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CHAPTER TEN: THE TITAN EMPEROR

They reached King Cold's palace in exactly nine and a half minutes. Zarbon turned toward Salad. "Thanks for the earrings. I'll see you in a minute. I have some business to get over with. I love you." Salad kissed him, then whispered in his ear. "I've still got you beaten at that game, love. Just be sure to call me before Cold kills you for letting her survive, 'k?" "I'll try." "Could you two get it over with? We have ten seconds left!" "Your watch is wrong," Zarbon said, and opened the door anyway. They met Neizu, one of Cold's three Ultimate Elite soldiers. To all appearances, he looked like an annoying red frog/lizard with a lanky build. No one would guess that he had a power level of 750,000. "I'm sorry, Mr. Zarbon, but Cold-Sama is indisposed of at this time. Sit down and wait your turn." He gestured to the rows of plastic chairs, almost none of which were filled. "Ladies first," Zarbon said, and while Zangya was taking her seat, he whispered to Neizu. "Neizu, that girl over there might only be about as powerful as I am, but she's more capable than she seems and might still get away if..." Neizu held his hand out, silently telling Zarbon to stop. He pointed behind and to his left. Zarbon saw Doore, another of the Elite, sitting there. Doore was also at 175,000, and most of his power was concentrated in his immense bulk. Doore looked back at Neizu, and gave him a thumbs-up sign. He was almost uglier than Dodoria, being a mound of green muscle and black hair, with a face that was so angular it was almost square and virtually no nose. Zarbon calmly wondered what would happen if he took on Bido. The two of them really were about equal, although Bido hadn't been using much of his power when he put Zarbon in that stranglehold. Really, now that he thought of it, Buujin was probably at upper Ginyu levels, and Gokua somewhere in between that and Bido. As for Bojack, he estimated at least six million for him. Unbelievable. Thinking about that reminded Zarbon of something. He sat down beside Zangya. "Zangya, give me all you know about Bojack, especially about this last job." "What do you want to know?" "I want to know who the hell he is, for starters." "I'm not sure exactly. I was only with him for about ten years." "That short a time, eh?" "Shut up. All that I know really is that he's older than he looks, and he used to be something big before something bad happened to him. He works primarily as a mercenaqry now, working only for certain select customers. Not quite a mercenary, though. He does too many personal jobs. He handpicked most of his team from the fighting champions of his home planet, although some of his past warriors have been members of other races, like you (If you'd have been recruited, that is)." "Where's his home planet? I don't recall seeing his race before, although there really are too many green-skinned humanoid races to choose from." "Same place where I'm from," She said, "The Southern Galaxy. That's all you need to know." Zarbon blinked. The Southern Galaxy. That *was* far. Figured, though. The grip of Cold's empire and the Saiya-jin's empire extended throughout most of the Northern Galaxy, and that was more than any other establishment or set of two rivaling ones. No kingdom, as far as Zarbon knew, went beyond any one galaxy, anyway. The distance was two great for travel to be practical. Very obviously Bojack only went back home to recruit more people for his illustrious team. "Does his team only consist of six fighters?" "Most of the time. Occasionally he will add another, or go without recruiting more members for a while. Bojack isn't set to one single pattern or set of traditions. I've only heard this, though. I was the second newest member, after Gandin. Gandin had been with us seven years, and Bojack was probably going to off him had you not done so first. He was showing less promise than I." "And he kept you for your sex appeal." Zarbon commented. "Morale is more like it." Zarbon gave Zangya a strange look. She turned away. "Do you need anything more?" "You barely told me enough to have a foothold. Tell me about this last job." "What's there to tell?" Zangya said, her head still turned away." "A lot. Don't play dumb." "Bojack usually tells us who it was who hired him. He didn't this time- it was too important to do that. He was paid an extrordinarily large amount to set a trap for King Cold's elite and destroy them all. We were given the information on when and where they would be, and who would be there. That was how we knew who to kill first and how to do it. So we came, we saw, and we creamed you." "So you think it was an inside job?" "Maybe, maybe not. Cold's databases are secure enough that almost no one can crack them, but this mission wasn't exactly a secret." "True, true." Zarbon thought for a moment. "Do you think it was the Saiya-jin? they wanted the planet." "No. I don't." Zangya replied flatly. "The two empires both profit from each others losses, true, but they also both profit from each others gains, in a roundabout way. And besides that, the two empires are almost merged now, and there's talk of a treaty that will merge the two. Didn't you hear about that?" "Yes, but I think it's bullshit," Zarbon said, "There will be too many conflicts over which king gets to wear the big sparkly hat." "They could both do it very easily. They work together more often than not, anyway." "How did you know so much about politics?" "How do you think we know who we should try to sell our services to?" Zarbon had to concur with that. Before either of them could say anything else, the two massive double doors that marked the entrance to King Cold's throne room swung open. King Vegeta and three of his Saiya-jin attendants came forth, all dressed in the royal Saiya-jin armour. Behind him came his son, the illustrious Prince Vegeta, also with three servants and in his Saiya-jin armour. The trident-shaped insignia of the House Vegeta shone upon the breastplates of their armour in a crimson red. The servants had their heads toward the ground and their right hands on their chests as they walked.King Vegeta made somecondescending glances around him at the other people in the room. The looks that his son gave were slightly different, and more personal. They seemed to say, /I will kill you all./ They said something different to Zangya, and she shrank back somewhat. Zarbon wondered if she got that from all the royal men she met. Hopefully Vegeta wouldn't need her for morale purposes. The train of Saiya-jins held their grand, quick pace and left the room. The air lightened immensely. Neizu turned toward Zarbon and Zangya. "Cold-Sama will see you now." Zarbon took a deep breath and got up. Making sure that Zangya was following him, he entered the vast throne room of the Titan Emperor.*** No matter how many times Zarbon had had an audience with the king, private or otherwise, he would never get used to it. King Cold's throne room was the approximate size and shape of a large cathedral's sanctuary, with the throne being on a small raised dais at the far side. Sitting on that throne was King Cold. If Zarbon had thought that Vegeta was an impressive ruler, all thoughts of that had been wiped away now. Standing at fourteen feet five inches, King Cold possessed none of the brutish features usually displayed in many others of even some smaller races. His face was as cold and hard as the living rock, the details of which carved by the master craftsman. His two great horns, bastions of his iron will, curved upward and were thicker than some men's arms. His shoulders were broader than broad, his arms like tree trunks. No rope had been made that was as impressive as his tail, which was coiled behind his throne. In his hand Cold held a glass of wine- small for him but a pitcher for others- that he sipped from while he sat. Not drank. Sipped. His size belied his elegance, and "drinking" would be more than out of character for him. King Cold's power level was not a disappointment, either. It read at 20,000,000. He was the single most powerful being Zarbo