Individual battle space pods were one of the more inventive applications of Saiyan space technology. Many species used transport ships that carried their forces along with other, smaller duplicates of themselves, but these ships usually lost quite a bit of drive due to the vast payloads they carried. The Saiyan model, meanwhile, was able to travel for millions of parsecs without losing its fuel supply, was extremely maneuverable, and because of its size attracted no attention whatsoever when it approached a new world to be dominated. After all, most species expected invasion in the form of huge interstellar fleets – certainly not by beings traveling alone and, apparently, unarmed.
The Saiyans used battle pods exclusively when on 'planet clearing' missions for Freeza for exactly that reason - a military force seldom paid attention to small, individual objects that acted like asteroids in a decaying orbit, about to crash on the surface of the planet. Most races just did not anticipate that another species might be willing to smash their vehicles into the planet, nor that they would have a technology that would enable the crafts to survive that kind of impact.
The last attack force to leave Vejiitasei had been led by the crown prince, and had been sent to several distant planets targeted by willing buyers. The campaign was expected to last no more than three days; however, communication with the battle group had been sporadic, and no one really knew when to expect them.
A number of insistent beeps on his console forced one of the many telemetry technicians to take more than a cursory glance at his screen. Frantically he jumped out of his chair and tried to get the attention of his superior. Sliding to a stop in front of the watch commander, he saluted and excitedly said, "Sir! Sir, please – the Prince’s squadron is coming in now – we need to prepare the honor guard for him…"
The commander of the watch looked up in irritation at the soldier who was trying to stand at attention in front of him and simultaneously crane his neck to alert his companions to the Prince’s arrival.
"Stand down, soldier, and look at the itinerary," the commander growled at him. "The Prince’s squadron isn’t due back for another three hours."
"Yes, sir, that’s true according to the original plan, but … but sir, see for yourself – please sir, just take a look here—"
With an exaggerated sigh of exasperation, the watch commander left his position to see what this private was babbling about – and almost had a heart attack when he read the numbers.
"Call up the rest of the guard!" he bellowed, staring at the screen with eyes that appeared to pop out of his head. "Get the target tarps ready – and make sure there’s a guard with a physician at each target. Dammit, man, can’t you pull this data up any faster?" he roared at the unfortunate technician, hitting him on the side of the head. Recovering, the technician tried to comply as rapidly as he could, his fingers flying across the keys which caused the screen display to scroll as if in flight.
The sound of pounding feet and shouted orders reverberated off of the walls of the tech center as the honor guards and physicians ran through the office to the outside, each finally stopping at their designated target tarp. As the final squad took its place, the returning space pods were heard screaming toward their destination and then seen as huge fireballs, streaking toward the ground. A standing shock wave generated by the intensity of the pods’ collision with the ground ran across the landing site as the ground shook and trembled.
Slightly smoking and looking used, the spacepods bounced gently on the tarps, the force of their initial impact absorbed by yet another Saiyan invention. The pod doors quietly opened, allowing their occupants to move from those cramped quarters to the relative freedom of the outside.
The pod with the royal insignia had landed closest to the center door. As its hatch opened, the Prince could be seen scowling, sitting in the pod with his arms crossed. He thrust one arm up at the door impatiently, willing it to move out of his way. When there finally was enough room for him to leave, he practically leaped out of the pod, brushing invisible debris off of his battle armor.
"Welcome back, Sire!" the honor guard said smartly, then snapped to attention. A withering look in their direction was all the thanks they received for their efforts. The physician assigned to the group thought about requesting the Prince to stop for a moment so that he could examine him; however, one glower from the Prince convinced him that it would be more prudent to wait – unless he fancied examining him with no arms.
Scowling, Vejiita stalked from the pods to the building, followed closely by the other soldiers in his squad. Nappa pushed his way to the front of the crowd and strode at the side of the royal child.
"Sir, that was an excellent raid!" Nappa enthused, looking down at Vejiita. "Your strategies were perfect for subduing that planet." A nostalgic, ruthless look twinkled in his eye as he said, "The way those things ran right into us, exactly as you had predicted …"
"Yes, I know, Nappa," Vejiita said with some annoyance, "I planned it that way. A minimum of mess, no fuss, no casualties – not even a scratch on any Saiyan. And the planet is just fine for occupation." Nappa had moved ahead of the Prince and held the door to the telemetry office open for him. "Lord Freeza should be satisfied," Vejiita continued, snorting his disgust as he strode through the door, "but I would have preferred something more challenging. Some place where the inhabitants would actually fight back, rather than running away. Pathetic." He glared at the occupants of the office as he walked down the corridor; all the technicians and staff suddenly became intensely interested in whatever was directly in front of them, not looking to the left or the right.
"I’m going to my quarters, Nappa," the prince said shortly, giving the burly Saiyan a sharp look. "I’m going to get the stink and the dirt of that planet off me, and then I’m going to eat. And then," he said, his eyes narrowing, "we’ll see what kind of progress Raditz has made with that Guardian woman. That should be interesting." He shifted his gaze to Nappa, frowning. "Make sure you’re at my training room in an hour, baka. Don’t be late."
Nappa nodded, opening the door from the telemetry building that led to the common hallway. "Yes, sir – I’ll be there," he agreed, watching the Prince stride swiftly down the corridor toward the palace rotunda. When he felt the Prince was far enough away from him, he scowled at his back, muttering, "Damn woman."
Artifacts on Vejiitasei were few and far between – there were several museums and historical sites, but for the most part the Saiyans lived in the present, content to recall their glory days from their collective memory.
However, there were some historical items that did find their way into the palace complex; large stained glass windows from their artisans, depicting scenes from famous battles; furniture that was both functional and decorative that had been used in some of their larger campaigns; paintings and statues that commemorated victories over weaker races.
The rotunda of the palace complex contained many of these types of pieces, tucked into the nooks and crannies of the odd-shaped structure. Typically a busy, bustling place, the rotunda was located almost in the middle of the palace complex, and had the added attraction of backing up to a large, untamed garden that led directly to one of the only forests left in the capitol city.
As Saiyans and their subordinates swirled through the rotunda, several women dressed in plain, comfortable tunics and pants stood quietly next to an old weapons cabinet, tucked into one of those unobtrusive corners. Had one of the Saiyans been observing them, they would have noticed that, one by one, the women appeared to magically disappear. The observant Saiyan would also have noticed that this phenomenon happened not once, not twice, but many times during the day – so much so that the average Saiyan would probably have wondered how all those women could possibly hide behind that cabinet.
A slight woman with medium length red hair, wearing a loose gray tunic and pants, slowly wandered across the rotunda, keeping her eyes averted from most of the Saiyans and her hands clasped in front of her. She walked over to the weapons cabinet and stood there, out of the way of most of the foot traffic, as if admiring the craftsmanship of the piece. She then slipped toward the back of the cabinet, took a quick look around, pushed slightly against the side of the piece and disappeared.
"Skillfully done, Beryan," a dry voice called to her.
"Thanks," Beryan replied, an edge to her voice. She tossed her head irritably, throwing her excess hair away from her face, exposing snapping, multicolored eyes. A frown drew furrows between her eyebrows as she said, "Someone should stand next to the door here, so that people don’t accidently fall in. It wasn’t even locked, for Kami’s sake …"
"No kidding," Stranna said, her disembodied voice coming from behind what appeared to be a large, intersteller ship control console. As Beryan looked around, it was quite apparent that this was not the typical weapons cabinet interior. In fact, Beryan had pushed into the Guardian’s most treasured secret – their Time and Relative Dimensions in Space machine, or TARDIS.
Thanks to the temporal engineering skills of many of the women, but most especially Beryan and Theo, the TARDIS had been built practically under the noses of the Saiyans in plain view. It was ‘transcendentially dimensional’ – essentially, larger on the inside than on the outside. The materials required to build the machine had been stolen from the Saiyans themselves, including the Zyton-7 crystals needed to power it. To their enormous surprise and relief, these crystals were common enough on Vejiitasei, so their largest obstacle to escape had dwindled to a manageable size.
"Here - make sure these are what you wanted," Beryan said, dumping the contents of her hands on top of the control console. An enormous pile of Zyton-7 crystals spilled from her fingers, smoothly lusterous, their facades changing color with the play of the interior light.
The top of Stranna’s head appeared from the opposite side of the console, her dark hair wild around the crown. Her eyes grew huge as she said, nonplused, "Where did you get all of those?"
Beryan shrugged expressively with an ingenious smile. "I stole them, of course. Fortunately, Saiyans are blind as well as dimwitted."
Stranna grabbed them and sighed, distracted. She stared at the console again and said, "Beryan, I don’t understand it … I can’t tell why this dematerialization circuit isn’t working. Everything’s connected, everything else works independently, but … ah, I’ll just have to rip the console apart again … damn, damn …" Still muttering, Stranna slowly slid under the console again.
"Just get it working, please? We’d like to leave sometime this century," Beryan said caustically, shaking her head. She leaned on the console and punched the control for the main viewscreen, still sighing. One side of the inside wall turned opaque, and an image of the rotunda appeared. As she watched the activity, Beryan continued to talk to Stranna.
"Hopefully, we’ll be able to get everyone from research over here within the next hour … and that just leaves the rest of the infirmary staff to go, plus a couple of people still wandering around in the palace, plus Theo. I don’t think that …" and her voice trailed off to silence. After a moment, she said roughly, "Stranna … Stranna, isn’t that the Prince over there?"
A large *thwap* with a resounding groan and fluent cursing in ancient Galactic Standard came from the other side of the console. Stranna’s head again popped over the edge, her right hand massaging her temple, her eyes scrunched in pain, holding an enormous sonic screwdriver in her other hand.
"Where? Where? I don’t …," and she gasped, staring at the screen and drawing her breath in, "…oh, Kami, I think you’re right …."
"Get Yisador, Stranna," Beryan said woodenly, her face drained of color. "Hurry. We don’t have much time."
"Your best effort, woman – I don’t think I’ve seen it yet, have I?" taunted Takuan, stepping lightly to his left. He was in a crouch, his dark eyes fixed on the woman just rising from the floor.
I hate you, you stupid son of a bitch,Theo thought, shaking her head to clear it but only succeeding in getting her hair to fall into her eyes. She drew her eyebrows together in an unconscious, though accurate, imitation of Vegeta’s scowl as she skimmed her mind for his presence. He’s not here, she realized, ready and all too willing to throw caution to the wind. Then the hell with this--you’re going to feel it today, bakayaro.
The last several days had been absolute agony for her. She had improved in body and mind since she had visited her mother – even Raditz had remarked on that – but Takuan had insisted on having at least two and usually three training sessions with her per day. As her exhaustion grew, the grip she forced around her temper loosened, so much so that at this morning session she no longer cared if anyone realized her psychic potential.
"Oh, no, sensei," she said tightly, drawing herself up to her full height, her eyes blazing. "You haven’t seen my best effort. As a matter of fact," she snarled into his face, "you’ve never seen my best effort." With that, she spun and attacked him full force.
As she was spinning, she reached out with her mind and accessed Takuan. Laughingly simple, she thought derisively as she executed a perfect flying sidekick with a backfist to the face. As she spun to attack him again, she accessed the gross motor control center in his brain and essentially caused a short circuit. As Takuan, shocked, lost control of his legs and arms, Theo came down with a flurry of punches and kicks, landing them with deadly accuracy on his face and his midsection.
Start bleeding, smart boy, she grinned to herself, drawing her arm back to smash him in the face again, tweaking neurons in his brain, causing him to momentarily lose sight of her. He stumbled and she flew at him, viciously slashing with everything she had, pummeling him to the ground. He rolled and blindly kicked out, knocking her off her feet, sending her sprawling. As he gained his feet again, she growled dangerously at him and sprang like a wild animal. Theo mentally reached out, not bothering to disguise her intentions, and pulled at his motor center, causing his arms and legs to spasm uncontrollably as he toppled again to the ground.
You’re dead, you bastard, she thought incoherently, feeling a savage bloodlust well up from her soul, clamoring for his life. As she leaped forward to snap his neck, she felt a persistent itching in the back of her mind, one that refused to subside. Mama, she thought angrily, go pester someone else and leave me alone – I’m busy right now.
Yes, but I’d prefer that you NOT kill your sensei. That thought, coupled with the sensation that her breathing passages had been choked off, stopped her in her tracks. She stood over Takuan, clutching at her neck, her eyes wild, then slowly sank to her knees in the middle of the training room floor, wheezing.
And am I to understand that your mother speaks to you this way as well? I was told that it was impossible for you people to speak to each other when you’re wearing the collars. Her face was turning a most unhealthy shade of blue and she had collapsed on her side, shaking. The small figure of the Prince sauntered onto the training room floor, coolly watching her struggle. We must have been misinformed, ne?
As quickly as it had started, the grip on her throat was loosened. Great, gasping breaths rasped through her lungs, and she was aware of nothing other than how sweet and painful it was to breathe again. Her legs drawn up to her chest, she rolled to her knees with her head down, bracing herself on the floor with one hand and clutching at her throat with the other.
"My lord!" Takuan gasped out hoarsely, struggling to regain control of his own arms and legs so that he could rise. "My lord, I had no idea you had returned –"
"So I see," Vejiita replied sardonically, watching the strange tableau on the floor. Takuan finally pushed himself up, standing on shaky legs in front of the prince, while Theo remained where she was, kneeling on the floor with her head bowed, her face hidden by a slight screen of curly red hair that fell across her brow. Keeping his tone casual, Vejiita walked over to where Takuan stood, looked down at Theo and asked, "How is she coming along, sensei? Is she ready for a bout with me?"
Takuan frowned, looking down at her on the floor. "Normally, I’d say yes, my lord – she improved quite a bit while you were away, and had me on the ropes when you came in – but I’m not quite sure what’s wrong with her now. Woman!" he exclaimed, raising his voice. "Get up off the floor and stand in front of your Prince, and hurry it up!"
Trying desperately to keep her mind blank Theo obeyed, scrambling to her feet and trotting over to Takuan and Vejiita. Nothing here, nothing to work with …
"Kneel before your sovereign, woman!" Takuan snapped, cuffing her on the side of the head, driving her down.
Before she could stop it, hot anger bubbled up and over, and she found herself in his mind, neural net in hand, ready to stop his heart with one well-placed squeeze -- until she realized who else was in her mind, watching. Knowing that there was no graceful way to exit, she simply released her grip on Takuan’s nervous system, moved out of his mind and back into her own, quietly praying all the while that just watching her do that would be enough for the Prince.
His eyebrows drew together in a knowing smirk, and his black eyes glittered. Coercing this buffoon to trip over his own feet was one thing, but almost killing him by stopping his heart? That was quite different – that was a skill that took finesse, timing, and mental agility – and something that had almost happened right in front of him, with her collared, of all things. There was no way in hell he was going to let her get away with THAT.
Turning to her sensei he said unexpectedly, "Did you just feel anything unusual, Takuan? Anything at all?" Theo’s eyes shot up to look at the Prince, who smirked down at her.
Takuan looked puzzled. "Why, no sir. Just a little tickle at the back of my head, but I get that all the time."
"Do you indeed?" Vejiita asked, looking meaningfully at Theo. She blanched, swallowing, and returned her gaze to the floor in front of her. Chuckling, Vejiita stepped toward her, grabbed her hair and yanked her head back, exposing her throat. She made a small muffled sound, but otherwise tried to keep what little dignity she had by staying still, her hands clutching the soft material covering the tops of her thighs.
"Come over here, sensei. Use the collar and ask the woman what happened to you during the past ten minutes," Vejiita ordered pleasantly, pulling tightly on her hair. "She’ll tell you." And tell him silently, Vejiita added.
Frowning slightly at Vejiita, Takuan obeyed. He grabbed Theo’s collar, squeezed it between his thumb and finger and gave her the command. Ah, no… Theo’s mind obeyed quickly; as a result, Takuan almost immediately dropped her collar from numbed fingers and backed away, a shocked expression in his eyes. "She … she …," was all he could stutter, curling his lip in fear and anger. "She’s been … playing with me … the entire time I’ve been training her? And …"
"So it seems, sensei," the Prince replied, pushing her head forward roughly and releasing her hair. "She’s been playing that way with all of us – not just you. Get up, woman." His eyes narrowed as they looked at her, assessing , evaluating. "It’s time you play with someone who knows your game."
Theo drew herself erect, glaring at the Prince, but inwardly cowering at the power she felt coming from him. I have no chance in hell of surviving this. She crouched in a fighting stance, trying to send waves of coercion out to intimidate the child, but he simply laughed at her.
"Don’t waste your time, Guardian," Vejiita said, warning her. "I won’t tolerate your mind games now." To emphasize his point, he quickly accessed her mind and expanded his presence there. Theo struggled to push him out, but he was in too many places at once. He had no need for subtlety; brute strength, applied with enough force to any number of nerve centers in her brain, would create a blaze of pain that would have her limp and screaming on the floor in moments, and she knew it. Vejiita gave her a piercing, challenging stare. "If I feel you using one iota of your psychic potential, I will have no mercy. Do you understand?"
"Yes," she said tightly, "I understand," and pulled all psychic emissions into herself, mustering her strength around her center.
"Good," he said, smiling slightly, his eyes cold and calculating. "Then let’s begin. Sensei, feel free to give this woman any advice you think she needs, whenever you think she needs it." And with that, the Prince attacked Theo with a vengeance.
The next half hour was a blur of fear, anger and pain for Theo, especially the latter. The Prince, though quite small and young, was an experienced fighter; again and again he taunted her, setting traps, leaning deceptively close so that she would attack only to find her quarry missing. However, the fact that her sensei fought in much the same way worked in her favor. Once she recognized the pattern and saw the play of moves, she defended herself well. Theo was even able to move under his guard several times and land a few well-placed kicks.
Takuan shouted encouragement to her from the sidelines in the form of insults, starting with things against Guardians in general to very specific, narrow observations about Theo and her fighting style. The more she heard, the angrier she became. She was not even aware of the rage building inside of her, except that she started to see more opportunities to smack that permanent smirk off of Vejiita’s face, something that became her sole focus, the factor that drove her to fight with even more passion, no matter how much pain she had to endure.
Vejiita knew that, too; he knew it because he was still linked with Theo, still had light tendrils sitting in neural ganglia throughout her brain, and was able to experience all the rage, fury, fear and pain she was feeling vicariously. Never had he had any experience quite like this one; while she was a canny opponent, thinking on her feet, she truly was no match for him and he normally would have made short work of her. However, this new window into sensation, where he could feel both her and his experience, was intoxicating; never had he experienced so much power. Vejiita taunted and teased her, scorned her abilities, ridiculed her species, and was rewarded with an outpouring of fury that actually pressed him to work a little bit, to defend himself. He varied the tempo of their clashes, knowing her body was on the brink of exhaustion but sensing there was one more rally left in her.
She had pulled back, panting and wheezing from their last clash, legs shaking, her hands pushing against the tops of her thighs, sweat pouring from her temples, her damp hair in tight, curly ringlets around her face which was suffused with color, looking almost as bright as her hair. Several large bruises stood out on her forearms, showing where she had blocked many of his blows, and one bruise was livid against the white skin of her face, high on one cheekbone. She felt ready to collapse on the inside – everything in her world hurt now, it even hurt to think – but she would never give in, never tell him that. Her eyes glared defiantly as she stared at the prince, barely winded, standing with his tail tucked tightly around his waist and his arms crossed, smirking.
"Here – let me help you, Guardian," he said softly, watching her. "I know you want to fight at least once more – I can feel it. See if this gives you some energy." Without warning, she found the sensations of pain and weariness pushed to the back of her mind – not forgotten, but simply moved aside, to make way for a new tingling, energizing sensation, moving lightly across every part of her body.
She blanched, recognizing the initialization of pleasure centers in her brain and powerless to stop it. "Dear Kami, what ... what are you doing?" she gasped at him, truly shocked, losing her balance and stumbling forward. "You can’t do that – you don’t understand – Kami, stop –"
"You aren’t enjoying it?" he murmured, watching her carefully.
Theo turned an agonized face toward him, horrified. He’s just a child, just a child, her mind screamed at her, he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing now other than it just feels good … he must thing he’s healing me, but he’s wrong … wrong …
"I … please … don’t do this to me," she moaned hoarsely, her body shaking.
Any reply the prince would have made was cut off by the arrival of Nappa in the training room, trailed by a number of other Saiyan elites. Nappa looked typically Saiyan, his brow lowered in a permanent scowl, dressed in new battle armor as were all the other Elites. The little party marched right up to the Prince, not looking left or right, stopped in the middle of the floor and saluted him.
An exasperated Vejiita turned from Theo to look at Nappa, snapping, "You’re late. I told you to meet me here in an hour, not whenever you felt like showing up. And why are these bakas with you?"
Bowing low, Nappa said, "Forgive me, Sire, but your father has requested that you and I accompany him to Lord Freeza’s ship, currently in orbit around Vejiitasei." There was an uncharacteristic edge to Nappa, one that was reflected again and again and again by the other Elite guards, something angry, something dangerous.
Vejiita stood for a moment, looking at his commander, then made a decision. "Fine. We will go in a moment." He turned to Takuan still standing on the edge of the training floor, and said, "I’m placing you in charge, sensei. It’s now your responsibility to insure that she’s well, in both body and mind." Gesturing to him to collect Theo, Vejiita said, "Take her back to her quarters and lock her in there if you must."
Turning to Theo, he said with a sardonic smile, "And you are going to obey him, at least until I get back. Do you understand?"
She nodded, not saying anything, looking at the floor.
He continued, a ferocious grin playing around his lips, "We’ll pick up right here where we left off, Guardian. Be ready." She then felt him gently disengage from her mind, until all that was left was a weak presence, barely stronger than a memory.
Turning on his heel, he marched across the training room floor, his head barely passing Nappa’s waist, but obviously in control of the entire unit. "Make sure that baka Raditz is put on the transport with me," floated back to Theo’s ears, imperious.
She watched him leave the training room suddenly filled with foreboding, a prescient glimpse of the future quickly passing over her, leaving her feeling dry and empty.
"Let’s go, woman," urged Takuan, yanking at her arm, breaking her reverie . "You heard what the Prince said – I’m in charge, and I say we’re leaving." He glared at her, shaking her arm hard. "No funny stuff, either."
Sighing, Theo allowed her sensei to pull her out of the room.