Anime Etc. / The Otaku Institute / The Otaku Institute Same-Sex Archive / Fanfic Recommendations / Suto-ri Denkaku

The small figure was standing by the doors leading to the tiny garden, apparently unwilling to close and bolt them as was required when training. The room itself was shielded extremely well from the high-energy discharge of chi blasts, but shielding didn't work when the doors were open. The afternoon sun was slanting down through the sparse trees, causing a shimmer of heat to rise from the flagstones ringing the building.

He was standing there, his arms crossed characteristically and his tail lashing slowly back and forth behind him, staring at nothing, deep in thought. A pensive frown creased his forehead.

"Sire?" a voice called behind him. "Prince Vejiita?"

The figure turned its head, looking into the room. A child's face with warrior eyes looked ominously at the soldier who interrupted his reverie; the soldier inwardly flinched, but showed perfect control to his prince. The fact that the Prince was all of five years old did not appear to make any difference to the soldier in the least; no matter what age, the heir to Vejiitasei was accorded the respect and courtesy due the members of the royal house. The fact that the child was a prodigy in both mind and body helped solidify the rumors whispered about him, that he was the incarnation of the legendary Super Saiyan, and that alone insured his treatment by other Saiyans as adult.

Vejiita watched the soldier without inviting him into the room. "What is it?" he snapped.

The soldier bowed to Vejiita and said, "Sire, Raditz requested that my squad attend you this afternoon." He stopped, waiting for Vejiita to comment. When he didn't, the soldier continued, "They are outside the door, and we await your command." He bowed his head, waiting.

"Bring them in," he ordered, "and have them stay at the far side of the room." As the soldier complied, the child Prince sized up each warrior as they entered the room. Good -- no Elites there, he thought, satisfied. It should be quite a surprise for everyone. His mouth quirked as he thought about his idea again, turning it over in his mind.

He remembered his father saying "every encounter with a Guardian turns into a contest of wills. It usually comes down to what WILL you require the female to do, and what WILL she do before ending up in the regen tank."

"If they're so obstinate," Vejiita remarked to the King offhandedly, "why do you tolerate them?"

The King stared coldly at his son. "Pay attention during briefings, brat, and you might learn something. Don't waste my time asking questions any simpleton knows!"

However, the truth was far from simple when it came to that bizarre race of women. Prince Vejiita was young, but even he could see his father's discomfiture whenever anyone mentioned the Guardians. It was odd, he mused - they certainly were a curiosity, a race of weak females that by all accounts had been hidden on that rock for generations, before the Saiyan's 'liberated' equipment picked up their telltale mental signature. As soon as he saw that signature, the King ordered that all the inhabitants of that rock be 'relocated' to the palace on Vejiitasei, which the Saiyans did with some measure of difficulty. The Guardians were not anxious to leave their planet, no matter how inhospitable it appeared to be, and they put up some resistance - that is, until the Elite warriors started slapping collars on every Guardian in sight. Then they had some margin of peace.

And that curious mental signature ... if the woman from this morning was any indication, they were certainly more powerful and much more clever than anyone had previously thought. She started that brawl without any hesitation, he thought. She played trained soldiers against each other so well that an entire squad ignored years of training and fought each other inside the palace walls, never realizing who the enemy truly was.

He shook his head in disbelief. It had been pure luck that he discovered what she was doing, and nothing more. But that peculiar power he felt while he was speaking to her, the power that pulled at his own chi ... that power was potentially the largest he had ever felt, and he had to find it again. To vanquish it - to make it his own - to bend it to his will - to master it totally. He would control it utterly; he was the Prince of Vejiitasei, and his will was law.

Or it will be, he thought wryly. The woman's power would be his to control, but direct methods such as his father's seemed ineffective. He needed to be more circumspect, subtler.

Her thoughts had been as loudly broadcasted that morning as her chi. She thinks Saiyans are stupid, Vejiita thought, scowling at the garden again. We'll see if she still believes that this afternoon...

Peering discreetly out the kitchen door, Yisador watched Stranna distract Raditz. Thank Kami for you, she sent quickly to Stranna. Keep him occupied as long as you can - I must make Theo understand what we need to do.

It's not going to last long, Stranna shot back quickly. Hurry. Aloud, she demanded, "Why would you need to see the Princess, Raditz? She's not your type." Yisador watched as Stranna tossed her long, dark hair over her shoulder and glared at the burly Saiyan, her chin pushed out as her lip curled in a very unladylike snarl.

Yisador took a deep breath and turned back to Theo, a worried, stretched expression causing her eyes to stand out starkly. "All right - there's not much time, so this has to be quick. He has come for you, as I said."

Theo bit her lip and clamped her mouth shut, nodding and attentive.

"Listen." Yisador kept her voice low and spoke rapidly, her eyes repeatedly darting toward the closed door. "We cannot allow the Saiyans to comprehend what we can do. If that happens, we are lost - all of us, every single one, no exception. Do you understand?" Her eyes flashing fire, she leaned toward Theo and hissed, "If you understand nothing else, then understand this. They will have no mercy towards us - none. We will be shackled to them as surely as the sun rises each day, and we will be forced to serve them; and not just with our bodies, either. Given enough time, they'd discover our TARDIS ... and if they ever find out about you..."

Theo shuddered and clenched her hands together in her lap impotently.

Yisador pursed her lips. "Exactly. That is why we cannot allow the Prince to learn how to manipulate the power. At all." She took a deep breath, her small frame pulled together as tightly as a spring, her eyes a deep, snapping indigo as she frowned at Theo. "I don't believe he can, anyway - the Saiyans appear to be built for using 'brute force,' while our way is much more indirect -- so I don't believe he'd be successful even if he tried. However, if he gets even the slightest suspicion how it's done, we won't be able to contain him - he's much too strong."

"Yes, I know," Theo murmured, absently rubbing her neck under her curly hair, remembering the morning.

"Thank Kami you understand, then," Yisador said with undisguised relief. "I was afraid ... well, never mind. Here's what we have to do - we need to monitor your mind while you are with him." Yisador raised one tanned, lined hand against Theo's immediate objections, saying severely, "We're going in, and you're going to allow it. Period. Don't even open your mouth against it."

"Fine," Theo said, subdued. "I'll do whatever I have to do." Something horrible is going to happen, I can feel it ...

"Theo, we've all been through this before," her mother replied subvocally, looking beyond the kitchen to where Raditz stood. "This way he will never be able to tell your true mental signature - it will be mixed up with mine and whomever else was there."

"Don't you think that if he could sense me coercing other Saiyans that he could feel you, too?"

"No. Coercion has its own power signature; farsensing is light, and hardly leaves any residue. The only thing we're going to do is open a channel -- we won't be adding any power to yours."

"What do you mean -- ?" Theo looked at her mother, disturbed. "There's going to be--"

Her mother's eyes widened in warning, and Theo closed her mouth quickly and turned around. The entry to the kitchen was suddenly filled with a Saiyan, and an annoyed one at that. Raditz pushed his was into the small room, his bulk straining through the doorway and dwarfing everything else around him. The scowl that crossed his face became deeper as he squeezed through the door and saw Theo staring at him.

He folded his arms and snorted at her, his eyebrows drawing together fiercely. "I have orders. You're coming with me," he said harshly to Theo, scowling.

"Fine, fine," she shrugged halfheartedly, her heart sinking.

"Can't you even say 'hello?'" Yisador complained, moving next to Theo protectively. "You've been here enough times; you know ALL of us. Is it such a crime to knock at someone's door and say, 'Yisador, I've come to collect your daughter?' Well?"

Raditz looked at her with weary tolerance and said, "I've been through this already. I do not owe you an explanation for anything that I do or that any other Saiyan does. I think," he said, grabbing the back of Yisador's neck, pulling her away from Theo and looming over her, "that what YOU should consider is how forgiving of your insubordinate attitude I am, and how someone else might not be so lenient." He punctuated his short speech with several well-timed shakes, enough to set her teeth on edge, then pushed her to the other side of the room. She stumbled and caught herself at the edge of the counter, then turned toward him, glaring a mixture of defiance and fear.

Raditz looked Theo up and down, an appraising glint in his eyes. "What happened to you?" the Saiyan asked suspiciously, nodding his head at her face.

"Nothing," she muttered, looking down at the floor. "Just training. I'm ready to go anytime you are."

Raditz took her chin in his hand and tipped her head up, then moved it from side to side. "Takuan is your sensei, isn't he? He usually has a little more ... restraint ... than this," he observed. "What did you do to him to stir him up? Or was it something you said?"

"It was nothing," Theo said, her voice becoming more irritated by the moment. "... Really, I didn't do anything ... it was just -" She gasped as Raditz's hand found the front of her collar and pushed in firmly.

"No, Raditz, there's no need -" started Yisador quickly, glancing at Theo's white face.

"You don't have to-" said Stranna simultaneously with Yisador, pushing her head through the kitchen door, thinking oh no, no, Theo...

"Wha ... what are you..." Theo gulped, her hands flexing at her sides. A lesson she had painfully learned when she was first collared was that a Guardian didn't try to pluck a Saiyan's hands off her collar. Not only did their hands not 'pluck,' they became extremely annoyed and usually shot a small blast of chi into the collar. Very unpleasant.

"Drop the attitude -- when I ask you a question, the only thing I want you to do is answer. I said," Raditz repeated evenly, pulling her closer to him with the collar, his thumb and forefinger hooked around the front, "what did you do or say to him to stir him up?"

Immediately Theo's eyes clouded as her voice responded, "I told him that compared to my trainer on Homeland he was strictly second rate - and that was saying something since my trainer there was a flying bug."

Both Stranna and Yisador goggled at her. "Really?" Raditz drawled, an interested grin pulling at the corners of his mouth, again tugging gently at the front of the collar. "And what else did you tell him?"

An expression of pure horror was in her eyes as her voice obediently said, "That if he was training me to walk a straight line on the pavement, he was barely adequate; but if he ever expected me to do anything else, he might want to consider taking lessons in how to train other people. That is, of course, after he had his scheduled operation to remove his head from his backside."

Stranna's eyes grew gigantic; her breath hissed in, she clapped a hand over her mouth and turned her back to the Saiyan, her shoulders shaking uncontrollably. Yisador stared in utter disbelief at her daughter, her mouth gaping open. Raditz stared at her for a moment, then threw back his head and roared with laughter, laughing so hard that he relaxed his grip on her collar and released her. Theo stumbled back a few paces, one hand automatically going to her neck and rubbing the sensitive skin under the choker, the other covering her mouth in consternation. Oh dear Kami I can't believe he made me do that ....

Stranna turned back to look at Theo, her eyes streaming, her shoulders still shaking in uncontrollable hysterics. She was still trying to collect herself when Yisador, her face black with anger, hissed at her, "Are you insane? Do you have a death wish?"

Theo shook her head at her mother vehemently in denial, protesting, "No, Mama, you don't understand ... it just came out ... he was goading me ... I didn't mean-"

Raditz turned to her, still laughing, and clamped a large hand over her wrist. "Come on, little Princess, let's go. Let's not keep the Prince waiting." He was still chuckling and shaking his head as he started to drag her out the kitchen door into the main room, pushing Stranna out of his way with his other arm. "I wish I could've seen Takuan's face - it must have been priceless! ' ... after his scheduled operation...' You've got nerve, girl. You're lucky that's all he did to you." He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Although, if I were you, I don't think I'd say something like that to the Prince. King Vejiita may have told everyone else that killing you people was off limits, but exceptions for the Prince have been made in the past."

"Wait!" Yisador called, hurrying into the main room after them. "Raditz, shouldn't we come and-"

"Absolutely not," the big Saiyan said affably, pushing Theo out the door with a large hand. "You people make me nervous enough when you're together. One Guardian on the loose around here is plenty for me. I don't have any orders about either of you, so you two are going to stay put. That means," he said, turning to face both Yisador and Stranna, his arms folded across his chest and the familiar Saiyan smirk on his face, "that I directly forbid either of you to leave your quarters unless you are sent for by one of the Elite - that'd include your sensei, or me, or anyone else who might want to see your face. So don't try to follow us. Stay here." He looked out the door at Theo, who was standing quietly outside, waiting for him, then back to the other women. "Understand?"

"Yes, " Yisador said, looking straight at him, pulling Stranna next to her. "We understand. We won't move from our quarters." Stranna said nothing, just glowered at him.

He snorted. "Good. I recall that you like staying in the regen tanks even less than your daughter does, Yisador. Make sure you remember that, too."

Yisador walked to the doorway and watched Raditz hustle Theo away from the apartment and toward the royal quarters, dragging her unceremoniously by her wrist, her shorter legs trying to keep up with the strides of the Saiyan.

Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Not for much longer, Saiyan," she said softly to herself. "Enjoy life while you can."

Raditz walked into the training center, dragging Theo by her arm. Initially she had trotted along next to him, trying to keep up; however, the closer and closer they drew to the training room door, the more she tried to cower and pull away from the inevitable.

It's wrong, it's wrong, it's all wrong, she thought, petrified, the moment she stepped into the training room and saw the Prince of Vegiitasei watching her from the far wall. He's a child, but not a child - he's evil incarnate, she thought, horrified, drawing back from Raditz's large hand. No child has eyes like that; cold, hard, flinty. No child had that quiet air of command that seemed to emanate so naturally from the Elite warriors, and no child had that huge power aura following them wherever they went. The mind and spirit of Vejiita was totally out of place in a small child's body.

Mama, I can't do this, I can't, she thought, intimidated, still staring at the Saiyan Prince.

Of course you can, Theo, her mother replied stubbornly. You can do this - but you must remember that he isn't truly a child, at least not in the way you think of a child. His kind ship their young off planet as infants, and those 'infants' are mature enough to destroy entire world populations before other species come to 'claim' their prize. They learn to take care of themselves fairly quickly.

Peering at him discretely, she thought he has no innocence as regular children do, but - oh Kami - he's one of the smartest people of his rank - and that scares me to death.

Watching her from across the room, the Prince saw and was grimly amused by Theo's feelings of anger, fear, and cold anticipation. It was clear that Raditz had to shove her into the room and then push her forward toward him. She was obviously enraged at the way Raditz treated her by the angry fashion her eyes moved over him; but once she saw Vejiita, her entire manner changed. He saw the fear that flickered in her eyes when she looked at him, immediately replaced by a blandness he knew she didn't feel; her saw her unease when she saw the soldiers at the opposite end of the hall and then realized why they were there. He felt something else in her manner, something else that defied description save that she was anticipating something happening. She thinks she has a surprise for me, Vejiita thought, smirking. Wait until she sees the surprise I have for her.

Something bothered him; something felt like it was buzzing around his head, trying to keep him from thinking clearly. He scowled, trying to pinpoint exactly where - his eyes slid over to Theo, whose attention was captured again by the soldiers at the opposite end of the room. It didn't start until she walked into the room, he thought, and now-

"Bring that woman to me now," he said dangerously, standing with his feet planted firmly apart, his tail tucked around his waist.

Instinctively Theo shrank back against Raditz; strong hands held her forearms as he hissed in her ear, "Didn't your sensei beat any manners into you? You NEVER turn your back on the Prince, and you NEVER try to leave once you have been called - now behave, or I will beat you senseless!"

She gasped as he pushed her forward, toward Vejiita. Her feet started moving on their own accord, and she quickly found herself standing in front of the little Prince.

"Kneel, baka!" Raditz thumped her on her shoulders, which had the direct response of pushing her to her knees in front of the child. He stood in front of her and stared, eye to eye, until she was thumped again on the shoulder by Raditz; at that point, spots of color appeared on her cheekbones and she dropped her gaze to the floor.

If I find there is anyone else in your mind except you and me, you'll sincerely regret it unexpectedly popped into her mind with amazing clarity. Theo gasped again and looked up, straight into Vejiita's eyes. The Prince said nothing - he simply looked at her, waiting. In that instant she understood that he would not tolerate any of the mind games her mother loved to play.

Get out of my mind, Mama, unless you'd like to see me reduced to so much mush on the floor in front of the Prince.

Theo felt a whisper light presence sigh across her mind and vanish. Apparently the Prince felt something too, as he cocked an eyebrow at her and inquired sarcastically, "Are we alone now?"

Not trusting herself to speak, Theo nodded, looking again at the floor.

"Good," he replied, satisfied with her demeanor, "because I want to start working - we've wasted enough time as it is."

She was sweating, cold rivulets trickling down the sides of her face and between her shoulder blades, more from tension and fear than anything else. It was hard trying to teach the Prince and not get blasted into oblivion; he was an apt student, but had little patience for errors, either hers or his, and she had to be extremely careful with her tone - not too pushy, not too weak. He had already shouted and knocked her to the floor several times for perceived slights, which she had to take without a murmur of dissent, and now her head was throbbing unmercifully. Looking at Raditz's lowered brow, she realized with a sigh that the moment this 'training' was over, he would more than likely pick up where Takuan left off. Her muscles felt sore just from thinking about it.

Frowning, she turned her attention to Vejiita again. He's no child, she thought ruefully as she monitored his use of power, he's the devil's spawn. But at least Mama was right about this - they certainly aren't wired to use power as we do, and that's a good thing. Images of large Saiyans wielding power the way she did made her shudder.

"Pay attention, woman." A sharp jerk was given to the front of her collar, and she found herself nose to nose with the Prince. His thumb and forefinger were wrapped around the circlet of gold and pressed into the hollow of her neck. "What were you thinking about?"

"What it would be like if Saiyans were able to use the power in the manner I'm showing you," she responded immediately, her eyes clouded.

A smirk crossed his face, drawing one side of his mouth up. "And what did you think about that?" he asked.

"I was afraid," she replied, her body barely suppressing a shiver.

He grinned, a wolfish expression on his face. "Good," he said, pleased. "That's the first intelligent thing I've heard you say all day." He released her, pushing her away from him. "Now tell me why this isn't working."

She sighed, diving into his mind again, checking the connections and synapses. You must draw the power from this area, she indicated, and it is transmuted over here. She carefully picked her way across, insuring that she left no residue of her own power for him to find, and performed a controlled power transfer using the barest minimum, and left that residual for him to manipulate.

"Try to have the soldiers walk over to the second window," she suggested.

An expression of extreme concentration crossed his face, but nothing happened at the opposite end of the room. Theo could see that he was trying several times, but apparently the Saiyan's telepathic ability to talk mind to mind could not help him with power transfer. His eyes darkened and his eyebrows drew together, while a small vein started throbbing on his forehead.

"This isn't working again," he growled at Theo, black eyes staring at her accusingly. "YOU do it this time - I'm going to watch."

Theo felt extremely uncomfortable with that, as this meant the Prince would need to be inside her mind while she manipulated the emotions of the soldiers, and she did not like that prospect one bit. However, there was absolutely nothing she could do about that, unless she wanted to end up in a regen tank sooner than later - and he had already made it abundantly clear that should she refuse to do something, they would "discuss" it until she finally acquiesced.

Nodding her head in agreement, she pushed stray curls away from her eyes, cleared a pathway and invited him into her mind. Be careful, Theo, a small voice warned her in the back of her mind. He's up to something.

Feh, I can handle him, she thought confidently. I just won't allow him access to everything ...

"Woman, can't you use more power?"

She grit her teeth and continued with the coercion lesson, trying to ignore the insistent tapping on her mental walls. This Prince is more irritating that I ever would have believed, she thought grimly. I can't wait to get him out of here.

Theo was working with the power, converting it to coercive potential and using it on the soldiers at the far side of the room. However, she refused to draw large amounts of power into herself; she knew she didn't need to use that much, and she didn't want the Saiyan in her mind to understand exactly how much she could handle. Besides, she was hoping he would get bored soon and release her; Saiyans had a notoriously short attention span, which was cut even shorter by low power displays.

She minutely increased her coercive potential, but felt his irritation with her increase. Good, she thought angrily, maybe you'll leave me alone now. Aloud she said, "There's only so much that I can do with this kind of power."

"Use more of it. I'm giving you permission to do so," he said, nodding.

"But sir, what exactly do you want them to do?" she asked in exasperation, gesturing at the soldiers at the far end. "I mean, my using more power won't make them DO anything more. If they have no natural inclination to sprout feathers, I can't make them do that. I can only strengthen something that's already in their mind, not create something that isn't there." And considering they're Saiyans, there's not much in their minds to begin with, she thought maliciously.

Her last thought penetrated her defensive wall. Vejiita looked at her, angry again. "I'm not so sure that you're telling me the truth."

The pit of her stomach turned to ice. Her eyes, once a deep purple, started to change to a slate blue and then to maroon as she looked at him and whispered, "Prince Vejiita, I swear that everything I've told you is absolutely true. There's only so much I can do with ... with coercion." She braced herself for the inevitable blow, convinced he was going to brutalize her again. "I don't know what else you want me to do ..."

"I want you to use more power," he responded evenly, "and I want you to do it now." Theo was on her knees next to the Prince. Walking behind her, Vejiita placed his hands gently around her neck -

-- Dear Kami he's going to murder me, she thought, terrified --

--and manipulated a small amount of chi into her collar so that it came off cleanly in his hands. She twisted around to look at him, her hand at her throat, astonished, as he carefully repeated, "Use more power, and do it now."

Sire, Raditz sent to him, aghast, are your sure you want to do this? He appeared quite ready to leap at Theo and break her neck, if necessary.

Quite sure, Raditz, he replied agreeably. If she gets out of hand, I can handle her.

How ... why ... my collar is gone, she thought incoherently, staring at the little Prince. He seemed to be waiting patiently for her to do something ...

"My patience isn't unending, Guardian," he said, giving her an unblinking stare. "I still haven't seen or felt you do anything that approaches what happened this morning. The removal of this," he said, swinging the collar around one finger like a rubber band, "should help you find what you're missing. So get started." He stood next to her, his arms folded, and waited.

Well, alrighty then, she thought, her mind racing through probable scenarios. If I don't have to worry about feedback ... ah, does he know what he's just done? Apparently not! A fierce joy surged along her nerves as she thought this idiot has no clue ... Her eyes appeared to be solid black, mirroring his, and she stared at him savagely. Power started to pour into her like a river as she called it, power that filled her every fiber with potential. His eyes widened as he felt the rush and saw her face ...

... now you're going to die, you ...

Suddenly the door to the training room was flung open and several Elite warriors poured through, staring wildly around the room until their eyes lit on the tableau by the windows. "The Prince! The Prince is in danger!" one of them screamed, vaulting at Theo from the door. "She will kill him! She will kill us all! You must DIE!"

She whirled her head around and saw the warriors charging toward her, instantly realizing they intended to dismember her at the very best. A long-forgotten instinct for self-preservation welled up from her unconscious mind as she reached out and rapidly shifted reality for herself-

*shift *

The Elite in front of her appeared to be motionless, as if by magic. Theo focused her range to pinpoint their center, trying to lock onto each mind in the morass they called 'personality,' snarling ...

*shift/snick *

Ah, here we are, she thought, inserting herself simultaneously in each warrior's head. Their minds were easily opened; all it took was a light application of coercion, applied to the forefront of the brain and to their hormonal codes, so that they was awash in endorphins and easily confused ...


A hideous expression twisted across her face as her eyes narrowed, her lip curled and her right arm reached out in an ugly, clawlike position, palm up. Her mind stayed linked with each mind of the doomed Elites as she whispered one word to them, one word mind to mind, the only word she ever wanted to apply to Saiyans:


...and her consciousness expanded exponentially with a rush of power and speed never seen, fear and hatred and loathing against Saiyans pushing it far, far beyond its previous limits. It blossomed like dayflowers, filled the ether and kept growing, threatening to overwhelm everything in its path as it swelled, unchecked. Fierce joy at this release drew her lips back in a snarl and spun her mind to a distant dream plane draped with strings, many thousands of strings bundled together in front of her face, hanging from huge disks gathered in the sky. Several strings were stained red, pulsing lightly, dangling just out of a comfortable reach. Theo growled, leaned forward and *twisted* each out of its disk, roots ripping as they crumbled, the light, pulsing power washed out, turning black, the string crumbling and becoming dust in her hands.

"Die, you bastards," she hissed, vaguely pleased, feeling that she had just accomplished something. "Just die."

An odd sensation in the back of her head jolted her back to her own plane of reality. Images washed in front of her, dizzyingly fast, pulling nausea with it, forcing her back to the training room. As her vision cleared, she started and stared at the scene in front of her. Several large Saiyan warriors, a few she recognized as Elites, lay motionless on the floor, sprawled in such a position as to suggest that they had simply collapsed in mid-leap and died. Raditz was hurtling across the room toward them, anger and incredulity warring to gain the upper hand; the other soldiers were frozen at the back of the room, staring.

But this isn't right, she thought, puzzled, there's something missing ... She turned her head and was shocked to the core of her being when she found herself staring into the child Prince's dark, calm, fathomless eyes, a hand's span away from her cheek.

That was an interesting demonstration -- one that I won't soon forget.

Theo's world froze. All the pretense of the past years had been thrown away in an instant. You're ...we're ... linked, she thought weakly, despondently, fear moving its fingers across her body, making her grow cold. Oh dear Kami ... all this time were...

He smiled gently, his eyes cold, his expression belonging to the face of an adult warrior, not a child. We are linked in more ways than one, Guardian. I know you now, down to your soul. You belong to me.

It was true, she thought, a dreadful weight crushing her spirit. Her carefully constructed facades had been stripped away in an instant, leaving her naked in front of the one individual who could not only appreciate but could control that awesome power of hers. In desperation she realized the collar's not on, Kami it's now or never ... Frantically she pulled as much raw power as she could into herself-

- only to be caught in a backwash of frightening pain. Flames of fire were licking around her neck, burning her head, boring through her eyes back into her brain; her hands and arms were ablaze as well, and she faintly heard someone screaming, a long, high keening sound that refused to stop - odd, she thought, as she plummeted into blackness.

Raditz was staring at her, stretched out on the tiles, the upper part of her body a mass of angry red burns, her face and hair singed, having been caught in the conflagration caused when her collar overloaded. Almost the entire top of her tunic had been burned away, exposing her arms and chest to the open air. The Prince was standing there as well, looking at her with a contemplative gaze.

"Take her to the regen tanks, Raditz," he said. "I want her healed, and healed quickly."

Raditz grunted and hauled her off the floor, her head flopping against his chest, her arms hanging limply down.

Vejiita walked over to Raditz to look at her face, her eyebrows almost gone. He nodded as he regarded her, his cunning, intelligent eyes lingering on the almost-molten piece of metal looped uselessly around her neck. "You are more dangerous than we thought," he said, touching the broken collar. "I don't think we'll be taking you out anytime soon."

"It was well you snapped the collar back on when you did, Sire," Raditz said to him as he turned toward the door. "Otherwise that power buildup would have killed us all."

"Not all of us, Raditz," the Prince said scornfully, turning his back on him. But most of us, he silently added.

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