The inky blackness of space was the perfect foil for Freeza's giant ball of chi. Its flawless surface gleamed in the weak light of Vejiitasei’s sun as it lazily dropped through the exosphere, rolling end over end toward the planet's surface. As it passed through the various levels of atmosphere surrounding the planet it acted as a catalyst, causing concentric rings of ionized gases to expand and flare furiously in its wake. Great ribbons of red, blue and green fire erupted around the sphere, sending fingers of flame streaking across the night sky of Vejiitasei, causing the inhabitants a moment's pause before they turned back to their usual activities.
Glowing like a gibbous moon, the sphere continued its descent to the heart of the planet, passing through the stratosphere and the troposphere, clouds and atmosphere bubbling out of its way like thick pudding. When seen from above, the sphere was minute, almost lost against the vastness of the planet; however, its power was tremendous, pushing ahead of the physical sphere to Vejiitasei's crust, buckling it, causing huge fault lines to erupt and spread across the face of the planet.
Vejiita no ouji was scowling, his eyebrows drawn together so tightly that they appeared to be one joined at the bridge of his nose. His eyes were snapping dangerously and his hands were folded across his chest, drawn into tight fists. Had either Raditz or Nappa been in the room with him, they would have recognized the telltale signs of frustrated royal rage, and would have acted appropriately - meaning, they would have backed away from him as quickly as possible.
”We apologize, Saiyan prince, but we cannot alter our course simply because you feel it would be ‘better’ to do so,” an amused voice rumbled from the comm. A naked, battle-scarred blue head with large, mottled blowholes at the top turned towards him, intelligent green eyes raking over his boy’s body and lingering around his tail. A small smile played around the pilot's lips. “We have our orders.”
The royal child glared, his face darkening with suppressed fury. Not only did these creatures refuse to acknowledge his sovereignty over them – though they did, however, recognize his title, which mollified him a bit – they ignored his obviously superior knowledge of this region, and refused to change their flight plan to account for a large asteroid field directly in their path. While not life threatening, it would obviously make traveling that much more difficult for them.
”Acting like imbeciles and refusing to acknowledge reality is not something I would have expected from Freeza-sama’s men,” the royal child said acerbically, drawing himself up to his full height.
Harsh laughter followed his comment, causing Vejiita to scowl even more fiercely. “You are the one who needs to acknowledge reality, little princeling,” the pilot rumbled again, chuckling in his throat. “You are now one of Freeza-sama’s men, and you are under orders, too. Freeza-sama himself gave me the coordinates of our destination and the path we should take, and I will not deviate from that. So,” he continued evenly, glancing askance at the prince, “get out of my mind and let me get back to work.”
A light color washed into the cheeks of the child as he stared at the back of the comm chair, his eyes hard and flinty with his jaw set in a straight line.
”You can stop trying to get into my mind, too.” The navigator, a creature from the same species as the pilot, turned from his position at the data board to stare at Vejiita. He fixed him with a single, unmoving eye, his other eye socket puckered and empty. “Better beings than you have tried and failed, and the only thing you’re doing right now is pissing me off. Get lost, kid. Go play with your other hairy friends.” He turned back to his board, muttering.
A blue glow enveloped his body as the Prince’s temper hit its limit. Chi started to surge quietly through his arms and gather at his fingertips as his mouth narrowed to a tight line.
”Don’t,” the navigator said softly, not turning around. “Use your head instead and look at your scouter, kid. I’d hate to have to kill you before Freeza-sama had the chance to … ah … use your talents. But I would … make no mistake about that.”
”You’re welcome to try,” Vejiita snarled at him, his hands held loosely at his sides.
The navigator sighed, punched several buttons on the console and turned toward the prince, appearing suddenly old and weary. "Have it your way," he muttered, shaking his head. Faster than the eye could see, the navigator spun from his chair, drove one fist into Vejiita's stomach and punched the prince's jaw with the other, snapping his head back with a sickening crunch. Recovering quickly, Vejiita tried to thrust a blast of chi at him while mentally attacking his psyche, but he was not fast enough. The navigator slapped the prince’s hand out of the way so that the chi blast slid harmlessly away, then smacked him in the face with his elbow several times. Vejiita staggered back, incredulous and angry, ready to power up to kill the man; but one look through his scouter confirmed what had been said earlier. The navigator’s power level was several notches higher than the prince’s level, meaning that if he attacked him he would lose. And he would lose badly.
The boy braced himself and leaned into a guarding crouch, glaring at the alien; however, he made no move to attack him either physically or pyschically. Instead, he waited for his opponent to make the next move.
The navigator stood back, watching him. "Good. You’re not as stupid as you look," he remarked. "Now get out of here and go find your monkey friends, kid. Stay with your own – don’t go looking for the big boys yet."
Vejiita’s eyes narrowed, but he said nothing as he turned and left the comm room, his tail tucked tightly around his waist.
"Freeza-sama hates telepaths and monkeys," the navigator muttered, eyeing Vejiita’s retreating back and reclaiming his seat. "I don’t like them much, either."
The pilot looked at him, a sardonic smile on his face. "But you like me, don’t you, Gahei?"
His companion glared at him. "You’re barely tolerable as a telepath, Gabei. You let him get away with far too much."
"No sense in discouraging him right away," Gabei purred, turning his attention back to the comm. "It’s much more fun when they think they have a chance to win. Besides, this one actually has a bit of talent. He almost got you. " Squinting into the simulator, he continued, "You’d better be careful, Gahei, or else that one’ll come looking for you."
"Not after Freeza-sama’s done with him, he won’t," rejoined the veteran, grinning.
”Watch your step, dear – there are an awful lot of people in here.”
The door of the TARDIS had been pushed open from the outside and several figures slipped through the entrance at once. Meryth walked into the control room first, her stout body leading the way for her charge and a palpable attitude of ‘don’t touch us’ permeating her aura. She held her left arm slightly behind her, as she was guiding someone else through the door. A mask of calm was drawn across her broad features, but her eyes belied her placid exterior – her eyes were exhausted and terrified.
The person behind Meryth paused briefly at the entrance to the control room, but continued in at her gentle insistence. As she walked into the light, all the bustle and commotion in the room came to a shocked standstill as the Guardians saw, firsthand, the wreckage that was their Princess.
Theo blinked, looking across a sea of familiar faces. She was clutching Beryan’s body to her own; the other woman’s arm dangled loosely in front of her, her head was bent down at an odd angle, and her long red hair swayed gently. The front of Theo’s tunic was stained with blood and gore, as were her hands up to her wrists; her hair, once merely curly, now appeared that she had been hit by lightning, it was so frazzled and standing on end; but the expression on her face took everyone aback. Stark devastation shone back at her family and friends, a soul searing pain that she could not hide, not even from herself. Her eyes were bleak and dry, and their color was dark – almost Saiyan black.
”This way, Theo – this way,” Meryth murmured to her, pulling gently at her elbow.
Theo blinked again and obediently started to shuffle after Meryth, Beryan’s body dragging next to her. A pathway through the room appeared for them as women hurried to push back from the odd pair, not wanting to be in their way. As Theo pulled Beryan's body through the crowd, however, she heard someone gasp, "Oh, no!" Seconds later Theo looked up and found there was someone blocking her way behind Meryth, a younger woman who was reaching out to touch Beryan's corpse. Dimly, Theo recognized her as one of the technicians that had worked with Beryan in the infirmary.
”I’ll take her now, Theo,” she said, moving her arms to put them around Beryan, a sorrowful expression in her eyes. “We’ll take care of her.”
Theo’s grip on Beryan tightened; had she been a lioness, her ears would have been flat against her head and her teeth bared. “Leave us alone,” she grated through clenched teeth, emphasizing her point by pulling Beryan’s body away from the girl. Not satisfied, her eyes snapped momentarily, turning into angry green whirlpools as she loomed over the poor woman and threw herself into her mind, mentally shouting get away from us NOW before I kill you.
Whimpering in fear, the technician flinched away from Theo, whispering, “No – no, I didn’t mean – please don’t –“
”Theo! Theo, leave her alone – she’s trying to help you, dammit – leave her alone.” Without warning Stranna’s face pushed centimeters in front of Theo’s so they were nose to nose, her dark hair frizzed and standing almost on end around her head, her eyes mimicking Theo’s violent green, flashing angrily. “Leave – her – alone,” she enunciated clearly, never taking her eyes off Theo, her body blocking the path to the other rooms of the TARDIS.
I could kill you now, Theo sent furiously, transferring her rage to Stranna.
That’s true, but so what? If we don’t get moving soon, we’re as good as dead anyway, Stranna shot back, staring Theo down. And then Beryan’s death would have been for nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Theo had not moved an inch from the time Stranna jumped in front of her, but it was almost as if something had cracked and broken inside of her. A terrible wrenching expression pulled at her mouth, and she looked as though Stranna had struck her on the side of her face.
”Give her up, Theo,” Stranna said softly, reaching for Beryan. “It’s time.”
Woodenly, Theo nodded. Stranna gently moved Beryan’s body from Theo’s side to hers, then quickly shifted her to the waiting technician, giving her a quick nod. Theo watched the transfer, a muscle in her jaw quivering, and watched as the tech took Beryan to the back of the console room through the doorway that lead to the other parts of the TARDIS.
The Guardians in the control room gave a collective mental sigh of relief; they had narrowly escaped the edge of an explosion, and they knew it. Cautiously they went back to their business, most following the tech and escaping into the depths of the TARDIS to make the place “habitable.” Only a few people remained in the forward control room, including Theo.
Standing with Olean at one of the instrument banks, Yisador had watched the entire exchange between Theo and Stranna. Theo might be her daughter, but when it came down to it, Stranna was the one who made a difference to her, not Yisador. A pang hit her heart, but she ignored it.
”Yisador,” a quiet voice said at her elbow.
She started, then looked down into Meryth’s face. “Hmmm?”
Meryth swallowed. “You’d better have a look outside. Don’t use the viewscreen, though; just … open the door.” Her face was pale and her eyes were haunted by dark circles. "See what Theo did."
”Why?” she asked, mystified.
”You’ll see,” was her cryptic response.
Shrugging, she walked over to the main doors while Stranna was prodding, ”Look, Theo, we need your help. We can’t get the demat circuit to work, and …”
Casually Yisador leaned against the door and pulled it towards her, stepped outside and stared in complete shock. It appeared as though a flash flood had washed through the rotunda and had left its flotsam - dead Saiyans - in every nook and cranny. There were piles and piles of corpses everywhere, in every direction.
An eerie thick silence, punctuated only by the whine of insects near the forest garden, blanketed the plaza. Saiyans were lying in heaps ... tall cairns, thick with matted black hair and limbs as large as small trees ... bodies were scattered on top of each other, arms and legs stuck out in every direction. I ... I don't believe this, Yisador thought, appalled. How … ? As her horrified mind began to actually take in the carnage, a low, earthy rumble erupted from the ground in front of her, and the entire rotunda began to rock back and forth, pillars swaying precariously.
"Yisador!" called an insistent, alarmed voice from the depths of the TARDIS. "You’d better get back in here, and shut the door!"
Taking one last quick look around with wide, apprehensive eyes, Yisador vanished into the TARDIS and slammed the door.
As the golden chi sphere burrowed into the planet’s surface, the major continents began to split apart at their fault lines. Portions of the great land masses were thrown against each other by the tremendous forces coming to bear on Vejiitasei, forcing molten magma upward in superheated streams, pouring over exposed lands and bubbling from the depths of its seas. Earthquakes rippled across the surface of the planet in waves, closely followed by intense magma eruptions and the collapse of the planet’s superstructure. Vejiitasei was in its final death throes as the sphere burrowed toward the planet’s core.
A pair of evil, icy eyes set into a elegantly boned face watched the planet’s imminent destruction with undisguised glee. Chortling madly, Freeza leaned forward in his hoverchair eagerly, hungry for devastation and death as he unwittingly broadcast his insanity to the entire solar region. It was loud enough for any chi-sensing being to hear unaided – but for those who were linked to him, either willingly or unwillingly, it was an invasion of their minds and souls.
That blue monstrosity will pay and pay dearly for making me out a fool. No one treats Vejiita no ouji like that and lives – no one.
The Saiyan prince was so incensed at the way the navigator, Gahei, had embarrassed him that he briefly considered two courses of action: blowing the entire ship up, or ordering Nappa and Raditz to attack the alien with him. He rejected both ideas – the former because he felt a strong desire to live within himself, and the second because they might possibly need the navigator during the trip. Ah, but after his trip … now there was a different story.
Vejiita no ouji was not only vicious, but also cruel and calculating. He could wait. He was a patient Saiyan, usually an oxymoron, but in this case entirely true. A large measure of intelligence had been bred into his line; his skill at manipulation, deception and intrigue had been learned in the royal house of Vejiita. His incredible power potential, coupled with his innate cunning, made him a formidable foe.
A large part of his frustration came from his inability to control the creature’s mind. He had found the entrance, and even the key, but had been unable to get into his mind. There must be something else I need to do, he thought. An odd feeling brushed his mind; he could not identify it, but knew it wasn’t his – the mental signature attached to it was different. Understanding dawned and he smirked -- of course – why should I be such a fool? The woman will tell me, and she’ll tell me NOW …
The ground outside the TARDIS was rippling and buckling, pushing the mounds of Saiyan bodies into grotesque positions. Wave after wave of tremors ran underneath the capital city along with a bone jarring grinding noise, almost as if the earth had decided to pulverize everything into fine dust by smashing it to pieces. A powdery spray of volcanic ash was falling from the sky; magma was pouring out of the sides of the mountains surrounding the city, and huge explosions fountained molten rock for hundreds of kilometers in every direction.
Yisador almost fell against the console as she staggered into the main room, reeling from the force of the earthquakes. “Is everyone ready?” she asked breathlessly, steadying herself against the wall to keep her balance, scanning the room. Not waiting for an answer, she nodded and said crisply, “All right, then – let’s go.” She looked pointedly at Stranna and raised her voice, calling, “We should be leaving now, Stranna. We’re ready.”
”No kidding – do you want to get out and push?” Stranna immediately snapped back in fury, her dark hair flying around her face as she whirled from the opposite side of the console to face Yisador. “I’ve had it with this jury-rigged piece of – “
”Well do something to make it work and stop complaining - we've got to get out of here!” yelled Meryth, her voice rising in agitation and fear.
”What the hell d’you think we’ve been doing?” bellowed Stranna, a look of incredulous rage and desperation on her face as she shouted at Meryth. “Did your IQ just drop sharply or something? Charline and I have been trying to get this thing to work for the past two hours!” Her face flushed and her eyes a brilliant pinpoint blue, she abruptly turned to Theo, caught her chin and said right into her face, ”Theo, you must listen. I can’t get the circuit working – you’re going to have to do it.” When Theo didn’t respond, she gave her a little shake and said very clearly and slowly, ”Theo – tell me. How do we repair the dematerialization circuit?”
Stranna groaned in frustration as Theo turned to her, totally absorbed in her own thoughts, frowning. ”Something’s not working. Something’s … not right.”
”Yes, we know something’s not working – that circuit’s not working,” Meryth broke in, her squat body falling into Theo as another huge tremor shook the TARDIS, her florid face agitated. “Yisador, help us …”
But Yisador was paying scant attention to them, as she had just run over to Olean and was pulling her up from the floor. During the time that Stranna was yelling at Meryth and Theo, Olean had collapsed against a small console thrust flush against the wall, her hands shaking, perspiration beading her forehead. Now she was muttering incoherently with her eyes unfocused and cloudy as Yisador wiped her lank red hair away from her eyes.
”Theo – concentrate -- please --“ Stranna implored, grabbing her arms and trying to bring her back to the present.
”It tickles … back here,” Theo continued, pulling one arm away from Stranna’s hand and holding the back of her head. “I don’t –“ She broke off in mid sentence, a strange expression crossing her face, a mixture of horror and anticipation. “Ouji?” she breathed, her eyes rapidly glazing over.
”What?” Stranna gasped, dropping Theo’s arm as if she had been burned.
Woman … woman, answer me.