Space breeds odd, dangerous creatures. The seductive inky blackness called to many species across the cosmos, but very few of them could actually survive its cold embrace. Those that could were usually predators, beings that could exist for eons without feeding. Once a food source was found, however, they gorged themselves until the entire supply was spent, then continued in the darkness to the next challenge, eyes glittering with amoral savageness, ready and eager to sate their desires, the debris marking their passage lost and forgotten.
Even those beings not concerned with physical hunger still had the need to conquer and master others, to feed their insatiable appetites with power, lust, and greed. The ability to live in cold space was a benefit, but it was also a fact that most of the universe’s life forms could not survive in a vacuum; they needed air of some type, air that was life-giving to their species. Therefore, those all-powerful beings, the would-be conquerors of the universe traveled between the stars in saucer-like ships using dominated crews from distant planets to serve them. Their lifespans were such that even the youngest of them could not recall what it was like to feel anything except contempt for beings weaker than themselves. Centuries of living had inured them to genuine feelings and left them with an obscene, jaded viewpoint of the galaxy; now only the most exotic perversions, along with the more standard power struggles, held their interest.
Only the strongest were permitted to travel with one of the predators. The individual seated in a large chair on an observation deck of the ship had a magnificent view of the angry red planet it was orbiting. A thin, deceptively delicate-looking hand reached out from the chair, an empty crystal goblet loosely encased by long white fingers. Immediately a ruby red liquid slowly filled the glass, carefully poured by an odd-looking, extremely large pink creature standing immediately to the right of the chair.
"Ah, Dodoria-san," purred the occupant of the chair, "you always know what I need."
"I am here to serve only you, Master Freeza," replied the monster, bowing.
The tip of his armored tail waved gently in the air as the master continued his musings. "How very kind of you, Dodoria-san. Now, if only the Saiyans could emulate your attitude …"
Theo was lying on her bed, fully clothed, her arms wrapped protectively around her midsection with her knees drawn up, staring at the wall. Soon after Raditz had hustled her away from the Prince over to her new quarters he forced her to take care of her body; in other words, to bathe, eat, and rest. In a rare show of solicitousness he had decided to take her to the bathroom before he forced her to eat. He stripped her down, shoved her into the shower and told her to wash herself.
“If you don’t, I will,” he threatened. “And you definitely won’t like that.”
Dully, she had accepted the washcloth and soap and began to automatically lather herself. Raditz had grunted and walked out of the room, giving her some privacy. When she still hadn’t appeared fifteen minutes later, he walked back in and was disconcerted to see her folded up on the floor of the shower, water flowing over her, weeping, the washcloth clutched between her hands, her face turned to the wall. Sighing, he reached in, grabbed her arms and hauled her out, setting her on her feet in front of him and shaking water out of his eyes. Theo stood in front of him, water streaming from her body, head down and shoulders shaking.
“Get yourself dry and dressed, woman,” he said gruffly, shoving several towels at her. “Hurry up. We don’t have all day.” When she didn’t respond, he pulled one of the towels out of her unresisting arms and roughly draped it across her shoulders, toweling her hair dry in the process. That seemed to bring some life to her, as she pulled and sputtered under his ministrations, finally jerking away hard enough to break his grip in the process, glaring at him.
“Much better,” he said, giving her a watchful stare, then pointed to a bundle of clothes he had carried into the room. “Now get dressed – unless you’d like me to do that for you, too?”
“I can do it myself,” she muttered, wrapping a towel around her body modestly. “You can leave now.”
And exactly what is it she thinks I HAVEN'T seen before? he wondered to himself in amusement as he gave her a mock bow and backed out the door. “Hurry up,” he said brusquely, “I’m waiting for you.”
Several minutes later she appeared, dressed simply in a gray tunic and pants, belted loosely at her waist, small slippers on her feet, her hair hanging in damp ringlets around her face, framing it. Theo looked at him, wretchedness and anger staring out of her eyes, and said nothing.
He was standing in front of a small table. “Get over here and sit down, woman,” he growled at her, gesturing at the chair in front of him. “You’re going to eat something.”
She shuddered, slightly shifting her weight on the bed, gripping her stomach tighter. After that miserable incident – she could hardly bring herself to look at food, let alone eat any of it – he had dragged her back to this room, proclaimed it was hers, thrown her on the bed and ordered her to rest. She was so dispirited that she hardly responded to him, prompting him to shake her once to insure that she was still alive. Her cries of protest amused him so much that he shook her once more for good measure – then left her alone with her thoughts, keeping the door slightly open.
Theo felt deadened and used, as if someone had blasted every section of her mind and then ripped it away from her. She kept going over and over the incidents of the past few days, trying to find something – ANYthing – that would explain why this was happening to her.
And it seemed harmless enough at the time … now I’m … She tried to force her mind to stop, but it kept on its relentless path to the inevitable, logical conclusion. She was his slave now, no question at all. She could still feel him in her mind – he wasn’t active, but he was there. He could ‘lock in’ on her at any time, and command her to do anything for him at any time he wanted. And with the connection that he had burned into her brain, Vejiita certainly didn’t need to use the collar; in fact, he didn’t even have to be in the same room with her. Hopefully, he doesn’t know that yet, she thought, depressed. However, the path on which her mind was turning was much more dismal when seen from her standpoint – her thoughtless actions, she now realized, placed all the Guardians at risk. Through her, Vejiita now had access to every power, every secret, every action and every plan they had ever made.
Gods, what did I do? I’m a danger to everyone now, she thought, tears gathering in her eyes again. I can never go back … Kami, I’m as good as dead to them … I wish I were dead …
Theo, child, whispered an unbidden thought, Theo, we need you to be strong …
She snuffled quietly, staring at nothing, and thought Mama, you can’t be here. I’m … I’ve been … compromised … She wasn’t surprised; she knew that her mother could find her through anything, no matter what. It felt so good to have her familiar presence with her that she wanted to cry with relief and dump all her awful feelings into her mother's capable hands; at the same time, though, she realized that even this light touch to her mind could wake the sleeping giant and bring even more grief to her family. Please, Mama – go away – it’s not safe for you.
Her mother’s comforting presence enveloped her like a warm blanket, soothing over the raw patches in her mind, permeating every nook and cranny. He’s strong, itoshigo, but he’s a beginner in mind control. If he catches me here with you, then I deserve to be caught.
Mama, you don’t understand … he … he … and I couldn't ...Theo faltered, shame, humiliation and anguish washing over her, and she found it impossible to continue.
Shh, dear one; don’t tell me, just show me, her mother sent to her, radiating serenity.
Theo squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep, ragged breath; then she cleared her mind and let the events of the past two days flow past her, replaying them from her perspective for her mother. Yisador moved gently in Theo’s mind, sorting through her memories and replaying a few; she also examined the large new fissure in Theo’s psyche, seeing how fresh branches were moving into the more remote parts of Theo’s mind. Yisador appeared to be mildly shocked at Vejiita’s ability to mimic Theo’s way of building coercive power and more than a little concerned about the depth of the link between Theo and Vejiita.
Daughter, we’re going to get you out of there, Yisador sent, quietly withdrawing from Theo, unwinding from some of her memories. A faint hint of a great store of white hot rage shimmered for half a moment between them and then vanished.
I can’t see how, Mama, Theo thought, despairing. There are two very large Saiyans staying here with me – and he’s right across the hall …
We will find a way, Theo – you will not be alone much longer. Be strong, dear one, and take care of your body. We need you whole. With that, Yisador moved gently into the forefront of her mind and released an enormous amount of endorphins into her system, flooding Theo so that she was overwhelmed. Her eyes drifted shut in sleepy response, a wave of well being coursing through her bloodstream as her mind slipped away into a dreamless sleep, exhausted and numb.
Yisador stayed connected with her for a few more moments to insure that she had in fact fallen into a deep sleep, then she carefully withdrew from Theo’s mind, taking care not to disturb the other strong power she felt there. That other power was not aware of her; not yet anyway, she thought grimly, because with him, it’s only a matter of time. She caressed Theo’s mind once more before returning to her own body – be strong, Theo, we will come for you.
Yisador slowly opened her eyes. She was seated on her couch in her apartment, surrounded by several other Guardians, all with haggard, drawn faces. Two were supporting her on either side; Meryth was an older, stout woman, one who gave the appearance of having seen and commented on everything there was to see in the universe, while Olean was delicately consumptive, her long face accentuated by her large, staring eyes and long, lank hair. Stranna was seated in front of her, her long, dark brown hair tucked behind her ears, her blue eyes appearing even larger against her smooth, porcelin skin.
"How is she, Yisa?" asked Stranna. Her hands held Yisador’s in a firm, tight grip; as she spoke, she gently squeezed each hand. "How’s Theo?"
Yisador looked directly at Stranna. The expression in her eyes was plain; Stranna sat back, releasing Yisador’s hands, and swallowed.
"What happened?" she asked, her voice sounding rough and unused.
Meryth and Olean were on each side of Yisador; they waited for her to begin, hands tightly clasped together, heads drawn in.
Yisador slowly shook her head. "It’s worse than we thought, Stranna," she said heavily, slumping back against the cushions. "Much worse." She was silent for a moment, marshaling her thoughts. Finally, she said, her voice taut, "There are several problems, but the largest one by far is the Prince. That – that child – that demon – is in her mind. And I mean in her mind, the way that you or I could be in her mind."
"So Beryan was right," muttered Olean. "Poor Theo."
"No – not just ‘poor Theo.’ You don’t understand," Yisador said, drawing a deep breath. "This is not a minor inconvenience. Here," she said, grabbing the hands of the women next to her, "link so you’ll see."
Silently each woman took the hand of the person next to her, concentrated on the power within themselves, and opened to each other. Yisador invited them into her mind, where each had a first person view of the brief interaction between Theo and her mother, paying careful attention to Theo’s memories.
The first to react was Stranna. She gasped when she realized what she was seeing, and almost broke the connection. "Yisador, that can’t be right – Saiyans can't do that."
"Apparently no one’s told this particular Saiyan he can’t do that," said Yisador dryly. "And should you miss them, may I draw your attention to these fresh tracks through Theo's mind over here…"
Olean groaned. "Do you see how close they are to —"
"Yes, I do, and it took everything I had NOT to communicate that thought to Theo – she would have gone right over the edge. She has no idea what he’s really seen. Fortunately, he doesn’t know the significance of what he’s seen, either."
Meryth frowned, thinking. She could feel Yisador’s worry and rage simmering below the surface of her mind, pushed down hard enough for Yisador to control with her iron grip. She shifted her bulk on the couch and shook her head, at a loss for words. "What do you want to happen, Yisa?"
Yisador’s eyes immediately flamed with inhuman brightness and her mouth drew back in a feral snarl. "I want that boy DEAD," she hissed between her teeth, staring at Meryth fiercely.
The other woman drew back, alarmed by her vehemence and fury. Yisador was many things, but was always temperate and the voice of reason when dealing with the Saiyans; her anger was usually never seen, even by her closest confidants.
Yisador continued, her voice rasping in her throat, "He hurt my baby. My Theo. He forced his way into her and —"
"Yisa, be reasonable," Meryth said, her plump chin waggling in distress at her friend’s rage. "We cannot do anything to him. Nothing can happen to him; he’s the Saiyan Prince – we wouldn’t even be a memory if something happened to him. He’s stronger than most of the Saiyans put together – Kami, Yisa, he’s supposed to be stronger than his father – we wouldn’t stand a chance. Besides, it’s true that he’s arrogant and cruel, but look at the rest of the race – they’re ALL like that." She grasped Yisador by her upper arms and gently repeated, "He’s just a boy, Yisador. Just a boy. We don’t kill children."
Yisador held her friend’s eyes for a long moment, then dropped her own. "I know, Meryth, I know. But it would be so much easier if …," and she took a deep breath, shaking her head. "Well, never mind." She dropped her head into her hands and remained that way for long minutes; the other women seated around her waited for her to continue. After several minutes of contemplation, Yisador raised her head and looked at each of her companions in turn.
"There is a way," she said slowly, reaching out to take Stranna’s hands in her own. "We need to find a weakness in this Prince, and we need to find it quickly – else our entire world is going to come crashing down in a matter of days." She was silent, looking at Stranna with an odd expression on her careworn face. Stranna looked back at her, puzzled.
"How can we find this weakness, Yisador?" Olean asked, mystified. "We certainly can’t move into his mind; he’d know we were there. And as far as I recall, he’s not familiar with any of the Elite that we regularly monitor. So how –"
Stranna’s face suddenly lost its color. She pulled her hands away from Yisador as if they burned and stared at her, her breath quickening, saying nothing, her eyes stricken.
"There is someone who knows his weaknesses, someone who is closer to him than any of the Elites, even Nappa," Yisador said. Her words were meant for all of them, but she stared steadily at Stranna.
"Well, who would …," began Meryth, but trailed off after seeing the expression on Stranna’s face. She looked from Yisador to Stranna and back again, frowning. Sudden comprehension dawned in her eyes as she gasped, "You don’t mean—"
"Of course," Yisador said, sorrow in every nuance of her tone as she and Stranna locked gazes. "The King knows. He knows every fiber of the Prince; every flaw, every strength; he knows any weakness or perceived weakness and will fight to the death to protect him. To the King, the Prince is the legendary Super Saiyan, the savior of their race. There is nothing he would not do for his son." She stopped speaking then and put her hand over Stranna’s clasped hands. "I am so sorry, my friend. But there is no other way."
Stranna briefly closed her eyes, then opened them again. Steely resolve mingled with pain as she responded, her voice heavy and low, "I know, Yisa, I know. He ... prefers me. I will do this for Theo, Yisa – but this is the last time." Her voice almost broke as she continued, "I will not do this again. I do not care what the consequences are - for me, for you, or for anyone else, I will not do it. I have been doing this for as long as we have been here, and ... I cannot stand it anymore. Do you understand?"
Yisador nodded wordlessly. "Stranna," she whispered, reaching out to her friend, "this is the last time." As the women embraced, Yisador looked at Olean and said silently, Contact our Elite friends and find out what the King is doing this evening … we have a surprise for him …