The main character, Theo, is a Matrix Guardian, a race of beings with enormous personal psi potential and advanced time travel technology through their ‘cousins,’ the Time Lords of Gallifrey. At the time of this story, most Guardians have been enslaved for the past seven years by the Saiyans (basically, through an act of pure luck on King Vejiita’s part). Theo is a mature adult, but is still considered ‘young’ for her people – she’s a little over 300 years old.
Theo was hurrying down one of the enormous corridors in the palace, her loose pants flapping gently in her wake, the ends of the belt of her tunic whipping as well, late yet again for another interminable training session. She always moved quickly through this part of the building - it was much too close to the rooms the Saiyans used for recreation for her liking. She had to live with them, but that didn't mean that she had to choose to be around them; in fact, she avoided seeing them at any cost.
With tendrils of her her soft, curly red hair framing her face, she seemed the total antithesis of Saiyan savagery; small, regular features, on a small, unremarkable body. She kept her back straight and head held high as she glided through the hallway with haughty grace, her expression carefully neutral. No need to antagonize or pique any of those brute's arrogant conceit or pride; Saiya-jin were quarrelsome at the best of times, and she did not want to spend any more time in their unholy regeneration tanks if she could help it.
Light streamed into the hallway from several open doors. As she passed through, a bright twinkling around her neck sparkled like an exposed vein of gold. She moved her head slightly and swallowed, feeling the restrictiveness of the collar against her skin and the dull, familiar ache in her soul. The collar prevented her from communicating with any of her kind telepathically; in fact, it prevented her from using any significant amount of power for any purpose whatsoever. The psi power it did permit her to use had to be moderated by one of the Saiya-jin, usually one of the Elites, and use of excessive power was punished immediately and vehemently. Time in the regen tank crossed her mind again and she scowled, remembering.
I hate this place, she thought, raging, powerless in her anger, sweeping her eyes from side to side. Seven years ... seven years of hell ... Kami, haven't we suffered enough?
There was no answer to her silent plea, nor did she expect one. Theo felt that Kami - or whoever or whatever it was that passed for some type of Supreme Being in this universe - had long ago abandoned the Guardians to their fate. Well, damn you too, if you even exist, she thought bitterly. You can ALL go to hell for all I care.
She slowed her pace as she came to a junction in the hallway. On her left side were several large recreation rooms in which some of the Saiyan military were relaxing, lounging and eating. Long, utilitarian tables were set up in uniform rows, chairs pushed neatly under them unless they were in use. Large frosted windows let in most of the light for the room, with several glowlamps on the opposite side creating the rest of the light. When the doors were open (as they usually were) conversations from the rec room could be heard in a small alcove outside. The alcove was attached to the room by several etched glass doors; it was possible to see through the glass, but it was difficult for someone in the recreation room to see exactly who was there. The odor of cooked food wafted into the hallway; it normally drew any number of healthy Saiyans after their duty day. The right hand side of the hallway had several corridors emptying into it, plus a small stairway that stood unobtrusively across from alcove.
Theo found her feet taking her over to the etched glass in the alcove, where she stopped and watched the warriors in the room. How nice, Theo thought sarcastically, a place where I can see all the wondrously intellectual things these people do with their personal time ...
Pausing for a moment, Theo regarded the Saiya-jin in the recreation hall discreetly, contempt written plainly across her face. Ugly dim-witted beasts, she thought. All the anger, frustration and general unhappiness she had been feeling recently bubbled inside her, looking for some release. Had she been Saiyan, it would have been simple -- just choose the largest bully and beat him to a pulp. But I'm not Saiyan, and they'd kill me. She grimaced as she amended, no, they wouldn't kill me -- they'd keep me just this side of alive, heal me, then beat me some more, just like ... She intentionally stopped there, unwilling to relive that experience, a strong wave of fear and loathing passing over her.
As she watched them relax and talk with each other, an idea began to form and take shape in her mind, animating her color shifting eyes, the most obvious sign of her Guardian heritage. Life is much too dull and routine for them, she thought with a devilish gleam. Let's see what happens if I do THIS .... Looking inward, she summoned a whisper's breath of power from the wellspring - just below the sensing threshold, a quantity she had painfully learned to control her first several years on the planet. The amount she was using was so slight as to be overlooked by the coarser of the Saiyans in the room, especially those of the lower class. Those more sensitive to chi might notice the surge but, with usual Saiyan arrogance, would dismiss it immediately because it was not 'powerful.' And that's just the way I like it, she thought, venom clouding her mind. Let them think I'm the weakest, stupidest creature on the planet ...
As she pulled the power into herself, a faint vision of her mother appeared in her mind, agitated and upset.
"Theo! Theo, what’s wrong with you – are you trying to get us all killed? Don’t use the power – you have no protection! It only takes one of them to discover that you can use it alone, and then we're all in danger. These people aren't as stupid or careless as you may think. Theo, child, don't …."
"Mama, just go away and leave me alone," Theo muttered darkly, shutting her out, "I know what I'm doing." Shaking her head, she thought crossly how does she do that -- I can't send ANYTHING to anyone who isn't a Saiyan, and there she is, stuck right in my face ... She gently maneuvered herself mentally until she had the raw power exactly in hand. Manipulating it into coercion, a more refined form, she targeted a large male with ferocious, cascading hair in the middle of the hall. Eyes narrowed, she concentrated her thoughts and focused on a tight beam. A familiar tingle at the back of her mind told her she had overcome his mental defenses and made contact, and suddenly she was seeing the room from a new perspective; her vantage point was higher and several Saiyans were crowded around her, pushed against her body.
Ah, no, not MY body -- his body, she corrected herself. But now it's our body, isn't it? A small smile curved across her mouth, barely touching her unfocused eyes. Standing unnoticed in the alcove, she took a deep breath, tightened her awareness and dove into his mind again.
She was in the Saiyan's mind and he didn't even know it. He couldn't feel her fingertip brushes across his synapses, was insensitive to her subtle manipulations near his emotional centers. Also, he had no idea why his companions suddenly annoyed the hell out of him, so much so that he felt constrained to scream and hit both of them so hard that they sailed across the hall and smashed into the outside wall, sliding slowly toward the floor.
"What the ...?" Other Saiyans turned to see the commotion, a few standing and staring, but most either shouting encouragement to those who were picking themselves out of the concrete wall or jeering and making suggestive comments about the pedigree of each warrior. A circle of curious onlookers was forming around the tall Saiyan that threw them; he was snarling, his tail lashing back and forth. Abruptly screaming another challenge at his opponents, he flew at the closest one and began to beat him unmercifully.
Satisfied, Theo withdrew from him and turned her attention to another large male in the circle of onlookers. A shallow dive into his mind produced the same results; with a slight touch of coercion, this male fell to quarreling with his neighbors almost immediately. Similar dips into their minds created the desired effect; soon the room erupted into one enormous brawl, Saiyans howling and flying everywhere. A muffled 'boom!' sounded, followed by a slight slooshing sound; as Theo squinted between flying Saiyan bodies, she saw that one part of the outside wall had come down, bodies laying in the rubble, a slight dust cloud enveloping everything else.
Good, she thought perversely as she watched the mayhem, feeling enormously satisfied, kill yourselves. Do the rest of the universe a HUGE favor. Smiling slightly she turned to leave, but froze in place when unexpectedly she heard a high, piping voice say:
"You shouldn't do things like that."
Theo stopped breathing, petrified, her eyes wide and staring in front of her. Putting her face into what she hoped was a nonchalant expression, she slowly turned around. There were no adult Saiyans in the vicinity, but as she bent her head in consternation, she found herself facing a diminutive child of no more than five years, watching her from the foot of the stairway. His face was solemn, his arms crossed across his chest and his black eyes stared directly at her, challenging her. If his pronounced widow's peak didn't announce who he was, his unmistakable attitude and the power emanating unconsciously from his small frame did.
Breathe, Theo, breathe, she told herself, shivering. Huge crashing noises sounded from the room behind her as she thought dear Kami, it can't get any worse than this . . . "Prince Vejiita," she murmured, kneeling in front of him, fist to the floor, head bent. ... how much did he feel ... damn, I didn't realize there were Elites here ... oh, damn, damn ...
He walked over to her and touched her bent head lightly, his fingers ruffling through her curly red hair. She looked up into the eyes of the child, eyes that were dark and curious and intelligent, so different from the eyes of others of his race.
"I know you," he said, his eyebrows pulling together slightly, remembering. "My father showed you to me. He said you were that Queen's daughter." He shook his head at her in reproof, deepened his frown and repeated, "You shouldn't do things like that."
"No, my Prince," she murmured, shaking her head in agreement, her mind racing. A child, for Kami's sake -- but a child with the potential power that drives interstellar cruisers just circulating in his body, ready to explode; and obviously the ability to sense chi and the use of chi, no matter how minute. She stared at him in silence, wondering what she was going to do. Theo knew it wouldn't do her any good to deny what they both knew was true - that she used the power, and that she used it without Saiyan intervention. Hopefully, she thought, he won't think too hard about HOW that happened. Does he understand exactly what I did to cause that? do they even play mind games here?…Kami, I hope not …
She could feel his mind questing at hers, probing for an entrance, trying to get past her defenses. Willing herself still, she formed smooth walls around her mind, walls designed to keep out the best the universe could throw at her, designed by her own people against every conceivable threat to their safety. At the same time, she realized, despairing, that no matter how strong her defenses were the Prince could still force contact with her at any time just by using the collar. Maybe he doesn't understand ...
His next statement took her by surprise, and showed exactly how much he truly understood and how sophisticated he really was. He considered her seriously for a moment, then said, "The others of your race that I’ve seen have never done anything like that. They’ve done other things – healing Raditz so he wouldn’t have to go into the tanks, or talking mind to mind with others who were off in the Southern continent – but they only did that when asked, and only with Nappa or my father or other Elites around." The child stopped and looked at her again, frowning. "You’re different. You made all the soldiers fight each other, and they didn’t even want to do it. They didn’t even KNOW they were doing it. I could feel it."
He was silent for a moment, regarding her with his solemn eyes, his arms still folded. "You will teach me how to do that," he announced, nodding his head slightly. "Right now."
The sounds of fighting were still coming from the recreation room behind her; some growling, some shouting, the sound of breaking furniture. Theo was speechless, staring at the little Prince. She blanched, feeling fear right down to her bones. "... I ... what ...?"
"You will teach me how to do that … trick … you did. How to make people do things that they don’t want to do, so that they don’t even know they’re doing it."
Theo swallowed conspicuously, her eyes huge in her face, changing colors from deep violet to strawberry pink and back again as she met the steady gaze of the future Saiyan king. I'm in big trouble now, she panicked. He's only five, and he already reasons better than half his father's army. Aloud she said, "But ... Prince Vejiita ... I can't ...."
Sudden pain bloomed along the right side of her cheek and into her jaw as she found herself sprawled on the stone floor, stunned. The Prince stared down at her dispassionately, then turned his head quickly to the left, drawing his eyebrows together in a royal scowl. Theo pushed herself up, her left hand unconsciously massaging the lower part of her jaw, wiping away a small trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth. Drawing a shaky breath, she drew herself up on her knees, keeping her gaze on the floor. She heard rather than saw the Prince turn back to her; at the same time, she finally heard the faint footsteps that had alerted Vejiita several seconds earlier.
"Look at me," he commanded.
Theo raised her eyes to meet his, appalled that she was humbled by a child centuries younger than she and no taller than her waist. Drawing his black brows together in a credible imitation of his father, Vejiita calmly threatened, "If you won’t teach me how to do it, then I’ll make sure that everyone knows exactly what you just did. Everyone. They’ll be surprised when I say that I didn’t have to help you at all and that Nappa wasn’t even here."
Theo thought quickly. "But you're not supposed to be here, either. Won't you get in trouble?"
Vejiita smiled, a cruel sneer that was worthy of his father. "Not at all. I'm the Prince, and I'm supposed to be exploring. You're not even a Saiyan - you're a slave, and you're supposed to do what we tell you to do. And you didn't," he finished smugly. "You used power without anyone there."
Fear and anger at the insufferable child warred inside Theo's mind, throwing common sense away as she rose to the bait. "How do YOU know I did anything at all?" she hissed sharply, her bright eyes fixed on him. "Maybe you're just making it up."
He looked at her coolly. "It really doesn’t matter," he said. "Once I tell Nappa what happened, he’s going to want to know how you did it, so he’ll come and get you and bring you in front of my father." Smiling at her shocked expression, he continued, "And then you will tell my father and every other Elite in the room exactly how you were able to use the power without one of us there. That will certainly be interesting."
She closed her mouth, biting back a sharp retort, staring at him as he looked calmly back. He was right. When it came down to his word against hers, hers didn't mean a thing. What should I do? she thought frantically, staring at him, hearing footfalls grow heavier and closer.
"That's Raditz coming," Vejiita said matter-of-factly. "Are you going to teach me, or not? Because if you won't do it-" He stopped, waiting patiently for her answer.
"All right, my Prince, yes, I agree - I will teach you," she said quickly, her eyes darting back and forth, her mind screaming are you nuts? have you lost your reason? as she continued, "-but not here. We will need to be away from people so you may concentrate," and so they don't notice what I'm doing, she added to herself. Good Kami, exactly what am I doing?
"Agreed," he said, nodding. "We will start this afternoon. Someone will come for you." He backed away from her a few steps, and said, gesturing, "You may get up now."
..this afternoon?, she thought dumbly as she clambered to her feet, her legs shaking. Sketching a slight bow to the figure on the stairs, Theo turned and automatically trotted away, her breath coming in ragged pants, her mind numb.
Oh Kami, she remembered, aghast, I'm late for training, he's going to ... As she ran down the hallway toward the exercise area, awareness of what just happened caught up with her and her face took on a pinched, frightened look. Mama was right, she thought grimly, they aren't all as stupid as they look ...