuu will soon follow.

 

I couldn’t even react to the enormity of it for a moment. Then
I began to argue with him, almost crashing the flyer as I screamed that he was a
liar, that it was impossible. It is happening. Something in his voice,
something I can’t describe with words, shut me up. Go to Kame House, he
said. Fate will take you into its hands after you arrive. Hear me! Son
Gokou’s soul will return to you soon, Bulma. He will be born just as he was
before, clothed in a body that is a replica of the one he wore in this life. You
will know him when you see him again. My God, the Kai of Kais, has told me
this—
and here, his voice became a Voice, and seemed to be doubled. I
heard another, greater, Presence speaking through Kami-sama’s soul into mine.
The future of this galaxy, this entire universe, will one day rest upon his
shoulders. You must guide him to his destiny. But you will walk a long, dark
road first, sweet child. I would more than anything that I could take this cup
from your lips, but I cannot. Do not give way to hate and vengeance, daughter,
or you will fail Son Gokou, and thus, all life everywhere. No matter what
befalls you, remember your father’s teachings, remember his good heart, and try
to see the good that might be, rather than the evil that is. There is no soul so
black that it cannot be shown the way to the light. Do not seek vengeance, Bulma
Briefs, or let hate rule over you…or you will fail your charge.

 

And then he was gone. Just like that. A few minutes later, I
came up on Kame House and decapsulated my little ‘project’, something I had
dreamed up as a nasty surprise for Piccalo if he ever showed his ugly green face
again. I climbed out of the flyer with the rifle in hand, a hand cannon that
shot an energy wave which disrupts the brain waves associated with Ki. I walked
past the blasted bodies of Roshi and Oolong, past the charred wreckage of Kame
House. A gust of hot air whipped my hair. To the east, just past where the sea
fell away at the curve of the earth, the clouds scattered out in a ringed
pattern around a huge mushroom fireball. And I knew, somehow knew, that
Piccalo was dead, and Kami-sama with him.

Everything seemed unreal and overly bright. All I could see was
the man bent over Son-kun’s body, stroking his hair, his face set like a stone.
I knelt down beside him and touched Son-kun’s face. He was cold. “Little
brother,” I whispered. Bardock looked up at me and seemed to notice me for the
first time.

“Who killed him?” I asked softly.

“I did,” he said matter-of-factly, without any expression at
all. I didn’t think. I raised the cannon and fired at him, point blank. Then
something hit me from behind and knocked me out cold.

I only woke once before we reached Vegita-sei. I was strapped
into Bardock’s space pod, sitting across his knees like a little girl on her
father’s lap. I looked out the port window, down on Chikyuu from orbit. The
world, the whole world, was on fire. I started screaming and he put one hand
over my mouth. “Hush, girl.” His voice sounded almost kind, and weary to the
bone. “It’s all over and done.” He punched a hyper wave com link. “Is everybody
in formation and prepped for hyper-light?”

Replies of “Hai, Captain!” filtered through the com.

“Initiate cryo-sleep sequence,” Bardock said when they’d all
sounded off. “Let’s go home.” He sounded tired and angry and…I don’t know what
else. Then the cryo-gas flooded the pod and….and after what seemed like a long
night’s sleep, we were making planetfall on Vegita-sei. I have a woozy memory of
the bone-breaking jolt when the pod landed, then nothing until I woke that night
in Bardock’s house.

The sounds of a fire burning and of men’s voices, were all
around me. I sat up from the giant throw pillow I had been lying on face down,
pushing off the heavy fur blanket someone had covered me with. All the
conversation around me stopped.

“Damn,” one of the men said softly. I stared around at the
firelit faces of the men seated around the hearthpit. A woman’s cool voice broke
the silence.

“You need to put your eyes back in your head if you want to
keep them, Toma-kun.”

They all burst into rowdy, good-natured laughter, this band of
warriors who had just destroyed my whole world, everyone I’d ever known and
loved. Toma flushed bright red. His mate, Celipa, only smiled sweetly and
returned to demolishing her leg of cho-deer.

“Eat, girl,” Bardock told me. I spat at him and swatted the
plate back in his face. That sent the rest of them into another round of
laughter. I wasn’t thinking clearly, wasn’t even really thinking sanely at this
point. I jumped up and tried to run for it, but he wrapped his tail around my
ankles and pulled my feet out from under me.

“What are you going to do with her, Captain?” A barrel-chested
heavy set soldier asked.

Another man snickered. “Romayna’ll have your balls for earbobs
if you keep her.”

Bardock frowned and seemed to tense up at the mention of
Romayna’s name. Toma caught the change in his posture and cleared his throat.
“She’d fetch a king’s ransom if you sell her to one of the high class courtesan
merchants,” he suggested casually. “Even more is you put her up on private
auction block for the nobility.”

“Auction?!” I screeched. The tail around my ankles tightened
painfully and I broke off, gasping.

Bardock shrugged, not even glancing in my direction. “What the
hell does a soldier need with money,” he said. “I’m giving her to Raditz. I owe
him for helping me out so much with the Tsiru-sei expedition.”

The talk died down after a while, and one by one the others
left for their own homes. Toma hung around until all the others were gone,
glancing back from where he stood with Celipa with his hand on the door at
Bardock’s solemn, troubled frown. “She will understand, Captain,” he said.

“Perhaps in time,” Bardock told him softly. “But I must face
her tomorrow, and she will…” He shook his head despairingly. “She will grieve as
though she had raised him herself.”

“Call me in a few days,” his friend said quietly. “We will hunt
drakets in the mountains.”

Bardock didn’t speak or move for a long time after Toma and
Celipa left. I just sat their beside him. I didn’t have much of a choice. “Who
is Romayna?” I finally asked. He didn’t answer me, just lay down on the great
pillow bed we were both sitting on and promptly fell asleep. After a while, I
did the same.

I woke just before dawn and sat up very, very slowly, staring
down at the man asleep beside me. I reached down and gently unwrapped the tail
from around my legs and stood. I might have killed him. It occurred to me that
there must be something somewhere in this house that I could drive through his
heart. But…his face in sleep looked so much like Son-kun’s, like the man Son-kun
would have grown into, I couldn’t do it. Do not give into hate.
Kami-sama’s words came to me suddenly. As I stood over him, his eyes shot open,
and again, I didn’t think. I brought my foot down on his tail as hard as I
could, turned and ran for the door instead as he shrieked behind me, curling up
into a ball of agony. I tore the door open, and found myself hauled up, off my
feet, by the scruff of the neck like a kitten. The tall, beautiful woman who
held me strolled back into the house, carrying me, and stared down at Bardock’s
prone form, one corner of her mouth quirking up. She had a deep warm laugh.

“If she’d had a weapon, you’d be dead now,” she told him as he
sat and stood painfully, facing her. She eyed me, then him, narrowly, raising
one eyebrow. “This girl-child reeks of your scent, husband.”

“She’s been strapped across my lap in a one man space pod for
four months,” Bardock grunted. “I thought I might make a gift of her to
Raditz.”

Romayna set me on my feet and studied me closely. The curl of
her lips widened minutely. “She will give him a great deal of trouble. But
Raditz was ever one for trouble. He has done nothing but brood and growl since
Soi and the rest of his squad were slain. He will certainly find this one
diverting.”

She turned back to him, her face sobering, an unspoken question
in her eyes. She was silent. He didn’t say anything either. Finally, she spoke
again. “Where is my second born, Bar-kun? Where is Kakarott?”

“He failed his infant purge,” Bardock said. Both their faces
might have been made of granite for all the emotion they showed. And I realized
that this must be a cultural thing among their race, that the more something was
tearing them up inside, the less they let it show on their face.

“The natives slew him?” She asked.

“No,” Bardock said heavily. “He was injured, brain-damaged,
after crashdown. He lost his infant conditioning and a good portion of his wits,
and—”

“And you murdered him!” I screamed. “Your own son! He wasn’t
‘damaged’, you fucking monster, he just grew up thinking he was Chikyuu-jin!”

“Does she speak the truth, beloved?” Romayna asked softly. The
deep olive tint of her skin had turned almost white, her hands were clenched at
her sides convulsively.

“He wasn’t right in the head, woman!” Bardock said harshly,
taking a step toward her, his face cold and hard, his eyes imploring, begging
for forgiveness. “I swear it on my soul. He was unusually strong for a cub his
age, and would have fought us to his last breath for the purge of his ‘home’. He
would have never made a soldier of Vegita-sei, and would have gotten himself
killed in less than a day if I’d tried to bring him back!”

“Not under my care!” She said coldly. “What does a soldier’s
son need with a full set of brains?! He could have learned our ways. I would
have trained him myself, even if you had no use for him. I would have trained
him from birth if you had not made the decision for both of us to send him
afield!” Her voice was like ice when she spoke the next words. “The son I lay in
cryo-stasis after you left for Chikyuu is mine! You shall have nothing of
him hereafter. Nor of me!”

He just stood there, like he was frozen in place, and watched
her leave. And that was…I think that was when the realization I hadn’t wanted to
acknowledge the night before as I watched Bardock and his men sit and talk like
old, well-loved friends, as I saw their rough affection, their love, for each
other for what it was—I think that was when it really struck me. They were
Vikings. They were marauding Mongol or Cossack or Hun tribesmen. They were a
hundred warlike Chikyuu-jin cultures who practiced land or sea piracy as a
matter of custom and

livelihood. Violent, murderous societies and
ideologies….populated by people. Not monsters. Just people. And that one
realization changed everything for me, I think.

Though it didn’t change what I felt for Bardock and his crew
personally. I couldn’t stop hating him, no matter what Kami said. I just
couldn’t. I stood there watching him as she left him, watching the way how much
he loved her didn’t show on his face, but was so evident nonetheless…and I
thought Good! I want you to die inside for what you’ve done, you bastard!
Even if you don’t know or care that it was wrong. I want you to hurt and hurt
and hurt—right up to the moment I kill you. And I will kill you,
Bardock!

I don’t know how long he stood like that, immobile as a stone,
but after a long time, he seemed to see me standing there, glaring at him, and
he set his mouth in a grim line. “Let’s get you where you’re going, girl,” he
said.

In the midst of too many things to absorb, none of his
statements about his plans for me had really sunk in, let alone the implications
of what they meant. The only thing I clearly remembered at that moment was a
suggestion one of Bardock’s warriors had made the night before, something about
an auction. So, I turned and ran from him, screaming and crying at the same
time. He ran me down, cursing irritably under his breath, and put me back to
sleep as he took off.

The first thing I thought when I woke was that I was getting
really tired a being knocked out. I was in a bedroom, in a new place, a
different Saiyan house. This house. I sat up in the big bed. My hair felt damp
and clean and my clothes were folded in a neat pile beside me. An ivory-skinned
woman with huge, circular shaped black eyes was sitting beside me.

“I’ll stat-bag your clothes for you, child,” she said
softly.

“Stat-bag?” I whispered.

She took my hand and helped me out of bed. For some reason, I
felt a little woozy and disoriented. Too much sleep, I thought. Four months of
it, according to Bardock. I stood and looked down at myself. I was wearing a
silky white, ankle length dress that flowed around me and clung to my body when
I moved. Good thing is isn’t see-through, I thought. Because I
wasn’t wearing any underwear.

“It preserves what you seal inside,” the pale woman answered.
While she spoke, she guided me gently to sit in a chair and began brushing the
tangles out of my hair. “When my homeworld, Ansou-sei, was conquered, the
Saiyans made most of my people domestic slaves. I preserved everything I was
wearing the day

the cargo carrier brought me to Vegita-sei in a stat-bag. If
you have your clothes particle analyzed, you can clone a little piece of your
homeworld for yourself. Resurrect a plant or and animal your had contact with
when you wore those clothes.

I bit my lip to keep from crying. “My…my mother put a potpourri
of flower petals in my jacket,” I told her. “Made from all the flowers in her
garden. My Momma…” I started to cry in earnest then, and she let me and washed
my face when I was done.

“We’ll make your mother’s flowers live again,” she said gently.
“We can start tomorrow. The master will not begrudge you that.”

“The master?” I sniffled. Then I remembered some of what
Bardock’s men had said the night before. “Am I—is this a ‘courtesan house’?
They were talking about selling me to—to—” I was starting to get hysterical.

She shook her head firmly. “Our master is Raditz, son of
Bardock. You remember Bardock, I imagine.” I nodded numbly. She placed a glass
of wine she must have poured even before I woke in my trembling hands. “You’re a
slave in the household of Raditz. I doubt you’re kindly disposed toward
Bardock-san, child, but he did well by you in this. With that lovely face of
yours, he might have sold you to a whorehouse for a small fortune. But he gave
to his son’s household instead. If one must be a slave, Raditz-sama is a good,
fair-minded master. He is not a cruel or temperamental man, and he does not beat
us when we make mistakes. Drink your wine, love, it will calm your nerves.” I
drank obediently.

“He bought my family—my husband Hiru and my daughter Dusca
and myself—four years ago. We are the entire domestic staff.”

“I’m Bulma Briefs of…of Chikyuu.” Oh gods, I was so innocent,
so naïve, to ask the next question. “What….what will I do here as a slave?”
At least until I can learn to fly a spaceship and escape, I thought.

Noira’s face went carefully neutral. “Well, for the moment, you
have to take dinner with the master. He’ll get to know you a little, then he’ll
decide.”

I didn’t know…so many things. I didn’t know that Noira was a
medic as well as housemaid. I didn’t know that she had been commanded to give me
a thorough physical as I slept. To determine bone density and strength. To
determine my age and if was even sexually mature for my race. To determine if I
were a virgin or not. I didn’t know that this kind-hearted woman who became my
friend was sending me through the bedroom door and into the hearthroom to become
her master’s pleasure slave.

There was a mountain of food on the dining table, and it all
smelled like ambrosia. I hadn’t eaten in…if you count cryo-sleep, it had been
four months.

The hearthroom seemed to be deserted, the only sound was the
crackling of the fire. I didn’t sit down or use a plate, I just dug into the
spread and began to

eat.

“Try the wine,” a man’s deep voice said, and I very nearly
jumped out of my skin. I saw him sitting in a chair just outside the edge of
where the light from the hearthpit shone. He stood slowly and limped toward me,
out of silhouette and into the light. I stood there with food in my mouth,
gaping at him as he approached me.

He poured us both a glass of table wine and I took it
mechanically. He was gorgeous, tall, with a warrior’s full muscled body. He was
like a statue carved out of bronze and olive-hued marble, with high cheekbones,
and dark, arched Saiyan eyes. He looked, I thought, like a male version of
Romayna.

I chugged the entire glass of wine in one gulp. “You’re
Bardcok’s son Raditz” I said stupidly.

“I am Raditz,” he agreed. He took the empty cup from my hand
and filled it again, handing it back to me. I took another sip, wondering what I
should do next.

“What is your name, girl?”

“Bulma. Bulma Briefs.”

His raised one eyebrow, looking even more like his mother with
that half-amused expression on his face. “Is it the custom of your people to
stand while eating, Bulma Briefs?”

“Um…no.” I sat down, feeling like…like I was somehow on a first
date with a man—a grown man—who was far too old and sophisticated for me. He
must have eaten already, because he only picked at his food as I wolfed mine
down. He seemed surprised when I finished.

“I think Chikyuu-jin stomachs hold a lot less than Saiyan,” I
told him. In spite of the huge meal I’d just eaten, I felt light-headed and warm
inside from all the wine. I don’t remember any of the actual conversation,
though I know he told me a little about Vegita-sei and the Empire. And that he
emphasized how large the Empire was. At some point, he stopped the small talk
and fixed me with those dark, hard eyes. “I know you are thinking already of how
you might escape my household and this world. You’d be a spiritless little thing
if your thoughts were not turning in that direction.” His lips twitched. “And
you are anything but spiritless. There is nowhere to run to, girl,” he told me
flatly. “And an alien woman with you face and form—” He eyed me pointedly. “If
you are not someone’s property, not legally under that protection of a strong
Saiyan warrior, you can be taken and used by any warrior who desires you. Do you
understand what I mean by that?” I nodded, feeling my stomach began to do a slow
rolling somersault. “You are neither a fighter nor Saiyan, and you must be owned
by someone to have any sort of protection under that law.”

“That’s wrong…” I whispered. I was shaking, my eyes burning
with helpless anger.

“It is the world as we find it,” he said implacably. “I will
not shackle you or fit you with a surgically implanted tracer, Bulma. But I warn
you of the world that lies beyond this house. If you are wise, you will except
the protection I offer.”

I didn’t say anything for a few moments. Then I began to cry,
and once I started, I couldn’t stop. He seemed completely unsurprised by this
reaction.

He put his arms around me and I clung to him as he picked me up
and carried me like a child to sit on a down-stuffed animal skin directly before
the hearth’s rim. He held me while I cried, running his hands through my hair.
And when I’d cried myself out, he listened to me tell him about Chikyuu, about
my parents and friends,

about that last day, inexplicably chuckling when I told him how
I’d shot his father. I think the enormity of all I had lost hadn’t really hit me
yet, and at some point as I sat crying in his lap, some deep, self-preserving
part of me pulled back from it. It was too soon, too over-whelming, the wounds
too raw to deal with yet. So, my mind just pushed it away. I wiped my eyes as my
sobs tapered off slowly, and asked a question so out of the blue it shocked
him.

“Are you hurt?” I asked. “You were limping when I first saw
you.”

He shifted me in his arms and frowned. “I am not wounded. Not
truly. My squad was part of a garrison stationed on Shadras. A month ago, a
terrorist movement called the Red Demons detonated the energy cells of a
grounded troop carrier’s engines. A side effect of the energy wave from such an
explosion is that it does great neurological damage to the central nervous
system of lifeforms in its path. I was healed of my bodily wounds in a regen
tank, but the neural damage is slower to heal. The medics tell me I will be
fully well in another month, perhaps two.” His voice dropped to a rough whisper.
“The rest of my squad…my companions, my lover Soi…Only one other of our number
survived and he still hovers between life and death at Med Center in the
Capital.” He stopped talking, his face drawn and hard. I didn’t know how Saiyan
children are grouped into squads, almost from infancy, in a fighting unit that
will remain constant throughout their lives. How squad mates are, for that
reason, closer than any blood family. But I had a sense of how much they’d meant
to him, and how devastating and heart-breaking the loss had been. He took
another long draught of wine and raised his cup to my lips to share. His black
eyes looked so sad and haunted.

“It makes you feel guilty, doesn’t it?” I asked softly. My head
was spinning now. The whole room was listing and my only anchor was his arms
around me and those black, intense eyes. “To be the only survivor. I keep
thinking ‘Why me?’. Why should I have lived when everyone else is gone?”

His eyes, so close to mine now, widened, and for just a second
his face looked young and vulnerable. And that’s when I kissed him.

 

Bulma’s voice paused for a moment before she sighed softly.

 

He didn’t hurt me. Not even a little bit. He was so slow and
gentle and… I know he didn’t seduce me so gently and sweetly that first time out
of the kindness of his heart. He just understood women very well. And it was his
personal preference that nothing is so sweet as what is freely given. He knew
that if the first time was sweet and slow, it would create a bond of affection
inside me that would run deeper that any set of chains. Especially in the highly
vulnerable emotional state I was in. Momma always told me that you will always
love your first lover a little, no matter where your life take you as you grow
older. I remember his big warm hands and his lips being everywhere at once,
while I lay back, holding onto him with my head spinning. It’s all a pleasant
blur, really.

It didn’t occur to me until sometime the next day what my
duties as a slave in his house would be. Gods, I was such a little girl. But
after that first night, it was too late to object, even if I’d wanted to. I
didn’t object. He was big and warm and strong, and above all, he was something
to hold onto. I held on for dear life.

And…once he’d introduced me to a little of what he knew, he
opened a floodgate of appetite inside me. Over that first year, he taught me
everything, every way he knew that a man and a woman could please each other.
And by day…he was kind to me. I don’t think I realized this until a few months
ago, but two things changed our relationship into something much more than it
might have been. My question and my words about survivor’s guilt struck him a
lot deeper than I knew, and, I think, opened up a chink in his emotional armor
that a slave and an alien would never have been able to penetrate. And if I was
vulnerable, so was he, in his own way. We had both just lost the people closest
to us in our lives, and that, coupled with the next two months he spent on
medical leave, with no one but me for company, created something much deeper
than the off hand affection he might have felt for me otherwise.

After he fully recuperated and went back on active duty, he was
around a lot less, flying home between shifts of duty and on his days off. He
spoiled me like a father with a favorite child, bringing me gifts from all
corners of the Empire. Heh…it sounds strange, but in an odd way, he was sort of
a father to me at first. He was more than twenty years my senior, I found out,
though he looked to be in his early twenties by Chikyuu-jin standards. So
maybe…maybe I didn’t let myself be owned so much as I let him take care of me
until I grew up a little more.

That’s what I tell myself anyway.

 

I’ve decided that breast feeding isn’t all it’s cracked up to
be, especially when your baby is already demonstrating Saiyan strength when his
dinner is about to be pulled away from him before he’s full. You’re going on the
bottle, starting today, buster. A high, gurgle was the only reply she
received.
Where was I in my life’s story when I stopped last time? Oh, I
remember. Well…things sort of went into a pattern of his comings and goings,
while Noira’s family and I ran the house. She seemed scandalized that I wanted
to do any work at all. I gave her a look and told her that sex with a skilled
lover wasn’t my idea of hard work, and I needed something to do or I’d go nuts.
The one sticking point with Raditz, one he’s never given way on no matter how I
cajole or wheedle, is that I can’t have a lab or a workshop to build…well,
anything. I’m sure Bardock told him about my

Ki-zapper, but the reality of my abilities didn’t impress
itself on him until he actually took a long look at some of the domestic gadgets
I threw together in the first couple of months. He shook his head and said, “No
more, Bulma.”

I pitched something just short of a tantrum until Noira
explained to me that if anyone ever saw what I was capable of, I’d be
confiscated and put to work in the Capital as a slave engineer for the Crown.
“During the day, anyway,” she finished darkly. “You have heard enough of
Romayna-san’s tales to know that you would not be left alone to do your work. I
think you know by now how very lucky you are in Raditz. Do you want to be taken
from him and used like a whore by other men?”

I could have argued that no one was going to ever see my
machines, because no one ever came to the damn house other than Raditz’ one
remaining squad brother and his parents. But I just slumped in defeat and nodded
obediently. I wonder if a big part of me, the wild, defiant part of me that
always seemed so close to the surface when I was on Chikyuu, sort of…died for a
while. That I was sort of a muted version of my real self at first, until I
began to recover from the blow of losing so much. Well…it didn’t mute itself
with Bardock, that’s for sure.

During my first year on Vegita-sei, I tried in deadly earnest
to kill Raditz’ father no less than 13 times. Every single time he came to
visit, in other words. He seemed to visit a lot more since Romaya had put him
aside, Raditz told me once with a troubled frown. He never said it outright, but
his parents’ estrangement bothered him a great deal. He didn’t, however, have
any trouble with my multiple attempts on his father’s life. Someone please
explain that to me.

I failed every goddam time. Granted, Raditz’ house is rustic
and almost bare of technical appliances, but I made do with what I could find.
Actually, I think some of the things I came up with were pretty damn ingenious
considering what I had to work with. Raditz found the whole thing funny, and in
fact, I think I finally gave up on the murder attempts more to keep the whole
pack of them from laughing at me. Bardock’s entire squad found the idea of their
Captain being wounded by me to be a source of never-ending amuzement.

Romayna-san…she comes by less often that Bardock, but I enjoy
her visits. I wasn’t sure of what to make of her when she visited the house the
first time and strolled into my garden, still in her armor. She had asked for
assignment offworld right after she learned of Son-kun’s death, and was on a two
day layover on Vegita-se at the time.

“These are flowers from your world?” She asked me without any
sort of introduction.

“Yes,” I said, eyeing her curiously. The only other Saiyan
woman I’d ever seen was Bardock’s squad sister Celipa, who was small and
deceptively delicate looking. Romayna was nearly as tall as Raditz, but she was
very feminine

at the same time, and very beautiful. As beautiful as her son
was handsome.

“Tell me about my second born, girl,” she said softly, sitting
down. “Tell me about Kakarott.”

I told her everything, all that had happened on that last day,
even the things Kami-sama had told me. She shook her head. “I am sure stranger
things have happened, but I cannot believe it without more proof. When you
believe he has returned to you, I will come to see him and make my own
decision.”

I learned, as I got to know her, why she was so different from
most Saiyan women in her maternal instincts. The people of the Turrasht
mountains are a breed apart, more steeped in the truly ancient ways of
Vegita-sei than any customs that have sprung up since they became a space faring
race.

“The old way,” she told me, “was to cast all cubs into the
wilderness at six months and let them forage for themselves. If they survived a
year on their own, they were taken back into the tribe and trained as warriors
by their parents. This weeded out the weak and sickly, and kept out people
strong as a race. But this…this pandemic ideology of tossing our children away
like rubbish, to be trained by strangers, is a custom of the Great Northern
Tribes, who’s strongest son became our first worldwide king after the Tsiru-jin
invasion a thousand years ago.

They were a harder people than the tribes of Turrasht, and
their customs have overborne all others since the first Vegita came to the
throne. We in the South keep our ideas to ourselves for the most part—but we
keep them, nonetheless.”

And so my life went for the better part of three years. A
little better each year, a little more in love with Raditz than in need of him.
Until Corsaris. Karrot-can…he was born as a direct result of—-no. Let me back
up and tell the whole story.

Eleven months ago, Raditz came to me while Noira, Dusca and I
were pruning and watering in the garden. He dismissed them with a look and
kissed me hard, lifting me off my feet, pressed so tightly against his body I
almost couldn’t breathe.

“What—?” I finally managed to gasp.

“I have been granted to right to lead an attack on the primary
base world of the Red Demons,” he said intently. “Kyouka and I petitioned the
Prince himself for the honor because we are the only two survivors of the sneak
attack on Shadras. But it will be a hard fight. The Maiyosh-jin rebels are
strong. They are not a warrior race by nature, but we have known since the purge
of Maiyosh Prime that they can fight like mad dire cats when cornered. If I
should fall—”

“You won’t die!” I screamed in his face, and he blinked, truly
startled. I had never raised my voice to him, not like this, in all the time
he’d owned me. “Don’t say ‘if’. You won’t die!” I was crying now, and he carried
me to our bed without another word.

He made love to me all afternoon and into the evening,
sometimes sweet and gentle, sometimes almost violently, and we didn’t speak
again until dawn. One last time, we moved together and then he—then he put his
mark on me, driving his teeth into my shoulder as he came, and for one brief
instant I could feel everything he felt for me, how much he loved me, flow
inside me with his seed. I knew what it meant that he had done this, and I also
knew it was something that was not done, even among third class warriors and
their alien mistresses. And Raditz…he had been pigeon-holed as second class at
birth, but he’d requested re-evaluation as a young man. He was a first class
warrior, the highest rank a man of common birth could ever hope to achieve.

“Raditz…” I whispered. I couldn’t catch my breath as he lay
over me, every inch of his huge frame trembling.

“Shhh…” He spoke against my lips. “You have been mine since the
day you

came to me, but now I am yours as well. Custom forbids it, but
there are no written laws. As long as we are discreet.” He kissed me again. “I
have asked my father to stay here while I am gone—” He felt me tense against
his body. “I have willed you and all my household to my mother in the event of
my death, but she is stationed on Arbatzu now. Toussan would care for you until
her tour of duty of was over. He will see you are safe, should any ill befalls
me,” one corner of his mouth curled up, “so try not to kill him while I am
gone.”

“You’re not going to die!” I whispered fiercely. “It won’t
happen.”

He’d left me dozens of times, on scores of battle missions, in
the past three years, and though he’d never given me any details (and I didn’t
want to know them), I knew that the enemies he had fought had never been
sufficient to give him

so much as a run for his money. So, I’d never worried about him
dying, or what my fate would be in the aftermath of such a catastrophe.

“Peace, beloved,” he said softly, and in spite of everything,
something leapt inside of me at the sound of that word. Beloved. A Saiyan word,
used without exception, only between husband and wife. “I would be a poor
protector if I did not make sure of your safety should the worst happen. I
cannot tell you where we are going, but our plan of attack is sound. The danger
is not great, it is simply…

present.”

I waited with my heart in my throat. No word came from the
hyper light news feeds, nothing for more than a week. I could see from the grim
set of worry on Bardock’s face that this was an ominous sign. I tried to keep
busy. Noira and I unpotted the cherry tree saplings I’d kept under my heat lamps
all winter and began planting them in what would be my orchard a few dozen
meters from the house. Noira and Hiru gaped like baited fish when Bardock
offered to help. By that time, I was so frantic with worry, I didn’t even object
or remember to be nasty to him whenever we ran into each other around the house.
Saiyans have no familial love my ass! I’ll loathe him til the day I die, but
those horrible days of not knowing convinced me that Bardock did love his
son—his oldest son, anyway.

On the tenth day of this hell of waiting, word came. Bardock
dragged me out of bed to come listen to the hyper light wave transmission, a
detailed report of the battle. The target had been Corsaris.

Corsaris…

The last seat of parliamentary monarchy and relative freedom in
the galaxy. The Lord Regent had held off enslavement beneath the Empire’s heels
for thirty years by providing a tithe of its rich grains and water
supplies—until Imperial Intelligence discovered that Prince Jeiyce of Maiyosh,
old Lord Corsaris’ foster son, was in fact the leader of the Red Demons. Until
it was learned that that the docile-seeming world was harbor to some 60 thousand
Maiyosh-jin supporters of the “terrorist movement” and their families.

And their families…

Raditz had been right. The Maiyosh-jin fought like cornered
dragons when they realized their backs were to the wall. And they discovered,
only after drop, that Corsaris had not been home to merely sixty thousand
Maiyosh-jin—the numbers were closer to six hundred thousand. All of them
righteously pissed. Raditz lost most of his primary assault unit in half and
hour and ended up fighting back to back with his squad brother Kyouka for his
life. Meanwhile, ships full of refugees packed into anything with the means to
achieve orbit were launching all around them. Then, the Saiyan backup force—a
twelve pack of giant troop carriers—dropped their legions onto the planet. It
was still a pitched battle for a while, but Raditz marshaled an organized
attack. After five hours of fighting, the Saiyans won the day.

After that…they didn’t just purge the world. They made an
example of it and anyone not lucky enough to escape during the first assault.
It’s not…it’s not the nature of Saiyan warriors to do what they did that day on
Corsaris. Saiyans kill without mercy or remorse, but they always kill quickly.
Jeiyce of Maiyosh was not on Corsaris when the attack came. Raditz later learned
that he’d missed the Red Prince’s departure by a matter of two hours. Jeiyce was
not there—but his family was.

At some point during the purge, old Lord Corsaris was killed,
torn limb from limb with deliberate slowness. At some point, Jeiyce’s little son
Jehan was killed, tossed from soldier to soldier, screaming his poor little
heart out while they laughed, breaking all his bones before they finally crushed
his head against a stone wall. And at some point, Raditz himself drug Jeiyce’s
wife Lady Jula out into the midst of the slaughter and gave her to his men. And
after she watched them kill her son, they raped her to death.

Raditz was wounded badly during the first part of the battle,
though he kept on fighting. Bardock offered to take me to Med Center to see him.
I said no. I wondered around in a frozen daze, the field reporter’s words
praising “the righteous, fiery vengeance for Arbatsu” ringing in my head over
and over. Bardock watched me closely, probably sensing how very, very close I
was to bolting.

Then Raditz came home. I saw him fly home from where I stood
pouring tree nutrient in the orchard. I didn’t go to meet him.

The…the hardest thing to accept was that he truly did not
understand why I was angry. No…not angry. Sick and grief-wracked and half
crazy with horror at what he had done. I tried to explain it to him when I
finally calmed down enough to speak to him. I knew how much he had loved his
squad brothers, all of whom had been killed by Jeiyce and his men. I tried so
hard to make him understand.

I wish I could say that my coldness lasted until he saw what
he’d done was horrific, until he wept as though his heart would crack for all
the innocent people he’d murdered. But he never understood, and considered my
anger an insult to his slain squad brothers. It seemed to him I was saying he
had no right to avenge them. And my coldness…it only lasted a few months.

He left after that scene in the orchard, cold and angry
himself, and hurt more deeply than I realized. He took some sort of assignment
in the Capital, until I “got my fool head back on straight” and I didn’t see him
for three months. Not until Romayna came to spend her furlow in our house and
saw the secret I had been keeping.

“Raditz does not know,” she stated simply. She sensed the baby
growing inside me instantly. “I…” I put my hands together in a protective pose
over my stomach, suddenly terrified. “Romayna-san, please…please!”
She had
always been kind to me in her gruff, proud way, had always treated me like a
person…but I still backed away from her with a shriek as she advanced on me. I
knew the laws. I knew that what I carried was a death sentence for her son as
well as me if it ever became known. She gently but firmly held me in place while
she lay a hand over my no longer flat stomach, her face unreadable. Then she
grinned, a full Saiyan smirk.

“He is strong, your firstborn.” Her eyes met mine. “Male to
female, our race is nearly thirty to one, girl. This happens more often than you
would think. If he looks Saiyan, he may be quietly acknowledged as Raditz’s son.
It is not common knowledge, but even a DNA scan cannot distinguish between a
half-blood and full blood Saiyan. Our blood is so strong it overbears that of
other peoples when we mix with them. If he bears your face, his fortunes will be
less prosperous and his tail will have to be removed. It is an old law that half
breeds must die, but…” She shrugged. “One cannot be called to accounts if a
crime is never known.” She frowned at me with mild displeasure before going on.
“Think well on how you will greet my son when he returns to you. He has given
you more than most men in his position would ever consider. Even to the point of
letting you, his legal property, turn him out of his own house and bed. Has it
never crossed your mind once how lucky you are in him?”

She told Raditz of course. And he came running home, just as
she’d known he would. And I…I took him back. I…………….

I should hate him for the things he did on Corsaris…but oh
gods, I can’t! Not just because he’s a man who loves me and is good to me, not
just because of Kami-sama’s warning against hatred. But because there wasn’t
just me to consider now. If my coldness finally managed to turn him against
me—it was my baby’s life that I was putting at risk as well as my own.

He was ecstatic about the baby. I don’t know what Romayna told
him, but he came home like a penitent prodigal, as though he had seen the truth
in my accusations, and I received him with a warm, “I’m sorry for being so
unreasonable” embrace. But it was all a pose, on both our parts. He knew I
needed him now, that I had no choice but to open my arms and take the love he
offered. The love and the protection. He had me over a barrel and we both knew
it.

When he came to our bed that night, he…he took me. Took
everything that was his, with a kind of controlled ferocity, again and again. At
the end, he collapsed on top of me with a deep, contented sigh. He knew I’d
never turn him away again. The baby would keep me obedient and loving and at his
side for the rest of my life. He loves me. I don’t doubt that. But…he also means
to keep me…and I think, at least initially, the biggest part of his happiness
over the baby was knowing that now…now he could keep me forever.

“You are mine, beloved,” he whispered, just before he fell
asleep.

“Yes,” I agreed softly. “I am.”

He was too fast asleep to feel me shaking beneath him. I cried
the rest of the night.

Contrary to the novels of high romance my mother was so fond of
reading, you cannot “mourn in sorrow all your days” over anything. There is too
much good, too much joy in simply being alive, in every single day, to dwell
constantly on all the things your life isn’t. Especially when you’re
pregnant. Raditz took an extended leave using the clout of his new promotion to
field marshal after Corsaris, and hovered over me until he nearly drove me out
of my mind. He wasn’t used to the day to day rhythms of the house, and at first,
he just got underfoot. All six feet ten of him. Noira and Hiru nearly died of
shock one morning when they saw him sitting beside me in the garden, awkwardly
potting a handful of pansies.

Things between us got easier after a few weeks of having him
back. Then they got comfortable. And by my third trimester, it was good
again…mostly because I had asserted some level of equality in our relationship
by that time. We lived together, except for his increasingly frequent trips to
the Capital. We worked on the house and gardens. At night, we sat before the
fire and talked, his hand caressing my tummy, feeling in fascination how the
life inside me grew stronger every day. It was good, as I said, after things
came to a head over Noira and her family around the fifth month of my
pregnancy.

He wanted to kill Noira, Hiru and Dusca, at first. I could see
the knowledge that they knew about the baby become a tangible, gnawing worry in
his eyes as I began to show. I could also see that he had decided, almost as
soon as he returned home, that he would take care of the potential threat in a
final, permanent, Saiyan fashion. The only question in his mind was whether he
would do it before or after the baby’s birth, since we would need Noira when it
came time to remove the baby and place him in the incu-pod Bardock
misappropriated from Med Center for us.

“Don’t do it,” I told him in a flat cold voice across the
dinner table.

He didn’t have to ask what I meant. He shook his head very
slowly. “They will be a threat to you, the boy and myself as long as they live.
They have been good, loyal servants, but—Bulma, think! They could blackmail
us, or simply expose us, with a word!”

“They won’t,” I said. I stood and walked over to his chair,
leaning down nose to nose with him. “Listen to me, Raditz,” I said, almost in a
whisper. “Noira, Hiru and Dusca have been my friends since I came to you. They
are good, kind-hearted people and I love them. They won’t betray us. If you are
nervous about having them around, use some of the fortune in spoils you took
from Corsaris and give them a ship and their freedom. I love you, Raditz.” I had
never said it before, and he looked startled and somewhat unnerved. He ‘humphed’
and looked away uncomfortably, but I took his cheek in one hand and turned his
face back to mine. “Do you love me, Raditz?”

“Bulma—” His face had reddened with a mix of anger and
embarrassment.

“Just nod your head ‘yes’ if you do,” I said softly, refusing
to be cowed by his thunderous expression.

Jaw clenched furiously, he nodded once and looked away again
with an angry growl. “Then don’t do anything to hurt them. You’ll kill
everything I feel for you if you do.”

He met my eyes for a long, hard moment and I didn’t flinch
under that black, intense stare. Then he took my face in his hand and pulled me
down to meet his lips. “You,” he said softly, “have grown from girl to woman
while I was not looking.” And he smiled.

Everything was better after that. Noira told me covertly that
Raditz had given her a terse command to bone up on medical texts concerning late
pregnancy incu-pod transfers and C-section surgery. Nothing more was said of the
matter, and the rest of my pregnancy went fairly smoothly.

Raditz began to come and go with a great deal of frequency
during my last trimester, never giving me any sort of satisfactory answer when I
asked where he had been. Bardock finally told me that Raditz had been formally
presented at court by the Prince himself in honor for his “heroics” on Corsaris.
That explained why he hadn’t mentioned what was still a touchy, raw subject we
never discussed. The Saiyan no Ouji, the Heir to the throne of the Empire, had
officially taken Raditz into his circle of Royal Companions, Bardock said. The
Crown Prince’s own personal squad.

“It is something unheard of,” Bardock said with a frown. “He
has said nothing to you because he came to the Prince’s notice in the same way
he came into his new wealth and rank—by his victory on Corsaris. But also…”
Bardock’s frown deepened.

“What?” I prodded, staring down at the chessboard between us
without really seeing it.

“He has risen higher in rank than many highborn warriors deem
seemly,” Bardock growled. “You remember the news feed reports during the battle,
girl! The victory on Corsaris was very nearly a loss. Raditz turned the tide of
a pitched battle with cunning, bravery and level headed iron will. It made him a
hero. A famous one. It brought him to the notice of the Prince who has now
befriended him. He is the son of a back country, common born squad captain. Can
you imagine how many enemies his sudden rise in station, not to mention the
Heir’s regard, has earned him among the Elites?”

“It is a double-edged sword I am holding,” Raditz told me that
night, after roundly cursing his father for a tell-all. “I did not seek fame or
court life, but I cannot snub it without giving offense. I did not seek
Vegita-ouji’s company, but a man cannot refuse a Prince’s offer of friendship.”
He swore softly. “And now I am trapped. I must come and go as he bids me, fight
at his side, laugh at his jokes, and spurn the my true squad brother Kyouka and
even my lowborn parents

to keep company with a pack of—” He stopped himself before he
said something seditious. “If it were the Prince alone, it would be great fun,
but all the others who surround him—it is like a nest of vipers, all vying for
his regard.”

“And the perverse thing,” I said thoughtfully. “Is that he
probably gives you more attention because you don’t want anything from him—all
the others do. Maybe he wants a friend who doesn’t kiss his ass.”

Raditz snickered. “There you are wrong. He likes it kissed well
and frequently. He’s of an age with you, but still very much a boy. A boy who
must always have his way.”

Noira took the baby in a scarless C-section about a month ago.
She and Raditz both assured me in no uncertain terms that I would probably not
survive a natural birth, and Raditz told me we weren’t going to wait and find
out. I’ve spent the last five weeks staring at him through the glass of his pod,
watching him sleep and suck his thumb. I was a little sad that I couldn’t see
anything of me in his face—until I held him. Until he opened his eyes and
stared up at me…his bright blue eyes.

 

 

There followed a series of seemingly never-ending entries, all
revolving around the child, her garden and Raditz—in that order, it seemed.
Vegita began to drift off in a light doze, lulled by the sound of her sweet
voice—until a note of mild panic in her words brought him back to full
wakefulness.

 

 

We’re having guests tonight. As in right now! Shhh…shhh,
sweetie, it’s just a storm… It’s okay. The boy’s warbling cries quieted
beneath the sound of distant thunder.
The storm’s clearing up already, and
they’ll be here any minute. Raditz just called and told us to “get ready”. I
don’t think he had much choice in the act of “inviting” his guests tonight.
There’s no time to move the baby, he said, but there is no reason to worry. No
one will see him. He told me to stay out of sight with Kakarott and everything
will be fine. Kami…they’re here. I have to go.

 

 

Fighting, blah-blah. Now, that was a great battle,
blah-blah. Murder and mayhem, blah-dee-blah-blah. The conversation downstairs
has been frightening and dull at the same time. I don’t know why I’m so
interested, except they’re the first new people I’ve seen in five years. Their
voices have gotten softer and a bit slurred in the last hour. I think they’re
all plastered, my dear mate included, but it’s getting interesting now. They’re
drunk enough to be honest with each other.

Hmm….the deep, velvety young man’s voice must be the Prince,
because they all defer to him. He’s saying something about “no strong enemies
left to fight.” Like a young Alexander, mourning that there was no more world
left to conquer. More like Alexander’s heir, if he’d had one. It must be hard to
grow up in the shadow of a father who conquered the whole damn galaxy. Nothing
left but punitive subjugation purges and the boring beaurocracy of running an
Empire. I wonder if he—Oh, Kami!

 

 

 

Shit. Shitshitshit! I have to remind myself to explain at a
more appropriate time the concept of Murphy’s Law. Fuck!!!

I know I closed the window! Somehow, Karot-chan got outside and
crawled over the edge of the cliffside on the northern face of the house. I
don’t know how it happened. I crawled out after him and found him stuck on a
rocky overhang ten meters below the drop-off, crying for Momma to help him. I
got halfway down to him and nearly fell myself before Raditz swooped down and
picked is both up with an angry curse. He was angrier and more frightened than
I’d ever seen him, but he calmed down a little too quickly when I explained what
had happened. I think I know why, too. He left the damn window open!

All’s well that ends well, I guess. But there’s one last thing
to tell. Something more than a little frightening. Raditz’ guests must have seen
him bring us back inside through the garden courtyard, though they didn’t see
the baby, thank the gods. As I went back to our rooms through the kitchens, I
found Noira and Hiru prepping breakfast for the men in the hearthroom, pulling
an all-nighter in case a guest needed the least little thing in the wee hours.
Noira saw me and put one finger to her lips. I stopped beside her, just behind
the servants’ kitchen entrance, listening. They were talking about me. Like men
discussing and admiring a prize winning show dog or a thoroughbred filly. I went
to our rooms and crawled into bed with Karot-chan beside me. That’s where I am
now.

Kami…I am lucky. So very, very lucky, to have fallen by chance
into Raditz’s hands. And not into the hands of one of those men downstairs.

 

 

 

 

Oh Kami…I left Karot-chan with Noira and went downstairs this
afternoon like an idiot. Raditz had said they would be gone by daybreak. He was
wrong. I didn’t realize I was singing out loud until I heard the hearthroom
doors creak behind me and—

 

A slamming noise cut off her words, the sound of booted heels
striding across the floor.

 

“He put his hands on you!” Raditz voice hissed harshly,
sounding muffled, as though his face were buried in her hair.

 

“I’m okay,” she said, but her voice trembled slightly.
“I haven’t been pawed since I was in high school, but it’s not fatal. It’s
okay…it’s over.”

“It is not,” Raditz rasped. “He has asked me to sell you
to him. Commanded me, more like—Bulma!” She had made some kind of horrified
moan.
“He will not have you! He will not come for you for a week. There is
time to—to think of some plan. I—I can perhaps make him believe you’ve died
by some accident or that you have run away. I will think of something! I—”
There was a long silence, broken only by the sound of Bulma’s soft sobs.
“He…he will not believe me. He will kill me and tear through every friend I have
to find you. I know him too well now. There is nothing and no one he will not
rend to have what he wishes when he is in this humor. It is my fault! I left the
fool window open, thinking the boy could do with some fresh air! I—” The
sound, fevered and desperate, of his lips on hers.

And in spite of everything, Vegita felt his hands clench in
jealous, black rage. “I will think of something, beloved. He will not have
you! He will not!”

 

 

 

Hi. It’s been several days since my last entry and it’s a gross
understatement to say that a lot has happened. Raditz came up with a plan all
right. We’re leaving Vegita-sei tonight. As soon as Hiru gets back with the full
med lab he’s heisting from Med Center in the Capital. As soon as Raditz finishes
priming our ship’s engines.” A soft, plaintive child’s whimper. “Shh,
baby. On top of everything else that’s happening, Karot-chan is teething. Raditz
bought the ship from his squad brother, his real squad brother, Kyouka,
no questions asked. Noira is putting Dusca to bed in one of the ship’s two
cabins, and Raditz is in the engine room, having a minor nervous breakdown. He
was a lot worse before Hiru told him he used to be a freighter pilot on
Ansou-sei and can plot a hyper light jump. I think Raditz is thinks he can
memorize the flight manual in the next hour. We don’t know how long we’ll be
traveling. To the edge of Imperial space and beyond, so it’ll probably be months
before we stop running.

Raditz hasn’t told his parents what we’re doing so as not to
implicate them in his defection, but I’m terrified of what the Prince might do
to them out of spite, and Kyouka as well, since he knows the three of them are
Raditz’ closest friends.

Raditz says he’ll send a direct communication to his them as
soon as we’re away, and they can decide whether to lie low or ride Vegita-ouji’s
royal tantrum out and hope for the best. Raditz…gods.

He’s giving up his world, his friends, his family, his rank and
wealth—

All to keep me.

All to save me.

I don’t know which of those two desires is stronger in him now,
but…I love him for it. I don’t just need him anymore. I love him. A little
silence, punctuated by the baby’s soft, drowsy breath. Her voice fell to lighter
than a whisper.

 

I promised absolute honesty in this diary, didn’t I? Yes, I
did…

The first thing I thought when I saw the Prince of Vegita-sei
standing in my garden, looking me up and down, those cruel black eyes burning
over my body with this…this raw, brutal, animal lust…the first thing I
thought, even before I thought “Asshole!” was…was “beautiful”.

Beautiful.

And wild and dangerous and wicked and— She broke off and
released a trembling little sigh.
Absolute honesty, right? When he put his
hands on me, I was outraged and terrified…but my whole body seemed to catch
fire. And I could imagine him having me in the darkest hour of the night, our
sweating bodies moving together toward this super nova of a climax and—

Damn…

He saw it. He felt me react to him. And I think…I think it’s
all my fault this is happening.

But this is not a bad thing in the long run, is it? Or even in
the short run. My husband—and he really will be my husband after we launch,
not just my owner who loves me—is leaving to wholesale murder business
forever. My baby won’t be trained to be a cold-blooded killing machine. And I’ll
be free. So…so what’s bad about that? Not a damn thing.

After tonight, everything changes. My life begins again.

Come on, Karot-chan. Let’s go outside and watch for Jisan
Hiru.

 

 

The audio file clicked off, and the bedside comp beeped,
signaling a change in file format. Of course. The next section would be nothing
but text. Nearly a year’s worth of Silenced text. Vegita sat and pulled the
terminal screen into his lap with mechanical slowness. He would listen. And he
would read. Every word, without omission. It was part and parcel to his blood
debt. He hit the execute command and read.

 

 

 

I will kill him. He’s going to die. I will. I will I

Raditz is dead my baby is dead. My baby is dead my baby baby my
abay m

A monster tore him out of my arms and crushed him. He cried
when it happened he hurt

my baby hurt

Am I dreaming? I can’t wake up. I dreamed a memory of how
Karot-chan kicked when I was carrying him. I’ve been asleep since it
happened.

It was like a car wreck. It happened too fast, without any
warning or ceremony, the way catastrophe always blindsides you

they caught us

The evil prince and the monster when I was little momma told me
princes killed monsters

I never saw wher they came from. The giant grabbed me and
lifted me up in the air. He was laughing. Then he pulled Karot-chan away from me
and made this noise of disgust when he saw it was a baby. My baby is dead

He killed him like he was slapping a bug and just tossed him
away like a piece of garbage. A heard someone shout at him angrily. The giant
dropped me when the Prince attacked him. I don’ t know why he attacked him. I
could see Raditz lying dead on the the ship’s boarding ramp. I crawled over to
Karot-chan and tried to wake him up. After a minute or two I decided he must be
sleeping very soundly so I began to sing him his lullaby the song Momma always
sang to me. Someone asked me a question and I remember looking up just once to
tell the Saiyan no Ouji to hush. Not to wake my baby. Then I went to sleep. I
don’t remember closing my eyes.

It’s later. I am on some serious drugs right now.

While I was asleep, the Voice that had spoken to me behind
Kami’s voice spoke to me again, He told me to be strong. He told me my long dark
road had come for me at last.

I told Him to fuck Himself and give me back my baby.

I came back from catatonia-land screaming. The staff medic gave
me a shot so I wouldn’t wreck the place and myself. The house slaves here told
me I’m in the Prince’s summer house, somewhere in the Western Sea. I had this
diary in the waist pouch I was wearing when they caught us. So, I thought I’d do
something besides sit and rock back and forth. The drug has helped that, though
it hasn’t impeded my motor reflexes. It’s helped me keep in mind that there’ll
be time enough for a complete mental breakdown after I’ve escaped.

Noira and Dusca were still in the ship when we were attacked,
and Hiru hadn’t returned yet. I have to find out what happened to them and take
them with me when I leave. I’ve only had Hiru’s four day crash course in space
ship piloting, but at this point, I don’t give a damn.

But I have something to do first. Prince Vegita will be
arriving shortly, the housemaids just told me. I can’t speak. That’s why I’m
writing this, or trying to. The medic gave me some kind of vocal muscle relaxant
and I can’t make so much as a peep. I asked him why and he lowered his eyes and
looked away. I think I can guess why.

I have dismantled several choice machines around the estate
while I’ve been waiting for his highness to arrive. I’ve jury rigged a
reasonable duplicate of my

Ki-zapper, the same energy wave I used to plug Bardock back on
Chikyuu. The energy wave that disrupts the brain centers where a warrior’s Ki
resides. Vegita no Ouji is going to get the shock of his life when he arrives.
Then he’s going to get his fucking throat slit.

 

 

 

It didn’t work it didn’t kill him he was too strong. He was so
strong.

I’m escaping today. I’ll swim to the mainland if I have to.
I’ll be gone before he comes back this evening.

I know now why they Silenced me

 

 

 

He caught me in less than an hour he brought me back to his
summe hous back to his bedd

 

 

 

M baby is dead Raditz is dead my baby is dead I am dead and
this is hell

 

 

 

 

Its been a few days I don’t know how many mor e than 3 I think.
I’ll try again to get away today

 

 

 

I can do this! The Ki rupturing theory is sound, I proved that
when I shot Bardock. I just need a bigger power source and a narrower energy
funnel for a more intensified burst. There’s not shit to work with on this
island!

 

 

 

Failed again, but only partially. I took his energy down to the
point where I was able to stab halfway through his shoulder with nothing more
than a steel fire poker. I’ve made the mistake of not taking into the account
inherent Saiyan physical strength. The energy wave has got to be utterly
debilitating to work on someone as strong as him. But I’m encouraged. It didn’t
stop him, but he finished up a lot sooner and had to stagger off to Scopa before
he bled to death. Scopa, gods love him, told him he should spend the rest of the
night in the regen tank, which is good, because the murder attempts seem to just
turn him on more. Before he left me tonight, he leaned down and kissed me in the
Saiyan way, nipping my lip with his teeth.

“Dangerous woman,” he said softly.

 

 

 

The housemaids are twin sisters named Batha and Caddi. They’re
both Anousei-jin, like Noira and Hiru. Scopa is the staff medic and he’s a
Madrani. The twins asked me this morning not to use any more of their culinary
appliances. I already fragged their juicer and the smaller micro oven. They’re
worried I’ll leave them with nothing to cook with, and Batha finally told me
bluntly that if his meals aren’t ready when he arrives in the evening, they can
both pretty much kiss their asses goodbye. I won’t take anything else from the
kitchens. Besides, there’s still Scopa’s surgery.

 

 

 

Still no success. I had something really promising, but the
“test subject” is one fast son of a bitch and I think he realized that the new
prototype was an improvement on the one that got him stabbed last time. So, he
squashed it. It’s been several days. Scopa says it’s been several days, anyway.
I sort of lost count at some point. I haven’t tried a royal execution of an
escape in a while. I think I’ve spent the last couple of days sitting and
staring. I don’t really remember. I want my baby. I want my momma. I have to
focus on killing him and not slip away like that. If I do, I may never come
back. But I still fight him. I guess I’ll die fighting him one of these
nights.

 

 

 

 

I’ve stopped eating. I can’t keep anything down, so Scopa gave
me a sedative laced with some kind of cannabis-like herb that inhibits the
regurgitation reflex. He’s not supposed to do that unless my health is in
danger, but he says I’ve lost too much weight. The Prince doesn’t want my senses
dulled, Batha says. Not while he’s breaking me. Breaking me. I guess like you
break a horse to ride.

Wow, this is a good sedative.

Batha and Caddi help Scopa put me in the regen tank every
morning. They’re all nice. I told them they should escape with me, that we could
all get away together.

The first morning after, the twins held my hands and caressed
my face while Scopa set my shoulder, my collar bone, and my ribs and put my hip
joint back in its socket. They cleaned me up while Scopa set the bones in my
wrists. The tank makes everything, flesh and bone, as good as new, but it can’t
set bones. Batha told me she and her sister were garrison whores when they were
young girls, used by common squad soldiers, one after the other. They survived.
She told me I can survive.

She said I am very lucky as pleasure slaves go, to have only
ever had one master at a time. I began laughing hysterically, even though I
couldn’t make a sound.

That first night, I kept thinking it wasn’t happening. Right up
to the instant he shoved himself inside me. I kept thinking I could make it
stop. I couldn’t make it stop. I couldn’t make it not happen. He was on top of
me, and then he was inside me and all over me and I couldn’t get away or even
scream for him to stop. And as soon as he finished, he was ready again. It went
on all night. And his face…it was never angry or cruel, just excited and really
turned on. He was smiling half the time, like a boy with a new toy or pet he had
wanted for a long time. That’s worse than if he hated me and meant to torture
me. I’m just a pet he’s training to obey. If he hated me, at least I’d be a
person to him.

 

 

 

 

Batha told me two days ago to stop fighting him. She said he’s
hurting me so badly because he’s trying to break my spirit.

“And it time,” she said. “He will. He’ll wear you down until
your mind and your will buckles and breaks, child. Then you’ll be his ‘doll’.
That’s what we used to call the pleasure slaves who broke completely. A ‘doll’.
A Saiyan’s walking talking love slave, who lives to please him. I’ve seen some
of them even kill themselves out of heartbreak when their masters were killed in
battle or set them aside for a younger girl.”

“I can’t!” I signed to her. Batha and her sister had taught me
Silence, the signing language of Vegita-sei courtesans. “He killed my baby. He
killed Raditz. All to have me! I can’t let him have me! It would be like
spitting on my family’s graves!” I had just come out of the tank and I was woozy
and light-headed. I always have to sleep an hour after the tank drain out to
fully recuperate. She shook her head as she helped me into bed.

“I’m sorry about your baby,” she said, tucking me in. “I cannot
grieve for the man who butchered Corsaris, but the boy’s death must be hard to
bear.” She was trying to sound sympathetic, but I could see something in her
eyes, something cold and murderous that must have been born inside her during
her years as a garrison whore, that told me she would have had no moral problem
with strangling a half Saiyan baby in its cradle—just because it was half
Saiyan.

“Raditz loved me,” I told her, sleepily.

“I suppose he did,” she murmured, “though I have never heard of
such a thing. I never met a Saiyan warrior who was not a violent beast.”

Raditz was a man, I wanted to tell her. But I knew she’d never
understand or want to. They’re all just men. It would be easier if they were
monsters, but they’re not. They’re just bad people.

She stroked my forehead the way my mother always used to when I
was feverish. “If you want revenge, Bulma….submit to him. He is young and you
are the first pleasure slave he has ever taken into his household. He has born a
great deal of his father’s and his people’s displeasure to have you—which is a
sign that he is fairly obsessed with you already. Give in to him. Please him. In
a month or two, he will have to move back to the Capital or risk angering his
father even more. By that time, girl, you could be manipulating the little
bastard to do anything you ask of him. Do you want to kill him, child? Do you
want a chance to kill Lord Nappa, the one who killed your son?”

“Yes!” I mouthed. I would have screamed it if I could.

“You will have access to all the tech supplies you need when we
return to the Capital,” she said softly. “I’ll get them for you if it costs me
my life. You can perfect that little weapon that almost gave a girl with no
readable Ki at all the means to kill the strongest warrior on this planet. You
can use it to kill that great brute Nappa and even the Prince in due time.
Fighting him when he comes to you is futile, child. Believe me, I know. But
there are other ways of fighting.”

I ran.

I could see the logic in her words but I couldn’t do it. I just
couldn’t!

I found the rusted out hull of a sea skiff below the cliffs on
the western edge of the island, rewired it, and took off without waiting to see
if it was air or sea-worthy. It turned out to be neither. I went into the drink
about five minutes toward the mainland, and then remembered why Scopa had warned
me not to try swimming. They call them sea shrikes—they’re kind of a cross
between a shark and an aquatic wolverine. I remember horror movies when I was
little where the camera pov showed the open maw of a killer shark ready to
swallow the victim whole. And I thought…I thought, it’s not so bad. Being fish
food. It’ll be over quickly.

He showed up in the last second and saved me.

I was shaking all over from adrenaline, from the sensation of
having mentally embraced death for those few seconds. Accepted it with a warm
smile of welcome. Then having been rudely jerked back into the hell of
living.

“Why?” I asked him silently. “Why couldn’t you just let me
die?” I was crying a little bit. I hadn’t let him see me cry in a long time.

He touched my face then and smoothed the hair out of my eyes.
“I do not want you to die,” he said quietly. Then he looked forward, away from
me, and snorted angrily.

And oh gods, I recognized that look, that combination of
mannerisms. Raditz had always done the same thing when his feelings for me
embarrassed him. And I knew Batha had been right when she told me I could be
running him in a month or two if I wanted.

It was a way to find Noira and her family, to find out what had
happened to Romayna and Kyouka and even Bardock. And I knew I’d never get at
Nappa except through the little bastard who was even now sneaking a peek down at
my face, trying to read my thoughts.

So…I just collapsed against him. And he smiled down at me, his
expression a sickening mix of smug triumph and gentleness. He thought he’d
beaten me at last.

When we got back to the summer house, I thought, I’ll just lie
back and let him have me. And maybe if I don’t fight, he won’t hurt me so badly.
But he wasn’t satisfied with just using my body. He pulled off my clothes
slowly, his hands, his mouth, his body working mine against its will. When I
realized what was happening, that after all these weeks of brutal rape, he meant
to make me feel pleasure, I nearly broke and began fighting him again. But I
didn’t. I held still and let him do everything he wanted.

And I discovered that there are much worse things than tearing,
bone-splitting rape. There is pleasure under the hands of a man who has murdered
my family and savaged me like an animal every night for two months. He took his
time.

He was gentle and thorough and skilled and he rang every bell I
had to ring. It was just as it had been that first day in my garden. My body
caught fire under his touch. And when I locked my legs around his waist and
moved with him, when I came that first time with him inside me, I felt my sanity
tilt on its axis and nearly fracture into a million pieces. I know he thought he
was being kind to me. Giving me pleasure as a reward for “behaving” now that he
had what he wanted from me. But…it was worse, much worse, than having him rip me
apart night after night.

I woke this morning just before dawn, and for the first time
since he took me for his own, I wasn’t a bleeding broken mess. Just a little
sore here and there. His arm was looped around me, his body curled behind me in
a lover’s embrace. He was smiling in his sleep, a cat-and-canary smile of utter
contentment. I dove back down into sleep, away from reality and away from him.
And in the dreamscape,

I saw Raditz’ ghost with a hole through his heart, holding
Karot-chan’s dead body in his arms. He bared his teeth at me and spoke one
sentence.

“Whore!” He said. “It is all you fault!”

He was right. He was right. If I hadn’t given the Prince that
flash of heat when he touched me, none of this would have happened and my family
would still be alive.

I woke with a jolt and found myself alone. The height of the
sun said it was nearly noon. I got up and ran out of the house in nothing but my
skin, tearing as fast as I could toward the cliffs on the western face of the
island. I would have jumped if Scopa hadn’t tackled me. Batha and Caddi came
running up behind us.

“Don’t do it, love!” Scopa told me. He was crying, cradling me
in his arms while I struggled and clawed, trying to get away, to the sweet
blessed night that

would greet me at the bottom of the cliffs. “Don’t! Don’t let
him beat you. There’s life beyond this, I swear there is. You just have to hold
on and not let him win. If you give up, he’s beaten you!”

I went limp in his arms a few seconds later after he gave me
another forbidden sedative. I could hear them talking around me, but their
voices seemed to be coming through a hollow pipe.

“…have to tell her now,” Batha was saying angrily.

“It can wait until later,” Scopa snapped.

“It can’t wait and you know it,” Batha told him in her cold
voice. “If nothing else, it’ll give her incentive to stay alive until her mind
is stronger. Tell her, boy!”

“Bulma,” he said softly. “Can you understand me?” I nodded. “We
three—Batha, Caddi and myself—are charged with caring for you while the
Prince is away. If you die in our care, for any reason, he will kill us all.
And…there is a slave law you should know. If one slave in a given household
escapes, all the others are put to death.”

The last nails in the coffin of all my hope. I can’t escape. I
can’t even die. So, here I lie, waiting for my master to return. I am a whore. I
am the Saiyan no Ouji’s obedient whore. My road….my long, dark road….

 

 

 

Fuck despair.

It’s three hours since I wrote last. The twins came into my
bedroom a while ago and sat on either side of me. Then they literally gave me a
reason to live.

“I want you to hear all that I am about to tell you before you
consider what to do next,” Batha said. “We want you to build your Ki disrupting
weapon. We want you to perfect it. We’ve just received confirmation that if
you’ll be given any materials you need as soon as we return to the Capital.”

I sat there stunned for a few seconds, then signed one word.
“Underground?”

Batha smiled slowly and nodded. “There is a quiet revolution
brewing, my dear. You can be part of it if you want. I’m not wrong in thinking
you want to join us, am I?”

I began to cry and hugged her, nodding furiously.

“We’ll set things up for you to begin as soon as we return to
the Capital,” Batha said. “The less you know for the moment, the better. But in
the meantime…the Network wishes to ask a more difficult task of you. This is
what we were originally commanded to ask of you, before we learned of your
technical talents.

I know you wish to kill the Prince and Nappa. Based on what I
have seen you achieve with lamps and kitchen appliances, I am willing to say
that once back in the Capital, you will be more than capable of achieving both
their deaths quickly.

We—our superiors in the Network—wish you to stay your hand.
At least where the Prince is concerned. We do not want Vegita-ouji dead. We want
him alive and well and sitting on his father’s throne as soon as possible.”

“Why?” I mouthed, fascinated in spite of myself. This was
starting to sound like a spy movie.

Batha grinned. “Vegita-ou is cold and brilliant and ruthless.
He does not make mistakes or take one step in any direction without first
thinking it through. As kings go, he’s a great man. He has led his people to
conquer the entire explored galaxy. But the boy? He’s young, green, impatient,
hot-headed and spoiled rotten.

Now, if Poppa were to have a nasty accident sometime during the
next year, and if open, galaxy wide rebellion were to break out at almost
the same time—Well, a young prince, no matter how strong, who thinks with his
cock and his Ki, is very likely to make stupid mistakes and lead his people to
defeat in all out war. So…let him live, my dear. Please him, flatter him, obey
him, learn his moods, his habits—wrap him as tightly around your finger as you
can manage. You may think that your face and body are a curse, child, but they
can be powerful weapons. Learn everything you can about the doings of the Royal
Council, especially planned purge strikes. The boy sits on his father’s right
hand every day. Or he did until the scandal involving you and Raditz. He will be
back in his father’s good graces soon

enough. The old monster dotes on the boy to distraction. If you
can let us know about a punitive strike action in advance, you can prevent
another Corsaris from happening!”

I said yes. Of course I said yes.

First thing tomorrow, after he leaves to go Ki blast puppies
and bunnies, or whatever the hell he does when he trains, I’ll start drawing up
a list of materials I’ll need.

“I understand why I can’t begin building seriously until we go
back to the Capital,” I told the twins, “But I the need some tech journals—no,
a pile of tech journals. I want to learn as much as I can about the technologies
available to me. Is there any way you could your hands on something like that?”
Kami, the learning and sciences of several thousands worlds, the whole damn
Empire—I’m salivating, just thinking about it! Batha gave me a generalized
technical encyclopedia disc from the Royal College of Engineers’ Library in the
Capital.

She said she had lifted it from Scopa’s tiny disc library in
his little surgery.

“Just for orientation,” she said with a grin at my bright-eyed,
eager smile as I almost tore the disc out of her hands. “We’ll get you more when
you’re done with this one.”

My brain feels flabby. It’s been so long since I read an
engineering journal or built anything. This wealth of knowledge, pirated from
all the worlds in the Empire, is overwhelming! I’ll finish this disc tomorrow,
but I already have some ideas, in addition to the Ki-zapper—I need to think up
a more dignified name for it—that could potentially help a people with little
or no fighting power, worlds like Chikyuu, stand a fighting chance against a
purge strike. The Ki-zapper will give worlds like Corsaris an edge when they
finally stand up together and fight for their freedom. But how many worlds will
end up purged, or just caught and burned in the cross fire, when the rebellion
begins? How many children like Jeiyce of Maiyosh’s son, like my son, will be
butchered for their fathers’ deeds before it’s over?

Kami-sama’s words about not giving in to hate came back to me
again while I sat in the sun this afternoon, devouring the encyclopedia whole. I
think I know what the caution meant now. He was warning me not to let go of my
heart. Not to become cold and driven and full of a cause because there’s nothing
left in my heart but hate. Like Batha.

Some of the ideas that flitted through my head, just on this
first cursory reading of a generalized introduction to all the technology I have
at my disposal now…some of the ideas that began to come to me were terrifying.
The ideas of things I could build, some of them nightmarish in their sheer
simplicity, monstrous creations of mass destruction—they can never, must
never, see the light of day.

It’s not just the old Briefs family genius at work here either.
The Madrani are the only race who have even touched on the possibilities of
machines over fighting power. The entire known galaxy has never even really
explored the thought of world crushing machines, of pin-point hyper light
compressed lazer cannons that could blow a sun to atoms from light years away,
of— You get the point. This galactic civilization has, for time out of mind,
relied almost solely on the fighting power of soldiers to fight battles. So, no
one has ever really thought long or hard about the possibilities of using
machines to battle for you. But…the Chikyuu-jin mind doesn’t work that way. I
could make a machine to collapse a planet from its core outward. I could build a
cannon to kill a star from ten light years away.

This has got to be what Kami meant. That I must not let the
hate inside me for all that has happened to me drive me to build such machines.
I will not be an Oppenheimer. I will remember that Son-kun is coming back and
will need me, that the gods themselves entrusted me to care for him when he
comes. I will build defensive weapons only.

The Idrali-jin science of light and life force refraction in
volume twenty of the disc gave me a great idea though. For a kind of
invisibility engine to hide the children and families of the rebels. So no more
men like Jeiyce will have to lose what matters most to them in the galaxy as
punishment for standing up for what’s right.

Before they left me, Batha told me one more thing. Scopa is not
Red Network and can know nothing about any of this. He would not turn them in,
but he’s a devout pacifist, and would never join us. And anyone, slave or free,
who learns the identity of a Network operative must be killed. No exceptions.
Batha said that this sort of ruthless secrecy is the only way the Network can
survive. I swore on Karot-chan’s soul to keep the Network’s secrets. I don’t
like it, and I would stop them if they tried to kill Scopa, but…they’re the only
game in town, so to speak. It didn’t occur to me until after they had left me
that the logical progression of that policy of cell secrecy meant that if I had
rejected their offer they would have killed me, too.

I will live. I have something to live for again, while I wait
for Son-kun to arrive. It’s hard, very hard, not to hate the gods for what
they’ve let me suffer.

And I know my dark road is nowhere near at its end. I want to
make sure that, in my lifetime, no one will ever again have to suffer the kind
of things I’ve suffered.

And I will.

 

 

 

 

It’s been four weeks since my last entry. I’ve been busy.
Scopa’s let me download disc after disc from his surgery’s high speed connection
to the Imperial Library. I told him I was the daughter of a mastertech trade
house on my homeworld, and that the tech manuals and journals are my idea of the
epitome of entertainment in reading material. He was so pleased to see me
smiling and taking an interest in anything, he said to download whatever I want.
Gods, he’s such a sweet trusting man. Batha didn’t believe I was going through
the journals so quickly. I don’t know why. It’s not like I’ve got anything else
to do all damn day but study.

It’s scary how any situation, no matter how horrific, can
settle into a pattern a daily routine. I wake up each morning—sometimes I get
woken up for a quickie or two before he flies to the mainland. Scopa comes in as
soon as he hears the Prince leave for the day and checks me out, making the
necessary repairs when needed. These days, I usually don’t need anything more
extensive than a bone sauter for a rib or two, and a tissue knitter for bruises.
Most of the time, I don’t even need the bone sauter. I want him to teach me how
to use it on myself.

When that’s out of the way, I eat breakfast with Scopa and the
twins. Then I sit out on the rocky beach and study until he returns in the
evening. Scopa usually comes out and joins me at noon and brings us a little
picnic lunch. He can read lips, so I don’t have to type out or sign our
conversations. We eat and we talk about a little of everything, our childhoods,
our lost homeworlds. Madran was destroyed when he was three years old. He’s been
a slave his entire life.

Yesterday, he was supposed to give me a booster injection for
the Silencing.

He asked me if I hate him and I was honestly surprised.

“I Silenced you,” he said softly. His amber face was twisted up
in anguish, and I realized this had been eating him alive inside. “I patched you
up every morning so he could have the pleasure of breaking you again that night.
I still do. If he had commanded me, I would have had to—to give you a
susaji juice aphrodisiac or even—even—” I stopped him with a hand on
his arm.

“If you had refused, he would have killed you,” I said
silently.

“I am a coward,” he whispered. “It is no excuse to do evil or
abet evil and say, ‘I was commanded to do these things on pain of my life.’ It
is no excuse! I have betrayed all I ever held sacred to save my own life. I have
spent my entire life in Med Center, Bulma. I was trained as a trauma surgeon. I
have never been asked, in all my years as a slave of the Empire, to do anything
other than heal the wounded and tend the unborn. When…when the Prince brought
you to this island, he commanded medical admin to send him their best
physician…”

“And they sent you,” I finished for him.

“I thought he wanted me as his personal staff medic…for
himself,” Scopa said dully. “He has a well known tendency to train dangerously.
I felt honored. When I arrived here, he led me to where you sat and I saw that
you were in some kind of deep withdrawal shock. He told me to wake you and prep
you for—for his use. I gave you a series of gentle shock stims to pull you out
of the shock. Then I sedated you after you woke and Silenced you, and…and just
left you for him to—to—” His breath caught in a soft sob. “I could not have
taken you to safety, because it would have meant Batha and Caddi’s lives, but I
should have done something! I should have died before I did as he asked.
It was the first true test of whatever moral fiber I have and I was too
frightened to do anything!” He was kneeling beside me on the blanket we always
used as a picnic spread as he spoke.

Slowly, he put his face and palms to the ground before me in a
pose of such utter submission, I choked on tears myself. “I beg you…I beg you,
forgive me. I will not compromise what I know to be right again. I will not give
you the Silencing injection, even if it means my life.”

My hand was shaking a little when I took the hypo from his hand
gently and pressed it into my own arm. I took his shoulders and pulled him up
slowly to face me. “If it wears off, he will kill you,” I said. “And I won’t let
you die on my account. I don’t blame you, Scopa. Please don’t blame yourself.
It’s not your fault. It’s mine. All of this is my fault.” Something in the way I
smiled at him made him pale with worry. For just a second or two, I saw myself
through his eyes and recoiled a bit. The fragile, haunted, too-thin girl
mirrored in his dark eyes looked like she was stumbling along a precipice of
madness. She in no way resembled the woman with a cause I believed I had become.
She was in no way as ‘okay’ as I thought I was.

“It is his fault, Bulma!” He said, reaching out and shaking me
lightly. “His! Raditz’ death, your son’s death, the way he has used you—it is
his fault, not yours!

How are you at fault? Because you are beautiful? That is the
ravisher’s excuse since time began and it is a lie!”

I couldn’t tell him about the garden. I couldn’t make him see
that I knew I had invited the Prince to take me when he touched me that first
time. Some things are too shameful to ever tell another living soul. And if I’d
told him the whole truth, Scopa’s gentle heart would have tried to grant me some
kind of absolution for my sin. I don’t want any. I know I deserve everything
that he’s done to me.

Batha and Caddi are nice to me, but I’ve had time to realize
they watched the Prince use me night after night with a kind of cold calculation
behind their sympathy and comfort, knowing that if I survived the initial
‘breaking’, their cause would have a loyal, devout new recruit, strategically
placed in the Crown Prince’s own bed. Their cause, our cause, is right, but…

Batha is, beneath the kind, smiling mask she showed me as
first, ruthless and agate-hearted. Caddi is a study in introversion, silent,
never meeting my eyes…but under that stoop-shouldered, broken pose is a woman as
dedicated to her purpose as her sister. On some profound level they’ve subverted
their hearts and morality to achieve their ends.

Scopa is not a freedom fighter. He’s just a good man trying to
live in evil times and do the right thing. And he’s my friend. Oh Kami, it’s so
good to have a friend again.

 

 

 

We moved back to the Capital yesterday. He has a surprisingly
low key villa in the hills, overlooking the huge city. We loaded up the flyer
everyone had somehow kept hidden from me during the weeks of my escape attempts
and flew across the sound. As I watched Scopa and the twins load their few
personal possessions and the mini-surgery, I could have kicked myself for not
thinking of capsulization technology sooner. It had nearly innumerable uses to a
hunted rebel force that needed to travel quick and light. I drew up full design
plans, the nuts and bolts on up, from memory while we flew and gave the data
chip to Batha.

“Give that to your cell leader,” I told her. “And after they’ve
built it and tested it, tell them there’s a hell of a lot more where that came
from. I’ve included a wish list of supplies and materials I’ll need to get
started on the Ki-gun. But I’ve got to have some sort of lab to give them
anything more complex.”

“You’ll get it,” she said emphatically.

I spent the next few hours reading out on the stone deck that
faced the hill country, listening to the distant roars of ships launching and
descending at the space port on the western edge of the Capital along the coast.
Leaving

Vegita-sei…

I am trapped. If I leave, I cause the deaths of everyone else
in the household. If I die, same thing. If I kill him…

I asked Scopa what would happen if I made it look like an
accident. He went pale and shook his head. “No, Bulma. Even if you succeed, you
can’t be certain there would be no suspicions. The tiniest suspicion would be
enough to get you torn apart by the Inquisitors. And the King would take out his
grief on every slave on Vegita-sei.”

So, I can’t kill him. I knew that anyway, it’s just a pleasant
daydream. Not yet, Batha told me. I understand why he needs to stay alive. Why
he’s worth more to the Red Demons alive than dead. So, I’ll bide my time. But
Nappa…he’s a different matter altogether.

Last night, the Prince introduced me to susaji juice.
Scopa didn’t mix it for him, he brought it home fermented into a bottle of
expensive goldberry wine.

It tasted like honey mead on my tongue, and he watched me as I
obediently drank the full glass he’s poured me, those black eyes glittering with
expectation. I thought it was only wine, his idea of a ‘home-coming’ toast. When
I finished the glass, he left me sitting at the dining table and moved over to
stoke the embers of the hearthpit, a small smile on his lips. I followed him,
wondering what new game this was and what I should do. He sat down after a
moment in a big blackwood armchair and I knelt down before him. He smiled again
as he ran a hand through my hair, like a man petting a lap dog. I took the hand
in mine and drew it down my face, smiling myself, picturing him impaled on a bed
of knives while I removed his guts with a dull scalpel. He didn’t say anything
or make a move on me. I knew why, or thought I did.

It hadn’t taken him long to start demanding that I do more than
just submit and respond to his advances. After a while, he began to want me to
make the first move. To do things to him, rather than just lie down and comply.
I played dumb in this, pretending that I had very little in the way of advanced
skills in this area. He believed it of course, and even made some nasty comment
about low class warriors like Raditz having little idea of how to please of
woman. I jumped on him and began pummeling him with my bare fists when he said
that, screaming soundlessly that Raditz had been twice his size, in every sense
of the word, and had never hurt me once. He thought the bare-handed attack was
hilarious, but the idea of me rebelling against him because of his slander
toward Raditz made him angry.

“You need a reminder of how things were and could be again if
you do not behave yourself, woman,” he hissed. He hurt me badly that night. He
only stopped when he realized he’d broken my spine and I was dying.

But on the whole, he seemed pleased that I appeared to be
sexually unsophisticated. He believed he was teaching me as we went along.

I kissed the thin skin over his wrist, imagining it slit open,
is life’s blood pouring out. I put both hands on his knees, moving my body
between them, sliding my hands up his thighs, preparing to give him a lengthy
and thorough blow job. Each moment it took meant another moment he would not be
inside me, making me come, making hate myself and all the gods in creation for
giving me over to this nightmare. He always makes me come, again and again, but
always hurts me, too—he has every night, except that first night when I gave
in. He’s skilled in what he does, but at some point, he always loses his control
and either cracks a bone or tears me up inside by going too hard and too fast.
On a good night, if I’m lucky, he’ll hurt me at the end of the night rather than
at the beginning. If it’s at the beginning, I’m SOL, because once he starts, he
won’t stop. He may think the writhing in agony under him is me getting off, but
in the end, he really doesn’t give a damn. Though he did growl at me angrily
once when I stopped moving with him because of the pain.

“Are you getting bored, woman?!” He snarled. Then he increased
his pace and strength and hurt me worse for having stopped,

That’s a long way of explaining why blow jobs have become my
specialty. I began kissing my way up his thigh, but he stopped me with a gentle
push, shaking his head. “You do not want me yet,” he said. “Not truly.”

 

No-fucking-duh! I thought. I sat back with my legs tucked
beneath me, wondering what the hell he wanted from me now. Then the
susaji juice began to kick in. It was like going mad with an insatiable
craving in the space of an instant.

It was like starving and smelling roasting beef right in front
of you, like dying and coming upon a pool of cold clean icy water. Only what I
needed, what I was starving for, was sex. My blood felt like it was boiling, as
though every nerve in my body had been teased to the brink of a thunderous
climax that has yet to come.

I felt like an addict shrieking for a fix. I leapt on him,
ready to tear his clothes off and have him in the most animal way imaginable.
There was no sense, no thought, no hate—just need. He pushed me back gently a
few more times, smirking now, then got up and strolled leisurely into the
bedroom. I followed him, clinging to him, the desire inside me growing to a kind
of burning internal pressure. He stripped and lay down on the bed, but he didn’t
have me for a long time. Not until I groveled and begged him with silent words
and tears. He let me beg for a long time. Finally, he chuckled affectionately
and opened his arms to me. I jumped into them, sobbing with relief, and we went
at it like wild animals in heat until dawn.

I woke this morning, unhurt. Uninjured. I must have been so
pumped up with adrenaline that I was nearly a match for him. If he gives me the
juice again, I think—no, I’m sure—that my mind will just snap in half like a
twig. I’ll go out to lunch permanently and not come back.

If I have a choice, I’d rather he hurt me every single time.
Anything is better than wanting him like I did last night. And the way he made
me beg was worse than all the rapes combined.

 

 

 

I have a lab and a workshop. The twins took my capsule plans to
whoever they take stuff to, then all the way up the chain of command to the Red
Prince himself, who apparently nearly wet himself in excitement over the
possibilities of encapsulation technology. They’ve brought me everything I asked
for over the last couple of months, smuggling tools and supplies in baskets of
laundry and market sacks. Scopa is always up and out of the house my midmorning,
as soon as he’s finished patching me up on the days I need it. The Prince gave
him permission to work at Med Center during the day, though he’s always on call
for me, or if the Prince hurts himself while training—which he does
frequently, I’ve learned.

Scopa always returns through the servant’s kitchen entrance
well after dark, so he’s never around to have to hide my work from. I don’t know
ho

 

 

Sorry about that. He came home for a lunch hour quickie. Damn.
I have to be more careful with this journal. The twins sure as hell don’t know
about it. They’d destroy it and probably kill me as well. Make it look like I
killed myself. It would mean their lives and Scopa’s as well, but since we’ve
returned to the Capital, I’ve seen, a little more all the time, just how little
they value even their own lives where the Network is concerned. I know it’s
absolute madness to keep this diary now. But I need it desperately. It’s a
memory of Karot-chan, so it won’t be forgotten that he lived and that I loved
him, even when I’m dead. It’s a place I can tell all my secrets, pour out all my
pain. I can’t speak, but here I have a voice. Even if I could speak, I might
never be able to tell anyone the things I’ve lived through. Here I can. And it’s
a release to right down what I’m surviving, even if no one ever reads it. I
think in the very real way, this diary is keeping me from coming unglued.

 

 

 

I found out today what happened to Noira and her family. Scopa
found Hiru.

He’s working out of Med Center as a ferry ship pilot. He’s
alive. Noira and Duska are dead. Vegita blasted the ship to pieces with them
inside after he killed Raditz, beat the hell out of Nappa, and knocked me out. I
don’t suppose he knew or cared that there was a woman and a little girl inside.
Why should he? They were less than nothing to him. I sat and rocked back and
forth, wishing I could make myself cry for them all day, a year and a day. But I
couldn’t cry. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I cried. Caddi came and
sat down beside me with her knitting. She is such a quiet person, letting Batha
do all the talking and thinking for both of them…or at least I thought so.

She told me in her whispery voice that Hiru was the one who
betrayed us. That Nappa had known or suspected Raditz was planning something and
caught Hiru as he left the Capital. They tortured him and he didn’t break, but
when Nappa told him he would spare his family’s life if he told…he spilled his
guts. Caddi says she’s known this for a while, but that he had begged her not to
say anything out of shame. Because he sold out Raditz and myself to save his
wife and child. I don’t know how to feel about him, now. Caddi and Scopa both
told me Hiru is horribly scarred from whatever Nappa did to him. Physically
disfigured and this silent, blank-faced ghost of the soft-voiced, smiling man I
knew. How can I hate him? If they’d offered me the same choice, as much as I
loved Noira and her family, I would have chosen my family’s lives first. How can
I blame him for doing the same? I told her to tell him Scopa had found him for
me. That I didn’t hate him. That I grieved for Noira and Duska, and wished him
well. She said she would tell him. She also told me that he is “one of us.”
Hiru’s Red Network now, too.

I can’t write anymore and I can’t work today. I have to be able
to smile when he comes home in about an hour. Two more deaths you owe me, Saiyan
no Ouji.

I doubt you even remember killing them. But I won’t forget. And
I’ll pay you back for them a thousand fold before I’m done.

 

 

 

 

It’s been a while, I know. Too much to do, too many things I
have to get finished as quick as I can. Learning about Noira and Duska brought
it home to me that every day I take to finish my this project, more people die.
It’s winter now, and bitterly, deathly cold. Vegita-sei is such a world of
extremes, killing winters and drought-ridden summers. It’s even colder here in
the north than the Turrasht winters, and that’s saying a hell of a lot. It’s
also Midwinter Festival time, so the bastard is usually out partying until well
after midnight—which gives me more time to work. Midwinter is a big thing
here, a kind of blood soaked Mardi Gras, where in Turrasht ii only involved
inviting your friends to drink and eat and sing old war songs off key at the top
of your lungs at your house until you all passed out. Bardock was the only one
of the whole tone death pack of them who could carry a tune.

Vegita bought me a fur-lined gown, something I’m actually
pleased to have. It’s a welcome exchange from all the gauzy, frippy, see-through
crap he’s given me. In addition to all his other faults, he has lousy taste in
fashion. I wear all the stuff he gives me once to please him, the toss it in the
incinerator if he doesn’t destroy it first when he tears it off of me. I’m
getting close to finishing the Ki-gun.

I’ll need to field test it soon. I want to test it on Nappa. I
asked Batha about this, and she said she would see what could be arranged. Gods,
I can’t wait! The gun has a two-fold setting. The first is the energy wave that
fractures the target’s Ki, the second shot is a high concentration mini blaster
cannon. In other words, the second shot splatters the target’s brains all over
the wall behind him, since he now has no Ki shield to protect him.

I was wrong about the susaju juice. He’s given it to me
three times since I wrote last. My mind didn’t snap. I just wished it had.

 

 

 

Four weeks since I wrote last. I’m not being very faithful, but
I literally have no time. I threw the invisibility shield together in an hour
when I began on the project, but it took longer to figure out how it might be
extended to cover an entire planet and to rig it with a morphic hologram
camouflage that can also give a ghost image of an utterly unpopulated world on
demand. So, it can be used to hide completely from the visible spectrum or to
camouflage something to look innocuous, or like something else entirely. Three
separate settings. I hit a snag on the Ki-gun and turned to the camp-shield
project to let the problems percolate in my head. And I found that the
camo-shield was so simple in construction it only took two days to draw up. I
gave the plans to Batha yesterday and told her to give them to her superiors to
be tested and replicated. I also reminded her of my ‘fee’ for this.

It occurred to me only a couple of days ago that I am an
amazing commodity to the Network. That I am in a position to ask for something
back. I want off this world. I told her to tell her bosses that this is only a
fraction of what I could produce if I were free…on a rebel base somewhere,
without the distraction of having to whore for the Saiyan no Ouji.

“If they move you,” she said, “that’s it for Caddi and
myself.”

I gaped at her. “They could take you too,” I said, flustered.

“They will not,” she said coolly. “Our lives aren’t worth
risking exposure for. If we disappear without a trace, there will be questions.
Even if something could be worked out, will you abandon Scopa to his fate,
Bulma? He is not Red Network and can, under no circumstances, be taken. And if
you escape, his life is forfeit.”

I told her to give the designs to her boss and tell him I want
to meet. I told her I won’t except anything less than the five of us leaving
Vegita-sei together. Scopa and Hiru included. She told me stiffly that she
thanks me, but that she would stay, perhaps in deep cover…I asked her why. She
said she wants to be on Vegita-sei and see them all die when the revolution
finally storms the Saiyan homeworld. She wants to be here to see it.

I can’t judge her. I think my hates are just as great, only
more centralized, directed at people rather than an entire race. I don’t hate
Romayna. I didn’t hate Raditz or Kyouka or Toma and Celipa’s little girl Anyan.
Bardock and his squad are another matter, but that’s because of what they’ve
done, not what they were born.

I didn’t explain about my lab, did I? It’s in the unused, empty
guest room.

I decapsulate the whole damn workshop room inside the guest
room when I go to work. I go in after he leaves for the day, or after I come out
of the tank after a bad night. Batha and Caddi keep watch in case he comes back
unexpectedly. If they see him flying in, they beep me, and I encapsulate the
whole damn shop. We do a drill for speed almost every day. The thought of
building the things I’m creating right under his nose is a very pleasant
one.

 

 

 

No word from the twins cell leader yet. It’s been two weeks
since I gave them the invisibility technology. It’s been a bad two weeks. A bad
month really. Vegita’s people are a people who prize personal honor highly, and
the murder of Raditz over something as trivial as a whore has angered a great
many of the nobles.

Good for them. They’ve apparently been giving him hell about it
in a number of subtle ways at all these parties he’s been attending all winter.

Guess who he takes it out on? Not with beatings, I wouldn’t
survive that. He could kill me with one half-hearted punch. He’s just been
really rough, using me harder because he’s frustrated and angry. The effect is
pretty much the same though. I’m spending almost every morning in the tank. It’s
strange, how he’s never actually hit me. You would think he’d be the sort,
wouldn’t you? Caddi gave me a long, over-intellectualized explanation for this,
and for why the Elites are so angry over the death of a man they were all
viciously jealous of a year ago.

They have no laws against murder, because the stronger warrior
has every right to kill the weaker. But the murderer must take into account that
there will be a settling of accounts with the squad siblings and family of
whoever he murders. This is Vegita-sei’s way of instructing their young Prince
that you can’t get away with behaving dishonorably and suffer no repercussions.

As for the fact that he’s never slugged me—-she said he never
will. It’s dishonorable to strike a weakling with your fists as though he or she
were a match for you. You only strike another warrior with your fists. You might
Ki-blast weaklings or swat them out of your way, but you don’t beat them.

Just as there are no laws against murder, there are no laws
against rape either.

Romayna told me that a long time ago. Same attitude toward rape
as murder. If you’re strong, it won’t happen to you. If you wish to have another
warrior and you’re stronger than her, it’s your right, but you better be sure
you’re a match for her friends and family if they come after you. The whole
issue of rape is sort of muddled in the Saiyan psyche, Caddi said. Their natural
mating instincts and rituals are all violent. The difference is that Saiyan
women like being taken violently when they’re in heat—and generally when
they’re not in heat. Their culture worships strength so much that being
overpowered by your suitor is a turn on to them. When Saiyan’s mix with other
races sexually, they know intellectually that what they’re doing is forcible
rape, but their instincts and ingrained behavior say other wise.

“Are you making an apology for them?” I asked her coldly.

She shook her head mildly. “Just trying to make you see that
they are what they are, child.” She looked me straight in the eye, something she
hardly ever does to anyone, even her sister. “They are beasts, Bulma-chan. One
and all. The sooner you stop thinking of them as individuals with souls and
hearts, the better off you’ll be. Your Radtiz killed whole worlds of people, my
dear. They can be kind when it suits them, but the truest representation of what
they are is the Oozau form. A mad, murderous beast. You are a good-hearted girl,
and I do not wish you to fall into the trap of thinking you can change even one
of them. They are what they are.”

I got up and left the house. I couldn’t think of an argument to
her words, though I knew they were wrong. I did something I’ve never done. I
went for a walk through the hills behind the house. It was bitterly cold, and my
cheeks were still chapped from a morning spent in the regen tank. I don’t know
how long I walked, but at some point, I looked up as a tiny speck flying over
me, so high in the sky I could barely make it out, wheeled sharply and made a
b-line for me.

He landed so hard beside me, he drove the soft earth up in
divots under his boots.

“Bardock…” I whispered. I felt faint.

He just stared at me without speaking, taking in the changes in
me, the hollow eyes, the flushed pallor of the regen tank’s aftermath. His face
was like a blank rock, but his eyes were full of…of so much sorrow. “How is it
with you, girl?” He asked me softly.

“Pretty bad,” I said. I didn’t know what to say to him.

“I am glad you live,” he said after a moment’s silence.

“I’m not,” I choked on all the memories the sight of his face,
just his presence, were calling up. I sank down to my knees, turning my head
away from him, suffocating in a burning wave of shame, that his son and grandson
were dead, but I lived and served their murderer as his whore. I could feel the
hardy, thick grass beneath my fingers. It was strong to survive such harsh
winters here in the north. He was kneeling before me, shaking my shoulders
lightly. I looked up at him, still dry-eyed. I had not cried in a long time, not
even when I learned about Noira and Duska. I realized with a dull kind of horror
that I had stopped crying altogether, months ago.

“I will take you away now,” he said harshly. He began to scoop
me up in his arms and I screamed for him to stop. “I’ll finish what Raditz
started and take you off this world!”

“You can’t,” I cried. “If I escape or die, he’ll kill all the
other slaves in the household!”

“I don’t give a damn about the other slaves in his household,
girl!” Bardock growled.

“I do!” I said implacably. “And can’t, I won’t, live
with the shame of having been the reason they died! I can’t—I can’t kill them
the way I—I—k-killed Raditz and Karot-chan!” My voice had risen to a scream,
and he shook me so hard my teeth rattled. Then he pulled me forward, nose to
nose with him, his face so bleak and furious I nearly screamed again.

“Who destroyed Chikyuu?” He snarled softly.

“Y—you,” I whispered.

“And who do you hate for the sake of your dead world?”

“You!” I said in a stronger voice.

“Who killed your man and your son?” He asked harshly.

“Vegita,” I spat.

“And who is to blame for their deaths? Who slew them,
girl?!”

“Vegita!!!” I screamed. “Vegita! Vegita! Vegita!”

“Vegita,” he agreed softly. “Not you.”

I stared into his face, seeing Chikyuu burning beneath us from
his space pod, seeing again how Son-kun’s face had been a mirror of his
father’s, remembering how Karot-chan’s hair had flared out in the exact same
pattern as his grandfather’s… And I began to cry. All that had been locked up
inside me for…months, came pouring out as I wailed against his chest. “I hate
you, Bardock…I hate you, I hate you…” But the meaning of what I said had nothing
to do with the words.

“I burned their bodies together,” he told me when I had finally
quieted down. I was so exhausted from the release, I was nearly asleep in his
arms. “On the pyre stone atop the highest peek in Turrasht.” I sighed softly and
began to cry again, softer this time.

“Live,” he told me, after another long space of time. “Live if
you can. He will tire of you eventually. When he casts you aside, I will take
you as mine. I swore to Raditz that I would care for you if he were slain. The
oath binds me still. I will free you, or keep you safe on my estate. Whatever
you wish. I will give you another son if you wish it.” There was nothing
remotely sexual in what he meant by that offer. He doesn’t think of me that way.
He thinks of me…he thinks of me as his daughter. I hate him. I’ll always hate
him. But somewhere along the line, at some point, he became family…grandfather
of my flesh and blood. I couldn’t tell him that I knew beyond a shadow of a
doubt that Vegita would never let me go. Never. I’ll be free of him one day—of
that I have no doubt. But only when one of us, Vegita or myself, has killed the
other.

“I have to go back,” I told him softly. I stood and he rose
from where he’d knelt holding me for what might have been hours. “If anyone sees
us, you’ll be killed.”

He grunted. “I have precious little to live for these days. If
you need me, call. I will come.”

“Romayna and Kyouka—?”

He smirked painfully. “The boy is part of my squad now. He is
courting Toma’s brat. Romayna is stationed on Arbatsu.”

“Good,” I said. In spite of everything, in spite of the fact
that he had just pulled me out of a spiral of dry-eyed madness, healed me in
ways I still can’t even measure yet, I was glad that Romayna hadn’t taken him
back. That he was still paying for the death of Chikyuu. I stood on tip toes and
kissed his mouth chastely.

“You are a bastard and I’ll hate you forever,” I told him
softly.

“That is good,” he said solemnly.

 

 

 

 

Almost done with the Ki-gun. Batha says she hasn’t heard
anything yet about my request. She and I had an…altercation a few days ago, and
today was the first time we’ve actually spoken since then. She’s furious about
my daily morning walks into the hills, telling me we’ll all be killed if Vegita
catches me screwing Bardock. I’d like to know how in the name of the gods she
knows about that chance meeting last week! I told her that eight days ago was
the first and only time I’ve seen Bardock in nearly a year. She didn’t believe
me and then…then she said that she’s “never seen a whore with a stronger taste
for monkey cock”. She said I sure seemed to have really gotten into my job of
royal bed warmer in the last month or so. Almost too much to believe that I
wasn’t really enjoying it.

I knew what was eating at her. I discovered a while ago that
the way to keep him from using the susaji juice was to give him what he
was really craving when he drugged me. Enthusiasm. The semblance of passion and
affection. I learned that if I literally jump on him as soon as he walks in the
door a few times a week, drag him into the bedroom even before he’s eaten his
dinner, and screw his brains out a few times, that he won’t use the
susaji on me, and he tends to be gentler with me.

I screamed at her that she was the worst sort of stupid,
amnesiac bitch to think that I would ever want him, though inside I was
shuddering with shame at how he always, always, always gives me pleasure. Caddi
and Scopa had to pull me off of her. That was my first girl fight since third
grade.

I can’t hate her. I know what she’s been through, and that our
scars, mine, Caddi’s and hers, all show in different ways. She is starting to
hate me because I love and hate Saiyans as people. Not as a whole.

I am so glad that I met Bardock. I’m so glad I can cry for my
son, and all the other people I’ve lost again. If I’d stopped crying forever, I
think I would be well on my way to becoming just like Batha. And that’s worse
that being dead.

 

 

 

I woke this morning with a soundless shriek of horror, hearing
the sound of men’s voices in the hearthroom. One was Vegita’s, the other…the
other was horribly familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I got up and bathed, the
hackles rising on my neck as I listened to the muted conversation. It was just
past dawn. The visitor must have important news to have come to wake Vegita in
his own home. I toweled dry and combed out my hair quickly, listening intently
while I dressed.

“…have no idea who has been supplying them?” Vegita was saying
grimly.

“Mousrom has some suspicions,” the deeper, older man’s voice
said. I stood shivering in wet hair, and the harsh bass of Vegita’s guest sent
another ripple of ice down my spine. “But we cannot move until we are sure. If
we strike the wrong target, they will run again and we will be back at the
beginning of the hunt once more.” Was this the King, maybe? Vegita’s voice
sounded…comfortable. Easy.

Not affectionate, by any means, but—

“And there was nothing left when you arrived?” Vegita sounded
openly skeptical.

“They could not have had more than a hour’s notice, Ouji-sama,”
the older man grunted, “Yet we found nothing. They did not even leave their
supplies behind.”

“I will bathe and follow you to Council,” Vegita said
shortly.

“I will await you, by your leave, my Prince.”

I darted out of the bathing room, still half dressed, before
Vegita arrived, and into the kitchens, to find Caddi nearly finished setting up
breakfast. Today was Batha’s market day. I could hear Caddi rattling around in
the pantry cellar, and I began picking at the food on the platter she was
preparing to carry out. The acoustics for hearing what was being said in the
hearth room were better in the kitchen. At least for Chikyuu-jin ears.
Ansousei-jin are harder of hearing, which meant that Caddi had probably heard
nothing of the conversation outside. When I looked up from the fried spor-hog
strips I was eating, I was face to face with Nappa.

Nappa.

I was alone with the man who had killed my baby. And my Ki-gun
was encapsulated in the twins’ bedroom. He must have smelled the food and come
to catch a quick bite before Vegita was ready. Then…I went mad, I guess. I don’t
know how my mind went from horror to mindless animal rage in an instant, but it
did. His eyes were traveling over my half-clothed body with greedy appraisal.

I flung myself at him,

I don’t know how I did it, but then, I don’t know how I
survived the last year either. I drew my nails down his face, drawing blood and
he snarled like a rabid dog in anger. He didn’t think about what he was doing,
but then he’s famed throughout Vegita-sei for being a brutish moron, even by
Saiyan standards. He stepped forward, and pressed me back against the sideboard
table, gripping me by the shoulders, lifting me in the air in preparation to
smash me against the wall. The instant he touched me I froze absolute terror,
the sudden vivid memory of Karot-chan and Raditz’ deaths tearing through my
mind’s eye—just as Vegita walked through the swinging doors of the kitchen.

It was like a scene in a movie. He froze, his face going livid,
Nappa’s going pale as chalk. Then he tossed the bigger man out the open window
of the kitchen and beat the living hell out of him. While I watched. He even
“comforted” me afterwards, with a brusque, “No one may touch what is mine!” and
a quick nip of my lip before he went outside to kick Nappa back to
consciousness.

“He will not kill him for you,” Caddi told me from the pantry
door quietly.

“He might,” I said. “In time.”

She moved to stand beside me as I looked out the window to
where Vegita was now bending over the big man. “Watch,” she said.

I watched. Slowly, Vegita bent down and pulled Nappa to a
wobbly sitting position. “Old fool,” he said, without any anger in his
voice.

The big man chuckled and spat out a mouthful of blood. He
touched the side of his face where my nails had raked him and shook his head in
amusement. “I ask your pardon, my Prince. She flew at me with those little claws
bared and I lost my temper.”

“It is well,” Vegita snickered. “She is broken, but only enough
to obey…barely. You taught me long ago that a bed slave should be completely
broken, but I’ve found that a bit of will and spirit make for more interesting
bed play.” He reached down and took the big man’s hand, pulling him to his feet.
“Come, Sensei. My father awaits us.”

They launched into the sky, and a gust of the force of their
leaving ruffled my hair.

“Nappa was his caregiver from the day of his birth,” Caddi
shook her head. “He will beat him senseless, beat him to the point of death in a
rage, but he will never kill Nappa. As much as their kind are capable of caring
for one another, he loves the great brute.”

That sounded true, I thought. It felt true, after hearing
Vegita’s voice when he spoke to Nappa, after seeing how he had checked himself
just before delivering the killing blow. That’s fine with me. I don’t want
anyone else to kill Nappa but me.

But it was good to see him beaten. And it will be good to see
Vegita’s face when I’ve killed Nappa. He’s never lost anyone he loves, I think.
I imagine that short list includes only Nappa and his father. If I had my wish,
wished on a set of dark, vengeful dragonballs, I would wish for the Prince of
Vegita-sei to suffer everything he’s made me suffer before he dies.

Forgive me, Kami. Forgive me, Kai or Kais. I don’t have the
strength or serenity to stop hating him, and I doubt I ever will.

 

 

 

 

I found out why Nappa came to the villa to summon Vegita so
urgently a few days ago. Tubol-sei is—was—a base world for the Red Demons. A
Saiyan strike force fell on it with everything they had. And they found nothing,
but an abandoned pre-fab city and a few garbage compactors. They were warned by
someone on the Saiyan troop carrier itself—one of the Madrani engine techs.
All the crew was summarily executed, but the base…the base had less than two
hours warning and managed to evac completely. Guess how? Capsules are your
friends, Jeiyce! He’s apparently putting them to the best use possible, and I
feel…Gods, I feel so happy. As though I saved all those people’s lives myself.
Which, in a way, I did.

Is this the reason for all the hell I’ve suffered? The grander
plan? I keep looking for some kind of reason, something to give this last year
of my life meaning. Because if there’s no meaning to what I’ve been through, if
I thought that—

I can’t think that.

I won’t.

 

 

 

It’s getting warmer, a little more so every day. It’s still icy
cold at night, but the midday sun felt good on my face. And I found something
yesterday that had not been there before. Early spring blossoms, a dozen
different kinds of indigenous flowers, that unfold in the heat of the day and
curl up into protective blooms as the afternoon grows colder. Pink and baby blue
and deep violet, they were carpeting the hills around me in color.

I ran back to the villa and brought a spade and a few of
Caddi’s clay bread pots. I spent the entire day moving the stone tiles of the
deck behind the house and replanting the wildflowers into a garden. It’s small,
but it can grow. It smelled like home, like Momma and her garden, and the rich,
soft soil under my fingers felt like green growing things. I was so absorbed in
my work, I didn’t hear him come home. He stood in the back doorway of the
hearthroom that led to my new garden watching me for a long time before he
spoke.

“You are filthy,” he said softly.

I glanced up, startled, almost not recognizing the sound of his
voice. It was so gentle. I eyed him warily from behind my sweet doll-smile of
welcome, wondering how he was going to react to my little project. He knelt and
cupped my face in one hand with an odd half-grin. “I could scent spring coming
in the air today. But you went out and brought it to me…So beautiful.” I don’t
know if he meant the flowers or me. He brushed a smudge of dirt off my nose…then
he frowned, looking puzzled. He seemed almost confused, as if he were trying to
sort out a taste or touch he’d never experienced and had no name for. And I
suddenly knew, knew, he was trying to define the tender feeling that must
have inspired that gentle gesture.

Kami, how pitiful.

He’s beginning to care for me and doesn’t even understand what
he’s feeling.

“Come to bath and bed, little mud flower,” he said then, and
lifted me like a child, carrying me to the bathing room. He bathed me and dried
me off and lay me down on the bed. Then he had me, slowly and gently, just once,
before nodding off, still inside me. I lay with him in my arms, his head cradled
on my breast, feeling stunned.

 

You could be running him in a few months time, I heard
Batha’s voice saying again.

I have been pushing the limits of what I can get him to do, of
what I can manipulate him into doing, but…running him isn’t enough. And it’s not
the limit of what I can accomplish here. I can make him love me. I never
believed that until last night. I never thought it was possible for him to care
for anyone other than himself.

I’m going to work very hard to be the most pleasing, perfect,
precious thing in his life. I want him to love me. That one chink in his armor
last night made me sure it is possible.

I will make him love me. Then Kami have mercy on him. Because I
won’t have any.

 

 

 

 

 

The text file scrolled to an end. Vegita stood unsteadily and
moved to the disposal incinerator. He doubled over, emptying the meager contents
of his stomach into the bin. How long he had been reading, he was not sure. He
was vaguely aware that Coran had come once or twice to tap respectfully on the
door.

He had not answered.

“I will hear it all, beloved…I will not turn away.”

He lay back on his bunk and set the audio file to play out to
the end.

 

 

 

Hi! This is me, talking again. It nearly wasn’t. He decided
about a week ago that he wanted to discontinue the Silencing. The first thing
out of my mouth to him—or very nearly the first thing—nearly got me Silenced
again. But even that was encouraging in a way. The reason he was so angry is
because I made him feel…not guilty, but something distantly related to it. He
has a low tolerance for hearing anything that makes him feel the least bit
uncomfortable about himself or his actions. He ended up hurting me pretty badly,
but I didn’t let him see it. I didn’t give him the satisfaction of making me cry
out or even wince. I was the one who made him scream in the end. Several times,
in fact. I did what I had never done before, pulled put all the stops and showed
him, much to his surprise, that I knew a great deal more about how to work a
man’s body than he ever imagined.

I enjoyed it—making him cry out like that when he came. I
imagined I was really hurting him, making him shriek in pain instead of
pleasure…and the second that fantasy hit my mind, I started to come explosively,
the most intense orgasm of my life.

I’m…Kami help me, I think I’m going mad. I could have taken
anything else but this. I’m…I’m starting to crave him. To want him. And all he
had to do was stop hurting me and go a little slower…How can that be
possible?

Of all the things he’s done to me, this is the one that may
make me lose my marbles for real. There’s a dark place in the human mind, I
think…where, when hate becomes a passion as intense as the hatred I feel for
him, it distills into pure passion. And in that black, unnamable pool in the
darkest part of the heart, the line between pleasure and pain is razor thin.

It’s also the only way I can take any power, any control, with
him. I…

Kami, if I live through this, will I end up sexually twisted
for life? End up some kind of power-obsessed, dominatrix freak?

I always loved making love.

But this isn’t making love. It’s a war against an enemy, waged
with the only weapons at my disposal.

Batha told me her boss will meet with me as soon as my Ki-gun
is complete. I am living in hope every day, breathing in and out in anticipation
of being free. They can’t refuse my request to be taken off Vegita-sei! I’ve
proven myself too valuable, especially after Tubol-sei. The Ki-gun will be ready
in a week. I told Batha to set up a meeting with our cell leader in eight days.

So, maybe my next entry will be from a ship, or maybe from a
rebel base. I don’t give a damn. Anywhere will be paradise if I’m free.

But before I go, I want to test my prototype out on a
pre-chosen test subject.

I want to kill Nappa myself. The Network can’t deny me that
either. I’ve given them technology that can is going to tip the balance of the
coming war if they use it well. I want to be paid back in blood. Nappa’s
blood.

Even after almost an entire year as the Saiyan no Ouji’s
plaything, I’d still rather break Nappa’s little finger than kill Vegita ten
times over.

 

 

 

I met our Red Network cell leader today. His name is Zarbon of
Rashia-sei. He came to the villa with Caddi, this huge, greenish hulking
reptilian man, dressed in the uniform of a maintenance s. His cover was that
Caddi needed him to repair the plumbing (which Batha had sabotaged late last
night). Vegita threw a verbal tantrum when the bath water sputtered and died
this morning and told Caddi to get whoever she needed to fix it today. We sat in
the bathing room and talked while he began to undo Batha’s damage to the pipes.

“You are the Zarbon who was Vegita’s personal chef
before…before my time,” I said.

The big serpentine face grinned toothily. “Scopa would have
told you about me.” The greenish tint of his cheeks deepened slightly. I
suddenly got the feeling that he and Scopa were a little more than friends who
had worked in the same household. “I think,” he went on, “Vegita-ouji thought I
might find you tempting if I remained in his household.” He laughed out loud at
my queasy diplomatic smile. Then…he seemed to blur, and he morphed without any
warning into a different form. Blue skin, emerald green hair, humanoid male
model’s features—he was gorgeous. “Or perhaps,” he said with a wicked grin,
“he thought you might find me tempting.” He watched my face redden slowly, then
sobered and shook his head. “Rashia-jin have two forms. I rarely use this one,
because Saiyans tend toward the irrational prejudice that a man this pretty must
be up to no good. So…I bring to you the personal thanks of Jeiyce of Maiyosh,
Lady. Your capsules saved the entire base on Tubol. I imagine you know that
already. We are still testing and producing the invisibility shield. It doubles
as a scouter shield, the techs tell me. Our engineers looked at your initial
notes and swore up and down it was impossible. Then, they all went into a
collective fit when they began to study the actual designs.”

I handed him the data disc of the completed plans for the
Ki-gun. “I have some requests.”

“I’m sure,” he said solemnly. “I’ve been given authority to
grant you supplies and materials. Anything you wish, in fact. So long as you do
not ask for the life of Vegita-ouji. Yet.”

“I want Nappa,” I said softly.

He was silent, regarding me with quiet understanding. “I know
you do. I will promise you his head. My word of honor as a soldier in the
service of the Red Prince.”

I nodded warily and gave him a wish list of supplies. Then I
asked the question. The one that had kept me living inside a false haze of hope
for…for weeks. “You said anything. I want you to take myself, the twins, Scopa
and a man named Hiru of Ansou-sei off world. To one of the Red Prince’s bases.
Even one of the technologies I’ve given the rebels should make me valuable
enough to be considered worth moving.” I held my breath, my heart frozen in my
chest. If he said yes, I would be a free woman, perhaps as soon as this
afternoon.

“It can be done,” he said slowly. “I can get all of you off
world tonight, if you wish. But…Bulma-san, there will be consequences. Have
you considered what the Prince will do when he finds you gone?”

“I…” I saw what he meant. “He’ll go mad when he finds me
gone. He’ll tear the slave quarter in the Capital apart looking for me, kill
dozens, maybe hundreds of people. He’ll…” I made a soft little sound of
despair, feeling the walls closing in around me, feeling all my hope slide away
like sand through my fingers. “I’ll never get away from him…never.”

“You will!” He said emphatically. I was a little startled when
he reached out impulsively and took my hand, but I grasped his hand firmly in
mine when he began to withdraw in horror at what he had just done.

“I’m not so damaged I can’t bear to be touched,” I told
him.

“No, you’re not,” he agreed quietly. “Most women I have know in
your situation…either crumble inside and die or become hard and lose the ability
to feel anything but hate.” He cut his eyes behind us involuntarily, back to
where Batha stood guard in the front doorway, watching to warn us if Vegita came
home.

“You’re still alive,” Zarbon said. “Still warm and
kind-hearted, I’ve been told.”

 

Told by Scopa? I wondered with an internal smile.
“Bulma-san,” he said formally,

“I know we do not know each other, but we have a common
purpose. I have, over the course of my life, lost as much as you, suffered as
greatly. I ask you to trust me without question for a few more months. There is
much I can’t tell you, but I will tell you this—before the end of this summer,
things will begin to happen very quickly. Everything will change.”

I swallowed hard, fighting down tears of disappointment,
forcing down an irrational rage at him because he would leave me after this
conversation and go wherever he wished. Leaving me in the hands of Vegita as a
reward for the gifts I had given his cause.

No…our cause.

I just nodded dully and accepted what he told me as truth. What
else could I do? I mumbled a farewell and ran from the bathing room, blind with
the tears streaming down my face. I understand the logic of his words. I
understand the practical necessity. But, oh gods…

I won’t survive another five months of this, of him,
with my sanity intact.

 

 

 

It’s been a couple of days. I started work on something new
conceptually. Right now, I’m just doing some preliminary research on Vegita’s
uplink to the Royal Library in the little study on the south end of the villa.
I’ve sort of made the room my own. I doubt he’s ever read a book cover to cover
in his life and I don’t think he even knows it’s here.

Things on the bedroom front are a lot less hellish than they
have been. They nobility has gotten over their collective anger at him for
Radtiz’ murder, and in turn, he has become a lot easier to manage. I’m learning
to manage him rather well, actually. He responds to flattery and affection like
a little boy. He says I’m a ‘foolish little weakling’ for half the things I come
up with to please and mollify him, but when I ask for something in a winsome,
wistful fashion—saying things like “It would be so wonderful if…” or “I wish
it were possible to have…”, he gets it for me. He even asked me what I needed to
build up the garden behind the villa. Everything I asked for was delivered the
next day.

I tried a more advanced field test last night. I made him get
out of bed and get me a glass of water. He did it before he realized what he was
doing, then stood there, frowning at me suspiciously as I drank the water down.
He’s not stupid. I have to remember that. He’s actually very intelligent for a
Saiyan, maybe even brighter than Bardock. He just rarely stops to think about
what he’s doing until after it’s done. I smiled up at him coquettishly after I
finished my water, retreating to the defensive position of innocent sweetness.
He smirked as he crawled into bed.

“Demanding wench,” he chuckled softly in my ear.

It’s a lot easier to be with him, to simply live in the same
house with him, now that his overall mood has improved. But it’s also been
better since that day he found me building my garden. He seems to be taking more
care not to hurt me, to use me more gently. I catch him looking at me from time
to time with that same confused look. I can see him trying to work out just what
it is he’s feeling for me. He still won’t talk to me, not about anything
important that might be useful to the Network. I’ve been through all his
personal effects, but he keeps absolutely nothing here relating to royal policy
or official secrets. I’m starting to think that he may not be privy to anything
the Network could use. Either he’s not interested in what goes on in Council
every morning, or his father knows what a loose cannon he is and doesn’t tell
him squat.

No word yet from Zarbon on how fast the secret factories are
building my machines. There should be no snags. I gave them detailed
instructions that a child could follow. For the moment, I’m on hold. But I can
almost feel the tension in the air. Some kind of enormous storm is about to
break. Before the end of the summer, Zarbon said. It’s the full bloom of spring
now. Maybe…maybe by fall, I’ll be free.

I hope.

 

 

 

I woke yesterday with an odd tense kink in the back of my neck.
No injuries.

That’s getting to be the rule rather than the exception, these
days. The last time he hurt me was a week ago. He cracked one of my ribs while
he was asleep. The arm he was holding me with just contracted while he was
dreaming and ‘pop’.

I bathed, ate, took my walk, and tended my wild flower garden
before spending the rest of the day in the study. All day I felt so strange, so
awful. Sick and sluggish, my muscles cramping up, jumping at the slightest
noise. I tried to get some work done, but I couldn’t concentrate. I kept
slipping away into this daydream of nothingness, shaking myself to find it was
an hour later. The smell of food cooking finally drew me out of the study. It
was late in the afternoon.

There were flowers on the crystalline dining table. There was
food piled up, and a selection of wine. Like a celebration of some
special—

I sat down at the table, staring at the flowers. Like an
anniversary celebration.

It was one year today. One year since my son was murdered. One
year since Raditz was murdered. One year since I became the bed slave of the
Saiyan no Ouji. My body had remembered, had been grieving all day, even though
my mind had forgotten. How did I forget? How could I?

 

My baby, I thought. My beautiful, sweet, perfect baby.
I’m so sorry I killed you.

 

I sank beneath the surface of the world around me and stopped
thinking, stopped seeing, stopped remembering, stopped hurting…stopped kicking
to stay afloat and just allowed the dark, cool water beneath me to take me down
into nothingness.

I woke to the sight of Vegita’s face, pale and frightened. He
must have been trying to wake me for some time. “I almost lost myself again,” I
mumbled.

He lifted me and…and we were out the window and into the sky
before I realized what was happening. Up and up, above the clouds, above
everything, on the fiery orange tops of the clouds. The west was ringed in a
brilliant halo of the sun sinking below the rim of the world. He crossed his
legs and sat, setting me in his lap, my head against his chest. He didn’t say
anything for a long time, and I couldn’t. I think I told him that it was
beautiful and he grunted some kind of response. After a long time, I turned to
face him. He had the strangest look on his face. Or maybe it just looked strange
on him. He wasn’t frowning or angry, the body against mine was relaxed, not
tense.

“Was it my fault?” I asked him. “Was it my fault you wanted me
so badly? If I hadn’t reacted to you, would Raditz still be alive? Would my
b-b-baby?”

The peaceful expression slid off his face and he looked…I can’t
describe it.

Horrified, maybe. I think…I think for one, tiny second he had
some distant, fleeting sense of what he’s done to me. Of all he’s done to me.
Then, he frowned, visibly pushing that thought away, and seemed to consider the
question seriously.

Then, he shook his head. “I think,” he said softly at last.
“Having laid eyes on you once, I would have burned half the galaxy to have
you.”

I began to wail. I think I cried until I passed out, or
something close to it. Oh gods…oh gods, I know he meant what he said. He is
many, many things, almost all of them horrible, but he couldn’t tell a
convincing lie to save his life.

It wasn’t my fault.

It’s not my fault.

It’s not my fault.

I fell asleep in his arms, there on top of the clouds. He took
me back, and didn’t wake me. Didn’t use me at all last night. He just lay me
down beside him and went to sleep himself. I never would have expected to
receive absolution or mercy at the hands of my enemy. It’s a jarring inversion
of my world to realize that the greatest evil in my life is just a man. An evil
man…with tiny, almost infinitesimal sparks of goodness here and there.

 

 

 

 

I woke up today feeling good. The sun through the slatted
windows was warm. Scopa tapped lightly on the bedroom door and came in to give
me my morning exam. Once he determined nothing was broken or even bruised, he
took my hand and pulled me out through the hearthroom and into the garden. I
stopped, breathless at what I found there.

I turned to him when I was able to sleep again. “How?—”

“I know what day yesterday was,” he said in his soft voice.
“I…a few weeks ago, I took my flyer down to Turrasht. I went to your…”

“My house,” I said, my eyes beginning to sting.

“The estate was abandoned,” he said. “No one has been there
since…since you left. Some of the blooms had survived the winter. Most did not,
but the roots were still viable to be cloned. I brought back a bit of every sort
of flower I could find and grew them in the conservatory greenhouse at Med
Center and—and —” He broke off as I began to cry in earnest, throwing my
arms around him, kissing his cheek. “Are—are you pleased?”

“Thank you!” I said, smiling through tears. “Thank you so
much!”

He had grown potted copies if everything in my garden—Bearded
purple and yellow flag irises, white and deep purple petunias, pansies, red
oriental poppies, blue forget-me-nots, soft pink sweet william…and roses.
Momma’s roses, pale ivory, gold, baby pink and blood red.

I spent all day working with the stone tiles, clay urns and
pre-cut blackwood lumber Vegita had ordered for me last week. I built stone
circles, trailing flower umbrella stands and a couple of benches. Tomorrow I’ll
use the rest of the blackwood to build a rose trellis.

The one dark speck on the whole day was when Batha called me in
for an early supper, her face pinched and disapproving. Whether she disapproved
of my garden or the smile on my face, I don’t know. I wonder if I make her sick
and angry simply because I’m not deadened to any sort of joy, like she is. I
know both the twins think I have it easy compared to the things they’ve lived
through.

I don’t have it easy.

But it’s easier that it was.

It wasn’t my fault. The instant he saw me, he “would have
burned half the galaxy to have me”, he said. And now that I know that, I can
live again.

 

 

 

Vegita came home today, excited as a little boy. He grabbed me
and lifted off the floor, swinging me around in his arms. “Today is a glad day,
woman!” He almost sang. “Tonight my father sends me to face Jeiyce of Maiyosh,
the Red Prince! We will take him in his hiding place and I will face him in
battle!”

“It will be a glorious victory for you, Ouji-sama,” I said
sweetly, so excited myself, I could barely speak. He stopped spinning in the air
and frowned slightly at the loving smile plastered on my face.

“When I return,” he said softly, after watching me thoughtfully
for a moment. “I will give you a gift of your choosing. Tell me, woman. What do
you truly want? The truth.”

“I want only to please you, my—” He put one finger over my
lips, his frown deepening.

“Speak to me,” he said solemnly, “as Bulma of Chikyuu, not as a
slave in my household. Tell me truly. What do you want?”

Gods, what lousy timing for him to develop a taste for the
truth! “The truth?” I said hesitantly. “The…the real truth?” I began to have to
fight not to squirm in his arms, not to tremble against him in anger. You
don’t get to see the real me, you
fucker! I thought. You’re not
allowed!
But…I could tell him just enough of the truth that he wouldn’t
smell the lies.

“A few years ago, during my first year on Vegita-sei,” I said
quietly, “I would have asked you for the head of Bardock on a silver platter. He
purged my homeworld, and killed Son-Kun…his own son. Like he was putting a lame
colt to sleep.”

“That I would give you with great joy, woman,” Vegita said,
drifting back down to the floor with me. He sat in the great armchair before the
window that looked down on the Capital, positioning me in his lap. The warm
breeze tugged at my hair, ruffling it lightly. “But you no longer desire
that?”

I smiled, turning my face away his, and gave him the pat,
simplified explanation of why I hated Bardock, why he was better off alive. He
would never understand how complex my feelings for the man really are.

“Cruel woman,” he murmured softly, grinning. “So, then…” Vegita
said, watching my face closely. “If not Bardock, what?”

“I guess a fast ship and my freedom is out of the question,
huh?” I said before I thought better of it. And, thank Kami, he barely reacted
at all. “I’m sorry, my prince…I—” He put his hand over my mouth again,
speaking gently.

“Do not be. I commanded you to tell me the truth. But I will
not lose you. Anything else is yours for the asking.”

 

Anything? I thought coldly.

“Even if I ask you to kill Nappa for me?” I whispered. The hand
he had been tracing my face with froze. I watched him, smiling a bit, enjoying
this unexpected bit of power over his emotions. “He’s your squad lieutenant now,
and your aid. But he used to be your governess, didn’t he?”

“Governess?”

“Your care-taker when you were a baby.”

“Yes…Woman—”

“It’s okay,” I said softly, before this strange mood left him
and he figured out I was deliberately screwing with his head. “I won’t ask you
for that either. I wouldn’t want anyone in the galaxy to kill him except me.”
His body tensed against mine in real anger now. “So…” I said thoughtfully. “…let
me think of a present that doesn’t involve anyone killing anyone else. Can I
have time to think about it, or do I have to decide right now?”

He considered. “Tell me when I return from Shikaji.”

He carried me to bed and used me only once, quick and rough,
before he rose and planted once last, nipping kiss on my lips. “I must go see to
preparing the strike troops.”

“I want to listen to the battle,” I told him softly.

He grinned openly. The idea of showing off to me seemed to
please him to no end. “Tomorrow at this hour, tune the hyper wave comm in my
study to Imperial quadrant 27, channel 134 of the Shikaji trade communications
array. You will hear all the transmissions from the strike fleet to Imperial
High Command during the battle.”

“I’ll be listening,” I said with a real, honest smile.

As soon as he was out of earshot, I crawled painfully out of
bed and limped to the kitchens. I told the twins everything, that Shikaji was
probably the target.

Batha took off like a shot to get word to Zarbon, while Caddi
helped me with the bone sauter Scopa had given me and taught me to use a few
weeks ago. He doesn’t hurt me the way he used to, hardly ever in fact, but he
was really excited and cracked a rib just from holding me too tightly. I lay
down, waiting for the residual pain of the re-fused bone to recede, and we
waited. I doubt I’ll sleep a wink tonight.

 

 

 

Too much has happened! Oh gods! Batha came back after midnight,
with a wide predatory smirk on her face. “The Red Prince will give the Saiyan no
Ouji a warm welcome when he arrives on Shikaji.”

The three of us pulled a bottle of Vegita’s goldberry wine out
of the cellar and toasted his painful, maiming defeat. Scopa came back to the
villa unusually late and found the three of us laughing tipsily in the kitchen.
Batha was smiling most of the night, something I’d never seen her do.

“This is the beginning of the end for them, Zarbon told me,”
she said, turning to me with a muzzy frown. “I have not been the friend to you I
should have, Bulma. I…I should not have doubted your loyalty or said such awful
things to you as I have.”

All day long, we waited. We turned on the hyper light comm and
programmed it to the proper channel early in the afternoon. We listened to the
battle begin, listened to how the Saiyans slowly began to realize that the world
had been almost completely evacuated before they arrived—with a great deal of
help from my capsules, thank you. The battle seemed to be quickly turning to a
rout, and the last evac ships jumped to hyper light speed, cloaked in my
camo-shields, while the crews of the troop carriers sat oblivious. And the
Saiyans, or more precisely their Prince, didn’t even realize it was happening.
Then, the word came, one unknown warrior’s voice screaming through the comm of
his scouter.

“The Prince! He is fighting the Red Prince! They are—” Two
agonizing minutes of blurred static, and— “He is down! The Prince is down! I
cannot see him through the flames! He—!”

Then, nothing. Nothing for six, long hours, while I waited,
while I prayed to the gods of justice and vengeance that he was deaddeaddead!

“We have him, Sire!” came a man’s harsh voice finally,
crackling through the hyper light link. “He lives…he…Ou-sama, it is bad!”

The link we were on didn’t let us hear the royal reply.

Let him die. God of gods, let him die. Let me be free of
him.

 

 

 

 

It’s three days later. He’s been hovering between life and
death for two of those days. The palace physicians gave the King no hope. He
called in Scopa. I don’t know how he knew of Scopa or why he asked for him,
but…Scopa saved him, when all the others said he was a lost case. My best friend
saved my enemy, so he could come back to me and be my master. And keep me as his
slave and his whore.

No! I won’t be angry at Scopa for his unconditional decency and
goodness! For his complete inability to hate. I’ll be humbled by this quality in
my friend…and I’ll try to wish my heart were as generous. Even though it never
will be. I can’t write any more tonight. I slept in Scopa’s room, like I have
every night since Vegita left and was injured. It’s good not to sleep in that
bed or that room. I’ll have to bathe with scented soap and burn these clothes.
If I smell like Scopa when Vegita comes back, gay or not, Vegita will kill
him.

 

 

 

 

I met the King of Vegita-sei today.

They brought Vegita back, still half dead with pneumonia and
shock, to recover in his own bed. Scopa hovered over him as the med techs
carried him in and moved him onto the bed, checking this and that, his face
tense and focused on his patient. I watched from the corner of the bedroom,
staring at Vegita’s still, pale face, so intent on him I didn’t notice the man
who had stopped beside me, until he spoke.

“You are sure that taking him from Med Center is not dangerous
at all?” His voice was deep, harsh and more than a little threatening.

“He is out of danger, Ou-sama,” Scopa said softly.

“You will have your freedom for this, fellow,” the King
rumbled. “The palace medics on my payroll gave him up for lost. Report to me his
condition every three hours. I will be in War Council if there are any changes.”
He was bigger than Vegita, brawnier. But the resemblance was striking. He seemed
to sense me studying him and turned sharply.

He stared at me silently, and…gods, I felt like I was under a
microscope. As though those cold, black, accessing eyes could see through my
skull and read my thoughts, to see that this was my doing. That I was
responsible for his son’s injuries and the loss of so many warriors on Shikaji.
He reached out a hard hand and I trembled slightly as he tilted my chin up,
studying my face. Then…then he grinned, like a wolf about to feast on a caribou
foal. “Now, I see what all the fuss was about.”

What a dangerous, dangerous man.

I understand now what Batha meant about killing the father and
leaving the hot-headed son on the throne.

 

 

 

It’s been a day since Vegita came home. He woke for a few
minutes today, and smiled when he saw my face leaning over him. Scopa hasn’t
slept since they called him in to perform surgery on Vegita. He doesn’t trust me
to leave me alone with his patient. He thinks I’ll do Vegita a mischief while
he’s helpless. Heh. I might, actually. But…no, not while he’s helpless. It’s not
right to kill anyone, anyone, while they’re laid out flat on their back,
unable to move. But it is rather nice to set and watch him lying there hurt.
When I kill Vegita, I want him wide awake and whole.

The King gave Scopa his freedom for saving Vegita’s life. I’m
trying very hard not to be jealous. Not to be angry at him for gaining his
freedom by ensuring my enslavement.

Vegita woke for a few moments this morning, and sent Scopa out
so he could talk to me. He asked me…gods. He asked me what he could do to make
me love him.

I was so completely stunned by the question I didn’t know how
to respond. I gave him some sort of twisting mix of lies and truth as an answer.
Maybe I gave him a lot more truth than I meant to. He keeps telling me to speak
the truth. The real truth. I told him…I told him I want him. Kami…Kami…it’s
true. I crave him, that nightly battle where I take him and wrap inside the
power I have over him, take his mind away and make him cry out as though I’d
shoved a knife into his chest. I don’t know if the sex has become so hot and
overwhelming for me because the emotions I have for him—the hate beyond
hate—are so strong. Whether the emotions are positive or negative, the state
of arousal so much feeling creates in me makes for…for this blistering passion
that seems to be growing inside me as time goes on. I told him…I told him that
making me want him the way I do is the worst thing he’s done to me. He swallowed
hard at that, seeming to almost understand how bad that might be.

Then, I lied through my teeth. I told him it might be
possible—that one day I might love him.

I left him with the implication that if that’s what he wants
from me, he’s going to have to figure out how to be good to me, to stop hurting
me altogether. If he takes it to heart, I may have made the rest of my time with
him, however long it is, a lot more comfortable.

 

 

I decided what I want as my present. I told him today when he
staggered out of bed and nearly passed out in the hearthroom. I want to
apprentice under Scopa at Med Center. To learn medicine. Partly to get out of
the damned house every day.

Partly to still be able to see Scopa since Vegita put him out
of the household after his father freed him. And partly so I can have access to
the medical equipment and privacy of Med Center, where I can build this new
project I want to begin without Batha or Caddi looking over my shoulder. Also,
so I can have direct access to Zarbon without going through the twins. Zarbon is
a palace instructor chef who travels around Vegita-sei teaching apprentice
culinary slaves how to cook. When he comes to the Capital, he always goes to Med
Center. More specifically, to Scopa.

I asked Vegita for this as my ‘present’, and he agreed.

I was right.

He’s going to try to ‘be nice to me’ now, to make me love him.
Gods, how can a man with a bright mind be such a fool? How can he think, after
everything that he’s done in the last year, that I would ever feel anything but
hate for him?

How can he not understand that?

 

 

 

I guess you could say that my first day at Med Center was
eventful.

I flew with Scopa in his flyer over the green hills that
separate the villa from the Capital, and for the first time, into the heart of
the city. Scopa grinned when he saw the look on my face.

“Big, isn’t it?” He said.

Med Center is on the southern edge of the Capital, nested in
its own little range of rolling ridges. It’s a giant half shell domed structure,
white and pristine, like all medical facilities seem to be everywhere.

We landed and I followed Scopa through the labyrinth of halls
and doorways to the surgery unit. And stopped behind him, gazing around as all
the people in the meeting hall suddenly went dead silent, staring. Staring at
me. I instinctively straightened my shoulders and held my head a little higher
as I suddenly realized not all of the looks being directed my way were friendly.

“I know there’s been some restructuring of departments as of
this morning,” Scopa said with a kind of quiet authority he’d used when the
bearers had carried Vegita into the villa after his surgery. “But I’ve
rearranged scheduled half days off and mealtimes so this will be a bit less of
an inconvenience to everyone. Department head meetings will be in one hour.
We’ll sort the last of the kinks out then.”

He turned to me. “I’m going to give you a guerrilla orientation
of the complex, then turn you over to Nachti, one of my surgeons, for a couple
of hours. She’ll run you through you’re syllabus of med texts and acquaint you
with your hands on duties for the first few weeks.”

I realized after he left me with Nachti, who gave me a polite
but cool greeting, that something was very wrong. The medics seemed to be taking
one of two tacts as they were introduced to me—nervous fear or poorly hidden
animosity. After the third or forth such uncomfortable introduction, I finally
asked Nachti point blank.

“Is there a reason I seem to be persona non grata?”

She stared at me blankly for a moment or two, then her golden
Madrani face softened marginally. “The Prince commanded a departmental
restructure of the surgical unit yesterday. It throws every other department’s
staffing off to take up the slack, and removes surgeons and med techs who were
posted at Med Center to the Palace staff—my son included. He was only
fourteen.” She gave me a brittle smile. “The Prince had done this so that
Scopa-san’s closest staff will be comprised of females, non-hetero oriented
males, and beings of genderless species.”

I began to feel sick. “Because of me,” I said unnecessarily.

“Because of you,” she agreed, frowning tensely. “I know that
none of this is your doing. I know—everyone knows—your story, Bulma of
Chikyuu. But…it is a hard thing to see a spouse or child posted in another
part of the Capital with no warning. And because of that I, and many other
members of the medical staff, are less than pleased to have you join us.
Also…” She paused, eyeing me. “There will be those who will fear you simply
because of the power you wield as a royal mistress. A word from you in the
Prince’s ear would mean their death if they offend you.”

“Power,” I said softly, bitterly. “I would give anything to be
free of that ‘power’. I would trade places with anyone here in a heartbeat.”

“I believe you,” she said, a little more kindly, the muscles in
her face working. “I have treated many, many pleasure slaves in my time. I have
no illusions as to—” She shook her head. “Give everyone a bit of time, myself
included. We are all slaves together, and they will see that you are the same
soon.”

I nodded and we passed the rest of the orientation session in
relative ease, if not comfort. As she guided me through every nook and cranny of
Med Center, making a winding path back to meet up with Scopa, I stopped at the
supply loading dock, staring at a man who seemed to be moving in slow motion as
he methodically geared down his freight flyer, while the porter slaves stood
ready to unload his cargo. I watched him climb out of the flyer and turn slowly,
saw him freeze as his eyes fell on me.

Then he came to me hesitantly, and I closed the distance
between us, embracing him in a storm of tears. I looked up into his scarred,
blank, ivory face, his huge black eyes that seemed to carry as much grief and
loss as mine when I looked in the mirror.

“Hiru!” I sobbed.

His arms went around me slowly, as though he were sleep
walking, then he pushed me back. “I am—Bulma, oh gods, I am s–s–sorry!
I—”

“Shhh!” I said softly, touching the mass of scar tissue on his
disfigured face, seeing now how he walking with a limp, how his arm was twisted
at an odd angle. Kami, what must Nappa have done to him to make him talk? But he
hadn’t talked, had he? “I don’t blame you for anything,” I whispered. “We both
know who is to blame.”

“I am glad you survived,” he whispered, cutting his eyes back
to where Nachti stood, making sure she had withdrawn far enough from our reunion
not to be able to hear his next words. “And…I am glad that you have joined the
fight. The Network. We will avenge our children and spouses, Bulma.”

“Yes,” I said fiercely. “We will.”

It made me feel strange when he left, promising to meet me and
really talk tomorrow. Zarbon must have approached him and recruited him, and I’m
sure he was more than eager, but… It’s starting to seem to me that the Network
preys on those who have been hurt the most, gives them purpose, a reason to live
when they have nothing left to live for—but, there’s a calculation in it, a
knowing that such people are vulnerable to manipulation and can be easily honed
into suicidally loyal weapons for the cause.

I spent he rest of the day, shadowing Scopa as he explained
this and that, learning to use some of the more rudimentary med technology. I
began to get a little frustrated by the middle of the day, realizing that the
curriculum Scopa had planned for me was far too unexcellerated and that I would
die of boredom in a couple of days if I went at this pace. I speed read the
first of my texts during lunch hour and gave it back to Scopa, asking him to
drill me on it. He did. After about an hour of asking me more and more in depth
questions on that first text, he sat me down and gave me a pile of data discs.

“Photographic memory and total comprehension of the material,”
he said with a little grin. “I feel as though I’ve insulted you. I should have
known better than to put you on the normal apprenticeship track. A change,
then—your spend the first half of each day reading everything I give you, and
the second half shadowing my rounds for hands on learning. Tell me when you
finish each text and I’ll give you oral comp exams on it at the end of every
day.” He laughed softly. “At the rate you’ll learn, I may be taking orders from
you in a year.”

Near the end of the day, I followed the sound of hushed
conversation from the garden conservatory where Scopa had left me studying,
which is a green jungle of plants from a hundred different worlds. What seemed
like the entire staff of the complex was gathering at the exit by the emergency
landing pads, looking up at the high, spired peek on the mountain on the western
edge of the city, Cho-tal. Smoke plumes were funneling up from a ceremonial pyre
and the sky was full of warriors, hovering in the air in receding rings around
the burning body on the flat apex of the peek.

“What’s happening?” I asked someone.

“The King is in attendance at the funeral,” a man in front of
me said, not looking down from where his eyes were fixed on the sky. “The Prince
himself lit the pyre. It’s not something you see every day.” He dropped his
voice and added almost under his breath. “And it is a cause for celebration to
many. Lord Nappa was hated and feared, even among his own people.”

I stared at him, not registering the words for a moment or two,
the world going gray around me. “Lord Nappa is dead?”

“Praise to the goddess that he is dead,” a Madrani woman beside
me said softly.

I walked through the corridors to Scopa’s offices and asked him
in a blank, expressionless voice if I was done for the day. He seemed
preoccupied, and I came out of my shock just enough to lay one hand on his
shoulder.

“What’s wrong?”

He shook his head. “Zarbon has…dropped out of sight again.
One office of the palace admin thinks he’s in Subosh city to the west and the
offices in Subosh think he’s been detained in the Capital for a few days. Which
means he’s doing something very, very dangerous…again. I don’t ask questions,
but I have a pretty good idea of what he’s involved in, and…” He sighed
heavily. “I worry all the time I will receive word one day that he has been
taken by Imperial Intelligence or killed outright.” He seemed to shake himself,
then looked up at me and smiled ruefully. “He’ll turn up. He always does. Go
home and rest before the Prince arrives this evening. You have made a wonderful
start here today.”

I went back to the villa, taking the little flyer Scopa had
requisitioned for me, and found the house empty. I didn’t wonder were the twins
were. I think it really hit me then, that Nappa was dead.

And I started to scream. It was…gods, it was a kind of insane
rage, full of all the pain, all the anger, all the hate I had bottled up and
swallowed like bile for more than a year…maybe for six years. Ever since the
death of Chikyuu. I began to trash the hearthroom, throwing or breaking
everything I could get my hands on, and at some point I looked down and saw a
huge gout of blood spurting from my wrist from where I’d somehow slammed my hand
through the crystalline top of Vegita’s ugly, ostentatious dining table. But I
couldn’t stop screaming and I couldn’t stop smashing things. It went on…I
guess until I lost so much blood that I began to grow too weak to move around. I
ended up collapsing in the window sill, too far gone to even call out or get to
a comm to send for help. I sat there, feeling my life pour out of my body with
my blood.

Vegita’s face swam into view after a while. I wasn’t sure
whether he was real or a hallucination, but I tried to tell him it had been an
accident, to beg him not to kill Scopa and the twins. I passed out then and
dreamed about Nappa, seeing his giant fist wrapped around my baby’s little body
as he crushed his neck and spine, hearing again the way Karot-chan cried out
just once, his baby voice full of so full of pain and fear… Her voice wavered
into soft sobs, and she did not speak for several minutes.
I woke up
screaming Karot-chan’s name, and Vegita shook me hard, telling me to shut up.
That no amount of wailing would bring back the dead. His words were harsh and
cold but his voice broke when he spoke them. His arms were around me, stroking
my hair gently…and I realized he was very close to tears himself.

I was right—he’s never lost anyone he gave a damn about and
he had no idea what to do with the feelings. He asked me a moment or two later
when the pain would stop. He wasn’t talking about my pain…he was asking how long
before the pain of losing the man who had raised him would dissipate.

Gods, what a surreal night.

We talked…or I talked and he listened, while I told him about
Karot-chan, while I explained how I loved the son so much more than the
father…because he was all mine and beautiful and innocent and…He didn’t really
understand most of what I told him, but it was good just to talk. He didn’t
understand how I could set so much store by someone who couldn’t even talk yet.
Saiyans are so frighteningly alien in their ideologies—ideologies that seem so
often to go completely against the inborn nature of a people whose emotions run
so deep and fierce. Maybe these cruel, unfeeling ways evolved in their culture
to shield them from loving so much they died of grief when they lost their
mates, their parents, their children, their friends.

I lay all night in the arms of my enemy, taking comfort in the
warmth of his body and the silent, solemn way he listened as I told him things
I’d never said aloud, never told another person, as I talked about my baby. We
lay together, each of us grieving in for a different loss. He loved the monster
who killed my baby, I thought distantly. The man who cared for him, who raised
him…who made him, more than likely, into the son of a bitch he is today. The
conversation between the two men on that day he beat Nappa for touching me came
back to me. “You taught me long ago that a bed slave should be completely
broken…” Vegita had told him. Gods…every horror in my life can be traced back to
Nappa. Even Vegita being the spoiled, vicious bastard that he is.

“Do you hate me as greatly as you did Nappa?” He asked at one
point. “Do you dream of killing me still? Tell me truly, woman. I slew Raditz in
single combat. My hand did not take the boy’s life, but I would have ordered it
done just the same, though not before your eyes.”

“I would have ordered Nappa’s death if I could have,” I said
carefully. I had no intention of taking his hope of ‘making me love him’ away.
“But I didn’t. And you would’ve ordered Karot-chan killed. But you didn’t.
Might-have-beens aren’t the same as deeds done.”

“No,” he said bluntly. “But the blame is still at my feet,
woman.”

“Yes, it is,” I told him in a cold voice. All the blame,
you fucker. A sudden rush of icy hate tore through me and made me throw all
caution to the wind and speak plainest truth. “But I wouldn’t kill you,
Ouji-sama. Ever.”

He grinned suddenly, condescendingly. “That is a relief.”

I gave him a lengthy, detailed list of all the ways I could
kill him, watching his face grow still, feeling his hand tense around my
neck.

“You’ve given this some thought,” he said harshly.

“And decided against it,” I told him with a wicked smile,
trailing my fingers tauntingly down his spine, stopping just about his tail.
“When I take revenge on you, I won’t kill you.”

“A fate worse than death for me?” He gave me a predatory grin,
a low purr beginning to vibrate inside his chest as I dropped my hand a little
lower, teasing the base of his tail. “So, how do you plan to torture me, woman?”

I smiled wickedly. “With love. I’m going to make you love me.
Real love, Vegita no ouji. Mad and boundless and forever, like the twinned souls
of moonbound warriors. I’ll make you love me…and when you do, when I’m
absolutely sure I have your whole heart, I’ll use that love to destroy you.”

He laughed out loud. “You have a very elevated opinion of your
place in my life, woman.”

“Think so?” I kissed him deep and sweet and gripped his tail
hard. He growled, his eyes lighting with desire and excitement at the thought of
a contest of this sort. “You’re half-way there already.”

His face froze and then slowly began to turn red with rage…but
behind that, I saw a flash of unease. “You…insolent bitch!” He snarled like an
angry panther, and his arm tightened angrily, snapping one of my ribs audibly.
He raise his hand to belt me…but the blow never fell. He lay frozen above me,
his face a mix of confusion and anger and…and dawning horror. He eased his hold
on me and poked the fractured bone gingerly.

“Is the tank in Scopa’s old surgery still there?” He asked
softly. His face had gone dead pale.

“I don’t need a tank for this.” I told him. “There’s a bone
sauter in my wardrobe beside the bed. I can mend it myself. It’ll be knitted
good as new by the time I go to Med Center.” A horrible thought occurred to me.
“I can still go to Med Center, can’t I?”

He grunted. “I gave you my word, did I not?”

He watched me silently while I welded the break back together,
growing more and more excited as he visibly winced whenever I did. I’ve got
you, you bastard!
I thought. I don’t know when it happened, maybe it’s been
brewing inside him for a while…but he cares for me! No…he loves me! The next
step, of course, is to get him to admit it to himself. Then to me. Then…oh Kami,
then gods help him!

“It’s not that bad.” I said softly. “Just a hairline
fracture.”

“How would you know, woman,” he asked irritably, a sympathetic
shudder, almost invisible, but there, running through his body as I winced
again.

“Vegita…” I said a little coldly. “You’ve broken my ribs more
times than I can count. Just from holding me too tightly. A couple of times
while you were asleep. This is the first time you’ve ever noticed.” He swallowed
hard, digesting that bit of information…it was something he’d known, but never
taken any notice of until now. He looked vaguely nauseous for a moment, and I
could see him remembering what it had felt like to be pinned down while Jeiyce
crushed his own ribs and drove them like bullets into his lungs.

“It’s not as bad as your injuries were,” I told him softly.

“Have I ever—?” He stopped the question before he got it out,
hissing with fury at himself.

“Never as bad as Jeiyce hurt you,” I said.

Then he rebelled against it, against everything he was feeling,
and grabbed me hard with a vicious snarl. “Do you think I give a damn about
you?! You live and continue to live for my pleasure. You are nothing outside of
that! You are my whore until I see fit to have done with you, and nothing more!
Nothing more!”

“Which one of us are you trying to convince, Vegita?” I
whispered, cold and mocking.

He threw me down, pushing my legs apart “Woman,” he growled
into my face. “I do not give a damn about you.”

But I could see the lie in his eyes, and the fear that this
sudden, dawning realization had awakened in him. “Yes, you do.” I sneered.

I wrapped my legs around him and pulled him deep inside me, and
he couldn’t stop. He had to have me, had to obey the raging madness of want I’d
lit inside him, but his face was a mask of agony as he battered into me, gasping
in empathy each time I cried out as he ground the half-healed bone together with
each thrust. He came inside me with a cry that was more pain than pleasure, and
knowing that, knowing I’d hurt him in that way, sent me over the edge with him,
almost shrieking.

“I will win this game of yours, woman,” he said when he could
speak again. “I will make you adore me, fawn upon me, give me every piece of
yourself that you have held back, until I own you. All of you, body and soul! I
will make you—” He

stumbled over the word.

I kissed him softy, smiling up at him. “Love you? You don’t
know how, Vegita. You can’t even make yourself say the word. You don’t know how
to fight a battle that doesn’t involve brute strength and fighting power. I do.
You’re going to lose this little war, my beautiful Prince. And when you do,
you’ll be the one who is enslaved.”

“We shall see,” he said, his eyes gleaming with renewed
excitement. I had just declared war, and a Saiyan will always run headlong into
any conflict with a song in his heart.

He helped me dress, studying the bruises he put on my body, the
inexpressive planes of his features twisting again minutely with dull horror.
“My word to you, woman,” he said softly. “You will not receive so much as a
bruise from my hands hereafter.”

 

 

 

 

I went to Med Center this morning. I received a much warmer
welcome today than yesterday. Word had gone around the entire complex like
wildfire last night. The rumor was that Vegita had brought me in near death
after beating me. I’d actually rather have them all think that than know the
truth—that I nearly committed accidental suicide in a fit of rage. The result
was pretty much the same.

Everyone was kinder and less hostile.

I found Scopa in his offices and went pale when I saw the
patient he was treating. Zarbon’s gorgeous blue skin was scorched with angry
burns and gashes. Scopa introduced us stiffly, his face pale and angry whenever
his eyes met Zarbon’s, and we pretended to exchange first pleasantries. I helped
Scopa set his broken forearm in tense silence, until he received a page from the
O.R.

“Can you keep him company for a few minutes and give him an
infection inoculation, Bulma?”

I nodded, and watched him leave after throwing one last
balefully angry glance in his lover’s direction.

“He’s upset with me to put it mildly,” Zarbon said ruefully. I
stared at him stonily.

“You were at the battle,” I said coldly.

He stood and pulled a large, gray, led box out of his duffel
beside the patient’s cot. “Yes,” he said grimly. “I bring you a gift from my
Prince, Bulma. He acquired it especially for you. The first payment for all you
have done for the revolution.” He opened the lid of the box, and my breath
caught when I saw what was inside.

It was Nappa’s head.

“I promised you this,” Zarbon said fiercely. “Jeiyce-sama
struck the mortal blow, but he and all the other Saiyans who fell on Shikaji are
dead because of your warning. Just as all the Maiyosh-jin and other inhabitants
of that world are still alive because of you. You have avenged your son,
Bulma.”

“Close the lid,” I said softly.

I began to cry. It didn’t help to know I’d killed Nappa. How
could I have thought it would? My baby is dead. Karot-chan is dead and an ocean
of vengeance and blood won’t bring him back. Zarbon put his arms around me after
an awkward moment and I clung to this man who was a virtual stranger, sobbing so
hard I began to have trouble breathing. As the sobs began to taper down, I began
to slip away, to lose my sense of what was going on around me.

“…hasn’t done this in a while,” Scopa’s voice was saying from
far away. I felt a tiny pinch of a hypo on my arm. “Less and less since he
stopped hurting her so systematically. But…”

“She seems so frail,” Zarbon murmured.

“She’s not,” Scopa said softly. “You don’t live through what
she’s survived unless you’ve got ardantium in your spine. But…but even ardantium
will snap if you put enough pressure on it long enough…”

“She’ll be all right, love,” Zarbon said. “I think it’s just…I
think she thought Nappa’s death would make her son’s death hurt less.”

Scopa made me lie down the rest of the day and study in bed. At
the end of the day, I returned to the villa to find the hearthroom lit with
candles and a new blackwood dining table set with heaps of food. Vegita greeted
me and bowed mockingly.

“Lady,” he said, smirking. “Will you dine with me this
night?”

So, battle was joined already, was it? One corner of my mouth
quirked. “I suppose,” I said.

“Lady,” he said, moving toward me slowly, his voice dropping to
a seductive purr. “Will you share my bed this night?”

I stuck my nose in the air and walked past him to the table.
“We’ll see,” I sniffed hautily.

 

 

 

 

I’ve been crazy busy for the last few weeks. Vegita’s training
like a madman. He found a dock slave, of all people, whose raw strength is about
twice his own.

He commandeered the man to be his sparring partner, and has
this guy beat the hell out of him every day. I’m training too. Studying and
researching to work out the seemingly innumerable kinks in the practical
construction of a completely new sort of shield—at least, whenever I can find
two spare minutes to rub together. I took my medic’s board exams a week ago, but
Scopa wants me to have more than a few weeks of hands on practical experience
before he grants me full physician status. So, for now, I’m a lowly intern.

I have a social life! I eat with people every day, talk and
gossip while we work. I see Hiru when time allows. Zarbon told me not to tell
even Hiru what I’ve built for the rebels—he thinks I spy on the Prince and
nothing else. But he did call me “the heroine of Shikaji,” and knows it was my
warning that saved the people there. I like the sound of that. It’s sad…he was
such a vital, happy man in his quiet way, and now all he can seem to think about
or talk about is the Network. His eyes were so warm before. Now they’re dead,
and only seem to catch life when he talks about the revolution. Nachti’s getting
to be a friend, and it’s good to work beside her and Scopa. When was the last
time I had friends?

Chikyuu, I guess.

Son-kun and Yamcha and Krillan-kun and…

Every night, I return to the villa and Vegita and I dance our
elaborate waltz of mental, verbal and sexual combat. He doesn’t know he’s lost
already. He’s determined to win this “game” at any cost. He’s given me free
reign to leave the villa whenever I please, to rearrange the house as I wish—I
turned his little library into my private medical study. He grits his teeth and
lets me say whatever I wish, contradict him, argue him down on any subject you
could name. He pretends to be the flattering suitor, playing at seducing me
every night—as though I had a choice. He uses me gently now, taking an
inordinate amount of care not to hurt me or even bruise me…

I pretend to dote on him, smothering him in sickly sweet words
and affection. At the end of the night, we make our way back to the bedroom and
I kick out all the stops. I use every little bit of skill I learned from
Raditz—who slept with half the known galaxy before he met me, according to his
squad brother Kyouka. I’ve done things to him in the last few weeks that would
make a Serulian love goddess blush.

A while ago, the first day he gave me back my voice, when he
took me gently and made me howl with pleasure, I told him I wished he had just
kept on hurting me. In many ways…Kami, in many ways, I still wish that. Because
each time we’re together these days, I feel an echo of that abyss of complete
madness that came so close to swallowing me the first time I let him have
me—the first time he made me come, against my will, against all sanity and
reason, after all he had done in the previous months. I want him. I…gods, I
cringe at the thought when he’s not with me, but the instant he puts his hands
on me, I want him like an addictive drug. All the hate I feel for him is
transmuted into passion, effortlessly and horribly leaping the thin line between
rage and desire. And because my hate for him is so immeasurable now…so is my
desire. I will go stark, raving, frothing at the mouth mad if this goes on much
longer.

He actually thinks he can make me love him. That just staggers
me. But…I guess when you’ve spent your entire life with no real sense of
anyone’s feelings but your own, you could be that obtuse. The moments of actual
empathy, like when he made the mental connection between Jeiyce breaking his
ribs and all the times he’s done the same to me, are still rare. But he’s been
true to his word and hasn’t put one bruise on me since the night after Nappa’s
funeral.

It’s strange, but I really enjoy the dinner conversation every
night. He’s a lot brighter and better educated than I would have ever given him
credit for, and our opinions are so diametrically opposed on almost everything,
it makes for good debate. And it’s very freeing to argue with someone when you
have absolutely no regard for their feelings at all.

Last night, he came back from training early and found me
sitting in my garden.

“What is this?” He asked, sitting beside me on the bench.

“A medical text,” I said, raising the book up to cover my face,
pretending to ignore him.

“Saiyan Sexuality and the Moon,” he read the spine, snickering.

“Saiyan sexuality…heh,” I snorted. “I don’t know any other
kind.”

He pushed the book down, and leaned forward. “Books can only
teach so much,” he smirked. “You need field research, woman.”

I thrust the book up between us again, and peeked around it
with a sly smile. “I have a headache, dear.”

He frowned. “You are ill?”

“No,” I said. “I’m just…not in the mood.” He stared at me, his
face beginning to go red with suppressed anger. I smiled sweetly. “You’re a
loving, kind man who respects my delicate sensibilities, aren’t you, Vegita? I
know you are. Because I could never love a man who wasn’t.”

He sat there for a full minute, trembling from head to toe with
the effort to control himself. Then…then, he crawled off to bed, his tail
lashing behind him.

I can’t push that kind of thing too far, and I know I’ll have
to make it up to him tomorrow night…but gods, it felt good to turn him down
flat. I slept on the little cot in my study and woke up smiling.

 

 

 

 

All the greatest changes in my life always come without warning
and nearly instantaneously. Yesterday was one of the “change” days.

The emergency sirens went off at half past noon and the entire
trauma team, myself included, ran for the landing pads. Scopa was shouting
orders like a drill sergeant, turning to me hurriedly as we went. “Stay with me!
You’ve never seen field surgery before and I don’t want to throw you in to swim
on your own. You’ll be my pre-op aid. Bring the rad inoculation unit up from the
pharmacy, Nachti!”

We hit the ground level to see a full sized troop carrier
falling down on us in slow motion. There were warriors all around it, easing it
down to the ground. I saw Bardock and Toma among them, but I couldn’t stop if I
wanted to keep up with Scopa and hear his instructions.

The whole day was a blur, of sorting the dead, the dying, and
the viable wounded. Of passing out rad hypos to the thousands of warriors who
showed up to help. The Maiyosh-jin had struck the first blow in the war of
revolution. They hit Arbatsu’s ship yards and garrisons with plasma nukes.

Plasma nukes.

A plasma nuke melts you in your bunker, in your ship, in your
home. It burns you alive if you’re lucky. The radiation is nasty in that it is
fatal, but not quick. Sufficiently high doses will kill you even with an
inoculation. It maimed the survivors, one and all. Melted their flesh off their
bones, dissolved limbs…It…I don’t want to talk about all it did. Vegita arrived
early on and took command of the trooper salvage at Scopa’s request—if they’d
let a carrier break up in the atmosphere, it would have irradiated the entire
region. I caught Bardock’s arm at one point, as I suddenly remembered that
Romayna was stationed on Arbatsu. His face was pale and drawn with terrible
worry, but he told me she was strong and clever and would have survived.

It was a terrible, awful, long day, but it didn’t last forever.
Vegita, an immortal god in his own mind, didn’t take a rad injection until all
the carriers were grounded. Then he passed out, falling out of the sky. Bardock,
of all people, caught him and set him down beside the inoculation station I’d
set up on the main landing pad.

“I thought you’d just let him fall,” I said, turning Vegita
over. I pressed the

inoculation hypo into his arm and he shuddered, coughing up
blood.

“The little bastard caught a lucky break,” Bardock grunted.
“Vegita-sei can’t afford to lose her Prince on the eve of war. And…he’s done a
man’s job today. He saved a lot of warriors. I can always kill him later.”

“I guess I’ll have to wait as well,” I said, grinning up at
Bardock’s grimy

face. “He’s going to need a tank. He’s got internal tissue
breakdown.”

Scopa came by and eyed the two of us warily. “I’ll take him
from here.” He said.

“Can’t imagine why the fellow wouldn’t trust the two of us to
care for him,” Bardock chuckled humorlessly. “I have to find my woman in all
this mess.” He got up and strode away.

An hour later, during my twentieth run to the supply storage, I
ran into Hiru, sitting on a stack of crated med swabs. “A good day,” he told me,
smiling.

“What?” I said breathlessly, wondering why he wasn’t above
helping out.

“It’s been good to see them burnt,” he told me with a horrible
flat smile. “And better to see them die.”

“Raditz and Karot-chan were them,” I said softly, feeling
suddenly ill. I hadn’t thought of the war in personal terms, had I?

“Raditz was kind to my family,” he agreed. “But he scoured
Corsaris to the ground, Bulma. He loved you…and look where it got him. Killed by
his own kind because he was less evil than the rest of them.”

“Romayna-san was stationed on Arbatsu,” I said coldly.

His lifeless, shark smile faltered a bit, but he shook his
head. “She was kind to you, but I was just another slave to her—to be used up
and put down like an animal when I grew too old or weak to work.” His gaze
softened at the stricken look on my face, some remnant of the kind man I knew in
Turrasht waking inside him. “Romayna-san is the enemy now, Bulma-chan. This is
war. You cannot love and weep for both sides, and you shouldn’t try. It’ll just
hurt twice as much when the killing really starts.”

I swallowed hard, fighting to keep from screaming at him. Or to
keep from screaming in general. In spite of everything, there wasn’t enough hate
in me to condone the horrors I’d seen today, and I had a horrified suspicion
that this was going to be a standard grizzly tactic on the rebels part. And I
suddenly began to have trouble breathing as another suspicion hit me like a
falling mountain. “How do you think they got the nukes through the sensor nets
around Arbatsu?” I asked him.

“I’ve heard Network rumors of new weapons,” he said with quiet
excitement. “They say Jeiyce has a Madrani mastertech inventing weapons for him
to—Bulma!” He caught me as I half-fainted.

I had heard from survivors all day that they had never seen the
enemy ships, on the orbital scouters or with their own eyes. And the nukes…oh
gods, oh gods…

They capulized them and shot the pellets that were too small to
be detected through the sensor nets. They expanded on a delayed timer and
detonated…

I killed all those men on Shikaji when I warned Zarbon, but I
never saw their faces.

I never smelled their burned flesh of heard their cries of
pain. And they…they went to Shikaji to purge it, so to hell with them! I won’t
ever feel a shred of guilt about Shikaji.

But these people were killed in their barracks beds, at mess,
on the training fields. And they never had the chance to fight back. I killed
them. I killed them all with my capsules and the cloaking camo-shields that let
the Red Demons get right on top of the planet without any warning.

I didn’t know! Kami, believe me, I didn’t think what could
happen, how the technology could be used. Poppa never conceived that capsules
could be used as weapons and neither did I.

I stumbled up to post-op, past the hundreds, thousands, of
injured, and then into the ward full of the dead and dying. And I…I saw Bardock.
He had found her. He had found Romayna. I moved toward her med cot in a dream,
feeling my stomach lurch as I saw her face, her beautiful face…or what was left
of it.

Half her body was…was just melted away. I choked and began to
sob. My fault!

I killed my beloved’s mother. She always treated my like a
person…she was my friend. And I killed her. Along with hundreds of thousands of
others on Arbatsu.

She looked up when she saw me…and she smiled.

“Do not dishonor her death with tears, daughter,” Bardock said
softly

“Let her weep,” Romayna whispered. “She is neither Saiyan nor a
warrior—

though only for want of fighting power. I…knew you would
survive when Raditz and the babe were slain.” She laughed softly, her rich warm
voice now nothing more than a rasp. “Tell me, Bulma…have you bent the Saiyan no
Ouji to your will as completely as you did my firstborn?”

“Romayna-san…” I felt like a knife was sawing into my side.

“I think…he will learn that it was folly to make an enemy of
you before the last dance is done. All my goods and chattels I bequeath to you,
girl. And what lies safe in the incu-ward below us as well…to ease your
grief.”

“Romayna,” Bardock said. “The girl is not her own mistress. All
you will to her, you give to the man who slew Raditz.”

“Bar-kun…” Her breath was getting weaker by the moment.
“Nothing is forgiven, beloved. Not yet. You have not yet earned it. You will
know when you have…But I will not look on you as I die. Go.” He bent and kissed
her burnt bloody mouth, and left, sobbing harshly under his breath.

I stayed with her until she died, watching her strong, vital
Saiyan body fight off death until the last. And she told me what she had willed
to me and where to find it. “I hear…” she said faintly at the end. “I hear a
Voice, daughter.”

“What does it say?” I whispered, shivering.

“He says…He says, ‘Do not give way to hate.’ He says…” She
choked, her voice drying to a wispy rattle. “He says… ‘The Legendary is come.’
My son…” Then…then she died.

I think I collapsed, because I woke later on a cot bed, covered
in a light blanket. I sat up and looked over to my right to where Scopa lay
sleeping on another cot, dead to the world.

I took the route she’s told me, following the twists and turns
into the bowels of Med Center, into the one part of the enormous complex I had
never visited. Scopa had been very careful to never take me here, or even
mention the ward in my presence. The incu-ward. I stopped in front of the pod
Romayna had guided me to—#13578. I stared in at the sleeping face and sobbed
softly, hammering my fist down on the extraction control. The pod door opened
and…and I reached inside and pulled out the tiny occupant, sliding down to the
floor with him in my arms, my back against the pod. I held him, staring in
wonder at the windmills spikes, just like Bardock’s, just like Karot-chan’s…just
like…

He opened his eyes and smiled up at me. “Son-kun…” I said,
beginning to cry.

“My baby…my beautiful baby.”

It was him. I knew him instantly, just as Kami said I would.

Everything else went out the window…Romayna’s death, all the
thousands upon thousands of men the Red Demons had killed today with the
machines I gave them to defend themselves. I sat and rocked him lost in the
simple happiness of having him in my arms.

A harsh voice, speaking softly, sliced through head and I
looked up…and screamed. Vegita. I lost my mind with terror. It was Vegita, come
to kill my baby again, to take him away from me a second time. I ran, screaming
in mindless terror, and he caught me, shaking me, finally shouting to get me to
hear his words.

“I will not harm him, woman!” He roared.

I came back to my senses, but only partially. I…I think I was
very close to losing it completely when I sank down on my knees before him,
begging him for what I knew he would not give. “Please…Please, Vegita…Oh
gods, please let me keep him! I’ll do anything…Anything! Please don’t take him
away from me again!”

He stared at me, and whatever he saw in my face made him blanch
with worry. “Woman…” He said slowly. “This is not the same boy.”

“I don’t care!” I shrieked. “Oh gods, please,
Vegita…please.”

He was silent, his face shrouded in the dim light of the
incu-ward. Then, he spoke slowly. “Keep the brat here,” he said. “I will not
have the son of Bardock sleeping under my roof. But you may keep him at Med
Center. Scopa will attend him at night. Will you not, doctor?”

“With all my heart, Ouji-sama,” Scopa whispered.

“You understand that he must go to the children’s barracks at
four year of age?” Vegita asked sternly. I nodded reluctantly. “It is done then.
I am leaving Vegita-sei in the morning to hunt the Red Prince, and to give our
enemies an answer to their attack yesterday. It may be months before I return.
You will dwell here at Med Center while I am gone. Keep the boy by your side
night and day if you wish.”

“Vegita…” I wanted to say something, but at that point…gods,
I was too emotionally exhausted to think, let alone speak.

He commanded Bardock to watch over me while he’s gone, I
remember that. Because he’s apparently made a nasty enemy of Mousrom of
Intelligence, the master torturer and thinks the Inquisitor might kill me while
he’s gone to spite his Prince. The rest of the evening is a blur. We ended up,
for some unknown reason, spending the night in the little apartment Scopa gave
me in the residents’ wing. I was in such a state of shock over…over everything,
that I don’t remember much of anything else. Except for two things. The first is
pushing him down on that little bed and bending down to kiss him, my eyes full
of tears, and saying ‘thank you’. Thank you for letting me keep Son-kun. And
thank you for going away.

The second is getting up after he had fallen into an exhausted,
boneless sleep, and rocking Son-kun in my arms. No…not Son-kun. Romayn. For his
mother.

Rom-kun.

For a second or two, I started to sing Karot-chan’s lullaby,
but I stopped, frowning. No…he needed his own song. So, I sang the song my
Western grandmother taught Momma when she was small. The one about the
mockingbird.

 

 

 

It’s morning.

He left. He got up before dawn, and went to hunt Jeiyce across
the galaxy. He leaned down and kissed me slowly, for the longest time, making a
memory he could take with him while he was at war. Then he brushed the tears out
of my eyes, his face going still and then…softening with honest pleasure. He
kissed me one more time, wordlessly…and he was gone. Just like that I’m free of
him. I guess he was touched in his own rough way that I cried when he left me. I
wonder what he’d think if he knew my tears were tears of joy. Joy that I would
be free of him for months. Maybe forever.

Kami! Months and months of no Vegita! I’ll be at Med Center the
whole time, living and working with these good people, and—shit. I’ll have to
go back to the villa every day though. I can’t trust Batha, or even Caddi, to
take proper care of my flowers. And I think I’ll start a branch division of my
Chikyuu garden here at Med Center while I’m at it.

I am happy.

I shouldn’t be, not with Romayna dead, not with an over-flowing
post-op and morgue, not on the first day of a galactic war that will be bloody
and horrific in ways I’m just barely beginning to understand. But I took a lacta
injection first thing this morning, and in two weeks, I’ll be able to nurse
Rom-kun.

 

 

It’s evening of the same day.

I spent all day tending the men and women he and Jeiyce
butchered with my machines. It was bad, because…at some point, I came out of
the shock of so many things happening at once, and it finally hit me what they’d
done. And just how ugly and dirty this war was going to be…I was the worst
sort of unforgivable fool to think that any war, for any reason, would be
anything other than ugly and dirty. I feel so…gods…violated, I guess. Mostly
because I was half crazy when I built those machines for the Network, and the
twins and Zarbon took full, knowing advantage of that. They think they are doing
the right thing, but…
I killed, or helped kill, my new baby’s
mother…Raditz’ mother…my friend. I have to make amends somehow. I have to
stop this somehow, some way, before all the images and possibilities that began
to prey on my mind today, of all the ways Jeiyce’s armies can and certainly will
use my Ki-guns, become reality.

Of the three pieces of technology I gave the rebels, they have
taken the two non-violent, defensive creations and made them into tools of
war…Kami, what will they do with the Ki-guns?

Maybe I’m wrong and too soft-hearted, or maybe I’m weak, but I
can’t help the rebels anymore. Not after seeing what they did, what I
unknowingly helped them to do, on Arbatsu. I’ve had all kinds of theories and
wild ideas about what Kami meant specifically when he told me not to give in to
hate, not to give up on people who can think and reason and hate them all for
the deeds of a few people. Now, I know what he meant—that my hate would lead
me to creating the machines I gave Jeiyce. Somewhere in my fevered mind, I had
to know as I was building those weapons that they could be subverted into deadly
aids to mass destruction. Aiding the rebels was never part of my mission, and
now…how badly and irreparably have I screwed things up by adding my machines to
the mix of a war that was already destined to be brutal and vicious? I have to
fix things as much as I am able. To find a way to stop all the killing that’s
about to happen.

And I have to bend all my strength now toward my real reason
for living, the command the gods laid on me—I have to take care of Rom-kun and
make sure he grows up a strong, good man. He will be the center of my world now,
and I’ll not fail him.

Gods…those words of prophecy, spoken through the Romayna as her
soul hovered over the threshold of this world and the next… “The Legendary is
come,” she said. Like a—a prophet heralding the birth of a messiah. I won’t
ever turn away from my true destiny again.

I won’t hate. Not even Bardock—I watched his heart break into
a million pieces yesterday and all I could think of was how much it hurt to lose
Karot-chan and Raditz. Time brings in its own revenges, Poppa always said, and
every evil you do you will ultimately pay for in your own misery. Bardock’s
paying now, just like he did when he lost the son he called his “closest
friend”. And I don’t rejoice in his pain. I’m crying with him. He took my whole
world from me, but he’s lost his whole world now. She was his whole world. I
thought I would be so happy to see him hurt so bad, but it was horrible. I won’t
become like Hiru and the twins and take pleasure in the suffering to those
who’ve done me wrong. I won’t hate Bardock anymore…and somewhere, somehow,
I’ll—I’ll try and find a way to hate Vegita less when or if he returns.

Today, I think I found the answer—the answer to freeing all
the people who want to be free and keeping the people on this world from being
slaughtered in the process. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s a new
invention. I’m going to work very hard to finish it. I’m going to call it my
‘stalemate shield’. Stalemate as in, no one can get to anyone on either side of
the conflict that began yesterday and kill them. I can’t stop the people who’ve
been butchered and trampled by the Saiyans from wanting the blood of their
oppressors. I can’t change the inborn and ingrained instincts of the Saiyan
people. But if you can’t keep people from fighting each other, the next best
thing is to separate them. And that’s what this new shield will do.

 

 

 

Zarbon came by Med Center today. I met with him in my own
apartment this afternoon. He gave Rom-kun the same wary look several other
people had given him as I carried my new baby in a baby sling as I went on
rounds. I had a full blown new mother’s pride and nearly belted Batha for the
look of utter revulsion she gave both me and my baby this morning. The twins
came down from the villa, not having anyone to cook and clean for now that
Vegita’s gone, and have been helping out with the added work load of having so
many thousands of patients to care for. Scopa knew both of them well enough not
to put them in the post-op wards. He assigned them help with all the duties of
running the complex that are being neglected since the attack, and let them help
with the care of the soldiers who are nearly ready for release.

Batha looked down her nose at Rom-kun, like he was some sort of
nasty insect crawling on my arm.

“Did the Saiyan no Ouji finally find your price?” She said
venomously.

If I hadn’t been holding the baby, I’d have slugged her. I will
never, never, never leave my baby alone with that woman.

When Zarbon came to my rooms, he eyed Rom-kun nervously, then
noticed the way my expression must have suddenly shifted from icy to murderous,
and only asked mildly. “Where did he come from?”

“His name in Romayn,” I said, pulling the baby out of the sling
so Zarbon could see how beautiful he was. Rom-kun smiled up at him without the
benefit of teeth.

“He’s Raditz’ little brother. His mother, Romayna, died of
radiation burns and poisoning. She gave her baby to me to raise. She was…she was
my friend and I killed her.” I raised my eyes to his and spoke in almost a
whisper. “Your Prince had betrayed me. He took what I gave him to help hide and
defend his people and used it to butcher two hundred thousand people in their
beds.”

“Two hundred thousand Saiyans,” he said without a shred of
remorse, his eyes never flinching from mine. “They are the enemy, Bulma. It is
war. The peoples of the “Empire” have had enough. They will die rather than bow
to the slave whip another day. Do not tell me they have no right to make
themselves free. And do not tell me they that there is any other way to be free
of such masters.”

“I’m out,” I said flatly. I couldn’t argue with the cold logic
of his words or the truth I knew he spoke. But…I won’t be part of it anymore. “I
won’t build another machine for your Network or help you in any way. I
quit.”

He was silent. “What will you do when Vegita returns home and
tells you that tomorrow he goes to purge of world of two billion people? Will
you keep silent and let them die?”

“No,” I whispered, beginning to shake. Of course I wouldn’t.
I…

“You say you are out, love,” he said gently. “But your own
moral conscience will draw you back in when it is time to do the right thing.
And the baby…”

“What about my baby?” I said tensely.

“Vegita will take him away from you when he returns, or when it
suits his whim—he agreed to you keeping the boy, didn’t he? He’ll use the cub
to control you, and when the child reaches his forth year, he’ll take him away
from you and stick him in the children’s barracks—and the next time you see
this little face, he’ll be a hardened killer—”

“Shut up!” I screamed. “Shut up!!!”

“I’m not saying this to hurt you, love,” he said gently. “I…I
don’t want you to live in this dream world that you will be allowed to keep this
child and raise him to manhood as things stand now. I don’t want to see you lose
another child and perhaps your mind as well.”

“Then take me the hell out of here!” I screamed at him. “Take
me with you when you go to Jeiyce! Take my baby where he won’t have to grow up
Saiyan, and can just be himself! Jeiyce—”

“Jeiyce will not have you, love,” he said softly. “He doesn’t
know the name or identity of the ‘mastertech’ who built the things I brought
him. I haven’t told him because I doubt he’d have taken so much as a bread crumb
from your hand if he knew who you were.”

“W—what?”

“Bulma,” he said. “You are Raditz’ widow.”

I went cold, my stomach roiling into knots. Kami…I had
never…never

thought… Raditz, who had murdered Jeiyce’s father, his son, his
wife. “And…and that’s why you never took me away, even though it would have been
so much easier for me to work in peace somewhere else.”

“Jeiyce knows about you,” Zarbon said grimly. “But only that
you are spying for the Network and that your warning saved Shikaji. He knew the
whole story of how Radtiz was betrayed and slain by his Prince, how Raditz tried
to leave Vegita-sei for your sake. And that you were taken by the Prince after
the deaths of your man and son, to be his whore. Do you know what he said when
he heard this tale?

Jeiyce said that this was another debt Vegita owed him, because
he would have dearly loved to pay Raditz back in kind for the deaths of his wife
and son.”

I made a soft moan, shaking from head to toe. There was nowhere
to run and there never had been. The man I had seen as…as the heroic
revolutionary was an enemy to me, and would have killed me and Karot-chan simply
because we were Raditz’ family. Zarbon reached out and took my hand, forcing me
to look up at him. “I can’t take you to him. Even now, you wouldn’t be safe.
After Shikaji, Jeiyce thinks of you as a victim of both Raditz and Vegita, and a
loyal spy of the Network, he still…it would be dangerous to have you near him.
And little Romayn’s life would not be worth spit on a rebel base.”

“Jeiyce is like…he’s like the twins and Hiru,” I murmured
faintly.

“He’s not the man he was before Corsaris fell,” Zarbon agreed
bleakly. “We’re most of us a little mad in the Network. It goes with the
territory of having lost everything you ever loved. Sometimes I think I’m the
unlucky one, to still be stone cold sane.” He paused thoughtfully. “Listen
carefully, love. One does not quit the Network under ordinary circumstances. It
is not allowed…but you are in an unusual position because of your anonymity as
Jeiyce’s weapon builder.” I flinched visibly at the term, but he didn’t notice.
“I will tell my Prince you are working on something that will take a great deal
of time. If need be, I will tell him his secret mastertech has died. As of now,
you are on hold as a spy in Vegita’s house. Should he return in one piece—and
I will say only that there is in the works a plan to see that he does
not—bring me what information you come by that will stop another Corsaris. I
will trust your own conscience that you will do so. Otherwise, you are out. The
unbendable policy is that no one leaves the Network. So, do not tell the twins,
any of the other operatives, or Hiru that you are out. They will kill you if
they know…even Hiru. If the twins ask what manner of engine you are working on
now, tell them that you are building it in Med Center, and Zarbon has ordered
you not to speak of the details to anyone.”

“Thank you,” I said with effort. I could feel tears pressing at
the corners of my eyes.

“You have earned special consideration. You’ve done more for
the rebellion that anyone I know of besides Jeiyce himself,” he said. “And…and
Scopa loves you. I will pray to the gods of justice that when this war is won,
you and this child leave Vegita-sei and live long, happy lives.”

The last person I saw today, before coming back to my rooms,
was Hiru. He told me…he said he was glad about Rom-kun. And not to listen to the
twins. They hadn’t known Raditz and would never understand that he, and all his
kin, were not like the rest of their kind.

“Raditz would have freed us if he could have.” His dead,
lifeless black eyes seemed to warm as he looked down at the baby. He reached out
tentatively and Rom-kun gripped his finger. “I came upon Bardock-san early this
morning as he was taking Romayna-san to burn her in the mountains of Turrasht.
His did not see me…he was weeping like a child. Raditz-sama told me once that
his parents were mated when they were fourteen or fifteen years. All their
lives. I…” His voice had grown thick. “He is not a good man, but he is a man.
Not a beast. I–I think I was dead inside, Bulma. Like a husk full of nothing
but poison and hate. I think…I think I am coming back to life. I have you and
Bardock to thank for that. All those soldiers who died yesterday didn’t bring
back our families, did they?”

“No,” I said hoarsely. “It didn’t.”

“What we’re doing is right,” he said. “I believe that. But I
won’t take anymore joy in it unless the enemy is my personal enemy. Prince
Vegita killed my family and yours. This child did not. And his brother would
have freed Noira, Dusca and myself had we escaped. I won’t forget that again.”
He smiled faintly at Rom-kun who was regarding him with a wide gummy grin. “Look
how he smiles. He’s so unlike a normal Saiyan babe. Just like Karot-chan. They
favor each other.”

“They do,” I said softly.

It stuck me like a falling rock. An idea that was so simple and
gentle in it’s simplicity. I told him my idea and he swallowed hard and nodded.
We crept down to the incu ward to find it utterly deserted because of the need
in the trauma wards. There wasn’t a great deal of care needed from the tech
attendants. The machines fed and watered the growing fetuses and prepped the
viable infants for emergence at what would normally be about one year old. Then
they went to the infant barracks to learn how to kill if they were strong, or to
the pod seeding unit if they were not. Not that any of them needed to be taught
how to kill after a year in the infant conditioning unit. The babies in the
incu-pods were left to grow and develop and nothing else, but when they were
shifted over to the infant conditioning unit, they were given a constant
bombardment of subliminal aggression tapes for a solid year. By the time the
babies emerge from that first year of conditioning, they are like tiny, feral
wolverines. They bite and claw and will try to tear each other to pieces if you
set them down together. They won’t except or give affection. They have what the
psychologists on Chikyuu would have called disaccosiative disorder, or something
very close to it. After that, they go the first year barracks to have discipline
beaten into them, but they do not need to be encouraged or shown how to kill.

I had known this was going on, but had only ever read about it
in med texts.

I’d never assisted in it and had told myself that was enough.
No more. I’ll be goddammed if I’ll ever stand by again and let something awful
happen without raising a hand to try and stop it.

Hiru and I spent the entire night reprogramming the infant
conditioning unit in such a way that the tech attendants wouldn’t notice a
difference.

“They’ll sure as hell notice it when they pulled this crop of
babes out and they don’t get bitten once,” Hiru said worriedly. “I hope…Bulma,
we may be signing these children’s death warrants by changing their
programming.”

I shook my head. “It won’t change their inborn will to fight.
Saiyan parents have the right to train there own children from viability, if
they want. They usually don’t want to, but I wonder how much of that is the
fucking infant conditioning shorting out the maternal instinct in the girls.
Romayna was trained at home, and so was Raditz. It’s the custom in back country
Turrasht. They both went to the children’s barracks at four and made excellent
warriors, but…that’s maybe the biggest part of what made them different. And
even those children who go through the conditioning program, like Bardock, are
capable of love.”

“What are you replacing the aggression files with?” He asked
nervously.

I smiled. “Songs…and stories about heroes defeating evil
witches and monsters. It’s one of Scopa’s data disc of toddler sing-alongs and
Madrani fairy tales.”

He began to laugh softly. He sounded, for the first time since
I’d come to Med Center, like the man who had been my friend in Turrasht.

 

 

 

Hi. It’s…well, it’s been about four and a half months since my
last entry.

Let me start where I left off.

Hiru and I left the incu ward and said our goodnights. I went
back to my apartment and he went to help with the load in of his freight flyer.
He had to take deliver ship components to an assembly plant in the east. I made
that last entry in this diary, hid the mike and data disc in the compartment I
designed for it in my bedroom, then I crawled into bed with Rom-kun beside me,
thinking it was nice to sleep alone. Or to just sleep a full night. As Vegita’s
pleasure slave, I had to exist on his sleep schedule of about two to three hour
a night—that’s about all he needs, and if he was awake, I sure as hell would
be too. I could have slept after he left for the day, but at the villa, I was
always busy building, and then when I started to work at Med Center, I was there
all day. So, I’ve just learned to exist on less than three hours of sleep most
nights.

A couple of hours before dawn, Rom-kun woke for no reason and
began to wail. Nothing I could do would quiet him. I fumbled through the
mini-cooler beside the bed and found it empty of formula. “Dammit,” I said
blearily and threw on the clothes I’d worn the night before, hefting Rom-kun on
one hip as we stumbled sleepily down the corridors to the kitchens in the
residential wing. No luck. There was no food in any of the fridges after the
double all nighter almost everyone had pulled since the attack. I had socked
away a few bottles in the surgery wing, I remembered then, for when I was in the
middle of the working day.

Rom-kun’s wails had not ceased, and I moved a little faster. I
hit the surgery wing a few moments later and rummaged through the cooler in
Scopa’s offices until I found a my cache of bottles. I stuck one in his
screaming mouth and he quieted instantly. I sat down in Scopa’s desk chair and
held him as he sucked the liter sized bottle down like a tiny vacuum cleaner,
smiling at the huge, contented burp he uttered when he finished. He fell asleep
instantly.

The door burst open and Bardock and Scopa came rushing in. “Up,
girl!” Bardock said hurriedly. “I have to move you and the boy!”

“Come this way,” Scopa said, taking my hand and pulling me up.
Rom-kun, startled out of a sound sleep, began to cry. “There’s no time. They’re
in the complex looking for you, Bulma! Nachti was coming in from graveyard shift
and saw them going into your rooms. When they came back out without you, looking
furious, she knew you must be somewhere else”.

“No more talk,” Bardock said, beginning to drag me out of the
room. Scopa led the way through as series of back passages I hadn’t know existed
and stopped only once to throw his arms around me in a hurried hug.

“I’ll see you when I see you!” He said and unlocked a giant
shield door with his chief surgeon’s pass key. We moved past Nachti, who had
been waiting for us, it seemed. She locked and bolted the shield doors behind us
as we went into the hanger.

“This way,” she whispered.

She took us to a freight flyer scheduled for routine departure
and the hatch opened. Hiru’s scarred face leaned out of the cockpit. He smiled
grimly at

the look of shocked recognition on Bardock’s face.

“Bardock-san,” he said formally, bowing from where he sat in
the pilot’s seat.

We flew away in the hold of Hiru’s flyer without incident.
Kami, if Rom-kun hadn’t woke me, I would be in the hands if Intelligence right
now. He flew east, not deviating from his assigned flight path, until we were
hundreds of kilometers from the Capital. “This is a good spot,” Bardock told
him.

Hiru popped the hatch in midair and I kissed him on the cheek.
“Thank you.”

He smiled sadly. “Be well, Bulma.”

Bardock eyed him steadily and nodded. “My thanks as well,” he
said curtly.

After we jumped, Rom-kun in my arms and Bardock carrying me,
Bardock growled irritably, his face pulled into an odd expression.

“What is it?” I asked over the wind whipping by us as he
flew.

“That fellow,” he said, shaking his head. “He served Raditz
like a faithful vassal, and just saved all three of our lives. My scouter
reading said the men Mousrom sent tonight were more than enough to have killed
my had we been cornered. And I cannot remember his name.”

“Hiru,” I told him gently. “Hiru of Ansou-sei.”

He met my eyes, his face a blank Saiyan mask, and nodded in
thanks.

He took me to a hunting lodge, high in the northern crags. It
was approaching high summer and there was still a chill in the air. By lodge, I
mean a huge cavern in the side of a cliff with a giant hearthpit built in the
center. I had no change of clothes, no formula, no diapers, no nothing. Not even
a blanket. He stared at me as I sat shivering beside the hearth fire he had just
lit. “No one knows of this place. Raditz and I discovered it years ago by
chance. Those who built it are long dead…I think it may had been used before
Vegita-sei’s space age. We were cave dwellers then.”

“Huh,” I said.

“You will not survive a fall here,” he said after another
moment of silence, swearing softly. “We will stay this night, and I will think
of where to go from here.”

The night was bitterly cold, and he slept beside me, warming me
with his higher body heat. He smelled like Raditz. I lay awake long after he
fell into a deep, restless sleep, kissing my sleeping baby, wondering what the
next day would bring. Then…he shifted against me, and half-sobbed in his
sleep.

“Romayna…” he said softly. His voice carried oceans of grief,
whole worlds of it. I began to cry, shredding the tears that, for all his
heart-broken sobs, he could not and…and I put my arms around him. I don’t know
if he ever woke completely, but I held him all night, until he quieted and fell
asleep. When I woke, he was gone with no explanation. I sat all day, huddled
before the fire, rocking Rom-kun, trying to soothe the pitiful cries and the
audible rumbling of his empty stomach.

Bardock returned at dusk with a load of supplies. Blankets and
food for the baby and for me. “I cannot move you so soon. I contacted Toma, who
has spent the day nosing around places he should not be, and he told me that
they are looking for us everywhere. The Inquisitor is in a frothing rage. I
called Toma from a city far to the south and warned him and all my squad to lie
low. Mousrom will try and wring our whereabouts from them when he learns I am
hiding you.”

“I’ve heard the horror stories from the other physicians of
people they’ve treated after he’s had them,” I said with a shiver, popping the
top of a tin of pureed red fruit and giving Rom-kun a huge spoonful. His mouth
had opened like a baby bird’s the instant he smelled the food. “He was Nappa’s
friend, wasn’t he? How did Vegita and he become such enemies?”

Bardock snorted. “The boy has a talent for making enemies.”

I grinned wryly. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Bardock caught my eye and began to laugh softly. “He knows the
Prince dotes on you to excess, and will try to strike at him by killing you in
some gruesome way. Is it true?”

“Is what true?”

“That the Prince is taken with you beyond all reason?”

I smiled coldly. “He loves me.”

Bardock eyed me a moment, then shook his head. “I would not
step into that boy’s shoes for all the wealth in creation. Gods help him when
you are through with him.”

“I doubt they’ll help him,” I said, still shoving food in
Rom-kun’s waiting mouth. “We should stay here, shouldn’t we? This is a pretty
desolate hole, but Mousrom won’t find us here in a million years. I can tough it
out, Bardock. I’m stronger than I look.”

“That I have never doubted,” he said with another bark of
laughter.

So, we stayed. In the day, he hunted and foraged for food
throughout the craggy, barren mountains. I found a trail leading up to the flat,
weed and scrub brush ridden plateau above our hideaway, and would spend the heat
of the day there in the sun, doing finishing equations and the actual
construction specs of the ‘stalemate shield’ with a charroot for a pencil and
the flattest stone I could find as my slate. I kept everything in my head. When
Bardock brought back dinner, a different type of mystery meat every night, I
would spend most of the afternoon smashing the bits into pureed baby food for
Rom-kun’s next five meals the following day, with a little wild goldberry juice
as a sauce. The thermal blankets were warm, but the furs from the skinned dinner
animals were warmer, and after a while, I started cutting them into clothing.
The most fortuitous feature of the ancient cave-Saiyan lodge was the hot spring
in the inner recesses of the cavern. A huge, hot, steaming bathing pool. Bardock
told me that when the northern autumn really began to kick in, I’d have to
pretty much spend all my time in the hot spring chamber to keep from freezing or
catching my death.

This was hard core, cave family living, and you might think it
wore me down after a while, but the effect was the opposite. I got a late summer
tan that turned my reflection in the steamy water of the bathing springs a deep,
healthy golden brown. I…I think I began to realize after a while, that I would
have probably had some sort of post traumatic break down if Bardock had not
removed me to this harsh retreat. And that’s what I needed more than anything. A
retreat. To rest as I hadn’t rested since Karot-chan and Raditz’ deaths. I
simply lived and let my mind and spirit recover from grief and pain as much as
it could in so short a time, with no one and nothing to bother me. Only
Bardock’s companionable silence and my beautiful baby for company. I got to take
care of Rom-kun the way he deserved, giving him all my attention, and all my
love, without any distractions.

In the evenings, I carved a crude facsimile of a chess set, and
we ended up playing every night when I was done. He turned out to be a sneaky
son of a bitch who could turn an almost complete defeat around at the last
minute. We talked every night about all kinds of things. And we argued, also
about all kinds of things. The bigger Rom-kun grew, the more it seemed to
unnerve him how sweet-natured he was, and how much I held him.

“He does not behave normally,” he said gruffly, after I put
Rom-kun down for the night. “It is because of the way you are always holding and
petting him, not just the lack of conditioning. Raditz was never given over to
the infant conditioning unit and he was never so—so—”

“Sweet?” I said archly. “Good? Kind? Loving? Tell me something,
Bardock.

How did being good and loving become a sin among your people?
I’m not being sarcastic. Your race is capable of so much deep feeling, so much
love. All your emotions run so strong—why did your ancestors decide to weed
out all the good ones, or at least make them something to be ashamed of?”

He was silent, his brows drawn down and together, making him
look like Son-kun when he was struggling to work out a confusing idea. “I do not
know,” he said finally. “You know, as a physician, about the preternatural speed
of my people’s evolution. Five thousand years ago, my people were speechless
beasts who could barely walk upright. That changed after the great destruction
of the meteor which devastated most of the north. The desolation in these
mountains around us is result of that impact. Those who survived the seismic
turbulence, the volcanic eruptions and darkened skies after the meteor became
thinking men in less than a century. We became sentient beings in the space of
one generation. We battled each other as we grew more clever, and thus grew
stronger and stronger. Every successive generation of Saiyans, throughout our
entire history has been stronger and more clever than the one before it. We
survived the Tsiru-jin invasion and made another great leap, in power and in
technology. We learned space travel after the Super Saiyan defeated Aiysa-sama
and led our exodus back to Vegita-sei. The king of the northern tribes, Vegita
the Super Saiyan became king of all Vegita-sei and the…the more violent customs
of his people over-shadowed all others. The ways of the northern tribes were
born because they lived in a hard land that became harder after the meteor
impact. They began to fly south and go a-viking for their food and women. To
survive, they took on the custom of weeding out the physically weak and the
skittish. I do not know when they began to equate all kind feeling with
weakness. I was not there.”

I sighed sadly. He had given me the history of how it had come
to be, but misunderstood the question completely. “If you can think, you can
make a choice to be any way you want to be,” I murmured.

He closed his eyes. “You sound like Romayna.”

That night…I had the first nightmare I’d had since we went into
hiding. I was in Vegita’s summer house, pinned beneath him as he tore me up
inside, as he broke my bones, his breath harsh in my ear, his teeth drawing my
blood—I woke with a choked off cry, thrashing about on the animal skin bed.
Beside me, Rom-kun lay snoring, miraculously still asleep. I began to cry
softly, rocking back and forth in the darkness, until Bardock’s callused hands
stopped me. He lifted me, drawing me into his arms, heedless of my nakedness and
his own. And I cried like a child.

“I’ll never get away from him,” I managed to choke out softly.
“He’ll always be with me!”

He didn’t say anything, just continued to hold me until I had
quieted completely. My head was buried in the crook of his shoulder, my arms
looped around his bare chest, and it hit me again—his scent, how much he
smelled like Raditz. I didn’t decide anything consciously…I just acted. I turned
my head a bit and kissed his warm neck, feeling his jerk against me in surprise.
My hands began to slide over the hard muscles in his back, one up to the back of
his neck…the other down to catch his tail and grip it lightly at the same
instant I nipped his lower lip, biting down hard. He made a wordless noise of
protest and tried to pull away, but I gripped the base of his tail a little
harder and his objection turned to a growl.

He let me push him down on his back, my hands and mouth
everywhere on him, his chest beginning to heave with suppressed desire—-then
he sat up, his arms around me, and shook me hard.

“I am not Raditz, girl,” he said with effort.

“I know who you are,” I said breathlessly.

“This will not happen,” he said, beginning to push me away.

I held on, leaning toward him, my mouth against his. “I know
you still love Romayna. I don’t want your heart, Bardock. I want…I want to—to
make love.

I w-want to be with a man because I choose to! Not because I’m
forced to. I want to make love with you and enjoy you and not be hurt.” I had
slowly wrapped both legs around him as he sat motionless, as his whole body
vibrated with repressed need, watching my tear-streaked face. He slowly reached
up one hand and touched my face gently.

“I am oathbound to protect you—even from myself,” his said
softly.

“Daughter…this is not what you want.”

It all sagged out of me and I just went limp in his arms,
sobbing until I slept. He held me all night, curled behind me beneath the furs,
like the clan who first lived here must have slept. But it wasn’t a lover’s
embrace. It was like…like Poppa rocking me in his arm chair after a nightmare
when I was very small.

That morning, I rose just before dawn and made my way up the
little trail to the plateau of the mountain. I touched Bardock lightly before I
left, knowing he had woken the second I rose from his arms.

“I need to be alone for a while,” I said softly. “Watch Rom-kun
for me.”

He nodded silently, as though he somehow knew what I had to
do.

I stood on the plateau, watching the sun rise over the icy
peeks around us, feeling the chill wind tugging at my furs and hair. I threw
back my head and screamed. In rage…in sorrow…in hate…in pain…in all the things
I had bottled and swallowed like poison for so long they had distilled into
something like a living creature inside me, a black, monstrous beast without
mercy or light or anything but remorseless hatred and killing rage. I stood up
there all morning, into the afternoon, and poured it all out into the sky and
cold clean air around me, until my voice was raw, until I was too exhausted to
even climb back down. Bardock brought Rom-kun up to me after I had been quiet
for a while, and I took the baby from him, holding him to my heart, smiling and
almost limp with all I had purged from myself. It wasn’t gone, and I wasn’t free
of my hate, not by a long shot. But I had been full to over-flowing, ready to
break apart. I felt…gods, I felt peaceful.

It’s strange, but things were not weird between Bardock and
myself afterwards. In fact, they were easier. We passed the rest of our exile
together in comfortable companionship, until one day in early fall he came back
to the cave after dark, his face expressionless. I knew that look on a Saiyan’s
face, and the rule of thumb was, the more stone-faced he seemed, the more he was
feeling. I waited to hear what he would say.

“We may return to the Capital tomorrow,” he said. “The Saiyan
on Ouji is lost in battle.”

“Dead?” I whispered.

“No…he is merely…lost.” Bardock sat down heavily on the ancient
hearthrim.

“His last communication said he was in orbit over Avaris, and
had gone down to the surface with field marshal Articha in preparation for
purge. He carriers and flagship are still orbiting the planet…in pieces. Avaris
is deserted. And there is no sign of either Vegita or Articha. Lord Turna, the
general’s mate, is her moonbound consort…and he would have felt the blow in his
soul had she been slain. He says she lives still.”

“The Maiyosh-jin took him alive,” I said, beginning to giggle.
He watched my face a moment, and as my laughter became more and more hysterical
he grabbed me and shook me. The hysteria seemed to ebb away and I stared at him,
an unspoken question in my eyes

“What now?” I said calmly.

“We may return to the Capital,” he said. “Mousrom will not have
time now for such a petty pursuit as seeking your death, and it profits him
nothing if the man he wishes to wound with your death is lost. We will wait and
see if he is found alive or if he manages to escape…though, if I were a betting
man, I would wager we will not see him again. Eventually, his father will have
to declare him dead if he is not found. On that day…you may chose as seems best
to you. I am bound to you as protector by my oath to the Prince. You may dwell
and work in Med Center if you wish, or in my house on the southern plains.”

In other words, I would be free. Free…

“What if I wanted to leave Vegita-sei?” I asked steadily. And I
would be leaving, with or without Bardock. There was no way in hell I
would let my baby be taken from me at four years old.

“I would caution you against it for the boy’s sake,” he said.
“A Saiyan child would have a very short life expectancy in the open galaxy these
days.”

“There are plenty of places that have never heard the word
Saiyan,” I said firmly.

So, here we are. Back in Med Center. The entire surgical unit
threw a little party for me. A weird little party, since Bardock and his entire
squad showed up as well—minus Panboukin and Toma’s wife Celipa. They were both
lost in action since we left. And Totepo…Totepo just dropped out of sight while
on a daypass leave. Toma thinks, and Bardock agrees, that Mousrom may have had
something to do with is disappearance. That Mousrom took him somewhere and
‘questioned’ him about Bardock’s whereabouts. Toma inducted Panboukin’s huge
fifteen year old son Tobaga and his own daughter Anyan into the squad to fill up
the empty spaces and recreate the squad minimum of five warriors. With less than
five to their number, they might have all been reassigned to other squads,
patched together from survivors of other decimated squads, to fight beside
strangers.

Bardock, Toma, Kyouka, Anyan and Tobaga. Bardock must have
known of the deaths of Celipa and Panboukin from his infrequent communications
with Toma, because he didn’t surprised. But since he couldn’t leave me alone or
take me out into what was a blisteringly cold and rainy night, they waked their
lost brother and sister at Med Center.

They got drunk and began to sing old war songs. Scopa and the
other members of the staff got lit and began to dance, trying to coax, cajole
and threaten Zarbon to join him. I noticed, much to my overwhelmed joy, that
Hiru and Nachti spent most of the night dancing together. I stopped drinking
when I was only mildly tipsy and watched everyone else make a fool of
themselves. I noticed that Bardock, though he was singing at the top of his
lungs and listing drunkenly with one arm around Toma’s shoulder, was not drunk
either. He stayed watchful and alert all night.

Zarbon wasn’t imbibing at all, I noticed, as I moved over to
sit beside him. He was watching the odd interaction of Scopa and Bardock, as the
doctor began to try to teach him a very old Saiyan drinking song he’d learned
while serving his medical apprenticeship in the palace. The other members of the
squad were listening avidly as Scopa slurred out the extremely obscene lyrics
about a drunk northern tribesman’s unnatural love for a spor hog. This was a big
hit with them, since all of Bardock’s squad are all southerners from Turrasht.
Several members of the surgical staff drifted over to hear the end, and the room
erupted in coarse howls of laughter as Scopa finished the song.

“What’s bothering you?” I asked Zarbon softly.

“It’s just strange…seeing the medic slaves and Saiyan warriors
drinking together,” he shifted uncomfortably. “And it makes me nervous for
Scopa. There are several Network members here tonight. And there are Bardock and
his company—all of whom will be spending a great deal of time at Med Center in
the future because of their captain’s duty as your body guard. In this pile of
mismatched explosives, the only two people everyone has in common are yourself
and Scopa. The difference is, Scopa is walking through this minefield…and
doesn’t know the minefield is there. And I can say nothing to him.”

“You’re giving him far too little credit for perceptiveness,” I
said, holding Rom-kun out before me. “Say hello to Jisan Zarbon, Rom-kun.”

Rom-kun made a gurgling noise and laughed delightedly as Zarbon
took his finger cautiously. “What did you do to him?” He asked wonderingly. “He
hasn’t even tried to bite me.”

“He never got his year in the infant conditioning unit,” I
said. “The rest is just healthy doses of love.” I told him what Hiru and I had
done to the conditioning unit and he began to laugh softly, and a little sadly.

“If you’d done what you did twenty of thirty years ago, we
might not be at war today.” And with that, he went to collect his soused lover
and pour him into bed. Probably by way of the toilet. Scopa was already
beginning to look green.

Tomorrow, I will take the stat bag I had Romayna store in a
deposit box here at Med Center years ago, and I’ll do something I meant to do as
soon as Karot-chan got old enough to walk. Tomorrow, I’ll introduce Vegita-sei
to one Chikyuu-jin golden retriever and one blue tick hound. Every little boy
should have a couple of dogs to play with.

 

 

 

 

I only heard a little about all that’s been going on at the
party that first night, but I heard enough to know that my ki-guns coupled with
the camo-shields have turned the war into a toe to toe face off. Maybe the
rebels will win their freedom with my machines, but what will they do with the
Saiyans if they win? Kill ‘em all and let the gods sort ‘em out, I’m sure.

There’s no end to vengeance.

Maiyosh Prime stands up to Vegita-sei’s advancing empire and is
summarily purged. Jeiyce, the only surviving son of the Maiyosh-jin royal house,
begins to wage a war of hit and run attacks seeking revenge for his homeworld
and freedom for the remnants of his race. One of their targets is a world where
Radtiz is stationed, and Raditz vows terrible vengeance for the people he loved.
He purges Coraris in retaliation and kills Jeiyce’s family. Jeiyce then declares
war on Vegita-sei and—And there’s no end to it. And no good guy anywhere in
the mix.

Somewhere, the attrition has to stop. I can’t stop people from
hating or grieving for the people the other side has killed. I can’t stop them
from wanting revenge. But…I think I can sort of…separate them. Create a
situation where Vegita-sei can’t find them, and they can’t strike at Vegita-sei.
So, no one dies. Now that I’m back, I can build my shield and stop this. The one
thing that’s confounding me is how I’m going to present it to the King. Maybe
through Bardock. He developed the moon baubles, so it’s not a stretch to believe
he built this shield.

I have to finish the stalemate shield before we leave
Vegita-sei, even if it’s not done when Vegita is finally declared dead. I won’t
rejoice in his death, or be happy that he will probably die slowly and in agony.
I can’t feel sorry for him, so…I’ll try not to think of him at all.

 

 

 

The Network has made an attempt on the King’s life, according
to the news feeds. Someone poisoned his wine. Vegita’s father is lying in Med
Center’s most secure ward, surrounded by his Elite Royal Guard. These guys are
truly loyal to their lord and no one else, because Mousrom himself came to ‘pay
his respects’ on Vegita-ou and they nearly opened fire on him in the ward.

Mousrom has rounded up every single slave in the palace for
questioning. Low level warriors are now laboring in the jobs that were mostly
filled by Madrani and Ansousei-jin yesterday. Nachti is in hysterics right now,
because her son was one of the ones taken. He’s only fourteen.

I asked Zarbon, nearly in a fit of rage after leaving Hiru at
Nachti’s bedside where Scopa had to give her tranks to calm her, why they had
done this when they knew what the repercussions would be. “Oh,” I spat, “Don’t
tell me. The means justified the ends!”

“We had no hand in this,” he said flatly.

“Then—” I knew suddenly, who stood the most to gain if the
King died now Vegita was MIA.

“Mousrom,” he said harshly. “You remember we meant to kill
Vegita-ou originally. Well…Jeiyce got another bee in his bonnet and decided
against it. And now that Vegita’s out of the picture, we can’t kill the King
because that would put Mousrom on the throne…and he is the last person in the
galaxy we want. He is a tactical and manipulative genius and makes Vegita-ou
look like a kind-hearted old grandfather in his dealings with other races.”

I took the King his meds on the graveyard shift, walking
nervously through the ring of watchful guards. I jumped in surprise as he opened
his eyes. “Tell me, girl,” he said gruffly. “Is Med Center as riddled with Red
Network as Intelligence would have me believe?”

“Med Center,” I said softly, “is full of pacifists and healers,
Ou-sama.” I held my breath when those glittering black eyes fixed on me with the
same measuring gaze he’d given me the first time we met

“Who else would you suspect?” Was all he said.

“I do not know, Sire. Whoever had the most to gain psersonally
from your death.”

“Clever girl,” he chuckled mirthlessly. He already knew Mousrom
was behind it. Good. Then… “Do not take another lover until I have seen my son’s
cold body, girl. I will not give him up for lost until that day.”

I leaned forward. “I heard—” I stopped myself.

“Speak, girl.” It wasn’t a request.

“I heard that Lord Turna is trying to track them through his
moonbond with Lady Articha.”

“He would pine and die were she slain,” the King nodded, his
rough voice growing strained with too much effort. “They are alive…we will find
them…Whose cub is that?” He jerked his head at Rom-kun who lay kicking his feet
happily in the sling around my chest. He smiled and waved at the King of
Vegita-sei, something he’d only started doing a few days ago. The King frowned,
looking vaguely unnerved.

“Mine now, Sire” I said. “He’s the son of Bardock and Romayna
of

Turrasht—”

“Raditz’ parents,” Vegita-ou growled, regarding me balefully.
“And my son let you keep him?” I nodded, and he chuckled weakly. “You must have
had the boy drawn into your web tighter than I realized for him to have agreed
the foster the son of Bardock. I tried to warn him of his danger, but he would
not be shed of you.”

“He was fond of me,” I said diplomatically.

“He was far more than fond, girl,” he snapped. “It must give
you great pleasure to think of what the enemy must be doing to him right
now.”

“It doesn’t give me any pleasure, Ou-sama,” I said softly.
Truthfully.

He snorted. “You’ve gentled that babe with too much affection,
girl. He’s strong, I can sense it, but…too gentle…” The meds were beginning to
work on him. “My—my son was too gentle at that age, before…’fore Nappa
toughened him up.” He slept.

Evil old bastard. Before Nappa toughened him up. I
wonder…I wonder what sort of man Vegita would have been if he had…had been
raised on another world by other people? I’ll die before I let that happen to
Rom-kun.

 

 

 

Everything in the Capital is different now. There’s an
atmosphere of screaming paranoia and no travel is permitted, unless cleared by
Intelligence. If you’re caught out or away from your assigned building or slave
quarter without correct papers you will be transported to Kharda City in the
north where the Minister of Intelligence keeps his “torturer’s kennels”, as
Vegita called it. I wish he’d shown his customary lack of self control and just
killed the fat bastard in a fit of rage before he left to go to war. It would
have been the best thing Vegita ever did in his life for Vegita-sei. I’ve been
back in the Capital a week now and there’s no word of Nachti’s son. She’s sick
with fear for him. We’ve all heard the rumors of what he’s been doing to
Maiyosh-jin captives in his torturer’s city, but he’s only ever arrested
suspected Red Network operatives before now, never this mass netting of
everybody in the general vicinity of a crime against the state. And that fucking
monster of a King is just letting Mousrom have at all those innocent people when
he knows that Mousrom is the most likely suspect!

The puppies were born today. I incubated them in an
excellerated embryonic growth chamber, and they looked like they were already
two weeks old when I took them out. Scopa thinks they’re the cutest things in
creation, Hiru is apparently allergic to them, and Zarbon and Bardock say they
look delicious.

I let Rom-kun lay his hands on them and feel how soft they are.
The blue tick licked his finger and he giggled.

Rom-kun is not quite five months old and he is already trying
to say words.

That’s not normal for Saiyan or Chikyuu-jin babies. And that’s
not where it stops either. He’s making noises now when he wants me, babbling
gurgles mostly, but there’s one sound he’s been making that is strange.
“Oh-nee.” I didn’t know why that gave me such an odd chill, but the reason
finally struck me last night.

Bardock is my shadow and follows me everywhere I go—which is
presenting a hell of a problem with the logistics of when and how I’m going to
find privacy to work on my new shield. He even sleeps in the living room section
of my apartments, so anyone trying to get to me in the night will have to go
through him first. Last night, we played chess with the stone chess set we
carved in the mountains, while Rom-kun lay in his baby bed, fretting and
fighting sleep. He just started doing that since we came back to Med Center. I
guess there are so many new things to see here, he’s afraid of missing something
when he’s asleep. He began making that sound again. “Oh-nee?” He said.
“Ohhhhh-neeeee!”

I turned to see he had half clambered out of the baby bed, and
got up to check his diaper. “Leave him be, girl!” Bardock snapped. “He does not
need to be cuddled every time he squalls.”

“Oh-nee!” Rom-kun said delightedly as I picked him up and saw
that he had indeed done something horrible in his diaper.

“Do you want to lie out here and smell baby shit all night?” I
asked Bardock tartly, laying Rom-kun on the changing table. Bardock grunted, but
said nothing.

“What a good boy!” I told my baby when I was done washing and
re-diapering him. He reached up one fat little fist and touched my nose with a
giggle.

“Oh-nee!” He said.

I went rigid with shock. Bardock tensed, sensing the change in
my posture.

“What is it?” He asked.

“Rom-kun…” I said tremulously. “Are you…are you saying,
‘Oneesan’?”

“Oh-nee!” He crowed, laughing again.

I told Bardock everything last night, everything Kami had told
me. He snorted and shook his head in disbelief, but I could see a shadow of
worry in his eyes. I realized just now it wasn’t unease at a brush with the
supernatural—it was fear for me. Fear that I was speaking madness and had very
quietly lost my mind.

“Can you say ‘Momma’, Rom-kun?” I said as I lay him back down
to sleep.

Say ‘Ma-ma’.”

“Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma,” he said sleepily.

He remembers. I know it. He remembers his last life as Son
Gokou.

 

 

 

Zarbon is gone again and Scopa came to me crying. He says he
knows with the crack downs Zarbon will be taken, and tortured to death. I sat
with him all evening, our voices lowered so Bardock wouldn’t hear from his post
outside the lab. He and I had it out a couple of says ago about his looming over
my every move and how I was going to drug him and shove him in an incu pod just
to have some privacy if he didn’t back off just a little bit.

It’s been a couple of weeks, and a lot has happened, most of it
bad. Nachti’s little boy is dead. The official cause of death was heart failure.
She received a one sheet, blunt print out from Intelligence Central Offices
informing her of this, and she began shrieking. Hiru held her, and eventually
carried her off to their rooms. They’ve been a couple for three months now, and
he is taking care of her—he knows just how she feels. I was sick all day,
stumbling around almost blind with the memory of Karot-chan’s death, unable to
help her or comfort her at all, reliving the death of my own son over and over
in my mind. Heart failure. In other words, they induced so much pain, he went
into cardiac arrest at fourteen. I can’t say any more tonight.

 

 

 

 

It’s been a few weeks. I have been so busy and too heart sick
to write. Nachti is…Nachti is a little better. She’s not alone, and that can
mean the difference between getting through something and letting it kill you.

The puppies are persona non grata in the surgery these days due
to their complete incontinence and my apparent inability to housebreak them.
They pee with joy, the pee with fright, they pee with excitement. They just pee
all the time, whenever and wherever it suits them. I’ve named them the names of
my dogs back on Chikyuu, the dogs they were cloned from. The golden retriever is
Baka and the blue tick hound is Yaro. Poppa named them in memory of his
grandfather Briefs in the West who named his own dog ‘Dammit.’ He would shout,
“Come’ere, Dammit!” and the dog would come running. The pups are now confined to
the garden conservatory until they learn to control their bladders.

Things continue to grow more tense and everyone more frightened
as the reports come in every day. The Red Demons have been striking Saiyan
targets for months now, nuking them from orbit, or falling on smaller bases and
colonies with ki-guns and camo-shield to make them invisible. All my work. All
my fault…

No. No, goddammit! I won’t take the responsibility for all of
it. I gave my inventions over as defensive weapons and Jeiyce turned them into
engines of war. Even Zarbon didn’t know or decide how the things he brought
Jeiyce would be used.

More and more people are being taken to Kharda and the King is
sanctioning it all. I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s giving Mousrom freer
reign with the slaves to keep the Inquisitor occupied with things other than
assassination attempts…and because he is grieving deeply for his son and wants
someone to pay.

Bardock says Lord Turna is looking for them, tracking Articha
and Vegita through his bond with his mate. Everything Jeiyce must be doing to
Vegita, the Prince of Vegita-sei had coming to him, but…it must be awful. I know
I didn’t purge myself of the bulk of all my hate on the cold mountaintop of the
northern crags. I can feel it sleeping inside me, like a black, poison fanged
dragon, but at least…at least I didn’t let it devour me. And make me like the
men who have Vegita now.

 

 

Rom-kun is crawling now, and by that I mean, crawling into
everything. If I set him down, set scoots away and is out of sight in a couple
of seconds, which is a problem since he’s getting huge and carrying him in the
sling all day is hurting my back. He’s also decided everything he can pick up is
edible. If I bitch at him, Bardock will carry him when I go on rounds, or better
yet, keep him occupied, since I don’t want Rom-kun seeing the people I’m
treating. Saiyan wounded and…and those who survived Kharda and were released
because it was determined that they were innocent. The survivors of the
torturer’s city are…Kami.

I don’t want to talk about the kind of shape they’re in. Most
of them have suffered mental breakdowns in addition to their physical wounds.
It’s…it’s very bad.

I am working for a few hours every day on the shield. It’s
getting built one little bit at a time, but I can’t go faster than that and
preserve any kind of secrecy. The whole thing is encapsulated when I’m not
working on it, and the only one who knows about it is Scopa. I told him my whole
plan and he agrees with my idea whole-heartedly. He agreed to keep the secret,
even from Zarbon. It would be very bad if Zarbon found out what I’m doing and
why.

 

 

 

I met a new member of the surgical team today. His name is
Nail. I nearly screamed when Scopa introduced us. He’s…he’s of the same race as
Kami and Piccalo Daimo. He tells people he’s Nameksei-jin, and they stare at
him, then laugh as though he just made a joke. Scopa had to explain that to me.
Namek is a planet of legend all over the civilized galaxy. The mystics of Namek,
who forged magic dragonballs that can grant you any wish within the reach of
your imagination. I smiled sadly. No one would ever believe it was true,
but…Then I nearly collapsed.

Dragonballs…

They could solve everything if his people actually had a set.
Hell, I thought, they might have several sets! Maybe without the limitations of
Chikyuu’s dragonballs, maybe…maybe they could rewind time, or undo events, or…or
bring back people who have been dead more than a year!

“Scopa,” I asked in a faint voice, “Could you let Nail and I
speak for a moment in private?” Gods bless Scopa, he only nodded and left his
offices without a word of question.

I grabbed Nail by his shoulders and began to babble all these
questions hysterically. He put one hand on my forehead and said, “Peace, Bulma
of Chikyuu.” He spoke the words in Chikyuu-jin. He shook his head slowly. “All
the arts of making the ancient orbs that had no limits were lost long ago. We
could not bring back your people or your child.”

“How…what are you doing here?” I asked, feeling as though I
already knew part of the answer.

“My god is father and elder to his children and dwells among
us,” he said. “I am dohshib senshi, a warrior priest. The Kami of Chikyuu
and the Kami of Nameksei were brethren and we have been told of your mission.”
He glanced down at Rom-kun, who I held in my arms. “As you are charged with
guiding the boy, I am charged with guarding you. I came to Vegita-sei as a
member of the…I think the word is ‘revolution.’ It was the only way to be
smuggled onto this planet as things stand now. A fellow named Zarbon gave me
safe passage and instructed me to watch over you and the young doctor. As that
is my duty within this ‘Network’, I can discharge it in good faith. I am at your
service, Lady, when and as you need me. I will take you and the babe back to
Nameksei with me, if you wish.”

I wished. Oh gods, how I wished! But…I told him everything, my
sins of invention and how they were being used. “I have to make it right before
I leave,” I told him. “And I know a way to do it. But I need a little more time
to finish it.”

He bowed like a knight to his lady and accepted my wishes as a
command.

There are no dragonballs at the moment, he told me. The Eldest
had died after giving Nail his instructions to seek me out and help me in any
way he could, and the new Kami of Namek has yet to forge a new set. I guess it
was too good to be true. I let him hold Rom-kun and he stared back at the
smiling little face gazing up at him, his green features glowing with joy and
something that was almost religious awe. The last thing I told him before we
parted was that he had a rival for position of protector. I wondered if he and
Bardock were going to get along?

 

 

 

The other doctors watch every day in awe and more than a little
envy as Nail heals patients. He doesn’t practice conventional medicine, he has a
special healing

power. He can lay his hands on someone and erase their wounds.
Scopa is almost dizzy with joy to have him at Med Center. The only thing that
keeps him from being a complete miracle worker is that he’s giving his ki over
to heal and it exhausts him after the third or forth patient. But he’s saved a
lot of people. No tension between him and Bardock at all. Nail lets Bardock do
his shadow thing while he scans for wrongful intent in the minds of the people
around me and in the general area. He’s a powerful telepath, and the thought
that he will see trouble coming a mile away makes me sleep a lot easier that I
did before he arrived.

Bardock came into the surgical staff meeting this morning and
laid three names and slave ID’s on the table in front of a stunned Scopa. “There
are two med techs and one surgical aide here,” he said grimly. “All of whom have
mates or children who are being detained in Kharda Walk wary around all of these
folk. Mousrom holds a knife to the throat of their kin and that will make them
faithful and diligent informants of Intelligence. Mousrom is looking for any
reason to commandeer Med Center and centralize his torture facility here.” He
gazed around the room at the assembled staff, frowning darkly. “Do not give him
one by speaking even an off hand word that may be taken as sedition.”

Intelligence spies, blackmailed into informing Mousrom of our
every move for the ransom of their loved ones’ lives…

 

Zarbon is back. Scopa isn’t speaking to him and made him sleep
in one of the guest apartments. He’s been tapped for a ‘morale’ project authored
by Lord Turna—Turna came back to Vegita-sei for a week to set all the affairs
of his wife’s barony in the hands of one of their sons so he could leave and
look for Articha full time. While he was home, he set up this program to boost
the morale of the troops all over the Empire. Zarbon’s going to be traveling
around the entire Empire, instructing the local chefs the same way he’s done on
Vegita-sei for the kitchen staff of the noble houses.

The dogs don’t like him at all. In spite of the blue-skinned
pretty form he usually wears these days, I think they smell a great big reptile
when they sniff him and they’re afraid he’ll eat them.

 

 

 

 

I came up on a strange conversation in the surgery’s little
kitchen today. Bardock’s voice laughing softly. “…was wed for over eighty years,
boy. You do not change your mate. You either take them as they are or not at
all.”

“…just fed up with worrying,” Scopa said softly

“It will be well now, I think,” Bardock said. “He is assigned
to travel throughout the galaxy. It will curb that loose-footed tendency to
wander away from his posts and get himself beaten as a runaway.”

I backed away, feeling like a terrible eavesdropper.

“Oy, Bulma-san!” Toma was right behind me, and I squeaked,
bruising my hand on his armor chest plate when I swatted him. Saiyans couldn’t
walk and make noise if their lives depended on it. “Did you overhear anything
juicy?” He smirked.

The whole squad has begun to take my body guarding in shifts in
the last couple of weeks, because Bardock has been busy doing…stuff. Things like
finding out who the Intelligence informants are and letting everyone know. It’s
getting very confusing around here.

You have the straight Network operatives. You have people like
Nachti and Scopa who are not affiliated with anyone or anything except their
calling to save lives. You have the Intelligence informants. There’s Nail, who
is ostensibly Red Network, but really only concerned with Rom-kun and myself.
There are the Saiyan volunteers who give up their day off passes to help with
the steady stream of wounded. Then, there is Bardock and his squad and quite a
few others who seem to be of the same mind…I’ll call them the
Anti-Mousrom/pro-monarchy crowd. King Vegita’s musketeers opposing Vegita-sei’s
‘Richelieu’ of Intelligence. The King appreciates their loyalty about as much as
Louis cared for D’Artagnon and his boys—which is not at all. He’s got his own
problems. Mousrom is wedging him into a political and power base corner.

“Don’t sneak up on me like that!” I snapped and stomped past
him. Behind him, completely obscured by his huge frame, his daughter Anyan
snickered.

I hate for Saiyans to call me Bulma-san! It’s in deference to
the fact that I’m still officially a royal mistress. I’d be angrily impatient
for the King to just give it up and declare Vegita dead, if it weren’t for the
fact that this would tilt the balance of power in Mousrom’s favor even more. I
can’t think of anything worse than that sadistic monster on the throne. King
Vegita’s an evil bastard, but he has honor and he is, at heart, a ruthless
pragmatist. He does what is expedient and what will solve his problems, without
regard to anything but the old laws and his own sense of honor. Mousrom…

Mousrom just likes to hurt people.

 

 

 

 

Nachti and Hiru were married today. Scopa and Zarbon stood side
by side to my left, hands interlaced, back in good graces with each other. I was
so happy I cried, even in the midst of all that’s gone on in the last few weeks.
A small plasma nuke was detonated in a Saiyan city in the south. The entire city
was flattened. We set up triage in Med Center, on the landing pads, overflowing
out into the grassy hills that surround the complex. It was…

I have to stop this…I have to…to make it stop. I never meant
for this to happen. My fault…my…

I’ll finish my shield and make it better. If Saiyans and the
rest of the galaxy can’t get along, I’ll just have to separate them. I’m almost
through with the shield.

Scopa’s been helping me in his off hours, and we let Nail in on
our little secret as well. Three sets of hands have been much better than one.

Rom-kun is so big now! He’s saying all kinds of words. I taught
him to call Bardock ‘Poppa’, mostly too piss Bardock off. He’s pulling up,
trying to stand on his own. I can’t figure out why he did everything else so
early, but he’s not precocious where walking is concerned. Probably because he’s
so incredibly mobile as a crawler.

I lost him yesterday and found him and the dogs playing in one
of the recovery wards. They were putting on quite a show for the wounded
soldiers. I could hear the rough chorus of laughter all the way down the
hallway. Rom-kun was mimicking the dogs and chasing his tail in circles on all
fours until he toppled over dizzily. I was boo-ed when I came in a carried away
their entertainment.

 

 

 

We’re back in the mountains, in our old cave lodge.

Last night, there was another attempt on the King’s life.
Again, not by the Network. He was brought to Med Center again, under heavy
guard. He was returning from the ‘front’, which is on all sides of Vegita-sei
these days, when his ship exploded just above the upped atmosphere. Somehow, he
miraculously made a power dive into the breathable air below before he lost
consciousness. He’ll be fine, he just needs about a day in a tank.

Nail was called in to assist in removing the shrapnel from the
King’s body, using Nails’s power to re-knit each open wound as Scopa extracted
each hunk of metal. Bardock and I sat in the surgical ward’s kitchen all night
after my shift was over, waiting to hear for sure that the King would be well,
and we would not wake up tomorrow to the beginning of the reign of Mousrom the
First. About five minutes after Scopa called us on the comm to say all was well,
Bardock jumped up with a low growl.

“Out the back way through post-op, girl! Move!”

I turned and what I saw behind me sent me completely dumb with
horror. Mousrom of Intelligence was walking toward us from post-op. And…oh
Kami…he was holding my baby. I vaguely sensed that other soldiers, Intelligence
soldiers, were coming through the door in front of us that led to the recovery
ward. Mousrom had Rom-kun in one arm and something else in the other…he raised
it and fired past me, dropping Bardock in his tracks. It was a ki-gun.

“The weapons of the enemy we’ve gathered have proved very
useful,” Mousrom said, lumbering toward me. I went mad. I ran at him shrieking
Rom-kun’s name…Rom-kun, who was hanging in his huge meaty hand, limp and
lifeless, just like…just like…

Two huge soldiers pulled me off of him, holding my arms while
he stood there smiling at me, an oily, sickening grin. “The cub is alive, woman.
I have no interest in him other than as a useful tool to draw you out of hiding
had you proved elusive again.” He lay my baby down on the meal table and seemed
to forget about him.

“W-why?! Ve—vegita is…” I was hyperventilating, almost dizzy
with relief that Rom-kun was alive, only unconscious. “Why?”

“Vegita is lost? Is that what you mean to say? So why bother
with you?” He smiled. “I have received convincing evidence that he is alive.
Turna is a fool, but a persistent one. He is closing in on their position and it
is possible the Prince will be rescued in a matter of weeks, if not days. My
intelligence leads me to believe that he will be…in a bad way, when he is found.
I wish to give him a home-coming present.” He stepped forward, his rancid breath
on my face as he leaned down and leered at me. “Your soiled, mutilated body,
woman.” I could hear Bardock on the floor, cursing weakly, as Mousrom raised one
huge hand and gripped one of my breasts with bruising force. “Are you a fighter,
girl?” He said thickly. “I will wager you are.”

The room exploded. Zarbon was through the door and whirling
through the men behind me, tearing them to pieces with a harsh, reptilian roar
of rage. Then…everything stopped. It was over just like that. Toma and Kyouka
came barreling through the door, almost running down Scopa, Hiru and Nachti had
arrived from somewhere, and I ran to pick up Rom-kun’s limp little body and
began to wail. He was fine. Not even a bump on the head.

The bodies of Mousrom and his men were lying sprawled on the
floor, their eyes open and catatonic—all of them, of course, except for the
two who had been holding me. Zarbon had killed them. Toma helped Bardock to a
groggy stance, and the room went silent, everyone’s eyes on Nail.

“What the hell did you do to them?” Zarbon asked softly.

“I put them to sleep,” he said calmly. “It’s part of my
telepathic ability.”

“Well…” Toma said slowly. “Let’s see that they never wake up.”

“We can’t,” Bardock said weakly. He sounded as though the words
tasted bad in his mouth. “He is…in the Prince’s absence, he is needed
desperately.”

“Could we…” Hiru suggested tentatively. “Could we make it look
as though he came here to kill the King? We have to do something, Bardock-san.
He will kill us all for having crossed him.”

“No,” said Nail firmly. “I will make them forget they were ever
here. We can remove them and leave them elsewhere. They will have no memory of
this night’s visit and it will be several hours after they wake before they
remember that they meant to come take Bulma-san and did not.”

“We can pour wine all over them to explain the memory loss,”
Zarbon said thoughtfully. “Can you add memories as well as take them, Nail?”

“I can put the suggestion of a…I think the word is ‘bender’, in
their minds,” Nail said. “The others can help me in this, Bardock-san. Take
Bulma-san and the child and go.”

I had time to say goodbye to everyone this time, and to pack a
lot of things that I’ll need since it’s not yet summer and it would be killing
cold in those mountains.

“You’re one strong son of a bitch, Rashia-jin,” Toma was saying
to Zarbon as we left.

“Don’t let it get out,” Zarbon said with a casual wince that
was completely counterfeit . “I like being a chef, not some nobleman’s sparring
partner. And killing a Saiyan, any Saiyan, is my death sentence.”

“I didn’t see a thing,” Toma chuckled.

After we arrived at the lodge and settled in for the night,
Bardock turned to me with a glowering frown. “He is a dangerous man.”

“Zarbon?” I asked, perfectly expressionless. “He killed those
men to save—”

“Not the Rashia-jin. I knew he was masking a high fighting
power. His kind, what is left of them, are a naturally strong race. The
other—Nail.” He shook his head. “A man who can go into another’s mind and
reorder it at will is to be feared.

He could…he could do almost anything with that power.”

“But he doesn’t,” I said softly. “He’s a pacifist and a healer.
Do you know why he left Mousrom and his men alive? He’s never killed anyone in
his life.”

And Bardock nodded, satisfied.

I went to sleep, hoping Scopa would take good care of my
dogs.

 

 

 

 

It’s two weeks later. They found Vegita. He’s alive. Toma
contacted Bardock to tell him. Tomorrow we’re going back to the Capital. I would
scream at Bardock and beat him senseless if I thought it would do any good. But
he’s oathbound to deliver me to his Prince unharmed. Tomorrow I go back to being
a slave. I’ll…Kami, I’ll have to—to leave Rom-kun at Med Center every night
from now on, because Vegita said he wouldn’t have the son of Bardock living
under his roof. I—I—I’ll kill him before I let him take my baby away from
me.

 

 

 

 

All my fear have probably been for nothing.

Scopa and Nail tended Vegita, and Nachti and I…we took care of
Articha. I almost lost it once or twice while we were treating her. They…they
used her as a garrison whore, weakened by Ki-dampers built into her cell so she
couldn’t fight back. I think I was wrong. On the island…I thought it was worse
because Vegita had no hate for me personally—he just saw me as a toy, not a
person. I saw as I was treating her that it would have been far, far worse to be
in the hands of someone who hated me and meant to hurt me for revenge. We
treated her for malnutrition and we broke and reset bones that had been
shattered and allowed to heal wrong. Turna hovered beside us the entire time,
his face pulled into such wrenching horror and grief I couldn’t look at him.
Articha looked up at his face, anchored to sanity, I think, by the love she felt
flowing through the moonbond that let him track her halfway across the galaxy.
Gods…what must he have felt from her?

“I will not die, beloved,” she said in a hoarse whisper. “I
will not.”

“Do not tarry for my sake,” he whispered, his voice broken. “If
you wish to die, we will enter the Halls of War hand in hand.”

“Don’t…” I said softly, meeting her eyes. Mine were full of
tears.

She snarled softly and bared her teeth at me in weak rage. If
she’d had the strength to sit up, she would have tried the kill me. “You dare
pity me, you blubbering little weakling! You know nothing of honor or pride!”
She broke off with a sobbing growl, turning her head away. Turna was glaring
daggers at me, but he made no move to strike me. Something in the way he looked
at me told me he was well aware of who I was, and knew better than to raise a
hand to me. “You do not know…” she whispered.

“Yes, I do,” I said, just as softly. She slowly turned back to
scan my face and I saw recognition dawn in her face. She was not a pretty woman,
but she was handsome in a tall, strong-boned way many Saiyan men would find
beautiful, even with the old scar that ran down one side of her face. I knew she
must be well past a hundred years old, but she looked somewhere in the
neighborhood of thirty-five in human terms. And suddenly she looked…like a light
had been thrown on in her head. It was the same startled expression Vegita had
worn when he made the mental connection between Jeiyce beating him half to death
and his hurting me. She looked stunned, that same look of dull, dawning horror
playing around her eyes. And I knew that, if she decided to live,
Vegita-sei—in particular, the pleasure slave trade—would never look the same
to her.

“If you die,” I went on, almost in a whisper. “They will have
beaten you. Don’t give them that victory.”

She stared at me for so long I began to feel as though my eyes
were watering. Then she nodded once, a short military snap of her head. “Put me
in the tank, girl.”

We put her in the tank for the rest of the night and then Turna
wrapped her sleeping body in a blanket and flew her back to their country estate
to recover.

He gave me a nod that was almost a half bow. “You have my
undying thanks…Bulma-san.”

Nachti slumped down the wall of the regen tank controller after
he left. “I thought we were both dead back there. Was I hallucinating, or did
the one of the highest peers in the Empire just call you ‘Bulma-san’? If you had
balls, I’d tell you they were made of ardantium.”

And if neither Articha or Turna had recognized me, I think
Turna would have killed us both to keep word of what was done to his wife from
getting beyond the treatment room. Both Vegita and Articha were brought into Med
Center in such a state of heightened security and secrecy, no one other than the
four of us who treated them was allowed into the surgical section of the
complex. I think the King would have killed both Scopa and Nail as well, except
he knew how greatly Med Center needed Scopa and was mildly awed as he watched
Nail lay hands on Vegita and heal the bulk of his injuries with a touch.

Nachti went to join Hiru in their apartment. He hadn’t slept a
wink, waiting up for her all night. I went back to my rooms, and waited up with
Bardock for word about Vegita. And hour later, Scopa beeped me to come to the
special recovery unit. Bardock trailed along behind me, silent and in a posture
of military attention, refusing to stay.

Scopa met us outside the door of post op. “I need your help
with him, Bulma.”

“Why,” I said softly, coldly, “would you even ask me,
Scopa?”

“Because you took the physician’s oath,” he said, his face
hardening. “Because it is the decent thing to do. Because his father dubbed me a
miracle worker when I saved the Prince after Shikaji, and I cannot do this
without your help.” And Scopa’s life depended on his success.

“Tell me,” I said.

Scopa told me. Jeiyce has had him for six months. Six months.
They did one hell of a job on him. For half a year, they tortured Vegita in an
atmosphere of complete sleep deprivation, and in the end…Jeiyce broke him. Broke
his will and broke his mind. When his father found him in that black cell on
Avani Trice, Vegita was mad. Mad. He woke twice while they were treating him and
began to cry for Nappa Sensei and his father to make them stop hurting him. Then
he saw the hypo in Scopa’s hand and shrieked in terror like a child until they
sedated him.

The King fixed both of us with a baleful, murderous look as we
entered the little post-op. Vegita was lying unconscious on a pallet, covered in
thermal blankets. He seemed to be thrashing restlessly, muttering and
half-sobbing in his sleep.

“What is this low born bastard doing here, girl?!” The King
growled ominously.

“I am oathbound to Vegita-ouji to be her guard wheresoever she
goes, Ou-sama,” Bardock said, his back rigid. He bowed low, down on one knee. “I
cannot leave her side or I break my honor, Sire.”

The King glared at him, then nodded grimly. “As I remember,
soldier, your honor is a thing other men might envy.” I wondered when these two
men had ever had contact for the King to speak so highly of Bardock’s sense of
integrity. “Swear on your honor, Bardock son of Radu, that you will keep the
crown’s secrets in this matter.”

“I swear, Ou-sama.”

The King grunted an acknowledgment and turned back to me. “No
one will see him other than the three of you. I have let it be known only that
he and Articha were near death when we found them. The three of you, Turna and
myself alone know the full truth.” He sighed, a rumbling sound of utter
exhaustion and mourning.. “He will either return to his senses or he will not.
Do not leave his side, girl. I have some idea of how overly attached he was to
you. Your presence may help to bring him out of this—this—”

“I won’t leave him. Ou-sama,” I said softly. And from his
pallet, Vegita stirred and moaned, one hand struggling from beneath the thermal
blankets to reach weakly in my direction. Scopa gave me a look and I moved to
Vegita’s side. I took his hand, kissing his forehead lightly. “Shh,” I said.

He sighed, and seemed to relax bonelessly.

The King glanced at Scopa and nodded curtly. “It is as you
said. Between the two of you, perhaps…perhaps he will be whole again. Let me
know his condition when he wakes, whether he is mad, raving or coherent. I will
give him a month to come back to us. If he does not…” A long pause. “If he
does not, I will put him down myself.” He passed one rough hand through his
son’s still damp hair, his face like stone.

 

 

 

 

We took him to Bardock’s house in the plains just north of the
Turrasht mountains. No one, and I mean no one, knows we’re here except the King.
The King, as a matter of fact, suggested we come to this house. Which means he
knew it and had possibly been here before. I really have to corner Bardock and
make him tell me what the story is with him and Vegita-ou—I bet it’s an
interesting one.

We packed up before dawn, without saying goodbye to anyone, and
left in Scopa’s flyer, taking Rom-kun, the dogs, all my encapsulated shield
pieces and notes, half of Scopa’s medical library, and a whole host of assorted
odds and ends.

I’m rocking Rom-kun on the porch that faces the mountains,
Bardock is brooding inside, and Scopa is watching Vegita. He hasn’t woken yet.
So, we wait.

 

 

 

He woke this morning during my watch.

Gods, I could have handled anything other than this. If he had
been catatonic or raving or incoherent in his madness I could have felt nothing.
No sympathy…and no guilt that Jeiyce used my invisibility shields and ki-guns to
capture him. I could have remained completely aloof and told myself that was
just too damn bad for him.

But this morning, he opened his eyes just as the sun light
began the stream through the open window…and he smiled at me. “It is good to
sleep,” he said. Kami, his voice sounded completely different. Higher and soft.
Like…like a little boy’s.

“Yes, it is,” I agreed, leaning over to feel his forehead. He
had run a low fever all night, a mild allergic reaction to one of the nutrition
supplement injections Scopa had given him. He still, miraculously, had good
muscle tone, the fruits of a lifetime of training, but he had lost a lot of
weight. And he was scarred, permanently so, from his neck to his ankles, with
whip lash stripes where they must have beaten him like an animal again and
again. “How do you feel?” I asked softly.

“Well.” He regarded me silently, confusion washing over his
face. “Who are you?”

I took a deep breath. “My name is Bulma.”

He smiled again, warm and drowsy, looking so much like Rom-kun
when I put him down for the night I shivered. “You are very beautiful…” He
closed his eyes and slept again. He slept the rest of the day.

This evening, Scopa rested his chin in one hand, the other
lightly stroking Baka, while Bardock turned a cho-deer on the spit over the
hearthpit. “He will sleep as long as his body deems fit. He’s been without it
for half a year…goddess. Can you imagine?”

“I’d rather not,” Bardock grunted.

“It’s a very good sign that he was rational,’ Scopa went on.
“The amnesia is to be expected at first after so much mental and emotional
trauma. The King is pleased.”

“Which means we all get to keep our heads,” Bardock muttered.

Scopa frowned at him irritably. “You are an ornery, pessimistic
man.”

The Saiyan laughed out loud at that. His laughter stopped
abruptly and I turned, following his gaze to see Vegita standing in the southern
bedroom’s doorway, looking at all of us uncertainly. He was buck naked. “I
smelled food,” he said softly. “May I…may I eat, Bulma-san?”

“Close your mouth, Bardock,” I said. Neither of the men were
prepared for the change in him, despite what I’d said. “We’re just about to eat,
Vegita. We need to get you dressed first.”

He smiled. “I need clothes. There were no clothes in the
bedroom.”

I took him by the hand, led him back to the bedroom and brought
him some of Bardock’s things. They were too big for him, but at least he wasn’t
stark naked. He’d just have to go barefoot for a while. Or maybe Scopa’s things
would fit him better, shoes included. We had remembered everything except his
clothes! As he followed me back into the silent hearthroom, Yaro loped up and
licked one of his hands. He recoiled a step or two.

“What is that?”

“It’s a dog, Vegita,” I told him. “This is Yaro and the one
beside Scopa is Baka.”

“Will they bite me?” He asked, tentatively sticking his hands
out to the animal once more.

“No…they’re both very nice.” To prove that, Yaro slobbered all
over his hand.

Vegita laughed delightedly. “Don’t feed them from the table,” I
told him as I sat him down, while Bardock carved off a slab of cho-deer, looking
unnerved. He ate like a starving man, no—like a starved Saiyan. I guess he had
been fed just enough to keep him alive in captivity. He finally finished and I
introduced Bardock and Scopa, once his attention was no longer focused
unswervingly on his meal.

“And I am…Vegita…yes?” He looked at me solemnly. “Is that my
name?”

“Do you remember that?” Scopa asked quietly. “Can you remember
anything before you woke this morning?”

He frowned with effort. “I…no. That is not a good thing, is
it?”

“No,” Scopa agreed. “You have been hurt very badly, and you are
just now starting to recover. It may be a little while before your memory
returns. But it will come back to you. So, do not worry over it. All right?”

Vegita nodded obediently and then seemed to lose interest in
the subject, smiling down at the dogs. He spent the rest of the evening playing
with them in the floor, after nodding seriously at my stern instructions to be
very gentle with them because they were much more delicate than they looked. At
one point though, he crawled over to where I sat watching him in mild but
profound shock, dragging Baka behind him, who was play growling, pulling at
Vegita’s pants leg.

“Is he your baby?” He asked curiously, gesturing at Rom-kun,
who I had just gotten to sleep. Rom-kun started awake at the sound of his voice
and grinned at him. Vegita grinned back.

“Yes…” I said, feeling my body tense up like a coiled
spring.

“Can I hold him?”

I sat frozen until Rom-kun broke my paralysis by reaching out
to Vegita, pushing away from me with his little feet. And I…I handed Rom-kun
over slowly, all the tension inexplicably draining out of me. The man in front
of me would no more hurt Rom-kun than I would. “Hold him very gently,” I said
softly. Vegita held him up a little awkwardly, examining him from feet to the
top of his head, utterly fascinated.

“He is so tiny,” he said, laying his own hand against
Rom-kun’s.

He began to yawn around midnight, almost falling asleep in the
hearthroom before Scopa and I got him into bed. I followed Scopa back into the
hearthroom where Bardock sat, staring into the fire. “I have wished a thousand
torments and painful deaths on that boy,” he said. “But I…I would not have had
this happen to him for my life’s sake.”

“It’s not as bad as you think,” Scopa said.

“His mind is gone, Scopa!” Bardock snapped. “He has no more wit
than a babe Romayn’s age.”

“His mind isn’t gone,” Scopa said implacably. “It’s
just…resting. Going back to a time when there was no pain in his life. I don’t
question your judgment of fighting skill. Have faith in my judgment as a
doctor.”

 

 

 

It’s two day’s since he woke.

He follows me everywhere and blushes like a young boy whenever
I meet his eyes. Kami…he’s got a crush on me. Even with total amnesia he’s still
obsessed with me. He’s also beginning to bug the hell out of me. He wouldn’t
leave me alone to get any work done today. I tried to be patient, but he kept
getting in my way, trying to hand me tools and things, and I finally snapped at
him. He left with his head hung and…and I heard him begin to cry in the next
room. The side storage room I’ve converted into a workshop is adjacent to his
bedroom. At first, I thought I was imagining things. It didn’t seem possible to
me. But as I listened, I began to cringe at the thought of having lashed out at
someone so completely devastated. How much of my irritation was from my complete
inability to hate him as he is now? At this moment, he bears as much resemblance
to the man I called enemy as Rom-kun does. It’s very wrong of me to…to be angry
at him because I’ve lost the devil in my pantheon. Because my devil has been
transmuted into an innocent little boy.

I opened his bedroom door and sat down on the floor beside him.
He was crying softly, sitting beside his bed, hugging Baka, his face buried in
the dog’s warm fur. “I am sorry I made you angry,” he said tremulously.

“No,” I said, touching his hair tentatively. “I’m the one who
should be sorry. I was mean to you. I won’t do it again.” And I put my arms
around him and held him.

I think…Vegita is dead.

I think the man I hated is dead and I pray to the gods he never
comes back. It’s as though Jeiyce of Maiyosh killed him and shoved another soul
in his body.

There’s a plan, an idea so wonderful, playing in the back of my
mind, that I won’t say it out loud until I’m sure it is true.

 

 

 

Six days since he woke up now.

He had a…a spell last night. Brought on by a tiny scrap of
memory.

Scopa has taken to telling Rom-kun a bedtime story every night.
He is something of a scholar in both Madrani and Saiyan mythology and fairy
tales.

Last night, we sat in the hearthroom, the increasingly warm
winds of oncoming summer wisping in through the open windows, while Scopa told a
story from the age of legends, about a young boy who learned to fly. The legend
of Sereru, the first Saiyan to fly. Scopa had barely finished the story when I
noticed Vegita rubbing both temples, his face drawn into a frown of
concentration.

“I know this tale,” he said. “Did you…did you tell it once
before, Scopa-san? I remember…I—” He doubled over, clutching his head and
began to scream. Rom-kun woke with a wail, the dogs set up a howl…and Vegita
fell onto his side, spasming in agony until Scopa sedated him heavily.

Scopa sat down at the dining table and took the glass of
goldberry wine Bardock had wordlessly offered him. “This is bad. Jeiyce’s
torturers have laid mental trip wires in his subconscious. That one flash of
memory sent him into a sense memory seizure of…of whatever hellish things they
did to him.”

“Mental land mines,” I said, feeling ill. “Like the survivor’s
of Mousrom’s Inquisition.” I had a vivid memory of a female patient who had
tripped one such mine in her mind and tried to bash her own brains out against a
wall. Bardock had begun pacing about the room like a caged panther, swearing
softly, murderously. He’s completely unnerved by the changes in Vegita and
avoids him whenever possible. But I’d not known there was something more to
Bardock’s discomfort, something touching on his Saiyan honor. He turned back to
us with a low growl.

“I hated the man personally—but he was my Prince. Our
mightiest son. The Red Prince has tarnished the honor of my entire race by
destroying Vegita in this way!”

“He isn’t destroyed!” Scopa said angrily. “I was reticent about
his chances at first, but he’s improving every day at an amazing rate. His first
two days, he couldn’t even put a jigsaw puzzle together, and now he’s solving
the cube puzzles I give him to work with every morning as fast as I do. He’s
started to read the books in my library with adult comprehension. The only
reason he seems so childlike still is because of the amnesia—everything is new
to him. He will recover fully. In truth, he already has. But…”

“But?” Bardock prodded.

Scopa frowned. “Whether he ever recovers his memories is
another thing entirely. He may lose his entire life up this point. He may have
to relearn everything he ever knew. Partly because that trip wire he overturned
tonight is linked directly to his memory of his past and who he is, and partly
because the amnesia itself was his mind’s natural defense against complete
mental collapse. A half year without sleep, my friend. Tortured without cease.
Lady Articha gave the King a written report of exactly what they did to him.
They never let up on him, took his torment in shifts. He may not be capable of
remembering that without truly going mad.”

“The King will not see irreversible amnesia as a recovery,”
Bardock muttered.

“Scopa,” I said softly, trying to rock Rom-kun back to sleep.
He had cried for a long time after being startled out of sleep by Vegita’s
screams. “What was the memory you triggered with that story? He said you had
told him that story before…”

“Goddess, I don’t know how he remembered that,” Scopa said. “I
was apprenticed as a child to old Duriru, the chief physician of the palace. The
first time I ever saw Vegita-ouji, he was about a year older than Rom-kun. I was
about twelve years old. Duriru had been called in to treat him for burn wounds.
The Prince had tried to grab the fire in the hearth because he thought the flame
was pretty, and burned his hand. Duriru bandaged his hand down in regen swabs. I
remember he kept grabbing my hand and saying, “Gold!” He’s never seen an alien
before or anyone with my skin color. He was…” He frowned sadly. “He was a lot
like he is now. He smiled and laughed and talked to us happily. We were
commanded to stay with him —while the Royal Guard looked on, of course—
until Lord Nappa returned for him. That ended up being all night, because the
King beat Nappa to a giant mass of jelly for letting the baby burn himself. So,
we put him to bed and I told him a story. The story of Sereru.” He lowered his
eyes. “The next time I saw him he was four years old, I think. He was…a younger
version of the man he grew to become. He did not smile at me.”

I went to bed by way of Vegita’s room and leaned over his
sleeping form, kissing him lightly on the forehead. “Stay just like you are,” I
whispered. “It’s who you should have been all along.”

I have a ki-powered, improved ki-gun encapsulated in my
workshop. I’ll commit my first regicide if the King decides to ‘put his son
down.’

 

 

 

Ten days since Vegita woke. Last night he had a nightmare. He
didn’t scream like a damned soul in Hell the way he did before, just gasped
harshly and cried out once softly. I was awake, sitting up reading, feeling
irrationally snubbed and hurt.

Rom-kun, who is speaking more and more words every day, took
his first real steps while I was out of the room. Vegita’s taken to doing this
thing where he has Rom-kun grip his fingers while he walks behind him, steadying
him. Today he let go, while I was in the kitchen. Rom-kun walked five whole
steps on his own and I didn’t get to see it! Then he decided to conk out for the
night on the fur rug that covers the floor in Scopa’s bedroom and cried when I
tried to take him to bed with me. He said, “Copa! Doggies! Copa! Doggies!” Which
translates, I want to spend the night with Jisan Scopa and the dogs. He’s never
slept away from me once, and I was fighting not to cry, mostly because it would
make me feel silly.

I rose up and went into his room, finding him curled up in a
ball, biting back the sobs. I sat on the bed, soothing him like I do Rom-kun
when he’s restless or weepy. He turned over, reaching up to touch my face…and he
inhaled sharply.

“I remember…”

“What?” I asked softly.

“You.” Even in the dim light, I could see his cheeks reddening.
“Were we…Are you my mate?” He seemed almost afraid to hear the answer.

I slowly shook my head, not knowing what to say. “No…we
were…we..”

“Lovers then?” It had to have been some kind of physical memory
of having been with me. He was blushing furiously now. I nodded in answer to his
question. I sure wasn’t going to tell him the truth.

“Will you stay with me?” He whispered.

I didn’t say anything, thinking the request over. This was not
the same man I had hated so passionately. What was he asking me? To sleep beside
him and hold him like a child, or…

I know it seems like madness on my part. I had a choice to say
no, and I didn’t. I had to know. I had to know if this was really a different
person altogether, and this was the surest test imaginable. I pulled my
nightgown over my head, and he uttered another little intake of breath when I
crawled into bed with him, my arms around him, my naked skin warm against his. I
kissed him, and he trembled all over, then went still, staring into my face,
eyes searching mine. And for the first time I saw a man behind those gentle dark
eyes, not a child. I could feel his heart beginning to hammer against mine, just
as I could feel my own pulse begin to race, and a kind of…terrifying heat rising
inside me. This was not attraction. Not desire. This was…I don’t have a name for
it. All I know is whenever I think of it now, I begin to shake like a leaf with
the memory of its intensity. He seemed to be poised on the edge of a decision,
then he shuddered lightly…and kissed me back, soft and sweet.

“Thank you,” he said softly. And we slept.

The King is coming tonight to see Vegita for himself. I will
kill the old monster if he hurts this son he will almost surely see as weak.

 

 

 

“If he can remember nothing, he is as good as mad!” The King of
Vegita-sei snarled at us after Scopa gave him his update report. “He is useless
to me as he is now! And I will not have his people learn that he was broken so
completely as to lose himself.” The rant tapered down into a tired growl.

“He is already remembering things, Ou-sama,” I told the King.
He glared at me, but I went on, refusing to be cowed. “It will all come back in
time.” Though not if I can help it, I thought.

“Time is something I do not have, girl!” The King snapped. “Has
he even taken you to bed since he woke?”

“Last night was the first time, Sire.” Not that anything had
happened.

Vegita-ou snorted. “Well, at least he’s not so much a child
that he’s forgotten how to fuck!” I reddened angrily at the coarse words,
cursing my fair skin when the King chuckled. “Still as much the spitting hellcat
as you were the first day you set foot on Vegita-sei, aren’t you, girl?”

“Hai, Sire,” Bardock said, “I’ll testify to that.”

“And now you’ve grown protective of the boy, have you?” The
King said darkly. “Or perhaps you prefer him this way.” Goddammed perceptive old
man.

I said nothing, knowing nothing I said would help or hinder me
while he stood there, thinking seriously about killing me, just as he had done
when Vegita was injured on Shikaji. He had taken one look at me and known I was
well on my way to winning is son’s heart…and that I meant to tear that heart to
bloody shreds once it was mine. The only thing stopping him now was the fact
that he knew it would wreck Vegita’s chances for recovery.

“Will you honor my house and take supper here, Ou-sama,”
Bardock said formally, trying to pull the King’s attention away from me. It
worked.

“The King of Vegita-sei,” Vegita-ou said dangerously, “does not
sup with whores, freedmen, or common soldiers.”

“We don’t mind, Ou-sama,” I said sweetly.

Bardock and Scopa both went speechless with shock, and the King
rounded on me again. Then…then he began to laugh, a full, deep sound of genuine
amusement.

“Perhaps I will stay,” he said. “Show me my son, girl.”

I left Bardock and Scopa to get the meal ready.

Vegita had to be introduced to his own father. They sat
together on the porch that faced the Turrasht range and talked for a long time.
About what, I don’t know. The part of the conversation I did hear was Vegita
asking his father questions he had yet to ask any of us in the new soft voice he
uses. Why can I not remember? Who am I exactly? What happened to me? And the
King’s deep gruff voice answering each question in turn.

I taught the King to play chess after dinner and the old
bastard beat me at my own game! He says he’ll come back every four or five days
to check on Vegita’s progress.

 

 

I’m almost done with the prototype of the stalemate shield.
I’ve made incredible progress with all this time on my hands to work unhindered.
Vegita has helped out a lot in that, because he keeps Rom-kun occupied for me
while I’m working. He will play with him for hours on the other side of my
little workshop and I can concentrate all my attention on the task at hand and
not have to have Rom-kun out of my sight.

Bardock is getting steadily pissier about that the bigger his
son gets. He’s told me yesterday I’m ruining the boy for any sort of normal life
among his people. That making him soft and gentle lowers his chances of living
to manhood enormously. I threw laser spanners and my pulse drill at him, and
screamed at him. I don’t even remember what I said, probably something horrible.
I just lost it when he suggested that Rom-kun wouldn’t live to see adulthood.

Vegita has begun reading everything he can get his hands on.
There’s a restlessness brewing inside him, a sense of his fighting power sort of
twisting and fidgeting within him because he’s grown healthy again and needs
that release of physical and psychic activity. He paces sometimes while he
reads, an old style bound book from Scopa’s library in one hand and Rom-kun
cradled in the crook of his other arm. He can’t sit still for more than a few
minutes, but I think the reading helps focus his mind and relieves a great deal
of the nervous energy. He’s working his way through the complete accord of
Saiyan history, from the oral traditions of pre-space age Vegita-sei, to the age
of literacy that began after the Tsiru-jin invasion, all the way to the present
day. He told me he’s not enjoying the read. He’s about half way through and the
histories get progressively bloody and brutal as you go toward present day.

“Read something else if you don’t like it,” I told him.

“I must read it all,” he said solemnly. “I am the Prince with
no memory of his people.”

All the little boy mannerisms have gradually drifted away. He
doesn’t act or behave like a boy anymore. Just…like a different man. That idea,
a seditious, treasonous plot, keeps worrying at my mind more and more. He hasn’t
remembered a thing, except for little flashes here and there. The last time he
had a small recollection of any kind, he ended up screaming his heart out again,
again until Scopa gave him something to knock him out.

At night, he reads Rom-kun stories from Scopa’s books of
Legends, both Saiyan and Madrani, the dogs lolling at his feet. The dogs adore
him as much as Rom-kun does.

 

 

 

Vegita…

I wish I could call him by some other name. Then I could
completely disassociate the man I hated with this new man who was born here in
Bardock’s house. That cruelly handsome face I hated more than Hell itself is
unrecognizable now, in the same the way some great actors are unrecognizable
from role to role because they rearrange their features and postures so
completely as to appear to be another person.

The old Vegita’s face was always pulled into an angry
frown—sometimes tense, sometimes threatening, sometimes enraged or lustful,
sometimes amused—but his eyes always flickered with barely banked rage at…at
everything. His face was cruel and vicious and arrogant and evil, like Lucifer
after his fall, wicked and beautiful. He carried himself in a pose and hunched
tension, head lowered, shoulders drawn up, like a too-tightly wound coil ready
to spring. Every move carried the threat of violence and death, like a tiger
crouched to pounce. Every gesture was sharp and cobra quick, and he seemed to
radiate rage.

I’m watching the man who we call Vegita right now, from my
workshop window. He’s sitting with Rom-kun in his lap, tossing a ball for the
dogs to retrieve, laughing softly. His back is straight, his shoulders loose,
the cut and shift of his muscles beneath Bardock’s too-large tunic is relaxed.
He walks with that lithe, feline Saiyan grace, but easily, as though he’s
completely unconscious of his body and comfortable in his own skin. He hasn’t
noticed the scars they cut into his body, a horrible web of criss-crossed
stripes. His face…he’s smiling, his eyes alight and full of pleasure in simply
being alive. His features are relaxed, though he frowns quite a bit as he’s
reading the last few tomes of the Saiyan histories. He doesn’t like them. I know
why, though he hasn’t said anything aloud about it. His face is beautiful when
he smiles. It’s strange, but in some ways, this new person is very similar to
Son-kun, except for the fact that he has a quick, sharp mind. He’s busy filling
it up, too, with everything Scopa can give him to read or study, educating
himself in an eclectic, round about way on everything that interests

him—and that’s everything. The whole world is new to him…

I said it before, but this is who he should have been. Just as
Rom-kun doesn’t

bite and snarl because he’s never had infant aggression
conditioning, Vegita isn’t a vicious, violent, raping, murdering bastard because
he doesn’t have the lifetime of conditioning and training that made him that
way.

It’s like Enma-sama took an evil soul and washed it’s memories
clean for reincarnation…then returned that soul to the same body.

 

 

 

It’s forty days tomorrow. The end of the month Vegita-ou gave
us to bring Vegita back to ‘normal’. I sewed a special pocket into my dress and
lay my

ki-gun inside it. If he makes so much as a suspicious gesture
in Vegita’s direction, or makes a move to kill the rest of us—which he
certainly will if he concludes that Vegita is a lost cause—I’ll shoot him.

I…I won’t kill him. This new ki-gun is an improved design on
what I gave Zarbon. It has no lethal setting, but it takes the target’s ki down
to nothing and the duration is several days. It’ll stun the old bastard while we
pack and fly back to Med Center. Weeks ago, I found a broken heap of a small
troop carrier in the freight dock hanger scheduled for scrap destruction. I
fixed it in my spare time, and Hiru did some creative accounting for transpo
admin to make them think it had been scrapped. It’s in my personal effects
locker in the surgery…encapsulated. It can carry everyone in this house, and
anyone at Med Center who wants to come with us. Nail can mind tweak the space
traffic control to let us launch and clear the system. Bardock will…I think his
oath to Vegita to protect me will force him to come with us. I don’t know about
his squad, but they sure as hell won’t rat us out. Hiru and Nachti…I…they will
come, I think. They won’t like the company, but they’ll both jump at the chance
to be free. Scopa will want to stay and do his duty as chief surgeon in time of
war, but he’ll have no choice since Vegita-ou will order his death for failing
to put Vegita ‘back to rights’. Zarbon…if we can find him, I think he’ll come.
If it’s a choice between Scopa and his loyalty to Jeiyce, I know damn well who
he’ll pick. Vegita will come. If he refuses, I’ll zap him with my ki-gun and
drag him into the ship. If he stays, he’ll sit and watch his father with wide
trusting eyes as the King delivers the death blow to ‘put him out of his
misery’. It’s so strange and surreal…but I feel the same sort of protectivness
toward him I feel for Rom-kun.

I meant to stay and finish my stalemate shield and…and try to
put the war on indefinite hold with this invention. But if the King forces my
hand, there’s nothing I can do. I won’t kill him and leave Vegita-sei to the
mercy of Mousrom. He’ll wake after the initial stun wears off to find himself
temporarily without fighting power and with no means of communication from
Bardock’s house. So, the old bastard will have to walk if he wants to leave the
plains. By the time he recovers his power, or someone finds him, we’ll be long
gone. To Namek-sei.

It’s on the other side of the galaxy, Nail says. A planet of
legend to most of the peoples in the Empire, and no one knows where it is.
They’ll never find us if they search a million years.

 

 

 

The King arrived last night and a tangible aura of tension came
with him. He ate mostly in silence, watching Vegita closely, asking him
questions now and then, listening carefully to the answers. The rest of us
didn’t speak all through the meal.

I finally beat the King of Vegita-sei at chess. He’s pretty
much massacred me every time we’ve played in the last month, but last night I
finally won. It was a tense game in more ways than one. We stalked each other
around the board, while we sparred verbally. I think…no, I know, he’s
figured out it must have been me

who tipped of the rebels about the attack on Shikaji. And for a
moment or two, I wondered if he didn’t have some half-formed suspicions about my
identity as Jeiyce’s mastertech.

He looked like I’d suddenly kicked him in the groin when I
claimed checkmate. Then he laughed like hell. And Vegita…he chose that moment to
remember something. For the first time, it was a memory that didn’t leave him
wailing in agony. Somehow, there was no mental land mine attached to it. It
was…a memory of his father and himself, from when he was very young. Probably
before Nappa ‘toughened him up’. For a second, just a sentence or two, he spoke
as though he remembered everything, telling me his father would be pestering me
for a game every time he visited now because there were only two or three people
in the Empire who could match him in a game of strategy. Vegita’s voice
sounded…different. Again. Not like it is now and not like before either. Not a
constant growl behind every word…but a man’s deep, confident, soft-spoken
voice.

The King looked into his eyes closely, tried to get him to
remember more. And then sighed tiredly. He rose and left the house without a
word, leaving Vegita behind staring after, with a look that said he was
wondering what he had done wrong. Scopa, Bardock and I followed him silently,
and I closed the door behind us.

Vegita-ou stalked back and forth upon the blackwood porch that
faces the mountains, his face drawn in tension and internalized rage. Though not
at the three of us. He was nearly smoking with suppressed hate at the man who
had taken the son he knew from him and replaced him with this stranger.

“Your time is up, Madrani,” the King said, staring out at the
black peaks of Tussasht in the distance. “You will all be spared your lives. I
cannot lose two trauma surgeons or even one strong soldier at this juncture in
the war.”

“It is coming, Ou-sama!” Scopa told his father tensely. “A
little at a time. He will come back to himself completely if he has enough time.
But he will need longer than a month.”

The King spat out a rumbling snarl of impotent fury and slammed
one fist into his hand. “I sent a strong, fierce son to war. The strongest our
race has seen in a thousand years. That gentle boy in there cannot follow me to
the throne. And I will not see him live to be shamed and mocked by his own
people!”

“He is making progress, Ou-sama,” I said calmly. And my hand
was on the trigger of the ki-gun, the barrel aimed, through the fabric of my
pocket, straight at his cold, murdering heart.

“It is as I said from the first, Sire,” Scopa added. “When it
comes, it will most likely come all at once.”

The King stood there poised on the edge of decision, tail
lashing, his face an inexpressive mask of agony. And…I saw in the dim light of
the porch the deep, new lines that were etched into his face, the sleepless
circles around his eyes, the gray that had not been there when I first met him
after Shikaji. The very thought of killing his son was eating him alive inside.
I stepped forward and spoke gently, softly.

“Don’t give up on him, Sire.”

His eyes narrowed in anger…then in confusion. “Why do you give
a damn, girl?” When I didn’t reply, having no answer to give him, he shook his
head and seemed to growl out a sigh, almost inaudibly. “What is your best
estimate, Madrani?”

“Less than six months, Ou-sama,” Scopa said. I knew for a fact
that he had just that instant pulled that number out of the air. He had told me
in a quiet, worried voice just two days before, that he was becoming less and
less optimistic about Vegita’s chances of ever remembering his life before
Avaris. I told Scopa that this was just fine with me. And not to worry about the
King killing Vegita. I didn’t give him details, but I told him in no uncertain
terms that if would not happen tonight. That if he tried, I would stop him.
Scopa didn’t ask any questions, but he nodded slowly. He believed every word I
said.

“Six months, then,” Vegita-ou growled. “The equal measure of
the time they held him captive.” He blasted off from the porch without a word of
farewell.

I closed the door to the hearthroom to keep Vegita from hearing
our conversation outside, but…he overheard it anyway. Or most of it. I don’t
think he caught the fact that his father had been seriously ready to kill him. I
went into the kitchens and began to wash up, feeling shaky and relieved…and
disappointed in a guilty way. It would have felt good the shoot the King. I
would have carried the look of surprise on his face with me to keep me smiling
for the rest of my life.

And all this…all the mess and horror of this war would have
been behind us. We would have been on our way to of place where we could have
lived out our lives in peace, and…

We still may be if, or rather when, Vegita still doesn’t
remember anything in five months. I think, this way, I can give Bardock the
stalemate shield to present to Vegita-ou as his own invention. This way, I’ll
have time to finish it, to stop this war, and still escape with everyone before
the end of the six months is up.

I finished the washing and went back into the hearthroom to
find Vegita reading with Rom-kun in his lap. He looked up as I approached,
kneeling to pull the baby out of his arms. His face was…he looked close to
tears.

“He is ashamed of me,” Vegita said softly. “That I was so weak.
That I let them break me.”

I shook my head, speaking gentle lies. “He’s just afraid you’ll
never remember who you were.”

“I think I dreamed of you while they were torturing me,” he
whispered. “Waking dreams. Your face was like a light in a hell of darkness.” He
was struggling to keep his voice steady and losing the fight. His shoulders
began to shake. “I—I want to tell Ottoussama that I could have stayed strong.
I could have…no matter what they did to me. If they’d only let me s-sleep…”
And he began to cry. It wasn’t the pitiful sobs he had wept when he first woke,
that time I hurt his feelings in my workshop. It was the deep, wrenching sob of
a man who had been hurt so badly his mind and spirit had come near to crumbling
and dying.

This was what I had wanted. To see him humbled. To see him
utterly devastated and stripped of his pride. To see him hurt as bad as he had
hurt me. But…He wasn’t the same man. We are who we are, but our experiences and
teaching shape how we think and behave, and all he’s ever know is myself,
Bardock, Scopa and Rom-kun. There are no sins on his head as he is now.

I put my arms around him and held him as he cried. “There’s no
shame in it.”

I whispered against his cheek. “Everyone has a breaking point,
where their strength and will just gives out. We’re all just flesh and
blood…not gods.”

He drew back, searching my face. “Am I such a fool now? Is that
why you don’t want me? Because I am…not as I was. Not whole?”

Of course he wouldn’t understand why…but something in him had
seen the way I was still shy about any casual physical contact with him since
that one night I had spent in his bed. I still can’t think of the memory of how
I wanted him and not tremble.

“I do want you, Vegita,” I said softly, kissing him. But he
pushed me back gently. His eyes were dark and damp, but clear and…I saw
something in them, a flicker of his father’s almost unnatural
perceptiveness.

“No…You—your body wants me. But…you don’t. Or you wish
you didn’t. I do not understand it.”

Now, he was holding me as I began to shake, as my eyes began to
fill. He had seen it, that over-powering…feeling I had felt the night I
slept beside him, when my bare skin had met his. He had seen it and put a name
to it, and given me an explanation I hadn’t been able to find inside myself. It
was the conflict of the opposing emotions, churning in my mind and heart like
water and pure magnesium. Some part of me had sensed at that first touch that
reaction of mixing so much hate and…and any kind of emotion other than platonic
would tear me to pieces from the inside. I had only purged the surface of my
rage for the man he had been when I stood and screamed my throat raw on that
mountaintop in the north. What lay beneath…oh gods, the pitiless, sunless,
merciless hate that lay in the dark, submerged depths of my heart would turn
inward and eat me alive like cancer if I began to care for him in this way. He
knew, he could sense, that the fault lay with him. He was right, but for the
wrong reasons.

“You’re not a fool. And you are whole. You’re just…you. As
you would have been left to follow your own nature. You’re the good man you
might have been, if you hadn’t been raised to be a—Oh Kami! I wish I had met
you first! I think I could have loved you more than my own life if you had been
like you are now.” I broke down completely then, realizing that…that it was too
late. Too late for him. Too late for me. Too late for anything to ever be made
right between us. And…oh Kami, too late to stop the feeling that had been
germinating inside me. I already cared for this man with no past and no sins and
no unkindness anywhere in his soul. And I was…this was going to drive me mad
before this long, twisting tragedy was done.

“I was unkind to you?” He looked terrified to hear the
answer.

“You…” I had to think of how to phrase a truthful answer.
“You were as good as you knew how to be.”

He knew I had shaved unpleasant details out of that reply,
though he had no idea how unpleasant. He frowned, began to speak—then he
shuddered, crying out softly, bending double, is hands flying over his eyes as
though he were trying to block out images.

“Where is Articha?” He asked tremulously, his eyes squeezed
tight. I suddenly knew what he was seeing and the blood fell from my face. “She
is dead,” he answered his own question bleakly. “It would have been almost
impossible to survive—to survive what they did to her.”

“It is possible.” I had gone cold all over, body, mind and
heart, and he flinched away from the look on my face. It must have been
terrible. Slowly, after a moment or two, that black, swirling place in my mind
subsided, and slept again. But oh gods, it was still there. I raised one hand
and caressed his face, feeling it shift inside me like a black, coiled living
thing. “Turna took her to one of their country estates to recover. She won’t
die. She says she won’t give them the satisfaction of having destroyed her.
She’s a very strong woman.”

He nodded solemnly. “I dream sometimes of fighting and killing.
Of enjoying it. Even now, when I think of those memories, the thrill of battle
seems to sing inside me. I think violence and love of battle must be bred into
my blood and bones. I understand them. But I do not understand how a man could
use a woman so.”

That was it. I couldn’t take any more. I began to feel like two
titanic storm fronts were clashing in my head, wheeling into a tornado that was
threatening to sweep me away. Then…I began to cry. The one act of healing that
will wash away pain and rage and hate, or at least ease it. He carried me to his
bed, laying my sleeping baby between us, holding me all night.

I woke this morning at dawn, and went to the window, while he
and Rom-kun

still slept. In one way Vegita’s body is still recovering—he
tends to sleep about nine solid hours every night. That’s about twice as much as
a normal Saiyan needs.

 

There is no soul so black that it cannot be shown the way to
the light, Kami’s voice whispered to me on the light summer breeze.

This is what he meant. I’ve had all kinds of theories, but this
is the truth of it. I didn’t heed his warning against hatred and taking
vengeance. And I set the galaxy on fire with good intentions. I won’t doubt his
words again.

I took a deep breath…and reached inside my own soul, building a
prison, a black, unbreachable storage for the black, monstrous hate that was
conceived the day Chikyuu died, that slept all the days of Karot-chan’s life,
and was born the day he died. That grew, fed by the Prince of Vegita-sei, into
an obsidian poisonous thing that sat coiled in the dark places of my soul
like an evil dragon. I built, block by block, an inpentitrable cell inside my
own mind—and I shoved the night creature inside, bolting the door behind me. I
don’t know if I was awake or asleep when I did this, if a ever physically left
the bed.

But when I woke…I felt…new. And clean. And well. The little
prison I’d dreamed I built was there. I could feel it, like a cold stone sitting
in my heart and mind—but it was buried in a deep pit with all my guilt and
doubts, my angers and bad feelings. It was separated from every other part of
me, and I was free of its poison. I have to be free of it or it’ll kill me one
piece at a time. I have to be free of it to go forward with the plan that has
brewed in the back of my head since Vegita woke. I have to be free of it to live
and not go mad.

 

 

Here is my plan.

What if…

What if this new man sat on the throne of Vegita-sei and ruled
as a good king?

What if it were possible to change Vegita-sei from the inside?

I wasn’t sure it was possible until today. I had to know, so I
suggested to Bardock that he spar with Vegita. Scopa readily agreed, saying he’s
coming to a point where physical exertion is necessary to keep Vegita’s health
moving toward betterment. He’s still not one hundred percent recovered, though
he’s gained back most of the weight he lost. The over-sleeping is bothering
Scopa a little. He says it may be psychosomatic rather than actual physical
need. I had to test the thought that occurred to me out of the blue last night
just before I fell asleep.

They went out onto the rolling hills and moors north of the
house and sparred. I followed to watch, Rom-kun toddling along beside me,
holding my hand. He’s wanting to walk everywhere now, and having learned to
walk, he’s wanting to run.

Bardock and Vegita sparred. For exactly ten seconds. Vegita,
grinning excitedly, his body falling into a martial ready pose of its own
accord, launched himself at Bardock and laid him out with one punch.

“POW!” Crowed Rom-kun. He began to laugh and jump up and down.
“Edeeta pow-ed Poppa!”

“Disloyal brat,” Bardock muttered, sitting up and wiping the
blood from his mouth.

Vegita stood several feet away, motionless, his face pale.
Slowly, he walked over to where Bardock sat and knelt beside him, biting his
lip. “I—I am sorry, Bardock-san.”

“I was a fool not to consider how strong you must be now,”
Bardock said with a wry smirk.

“I hurt you…” Vegita swallowed hard.

“You split my lip, boy,” Bardock snorted, frowning at the look
on Vegita’s face. “Do not apologize for besting another man in battle. And do
not hold back on me!” He stood and crouched in a more serious ready stance.
“Again, Ouji-sama!”

Bardock attacked again and again, and Vegita seemed to get into
it and the fierce joy of the fight for its own sake, grinning as they clashed
each time, tossing Bardock across the length of the meadow all afternoon.
Rom-kun was in hysterics of joyous excitement, shouting, “Me too! Me too,
Momma!” Heh…he’s Son-kun reborn all right.

“I lied to him,” Vegita told me as we lay together before sleep
last night. He’s still making no move to—to be with me, though I can feel how
much he wants me.

We lie beside each other most nights, and never go beyond a
goodnight kiss.

But, he talks, we talk, sometimes for an hour or more, about
everything imaginable. He wants to hear me talk, to learn about me, to hear
about Chikyuu and my parents and—and everything. I haven’t told him it was
Bardock who destroyed Chikyuu. I’m not sure how he would react if he knew.

“How did you lie?” I asked softly.

“I did hold back,” he said. “I would have hurt him badly had I
not pulled the force of my blows.”

“Bardock’s a smart man,” I murmured. “He figured it out.”

Bardock had figured it out and come to the same conclusion, his
mind beginning to turn over the very same scheme I had in mind.

“No one can kill that boy,” Bardock said flatly after they were
through. He sat down at the dining table while I set it for supper, looking
thoroughly exhausted and pleased. “His father will not put him down if he does
not remember at the end of six months. He was the strongest warrior alive before
they took him and now…Gods! He must be stronger than I would have imagined any
mortal could become.” He looked straight at me, his eyes suddenly sharp. “You
had me test him for you.”

“I had you confirm what I already knew.” I said. “The Saiyan
healing factor

has raised his power level up to some kind of mythic
proportion. He’s safe from his father and so are we. No one’s going to kill him.
A thousand warrior’s couldn’t kill him.”

“He does not like to hurt me,” Bardock said uncomfortably.
“That is not good or healthy.”

My face hardened. “There’s nothing wrong with taking no
pleasure in hurting someone for no fucking reason, Bardock! The important thing
is he won’t let himself be hurt.”

If a good king sat on the throne of Vegita-sei, he might be
torn down by his own people. But…if that good king were literally the strongest
man alive, that would be another matter entirely. Saiyans worship strength.
They’ll follow him. And perhaps he can save them in spite of themselves.

 

 

 

The war is going very, very badly. Vegita has begun to listen
to the hyper light news feed with Bardock every evening, to the endless stream
of battles reports and descriptions of skirmish victories here and there…and
massive losses. Jeiyce is steadily beating the King into a corner, beginning to
purge strike Saiyan worlds in the heart of the Empire. Closer and closer to
Vegita-sei every day.

Scopa disappeared for the day after receiving a call on the
encrypted comm I built for him. He’s done that several times in the last few
weeks, and only shaken his head when I ask him where he’s been. He won’t tell me
anything about what’s going on at Med Center, though he says most of the people
there have been unaffected by the most recent changes. Mousrom has either
rotated offworld or taken into custody every slave on Vegita-sei. It is an
‘emergency measure’ to keep terrorism down to a minimum, the news feeds say.
Third class warriors are doing everything from running agro-farms to cooking in
their own barracks mess, to serving as domestics in the houses of the
Elites.

The only exception to this mass extinguishing of the entire
slave population is Med Center. They need us to heal the wounded. I asked him if
everyone in Med Center was all right. He said yes. I didn’t believe him.

Scopa’s a lousy liar.

 

 

 

Bardock and I had it out again over Rom-kun. He’s determined to
‘toughen the brat up’. I went ballistic when he used that phrase, remembering
the King using the same words to describe how Nappa made Vegita into
a—a—

“You are warping him against the bent of his own nature, girl!”
Bardock said last night at supper. “How will I make a warrior of him after
you’ve had four solid years to coddle him the way you’re doing? He can barely
speak, and he is already what the drill instructors in the children’s barracks
will deem abnormal!”

“That’s because I pulled him out of his incubator before they
shifted him to the infant conditioning unit, and then to the infant barracks!” I
grated out, stabbing the roast boar with my carving knife. “This is what a
Saiyan child is like naturally, when he hasn’t had his head pumped full of
subliminal aggression tapes for the first fucking year of his life!”

“Bulma…” Bardock said finally. “If, at four years of age, his
drill instructors decide that he is defective mentally, or that he lacks the
normal will to fight, they will put him down.”

I nearly flew across the table at him, knife in hand. “Then
train him yourself,” I said coldly. “It’s your right as his father. Any Saiyan
parent can assume his offspring’s training personally if he wants, right? It’s
just that most warriors don’t want to be bothered.”

Vegita and Scopa kept wisely silent during these arguments, but
we actually reached some kind of detante last night. Bardock’s going to start
training him, and I’m going to…I’m going to try and be less over-protective and
huggy. I can’t help it.

“It’s just that if anything happened to him, I would—I—” I
stopped trying to get the words out as I sat beside the hearth late that night.
Rom-kun was nestled in Vegita’s lap and I was sort of half-leaning, half-lying
on him. His free hand was threading through my hair with slow, soothing
gentleness.

“Bardock would give his life for the boy,” Vegita said in his
soft deep voice. I wish I could call him by a different name. “He loves him
greatly, but he is shy to show it. I do not know why.”

“It’s a Saiyan thing,” I said sleepily.

“Hmm,” he murmured. “That is why my father does not wish me to
touch him. Would it be disloyal to say that some Saiyan ways are foolish?” I
smiled. “Bulma…”

“Huh?” I had almost drifted off to sleep when he spoke.

“How is it that you do not hate my people for having purged
your world?” He drew back a little, peering into my face intently. I thought
about the question for a along time.

. “I would have hated you all if I hadn’t seen something almost
immediately,” I said. “A truth that most of your enemies don’t want to think
about. That you’re not monsters. You’re just men. Very, very strong, and so
entrenched in your violent warrior culture that you can’t see beyond the end of
your own noses most of the time, but…The men who came and destroyed my
world…they were friends. They loved each other like brothers, even though they’d
never admit it in a million years. They loved their mates, and their children
once they got to know them. They were…just people. Raised in a violent,
murderous society, trained from the cradle to kill anything not Saiyan without
turning a hair. But beneath all that, they were all like Rom-kun. Or like
you.”

“I am not a child,” he said softly. There was a heat building
in his eyes, an echo of the heat that seemed to be gathering inside me. The
absence of the hate I had locked away did not bank this fire, but it gave it a
different flavor and color. It was bright and warm inside me like the sun, not a
half-mad twisted passion born of hate. It was stronger and clean
and—and—

“No. You’re not a child,” I said, leaning toward him, my mouth
tasting his. But the night thing, the black hate dragon, shifted in its prison
deep inside me and I shivered against him. He sensed it…and he pushed me back
gently. “I want you,” he said simply. “For all that I have forgotten, I have not
forgotten that. But…I will wait. For a day when you want me, and that wanting
does not bring you grief.

I slept in my room alone, lying awake for hours. Thinking and
feeling too many things to speak in a year.

 

 

 

It’s done. The stalemate shield it done. All the plans, all the
design glitches, and the expansion and generator specs and power needs.
Everything.

Bardock came to me today while I sat in the sun on the green
slopes just north of the house and watched Vegita and Scopa play a game of toss
the baby. Rom-kun was squealing with laughter as they passed him back and forth,
the dogs yipping each time he did so.

Bardock watched my face for a minute, than spoke in a low
voice. “You and he share a bed these days more often than not. Have you been
together as man and woman yet?”

I stared up at him, and shook my head slowly. “He can sense
there’s something wrong, but I haven’t told him why. I won’t tell him why. He…he
won’t touch me until I he knows I want him too.”

“Daughter,” he said, softer, his eyes shadowed with dark worry.
“Do not go down that road. It will be the death of you.”

“I’m already on it,” I said softly, tremulously.

“If he remembers and returns to being the man he was, you
will—”

“He won’t!” I snapped, feeling my chest begin to tighten.

Bardock sighed. “I will take the brat flying tomorrow. He must
grow accustomed to heights and the sense of the air.”

I nodded wordlessly in agreement. But I knew letting Rom-kun
out of my sight for an entire day would be easier said than done. Vegita and
Rom-kun went right off to sleep the way they always do…the sleep of the
innocent.

I’m awake.

 

 

 

Too many things happened. Why…Kami, why can’t anything
in my life come slowly or a little at a time. I’m tired…weary to the bone of
constant, sweeping, jarring and complete changes in my life that take place in
the space of an hour or two.

I’m so tired of it.

Bardock took Rom-kun away from me at dawn. I smiled and waved
bye-bye, and he said, “Bye-bye, Momma! Bye-bye!” Then he shrieked with joy as
his father launched into the sky. I stood there crying like an idiot for about
half and hour.

I went into the solace of my workshop and hammered on the
servo-bots I’d brought from Med Center. They had started developing glitches a
month after they went online, I think because the lines of transport code I
wrote for the servos were incompatible with the Med Center computers frame type.
They worked very well, but they had to be used on their own little network. I
encapsulated them and stored them away after a while. The Saiyan wounded were
absolutely terrified of being tended by an automaton and broke them whenever
they got close. How can a space faring race be such technophobes?

I stripped them down, repaired the ones that had been thumped
by unnerved Saiyan patients, and encapsulated all but one. This one, for some
unknown reason I could never ferret out, had always locked up and crashed. Poppa
always said that there was a mystical gremlin of engineering that made some
individual machines lemons for no reason at all. I went to work on it with a
will, but I think I was so distracted thinking about Rom-kun I did more damage
than repair. I was muttering under my breath about not being an over-protective
mother when Vegita came into the shop and watched my silently for a while. I
began to tell him why I was upset, my voice growing more and more teary as I
spoke and he listened solemnly without comment.

“You should not stay in here,” he said thoughtfully.

“Yeah?” I sniffled. “Why not?”

“You will destroy your…thing,” he motioned to the servo. I saw
with surprise I had been gutting it while I spoke to him. “Come with me. Outside
for the day.”

It was a perfect sunny day, warm but not hot, and the wind was
lightly tugging on the moors, tossing everything back and forth gently. The pale
green grasslands were littered with red blossoms. They only bloomed in moon
years, Bardock had told me. The moon, my first moon on Vegita-sei, would come
this fall, in just a few short months.

We walked across the moors aimlessly, talking about this and
that, mostly his perceptions of the Tsiru-jin historical tome he had finished
last night. He seemed to be asking more and more questions about the
parliamentary monarchy structure of Chikyuu and how it had actually functioned.
By the time we stooped to rest in the early afternoon, my mind was miles away
from my worry about Rom-kun. We lay back on a small hillside and drowsed side by
side. I felt…good. Peaceful. So easy in his company it was unreal. I didn’t
think I could enjoy any one friend’s companionship more than Scopa’s. Scopa had
even made the joking comment that he was beginning to feel ousted as my best
friend. But behind his smile had been the same apprehensive worry I’d seen in
Bardock’s eyes when he watched me with Vegita in the last few weeks.

“The sky is the same color as your eyes,” he said softly, lying
on his back beside me, his arms folded behind his head.

“Chikyuu’s skies were this color,” I murmured sleepily. “Is it
my imagination, or has the sky’s color deepened in its blue in the last couple
of weeks?”

“Bardock said it is the moon’s approach,” he replied. “He said
by fall the sky will be the color of blood. I like the color of your eyes
better.” He frowned curiously. “How…”

“How what?”

“It is nothing.”

“Don’t start a question and not finish it, Vegita,” I said a
little peevishly. He rolled over on his side to face me, propped up on one
elbow, grinning faintly.

“How did you breed the dogs if your world is gone?” His face
fell as mine tensed with memory of things and people lost forever.

I told him about the stat bags, about my dogs on Chikyuu and my
flowers, all the things I brought back to life from the tiny fragments of the
things I’d had with me when I came to Vegita-sei. I began to talk about Poppa
and my eyes began to burn, though my voice remained soft and steady.

“You loved him greatly?” He asked.

“Yes…” I smiled sadly. “I loved him very much…”

“Bardock told me,” he said with a kind of distant sadness in
his own voice, “that I should never say such a thing to my father.” He sounded
almost envious of me, of how I spoke of Poppa. I knew he had realized quite a
while ago that his father was not a good man, though he hadn’t spoken of it to
me.

“That you love him?” I finished. The King was coming to check
on his son less and less often. The last time had been three weeks ago. I knew
it was because the war was going very badly for Vegita-sei now, but I wondered
if Vegita thought it was because his father was too ashamed of him. “Don’t tell
him,” I said. I cringed at how his father would react to such a statement. “It’s
against Saiyan custom to say it aloud, or even openly admit to it. And it would
only upset him if you said it.”

He seemed to inhale slowly and spoke his next words in a rush.
“You are not Saiyan. Would it upset you if I said it to you?”

I stared at him open-mouthed, my mouth going dry. I had known
this was coming, but I was still unprepared and shaken and…and, I can’t even
describe how I felt. There was a rush of warmth from the pit of my stomach, a
wild surge of sweet feeling, like when Rom-kun said he loved me the first time.
And there was the other, stirring in its midnight prison in the basement of my
soul, shifting angrily in its reptilian coils, the force of its insane hate
radiating even through the walls if its cell like cold fire. And above all this
was Bardock’s face, glowering down at me with worry, asking me what would I do
if he remembered and became the monster he had been. I opened my mouth the
answer him with no idea of what I would say until I said it.

“I—I could love the man you are right now. Kami…I think I
already do. But—but you won’t stay this way! You’ll go back to—to the way
you were before!”

“I do not think that is possible,” he said, caressing my face,
smoothing away the tears that had begun to leak out of my eyes. “I believe there
is no way back to my memory of before Avaris except through Avaris—through
J-Jey–,” he stooped trying to say Jeiyce’s name, keeping his eyes fixed on
mine.. “When I do remember, as Scopa says I shall—if I remember—when
I have passed through that hell….Bulma, a man could not emerge from such a
thing unchanged.” His arms had slowly wrapped themselves around me, pulling my
body gently against his. “I think I must have been a prideful, selfish lover to
you. That I must have hurt you greatly. I am sorry for that. I must have been
the basest sort of fool to have taken your love for granted.” He kissed me.

And he kissed me, again and again. We lay side by side in each
other’s arms, our bodies melting together with our clothes on, like two children
making out, for nearly an hour. Heat began to kindle and grow inside me like a
slow burning hearthfire after a long freezing day. He didn’t push me or pull me
or ask anything of me…he just gave. His every touch was light and gentle, his
lips like warm silk on mine. And when I drew back and stared into his face,
there was no resemblance to my enemy, none at all, and his eyes were standing
full of tears from the simple joy of having me in his arms.

The slow burn erupted like a gentle explosion rumbling through
me and I almost sobbed his name, want singing inside me like the warm winds over
the moors. I began pulling his clothes of, and he helped me pull my dress over
my head, and then there was skin on skin, warm and good and clean of anything
bad or twisted or hateful or coerced. He was gentle and awkward, as though it
was his first time. But then, it was his first time, I thought with a
smile as I pushed him down on his back, moving over him, hands and mouth
touching and tasting everywhere.

“Do you want this?” He whispered as I moved above him, our
bodies burning against each other, his hardness to my softness, ready to meld
into a perfect fit. I froze, choking on a sob.

No one has ever asked me that question. No one. Not Raditz, who
took my virginity so gently and skillfully I didn’t realize there was no option
to say no. Not the evil Prince, who took everything so brutally and Silenced my
lips against the word no. Not even sweet Yamcha, so many years dead now, who
always tried to sneak and wheedle his way past third base, but never once
asked.

“Yes…” I sobbed, shaking against him. “Yes.” My legs were
around him, my mouth against his—and we both cried out softly as I slid down
over him, taking him inside me, the first lover of my life who was ever my
choice to take. I was crying as I moved above him, rocking slowly, and he sat up
with both arms wrapped around me, kissing my face, moving with me, his words
soft against my lips.

“Don’t cry,” He whispered, “I want you to be happy…I want to
make you happy…I…” He gasped like a drowning man as I quickened out pace.

“I am,” I breathed. I could feel the end coming and I knew it
would be like nothing I’d ever known. I threw back my head, trying to say his
name, trying to tell him that he was beautiful and good and—and the end struck
us both in the same instant. We collapsed against each other, shaking in the
aftermath, unable to speak for a long time.

“Bulma…” He raised his eyes to meet mine. I knew the words were
coming, and that they were the name and declaration of the wordless well of
feeling that was filling me up to overflowing. “I love you,” he whispered,
taking my face between his hands, kissing me gently. “I love you…”

From such a high, precarious pinnacle…there is so far to fall.
So far…

He went stiff in my arms, the words still hanging in the air
between us. His entire body spasmed in agony and he screamed. I rolled him on
his side, my heart in my mouth. He had hit another memory trip wire, and oh
gods, we were miles and miles from the house, miles from the tranks that he
would need now to keep him from shrieking until he passed out, or worse,
asphyxiated. He went on screaming and screaming, while I held him, keeping him
pressed onto his side so wouldn’t choke on his tongue. Slowly, the wails receded
and he went limp, weeping like a child who has lost everything good in his life.
He couldn’t seem to stop, shuddering apart in wave after wave of tearing sobs.
Then he raised his head, looking into my eyes, and his own went wide with horror
and grief. He pulled away from me, falling onto his face on the grass, his
entire body wracking as he cried. But it was different this time. It wasn’t pain
that seemed to be ripping him apart, it was sorrow and horror and regret. I took
him in my arms again, stroking him, turning him gently onto his back. I reached
down and brushed the tears from his face.

“What did you remember?” I asked softly.

“Everything…” He said in a shaking whisper.

The sun seemed to flicker off and fall above us…the whole world
spun around and went dark for an instant, and I went cold, all the warmth inside
me snuffed out with that one word. He was…no. He was dead. He was gone.
And here beside me lay a monster, a hated, bestial monster, who had risen from
the dead to steal back the body of this man I had been helpless to love.

“Do you…” I was shaking all over, pale as a dead woman,
trying to cling to any pitiful spar of hope. “Do you know who you are?”

“No,” he said softly. And my heart leapt with a kind of piteous
hope because his voice was still so soft, still the voice of the man he had been
a moment ago. Had he only remembered everything they had done to him, all their
tortures? Was everything that came before Avaris still lost to him? “I am Vegita
who went to war to annihilate the Empire’s enemies,” he said in that soft voice,
and I moaned softly, beginning to cry. “I am Vegita who lay six months in a
Maiyosh-jin dungeon tortured day and night until…until I was no one at all. I
am Vegita who dwelt with you in the house of Bardock these three months. I
am…I am all three men…and one. But I do not know who that man is.”

I pushed away from him, doubling into a knot of agony, of grief
for the man I had loved, who was dead now. Of hurt and horror as the barbs of
the black hate dragon’s spurs tore through walls of its cell and gouged my soul,
drawing blood. Then…his arms were there around me, pulling me up out of that
pose of torment, easing the pain with just the gentle touch of another living
being . I held onto him, crying as I had when Karot-chan died, when Chikyuu
died, when I first saw Son-kun lying still and cold in his father’s arms.

But…you can’t cry forever…

At some point, you have to stop and wipe your face and try to
keep on living. And maybe…maybe find a way to stop the hurt. Neither of us said
anything for a long time, while the sun began dipping into the west and the wind
and sky continued perfect and beautiful, heedless of us and out little problems.

“You win, Bulma,” he said at long last.

I turned in his arms, startled and shaken by how soft his tone
still sounded.

“Win?”

“The fool’s ‘game’ we began before I went to war,” he said
hollowly, his every intonation of each syllable echoing all the sorrow inside
me. “When we each vowed to enslave the other’s heart. You are the victor. You
will not hear me give it voice again, but…I meant the—the words I spoke. I
still do. And I know that should we both live until the sun above us burns cold
and dies, you will never feel the same. I did not understand that before, or
even why. I do now.”

“And I swore I’d use your love to destroy you,” I said, closing
my eyes, trying to think. I looked up at him again, meeting those dark
tear-filled eyes—and I saw that he had not wanted to remember himself. And, oh
Kami, he still wished he hadn’t. Everything in his posture, his eyes, his face,
was the man I had loved an hour ago. It was as though…as though the one from
before and the man who began life in Bardock’s house had somehow…merged
together.

“I wonder…” I whispered, “if the man I made that promise to
isn’t destroyed already. You’re right. You aren’t the same now.” And if the man
I had loved was still somehow alive inside this new, third incarnation of
Vegita, then…then…

“The man I was two hours ago had your heart, did he not?” He
whispered.

“Yes…” I said just as softly. “But he’s gone now.”

“And now…” He shook his head, tears still leaking from his
eyes. He brushed them away heedlessly, with a soft growl of despair. “You could
no more care for me than I could take the Red Prince as my sworn brother. There
is no road back from that launch pad where Raditz and your son died. And no road
away from that island in the Western Sea where we began.”

 

Is he still the monster with memories of having been a good man
for a few months? I wondered. I felt as though my heart were falling apart
in two halves, one full of loved, the other withered and full of the hate
dragon’s poison. Is he the good man I love with memories of having been a
monster in a former life? Was I grasping at straws like a drowning fool? What
could I do? How could I reconcile so much hate with the love I felt for the man
I had known here in Bardock’s house?

Could this new person who was both sun and shadow, my enemy and
my sweet love, ever make me forgive and forget all that lay between us?

“Maybe there is,” I said hesitantly.

“Tell me,” he said, his deep voice full of the same muted,
desperate hope as mine.

Maybe…maybe there was a way. A way for the man to make amends
for the monster’s sins. “Give me back everything you took from me,” I said
steadily. “If you can understand what it was you took, if you can overcome your
pride enough to give it back…then…then maybe I’ll be able to see the man I
loved this morning inside the man you are now.”

He closed his eyes, seeming to convulse with relief, with the
shred of hope I had given him, given us both. Then he raised his eyes to mine
again, taking my hands in his, bringing them to his lips.

I jerked in surprise as Rom-kun’s voice, happy and excited,
came drifting over the rolling rises of the moors. We pulled our clothes
hurriedly, just before my son came barreling over the crest of the hilltop
behind us. Bardock was sauntering behind him, a dead cho-deer slung over one
shoulder.

“Mommma! Edeeeta!” Rom-kun swerved at the last minute in his
course toward me and leapt into Vegita’s arms. I froze in horror, my heart
faltering to a stop and Vegita’s brows pulled down into a hard frown—then he
went motionless, staring down at Rom-kun, his face startled and thoughtful.
Vegita slowly lifted my baby up and held him up in both hands, studying him
silently as Rom-kun continued to tell him all about his day’s adventures. The
hard set of Vegita’s features seemed to be shifting from one emotion to another
in a confused mix as his feelings for the baby in his arms warred with all of
Nappa’s hateful lessons. Then, his face softened, and very slowly, he sat the
baby in the crook of one arm, and turned back to me.

“Sleep in Med Center when you wish,” he said in the deep, quiet
voice of the man I loved, “or in my bed when it pleases you. Bring the boy to my
house when you come. I will not have my foster son sleep alone at Med Center
with only that Madrani Scopa to attend him.” His eyes met mine, reflecting my
hope back at me, and his lips twitched as he spoke the next words. “The brat
might be permanently damaged by such company and grow to become a
physician.”

We packed up everything, dogs, baby, personal effects, and
ourselves, and left for the Capital within the hour. Scopa and I in the flyer,
with Rom-kun in my lap, and Vegita and Bardock flying along beside us. We were
back before it was fully dark. Just like that. I had wanted to cry for the way
Bardock and especially Scopa’s manner changed when they learned he had recovered
himself. Scopa is all formal and professional with him again, his eyes humbly
downcast as befits a freedman addressing Saiyan nobility. Yesterday the two of
them were laughing together like teenage boys as they passed Rom-kun back and
forth like a football.

He stopped at the threshold of the house, the cut of his back
tense and almost unsure. Then he squared his shoulders and strode through with
the easy feline grace that had marked his every move in Bardock’s house. That
hair-triggered tension and that had always been present before he went to war,
that had given him an almost hunched appearance as it seized his shoulders up in
knots, was not there.

His voice was still deep, even and calm. Scopa muttered softly
beside me under his breath what I know he must have been thinking all evening as
we flew.

“Who is he?” He asked me.

“I don’t know,” I replied softly. “I don’t think he does
either.”

“Bulma…” He said hesitantly. “There are some things I must tell
you about—about what has been happening here in the Capital while we were
gone. When you come back to Med Center, if you come tomorrow or the next day,
come to me first.”

“How bad is it?” I asked. I didn’t want to hear the answer.

Scopa shook his head. “Not tonight. I will tell you tomorrow.
You have enough to adjust to this evening.”

The dogs whipped past him into the hearthroom and he sat in his
blackwood armchair, easing into it. He told the dogs in a threatening growl that
they would be on the menu tonight if they peed inside the house. But there was
no anger in his voice…and no threat. He said in a gruff, almost embarrassed way
that they could live here and run wild through the hills like they did at
Bardock’s. I smiled and took Rom-kun to try and figure out where he would sleep
tonight.

I passed through the hearthroom doors and into the bedroom, the
men’s lowered voices a low burr behind me—and I froze. The bedroom, Vegita’s
bedroom, was just as it had been. I hadn’t slept here since he had left to go to
war…and now…

A thousand memories of this room and that bed left me shaking
and nauseous, hearing the clink of the imprisoned night thing’s scales against
my heart.

“Momma?” Rom-kun said, biting his lip.

I looked down at his upturned face and somehow mustered a
smile. “We won’t sleep here, baby,” I told him. “This is a bad room.” I nearly
ran through the bedchamber to the sitting room…and into the large study I had
used to do research. It was just adjacent to the little library, and had a
smaller window nook that was almost its own little room. I decapsulated
Rom-kun’s bed and set it by the window, checking to make sure the casement was
locked, then marched back into the study. I popped the bed capsule, the dresser
and wardrobe I’d used at Bardock’s house, moving things around until they seemed
right. I wondered why this seemed so eerily familiar, then I realized it was
almost the same configuration of furniture as my—my room at Capsule Corp. How
strange… The study has its own entrance from the circular house center that is
the hearthroom, so there would be no need to go through that room, the bedroom
from before, ever again.

Through the ring hallway that circles the hearthroom, I saw
could hear Caddi and Scopa talking softly in the kitchen. Batha was not
speaking, which was very odd. Both the twins had almost passed out when Vegita
strode through the front door, seemingly whole and recovered.

I stood and listened to Bardock tell Vegita how bad things had
gotten, how much power Mousrom had now, possibly more than the King at this
point. Then I listened in shock as Bardock and then Scopa both swore themselves,
each in his own way, into Vegita’s service. Of the three of us, neither Bardock,
Scopa nor myself had spoken our thoughts aloud to the other, but we had all come
to the same conclusion on our own. That Mousrom would be Vegita-sei’s death…and
that a good King, the strongest King Vegita-sei has ever known, could turn this
world and this war out of its spiral tailspin and give it a better future.
Bardock’s idea of ‘a good king’ is probably a bit different than mine and
Scopa’s, but we all seem to be working toward the same goal.

I took a long, steamy bath, washing the smell of flyer fuel off
myself and Rom-kun. By the time I came back into the hearthroom, both Bardock
and Scopa had left and the twins were setting the table.

We ate. And again, I felt the unreality of this day wash all
over me, as he and I talked, one corner of his mouth curling up into a half grin
as he watched Rom-kun make a pudding of his meat pie and shove so much of what
he didn’t drop to the dogs in his mouth he looked like a chipmunk before each
swallow. We sat and ate dinner like…Kami, like a family. The one dark spot on
this whole scene was when Batha leaned down and gave my baby a smile that looked
like a shark baring its teeth.

“Would little master like some more meat pie?” She said. I
caught her eye and she caught mine. You could have frozen bromide with the looks
we exchanged. There was no time to settle anything tonight, but tomorrow we
would talk. There was no way in hell I was going to have this hate-filled bitch
living in the same house where my baby slept.

I led Vegita through his old bedroom, through the sitting room
divider, and into the new bedroom I’d created, opening the south window wide,
saying as casually as I could that this room was much cooler in the summer with
the breezes from the south blowing in. He didn’t reply as I lay Rom-kun down on
his baby bed, smiling and kissing my baby goodnight. I didn’t realize he had
left the room until I heard the explosion. I ran back through the adjoining room
to find him putting out the smoking wreck of his bedroom with a rush of his
ki.

“I will not lie beside you in that bed or that room ever
again,” he said hoarsely.

 

His eyes were squeezed shut tightly, his hands rising to both
sides of his head, every inch of his body trembling. But it wasn’t a mental
grenade he’d tripped, it was true memory. The memories of everything he’d done
to me in this room, seen through new eyes. There was no absolution here either.
I didn’t have any to give him. He built the wall between us stone by stone,
labored on it every day for over a year with all his might. It’s his to tear
down, just as the guilt is his to live with for the rest of his life.

I didn’t offer any words of comfort, but I pulled his clothes
off and lay him down on the bed. He jerked in surprise as and I saw he had just
noticed, for the first time, the network of scars they’d lain all over his body.

“Try and sleep,” I said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a hard day.” I
kissed him lightly and he stared back at me, swallowing hard.

We didn’t sleep, not for a long time. We lay awake talking, the
trembling of his body against mine never subsiding. I had to explain to him what
was wrong with his emotions, what he was feeling, and that the guilt was his to
make peace and reparation for. Gods…gods…he is, in many ways, still as new to
everything as when he woke for the first time in Bardock’s house.

“It is cho-gugol,” Vegita whispered. “Debt of blood and
honor. A warrior can only pay such a debt with his life’s blood.”

“Death is an easy out,” I said coldly. “You big, strong
warriors always talk about dying nobly to absolve your sins. Bullshit! It’s
harder, more noble, to live with the evil things you’ve done and try to make up
for them. You’re right, Vegita. You do owe me this cho-gugol. But I’ve
told you how to be free of it.”

He seemed to except that with a stoic Saiyan nod, a thing of
honor that must be satisfied. “Thank you,” I said softly.

“What have I done to warrant your thanks?” He asked, banked
heat brimming behind his dark eyes. I could feel, sense in all my nerve endings,
how much he wanted me at this moment…and that he would make no move to have me.
I wondered if I wanted him to or not. I was still reeling, still in such shock
at another massive change that had fallen on me with no warning.

“For telling Bardock and Scopa to take Rom-kun an myself to
safety if anything happens to you.”

“Eavesdropper,” he growled, with a faint, poorly hidden echo of
his old sweet smile. I don’t remember the turn and twist of the rest of the
night’s conversation, I was so tired, almost falling asleep as I spoke. I
remember he asked me how it came to be that I no longer hated Bardock, and I
told him a long rambling story of my relationship with the man who had killed my
world, the man who thought of me as daughter. “You’re wondering if I still hate
you,” I said, and he nodded.

I told him the honest truth, the way I had seen the evil Prince
as dead, the way everything I saw in him now, this synthesis of new and old,
seemed to say that my enemy was still dead. But…I didn’t lie and tell him it
would be like it had been in that flowering field this afternoon. But
maybe…maybe it could be something different. Something good.

He was silent, and he seemed to be choking for a second or two
before he spoke the next words. “You are free,” he whispered, his voice strained
and raw. “I will give you a—a ship if you—” He was rapidly losing his
ability to speak as he gave me the choice to stay or go. Not knowing I’d had the
means to leave for a while now if a had chosen to do so. But the act of letting
me go, as he saw it, of setting free what he so desperately wanted to keep
because he loved me and wanted what would make me happy was…It was honest and
unfeigned. He really thought that I would take the offer and leave tomorrow,
maybe even tonight, and was willing to let me do so.

“I will stay,” I said softly.

“You…” Now, he really was speechless.

“Will stay,” I said again. “Partly because of Rom-kun, but also
because of what’s going on in the Capital and on Vegita-sei now. I won’t run
away with my own freedom and leave all the other slaves in the Empire to that
monster Mousrom. If I can do anything to help stop him, I will. And don’t think
he’ll stop with non-Saiyan’s, Vegita. He’s about two seconds away from
petitioning your father to allow him to interrogate Saiyans as well.”

“That will not happen,” Vegita said firmly.

“Tell me that after you’ve been to Council tomorrow,” I said
grimly. “I can help you stop him, Vegita. The same way Scopa’s going to help
you. And…I can help with other things too. Give me tomorrow to get some things
ready and I’ll show you what I mean.” I lay my head on his shoulder, staring
into the dark, haunted eyes that held no childish rage and thoughtless cruelty,
just mild wonder, as he listened to me speak. “And I’ll stay because of you,” I
added, softer. “Because…I think you’re as different from the man who went to
war a year ago as if you’d died and been reborn. And because of that, I think
you might become a king the likes of which Vegita-sei has never seen. A king who
might hold an Empire together because it wants to be held together—not just
out of brute force. I’ll stay…for the hope of what you might become.”

He kissed me and wound his arms around me, gentle and strong as
they had been in Bardock’s house. Just before he fell asleep, he murmured the
word that would be our mantra in all the things that would come after tonight.

“Hope…” he breathed softly.

 

 

 

 

The ship rolled sharply to the side and inverted and a great
shuddering roar filled his ears.

“Ouji-sama!” Coran’s voice crackled through the comm.
“You…come…hit by…”

Vegita leapt up unsteadily, tearing the data chip out of the
mini comp. He tore around the room, peeling out the security crash safe, and
shoving the disc inside. It would hold it in safe keeping, even if they were
destroying in the depths of space. And one day, perhaps, someone would happen
upon it and hear her story. And she and her people would not be forgotten as she
had feared. He left the cabin and ran to the bridge to find the blue green world
of Chikyuu looming before them, blocking all of the forward view screen. It was
growing ever larger by the second.

The ship was sinking into the atmosphere, spinning wildly out
of control.

“Ouji-sama!” Coran barked out. “They are here! But they do not
recognize us, they are firing from the surface!”

“They will think it is some trick of Jeiyce’s armies that we
come in a Saiyan ship,” Vegita muttered. “They believe all of our kind are dead
except—”

The world exploded in red sparks and gray metal shards as the
ship broke up around them. He was falling through open blue in a rush of clean,
sweet-smelling wind. An instant before he lost consciousness, he felt Rikkuum’s
great fist lock around his arm.

 

 

 

There was shouting all around, men and women’s voice raised in
anger, and Rikkuum’s great, thundering voice crying out once, followed by a loud
crash.

A boot dug into his side, sending lancing pain through the
horrible pressure that seemed to be compressing his chest.

“Wake up, you monkey-tailed bastard!” A man said harshly. “Wake
up so I can look you in the eye when I kill you!”

“Don’t! Kill them now!” Someone else was almost moaning. “Oh
Kami, kill them before they wake up and finish the job they started!”

“Kill them! Kill them!” The voices were rising, like pack
animals in full

cry. Another kick, this rammed into his collar bone with an
audible crack.

“Son, if you kick him like that again I’m going to stun you
instead of him,” said a mild voice, an older man. “Can one of you youngsters
clear everyone out of here that doesn’t need to be here? I can’t here myself
think with all this hollering and commotion.”

Vegita swam in and out of waking as the room or prison or
wherever it was they were being held grew quiet. He slowly raised his head from
the floor, and bared his teeth at his captors, spitting blood as he focused on
the man, a man of his own years with a long, dark mane of hair and the build of
a warrior. The one who had just broken his bones as he lay half conscious and
unable to rise or fight.

“Cowardly weakling,” he hissed softly. The dark man leapt at
him and landed another blow, sending his head spinning. Then another young man,
smaller and bald, moved to stay him.

“Stop it, Yamcha!” The smaller warrior barked. “You don’t kick
a man when he’s down, and if you beat him to death, we won’t learn how many more
of them might be on the way. So, cool it!”

Coran had somehow managed to heave himself up to one knee, his
weaving, unsteady body between the man Yamcha and Vegita, and snarl at their
captives—some worthless second string column of Jeiyce’s legions, no doubt.
“Your squad brother is right,” he said coldly. “You have no honor to beat
another warrior who may not stand and fight you. You will not touch my
Prince!”

“I have no honor?” Yamcha said softly. “How much of a chance
did your friends give Chikyuu when they killed almost every living thing on this
world nine years ago?!”

“When…” Coran jerked with surprise, and glanced around the
large room at all the faces, his own going still. Vegita’s mind was reeling as
he tried to draw enough breath to breathe, to speak. But he could only roll onto
his back and stare, coughing weakly as each breath grew more difficult in this
position. There was something terribly wrong somewhere inside his body, but for
the moment it was of less importance than the fact that both he and Coran had
just realized.

“You are not Jeiyce’s men,” Coran whispered. “You—you are
Chikyuu-jin! How is it that there are any of you left alive?”

“We had a big bunker,” the third Chikyuu-jin, the old man with
the soft voice, spoke. He was regarding both Vegita and Coran without hate or
even animosity, his blue eyes bright with curiosity. For some reason, he put
Vegita in mind of an old Scopa. “Or I had a bunker. We knew they were
coming this way, fanning out to do as much damage as they could, so I crammed as
many people from our city as I could fit into the underground complex of my
research facility.” He sighed sadly, and shook his head. “We only saved
about…ten thousand. And that was hard going, especially until the skies cleared.
I had a kind of special shield around the place that kept them from finding us
with those nifty little ki–scouting gadgets of theirs. We hunkered down for
about two years, ate the emergency stores I had encapsulated down there, then
went topside and re-seeded the planet with every plant we had samples of.
Everything grew back really nice for having been burned so badly. But I guess
you can understand why we’d be less than happy about seeing your people about to
land on Chikyuu a second time.” He frowned at Coran, then at Vegita. “Why did
you come back, young man? Are there going to be more of you?”

“…are no more…” Vegita croaked.

“There was a war,” Coran said grimly. “Our world and our people
are destroyed. There remain only a few thousand of our kind living, now. We came
here seeking them.”

The old man studied Vegita a second longer, then knelt down,
with a hand raised to keep Coran from springing. He lay one practiced hand and
Vegita’s shoulder, then undid the straps of what remained of his armor, pulling
it off lightly with Coran’s help. The old man stared down at Vegita, his mouth
turned down thoughtfully, his hand moving with practiced ease. “…doctor?” Vegita
managed to force the word out.

“Among other things,” the old man said easily. He glanced up at
Coran. “Your Prince has a hunk of metal imbedded in his chest. We need to take
it out or he’ll die.”

Coran studied him hard, trying to assess what the old man’s
intentions might be. Then he nodded slowly.

“Sir—” Yamcha began.

“Yamcha,” the old medic said, “there’s been too much death and
killing on Chikyuu already. These three boys and that big fellow you KO-ed
didn’t burn our world. Sounds like they know just how it feels to have that
happen, now.” He pulled some kind of primitive stat stabilizer out of one of the
many pockets on his workman’s apron and Vegita felt a flow of slow streaming
stasis-trank particles, slowing his heart, washing away the pain and sense of
terrible pressure on his chest. The old man’s smiled at the weazing sigh of
relief from Vegita as he gently pulled a small clean-lined metal rod from his
left pectoral. It must have been pressing on his heart. “His breastbone’s
cracked and he needs a lot more extensive treatment, but he’ll be fine. What are
you called, young man?”

“I am Coran,” Articha’s son said slowly. “The other of my blood
who is still unconscious is my brother Okuda, the big fellow is Rikkuum. And the
man you have just saved is our Prince—our King, now.” Coran’s perfectly blank
face was at odds with the almost imperceptible break in his voice.

“Why did you come here looking for your people?” The smaller
bald

Chikyuu-jin warrior asked, frowning curiously. “Why would they
come to Chikyuu?”

“My Prince’s Lady, his royal concubine, was born of this
world,” Coran said, glancing down at Vegita. “She was taken to Vegita-sei as
captive nine years ago. Our world, all our people, were felled by an engineered
virus. She was chief engine wright and chief physician of the our Capital’s
medical center, and saved tens of thousands of our children in quarantine there
when the plague struck us down. She launched the Med Center into space and
escaped with the babes and the few warriors and medics inside. We were left
behind, as it was thought that no one could survive the contagion. Now, we
search for the last of our kind. My Prince had thought his Lady might return
home.”

“A girl from Chikyuu?” Yamcha said, his brow furrowing. “How
many captives did the warriors who attacked Chikyuu take?”

“Just the one,” Coran said. “I have never met Bulma-san myself,
but—”

The old man had dropped the med scanner and leaned to one side,
paling. The two younger warriors were instantly on either side of him,
supporting him.

“Bulma…” The old man murmured.

“Blue hair?” The bald man said. “She would be about twenty-six
by now, smart as a whip and knock out gorgeous? Bulma Briefs?! Holy Shit!!!”

“It is her,” Coran said, looking mildly stunned. “You knew
her?”

“She’s alive…” The old man was still trying to recover
himself.

“And she was…” Yamcha’s frown deepened harshly. “You said she
was his…’concubine’? What the hell do you mean by that?!”

“She came to Vegita-sei as a slave and, in the end, saved our
race from utter destruction,” Coran said, his posture tensing again, watching
the way the dark-haired Chikyuu-jin’s hands clenched angrily. “She rose to
become physician, and weapons builder and concubine to the Crown Prince of our
Empire. She would have risen higher still, my mother has told me, had the Prince
been free to take an alien to wife.”

“Wife…” Vegita whispered, closing his eyes and seeing the blue
of her crystalline gaze staring back at him, endless seas of sadness in that
azure blaze.

“…not concubine…my wife…” And to his eternal shame, he sobbed
softly in the view of these strangers, his teeth clamped together as tears began
leaking down either side of his face. Oh God of gods, what he had done to her!
All the sins he could never account for—

Her people…

And as the old man spoke his next words, Vegita’s breath caught
in his throat as the force of renewed hope came crashing down on him, and with
it, a spark of hope. “True courage,” she had told him once angrily, “is to face
your sins and make amends.” Any fool could die for shame and honor. It took a
stronger man to live and make it right.

Here, on what should have been a dead world, he had stumbled
upon the one thing in the universe that might help heal the wounds in her heart
and mind. The one thing that might bring her out of the well of madness she had
been lost in when she left him to die in her rose garden. Her people…and her
kin. He would not

die—not until he saw her reunited with these people.

“Bulma is your wife?” The old eyes, blue as his woman’s and as
alight with inner fire and intelligence, were sparking with tears as well. “Then
I’m pleased to meet you, young man,” he said softly. “I’m Trunks Briefs. Bulma’s
father.”

 

* * * * *

 

(Coming Soon: Chapter V— Vegita and the last survivors of
Chikyuu search for Bulma’s hiding place, while Jeiyce’s forces are on the hunt
as well. The reunion, for good or ill, of Bulma and Vegita, and the rest of
Bulma’s diary up to the fall of Vegita-sei…and beyond.)


Table of
Contents

Chapter 3
Chapter 5

 

The voices came and went, sometimes hushed, sometimes raised in
anger. He had a sense of time passing, of days and weeks going by like water
passing him at a river’s edge. He knew he had been injured badly, perhaps
mortally. Had the Chikyuu-jin denied him treatment as payment in kind for all
their slain millions? He sank in and out of consciousness, drifting some days in
a sea of blessed forgetfulness, and sometimes in a hell of delirious
nightmares…

“…should have recovered by now,” Coran’s quiet, deep voice came
to him distantly.

“We’ve given him the best treatment we have,” Briefs replied,
sounding grim and frustrated. “Unfortunately, what we have isn’t much. And…I
think the staff and secondary infections he contracted after the surgery I
performed are a direct result of the virus the three of you survived. It may
have permanently damaged your immune system as well as the centers of your brain
that channel your ki. Though…even that wouldn’t account for the way his body has
just refused to bounce back. Or the fact that he’s not really regained
consciousness once in all this time.” A sigh. “But I think he’s finally out of
the woods. I’d hate to find my Bulma-chan only to have to tell her that her
husband had died in my care.”

“Have you made your decision then, Briefs-san?” Coran asked
carefully, as though this was a subject he had discussed with the old man many
times.

“They won’t be here for another few weeks,” the old man replied
evasively. “It’s not as cut and dried a decision as you might think, son. There
are a lot of people who simply won’t leave. We’ve worked so damn hard to bring
this world back from the edge of oblivion—”

“And you have only the word of three men who are of the same
race which burned this world,” Coran finished curtly. “I understand. But I say
to you again, on my honor as a warrior of Vegita-sei, that these communications
from the “New Alliance of Worlds” are not what they seem. They fought my people
for their freedom, but the belief that races who have no fighting power to speak
of should be slaves of those who do is nearly a galaxy wide conceit. They will
see this world—its vast seas and rich, ore-laden mountains, it’s potential to
house game and grow enough grain to feed a dozen worlds—and they will find a
reason to take it from you. In truth, they have an excuse already. They know
this is Bulma-san’s homeworld. They search for the escape ship, for your
daughter and the children who are in her care. They mean to kill them all.”

“I’d say they came to the same conclusion your Prince did,”
Briefs said. “That she would take them home. Or at least it was enough of a
possibility to check it out. And…you believe they’ll use the fact that
Bulma-chan was their enemy as an excuse to either purge Chikyuu all over again
or take this world and enslave us all.” A little silence. “I’m not the King of
my people, Coran. I believe you, but we’ve discussed this time and time again
among ourselves, and nearly everyone else wants to wait for this delegation to
arrive and see what they have to say. They’ve suffered so much loss at Saiyan
hands, a lot of them wouldn’t believe you if you said the sky is blue. They
think if these New Alliance people were the Saiyans’ enemies they must be our
friends.” Vegita shifted anxiously, fighting his way upward toward
consciousness. This would not happen! He would not see his woman’s one chance to
regain her self killed by Jeiyce’s minions—very probably out of nothing more
than malice that these trusting fools were Bulma’s kin.

“Did he speak?” Rikkuum’s deep voice, a rumble of childlike
hope. “Ouji-sama! Wake up!” Something jostled him none too gently.

“Settle down, Rikkuum,” the old man said with a note of command
in the soft words. “Don’t shake him like that, it’s not good for him.”

The world slipped away again. After what seemed like a moment
or two, though it was certainly longer, he heard Rikkuum’s voice speak again.
“She told me I was free, that I could do as I please now,” the big man said, as
close to pensive as Vegita ever remembered hearing him. “But I have always been
owned by someone. There are many men who would die a dozen terrible deaths
rather than call another master. I am not one of them. I told her I did not wish
to be free. Bulma-sama said she had been a slave and could never own another
person, even if that person wanted to be owned.”

“A slave…” The smaller, bald Chikyuu-jin warrior Krillan. “Man,
that must have been hard on her.”

“Taking orders from other people,” Briefs murmured. “Building
and designing someone else’s work maybe. She could barely stand to work on a
project with me, let alone be told what to do.”

“What do you know about her time on Vegita-sei, Rikkuum?”
Yamcha’s voice, tense and full of quiet anger. “She was kidnapped by the men who
burned Chikyuu, we know that.”

“Yamcha—” Krillan began. The smaller man seemed to sense the
anger and the true meaning of his squad brother’s question.

“What happened to her after they took her to Vegita-sei?”
Yamcha asked harshly.

“Captain Bardock-san brought her to Vegita-sei rather than see
her slain with all the others on this world,” Rikkuum replied. “He—Toma-san
told me once while we drank together that she touched his heart when he saw her
weeping over his son, Kakarott. He let her live because she had been as a sister
to his son. And because she was beautiful.”

The old man made a soft, wordless noise of grief in the sudden
silence that followed his words.

No one spoke for a moment, then Krillan said a word, softly,
angrily. “You insensitive bastard.” He was not speaking to Rikkuum.

“Tell me it’s not something we’ve all wondered since we found
out they didn’t kill her, Krillan!” Yamcha rapped out.

“Has it occurred to you that it wasn’t something
Briefs-san had wondered?” Krillan said angrily.

“I—” Yamcha finally found the wisdom to shut his fool
mouth.

“He did not harm her,” Rikkuum said slowly. “Bardock-san could
have sold her to a great courtesan house for a fortune, but he was not so cruel.
He gave her to his son.”

“As a…a technical slave?” Briefs asked, seeming to swallow hard
as he spoke.

“No,” Rikkuum went on uncertainly. “She was his…she was
Raditz-san’s pleasure slave.”

Again silence. “Bulma-chan…” The old man said after a moment.
He seemed to gather himself. “I’m all right, boys. Rikkuum…When did the Prince
meet her?”

“I was not yet in my Prince’s service,” the giant warrior
replied. “But…I have heard he was a guest in the house of Raditz when he first
met her. It is said that he laid eyes on her and fell under her spell in the
same instant. He took her from Raditz, who had been her master for more than
five years. They fought, and Vegita-ouji slew Raditz with one blow.”

“Good for him,” Krillan said, a grim smile in his voice.

“It was a scandal that the Prince should have slain a man under
his command for the sake of a bed slave. His father, the King, commanded that he
set her aside more than once. Prince Vegita would not. He defied his father and
custom and all the Elite on Vegita-sei to keep her and see her safe. He gave her
a son, the youngest son of Bardock, to raise as her own. He set her free, and
set her to build machines, shields to keep the enemy from attaching Vegita-sei.
Many of the noble Elites feared her influence, believing that he would set an
alien woman on the throne beside him as queen when he took the throne.”

“Did she love him?” The old man asked, just above a
whisper.

“I heard her say the words,” Rikkuum replied in his slow way.
“And I heard my Prince reply in kind, though it is against Saiyan custom to say
such things aloud. When I saw them together, her eyes seemed to shine. I am not
a quick man, but even I could see it between them.”

Vegita wanted to scream aloud that the great idiot had it
wrong, that the tale was twisted through the pretty lens of big man’s hero
worship. That he had been the villain, the monster, the ravaging beast. Not
Raditz. But he could not speak a word to protest.

He tossed and moaned all that last day, tearing his way through
to consciousness as the last warm shafts of the setting sun cut through the open
window of the room, the scent of summer blooms drifting in, filling his eyes
with helpless, weakling’s tears as he recognized the scent.

“Roses…” He croaked. His voice was raw with disuse.

Briefs leaned over his bed, smiling sadly. “Yes. How do you
know that, son?”

“She…she kept a garden. Of flowers cloned from dead petals sewn
into the clothes she wore the day she came to Vegita-sei. The Chikyuu-jin roses
were precious to her.” Vegita turned his face away from the older man, in shame
that he had wept again like a babe Romayn’s age, in shame over so many things…

The old man nodded, his eyes distant with old losses, old pain,
that would never fade with the passage of time. “Her mother kept a gorgeous
garden, full of every flower you can imagine.”

“There are things I must tell you…Briefs-san,” Vegita
began.

“I know some of what you are going to say, young man,” Briefs
said. “Save your strength for later. You’re going to need it, I think. We all
are.

You’ve been unconscious a long time, and there’s a great
dealing happening.”

“You cannot trust the New Alliance,” Vegita said, trying and
failing to sit in his bed. “You must leave, with as many of your people as you
may bring, before they reach this world! Force them if they will not go! They
will be angry, but they will be alive. You do not understand—”

“It’s too late,” Briefs said, pushing him back down. “They’re
already here.”

“Fool!” Vegita spat furiously, but the words sounded despairing
as they reached his ears. “They will butcher you all! They will—”

“They may try,” Briefs said. “But we’re not entirely helpless.
We shot your ship out of the sky and we can do the same to them if they force us
to. I’d prefer that no one get hurt, but as a poet of my younger days once said,
‘You can’t always get what you want.’” He shook his head, frowning in his mild
way. It made him look very like his daughter. “We couldn’t just pack up and
leave. We didn’t have anything to leave in.”

Vegita swore softly. Of course, they could not leave. They were
at bare bones subsistancy after the purge ten years ago, and, in any case, had
not been a space-faring race to begin with. A thought occurred to him. “My
ship—it is in pieces, but there might be enough left of it to patch back
together.”

“That’s been the plan,” Briefs agreed. “And the gods smiled on
us in a big way when they brought the three of you to us—your friend Okuda is
a engineer. He specializes in ship design. The big problem wasn’t knowing what
to do, it was getting the raw materials. To make the ‘ardantium’ alloy he said
we needed for the frame and bones of a new ship, we had to find the metals, then
mine them, transport them and smelt them—all without the infrastructure of an
industrialized society. To build the engines, we had to find eight diamonds the
size of a T-rex’s head, then we had to cut them to specifications within a
hundred-thousandth of a centimeter—you get the point. Added to that, most of
my people haven’t lifted a hand to help us. Our nightly ‘town meetings’ have
turned into shouting matches. There are a lot of folks who think we should
welcome the New Alliance with open arms, and maybe even give you and your
friends over to them as a sign of our good faith.” The blue eyes narrowed in an
expression he knew well—he had bequeathed to his daughter. It was a look of
utter implacability. “We’re a democracy in most things, but I told them that’s
not going to happen. They think the New Alliance sounds like the best idea since
the wheel. So, that’s a long way of saying that we’ve had precious little help
building our ark, and we still won’t be finished for another few months.” Vegita
tensed reflexively when the older man laid a kindly hand on his shoulder,
pushing him back down onto his bed. No one, no man at any rate, had ever touched
him so casually, without a trace of fear. No one except his own father.

“Don’t worry yourself about it, Vegita. I’ll take care of
things if these people get out of hand. I’ve got Coran, Okuda and Rikkuum
cooling their heels in the next room, and I’ve got a master dining room full of
New Alliance types downstairs eating up half our stores for this winter. So, you
and I will talk later. Okuda will fix you all up if you want to come downstairs
and help out if Prince Jeiyce’s boys decide to become unpleasant.”

He left Vegita’s bedside and tapped lightly on the door of the
adjacent suite. Coran burst into the room with Rikkuum and Okuda at his back.

“How long?” Vegita asked Coran curtly when Bulma’s father had
left them.

Coran looked uneasy. “I know it has been more than a few
weeks,” Vegita prodded. “I was aware at times, though I could not move or
wake.”

“Five months,” Okuda answered without expression. “They do not
know why, but their medicine is relatively primitive.”

Five months unconscious. Vegita had an idea as to the why of
it. He somehow knew without any evidence to have led him to this conclusion that
his long coma had been somehow a product of the too-deep bond with Bulma. He had
been well enough while he was hale and strong in body, but when he had been
weakened by his injury during the crash, that tie must have…have pulled him down
into the silent stillness of her madness.

Bulma…Beloved…

 

He wrenched his mind away from that grief, forcing it to the
emergency at hand. “How many of them are there?”

“Perhaps six thousand,” Coran said grimly. “They arrived in a
large Maiyosh-jin troop carrier. They must have had a real hope of finding the
children here to have sent so large a fighting force. Jeiyce’s pet Aquir-jin,
Dodoria, leads them.”

Vegita’s blood thinned to ice.

Crawl for me, you little Saiyan shit! Great booming
laughter and the white-hot agony of a razor-barbed whip falling again and again
and again. Beg me to stop, boy. Beg me, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll let you
sleep a bit…
And the unrecognizable sound of his own voice, pleading, wailing
like the broken, mad child he had become—

He was growling low in his throat like froth-mad animal.
“Dodoria.” He heaved himself out of the bed and stood on unsteady legs. Another
half year spent lying on his fucking back! Another long road back to strength,
back to health. Okuda reached out a steadying hand as the room began to tilt
sharply to one side. “I will kill him!” Vegita hissed. “I will—”

“My Prince!” Okuda gripped him hard around the shoulders,
braving the actual act of physically restraining his sovereign that the other
two had not dared. “Hear me! We may fight if it comes to it, but if we are lucky
it will not come to a fight. The force Dodoria has brought is a full compliment
of fighting men. These Chikyuu-jin have no more ki than a pack of Madrani.

We are outnumbered, and we are no match for even one of them as
we are now!” Vegita froze, and even Rikkuum seemed to sense the red haze of
blood rage building inside his Prince, for the big man drew back a few steps.

“Nissan—” Coran began. But Okuda was not finished.

The younger man’s face was hard, cold, without so much as a
flicker of emotion, as he spoke the next words. “We cannot win with strength, so
we must be cold and clever. And your Lady would not thank you if her father were
killed while he is under your protection, Ouji-sama.”

He could sense the others holding their collective breath,
while he closed his eyes, trying to steady his own breath, trying to force down
the insane rage at having been spoken to thusly by his own servant long enough
to think. To think. What had his woman told him once? Something about counting
from one to ten. He tried that, still trembling with anger that Articha’s son
had dared to lay hands on him, had spoken to him as though he were an
addled-mind child. Your Lady would not thank you if her father were killed
while he is under your protection, Ouji-sama.

 

He took one more deep breath. Nothing Okuda had just said was
anything other than a hard truth. They were outnumbered. They had no fighting
power. They had no ship. He must see the old man back to his woman safely.
So…so, they must be clever. He opened his eyes and fixed Articha’s youngest son
with a black angry stare

“Take your hands off me, soldier,” he said harshly.

He and the other man were still nose to nose as Okuda slowly
released him. The younger man’s face was mild, without anger or apology, as
though they had just been discussing the weather. “My father once told me,”
Vegita

said coldly, “that your mother was the kind of woman who always
would tell him the truth as she saw it. Even if speaking that truth meant her
own life. He said, ‘Such a vassal is to be valued, boy. So, try not to kill her
when she tells you what you do not wish to hear.’”

One corner of Okuda’s mouth quirked minutely. “My life is yours
to take or to command, Ouji-sama. But you should wait to kill me until after we
have dealt with Jeiyce’s lackeys.”

Vegita stepped back and stood straight. “I will think on it.
Perhaps I will only beat you bloody.”

“Do they still mean to fight, Coran-san?” Rikkuum asked a
moment later, his heavy features twisted in confusion. His frown deepened when
the three Saiyans burst into a bark of short, growling laughter.

“This is Briefs-san’s bit of cleverness,” Coran stepped
forward. He held what looked to be a small holo-projector in his hand. “Dodoria
and his warriors are all equipped with scouters, but we—we will not register
on them.” He seemed to swallow before going on. “That is an advantage, in a
sense, as we will be all but invisible to them. These holo-projectors will
project an image that will rearrange our features and mask our tails and hair.
Jeiyce’s men will think we are Chikyuu-jin senshi. We are still strong in close
quarters, strong enough to put a fist through the heart of most of the men
Dodoria has brought with him.”

Vegita strapped the holograph around one wrist, and nodded
grimly. “We will watch and look for a way to take them at unawares, but if they
attack, I command you to guard the old man with your lives.” He did not add that
he would have cheerfully given the rest of his woman’s suicidally gullible race
to Dodoria’s tender mercies.

No. They were not gullible, only ignorant. They had been purged
by Saiyan hands. Why should they trust a Saiyan’s word that Jeiyce’s men would
betray them to death or slavery?

The corridor outside of Vegita’s bedchamber led them to a
mezzanine that looked down on a great hall. It was improbably huge, almost as
large as the King’s Hall on Vegita-sei though had been, and at the moment,
seemed to be accommodating the entirety of the surviving populace of this world,
and the bulk of Dodoria’s men. Which put the tally of heads below them at
something approaching 16,000 warm bodies.

“He took this hall from one capsule,” Okuda said softly. Vegita
could hear the quiet awe in the other man’s voice. “He told me he built it years
ago for some great party, and nearly forgot about it until a week ago. He set in
off in the center of their main dwelling complex and the rest of the building
simply expanded to accommodate the change. I cannot follow the mathematics
behind how it was done.”

They walked slowly down the great staircase that curled upward
into the upper levels of the household like a giant serpent. The landing found
them dead center of the crowd of happily mingling Chikyuu-jin and their
‘visitors’.

“…and your coming is like an answer to a prayer,” a smiling
yellow-haired woman was telling a Maiyosh-jin soldier as they brushed past. She
drew one finger tentatively down her companion’s exposed forearm. “So, tell
me…are you that color all over?”

Coran snickered audibly beside him, then paused, his body
tensing. Vegita followed his gaze and bit down on his own tongue in effort to
keep from leaping across the throng like a howling madman.

Dodoria was less than twenty meters away, seated at a
circle-shaped high table that stood upon a raised dais half again the height of
a man, and thus removed from the general crowd. The Aquir-jin was feasting like
a starving Saiyan, his bloated pinkish face pulled into an obscene parody of a
smile.

And on his left hand, sat Bulma’s father. Vegita could hear
Briefs speaking animatedly, as he and the others drew near, pushing their way
through the press of bodies a little too fast to seem like men casually crossing
the hall. The old man gave the appearance of a man on the drunken side of tipsy
as he ambled from one subject to the next in a charming, friendly, almost
dotty-seeming fashion, that Dodoria had apparently taken at face value. But as
Briefs caught Vegita’s eye as the Saiyans approached and slowly climbed the
little stair to the top of the dais, Vegita did not mistake the look of cold,
sober warning.

“Oh, look here!” Briefs exclaimed happily. “Dodoria-san, you
haven’t met my son yet.” The old man motioned vaguely for Vegita and the others
to sit down in one of the empty chairs to his left. A few seats over, the
Chikyuu-jin warriors, Krillan and Yamcha, had tensed visibly. Vegita did not
sit. He could barely breath with the effort it took to keep any semblance of
calm. “This is Trunks,” Briefs beamed proudly. “He’s got a bit of a temper, but
he’s a good boy all the same. Are you and your friends keeping out of trouble
tonight, son?”

“As best we can, Ottousan,” Vegita said with deadly softness,
not taking his eyes from the Aquir-jin’s face. Dodoria was regarding him with
amused condescension. He could see his own false reflection in the small twin
mirrors of the ‘Vice Chancellor’s’ eyes. Blue eyes beneath a soft fall of
lavender that was the same shade as Briefs own faded hair. “I wished to meet our
guests.”

“Well, let me make introductions all the way around,” Briefs
began. “You know Yamcha and Krillan, and all the others from here in West
Capital. This is Satan-san from New World City in the south —did I get your
city’s name right, Satan-san? I’m terrible at names. We’ve not had any real
contact with them since we discovered that other people had survived in the old
king’s deep fallout shelters built during the cold war with the Red Ribbon Army.
They just contacted us three or four months ago.”

Satan was a barrel-chested, burly man, with heavy, frowning
brows under a matted swath of tightly curling black hair. Apparently, life had
been harder in the south since the purge. He and his small entourage looked like
half-starved pack carnivores. Without the benefit of Briefs’ sheltering bunker,
his encapsulated stores of food and clothing, they had most likely spent the
last decade surviving on rodents, insects, and the carcasses of their own dead.
And the animal skins they wore, the lean look of their hard, dirty faces, said
that they had yet to accept the charity of their neighbors.

“I have no interest in pleasantries, Briefs,” Satan’s deep
voice was not quiet rude, but it held no note of friendliness. “I am here to see
that you don’t speak for all of Chikyuu and turn down what may be our only hope
of survival.”

“He was a lot friendlier two months ago when came begging for
penicillin to treat his daughter’s fever, wasn’t he, Jissan?” Yamcha said
darkly.

Satan rounded on him, but Briefs held up a quelling hand.
“Gentlemen. We’re getting off topic here. And Yamcha-kun—if you can’t be
polite to our guests, I’m going to have to send you away from the table like I
did when you were a boy.”

Yamcha said something under his breath in Chikyuu-jin that
sounded like ‘gomen’, and crossed his arms.

“Now, what was I saying?” Briefs frowned. “Oh yes,
introductions. Trunks-kun, this is Dodoria-san, Vice-Chancellor of the New
Alliance of Worlds. He’s just been telling us that Chikyuu falls directly inside
the galactic quadrant of his new governorship. How does this new government
work, Dodoria-san? Were we supposed to vote on our terms of membership, or is it
just automatic?”

Dodoria gave him an oily grin. “Annexation is automatic for all
worlds who have yet to develop space travel. The new senate has decreed that all
worlds and peoples who have neither the technology nor fighting power to defend
themselves against aggressors be taken under the protective wing of the regional
governors for their own safety…if they prove themselves loyal to the
Alliance.”

“You’ve talked all night between helpings of our food about how
it would be in our best interest to agree to the annexation of Chikyuu,” a
Chikyuu-jin woman of middle years with skin the color of polished blackwood
said. “But the gist of what you’ve saying, Dodoria-san, is that we are yours to
do with as you see fit. What do we gain if we agree to be your obedient
satellite world?”

“More importantly, what will you do if we refuse? Krillan asked
quietly.

Dodoria put down the plate he had been eating out of as though
it were a trough, and motioned to motioned to the small group of Maiyosh-jin
warriors who stood on the edge of the dais. They drifted over with a sense of
casual danger implicit in their every move, taking up standing positions all
around the table. A scar-faced warrior with the fiery claw insignia of the Red
Demons burned into the breast of his armor took a place at Dodoria’s right
shoulder, half a meter from where Briefs sat. Far too close. Vegita had a sudden
mental image, as clear as a waking dream, of the Maiyosh-jin reaching out and
casually breaking the old man’s neck, of Dodoria’s rumbling, malicious laughter.
“Something very like that,” the dream Dodoria chuckled.

Vegita stepped forward and took up a place behind Briefs,
giving the Maiyosh-jin a warning stare that had turned lesser men’s bowels to
water in the past. The Maiyosh-jin only sneered, unafraid. Why should he fear,
Vegita thought bitterly. The red bastard could sense no fighting power in him.
None at all.

But Dodoria made no move to command the warrior at his
shoulder. His squinting, piggish gaze was fixed on Vegita. “Your son seems to
mistrust us, Briefs-san,” he snickered. “Well, now…first, let me say that I’ve
not had a meal like this in many a year. I’ve a mind to offer your chef
employment on my private staff before I leave. On the matter of what-ifs—well,
I prefer to keep unpleasant possibilities in the realm of maybe unless someone
forces my hand. I wish Chikyuu well. I truly do. But this world is in a very
touchy situation, politically speaking. Tell me, Briefs-san,” Dodoria leaned
forward, leering pleasantly at the older man beside him. “What became of the
three Saiyans you shot out of the sky five months ago?”

“Well,” Briefs said without missing a beat, “one of the young
men died of his injuries shortly after they crashed. The other three…” He looked
pained.

“There was a mob,” Yamcha said bluntly. “We recognized them by
their tails as the same race that purged our world, and our people went nuts.
They drug them out of their holding cell and burned them alive. That’s how most
of our families died, you know, during the purge. They were burned alive. I’d
say that was pretty just in the long run. They died the way they killed.”

“We have heard that two survived,” the Red Demon at Dodoria’s
shoulder said.

“I don’t know who would have said something like that,” Briefs
looked innocently perplexed.

“I did!” Satan snapped. “I heard it from your own people. They
said you’ve been real sneaky about it, kept the bastards out of sight for the
most part, but that you kept at least one of them alive for sure. They described
the one they saw to a tee! Said he had black, spiked hair and a tail, and that
he could fly like a goddamn bird.” Satan nodded to Dodoria. “Your man Tresha
here told me you wanted a sign of loyalty, that we’d have a cache of your
medicines and foods the moment you took us on as a protectorate.” He jerked his
head at Briefs. “To hell with this old fool! I speak for my people and we are
ready to live like civilized men again. We’ll give you whatever fealty you want,
Dodoria-sama. A little freedom is a small price to pay to keep our children from
starving this winter.”

“The ‘Saiyan’ your spy saw was me, you stupid son of a bitch,”
Yamcha said, his voice dripping with disgust. “I have black spiky hair
and I’m as Chikyuu-jin as you are! The ‘tail’ your friend saw was the end of my
gi sash!” He stood, pushing his chair back with a clatter and rose two meters
into the air, hovering, before he levitated back down into his seat. “Most
Chikyuu-jin can’t fly, can’t harness their own ki to so much as light a match.
But I can.”

“So you can,” Dodoria remarked.

Behind him, Tresha tapped the advanced setting on his scouter.
“He’s got a very high reading, first string warrior status. But the pattern of
his ki signature is consistent with the other natives. He’s Chikyuu-jin.” The
Maiyosh-jin shrugged. “You see this a lot of times in species that are on the
evolutionary brink of ki sensitivity. He’s just precocious for his kind.” Tresha
eyed Satan and shook his head in disgust. “I think this Chikyuu-jin Satan is a
fool who wouldn’t know a Saiyan from his own anus.”

The smaller Chikyuu-jin warrior, Krillan, made a noise that
sounded like muffled laughter. Satan only sputtered indignantly, though he said
nothing in his own defense. He had just enough intelligence to sense that these
smiling invaders would think nothing of killing him. Less than nothing.

“He is a fool to offer any man his unconditional service,”
Vegita said. He had not taken his eyes from the Maiyosh-jin, Tresha. “Only a
coward would sell himself and his kin into slavery for a the luxury of a full
stomach.”

Satan’s chest puffed up belligerently. “I won’t be lectured
about a full stomach by some spoiled rich man’s son! You have no idea—”

“Close your mouth, you ki-less animal,” Tresha said coldly.
Satan’s mouth gaped. Then he did as he was told. If nothing else, the man had
good survival instincts. But then, the threat in the Maiyosh-jin’s flat, almost
off-hand command was hard to mistake.

“Is that what we are to you?” The bald warrior, Krillan, asked
quietly. “Animals? My fighting power is as high as Yamcha’s. Am I still an
animal, or is it just Satan-san and all the other members of my race who can’t
manipulate their own ki?” He sounded earnest, not angry. But there was an odd
note of pity in his voice.

The Maiyosh-jin shrugged, and incredibly, seemed a little
uncomfortable under the bald Chikyuu-jin’s steady gaze. “It’s just an
expression.”

“You just fought a war to free your people from the Saiyans,”
the smaller man went on. “I bet the Saiyans thought of your people as animals,
didn’t they? How can you turn right around and do the same to someone else?”

The Maiyosh-jin’s expression flickered with a ghost of shame
for a brief instant, then he set his jaw. “I meant that man in particular, not
all your race. We are not enslaving you, however you chose to see it. If you are
not in league with the enemy, we will offer you our protection and
guidance.”

“Can I ask another question?” Krillan said politely, glancing
between Dodoria and the Red Demon. “You came here looking for Saiyan survivors
of your manufactured plague. Have you found any up until now? And what did you
do with them when you caught them?”

“We have found quite a few who survived the contagion,” Tresha
said with an unpleasant smile. “Several hundred, initially. The plague burned
out the ki centers of their brains, so they aren’t much of a threat to anyone.
But you Chikyuu-jin, who have suffered a Saiyan purge like so many other peoples
throughout the galaxy, will be happy to know that we did not kill them. We have
gathered the bulk of the survivors in a great circus on a world called Shikaji.
People come from all over the galaxy to…participate. To have a bit of sport with
them. They have to be restrained at all times from taking their own lives, and
most of the adults have simply pined and died after a few months of this sort of
attention. So, we are always looking for more.”

“What do you do to them?” Okuda’s voice was so soft it was
barely audible.”

“Everything we can think of,” Dodoria chuckled, shoving another
ladelful of food into his pink maw. “We have served them all as they served us
for many a decade. The males and the little ones stay in the main arena, and
we’ve built a brothel for the surviving females. Tresha and his men discovered a
while back, when we had one of their high ranking female soldiers as our guest
for a short while, that their women make fine whores.”

A soft sound of breath forced out through clenched teeth behind
him. Okuda had driven an elbow hard into his elder brother’s gut to keep him
from flying across the table in a shrieking blood rage. Yamcha had bent down
beside Coran, was speaking softly and intently to him.

“Well, friends?” Briefs said quietly, turning a suddenly stone
cold sober gaze on each member of the assembled Chikyuu-jin elders seated around
the table. “Has everybody heard enough?”

“So,” Dodoria murmured. He drew a cloth across his mouth,
wiping it clean, and pushed back his plate. “There’ll be no live Saiyan prizes
to take home to Jeiyce and his lads. It was probably foolishness on our part to
think that a people purged by the monkeys would have harbored them for any
reason. Ah, well. We’ll move on to the next order of business. Briefs, my good
man, tell me…Have you heard from your lovely daughter recently?”

The old man’s face showed only a vague mix of surprise and
confusion. He could have set a son of the old Trade Houses to school in the way
he schooled his expressions to mislead, Vegita thought as he stepped forward,
now nearly breast to breast with the Maiyosh-jin. He turned his cold glare from
Tresha to the Aquir-jin.

“Briefs-san’s daughter and wife died in the purge.” Yamcha
nearly spat across the table at Dodoria. “Is this some strange alien idea of a
joke!?”

“They tell me her name was ‘Bulma’,” Dodoria leered. “An
unusual name. And the surname ‘Briefs’, is it also uncommon on this world?” His
smiled widened, baring the needle-sharp teeth that gave him the look of a
grinning sea shrike. “Play time is over, children. I think some of you know very
well that Bulma of Briefs House, Bulma of Chikyuu, Bulma the Mastertech and
whore to the Saiyan no Ouji, and Bulma traitor to the Red Network is alive and
well and on the run from the New Alliance. I think you, old man, may even know
where she is. Now, I have several choices to offer you fine people. If one of
you knows the location of Briefs’ errant daughter, and tells me, and this
information proves to be true—I will consider it an act of good faith and take
this world under the benevolent wing of my governorship. Trust me in this—I
will find out what you know and how much. Now, it may be that no one here
knows a damned thing about what your world’s most infamous daughter has been up
to these last ten years. If, when I have questioned all of you and a suitable
number of your folk, I am convinced that this world has had no contact with the
‘Saiyan no Ojo’, and knows nothing—well then, I will still extend the hand of
charity to your foundering people. On the condition that Master Briefs here
accompanies us back to Shikaji.” He smiled into the stricken faces of the
Chikyuu-jin around the table, his piggy gaze halting on Briefs. “I am betting
your pretty daughter, wherever she may be hiding, is monitoring hyperlight
transmissions constantly for information on what is going on in the rest of the
galaxy. If we advertise that you are our guest, I think she may just come to
Shikaji to save her dear father from execution.”

“You’re probably right,” Briefs said, not a trace of good humor
left in his face. He turned his gaze on the other Chikyuu-jin seated around the
table. “Are we agreed, then?” One by one, they all nodded silently.
“Satan-san?”

The burly man bowed his head, inclining the upper half of his
body forward in a formal bow. “I have been a fool, Briefs-sama,” the man said
with a chagrined humility that Vegita would never have believed possible from
such a worthless blowhard.

“A fool couldn’t have kept his people alive for the last ten
years, Satan-san,” Briefs said kindly. A small alarm, the shrill beep of a
pager, sounded. Briefs raised his forearm, checking the message readout on the
tiny comm link around his wrist. “My goodness. That kind of perfect timing
almost never happens in real life.” He turned back to Dodoria and smiled. “I
think we’re all agreed to reject your offer, Dodoria-san.”

A cool blue light lanced through the width and breadth of the
great hall, and the sound of hundreds of clattering thuds ricocheted off the
walls as every armored soldier in sight collapsed unceremoniously. Dodoria’s
head had fallen forward into the pudding a whirring servo-bot had placed in
front of him a moment before. Tresha was lying on his back, out cold. Gods…they
were all out cold! Every man Dodoria had brought with him.

Every man except Tresha.

The Maiyosh-jin met his eyes, shock already bleeding away into
anger, and sprang to his feet. He began to raise his hand in reaction, a
needlepoint blast aimed at Briefs’ heart. Vegita closed the distance between
them in half a second, both arms gripping the man in a bear hug, clamping the
Maiyosh-jin’s arms down to his sides. In the next half-instant, he staggered
them sideways, off the edge of the dais and onto the floor. Away from Briefs. A
burning knife of pain shot through his stomach, but he did not let go. Another
second later a cry of rage from Rikkuum and Articha’s sons, and Tresha was
hauled up by his neck and shaken like a rodent in a predator’s mouth. Rikkuum
dealt the Maiyosh-jin a ringing blast that made Vegita’s ears ring, collapsing
the Red Demon’s ki shield. And the same instant, Coran slashed Tre