World Enough And Time Chapter1
DISCLAIMER: I DON’T OWN DBZ OR ANY CHARACTER OF THE SAME. I’M NOT RECEIVING ANY MONEY FROM THE WRITING OF THIS PIECE OF FAN FICTION.
WARNING: ALL YE UNDER 18 GO AWAY NOW! This fic contains violence, adult themes, sex, and profanity. If this is not your thing, don’t read it.
* * * * *
CHAPTER I: Year One---Bulma
"Gods, Raditz! Can you not accomplish a simple thirty-hour retrieval mission without picking up a new piece of ass?"
The rumble of rough, friendly laughter that swept the ring of dark, spike-haired warriors clustered around the landing gear of the little ship sent a deep blush of embarrassment burning on the fair skin of Bulma's face. And hard on its heels came anger.
"Piece of ass?!" She nearly shrieked at the balding, mustachioed giant who towered over even Raditz' great height. Gods, were all these Saiyans this huge? Would Son-kun eventually grow to such an intimidating size? If he was even still alive, a cold voice of dread whispered in her mind. "My father and I built the ship that got us off Chikyuu before Captain Ginyu's heat blast struck Kami's Palace!" Her voice was rising and she could not seem to stop it. "I killed Berta and Guldo of the Ginyu Force personally after they murdered my friends and my parents! And I am not ANYONE's 'piece of ass', you big, bald, bone-brained fucker!!"
The bald man tensed at the harsh guffaws from the others that followed her words. He flexed his hands as though they itched to wrap around her throat. He loomed up toward her with angry snarl, perhaps to do just that----but Raditz was there, stepping between them.
"Touch what is mine at your own peril, Nappa," he growled softly.
"Mine"? Bulma thought indignantly. I'm not his….She frowned, confused. Maybe I am his…something. She didn’t love him… She didn't even know him, but he had been warm and there and she could still feel his big, callused hands on her body, his breath against her lips, still smell the deep musky scent of his skin. Oh Kami, were these Saiyans some kind of macho, gender-oppressive, he-man culture, where a woman had to be someone's property just to be safe from other men?
"You think you can take down a noble Elite, commoner's son?" Nappa was saying with a nasty grin. "I'll wring your second class neck in one hand and your mouthy little whore's in the other."
"Nappa," a voice said with deceptive gentleness. The group of warriors that had begun to grow large around them at the prospect of seeing a good fight, went silent in the space of a heartbeat. Nappa's face changed from beet red with anger, to a blanched, milky pale. Bulma craned her head around Raditz to see who it was that had spoken and saw…a boy.
No, she amended. A young man. His size---he was at the very most an inch taller than herself---just gave him the misleading appearance of someone much younger, especially among so many big men. Until you looked at his eyes. Until you watched the faces of the warriors clustered around them. It was the same look she had seen her other friends give Son-kun. The look of respect a warrior gives a man he knows could kill him without even exerting himself. He strode forward into the center of the ring, peering up at the two men who had been poised on the edge of combat, an unconscious air of arrogance in every move and minute gesture. His upswept Saiyan hair gave him the illusion of a little more height, but he didn't really need it. He walked as though he were a hundred feet tall.
"Nappa," he said again. "There are too few of our kind left alive. Why do you wish to rob us of one more?"
The giant looked at his feet, lowered his head to hide the fear in his eyes.
"Ouji-sama, I…the woman…"
"You would have begun a fight that would have ended in the death of yourself or Raditz," said the young man coldly. "Combat to avenge personal insult is a luxury we cannot afford." He moved so fast she didn't realized what had happened until Nappa doubled over, clutching is stomach, weazing for air. "If you forget that again, I will not be so merciful." The black eyes whipped around, as though the bald warrior gasping on the ground no longer existed, and froze Raditz, then herself, with a piercing stare. He held her in place, barely breathing, while he stared at her for a long, chilling moment, sizing her up perhaps, his face cold and emotionless as a stone mask. "This, I will hazard to guess, is not your brother Kakarott. Is he dead then?"
"Taken, Vegita-ouji," Raditz said shortly. Angry growls from all around. The Prince raised a hand and silenced them. "He was injured as a babe," Raditz went on. "Knocked half-witted by a fall. He had grown up among the natives of Chikyuu thinking himself one of them. Frieza had sent the Ginyu to take him. We fought them, but…they took the boy and set the planet to burn. We might have made valuable allies of the Chikyuu-jin. They were very like the Madrani in many ways. Not strong, but craftwise. Clever with machines. This girl----"
"I heard." Bulma met the Prince's eyes, refusing to look away or flinch under that unfriendly, appraising glare. "You have no fighting power, girl, and yet you killed Berta and Guldo…with machines?" He said the word with obvious distaste.
He frowned at the use of his title as an afterthought. "It is a cowardly way to make war, but the only rode open to those as weak and worthless in battle as yourself." His eyes studied her as she tensed angrily, noting with an almost imperceptible curl of his lips how she bit her tongue to keep from responding with words that might very well cost her life. He seemed to arrive at some kind of decision, and nodded curtly. "Give her to Mastertech Pulli in the morning," he told Raditz. "If she can fashion weapons that will kill men as powerful as the Ginyu, we shall give her free reign to build more." He turned on his heel and strode away without a backward look.
"Was…was I supposed to swear allegiance to him or something?" She asked in almost a whisper.
"Only if he asked it of you," Raditz said, looking after his Prince with an odd, thoughtful expression. "I can't think why he didn't. But Princes and gods will do as they will. Soldiers need only follow." He glanced down at her, and his eyes smiled though his face did not. "Come and I'll show you your new home."
"Ottousan!" The small replica of the man beside her, no older than three years old, stopped just short of jumping into Raditz' arms, skidding to a halt before the big Saiyan at the threshold of the mountain villa he had flown her to. The stone house, high roofed and wide windowed, looked down on the Madrani capital from the edge of the cliffside out of which it had been carved. The child stood before Raditz, brows drawn down in embarrassment, and folded his hands behind his back, which had gone ramrod straight, at attention.
Raditz glowered down at the boy, but one corner of his mouth twitched minutely. "Have you guarded my house well during my absence, brat?"
"I defended it, Ottousan!" The child said proudly, little chin raised with pride. "A dire-cat attacked us during the night, but I killed him quickly."
"It almost clawed its way into the house," said a golden-skinned woman, whose face was still beautiful, though lined with age. "If Radu had not killed it, it might have killed me or one of the other servants." She moved forward through the large room that lay around a great open fireplace, a pit dug into the center of the room, and stopped directly behind the child, eyeing Bulma with open curiosity. Raditz gazed down at the boy, and nodded approvingly. "You earned your keep, brat. If you're strong enough to fight dire-cats, perhaps we better let you begin your training sooner than later."
Raditz' face had not moved, the hard, non-expression had not shifted an iota.
Bulma watched fascinated and a little sad as the tiny boy deliberately molded his small face into a copy of his father's.
"Yes, Ottousan!'" The boy barked out like a raw recruit in boot camp--but his dark eyes shown with delight. "I took it's skin to keep."
His father raised one eyebrow. "Show me, brat." The big man followed the child out of the hearth room without backward look or a word to Bulma.
She stared after them, then back at the woman. No word of introduction, no explanation had been given to the other woman or the child as to who she was or why she was here.
"These Saiyans are a warrior culture," the golden woman said, somehow reading her thoughts. "The finer points of things like manners and hospitality are very often lost on them." She smiled warmly. "You also might do well to remember that things like open displays of emotion are considered unseemly among them. But you learn to read them after a while.
And to hear what they aren't saying. I am Leeva. I keep Raditz' house and care for his son."
"I am Bulma Briefs of Chikyuu." Bulma felt suddenly very awkward. "I'm…I guess I'm hear to build weapons for the armies organizing against Frieza." She waited for the inevitable spate of questions, some awkward, all painful, none of which she had a clear answer for. But the woman merely nodded amiably and began showing her around the huge house.
"There are three unoccupied rooms, but this is the nicest." It was spacious and airy, like everything else in the villa and it smelled of the fragrant wood that lined the inside of the stone walls. A wide balcony faced the view of the city below.
"It's lovely…thank you," she said softly. Her shoulders were beginning to shake. A gentle hand fell on her arm, then took her hand, as the trembling spread throughout her body, as her eyes began filling. Too much, too many things lost and found in too short a time, too much to process and take in.
"Chikyuu is gone, child?" It wasn't really a question. Bulma nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She wanted to be comforted and she wanted to be left alone so she could curl into a fetal ball of misery and withdraw from the relentless assault of reality for a while. She wanted to sit quietly, silent and staring at nothing, and she wanted to shriek and wail until her voice was stripped and raw. The older woman said nothing, only continued to hold her hand, knowing perhaps there was nothing, no words that could be spoken, that would make it better.
"I'm sorry," she said after a long while, wiping her eyes.
"For crying?" The woman smiled wryly. "My girl, it's a welcome change! I am up to my ears in emotionally constipated Saiyans."
Leeva left to let her "to settle in", though she had nothing, no possessions to unpack or arrange. She moved aimlessly about the room, finding a wardrobe of women's clothes, most of which seemed to fit. She abandoned it after a few short moments, wandering out onto the balcony. She sat watching the city below, the lazy, graceful rise and fall of ship coming and going, the flurry of activity that never seemed to stop on the streets. Preparations for war. She watched the city and the spaceport, thinking of the coming day, of the Prince's words about giving her free reign to build, about everything that had happened in the last eight days, reliving each moment, scene by agonizing scene. Then finally, as the sun began to sink over the far horizon, into the sea that bordered one corner of the capital, she thought of nothing at all. The wind was on her face, growing cooler…this was a colder world than Chikyuu. The crisp feel spoke of fall, though she somehow knew from the green of the mountains around her, it was still high summer. Wrapped in an easy, unthinking calm, she watched the sky grow darker by slow increments. When she heard the light fall of footsteps behind her, felt a hand, large and strong and warm, rest on the back of her neck, pushing aside the long blue hair, she nearly jumped, so lost had she been in her reverie. She turned, gazing up at him, the moment of peace lost. Several dozen questions were burning inside her, but one was more important than all the rest. She set her jaw and glared at him.
"You told Nappa not to touch what was yours." She tried to keep her eyes and her face expressionless, but had the feeling she wasn't succeeding.
"Does that mean I'm your slave or your harem girl? Because I don't give a shit about the laws or customs of your people. My freedom is the only thing I have left to lose, and if you mean to take that from me, then just go ahead and kill me right now! Because I'll sure as hell kill you if you try to make me into a piece of property!" Her voice had risen to a low screech, and she watched him supress a grin---which only made her madder. She stood fuming before him and he sobered abruptly.
"There are factions among the highest ranking warriors who serve the Prince," he said finally. "Nappa is not my friend and begrudges me my place because of my common blood."
"Go on…" She said slowly.
"I explained to you that we are a race of conquerors…and that not so very long ago, we were destroyers, planet brokers under the contract of Tsiru-sei." He had told them all these things and more when he had first arrived on Chikyuu.
Fourteen years ago, everything had changed. King Vegita of Vegita-sei had abruptly broken off all trade relations with Tsiru-sei, and began over the next ten years to build his own Empire. Flanked by rebellions in the Eastern and Northern quadrants of his own realm, Frieza had tended to other matters while the Saiyans grew rich and strong, taking slave planets, colonizing others, and receiving the willing oaths of allegiance from countless systems who hoped for protection against Tsiru-sei's purge and sell policy. Among the many unprecedented changes that accompanied the break with Frieza was the end of whole sale purging. Son-Kun had been one of the last infants sent on a purging mission before the break with Frieza. With the end of the treaty with Tsiru-sei, the Saiyans kept their young close, carrying them onto the field of battle to learn the arts of war. Vegita-sei kept the worlds she took now, both through conquest and oath of fealty. And rather than sell the scorched husk to the highest bidder, the Saiyans ruled them with a fist of iron, taking all the wealth of the hundreds of worlds that flocked to their arms, knowing they were the lesser of two evils. A second class citizen of a protected world within the Saiyan Empire was not entirely free, but he was alive and well fed and permitted to govern his own affairs so long as he paid his tribute and bowed his head respectfully to his Saiyan masters. Then…Tsiru-sei turned her eyes to Vegita-sei once more.
Frieza had attacked, without warning and without declaration of hostility. He had burned Vegita-sei to a charred cinder, slowly, laughing as he clubbed its defenders down by the thousands, drawing out the agony as those alive on the surface watched and fought and raged helplessly…and all died. At least, Raditz hoped they had all died. Something dark and haunted in his eyes as he had told the tale said that he did not think it was so.
Only those who were off world at the time survived. And Frieza began to hunt them throughout the galaxy, killing them wherever he could find them, razing slave worlds, colonies, bases, and protectorates to the ground, killing or capturing anyone he found of Saiyan blood. The survivors had rallied around the Prince, who had been on Madran securing a dozen ships new ships for his father's fleets at the time of the attack. This world was not Madran, though the thousands of Madrani who lived here called it so. Their world had been one of the first to fall in the wake of the destruction of the Saiyan home world. This was a secret Research World in an uncharted system where the greatest Madrani mastertechs had always built the most dangerous of their weapons. Now, the survivors had simply renamed it Madran. And with the death of the Madrani homeworld, there was no one living who knew the location or co-ordinates of "New" Madran---a perfect hidden base.
"When we made camp on this world, we found that there were less than a thousand of our folk left alive." Raditz frowned. "Among those, there were a grand total of twenty-two females---all of them with bonded mates. Prince Vegita gave us leave to take mates from other races if we wished. Another great change. Before, even during the last decade of his father's reign, it would have been my duty to put Radu down once I learned of his existence."
"For reasons of 'racial purity'?" Bulma felt sick. "Kill your own children? You…your people did that?"
"Most did." He gazed down at the city, his eyes distant and dark. "I knew of two others I had sired before the Prince's new edict, but I turned a blind eye to that knowledge. The worlds they lived on are gone now, destroyed by Frieza, and Radu is all that remains of my blood. His mother was my friend, and Leeva's daughter. She died bearing him." He turned back to face her. "We do not hold affection for family simply because they are kin. We must know them, trust them, and respect them first. But there are responsibilities and obligations to blood. Kakarott was your protector, if not your mate. You followed him in battle as did his other vassals."
"Friends," she corrected softly. "They were his friends. And they loved him."
He seemed to have no response to that. "Now that Kakarott is…not with us, it falls to me to give his mate, his soldiers, his brats, and all those he protected their due. Many things have changed among our people in a very short span of time, but we still have no law against what other races call 'murder'. Had I not claimed you as you as part of my household, Nappa would have killed you or worse, and no one would have stopped him or questioned his right to do so. Without a strong protector, you may be killed out of hand or taken as a "slave or harem girl" by anyone with the strength to do so---and that is everyone."
"So…" She hugged herself against the chill in the air. The light breeze had turned bitter as the sun departed. "So a woman has no place in your society?"
He shook his head. "Male or female, it is all about fighting power. A strong female---and all of our women were strong---has all the rights of any warrior. Among Saiyans, strength is everything." He smiled grimly. "Your status may rise among our folk when they see what you can do with metal and wires and such."
"Am I…" Her voice shook. "Am I yours in every sense?"
"If you wish to be. I have no taste for unwilling partners." He stared down at her, his expression blank as the stone face of a cliffside. "I hurt you."
She didn't pretend to misunderstand him. "It was my first time…that's why there was pain, and I…" She broke off, not knowing what to say, or feel or think. He brushed one finger over her lips.
"Tell me what you want, girl."
The feel of his hand on her cheek, smoothing down to the line of her jaw, set off a warm tingling feeling in her stomach, spreading downward to the sore place where her thighs met. "I want to be warm," she whispered, shivering. "I want to be held. I don't want to be alone." She lay her hand on his chest, tracing down to the hard ridges of his stomach, feeling with an odd flash of delight, how he shuddered under her touch.
"Come," he said.
She followed him inside and watched as he stripped---boots, pants, armor, tunic, all tossed aside on the floor. He lay down naked on her bed, stretching out on his back, the wild black mane of his hair fanned out beneath his head. He laced both hands behind his head, dark eyes dancing in his nearly immobile face. "Had I known you'd never had other hands on you before mine, I would have done this last night."
She sat on the bed beside him, eyes trailing over the perfect sculpture of his great frame. "Done what?"
His eyelids lowered and she felt the purring vibration in his chest as she began moving her hand over the cut and ripple of rock-like muscle wrapped in silken hairless skin. "Let you do what you are doing now. Exploring… touching…" He inhaled sharply as she leaned down and put her lips to his nipple, running her tongue over and around it lightly. "Tasting…"
His mouth curled on one side in what she was beginning to recognize as the trademark Saiyan smirk. "You may do with me as you wish."
As she wished? She bent down and brushed his lips with hers.
"What is that?" He breathed.
"It's a kiss." She did it again, longer this time, tasting his mouth.
"Kiss…" He said softly. His face broke into a smile then, a real smile, and suddenly he was beautiful. The resemblance to Son-Kun was so striking her heart ached. "I like it," he said.
She sat astride the hulking chest of the great, man-shaped mech the two glaring Saiyan warriors had brought her an hour ago, her face scrunched up with concentration under the shield goggles she wore, as her laser saw slowly pierced a hole in the giant thing's hull. In the eleven months that she had worked in Master Pulli's shop, this was the first time anyone had brought her a weapon of the enemy to dissect. Everyone, including the shopmaster, had already left for the night, and she had been lucky enough to be the last only one present when this little package from the Prince arrived, addressed to her personally.
Prince Vegita. She frowned and set the saw's beam to a higher level of intensity. In the course of her first few weeks on Madran, he had become the bain of her existence. She had spent the first ten days in Pulli's weapons shop, laying out designs and reconstructing the cannon she had made in a two-day brain fever before the destruction of Chikyuu by day, studying every piece of technical info from a hundred different worlds by night. She rose almost instantly, much to the open-mouthed displeasure of many of the others who labored beside her, to the rank of Journeyman-tech within the structure of the Madrani technical hierarchy. The entire Madrani infrastructure had gone into hysterics at her introduction of basic encapsulation mechanics. While the Saiyans scorned and reviled mechanical genius as a necessary evil, the Madrani elevated it to star-like status. Pulli had stood by watching her in abject adoration as she fired the first proto-type of her "ki cannon" on the weapons testing field and cold cocked a dozen Saiyan volunteers on the gun's lowest power setting.
She frowned angrily at the memory and switched to a bigger saw, burrowing downward into the mech's plated chest. What the hell was this thing made of?
Far from being impressed, the small knot of warriors who had been looking on curiously, began snarling angrily, as though she'd offended them all somehow.
"Try it on me at the highest power setting," said the young man who was suddenly directly in front of her. She had gazed for an instant or two into the black, slanted eyes of the Saiyan Prince, seen his mouth curl in a half-sneer, and let him have it. She fired with every intention of wiping that snotty smirk off his face---only to find that he was no longer where he had been. He had moved faster than the light that carried the beam from the cannon. He touched her lightly on the shoulder from behind and she spun, nose to nose with him. She had half an instant to think notice that he was much younger than she had thought at their first meeting, maybe even younger than herself. Then the cannon was torn from her hands, tossed aloft, and unceremoniously incinerated. He lowered his head, eyes level with hers, no longer smirking.
"You must have taken Berta and Guldo at unawares with this toy. You shot them in the back like a coward, didn't you, woman?" He snorted in disgust. "Had we been fighting in earnest, you would have achieved nothing but your own death. A weakling like yourself cannot fight unshielded."
She had stood trembling with rage, felt Raditz nearby, tensing with fear at what she might say to his Prince in anger. The worry that angering this arrogant little bastard might be taken out on him was all that stopped her tongue.
"Then I'll build a shield to go with it!" She snapped, barely civil. "…Ouji-sama." She added after a second or two.
Far from being angered, his smirk returned. "When you have done so, come and challenge me again…weakling."
And so it had begun. She would build things, and he would promptly break them. A series of ever-smaller, sleeker, more powerful cannons, then rifles, then hand guns, based around her original design of a beam that scrambled the centers of a fighter's brain that ordered his ki and energy level, and made him vulnerable to attack. The first shield she built, based on a standard starship deflector, hadn't lasted ten seconds. Vegita had torn through it with terrifying ease, and squashed her new gun into the shape of a pretzel. She had stomped her feet, swearing like a sailor, much to the amusement of the assembled Saiyans come to watch what had become a regular show. The worst part of it, the very worst, was not seeing her hard work squished into metallic mush at the end of each duel, but the look of ever-increasing contempt on that bastard Vegita's face, each time.
"Gods, if I could just knock him flat on his ass one time, I think I could die a happy woman!" She had raged at Raditz one night after nearly two months of this. That morning, she had thought she had it. A reflective invisibility camouflage built into a stronger shield, an invisibility reflector based on the repeater array Pulli had set in an orbiting sphere around Madran's solar system, rendering the entire system undetectable to scanners or passing ships.
She was watching Raditz repeatedly hurl his son hundreds of meters into the air, catching the boy lightly each time he plummeted to earth. Raditz had scowled at her, nearly missing a catch. He threw the squealing boy up again. "He should not fancy you so openly…" He growled almost under his breath. "Prince or no."
"Fancy?" She blinked. "He's not flirting with me. He's being an asshole!"
"He is---" He caught Radu and tossed him upwards a little higher. "When a Saiyan male wants a woman, he will do all that he can to enrage her. When she finally leaps on him she will either beat him senseless, kill him, or if he is stronger, become his mate."
"He rapes her?" Bulma asked horrified.
"If he has spent any time at all courting her anger, she will know what he is about. If she attacks, it is to say, 'Take me if you can'."
"That's like twelve-year-old Chikyuu boys who make you mad enough to hit them, just so they can get to touch you."
"Something like." He scowled again, facing her. "He could take you from me at any time and there is nothing I could do to stop him. Though I would die trying."
She stared into his dark worried eyes and felt a stab of terrible guilt. I want him. I need him. I like him very, very much. But, oh Kami, I don't love him…And I think he loves me with all of his big heart, even if he doesn't know what name to give what he's feeling. She watched him throw his son aloft once more, and spoke firmly. "So what you're saying is that there's no way to tell the difference between a flirting Saiyan and one who simply doesn't like you?" He looked startled at this. "I think, in all honesty, he's trying to goad me into building something that can be used as a decisive weapon in this war. And that he just thinks I'm unbelievably funny when I'm pissed. Sort of like a big man baiting a small aggressive dog, thinking its hilarious when it yips at him." Her eyes narrowed dangerously.
"I'm going to send the little fucker away limping next time." Raditz grinned at this open threat against the person of his lord and sovereign, and glanced back up with a sudden triumphant shout. The boy hung in the air under his own power for three or four full seconds before falling. He caught his son in a rough grip that looked suspiciously like an embrace, grinning ear to ear. But his eyes still bore a distant shadow a worry.
Two weeks later, her day had finally come. Ki pistol in hand, shield and camouflage invisibility reflector at the ready, she had stood her ground before her pointy-haired royal nemesis as he looked down his nose at her from across the testing grounds.
"Ready?" He said with soft, mocking menace.
"You're going down this time, Ouji-sama!" She spat. She activated the shield, the camouflage unit and the gun with one switch, and he blinked at the place where she had been, scanning about for the almost unreadable signature of her ki. He found it, and rushed her with that damned half-sneer plastered across his face. She fired. The last time, he had done the same thing, then dodged around the blast with that super speed of his when she fired. There was a large group of on-lookers, that had grown with each new face-off between herself and the Prince, fascinated Madrani and grinning Saiyans. He dodged, as she had known he would, side-stepping the beam----and was struck dead on in the chest as the needlelike blast refracted and flared out into a scatter burst. There were shouts of anger from the Saiyans, murderous and afraid, as Vegita staggered back and fell to his knees, pale and trembling. Then he fell forward onto his face. Something seized her by the neck and shook her like a rag doll. There was a cry of rage, Raditz voice, a flash of him blurring out of the crowd, slamming into whatever had grabbed her. She went flying through the air. She hit the ground painfully, rolling over to see Raditz and Nappa clashing in a frenzied, bloody whirl.
"No…" She gasped.
"Get on your feet, woman." A hand yanked her off the ground, setting her on her feet. She saw Vegita standing beside her, still pale and shaken, but unhurt.
"Stop them!" She cried. "Please!"
He stared at her, his face hard and cold. She already knew enough about Saiyan behavior to know that they pulled that wooden face when their emotions were running the highest, or when they felt what they were feeling might be interpreted as weakness. He turned without replying and strode toward the two combatants. He struck them apart, one with each fist. Kami,
She thought dazedly. He can barely stand and he's still strong enough to beat them both down with one blow.
"Ouji-sama!" Raditz cried, almost as he hit the dirt. "…my right. He laid hands on my woman!"
"She nearly killed the Prince, you low-born fool!" Nappa said harshly.
"You were warned, Nappa," the Prince said coldly. He raised his open hand to the big man.
"I…My Prince, I have been you body guard since the day you were born!
I could not stand by and let that sneaky bitch nearly---"
"She did not harm me." There was a long blood-chilling moment of silence. Then Vegita slowly lowered his hand. "So then." He frowned at both men, seeing they were still only inches away from the blood rage that had taken them a moment before. "I need you both. The Chikyuu-jin woman has built a weapons package that will allow a warrior with no fighting power at all to knock one as powerful as myself unconscious."
He turned to glare at her. "You will begin mass production at once. We will test your system on one of Tsiru-sei's troop quarter bases within the week."
She nodded shortly. "Therefore, I need her as well. I will deny neither of you your right to blood feud, but I will set the date. When Tsiru-sei lies in ashes, when Frieza and all his kind are dead, I will grant you the right to settle this in honorable combat. If either of you raises a hand to the other before that day, I will kill that man myself." He fixed his gaze on Nappa.
"And I will not give him the honor of death in combat. I will behead him." The bald man blanched, more terrified of dishonorable execution than of the death itself, Bulma thought. Barred by a coward's death from the Halls of Valhalla, or the Saiyan equivalent. "And you!" He almost snarled at her. "Set to your work now!"
And so she had. Working night and day with the new authority he had granted her, driving her team as ruthlessly as she drove herself, in an obsessive fever to finally begin the fight she so desperately wanted to be part of. On the night before the raid that would test the new weapon system, Vegita had entered her workshop, something he had never done, moving silently as all his people seemed to. He had been gone for several days, taking Raditz and a hundred others on a raiding mission. She had been on Madran less than a week when she had learned to her horror, that she would not be leaving---ever. Not until the war was won or lost. With the exception of the Saiyans, no one who arrived on this most secret of bases was allowed to walk away after learning of its existence. The only way she would ever leave would be as part of a raiding skirmish team.
It was very late, and the huge workshop was deserted, but it was still several minutes before she noticed he was standing right beside her terminal chair. He stood motionless, taking in her white, stricken face as she stared down at the readout on the screen before her. It was the return signal of the long range object scan she had aimed at Namek, after searching out its co-ordinates using the outdated star charts she had pulled out of Mater Pulli's archives. She had sent the scan out on a scrambled hyper wave two days after her arrival on Madran. The object scan had registered nothing. No, not nothing. Scattered asteroids and dust and the roiling remains of a dying sun---Namek and its entire system had been destroyed. Gone. And with them, all her hope. She couldn't even cry. Tears wouldn't support this aching empty feeling.
"Namek-sei," Vegita murmured. "Did you know them?"
"No…" She choked. "But they had…"
"Raditz gave me a full report of the battle on Chikyuu and the dragon balls your folk claimed to possess. I sent out a scan trace of my own to search for Namek. These dragon balls seem to me like the stuff of legends, but I will leave no stone unturned. My scan has not yet returned its results."
By some miracle of mercy, there was none of the customary mockery or arrogance in his voice as he spoke. His voice was almost toneless, in fact.
"They could have brought everyone back," she whispered. "My world, Vegita-sei, everyone…" And at last, the tears began to come. "We could have used them to defeat Frieza."
His black, hard eyes, so much older than the boyish face, met hers, and for once, they looked almost unguarded. "It would have been too much good fortune. In my experience, fate is never so generous. The dead are dead." He swallowed suddenly. "Sometimes I think I hear the voices of my people, all the slain millions, crying out to me for revenge. My father's voice is sometimes so clear, I wonder if----" He stopped, realizing he had said too much, horrified that he had spoken his thoughts aloud, revealed himself so openly. But she had somehow caught what he had not said, and her eyes welled up with horror and sympathy.
"You're not sure your father is dead, are you?" She said softly.
He closed his eyes, turned his head away. "I hope …I must believe that he is. The alternative…" He cut the words off sharply. And when he turned back to her his face was a blank stone mask. "Is everything in readiness for tomorrow?"
"It is." She stood and the room reeled around her. He put a hand out to catch her---and she froze, staring into his shocked face, trembling at the guilty flash of heat his touch sent coursing through her body.
He raised one hand slowly, almost dream-like, and brushed the streaks of tears off her cheeks. And again, it was as though some electrical current jumped between them, a pulsing shiver of something so overwhelming it drove away thought and sense. "He could take you from me…" Raditz had said. He was so close now she could feel his breath against her lips. "Woman…" He broke off, as though he had forgotten what he was about to say. He took a deep breath----and his eyes widened, then narrowed. He stepped back as though she had burned him. Neither of them spoke, only stood staring at each other silently.
"Raditz is my good and faithful vassal," he said after a long moment. He didn't bother to explain that statement.
"Yes, he is," she agreed softly, still shaking from head to toe. Another wave of lightheadedness rose up and she forced it down. What the hell was wrong with her?
"You will not go on the raid tomorrow," he said flatly.
"What?!" She screamed, all thoughts of anything but the project she had half-killed herself to complete blow to dust.
"If you are killed, we will lose a valuable asset."
She counted to ten slowly, saw the logic in his statement. "If this raid is successful, I want a favor from you."
He nodded warily. "It would be your right in the event of victory."
"When we hit Tsiru-sei----whether it's this year or five years from now----I want to be part of the attack."
He nodded again solemnly. "My word on it, Bulma of Chikyuu. Though Frieza is more than you can imagine. I am the strongest son of Vegita-sei in a thousand years. My power level tops out at seventy thousand on a standard scanner. And it continues to rise. But Frieza's power level is over one million." Bulma felt a cold knot of despair in her stomach. One million… "We can nip at his heels for the moment, but to defeat him, we must grow stronger. I must grow stronger. So… I will train and fight, and you will continue to build. And perhaps we will see that day and live beyond it." He paused, eyeing her cryptically. "Though if the day comes this year, you may not to wish to join us in the final assault. And your mate will most certainly object."
"Raditz hasn't claimed me as his mate," she said. She knew the only reason he had not was because he sensed she did not want anything formal…yet. She pushed away another cringing wave of guilt at what she had just felt, just wanted, from this man she didn't even like.
"He will," Vegita said softly. "You are carrying his son." He turned and walked away, his bootshod footsteps echoing hollowly in the empty lab. She sat down hard in her chair, and burst into tears again.
There was a balance to it----learning about the baby and Namek's destruction in the same hour. Raditz had known as soon as she'd come home. He had been…elated. Or as elated as he ever let himself appear.
He had not made love to her that night, only held her, wrapped in the heat of his huge arms, the contented sound of his breathing and the steady drum of his heart lulling her to sleep, all thoughts of Saiyan Princes blurring into a distant dream. It had been hormones, she thought sleepily. Raging out of control due to pregnancy. Life made anew, growing inside her, a little piece of immortality for herself, for her parents, for all of Chikyuu. Something, someone who was a part of her. Family. She smiled and slept.
The raid had been a rout. A team of low powered Madrani volunteers from Pulli's own shop had taken the troop base on Distari in two hours. The only casualties had been those with any measurable ki that could be detected on scanners. All of the "weaklings" like herself had moved through the base invisible, untraceable, killing every mercenary in sight.
She cut through the out hull of the mech only to find another layer. She cursed and leaned down for a different tool, pausing as a sudden wave of nausea washed over her. Dammit. Her mother had only had morning sickness for the first few weeks of her pregnancy. Not all the way into the third frigging trimester. Heh. Not for much longer. Raditz was in a rage about putting the baby in an incu-pod well before her due date. She had no problems with that, but she wanted to carry the baby as long as was safely feasible. She lay one hand on her abdomen, trying to soothe the tiny passenger, who was apparently readjusting his position for the fifth time this hour. It felt like he was trying to punch a hole through her stomach. She had made the mistake of saying that to Raditz a week ago and he had gone dead pale. She was trying to keep in mind the fact that Radu's mother had died in child birth…that one in four of the Madrani mates the Saiyans had taken had died when they tried to deliver naturally. But she would not, could not believe it would happen to her---fate had already dealt her too many bad luck cards. Still, she had no problem with removing the baby for the last four weeks of gestation. She was scheduled to undergo the process in two days. To hell with the beauty of natural childbirth. Her own parents had dotingly shown her and a house full of queasy guests the film of her own birth at every birthday party they had ever thrown her, each year of her life. She was lucky that yearly ordeal hadn't put her off the thought of pregnancy for good.
She raised her head as the illness passed, and retrieved a circular ion saw from her worktable, then began battening at this new layer. Raditz had left two days ago on some important scouting mission to see about the feasibility of raiding Tsiru-sei's core systems. On the night before his departure, he had scowled and huffed furiously as she began suggesting names for the baby. He had been adamant about his lack of willingness to even consider Chikyuu-jin names. He sat behind her, almost curled around her in the hotsprings bath he had built less than ten meters from the house in the east meadow of their mountaintop. The slow, gentle sweeps of his hands as he bathed her back were at odds with the harsh tones of his rusted baritone, as he vetoed her last suggestion.
"'Trunks' was my father's name," she said after a moment of silence.
The hand on her back paused. Then it moved around to caress her abdomen, feeling the life inside, growing bigger, stronger every day.
"He will not be accepted among my people without a Saiyan name," he said quietly. She sighed softly. Then nodded, leaning back against him, her eyes distant and subdued. He was right, of course. The baby would grow up Saiyan, not Chikyuu-jin. Her son would need to be accepted by his father's people----there were none of his mother's people left. His hand traced the mark on her shoulder, deep and permanent, where he had bitten her months ago, marking her as his mate. A Saiyan wedding band, she thought, remembering the searing waves of pleasure his teeth had sent washing through her. He turned her gently to face him.
"Karakott," he said finally. She had stared at him, eyes filling with tears, and kissed his mouth.
"Yes." She said. And abruptly, with no fanfare or blaze of fireworks, no warning or premeditation, she realized she loved him.
The last layer of the damnable machine beneath her cracked and inexplicably fell into pieces---and she finally saw what lay at the center.
She jerked back, sliding off the giant chest, vomit rising up in her throat. She staggered over to the emergency call button on the wall and hit the switch, sinking down slowly against the wall. After what seemed like only a moment, someone was lifting her up, pushing a chair under her.
"Drink." Vegita's voice. She took a gulp of the water that he offered her, raised her head and stared at him sickly. She had not seen him face to face since the night he had come to the workshop, months ago. Nappa and two other hulking warriors were flanking him on either side, their faces dark and dangerous with dislike. She knew vaguely that many of the Elite warrior class saw her weapons systems as an insult to "true" soldiers everywhere, and Nappa's faction even believed her work to be a possible threat, something that an enemy with no fighting power at all could very easily turn against the Saiyans at some later date. The call button was Master Pulli's direct page to the Prince, to be used only in the case of direst emergencies.
"Are you birthing, woman?" Nappa said angrily. "If you've called Vegita-ouji to attend you for such a trivial---"
"Close your mouth, Nappa," Vegita said shortly. "What have you found?"
"Over there," she said faintly. "I can't look at it again. Not right now."
The men turned to the open chest cavity of the mech, and slowly levitated up to look inside. They all froze as one, Nappa gasping harshly, turning his head away. The image of what she had just seen, the pale Saiyan face, shaven shreds of spiked hair falling here and there, thousands of wires and circuits burrowed into bone and brain….and the eyes, horribly, unimaginably awake and aware. She heard a blow fall, quick and sharp and merciful, putting an end to the suffering of the benighted creature in the mech, the thing that had once been a man. She waited until they returned to the floor, standing in a half circle around her, faces pale and murderous.
"Now we know what they do with those they take," Nappa said in a hushed, almost unrecognizable voice.
Vegita fixed her and the other men with a hard stare. "On pain of your lives, none of you will speak of this…abomination to anyone until I give you leave." Nods all around. He turned to her. "Can you…" He paused, gazing at her ashen face. "You cannot dissect this thing in your state."
"I won't be in this state in two days," she said in what she hoped was a steady voice. My appointment with the medics is day after tomorrow."
"Work on this by yourself. None of the other techs are to know of its existence."
"I can throw it in a capsulizer until tomorrow," she said standing, walking unsteadily to her worktable. She found one of her capsulization pellets in a cubby hole in a lower drawer and popped the cap after setting the parameters of the mech. She hurled it at the giant machine, and it vanished in a push of impaction resin. She moved to pick up the capsule that now contained the atrocity she had discovered half an hour ago. Raditz, where are you? Come home… She placed a hand instinctively on her stomach as the baby shifted again, setting off a sharp twinge low in her belly. Oh, damn! Leeva and Radu were coming down from the mountain today. Leeva had told her with a sad look of resignation, that the boy would be moving into the children's barracks in the city tomorrow, to begin his training. Radu was four years old, she thought hollowly. Would her baby be taken away from her to learn how to be a warrior before he was even old enough for kindergarten? She knew the answer to that, just as she knew that her son would be as eager and joyful at the prospect of learning to fight as his brother. She had promised to meet them in the square to have lunch and----A shrill klaxon cut through her thoughts and she followed the men out of the workshop into the light of day, slow and clumsy with the baby's added weight. A ship was spinning out of the sky, weaving drunkenly toward the spaceport. It crashed on its side with a thunderous booming that shook the panes off every window in the city. People were running from everywhere to see what had happened. She wove her way through the growing crowd to the smoking pile of metal and half-crushed hull that had been a space ship.
Oh kami…it's Raditz' ship…
She nearly fainted with relief when she saw him standing tall and proud before a growing mass of on-lookers. He had dragged a gagged and bound prisoner out of the wreckage with him, throwing the man down at his feet.
"Ouji-sama!" Raditz barked, casting around for some sign of the Prince. "I have a prize for you!" He called. The horned man on the ground seemed to be struggling desperately to talk, his light purple skin mottled with sweat and effort. "Captain Ginyu himself!" He smiled, baring all his teeth. She pushed to the front of the crowd to get a better look, saw Leeva holding Radu up to see his father, less than twenty feet to her left. Raditz' eyes swept over her as he scanned the faces around him. And she felt a chill sweep through her, cold and terrifying as a nap in the grave she would one day lie in. There was no recognition in that gaze. No---She glanced down at the man on the ground, recognizing him as one of the men who had blasted Chikyuu to a lifeless ball of dust, and a dim kernel of memory stirring. Captain Ginyu…
"Your Prince is standing before you, Raditz," Nappa said with a suspicious frown. The crowd grew suddenly silent, shifting nervously. "What the hell is wrong with you?!"
Raditz froze, still grinning oddly, and turned to face Nappa, who stood towering a few feet from Vegita's side. His eyes never even lit on the smaller man who looked like a young boy standing in the giant Nappa's shadow.
"You are not the Saiyan no Ouji, baldy. Where is he?"
The memory came screaming back to her, something Bassan Baba had said she'd sensed about the Ginyu Captain's hidden power… Body snatcher! She stepped forward, into the ring, feeling as though she were in a waking nightmare. Oh Kami, nonono… At Raditz' feet, the horned man was thrashing helplessly as she approached, trying to scream through his gag.
"Captain Raditz," she said numbly. "Your mate sends word for you to come to her when your business is completed here."
"What---?" Nappa blurted.
"Tell her I'll be a little late, dolly," Raditz' said absently.
"You," she hissed cold and horribly afraid. "Are not my husband."
And Vegita struck. He fired a energy blast directly at the heart of the body of her lover, her husband, her mate…at the shell that no longer contained the same soul it had when she had last been held in those arms. The bolt seared through his chest, and incredibly, he laughed. Everyone not Saiyan was running or backing up hurriedly, vacating the scene of battle. She could hear Radu's high voice shrieking his father's name over and over.
Raditz' eyes fastened on Vegita. "There you are, you little bastard!" Raditz cried triumphantly. He held up a tiny signaling device in his hand and flicked its switch with a sickening grin. "Change now!" He screamed, hurling a bright, white, living flash of light directly at Vegita. The man on the ground had somehow managed to snap the energy cuffs on his hand and staggered to his feet, lunging in between Vegita and the oncoming beam of light. It struck him dead on and hurled him onto his back. And all hell began to break loose. Warriors were pouring from the smashed ship, all wearing the signature armor of Frieza's mercenary legions. The Saiyans were hurling themselves into the fight with a blood mad rage that had no plan or pattern.
The purplish man on the ground had leapt to his feet and was now entangled in a whirling deathmatch with Vegita, high above the city square.
And Raditz…she dodged through the melee around her, scrambling to where his body lay.
"Tousaaaan!" Radu was huddled over the terribly still form. Bulma knelt down, her heart in her throat. Then Raditz lifted a hand, touching the boy's head lightly, and she sobbed. There was…there was a hole through his midsection, charred and cauterized. The eyes he turned on her were overly bright in his deathly pale face. She couldn't speak, couldn't think, could only shake her head against the inescapable truth she already knew. Above them, high in the upper atmosphere, bright sunlight glinted off metal. A flock of warships, following the Ginyu's stolen craft down for the kill. They could have so easily destroyed the planet from orbit. Her hand clenched around the encapsulated mech in her pocket. No. They wanted prisoners.
Hundreds and hundreds of Saiyan prisoners. She leaned over, touching his face with one trembling hand.
The reflector shielded ships! She sat up and grabbed the sobbing boy, shaking him. "Radu…Radu!" She barked out like a platoon leader. The boy's back straightened almost by reflex and he gazed up at her with huge dark eyes. Less than ten feet away, Leeva lay in a crumpled heap, a stray blast having cut her nearly in half. The boy looked dazed and hollow-eyed, but the command voice pulled him out of his hysterics and he focused on her.
"Radu!" She said in that same clipped hard voice. "Be a soldier now for all of us, and help me! Go to my workshop, and bring me the dark blue capsule belt and the gray one. We have to get your Toussan somewhere safe."
"Hai!" The little boy rapped out and flew off like a streak of light. She looked up and saw Vegita and Nappa and a hundred others she knew by face and by name, fighting back to back against bad odds. They were barely holding their own. And only for the moment. In less than ten minutes, the other ships would be landing, and the reinforcements would overwhelm them with numbers. Vegita was beating Ginyu back, driving him down to earth and…He screamed, in anger and desperation and perhaps the horror of what he had seen inside the captured mech and the thought of that happening to all of them. And his power…ignited, glowing upward so high he seemed to catch fire, the reddish aura of his ki burning like a torch in the bright midday sky. He hurled a power volley at the Ginyu Captain. And the man simply exploded.
All over the fray, on the ground and in the sky, everyone with an ounce of ki sensitivity flinched at the swelling surge of power emanating from the Prince. He whipped around in the air and began to kill. Those of the Captain Ginyu's warriors a little removed from the center of the action, ran for it. The rest of them never had the chance. Vegita was streaking around the field, blasting and rending every enemy he could find.
"Bulma-Oneesan!" Radu cried. He held her two belts in his shaking little hands.
"Throw all of the capsules from the gray belt around the open square and the space port landing pads," she said, taking the blue belt from him. "Make sure they're at least several hundred meters away from each other." The boy zipped off, flying unsteadily And a second or two later, she heard the booming 'pop's of the encapsulated ships, Master Pulli's contingency plan in the event of an attack. Small, durable space crafts and two giant cargo transports emerged from the smoke. Pulli had made sure they were all loaded down with equipment and supplies.
"Get everyone to the escape ships!" Vegita's voice was bellowing, high above her in the air. A lazer bolt, ten or fifteen meters in diameter barreled out of the sky and struck him from overhead, hurling him to the ground. The crater where he struck the earth was big enough to drop a bus into. Nappa flew to his rescue, cursing. The enemy ships fired another blast and one of the capsule escape ships flew into bits, spraying shrapnel everywhere.
"Too late!" Someone was screaming hopelessly. "It's too late to get away!"
"Like hell it is!" She muttered. She popped the one capsule from her blue tool belt and tossed it, kneeling over Raditz, shielding his face from the smoke as the lazer howitzer she had built erupted from its capsule. She jumped up and aimed the deceptively delicate looking cannon at the closest of the hovering ships. She fired upward and the beam rippled off its shields. The adaptive software inside the weapon reacted, and recalibrated the cannon's beam to resonate with the enemy's shields. And she fired again.
The ship blew into a million pieces, raining down debris everywhere. And before the smoking slag of the biggest chunk had even struck the ground, she was firing again. There were a dozen ships, each one moving downward slow and almost arrogantly, as the Saiyans fired blast after blast of ki at them, all of which struck their shields and bounced harmlessly away.
All their shields are set at the same resonance, she thought coldly. Idiots! She blew them out of the sky, one by one, as though they were targets in some mindless video game.
She stood staring around her at the burning remains of the city, dazed, losing interest in the shouts and cries and explosions. A rasping laugh, weak and rattling, reached her ears and tore at her heart as she knelt down again, stroking her husband's hair, as he grinned faintly.
The largest of the transports had a full medbay. But as she looked down at Raditz' face, saw the gray cast of his skin, tinged with blue around his lips now…all her hope died.
"A warrior's mate shouldn't weep…honorable death," he whispered.
"I'll cry if I want," she said defiantly. Something was twisting inside her like a knife. "Raditz…"
A shadow fell across her shoulder, swooping downward and blocking the light of the sun. Vegita set down, bloody and worn-looking, watching her solemnly. Around him were a dozen others, all tired and battered. Radu was kneeling beside her, his little face blank and shocked. The battle was over for the moment, but the screaming of the raid alarms, ringing through out the city, told her more ships had tripped the sensors in the outer parameters of Madran's solar system. They would land in a very few minutes.
She leaned down and breathed the words in his ear, so the others would not hear. "I love you."
He smiled, that rare, real smile that made his face warm and beautiful. "My Bulma…" His eyes closed. His breath stopped. And the life sighed out of his body. The knife sawed into her stomach again, and she screamed. She was vaguely aware of flying through the air, of being placed gently on the deck of one of the larger transports, of Radu's small head buried against her, little arms clutching her like a life preserver, as the engines of the craft roaring to life, as the ship sprang into the sky.
Her head snapped up. She stood, gazing around at her surrounding, seeing she was in the medbay of the transport, that there were hundreds of other people around her, dazed and wounded. She stumbled out of the infirmary, Radu clasped tightly in her arms, making her way slowly down the corridor to the lift that led to the main bridge. Whoever was trying to pilot the ship was dodging like a drunken bumblebee, probably trying to avoid being shot out of the sky by the enemy ships before they could achieve orbit. She stepped onto the bridge, pushing her way under the shoulders of the tall warriors cluttering the landing, and sat down at the auxiliary nav control station, bringing up the helm computer with the push of a button.
"Security option one," she told the voice activated computer. A dim glow spread around the forward view screen, a faint blurry sheen of the reflective camouflage unit she and Master Pulli had configured on each of the escape ships.
"What the hell?!" Nappa roared. "What are you doing, woman?!" He loomed up over her like an avalanche waiting to fall. Radu growled softly in her arms, baring his teeth at the big man.
"This is a camouflage shield, like the ones I built for my weapons systems," she said mechanically, holding the child against her, not even looking up from her console. "We're invisible to their weapons tracking systems and their scanners, now."
"Look." Someone exclaimed. "They've stopped shooting at us. They can't see us!"
The Madrani pilot set the pre-programmed rendezvous course on auto and there was a collective rush of silent relief as the ship lurched forward into hyperlight speed. The co-ordinates had been programmed and encrypted within each escape ship's computer, so that only a handful of people need know the exact location of the rendezvous system.
"Don't think that's going to save you, you traitor's whore," Nappa said quietly. He reached out a huge hand and grabbed her by the hair, jerking her out of her chair---and drew back with an angry hiss as Radu sank his teeth into the big man's hand. "Little half-breed bastard." He raised his fist.
"Raditz was not a traitor." Vegita said harshly and Nappa glanced back at the warning note in his Prince's voice, slowly lowering his hand. "The Ginyu Captain stole his body. They must have ambushed him on Imsul. An easy thing to do when one can take the form of any trusted ally. Ginyu was one of the Gorbausei-jin. Body snatchers. He meant to infiltrate our base and take my body, I think. Raditz took the change blast that was meant for me, and took his dying body back. He saved me, and all of us. With my strength, Ginyu would have been able to kill you all. It was still a near thing. If Raditz' brat had not pulled the encapsulated ships out of Pulli's workshop before it was incinerated, we would be dead now without them----if we were lucky."
Nappa paled visibly, remembering what he had seen in the workshop.
But he turned a vicious glare back on her. "Then we should give him hero's wake when we are settled again, Ouji-sama." His lips twisted in and ugly grin. "But in the mean time, his house and all his chattels are up for grabs.
I claim his woman and both brats as mine." He glanced around at the angry gasps from the Madrani bridge crew. "Does anyone challenge my claim?" More than a few of the Saiyans in the crowd were nodding with satisfaction at the prospect of seeing Raditz' uppity Chikyuu-jin mate humbled. She glanced around at their faces in dull shock. She had never realized just how deep their dislike for her ran until this moment. She had known that her house on the mountain, away from the city, shielded her from much of the day to day interaction with the other members of her mate's race. The reality of a society where rights were determined simply by strength, and of just how much Raditz had spared her and sheltered her from seeing, had never really struck her until this moment. Or the abject evil of men who thought nothing of rewarding her for saving their lives with enslavement at the hands of a man who hated her. And she suddenly realized that because they saw her as weak, they despised her themselves for her help, seeing it as a mortal insult and loss of face. They are less than two decades removed from Frieza's service…and in many ways, still just as evil.
"I challenge it," Vegita said. He was not looking at her, but at Nappa, his face completely unreadable. "Raditz gave his life to save me. And it was my hand that slew his body. I owe a debt of blood to his kin. He was not your friend, Nappa. I do not think his sons would live to see manhood under your hand."
"Ouji-sama…I…" Nappa bowed, his back stiff and rigid with anger, conceding his claim to his prince. "I would not presume to contend with you."
"Not if you wish to live," growled someone, and a harsh laugh rolled around the bridge, taking with it some of the tension. Nappa turned red-faced with rage, but held his tongue. The big man cut his eyes to her with a look that promised every bloody-handed torment within the reach of his imagination if he ever happened on her alone. And she knew with a sudden cold clarity that she would have to watch her back from this moment on or she would very probably fall victim to an unlucky accident within the close confines of this ship, long before they ever reached the new base world. And judging from the black, hard stares of many of the men around her, the danger would not come from Nappa alone. How could she have been so blind and so naïve that she hadn't seen these people for what they were? She had mindlessly followed these enemies of Tsiru-sei without stopping to consider whether the Saiyans were not every bit as vile and vicious as Frieza himself. As Vegita barked out a short command to one of his aids to remove her from the bridge, the words he used cut through this dazed realization and filled her with another fresh wave of horror.
"Take her to the Captain's cabin and lock her and the brat inside. The bridge of a Saiyan warship is not a pen for breeding stock."
She held Radu tightly in her arms as she stumbled dry-eyed and sickened with fear and anger and disgust from the bridge, followed by rough, unfriendly laughter. In the corner of her eye, she saw that the tension had eased out of Nappa's face and posture as he regarded the Prince. The aid drug her bonelessly down the short corridor that led to the Captain's rooms.
He shoved her inside without a word and she heard the soft clik of the lock behind her. The sawing pain returned and she slid slowly down to the floor, her back pressed against the door.
"Oneesan," Radu whispered. His little features were scrunched up in a frown so like his father's she wanted to wail out loud. "Don't be scared. I won't let anybody hurt you. I'll protect you, just like…like T-t-toussan…"
And the boy's face crumpled slowly at those words. She held him, rocking him, while he cried and cried, until he was simply too exhausted to weep anymore. She couldn't cry. Her mind was too full of too many thoughts, too busy sifting through her options with a ruthless utilitarian quashing of feeling and reaction to all of today's shocks that should have scared her.
She was going to stay alive. And more important, she would see to it that Raditz' sons, both of them, stayed alive and grew to manhood. She would not let Frieza or Nappa or anyone else rub them out as though they had never been, as though they were nothing. And she would not let them be raised to become killers. And that meant escaping from the Saiyans as soon as possible.
To go where?
She stood and carried the child into one of the cabin's three bedrooms. She lay down beside the boy, still stroking the dark spikes of his hair, thinking. Idiot, she thought blackly. She had turned blind eyes to things that she had seen, had known, every day of her months on Madran. She had been do engrossed in her tireless pursuit of revenge, in her desire to stop Frieza from destroying any more worlds as he had Chikyuu and countless others, that she had not seen what was right in front of her eyes.
The Madrani were not free. They served the Saiyans whole-heartedly in the war against Tsiru-sei, but Master Pulli had told her quietly that the Madrani and the smattering of a dozen other races that labored in the shipwrighteries and weaponshops had all been protectorates and slave worlds of the Saiyan Empire. She had seen how everyone, Master Pulli included, had spoken with bowed heads and lowered eyes to all Saiyans.
She had known that, now and then, someone would earn the displeasure of this warrior or that. Sometimes they would be dealt a ringing blow. Sometimes beaten half to death. Sometimes they would simply be killed. She had noticed that a few---no, she corrected herself sternly---most of the other women who had born children to Saiyan warriors, did not appear happy with the terms under which they lived their lives. The terms under which many of them had been forced to live their lives. The unwritten law of strength had made them slaves to the men who had taken them as mates. "Breeding stock", Vegita had called her. A means to an end to beget a new race of Saiyans conquerors. She had been no more free than any of them. Raditz had only been kind enough, by some serendipitous stroke of fate, loved her enough, perhaps from the first moment he touched her, to let her act and think of herself as free.
Now he was gone. The strong, vibrant, loving, seemingly indestructible rock on which she had built her new life. Raditz was dead, and her world had burned to dust once again. Whatever happened, from this day forward, she would never again know any shred of happiness without the cold knowledge that it could all be blown to ashes in a heartbeat. And she had been passed on to the next owner, with all the rest of his worldly goods and "chattels". She shuddered. Vegita…
Would he let her remain, as she had been since her arrival on Madran, his weapons wright and technical servant? Or would he want more from her?
All of her. The image rose unbidden of his face, so close to hers that night in the weapons lab. Of the look of unguarded, real grief for his father and his world that she had seen in his eyes…and how it had burnt away into naked desire when he touched her face. And of how she had reacted to the burning touch of that brief caress, against her will, against everything she felt for Raditz and knew was right. "He could take you from me and there is nothing I could do to stop him…" Raditz words echoed in her head.
And now he had her. For the moment, she was so heavy with child as to be unassailable. She was safe from him. And from herself, a whispering voice in the back of her mind mocked her. But only for the moment, and---
A sharp stitch of pain, deep and wrenching, shot up from her lower belly and…her water gave way. Oh Kami, no…not now…Not now! She rose and tore through the cabin, room by room, desperately looking for some tool to jimmy the lock on the door, then for any piece of communications equipment that worked. All her tools and capsules were left behind on Madran. All the comlinks in the room had been pulled, disconnected remotely from the bridge. No way out, no way to call for help or a medic, no way to even be sure that any of the Madrani doctors had escaped on this ship. She returned to the bed where Radu lay dozing fitfully. She stared down at his face as another twisting jab lanced through her. She would not die here. Not now, not knowing her son, her sons, would be raised to become monsters. She touched the boy lightly, waking him.
"Radu," she said, laying down beside him, pulling the covers up to her chest. "Radu, your little brother is coming now."
His eyes widened and he bit his lip to keep it from trembling. Even at four, he knew the full weight of those words. He knew how his mother had died. She pulled the case off the long pillow and would either end around each of her wrists, pulling it taught. She took the center between her teeth and bit down as another jolt of agony tore through her. Her mother had told her that her own labor had been mercifully short, less than four hours---but her mother had given birth to a human child.
"Do you have your little boot knife?" she said, breathing deeply. "The one you use to skin dire-cats with?" He nodded. "When I tell you, go to the bathroom and run it under hot water. We'll need it to cut the cord. And we'll need warm water to wash the baby in after he comes."
"Oneesan…" He sniffled. One thumb tried to make its way to his mouth, but he stopped it. She could almost see him trying to think of what his father would do. He set his jaw and wiped his eyes. "What do I do right now?"
She smiled at him, a light sheen of sweat glistening on her face. "Hold my hand."
It was not four hours. She didn’t know how long she floated in a sea of pain, born upward into consciousness on the crest of each new tearing wave of agony. She knew Radu was near, felt the damp, cool cloth he drew across her brow and face. She knew the bed beneath her was soaked through, though whether it was ringing wet with sweat or blood, she could not tell. Her hands and wrists were numb and her teeth ached from biting into the bit she'd fashioned from the pillow case, but she would not scream. She couldn't with Radu present. She would need him when the baby came, and she couldn't risk frightening him into hysterics with her cries. On and on it went, wave after wave of the pangs, all sense of time lost, and then…
Something shifted, changed with downward movement and pressure, and poured out another white hot surge of pain and pain and pain. And with it came the urge, the need, to bear down. To push. Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods…This is it! She pushed. And found that everything, all she had endured up to now had been a dim foreshadowing of this moment. She shrieked, screaming her throat raw as she brought the baby forth in a tearing crescendo of blood and pain, as she pushed him forward into uncertainty, into danger, into hope…into life.
The world receded and grew quiet and still, except for voices, distant and echoing as though they were drifting down a long hollow tunnel. Radu's voice, babbling incoherently, screaming for her to wake up, wake up, finally reduced to exhausted hiccups. Behind his quiet sobs was another sound, piercing and beautiful. The high, angry wail of a much younger child.
"Oh gods…" That was a man's voice, one she knew. "Woman….Bulma!" His voice cracked, sounding very young suddenly. A hand over her heart.
She felt a streaming pulse of power, of energy, like an injection of life, flowing inward, tingling through every nerve and synapse in her body, pulling her back from the cool, restive waters she had been slowly sinking into.
"Live! Live, damn you!" The man's voice growled at her angrily. "Live…" Softer, almost despairing.
The shrill wail, strong and insistent, sang out again over his words. It was so beautiful. She opened her eyes. He still had a boy's face, she decided. But unlike any of the boys her age she'd known at University, his eyes were dark with strain and sleeplessness and memory of horror. It was a face like her own, still just shy of twenty…going on a hundred.
"He is well," Vegita said. He was abruptly shoved aside, as another familiar face came into view.
"Your pardon, Ouji-sama," the Madrani said curtly, and bent to begin tending her. She latched onto a name. Scopa. One of Master Pulli's nearly innumerable grandsons or nephews, she couldn't remember which. He was a doctor.
"…doesn't need an incu-pod." Scopa's voice kept fading in and out. "The babe is well grown. Chikyuu-jin must have a very short pregnancy term. But she will need to be…" She drifted away again.
"…but she may not leave this cabin suite." Vegita's voice. Someone was lifting her, moving her. She felt cool and dry, though her hair was slightly damp, and miraculously, deliciously clean. "Bring whatever you need here…discreetly." She was laid down on a soft bed, free from pain at last, free from even the mildest discomfort. It was wonderful.
"My Prince," Scopa began "She was inches from death when you found her. She really should be in the---" He trailed off for some reason. There was a silence.
"If she goes to medbay, someone might kill her," Radu's voice spoke in a conspiratorial stage whisper. "All the warriors are mad that someone so weak saved their lives and everybody else's, cause now they've lost face."
A gasp from Scopa and a soft growl that might have been a chuckle from Vegita. "You are a frightening specter of the future, brat. Saiyan strength and Madrani brains."
"Give me my baby!" She said clearly, startling them all. Scopa laid a bundle, red and squirming, in her arms. The shock of black hair that fanned over the baby's head brought a soft smile to her lips. The face was Raditz'.
The hair was Son-kun's. And the eyes, blue as the skies of Chikyuu, were hers. He peered up at her, eyes focused and lucid. He gripped her finger and frowned. Ready made hand-eye co-ordination, visual acuity and complete awareness of his surroundings, so unlike a human newborn. If she set him down, he might very well begin to crawl away. His tiny tail looped around her arm and he yawned hugely. Not human. But hers. He was beautiful and perfect.
"Hello, Kakarott," she whispered. She fell asleep smiling.
She woke to find Radu gazing at her down the length of her bed, peeking over the top of the metal footboard.
"Out, boy." The tone was firm, but not harsh. Radu grinned up at the man beside him without a trace of fear and left. She stared up at Vegita silently when they were alone. He was sitting in a high-backed chair, beside the bed.
"I would not have had you brought to bed with no one to attend you had I known," he told her. There was no inflection in his voice whatsoever.
"Why not?" She asked quietly. "The baby lived. What does one dead brood mare matter to the Saiyan no Ouji?"
His face tensed with anger and something like frustration. "What would you have had me do, woman? Praise you openly on the bridge for having saved us all when you blew up the ships with your cannon, and perhaps a second time, if you count raising the camouflage shield. Rubbed salt in the wounded pride of Nappa and his purist faction? How long do you think you and the brats would live if I did such a thing, even with my protection?!"
She closed her mouth, staring at him.
"You're their Prince," she began.
"And my power is greater than all of theirs combined," he agreed. "And yesterday, when I fought the Ginyu, it…leapt upward. Ten fold."
"I saw," she murmured.
He shook his head angrily. "There is in my bloodline, a potential to climb to a height of power a thousand times greater than what I achieved on Madran. It has not been accomplished in a millennia, but I will do it. I must. It will all come to nothing if I cannot kill the Lord of Tsiru-sei himself." He stood, glaring down at her. "Until that day, we must fight a conventional war, and I must suffer seditious upstarts like Nappa, because we must be whole as a people to fight effectively. I could kill him and all those closest to him, but that would only weaken our numbers further. I have forced change after change on my people for the sake of what must be done to win, and it is hardest on the older warriors like Nappa, who remember the old days. He and many others believe I have betrayed the things that once made our race great, using weapons other than our own bodies and fighting powers, polluting our blood with the children of alien races. They would rather see us die out altogether than become a race of half-breeds. I never wished to change our ways. But I will not let the Saiyans vanish into the mists of time because we were too stiff-necked to do so. And I will take revenge and victory over Tsiru-sei by any means necessary." He had begun to pace restlessly like a caged panther as he spoke. Now, he turned and sat on the edge of her bed, eyes intent. "I need you, woman. To head the weapons team. Pulli is dead." He watched the blow of yet another loss fall, his face impassive. "I need you to rebuild our ships, our camouflage array, our mechanized assault weapons---you are the only person who fully understood Pulli's designs for all those things. And I need you to take apart that monstrosity we found inside the Tsiru-jin mech and tell me what the hell Frieza is up to." He took a deep breath, choosing his next words carefully before he spoke. "So, we will play at mummery in public, you and I. You will be my humbled slave, and I your cruel master. If you so much as raise your eyes to meet mine or address me without leave, I will beat you like an animal for all to see. And thus, I give my soldiers back their honor."
She stared him down, eyes burning with helpless fury. "And in private?"
He regarded at her silently. "You are mine to do with as I wish." Her gaze never flinched, but one solitary tear betrayed her, trailing down her cheek. She saw something shift and faulter in the hard, arrogant set of his expression. His hand cupped her face, brushing the tear away, just as he had that night in the lab, and she cursed her body to hell as it reacted with a sudden warm rush of need at his light touch. She closed her eyes, shaking.
She would not be owned. But, oh gods, what would happen to Kakarott and Radu if she died? "I may do with you as I wish," he repeated softly. "…But I do not wish to hurt you. Or cause you grief." She opened her eyes and saw his face, so close his lips were almost touching hers, his eyes burning.
"I want you. I have wanted you since the day Raditz brought you to Madran."
"I know," she whispered.
"I will not take you over Raditz' fresh grave." His hand moved around to the back of her neck and tangled itself in her hair, pulling her even closer.
"And I will not take you at all until you tell me you want me as much as your body does now. But you will be mine, woman." His lips brushed her ear, his free hand drawing slow circles around her lower back until she shuddered with desire. And guilt. And finally rage. She pushed him back, breathing hard, staring into his flushed face. "I will not touch you again until you ask me to," he said softly.
"And I won't ask you until you're free to set me free," she said flatly. "I won't be your lover and your slave. Ever."
He moved away and sat back into the high-backed chair, his dark eyes suddenly weary, lost in hers. Finally he spoke in a low, formal voice. "When Tsiru-sei has fallen and Frieza lies dead, I will bring to you a choice. I will set you and your sons free, to go with the Madrani when they leave to search for a new homeworld. Or I will set you on high. As my queen." She gazed back at him, shaken to the bone.
Kakarott woke and fussed, nearly clambering out of the bassinet Scopa had set beside her bed in his insistent need to be fed. She lifted the boy, cradling him against her breast, her voice dropping into a wordless, soothing lullaby. When she glanced back at Vegita, a few moments later, she saw that he had nodded off in his chair. The perpetual frown had smoothed out of his face, making him look very young. She continued humming the ancient Chikyuu-jin air, until both the boy and the man were fast asleep.
* * * * *
QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? MAIL ME AT firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming soon: CHAPTER II: Gokou---Year One
(What became of the fifteen-year-old Gokou, captured by the Ginyu and taken as prisoner to Tsiru-sei? And what the hell is Frieza doing with all the captured Saiyans? )