Worry and problems seemed to go hand-in-hand for rulers of any kingdom, but especially for the ruler of the Saiyajin this night. As he strode through the almost deserted hallways of the palace with his customary bodyguards, the small kernel of doubt and misgivings that had been gnawing at the King for the last several hours started to bloom.
For the most part, his people were happy under his rule; his rule and Freeza’s rule, that is. The King had been forced to accept an ‘alliance’ with Freeza several years ago, and in fact had entered into the agreement readily. His advisors had believed that the Saiyans would benefit more from an association with Freeza than Freeza would benefit from an association with them, and so far they had been correct. Just the mention of the name of the fearsome tyrant brought awesome changes to the attitudes of many inhabitants initially reluctant to receive the Saiyans on their planet. However, the King was noticing changes, changes that while not significant in and of themselves, boded ill for the overall health of the Saiyan people – and he was angry and afraid.
Freeza had taken to ‘dropping in’ from time to time on Vejiitasei with no advance warning. The tyrant knew that the Sayian's scouters would pick up his chi, but even so, he continued. He also knew that the Sayians would only realize he was there if they were paying attention to their precious technology, which did not happen all the time. His sudden appearances could and did occur anywhere – in the royal palace, outside in the gardens, in the barracks – and those not using their scouters were always taken completely by surprise. He was unfailingly polite to the Saiyans, but refused to work through any of the regular diplomatic channels in use on Vejiitasei. He had also become bolder as of late, even to the point of publicly ignoring the King during a discussion the King had been having with his Elite guards. That caused the King great embarrassment and served to push home the message that Freeza condsidered the wrath of the Saiyan king a trivial matter. Seething, the King controlled himself and thought about the time when the odd, smooth alien would make a satisfying little *squish* beneath his boot.
The King’s desire to be rid of the little despot solidified there and then, and he began plotting Freeza’s imminent demise. It wasn’t easy, though; a difficult, if not impossible task. Personnel assignments, according to his spies on board, changed daily, and no one ever knew exactly what they would be doing; no one, that was, save those precious few working directly with Freeza, such as that pink monstrosity named Dodoria or that green creature called Zarbon. Each was a warrior of some repute, but it still escaped the King why anyone would choose to work for someone like Freeza instead of trying to carve their own niche out of the universe for themselves. The irony of his own situation, however, was not lost on him.Striding into the hallway and down the corridor, the King sourly reflected on how he would be able to coordinate the movements of the Elite warriors to conicide with the time he had chosen to invade Freeza’s ship and end that ‘partnership.' Scowling at the darkness of his thoughts, he unconsciously looked up as he and his party approached the section of the palace where the Guardians were housed.
And there’s another alien situation, he thought angrily, walking swiftly through the area without appearing to look to the right or the left. WHAT am I supposed to do with these women?
Originally, the King had them brought to Vejiitasei after recognizing their odd power signature as one the Tsufuru had described in the mountains of paperwork they found after their final defeat. Apparently, this race of women had been a peculiar obsession with one of the Tsufuru scientists, as volumes of speculative material was written about them. However, one piece of hard data existed; a member of the race had been ‘captured’ by the Tsufuru and had been successfully quelled by the use of a mechanical device they called a ‘collar.’ This collar allowed the Tsufuru, a relatively weak but intelligent civilization, to control this creature. They would command something, and the creature would have to obey – there were no questions asked. The Saiyans attempted to duplicate the technology from those pieces that survived the war, and made a credible job of it. They were even able to modify the existing design to handle a larger power input from the collared individual, but still keep the same output as the unmodified pieces.
The upshot of the entire discovery was when that power signature that had been so lovingly described by the Tsufuru suddenly appeared as a blip during a regular sweep of the Rogas sector, immediately after the detection program had been installed. A quick trip to the planet in question had turned up not just one, or two, but dozens of those women. Some had died in the ensuing scuffle, as (surprisingly) had some of the Saiyans; but for the most part, they were able to seize and subdue them with the assistance of the Tsufuru- and Saiyan-manufactured collars.
Dragging them back to Vejiitasei had been the King’s idea, and initially he had thought a very good one. His Elites were under a great deal of pressure; they were charged with suppression of off-planet rebellions for Freeza, clearing other planets of local inhabitants for sale, and generally preparing for conflicts around the galaxy. They needed some type of diversion, entertainment of some sort to relax and refresh them for their upcoming battles – and according to the material left by the Tsufuru, these Guardians could provide just that. Physically they were weak – very fragile, hardly able to withstand the normal atmosphere of Vejiitasei – but their mental powers were quite extraordinary. Harnessed with the Tsufuru collars, the women could do practically anything the Saiyans could imagine, and once it became clear what type of things the Saiyans wanted the women to do, their place in Saiyan society was sealed.
Pleasure slaves were not uncommon on Vejiitasei, but the kind of pleasure these women could give was so remarkable that the King only permitted the Elite access to them. The Guardian’s minds, moderated by their collars, could slip into a Sayian’s mind and trigger enormous amounts of ‘pleasure circuits,’ pathways previously unopened and unexplored. The Saiyans, meanwhile, were able to sate both their physical lust and psychological craving for dominance by using the Guardians as an outlet for their passions, while enjoying pleasure never before imagined. All in all, an excellent bargain for the Saiyans.
As the King strode along the corridor, faint sounds of fighting drifted toward him from the far end. Curious as to who would be using the facilities at this hour, he continued toward the end and finally stopped once he was in front of a large plexiglass enclosure. Standing outside of the gym, he watched the sparring activity with his arms folded across his chest and a forbidding look thundering between his eyes. However, it became obvious to his bodyguards that the longer he watched, the more involved he became in the action; at one point he seemed ready to lean forward and give encouragement to the combatants in the ring. His eyes glittering, he nodded curtly to his men, saying, "We’re going inside." Yanking the door open, he strode into the training facility.
A small crowd of Elites had gathered watching the late night training session; what made it particularly enjoyable for them was the fact that one of the combatants was a Guardian. All of the Guardians had been learning to spar for a number of years; in fact, it was the King’s decree that they be trained, as several years ago he had noticed the frail beings literally wasting away in front of his eyes. The King did not trust the Guardians, and suspected that they were trying to escape from him through starvation and wasting; he therefore started a training program that forced them to eat a supervised meal at least once per day and train at least several times per week, and was rewarded with an almost immediate recovery of the species. The program, it seemed, had other benefits as well; some of the women had a natural affinity for the sport, and if left to their own devices, had an inborn bloodlust that rivaled any Saiyan. In his more reflective moments, the King shuddered to think what those women would do if uncollared.
The King recognized the woman fighting as one of those Guardians. He had seen her fight on other occasions, and had always been struck by her ferocity, her tenacity when confronted with what seemed to be overwhelming odds, and her innate cunning. She was a rare opponent, one that thought on her feet, offering both a physical and a mental challenge. Her sensei was encouraging her from the sidelines, now, shouting at her to use her brain before it was pounded the hell out of her.
It seemed that her sensei had a point, the King thought, amused. This time, the woman did not seem to be on the winning side of the skirmish. She already had a rather large bruise covering one side of her face – easily fixed by a few minutes in a tank, the King found himself reckoning – and she seemed to be slightly winded, panting as she stood in front of her attackers, a vicious smirk on her face. She was tall for a Guardian – statuesque, in fact, with legs that looked as long as some Guardians were tall – and she had a thin sheen of perspiration covering her exposed face and chest. Sparring was the only time that the Guardians wore anything other than their customary loose tunics and pants, and this Guardian was wearing a dark blue regulation Saiyan jumpsuit, complete with boots and gloves. It left little to the imagination, and was yet another reason for Saiyans to attend a sparring match that featured Guardians. Female Saiyans were of course attractive to the males, but the Guardians offered something exotic, something untamed – and were always in demand after their matches, no matter the outcome.
She narrowed her eyes, her hands dangling loosely at her sides, her body in a slight crouch, her parted lips showing small, perfect white teeth. "Now shounen, is that truly the best you can do?" she taunted, a sarcastic smile playing around her mouth. Her mane of wild, dark brown hair was caught at her neck and cascaded down her back, completing her look of almost-Saiyan savagery. "I can’t believe that you’re able to stomp entire planets into oblivion, yet you can’t seem to take care of poor little me. But maybe," she continued, favoring her attackers with a sly smile, "that’s because you were able to transform. Is that it? Transformation somehow improves your fighting ability?" An irritated snort from one large Saiyan brought a grin to her face. "I’m right, aren’t I?" she asked archly, watching the large Saiyan attempt to circle behind her. "It’s that bigger brain size, isn’t it? Ah, but kodomotachi, you have to remember …"
While she had been speaking to the Saiyans her muscles had been quietly bunching and tightening, as spring coils compress; then without warning, she launched herself at the Saiyan behind her, snarling and whirling in the air, faking numerous times at his body only to viciously kick him in the face at least five times, the last being a particularly nasty reverse crescent kick that nicely sliced across his head at a hard angle, dropping him to the floor where he remained.
She sprang backwards from her last attack to meet the other Saiyan behind her, driving him away from her with a flurry of kicks and punches only matched in ferocity by the expression on her face. He recovered from her surprise attack and started to fight back, easily blocking her kicks and then, grinning, grabbing her right arm; unfortunately for him, this was exactly the move she had been waiting for him to make. She snaked inside his guard and drove her left elbow into his face at an angle just below the bridge of his nose, shattering his cheekbone and smashing his nose simultaneously. The pain was so intense that the Saiyan forgot everything else and released her right arm, which she immediately whipped across her body. She smashed her right elbow into his temple, collapsing that part of his skull. He dropped like a stone to the floor and stayed there, unmoving, blood leaking from his nose and ears.
Panting, she jumped back into a guarding crouch, staring defiantly at the rest of the stunned Elites surrounding her, and gasping, finished the sentence she had started – " remember …size … isn’t … everything."
A muted roar started from the crowd of Saiyans, and she braced herself for the onslaught. Feeling rather than seeing someone approach from behind, she whirled around and struck with her hands and feet, and felt herself tossed carelessly into the air. She tried to orient herself, but whomever threw her also slung her into a spin that whipped her head around mercilessly, and she could only wait until her body stopped rotating. As quickly as it had started it stopped; she found herself dangling off the floor, held by her neck, looking into the black eyes of the Saiyan king. He held her at arms’ length, a dark, knowing gaze in his eyes, watching her struggle to breathe, a slightly cruel smile on his face. She stopped fighting then and looked at him, her eyes almost begging him to release her but saying nothing.
He laughed, a short bark, and dropped her to the floor. Immediately she started taking long, gasping breaths, her hands clasped around her neck, shielding it from another assault. No one touched her, though; and in the space of a few moments she had recovered enough so that she could stand upright, still gasping slightly, and look at the Saiyan king.
"You! Sensei!" the King bellowed, pointing at the older man he had seen giving the woman directions in the beginning of the fight.
"Sire?" he immediately said, walking up to him, looking at the woman with barely concealed rage.
The King grinned sadonically, noting the sensei’s expression. "Don’t be angry with her, sensei," he said. "These women do us a service when they can cull our ranks and clear out the deadwood. How would YOU feel," he asked, shoving the body of the second Elite with his foot distastefully, "if the only kind of backup you had on a mission was from one of these sorry excuses for a Saiyan? Ones who could be defeated by a woman – a weak woman, at that – but someone who fought using their head instead of just using brute strength?" The King was feeling expansive and continued, "and so you are to be commended, sensei, for training her that way. I expect to see Saiyans sent to you react with such intelligence."
"Yes, sire," the man said, confused at the good humor of his sovereign, standing with members of his own Elite guard dead at his feet. I will never understand royalty, he thought to himself, bewildered.
"Oh, and sensei," the King continued, now staring directly at the woman, "get her cleaned up. I want her in perfect condition at my training room in … oh, let’s say … twenty minutes." He walked over to her and ran a familiar hand across her jaw, his thumb trailing down her throat and across her collarbone to her shoulder, smiling as his eyes darkened at her. She dropped her eyes modestly, and he laughed. "Twenty minutes, sensei. No longer." With that, he turned on his heel and strode out of the training room, closely followed by his bodyguard.
"You are one lucky woman, Stranna," her sensei said to her angrily, tugging her arm, pulling her toward the small regen tanks kept at the back of that training area. "They would have killed you otherwise. I was ready to do it myself. What were you thinking?"
"I … I am sorry, sensei … I wasn’t thinking at all … I was just enraged at their lack of … courteousness in the beginning of the match," Stranna said, subdued, as she allowed him to lead her to the tanks and disrobe her. "And I permitted my feelings to take over. I am sorry," she said, bowing her head to him. "I meant no disrespect."
He frowned at her, but did not strike her. "You are lucky," he repeated as he helped her into the tank, "and now you’ve been noticed again by the King." He shook his head, helping her adjust the straps to the mask. "I don’t understand these things, but … it’s as it is. What the King wants, the King will have."
As the fluid filled up around her, she took a deep breath from the mask and relaxed.
Is it done? came Yisador’s thought into her mind. Are we ready?
Yes, it’s done, Stranna thought wearily, closing her eyes, and now it's on to phase two. Try me again in a couple of hours, please …
The window was open, allowing the sounds of the night to make their way into the palace. Small chirpings and buzzings could be heard, just above the decibel level for audible noise, but far enough below the level where tones were identifiable that it was noted not so much as a sound than as a feeling.
The woman was lying in bed, a shaft of emerging daylight moving toward her face, surrounded by comfortable, fine things; soft pillows and sheets, a comfortable bed, a slightly snoring Saiyan companion. Her body appeared relaxed, but her eyes told a different story. If color could be discerned in that eerie half dawn, they would have been a mixture of green, gold and tan, all on a dark blueberry blue background; and if expression could have been read in that half light, hers would have shown fear and perplexity colliding with each other.
It had all gone according to plan, as smoothly as if they had designed it weeks instead of moments in advance. Olean had contacted her sensei through farsensing, then had coerced him ("convinced," she like to say) into sending for her. Once at the training facility, it had been easy to choose several large, dimwitted Saiyans to challenge her, and in the process make it seem as if they had insulted her sensei, so that she was honor bound to fight them. The difficult part had been holding them off as long as she could, until she felt the King coming towards the center; then she was able to let them go, let them attack her as they wanted, as forcefully as they could. It had been a bit dicey in spots, but she had survived as she knew she would. It was regrettable that the Saiyans were killed – she hadn’t been sure about the first one, but overheard other Saiyans whispering that there was no point in putting him into a tank, as bone shards from a crushed skull had penetrated his brain. The second one, certainly, had been dead before he hit the floor, and in much the same way; Stranna had caved in the side of his temple without a second thought.
The Saiyan king, naturally, had watched the entire exhibition, coming in when she had been beaten back by her assailants and staying through her ultimate triumph over them. He had praised her sensei for such intelligent training and had ordered her brought to him after she had been cleaned up a bit. Again, exactly according to plan. Stranna had remembered his penchant for fierce looking sweaty women, and had played her part to the hilt. He had, predictably, taken the bait.
What had been a surprise to her was that once she had been delivered to him at his personal training room, he actually wanted to spar with her before he chose to do anything else to her – or required her to do anything else to him. That was something for which Stranna had no contingency plan, so she had no choice but to humor him – and he wasn’t kidding when he said he expected her to spar as fiercely as she had before.
Before she knew it, she was flat on her back on the training room floor, the side of her face stinging, looking up into a smirking face that inquired, "Do I have the right Guardian? You seem a bit slower than the other woman."
"Thank you, sir, I’m the right one," she said, trying to keep her voice neutral, her eyes flashing fire. The king smirked again, knowing without benefit of telepathy that her pride had been piqued, and watched as she scrambled to her feet, her face flushed with color and her eyes bright and dangerous.
"Then start fighting as if your life depended upon it," he said, moving into position, "because from now on -- it does."
The next quarter hour felt as though it was an eternity to Stranna. She attacked, parried, defended, ran, rolled, and generally fought for her life as strongly as she ever had done outside of Vejiitasei. She had kept him moving, too; but at the end, it was the Saiyan who had the upper hand. She knew when they started that she was hopelessly outclassed, and that there was no way imaginable that she would ever prevail, but her spirit refused to allow her to stop – she had to rise to the challenge, no matter what.
King Vejiita knew that, too. He watched her fierce display; watched the play of her muscles under her jumpsuit, the way her chest rose and fell with her labored breathing, her intense stare and how her eyes changed color the instant she decided to attack, and he knew that he had to have her. He was just perverse enough to want to exhaust her so that when he did take her there would be no question as to who was in charge.
In the end, she had succumbed to his greater strength, endurance and speed. He pinned her against the wall; her arms and legs were aching from the blows she had blocked, her head was spinning from lack of oxygen, but still she managed to croak out at him defiantly, "Should I be impressed by this, sire?"
"No," he said, amusement rumbling in his voice, "but you should be impressed by this." He had kissed her, fully and deeply, pressing her sweat soaked body next to his, pulling her away from the wall and bending her backwards, caressing her breasts with one hand as he supported her weight with the other. She closed her eyes to the naked lust in his as he pushed her down on the floor, feeling his weight and his hands across her body. This will pass it will pass it will pass pass pass ….
I command you, Guardian of mine, came the thought, pure and clear as he clasped the front of her collar with his thumb and third finger and pushed in toward the hollow of her throat. You will insure that I enjoy this encounter … AND that you enjoy it as much as I.
Stranna was dumb with astonishment as the command sank into her awareness and her body responded to the king’s caresses. Much better, Guardian, he thought, staring deeply into her eyes. This need not be uncomfortable for either one of us. I command you to take pleasure from this.
She had whimpered then, feeling that he had somehow robbed her of her righteous indignation; that if she enjoyed the sensations bombarding her body, she was being traitorous to her own race. He had felt her discomfiture through the collar’s psychic link, and had laughed and redoubled his efforts toward her.
Now she was in bed next to him, hours later, physically exhausted but unable to sleep because of the discovery she had just made. He was snoring softly, his mind turning in deep dreams, and she had probed him; again, all according to plan.
Tell me, my king, my liege, the secret of your son … what does he fear? What do you fear for him? Show me your secrets, my king …
No sooner had she whispered the suggestion to him than a vivid picture of Freeza, the monstrous tyrant, floated in front of her mind with the king’s horrified realization:
He wants Vejiita for his own … he wants to take him away, take him off-world and raise him in that menagerie he calls home … he would take the crown prince of Vejiitasei and shape him into some hideous image of his own … he wants my son …
That … thing … wants the boy? Her initial reaction was shocked, appalled astonishment; revulsion quickly followed when she formed a mental picture of Freeza with his charges from across the universe.
Then, from a hidden, practical side of her mind she had faithfully kept shut for some time, came an unbidden thought:
Have you lost your reason? This is the PERFECT opportunity! The strange lizard wants the Saiyan? -- well, let him have him, then! Your problem is neatly solved – no more Prince Vejiita means no more threat to Theo OR to the rest of us – jump on it, woman, jump on it!
She lay there, trembling, afraid of her own mind. It made sense – give the prince to Freeza, and their troubles were over. However, she didn’t feel good about the choice; from what she had seen of Freeza, he was an absolute dictator with a deformed soul who delighted in causing pain. Was she willing to subject a child to that type of person?
Eyes wide open, she lay on her pillow and stared out the window, listening to the sounds of the early morning. Yisador will know what to do, she thought, closing her eyes. She will know – and if not, then we ALL must decide, not just one of us.