Disclaimer: Dollars, pound notes, francs, yen, rupees, pesos, marks, or lira. No matter what way you use it, I'm not making any of it off of this story or the characters of Akira Toriyama.  

Note: This is a weird idea I cooked up that is loosely based on the plot of The Scarlet Pimpernel, so to Madame Orczy and her estate, I do apologise for the abuse of your story, and part of it has been inspired by the writings of Machiavelli. Mmmm, power. This story contains rambling monologues, disjointed plot, course language, and a great deal of weirdness, and should probably not be read by anyone, particular people under legal age or those who enjoy normal, sensible fics. If you fall into any of these categories, I would suggest you back away slowly and no one will get hurt. Any Saiya-go words used in this or any other chapter of this story can be found at http://www.ceantar.org/Dicts/search.html.

And as always, for your convenience, my email is available.

 

The Torrents of Greed 
By: Toshiba

 

Chapter 1

 

Another planet was under his command. Another point on the map or blip on the sensors was now his. Another territory would bear his name and know him as their Master. It was just one more in a long line of conquered planets that were and would be his. 

Some day. 

The diminutive tyrant growled. For all of his success it would always be over shadowed, if not by his brother than his Father. His forces, no matter grand, were linked to those of his Father and older sibling, all in the name of clan solidarity. He was always told by the tutors, advisors, and yes men that inhabited his Father's court that in time, his Empire would come, one great enough to challenge his ancestors'. Hmph, who cared for the past? They were the dead, those that could not succeed and died in failure, or worse, lived in it like his Father.  

If the past had been a mistake then he would correct it, starting with his Father's greatest: that blasted treaty. It was an insult, an insult to everything Tsiru-jin. That those monkey tailed freaks were allowed to live was bad enough but now they rivalled his Empire and that was unacceptable. His Father had only thought of the stability of their holdings. There was a larger enemy was at their gate and peace was the only option. He could name off every excuse his Father's lackies spun as to why, none of them satisfying him.  

Stupid old fool. 

Give into a threat while it is tiny and you will have face it again when its power rivals your own. If it had been him, he would have found a use for that unbridled need to fight and kill that seemed to possess the Saiyajins like a madness. Of all of the power struggles between peoples, system tyrants, and planetary coalitions in the galaxy, only the Colds and the Saiyajins were successful in rising up beyond the confines of their home worlds and muster supreme power over the surrounding territory. It was only a matter of time before the two races were in control of everything. It was the nature of the strong to rule over the weak, a rule he was intimately familiar with, and now it was coming to a head. The only thing that kept the Tsiru-jin from their rightful place were a race of barbarian apes and a tentative peace. 

Peace, what a pathetic concept, sometimes for ideologues like that Chikyuu-jin bitch to spout on about while the true powers fight for supremacy. To believe that two powers could coexist without one destroying the other, it was nonsense, madness even. Such division would never do. He would see to that. One day he would stand as the singular ruler, even the confines of family and honour cast aside once true power was in his grasp. Until that day, he would endure, watch, wait, and be ready. One always had to be ready, he quoted, another of his Father's nuggets of advice, one he had amazingly taken to heart, among others. 

Patience is the key, his Father always told him, during their frequent times together in the torture chamber as his sire instructed him in the real tools of power. It was like an obsession with their line, power. It was the ultimate addiction, his Father would say as he skinned traitors alive. Pleasure comes not just in the acquisition but in the possession, to hold the life of entire planets in your hands and crush them like they are nothing. The lesson that day had almost left him salivating, the ideas planted into his impressionable mind taking root and quickly blooming. He soon cultivated his mastery of the art of power and its manipulation as his own power grew, both politically and physically.  

It also gave birth to a plan, one long ago hatched and developed as he travelled through the various stages of Tsiru-jin maturation. Patience is the key, Father told him. Be patience and ever vigilant in the watch. Change faces when necessary and strategy as the pieces move about the board and when the inevitable opening comes, strike and show no mercy. How well all the players were positioned, like a great house of cards that need only a strong breeze or forceful hand to tumble the pile and leave the shaky order in utter disarray. That was, until he took his power. The Empire that would be born in that horrid blood-washed time would be glorious, confirming supreme rule of the Cold clan in this galaxy. It would be as the gods intended. But then again, was he not one of them? He smiled wickedly, remembering the chant of prayers that echo through the great temples on Tsume and beyond, all dedicated to his family's greatness, their deification. His look of triumph turned to disgust as his previous thoughts danced through his head. His Father and the mistake, and his own impotence against both.  

The pile of rock in front of him was now under Cold rule, but there was so much more that should have been. And so much that could be lost because of his sire's stupidity. Oh Father, what a stupid move you've made, he railed, wishing to take his accusations out on the being responsible. They are already into our space, their power will grow until it usurps our own, unless it is stopped. How he wished to expose his rage at his Father's nearsighted move, only his political savvy staying his anger. What would it look like if he shouted in front of his Father and brother, and over the rebels, no less. The pathetic resistance groups were his problem to deal with, his test to see if he was 'worthy' of his birthright. How Coola would revel in his weakness, using it to destroy him in the eyes of his Father, the Court, and the Tanto. No, this was his little problem to bear, his situation to manipulate and manipulate it he would, to the ruin of any who stood in his path. 

For all that he hated his Father's bain, it had one major benefit. By word and bond, both Empires were bound to the area of space they had been given, by pain of death. If one side was found to be attacking the other, the treaty, with its tentative peace, would be void. For all the monkeys' boasts of power, they were far weaker than the Cold Empire. He needed only one of them to admit a conspiracy and the mistakes of the past, both the treaty and the Saiyajins' existence, would be rectified. Better than that, he knew how to get it, the means to his triumph right where he needed her. He smirked with malevolent intent as he thought of his beautiful trap. Now he just had to activate it. 

How ironic it was, the greatest rival to the Cold Empire and the strongest son of Vegetasei done in by a moment of weakness. Freeza couldn't help but chuckle as the intricacies of his plan swirled through his head. How complex his scheme would be, how satisfying the fruits of his labours. Patience was the key. So to was knowledge, the knowledge of one's enemy and their history. In every suit of armour there was a weak point, and fortune had given him sense or luck enough to exploit the circumstances to his own end. Ridding his face of his barely contained excitement, he slipped into the mask of antipathy as the main doors of the bridge opened and the trespasser bowed their respect. The distinctive aura of the intruder, the very pace of his walk told the tyrant he was in the presence of an ally, and a means to his ends. 

"Ah, Zarbon, I trust your journey was enjoyable?"

"Yes, Lord Freeza. It's always a pleasure to come back to civilisation after being trapped in the waste lands for so long." The blue skinned man replied, bowing low to his sovereign. Freeza merely snorted at his former favourite, watching the soldier's reflection in the porthole. The latent snobbery of the Changling mercenary had always bothered him, a fact he was willing to ignore as long as the warrior produced results. After the current string of failures on Zarbon's head, and by association, his own, his disgust of the man was nearly on the breaking point.  

He could still his bastard older brother cooing to their Father about his latest defeat, or the rebels' newest ally, taunting him to lose his temper in front of their sire and the whole court. Not even ordering the attack on Coola's forces had been enough to cool his blood, though the public outcry against the rebels had soothed his status with the court. For all his brother's anger, Coola knew it wasn't the work of the resistance. Ginyu and his pathetic band; if they weren't so effective, he would have destroyed them long ago, for their moronic posing alone. He could not suffer another failure like that again, nor would he, if his subordinate wished to keep his head. 

"I didn't bring you back so that you could indulge in courtesans and drink. What news can you give me about the rebellions?" Freeza snapped and he watched maliciously as Zarbon's smug visage collapsed with fear. 

"From your reports, one would believe they were totally subdued, but I read in the Galactic press they are alive and well. That is disheartening enough, but then I hear word, from my own brother no less, that you cannot even defeat a band of Chikyuu-jin. You are wasting my time and military resources on insects when I have much bigger problems and that is unacceptable. Now tell me why have you not completely over taken that planet, or Arlia, or any from the Regelian system?

From your reports I was under the impression that these humans had no fighting power to speak of. You disposed of the main technical facilities and killed their greatest scientific minds so they have no technical advantage over us. You should be hunting the creatures for sport. So, I ask you, Zarbon, what is the fucking problem?

You can't even silence one loud mouth weakling bitch. Her personal crusade has already made it into the whisperings of the Romagnians during the last set of trade meetings, all because of one woman's cry for 'justice'. Do you have any kind of strategy for taking out the rebels or are you too busy with the drink and women of Chikyuu to even notice?" The blood vessels in the tyrant's hand popped up under the strain of his tightening fist, letting the aristocratic blue man how that there was weight behind those calm words. Not hiding his fear, Zarbon gulped and stared helplessly at the back of the hover chair, glance up into the wrathful, unrelenting face reflected on the window. 

"If you please, Lord Freeza, we have come under the impression that these uprisings are not merely isolated incidence, something must be linking them. Their timing is too coincidental for their actions not to be linked. Better than that, I have a breakthrough, My Lord, one I'm sure will bring the rebels to their knees." So, his underling was not without ability or smarts, something Zarbon no doubt learned from his clever little whore. 

"Before I left to meet you, my forces were finally able to capture one of the leaders of the Chikyuu rebellion force and he should be enjoying the hospitality of our facilities as I speak. I left the interrogation up to Dodoria, you know how he has a knack for such things. The human will be selling out his own mother in a matter of days. As for the woman, she is nothing but a reflection of current sentiments, a cause that people can support for a few months and then forget about, content in the knowledge that they thought of the lower orders" So, being relegated to the border lands hadn't complete diminished his mental abilities, but the Changling's words gave him great unease even as the fear in those golden eyes gave him a rush. The actions of the rebels were so obvious, even a moron like Zarbon had pieced the clues together. Here was yet another reason to move with all swiftness.  

"That is the trouble with you, Zarbon, you are only looking at the small picture. Maybe you've been on the waste lands too long; have you not realised something else interesting about each of the mutinous planets? Look how close they are to our border and one in particular. I don't want just one little insurrection crushed, or even all of those planets under my control. I want the leader of all of them before me, preferably with his head on a platter. That is why I have a job for you. How would you find going to Vegetasei?" In one quick instant, the look of fear on Zarbon's face was wiped away, replaced by one of disgust at the thought of the new assignment before him. Even that small measure of subordination was hastily quelled, the thought of a diplomatic mission with the hot-headed Saiyajins was piddling compared to the promise that came at the end of his ruby stare. Even with such arguments to sway him, Zarbon couldn't hold down his objections or beg for a reprieve.  

"Please, My Lord, I know I am taking a long time to flush out the rebels but to torture me like this? The Saiyajins are more vile than the humans. My service could be much better served by returning to Chikyuu, being present at the interrogation, and getting the answer out of that pitiful human. What possible reason should there be for me to go to that filthy hunk of rock?" 

"If you don't stop your snivelling, the only place you will be going is to the after life, presumably to a place of fire, brimstone and eternal damnation. Besides, this isn't just a diplomatic mission. I have a job for you, one you better not screw up." The Tsiru-jin tyrant couldn't hold back a glint of triumph as the smell of fear filled the room, the odour radiating off his underling. 

"In the last few months I have found that the Monkeys have been getting a little restless about the border. Small purging squads going over the line, seemingly by mechanical error, but each time it has coincided with a large scale attack by the rebels. I do not believe in coincidences, nor do I believe that these random pods are that a few Saiyajin warriors are acting out of their own conscience. The Saiyajins have no conscience, at least where colonial and equal rights for slave planets are concerned. No, there is an ulterior motive behind the attacks, perpetrated by a power that can both authorisation and ability to equip the resistance. A few missing pods are no real issue, but with the amount of supplies, food, weapons, and technology that the rebels have received over the last year, it would take a great power to get it all. It would take one even greater to conceal it from everyone, someone on the other side of the border." Freeza replied, laying out his answer for the eleven month mystery that had baffled the Galaxy and had been a constant thorn in his side. It was the perfect solution and needed only the necessary proof to confirm his deduction. Taking a glance at the Changling though, the Tsiru-jin scowled at the incredulous look on Zarbon's face. 

"Is there a problem, Lieutenant?" 

Zarbon quickly caught himself and lowered his head to the floor. 

"No, Lord Freeza, just the idea that a Saiyajin, or a group of them, could actually be behind the rebels' current ... victories. As you said, the Saiyajins don't help anyone, and to think that they would be smart enough to concoct such a plan is rather ... ." The blue skinned warrior quickly stopped, his sense of self-preservation no doubt causing him to hold his tongue.

"I mean," Zarbon quickly interjected. "Who could even come up with such a scheme? You, you don't think that the King is thinking of breaking the treaty?" Freeza watched haughtily as his underling tried to obscure his disrespect. Deciding that Zarbon's toadying was enough to placated his anger, Freeza continued. Besides, he thought, what was the good of discovering the rebel's great secret if he could not gloat over every detail of his discovery? 

"Oh no, the old fool was the one that bargained for the treaty with my Father. I can't see him going against it now when he has so much to lose. No, this smells of younger blood, much more temperamental and one who wishes to build his own empire even if he is too hampered by his father's hand, a situation I can identify with, I can assure you."  

"The Prince," Zarbon blurted out, almost chuckling at the very notion of it. "You think that little brat cares about anything more than himself. I'd hardly give him enough brains to plan something like that out." The Changling remarked frankly before his common sense took hold of him and he lowered his body to the floor. Freeza growled in outrage at Zarbon's continued pomposity. Fighting against the temptation to zap the insolent warrior, he held back his rage. As much as the thought irked him, he knew he needed Zarbon. 

"Don't be so hard on the little Monkey, just because he took your former toy. There is something in that Saiyajin, an intelligence in his eyes. Something tells me he is a part of this little scheme. Think about it, Zarbon, to work out such a strategy as this, to organise it all would take someone in a position of great power, and knowledge of how to wield it, something a heir to a great Empire is taught from their first breath.

Better than that, he has created an operation which no one knows for sure even exists. Half the intergalactic community think that the rebels have simply banded together by themselves, all brought together under that Mau bitch's banner. Those that suspect there is something more think it is either the Tasu, or the Feles, or the remains of the old Battaglian resistance.

He's also smart enough to know that if he goes against the treaty then the whole thing breaks apart. Their standing in the intergalactic community, the very strained peace between our two Empires will all be wiped away, and I will be the first to break through that damn border when that day comes. And once the rebels have lost their benefactors, the whole lot of them will easily capitulate, the loud mouth bitch will lose her favour and the Tsiru-jin Empire will once more reign supreme. All I need is proof of his involvement and that is where you would come in. Tell me, Zarbon, you had relations with his wife. She was even one of the dissidents before you brought her over to our side. A brilliant creature and had a connection to the Chikyuu rebel leader if the reports are not mistaken." Through his talk, Freeza watched the look of confusion and disbelief flit across Zarbon's face. What did he care if Zarbon believed him or not, all he needed was obedience to bring his plan to fruition, obedience and his favourite little spy. 

"Yes, sir, as far as our intelligence reports could tell the two of them were once lovers." Zarbon growled at the mention of the current Saiyajin no Hime. His snarl turned into an arrogant smirk as he continued. "Of course, she was my mistress long before she even met Vegeta, and was completely under my thumb. She is a beautiful woman, but would never betray her people. She only joined forces with us in order to protect them in the first place. She would not join in a plot that would destroy them now."  

"Then she wasn't so 'under your thumb' as you assume, was she, Zarbon? I don't care about her talents as a whore, just her intelligence, and her loyalty. She might have been my Father's 'Crown Jewel of the Empire' when you first brought her to the Capital, but she became a disobedient pet when she left." Freeza paused then, his eyes snapping with anger before the fire was doused, replaced by a glint of amusement.  

"Poor little Vegeta, didn't realise what he was getting himself into as I recall. A forced marriage, and all because he couldn't stay in control while he was around her, stupid creatures and their traditions. I hear even now that relations are strained between them, I can only imagine how it must have gone over when the symbol of my Father's court married the Prince of the Vegetasei. To think, their precious saviour in bed with the enemy, literally. The woman may not betray her own kind, or willingly help us, but would she betray the Saiyajins for her own kind?" When silence following his question, the tyrant continued, outlining his plan and Zarbon part in it. 

"You will go to Vegetasei and make contact with her. Tell her that you have the rebel leader, when his interrogation will take place and what we are hoping to get out of him, anything you want regarding the Chikyuu-jin. You obviously had some influence over the woman, use what you can do to persuade her to help us, if not using your legendary charm, then your less admirable traits. If you wish to erase the shame of your failures with the colonies, Zarbon, you will not fail me." 

"Yes, sir." The mercenary replied, committed to the mission, even if he didn't know any of the whys or hows. It would probably be better if Zarbon didn't know, as long as he understood that failure in this mission meant death at the end of a very long punishment. From the look of fear and determination in Zarbon's eyes, he knew his first little pawn was in place. All he needed now was to get the queen in play, all to topple the King. 

" It would be curious though to see who she might give up first, her husband or her former lover, and all for another former lover. How fickle woman are." Freeza mused before he turned back to the matter at hand.  

"Send word to Dodoria that to hold off the interrogation for as long possible and keep this rebel secure, I don't want any chance of a rescue attempt. It wouldn't do to have the dissidents get their leader back before his usefulness is at an end. As long as our little Crown Jewel thinks she can save him, she will cooperate. Remember, I want nothing to go wrong with this plan, is that understood?"  

"Perfectly, Lord Freeza." 

 

ÑÐ

 

It was once said that time heals all wounds. Things got easier with practice. The more you are faced with a reality, the more comfortable it would become. It was lies, all lies.  

Elegant was not a word that one would use to describe Saiyajin; crude, barbaric, obsessive, coarse yes, but some times, on the rarest of occasions, the majestic and utterly imposing grand hall was as elegant as anything on her home planet. This was one of those times. 

The sight before her took her breath away. Everything was perfect, chandeliers hung from the high vaulted cellars which were graced with depictions of glorious battles of old. The walls were adorned with tapestries proclaiming every great house on the South Continent. The marble floors had been polished to a shine, not that any of the hundreds of people standing around noticed. Neither were they impressed by the opulent surroundings, their tongues and ears too full of gossip to notice anything else. 

Her ears grabbed on to conversations about the latest tournament, or a recent scandal. No matter the planet, mindless chatter was always the social norm. So far she could bare witness to three honour challenges, four plots by the Colds to overrun the Empire, and laughable rumour about the Minister of the Interior bonding with his third class bed servant. It must be some kind of miracle, she mused, not one whisper about an assassination attempt against her tonight. Of course, she was not the only human, or the only enemy, in attendance, the celebration bringing out a large number of visiting dignitaries. Or maybe it was that the talk had finally moved into back rooms and not in public since the execution of the last man to speak so openly about such treason. Even if she was a burden on the royal house, she was still a member and there would be no talk against them. They would be made a laughing stock because of one uppity bitch, Vegeta had told her after the last spectacle.  

Speaking of spectacles, she mused, as her wayward eyes darted over to the thrones and the two men in front of it, her father-in-law and husband. She was supposed to join them on the dais, dressed in her blue and white dress while stand submissively behind her 'mate'. It was a special night, she had been informed, one that signalled the start of a week of festivities, all in celebration of the truce between the Saiyajin and Cold Empires some fifty years ago. It was a show really; a chance to display all that had been gained by the treaty and further their ties with Cold and his sons, even while the Saiyajins grumbled and swore to see it all end, and the Colds as well. At one time this would have been a great boon to her, a room full of people with which she could discuss everything from politics, art, science, culture, wooing and wowing her audience with her great knowledge and insight. That was then and this was

"You are being very difficult tonight, woman. I had at least expected that you could handle the rigours of this type of life but instead you just hide in the corner like a coward. Afraid of something? As the crown jewel of the Cold Empire, one would think that you would enjoy tonight, especially considering who they sent as their representative." She blinked in surprise as his mocking voice feathered across her bare neck, unable to believe that he was suddenly behind her. Looking back to the throne, she saw only the King and an empty space where the heir had stood only a few moments ago. She would never get used to him moving so quickly.  

Not bothering to look behind her and give him the satisfaction, she straightened herself all the more and stood her ground.  

"Why, my Prince, are you hoping that tonight will be the time when the purists of your kind finally correct the mistake that you made seven months ago? What a statement it would make to kill the 'crown jewel' in front of the Cold representative, or do you think I could still even draw a response from them?" He was right behind her now, the hard flat surface of his ceremonial armour warm against her skin and she cursed under her breath for her back less gown, even that she had come at all. Against all reason, she thought tonight might have been different, that being surrounded by delegates from all over the universe would soften his treatment of her. Nothing but a fool's dream. 

"It makes no difference to me what happens to you, but I would rather that I had someone that would stand by my side and not a laughing stock that took to hiding. What can I expect from a weakling whore? I had to give up a night of training for this, woman, I will not endure comments about your whereabouts as well." He was baiting her now, she knew, the only entertainment he could ever get from her was in fighting her, getting her to bitch and scream at him while he chucked at the futility of her promises. She wasn't going to rise to it tonight, she didn't have the strength to fight tonight.  

She had never felt so helpless since her wedding night, or worse, that last day on Chikyuu. There was no point in inching away from him though, or even to walk away. The last thing that she wanted was a scene and if she ignored him, he would definitely make one for her. Faced with a damned situation, she slumped against her belligerent 'mate', wondering what she had done to deserve this. You earned it, her conscience snapped back and she could not mount a counter attack. It was by her own hand that she chose this path, had leapt in feet first with her eyes wide open. Fate might have twisted her path, but she walked along it, and in some cases ran. She had even run into Vegeta's arms once, her heart and head full of promise and pride worthy of a princess. A princess, better to be a pauper any day, she growled. She may have chosen her lot that day, but not the pain that was now part and parcel of her new life with the Saiyajins. Screw it all, she snarled to herself. Screw commitments, screw the ceremony, and screw Vegeta. With her convictions guiding her, she began to walk away from her husband before a thick arm grabbed her about the waist and hauled her back against him.  

"Where do you think you are going?" His breath was hot against her ear, hissing his annoyance at her retreat. Once there was a time when this would have given her a thrill to be pulled against him and held so close but now, the thought of him made her uneasy. As lightly as she could without making a scene, she struggled against his grip, his superior strength easily keeping her against his side. Knowing that a physical attack was futile, she went on the offensive the only way she could, with her sharp tongue

.

"You should really learn to control yourself, Vegeta, or people are going to think you actually care for me." She snapped back quickly, smirking as she felt him growl through his armour. 

"If you are so intrigued though, I'll tell you that I was going to get some air. Bad enough you Saiyajins have to suck up all the oxygen in the room, but the thought that I have to share the air with you makes me nausea." A sugary sweet smile stayed plastered across her face the whole time. While every word she spoke was as winsome as if it had come from her mother's mouth, only a blind man could miss the poison lacked through her remarks. For all Vegeta's failings, he was able to pick up on her mockery, if his growing snarl was any indication. 

Fuelled by her anger and recent victory, she traced out the length of his hand and arm that were clutched, almost possessively, around her waist, daring him to react and lose his control over the mere words of a human. 

"I feel the same way, bitch. Just remembering that I actually fucked you is a punishment I'll face for the rest of my life." Nothing about his _expression was sweet but every word was stung as if he smacked her across the face. "There is almost nothing in this universe that would cause me to willing touch you again, but for this particular event I will make an exception."  

She was about to take another verbal swipe at her husband, but the synapses from her brain didn't even make it to her mouth before that warm, enveloping presence around her disappeared and she was alone once more. Damn him, she sighed, her body reacting to the closeness of his body and the venom of his words. He taunts her one moment and leaves her the next, tossing her aside like a pile of garbage before she can defend herself. No doubt he was laughing at her frustration, taking joy in her misery with that sadistic sense of humour that all of his kind seemed to share. At least he was gone now, but disappeared might be a better word, since he had not returned to his father's side. He hid like a child from his responsibilities and had the nerve to call her difficult.  

Shaking her head at her husband's antics, she felt the ends of her hair brushing against her cheek. Somewhere in that haze that was their first and only night, he had commented on her hair, how wondrous and beautiful her mane was. When the haze lifted and reality began to reassert itself, she realised what she had truly gotten herself into. Since she would never give him the satisfaction of taking her own life, destroying a part of her that he seemed to so cherish was the one way she could strike back. Crude and childish as it was, it was the only method she had to get back at the little bastard and show him she was not his lapdog or toy. And she wasn't, she pronounced, deciding she had endured enough of her husband's contempt for the evening and was determined to leave with as much of her dignity and self-respect as she could. It served the brat right, let Vegeta deal with the shame of being brushed off by a 'bitch'. 

She didn't even get a fourth of the way through the crowd when a hapless woman bumped into her, and the two fell to the floor, the other person crying out as if the armies of hell where attacking her. Jumping to her feet before any of the guests around her noticed the spill, she quickly dusted herself off and extended her hand to the woman as she coaxed her to stop the embarrassing scene. 

"Are you all right? I didn't mean to knock you over." The tone was as soft and well mannered as she could manage with her teeth clenched and her temper barely in check. So much for a quick get away with her dignity in tact.  

As if realising that attention was finally being given to her, the woman stopped and took the hand that was offered to her, dusting herself off and looking in wonder at the person that helped her up.  

Bulma couldn't help but be a little amazed herself at the resemblance. The girl was obviously a Chikyuu-jin but the resemblance was uncanny. The pale skin, slim nose, full lips, and large blue eyes could have been cast from her own face. If it were not for the differences in their hair length, it might be difficult to tell the woman apart, from a distance, she added in for her own benefit. There was no denying the similarities, but the vacant look in the girl's eyes, the basic posture, the structure of that face and cheek bones, the very air of refinement that defined her was lacking in her counterpart.

"Oh, your highness, I'm so sorry!" The similarities melted away all the more when the chit opened her mouth. The high pitched, oblivious voice cut through her, demonstrating the other woman's lack of decorum and no doubt, intelligence. If she had been free to do so, the embarrassed monarch would have groaned and covered her eyes in disgust. Vegeta must be having a field day with this one. 

"It's quite all right, I should have watched where I was going. Now, if you'll excuse me " This time she couldn't even keep the anger out of her voice. The desire to leave had grown so strong, she didn't care who saw or how she had to make her escape. Unfortunately an inconspicuous escape was impossible. The wily eyes of that dumber than a rock Commander were already on her, if not half the royal guard after that little scene. Only luck and a conversation with the Secretary of State kept her father-in-law from taking notice of her, but she could almost hear Vegeta laughing now. Unwilling to give any of the Saiyajins more fodder against her, she continued on. Any insult to her pride would be better than facing her husband again. 

Ducking between the small intimate groups that stood between herself and freedom, she was stopped once more, this time by a voice, and a slight hand on her shoulder. 

"I see you have not gotten over the habit of leaving your people when it best suits you. But why would you, considering how far it's gotten you. Who would have thought a coward and a turncoat could win so much prestige?" Unlike her last encounter, this one was hardly over a whisper, the voice soft, cultured, and feminine. Turning around to regard her accuser, she realised the woman was also very much a human. Deep brown met sky blue in a stare that was both accusing and regretful. Her past was truly out to get her tonight, calling in old accounts and bringing her to task on all those mistakes so long ago.  

"It has won me nothing but hatred, but I can see you already share that sentiment. If it's any conciliation to you, you are not the only one in this room that wish for me ill, but I'm also sure that they also have the same sentiment about the twit with no volume control. If you're lucky, you might see both of us carted off in body bags before the night is out, unless you actually find 'Miss Social Grace' an enlightening companion." Maybe it was the fact that she did not sway or deny the charges lain at her feet, or that she actually used humour in her answer. Whatever it was, it earned her a light smile, and a possible ally on this most horrid of nights.  

"I could wish. Even one of these tight-lipped Saiyajins would provide better company. But they could not inspire further help for our cause. They don't what it's like to lose their home, all their possessions, and their parents' lives in a raid to crush the rebels? We humans are an oppressed people, we should do everything we can to stop Freeza and his pink lackey, Dodoria, from destroying us. I'm sure you can understand how hard that must be when some spoiled little brat joins forces with the enemy. I doubt you've even experienced one day of suffering in your life. You couldn't have, if you can brush off your own kind so easily."

"Some brat, am I now. That's a new name, and an old charge. I've heard it before and if you think that one more time will be the charm, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Humanity is about surviving, and I survived. I'm sorry for your sake that I didn't become some martyr to your great cause, but I did not go through hell itself to just give up and die. I do hope you enjoy your stay, Ambassador Mau. You will find the Saiyajins a willing audience against your enemy, if not a bit hostile to your message. Most of them don't want to listen to anyone from a weaker species than themselves. It will be a toss up really of who they hate more: Freeza, or a member of the species that destroyed the purity of their Prince." She was a second from walking away and finally making good with her escape when the light whispered voice called out again. The previous harshness was gone, and though there was anger in her tone, it was not directed towards the blue haired woman. 

"You could do so much good, why will you not help your people when they have their hand out to you?" Long ago she answered that question, when a pink sadist gave her the choice and she took it. She's made her sacrifice to humanity and sold her soul, and now there was hardly any of it left to be of use to anyone. She couldn't face her interrogator again, but hiked up the length of her skirt and with as much speed as dignity would allow, she made quick her escape.  

While she attracted the odd look or comment, the crowd around her became a buzzing mass, like an annoying itch. With every step she climbed, the crowds receded out of her attention and out of her thoughts. All of the hectic, bustling sounds below her melding into one dim of noise that grew weaker and more distant as the main doors drew nearer. Only one of the servant's voices, a stern and booming sound, overwhelmed even the silence as he called out the names of the arriving dignitaries. Finally reaching her destination, she stopped dead in her tracks when she caught sight of him. It was almost two years since their last encounter but just the curve of his lips was enough to stun her speechless. So much had happened in the proceeding years, yet he hardly seemed to change at all. He was still a work of art, fashioned in strong muscle and smooth blue flesh, his green hair long and flowing from his braid, and golden eyes, ever watchful and knowing, staring at her like that first day. 

"Lieutenant Zarbon of the Most Honourable King Cold's Imperial Military, Protector of the Outer Borderlands of the Empire, and Member of the Personal Guard to Lord Freeza." She couldn't even move as he walked up to her, in that relaxed, confident stride she knew so well, taking her arm in one hand and caressing her cheek with the other. 

"Hello, Bulma." 

 

ÑÐ

 

The world that was gradually receding from her consciousness slipped away all together at that touch as shame, disbelief and memory overcame her. Operating on instincts born out of a hundred engagements, she let Zarbon lead her back into the hostile room.  

For a moment, it was as nothing had changed. Here she was, her hand resting gently against his massive arm, he dressed in his ceremonial armour and she in a gown of richest material. Still in a daze, she finally looked out and that inescapable reality grabbed hold of her again. Everything had changed, and she was a different woman, a married woman, hanging onto her old lover's arm like a mooning school girl while the whole room looked on. Even before his name was announced, he would have drawn the full attention of everyone present. With his light blue skin and braided green hair, he stood out like a sore thumb in the room full of the black visaged Saiyajins. If the Saiyajins needed a greater reason to hate her now they had it, and she had done it with no coercion or thought at all. There was something about that man that overcame her every time she was in his presence, stealing away her reason. Her stomach did flip flops as she caught the smell of him and remembered the smell and feel of his skin after sex. He was the seduction of sin made into flesh and blood and she had given into it. She couldn't speak for the anguish that swept over her, and the low rumbling baritone from earlier rang through her ears. He knew about this.  

"One would think that you would enjoy tonight, especially considering who they are sending as their representative." He would never forget her past. Was she forever to be haunted and punished for her mistakes?  

The hall almost seemed to vibrate with the collective snarl of hatred towards the man Every Saiyajin showing a reaction at the sight of a much despised enemy in their midst, their odium was only compounded by the fact that she was hanging on his arm. Confronted with all of those malicious stares and a semblance of sense, she tried to rip her hand away from her companion's grip. Unfortunately for the Chikyuujin, he, like Vegeta earlier, held on tight with a grip that was both gentle and unbreakably firm.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, Bulma moaned to herself, wishing to every deity she could think of that she could be gone from this place, from this planet, and never have to face any of them again. The fates, it seemed, conspired against her on this as well.  

Zarbon maintained his firm grip on her hand as their feet touched the marble floor and directed her with great ease through the centre of the room, and straight towards the dais where the King and her husband stood. The sea of giants parted ways for the odd pair, Bulma with a solemn _expression on her face while Zarbon was as calm and arrogant as ever. Skipping over the menacing look plastered across the King's face, she turned her attention to the Prince, only to find that he wasn't even taking in her presence, his entire focus on the blue man before him.  

"Is this the best the mighty Cold Empire could present before us? A second-rate soldier who cannot even beat some low powered members of a few sentinel races? I would worry, Changling, if I were you. First you fail at the simplest mission imaginable, then you are shipped off to diplomatic duty. Can scrubbing the latrines be far behind?"  

If Vegeta was disturbed by Zarbon's tactics to flaunt her and their former relationship, he wasn't showing it, or allowing Zarbon to get the upper hand. If it was a contest between his hatred towards Freeza and his feelings, either well or ill, towards her, his hatred of Freeza would always win out. And so it seemed for Zarbon, his disgust towards the Saiyajins outweighing everything, but he still held her close, drawing out whatever emotions the contact had inspired in Vegeta as much as he could. Just her luck, caught in the middle of a battle between two such enigmatic, gorgeous men and neither seemed to give a damn about her. 

"Good evening, your 'highness' or should I be saying your highnesses? It is a pleasure to see you again, Bulma. It is a great shame that the same can't be said for your husband." Zarbon proclaimed, ignoring the short, temperamental monarch and his father. Turning away from the throne and he lightly grasped her hand and kissed it gallantly. Bulma could only stare in amazement as her former lover chastely kissed her knuckles, slipping a piece of paper into her hand as he held it tight against his body. Meeting that familiar gaze, she blushed at the intensity with which he stared at her. She felt naked under his salacious gaze, despite the long blue and white gown she had been told to wear for the occasion. For a second they were the only ones that existed in the elegant hall, the situation so much like old times, before she married Vegeta. 

Vegeta.  

Looking back at her husband, she quickly pulled her hand, paper and all, away from Zarbon and stepped back. Decorum and sense once more took control and she gave Zarbon a polite curtsy, her eyes betraying nothing of what passed between them a moment earlier. Zarbon though, was betraying everything, staring at her for a second longer than he should have, particularly considering her station and husband. Those factors probably egged him on them, the Changling no doubt revelling with the fact that every eye was on him, every person against him. There was nothing Zarbon loved more than a chance to piss off his enemies. He gave her one more prurient look, his eyes lingering an extra moment on her clenched hand. Her reaction was far more sedate, her _expression blank and a smile forming on her lips only when he turned back to the two enraged Saiyajins. 

"You dare insult the royal house of Vegetasei, maggot, by neglecting royal protocols. If this is some kind of disgraceful action of your master to force hostilities between our two Empire, I can assure you that treaty or not, it will not save you from my wrath." Whatever disparaging thoughts she had against Vegeta were nothing compared to the fear and apprehension Bulma felt towards his father. It was a toss up as to which man she dreaded more. For all her husband's reckless, headstrong and arrogant ways, his father was a steadfast authoritarian, committed to his position and his people. Even with the differences in personality and appearance, there was still that distinctive formidable stare, hardened brow, gravity defying hair, undeniable pride and inner intelligence made the two men so alike, and so dangerous.  

"I mean no disrespect, your highness. In the courts of the Cold Empire, greetings are always given to the fairer sex first, especially when the acquaintance is as old and dear as the Saiyajin no Hime is to me. I would assure you that Lord Freeza wishes nothing more than the great treaty to be upheld, on both sides." Zarbon added in a low whisper, his eyes darting from the King to the Prince. If he had intended to offer an insult against Vegeta, the Saiyajin Prince seemed not to notice, or give any indication of such, even to the mention of her and Zarbon's past. The King though, did not hide his anger as well. It made Bulma wonder which of the insults had hit the hardest: the social graces of the Colds, the hidden accusation of deceit regarding the treaty, or that she was the Saiyajin 'Princess' at all? Either way, the tension between the high powered trio had grown too testosterone laden for her.  

With every eye finally focussed away from her, she tried slipped back to her sanctuary against the wall. The note Zarbon had given so deceptively was practically burning a hole in her palm, her curiosity far outweighing her interest in the little sparring match between the three pig-headed males.  

Some habits never truly die, she smirked to herself, recounting her days as an operative in the thick of battle. The memory fuelled her courage as she quietly slipped through the crowd, completely unnoticed by anyone until her back struck softly against a warm wall and she turned to see a giant black-haired guard towering over her. Not so unnoticed, she growled, sniffing haughtily at the Saiyajin that dared stop her. The note and her curiosity would have to wait. She knew she could not trust her privacy while in the presence of a guard.  

Ignoring the man behind her and slipping the note into her glove, her attention returned to the centre of the room, as she, like the hundreds of other eyes in the great hall, watched the battle of wits and wills unfold.  

Walking past his father, Vegeta silently claimed the right to engage the enemy in combat, his eyes gleaming and his smirk grew wide across his face in anticipation of a fight. He had giving her no mind as she retreated back with the masses, Bulma doubted the man even noticed her at all when he had an opponent before him. During their few close moments, Bulma had discovered that her 'mate' was never at peace, nor was one to accept peace, even for a moment. His life was meant for battle. Even if it were nothing more than a war of words, he entered it with the unwavering pride of a Saiyajin. 

"Disgusting practice from an insignificant race. Is that the excuse you give to your master when you report failure after failure, that you were too swept up in courtly manners to be a true warrior? I wonder who Freeza is trying to punish more? You, by sending you here, or us, by having us suffer your presence?" It was a long running game with them, she had learned, a rival that stemmed from the tournament circuit had eventually grown to the political stage. It was a hatred so deeply seeded that there had never been a time where harsh words or pounding blows had not been exchanged. Her introduction into the feud had only fanned the lengthy hostilities between the two men and their respective Empires, making her nothing but a footnote in the ongoing silent war. 

"I can assure you, your 'highness', the penalty is far greatest on my side, called away from one planet of annoying bugs and sent to another. At least the humans have greater intellectual capacities than a pond of leeches. If anything, I had hoped that my Master would allow me the pleasure of witnessing the last tournament. What I wouldn't have given to see your loss against Berta. You must tell me, Vegeta, the news travels so slowly on the outer borders, did it take five minutes or ten?" Bulma almost felt the insult of Zarbon's words personally, but then again, she was there. 

"Try over two hours, and the purple lizard had to spend a day in the tanks. A far better result than you could ever hope to accomplish. Maybe that was why Freeza decided not to allow you to fight. He didn't need another embarrassment after the Ginyu Force's posing theatrics. I would worry if I were you, my 'friend', I can't imagine it'll be long before you become more of a liability than an asset. Latrine duty might be the least of your problems." With every barb that came from Vegeta's mouth the crowd of Saiyajins grew more rowdy, the Prince fuelling their hate and racial pride. Even the guard behind her began to move forward, still standing by Bulma's side but his eyes were firmly placed on the confrontation between the two men. 

"Or maybe I'm of more use to the Master in something other than childish games of strength. You're still trying to measure your ki, Vegeta, and coming up so short. It's always good to know that when the unfriendly border goes down, that the biggest hurdle between my master and absolute victory is a man who can shoot off fine with his mouth but his talents stop there." 

"First you blame a woman and now a wall on your inability. If you were any more pathetic, I would personally rip your head from your body to take you out of your misery. But I would not give Freeza such a cause to break the treaty, especially one that would benefit him in the end. It's always astound me how he took such a liking to you anyway, whether it was the long lost promise of youth, or maybe a fetish over blue." Every word stuck lower and lower below the belt until the impressive control Zarbon prided himself on crack and he threw a ki ball at Vegeta's head, his cultured voice snarling with rage. The Saiyajin didn't even flinch as a bright blue-white light surrounded him and swallowed the blast whole. His eyes glowing with the anticipation of another, more physical battle when the King made his presence known. 

"If you are going to engage in a fight, I would suggest you at least issue a proper challenge, and go to the arena. Riffraff, like our Changling ambassador, are not worth such destruction to the main hall." 

"I wouldn't dream fighting him so casually, not when rejuvenation tanks are not on hand. We would never want to breach the treaty, now would we?" Vegeta replied, the sarcasm of his words so strong and obviously directed at Zarbon, its meaning was crystal clear to anyone that heard it. Yet, to her ears, there seemed to be a hidden message in the words, an inner meaning only the two men could understand.  

Acting much like a young boy denied a prise toy, the blue skinned warrior barely hid his disappointment at the denouement of their match before it had even started. As the room recovered from the light show finale, he mockingly bowed towards the two royal Saiyajins and made good his exit, but not without giving one last leering look straight into her eyes. Nodding his respect to her, he simply walked out the door, as Bulma re-hid the note in the palm of her glove. 

ÑÐ

 

The night was still young, and the celebration, such that it was, now alive with talk of the great confrontation. The hall was now filled with speculation of the possible match-ups that could come over the next few days. Wagers of coins and slaves were going back and forth as those that wished guessed when the next one would be, and how long it would go before blood was spilt. With the grand attraction over and the two parties leaving the hall, a perfect opportunity to escape presented itself. Slipping out past the confines of the hall, the watchful eyes of the crowd and the guards posted at the main exits, she made good her escape through a side entrance by the stairs.  

The hall had become too hostile for her. Between the looks of hatred from the Saiyajins, her fellow human's accusations, and Zarbon's sudden appearance, she felt suffocated and had to get out. In total contrast to the lovely main hall, the corridors of the palace were simple, functional, bare of any decoration apart from the simple limestone walls and the odd ornate door, the soft lighting creating shadows in every corner and turn. With every step the words of the mysterious note that burned her hand and her curiosity through the whole scene now burned through her brain.  

Love,

Fate has brought us together again, and I must speak with you on a matter of the gravest importance. As soon as possible, find a safe place and stay there; I will find you. Go alone and make sure that you aren't followed. If you care anything for Yamcha, you'll do what I ask.

Ever your devoted servant,

Zarbon 

Of gravest importance go alone Yamcha?  

How could Zarbon possibly know about Yamcha? The identity of the rebel leaders was always kept a secret. The vow to secrecy was so great that even under torture and imminent death, those names were to never be revealed. Even she, with her defection to the Cold's, never spoke a word of their organisation. The thought of him being led through that chamber of horrors, the young, handsome, daredevil she once knew ... he was her first time, her first love. Oh Kami, not him too.  

She used to believe, when they started their relationship, that they would eventually get married. After the enemy was defeated and peace was restored, they could finally be together, maybe even have a family. That carefree hope for the future snatched away forever after her capture and enslavement, and doomed forever with her willing service. Fate had wrenched them apart once and even though he never showed it, she knew how much he had suffered. He had always carried the weight of all of those hopes on his shoulders, and she would do anything to help him. Yamcha had sacrificed so much for her, she couldn't live with herself if she was the cause of her pain, or worse, his death.  

His death.  

Just the thought of the word brought her body to shivers and caused her feet to go faster, madly rushing to the only place she felt any sort of security, her own rooms in Vegeta's wing of the palace. She stopped dead in her tracks as her ears detected the boisterous voices of two Saiyajin males, voices she learned to recognised and hate since she stepped foot in the palace. Her brain kicked into high gear once more and as quickly and quietly as her high heels would allow, she rushed back to the last door she had passed in this little journey, hoping that she would find it unlocked and empty. Her heart was beating a mile a minute when she finally reached the door, the unlocked door. One out of two was enough in the circumstances, and she rushed in, closing the door until only a sliver of light pierced the darkened chamber. 

"Did you hear something, Commander?" A black eyed, spiky black-haired giant asked his higher ranked counterpart, the deep throaty voice echoing through the empty corridor. 

"Don't tell me you're hearing noises again? Naret, you've been acting paranoid ever since the enemy arrived. As much as I hate Malanga, nothing could get past the palace security, and it certainly wouldn't get past me." Nappa's ever grating harangue soon filled Bulma's ears, as she rolled her eyes and groaned at the huge man's arrogance.  

The Saiyajin Commander had been a thorn in her side since her arrival. A chauvinistic cave man, he believed that anyone without noble blood was not worthy of breathing 'his' air, and anyone without a tail or worse, a penis, was not worthy enough to breathe at all. If there was one good thing she could take from the ordeal that was her marriage, it would be that she was his superior, not by blood but by rank, and it was always her supreme delight to rub that fact in. He did little to hide the fact that she was nothing but a festering wound waiting to be lanced. Though he could not openly plot her death, Bulma was sure in that spacious empty area that held his pea sized brain, he was just waiting until she fell completely and he could crush her neck between his hands.  

"I can't believe the King and the Prince can be so calm with that blue freaky lurking about the palace, to say nothing of the fact that he and that whoring bitch once shared a bed. They could be conspiring against the throne." Naret spoke up, suspicion still in his voice. The man was only a few inches shorter than the commander, and only slightly less bulky. When it came to brains though, the junior officer possessed the same mindless, nobility-centric mentality as his superior. It helped greatly in Nappa's books that his younger counterpart was the first son and heir to a prestigious clan in the Southern continent. All the same to her, big men with little brains and huge prejudices. 

"I wouldn't put anything past the little uppity bitch. If the Prince was smart, he would have just killed her on the 'wedding' night, said it was a thing of passion. It could have saved us all so much misery. My only conciliation is that he never goes near her but to rip her to shreds. Rumours have it that he's frequenting the harem more now than before he met her. Whatever hypnotic spell she had over Vegeta Ouji seems to have been lifted, but still, one ally of Freeza in the palace is too many for my liking." Nappa only smirked maleficently at the other Saiyajin's comment, and stopped, right in front of the room where the Saiyajin no Hime was hiding. Bulma held her breath and stood motionless, praying that they wouldn't see her. 

"Naret, you idiot, this could be the best opportunity for getting rid of her yet. Could you imagine what would happen to her if she were found plotting against the crown? With a charge like treason on her head, her pathetic title of 'Hime' would be null and void. I know there are more than a few punishments I'd have in store for her." A chorus of malicious laughter followed that comment. Bulma went stark white, picturing the scenes going through their heads, her strapped to some torture device as they got their revenge for her 'enchantment' of their Prince. It was a toss up what was affecting her more, her outrage or fright. Even hiding in this room could be enough to bring charges against her, and it would be her word to Nappa's.  

Luck was finally on her side this night as they moved on, their sadistic laughter still echoing in her ears. They hadn't found her. She was safe, for the time being. Clicking the door closed, she ordered the light on with just the sound of her voice, and staring about the room. She realised luck was on her side again, as she spotted several bottles, all amber in colour. She must have rushed into one of the waiting rooms for the receiving line during official court days. The strong liquor was one of the best methods for the petitioners to hide their immense fear at being in front of the Saiyajin King. Like being led to an execution, they had told her, rather like her own circumstances right now. Like the petitioners before an audience, she walked over to the collection of bottles, grabbed one of the stronger concoctions and poured it into a shot glass. The thick golden liquid burned its way down her throat, the bitter taste lingering in her mouth while the alcohol warmed her insides. It took a second longer to hit her head and a light giddiness overcame her, but the feeling was gone in a moment and she began pouring herself another. 

"I never knew you as a drinker, love." Had her nerves not been calmed by the first drink, she would have surely screamed for all the nervousness that gripped her when that deep refined voice broke the silence of the room. 

"Back when you were amongst the civilised you would drink only wine and led society in style and social graces, another crime of depravity to be lumped on the monkey race. You should not be here with these mindless savages. If I had been there, I would have saved you from being wedded to that creature Vegeta. I can take you from all of this, back to a place were you would be the goddess you were meant to be. It should have been you and I, Bulma, not him." Looking back towards the source of the voice, her vision was filled with those wide blue shoulders and handsome face that always seemed to melt her insides. He still did, she realised but now it was tempered with memories of a past and a person she wished to forget. Looking even farther back she saw a set of French doors swinging in the wind, the light from the room leading out to an old stone terrace that led even further into the garden.  

"That is in the past, like we are, and it should stay there. I've made my bed here now, no matter that it is one made out of nails, and regrets or your spurious pleadings for the contrary won't change that. I'm not here to plan some great escape with you, Zarbon. In your note, you said we had a 'matter of gravest importance' to speak about, what is so important that it would make cause you to come to Vegetasei?" She replied to the calm presence in front of her. The sweetness she always used to use with him was gone, replaced by a tone as cold as ice water. Her time in the Cold court had made her cynical, and Vegeta had killed the last lingering thread of her once guileless nature. He wanted something from her, she knew it just by the look in his eyes, and she would make him bargain for it.  

"You don't really mean that, Bulma. I saw that look in your eyes in the hall, like a doe caught by a hunter being with these Saiyajins. Even now, they plot against you. They cannot see what you truly are, the beautiful intelligent creature that you became. They only see your lack of a tail, and that you were once a part of Cold's court. If you allowed me, I could take you away, love. If what I've heard is true, that bastard 'husband' of yours ignores you, leaves you unsatisfied. Don't tell me you don't crave a real man's touch?" He started walking towards her then, her icy stare faltering as his words began to hit home. She knew every word he said about her life was true, but if he thought she would let him in again, or let him touch her again, he was greatly mistaken.  

"Maybe I am what they say. I betrayed myself to Freeza, and that makes me no better than you in their eyes. You haven't changed much, 'love'. You want something that, it seems, only I can give you. What's the matter, the new collection of courtesans not to your liking?" Turning away from the approaching figure, she picked up her forgotten drink, and downed it in front of him, hoping another drink would give her courage, or at least give the appearance of it. This time, the burning sensation stopped as soon as the liquor hit her stomach and she swayed unsteadily on her feet. Before she could even grab hold of the table beside her, two large arms grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into the familiar embrace. Waiting for her body to relax once more, she allowed him to hold her, slowly breathing in his scent. Taking her passivity to mean compliance, those large hands began to stroke her back, one reaching up to play with the ends of her hair, the feeling of physical contact comforting in the wake of everything. The stillness between them ended as Bulma felt the pads of Zarbon's finger tips brushed against the crook of her neck and his chest began to vibrate and a low growl filled her ears. His fingers were pressing hard into the two light scars that were Vegeta's fang marks.  

"He's an animal, Bulma. He marks you like prey, and then discards you after the hunt is over. Help me destroy him. Do it for your people." That one did it. As tiny as she was compared with the bulky man, the human ripped herself away from him, disgusted by his words and her actions. Her courage was fleeting but experience had made her a good actress and moving out of his reach, she ask him once more. 

"What are you doing here, Zarbon? What do you want, and what does it have to do with Yamcha?" Those warm gold eyes went hard at that question and she knew that he wasn't the playboy now, but the Commander. 

"You heard my list of titles tonight, Protectorate of the Outer Borderlands, and I'm sure you remember well enough what it is like on Chikyuu, and in Dodoria's little pit. Freeza is getting tough on the rebels. They have been a menace to his position for too long, and now, he is cracking down on them. We were lucky enough on a recent raid to find a particularly high powered human fighter trying to blow up one of our facilities. Stubborn bastard wouldn't give us his name, but we have our ways. Got both his name, his position in the rebel forces, even the name of his former lover. Tell me, Bulma, was he your first?" 

"What do you want from me, Zarbon? I wouldn't betray my people when you had me completely in your power, what makes you think I'll give them up to you now?" 

"Nothing, love, in fact, I'm giving you a chance to save him. H's still in custody, and still as of yet, untouched. Freeza has decided to see to this particular interrogation personally." Bulma's eyes widen in shock and her sang froid mask shattered with Zarbon's mention of Freeza. 

"You don't know what the Colds are truly like, Bulma, they make Dodoria look like a nursemaid. Freeza believes that there is more to the rebellion than just the humans, that there is a conspiracy, an agreement with a larger outside power, between the humans and the Saiyajins. That's where you come in, pet. You were once so in love with this 'human', or so I've been told. Even when you agreed to be a slave you wouldn't give him, or the other rebels, up. Tonight you risked life and limb for him, will you give him up for dead now?"  

For the first time in a long time, Bulma was speechless. It was just too much information in so little time. Yamcha was in danger, facing a punishment worse than any death, and all because Freeza believed that the Saiyajins and humans were working together. She almost wanted to laugh. The Saiyajins? Those arrogant, xenophobic, chauvinistic bastards wouldn't help anyone, let alone her kind. The one part that might have made sense was them plotting against Freeza, but certainly not with the assistance of anyone else. In their own minds, they were omnipotent beings, gods above all others mortals. 

"I'm offering you the ultimate chance to save your people and to revenge yourself against these filthy creature. All Freeza wants are the names of the Saiyajins involved and proof of a conspiracy. You know him, Bulma, he will destroy this pathetic human and anyone else that gets in his way. It won't be long before we find all of them, we will get the answers sooner or later, but the longer it takes, the more violent Freeza will become. He may finally find that the benefits of keeping Chikyuu is not worth the costs. Besides, what's one little world to him? But, if he were given a bigger temptation, evidence of a Saiyajin conspiracy, he may just ignore Yamcha and Chikyuu altogether. Think about it Bulma, all of those lives, that beautiful planet, your freedom, all for the lives of one accursed race. All you have to do is give me a name and proof that they violated the treaty. You and your people for the Saiyajins." The shock was still too overwhelming; Chikyuu's freedom was in front of her, and all she had to do was betray her captors to the only force in the universe that was worse. Her mind whirled with every possibility. There was so much to gain and so much to lose. If she succeed, her home planet and its people would finally be free, and her own life free from the Saiyajins' grasp. If she failed, it would be Yamcha's life, and the end of Chikyuu. How could she say no? 

"How can I even know that you are telling the truth about Yamcha?" He could already see her capitulation, the reward before her too big to resist. Flashing that enigmatic smile that had won so many of her gender, he raised two fingers to left cheek. 

"Long black hair, black eyes, six feet tall, smart ass attitude martial artist, with two three-inch scars right here." He replied, drawing the exact location of the marks upon his own cheek.  

"You don't have to give me an answer now, love, but soon. The Colds aren't exactly known for their patience. You have until the intergalactic summit at the end of the week to find the information. After that, well, I can't make any promises. Freeza has said to delay the interrogation until after the intergalactic summit, but then, Chikyuu's fate is as good as sealed." 

"A week? That's not enough time. What if I can't find anything? The chances that the Saiyajins would ever join with anyone would be slim to none, what happens if the link isn't there?" Bulma snapped quickly, trying to buy herself any excuse to avoid making a deal with the devil. For all her concern for Yamcha, her blood went cold at the thought of even working for the Colds again. Kami help her, they were monsters, and Freeza the worst of all. 

"A resourceful woman like you could probably find everything she could want in a week, after all, you discovered one mutiny plot in an hour. As for the actual existence of the link, I'm a little sceptical myself but Lord Freeza is convinced it is there and is determined to find it. I'm offering you a choice, Bulma. Either you help us find it, or Yamcha does, it's all up to you." What a choice, she mused, treason on one hand and suffocating guilt on the other. The price was just too damn high but then, how could she not pay it? A flash of cold white skin and a salacious grin passed over her eyes and she shuddered. How could she ever give herself over to that power again? 

"So, do you have a decision for me, love, or do I have to go back empty?" Zarbon asked as he edged closer and flashed her that enigmatic smile once more and she stopped herself from giving him one in return. After so many years as lovers, she knew he was asking her about more than her co-operation, he was giving her a clear signal that he wanted her in his bed for the night. Nappa's words rushed back to her and her attraction dried up. She might have been sex deprived, but a good role in the hay was not worth her life. Besides, a tiny voice chimed, it wouldn't be the same, not after him. 

"I can't, Zarbon, I won't be much good to you as a spy if I'm being flayed alive for adultery. If I agree to it" She quickly replied, not willing to let him see her desperation regarding her marriage or her interest in this task he set out for her. Though he gave a small grimace at her refusal of sex, his eyes sparkled with triumph. 

"That's okay, Love, I can wait. Just don't keep me waiting too long." He whispered seductively as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the lips. Bulma nearly melted at the contact, the smooth warm lips reminding her of what she had lost in her marriage. It wasn't until she felt the sweep of his tongue along the seal of her lips that she pulled back. His arms resisted her movement but he let go of her, grinning salaciously the whole while, licking his lips as if to savour the taste of her. Unconsciously she followed suit, gulping at the spicy tinge on her lips from his tongue. At one time that taste was like ambrosia, now it was taste of regret. 

"It is such a shame you weren't willing with my other proposition, you would not have regretted it. I'll see you in the morning then, your highness. Sleep well." And with that he left, walking out the same way he had come, leaving Bulma in the empty room with only the bottle and her thoughts.  

Oh Kami, she should be happy. Everything she had ever wanted since her wedding night, since Chikyuu's invasion was right in front of her, and all she had to do was find one over arrogant Saiyajin to say that there was a plot to break the treaty. No, there had to be more than that.  

The whisperings and shouts for an organised dissolving of the treaty had been going on for years. Everyone knew the Saiyajins' hatred, but that was all it was: all shouts and no show. Everything she had heard of this 'alliance' led her to believe it must be a covert, intelligent, and strong enough to bring all the different resistance groups together. How could anyone believe that those arrogant, egotistical, xenophobic apes could possibly be behind it? Freeza did, her mind quickly reminded her, enough that he would send Zarbon her to ask her to find out if it is true. 

If it was real, it would be a challenge to discover, not only proof of their existence but names of the conspirators and direct evidence linking them to the rebels. Her mind quickly became bogged down with the immensity of such a task. She wouldn't even know where to begin or who could be involved. Maybe this task was more difficult that she had originally thought but she would not give into such negativity. She was a genius, and no Saiyajin, no matter how smart, was a match for her. Already she could cross out a dozen names from the list of suspects, again, if Freeza's neurosis was true. 

For all her objectivity, her emotions could not be denied. She had a stake in the outcome of this little game, in more ways that one. She wondered what part was more appealing, freeing Chikyuu or destroying her oppressors, for all that they kept her in a gilded cage, finally triumphing over Nappa, the King, Vegeta. 

Vegeta.  

She should have been happy about this, but all she could think about was her husband, and if she were walking blindly into a trap. The Colds were not honourable, by any stretch of the imagination, towards those that were under their rule. Only the threat of galactic war kept the patriarch from breaking through the Saiyajin's border. She knew what the Emperor and his sons were like better than anyone, was essentially willing to give up her husband and his people to them, all for her former lover and her friend?  

If only there were another way? If she could find someone to help her, possibly the conspirators themselves. Even if she did, she realised, they wouldn't trust her, the 'Crown Jewel of the Cold Empire'. The title alone was another nail in her coffin, the truest sign that she had finally become what she most despised. How Vegeta had spat it at her when he learned, the words like an insult to all things good, pure and decent.  

About to take another swig from the decanter, Bulma decided on a far less potent method to clear her head. Pushing back the sheer curtains, she made her way out onto the terrace and into the lush garden. The tension that gripped her all night began to ease under the influence of the warm breeze and heady aroma of flowers, plants and damp soil. She hardly noticed the difference in gravity as her individual gravity harness beeped to life around her as soon as she stepped from the confines of the palace.  

It had always reminded her of home before all hell had descended upon them and now in the hell that was her life, the garden was her own little piece of paradise. Suddenly, she had the desire to walk through the grounds, uncaring of who or what might be lurking about. The feel the native grass under her feet was heavenly, giving her the desire to find her spot of solitude. Walking with sure, slow steps, she finally found the spot, a large flat stone by the side of a small pool, surrounded by trees and an outcropping of rocks on one side and heavy brush on the other.  

When she had first came to this hellish place, before it had become so in her eyes, she always had a wish to share this place with her husband. In the first days of her 'marriage', before their official joining, it was a secret fantasy of hers to spend a night here with him under the stars and that huge moon to which the Saiyajins gave such reverence. It was a fantasy that was never meant to be. Accusations about her past had killed their marriage before it began, and now she considering tacking on a real crime against the fake ones they had placed on her head. She could recite them like a wrap sheet: betrayer of her own people, harbinger of alien ideals, a harlot that seduced their Prince, and a spy for their enemies. Was she really ready to make at least one of those a reality?  

While her mind went back to the situation with Yamcha and Freeza, something else brought her back to the cause of her heartache on Vegetasei: her husband. Of all the charges levelled against her, the seducer of the heir was the hardest to take. She didn't even know who he was when they first met, she certainly didn't set out to catch him like some gold digger. If anything, he seduced her. She could still remember his eyes staring at her, challenging her as none had before, treating her as something more than a pretty doll or valuable tool. Their relationship moved so quickly, from adversaries, equals, and finally lovers. Kami help her, she could still taste him, feel him. Then it all came crashing down.  

In the small part of her heart that still longed for Chikyuu before the invasion, she couldn't help but wonder, what would it have been like? Had the circumstances been different, she might have gone to him with this, trusted his opinion and good judgement to help her. So much for weak, fleeting hope, he was the worst of all of them. At least the others had been evil from the very beginning, but he, there was something once, fledgling emotions growing between them, all to be snuffed out like a candle in a tornado.  

The waxing crescent was high in the sky before she gave up on the whole pursuit, her mind too tired and her body too sore to care. The wind had taken on a light chill, the warmth of the day now absent, and she wished for nothing more now than to sleep off the whole evening.  

Grabbing the edge of her gown, she walked back through the heavy brush towards the palace and her own room, eyes heavy and spirits low. The lights of the palace caught her eyes when she heard a twig snap behind her and she jumped nearly a foot in the air, a muted scream erupting from her mouth. A deep baritone voice chuckled at the comic display and she turned to find herself face to face with the man whose presence had invaded her thoughts the whole night. She recognised the look in his eyes, he had flashed it to her at the party. It was the unmistakable glint of combat, particularly of the verbal kind. Normally she would jump at the challenge of that look, nothing pleasing her more that wiping that self-satisfied smirk off his face. Tonight though, she was too tired to play her husband's games, not with the bombshell Zarbon had delivered to her. 

"If you were hoping to do us both a favour and get eaten, I hate to disappoint you but there are no wild animals in the gardens, and Nappa has long ago left the palace grounds." She could hardly remember a time when the first words out of his mouth were not an insult or a jab at her dignity, she doubted he knew any other way to deal with her. She had one though, consisting mostly of silence, and she quickly turned back to towards the palace, unwilling to give him the satisfaction of knowing how his words stung her. 

"Forgive me, 'oh sainted Prince', if I care not to banter with you this evening, for a find your company as engaging as a wad of gum." She began to walk away but was quickly stopped by his words, the tone of his voice now harsh and impatient. Here was the other personality of his that she knew, and dreaded even more than the man who baited her to madness. 

"No, since you decided to rendezvous with a thing so vile and repugnant that he is only matched by the abomination that he serves. You're slipping, bitch. Any Saiyajin within a metre of you could smell him on you, and ushtey bea. You would dare to breach the vows of honour that you swore to at our joining? You would dare give yourself like a common whore to him?" 

"And what about you? You don't give a shit whether I live or die, but the very sight of impropriety is enough for you to have a concern? I have not breached our blessed 'vows' since that day. I have honoured you as a husband but I cannot say the same for you. You certainly see it fit to enjoy the harem, I didn't know you like fucking the walking dead. Tell me, Vegeta, what first made you hate me? Was it that I was an agent of the Cold Empire, or that I used to screw Zarbon?" The delicate control that she promised herself she would always maintain was slowly cracking under the relentless assault. Tears unconsciously gathering in her eyes as the words she had waited so long to say came spilling from her mouth. 

"I trusted you when you took me for your bride, not that I had much choice in the matter. Kami, help me, I took your word about some obscure Saiyajin law and I left my home and everything I ever had, ever knew. I pledged my life to you, and you spit out my sacrifice like you spit out my blood. I would have given you everything, and instead you threw me aside and left me to the wolves." Giving a glance over her shoulder, she saw that the Saiyajin was just as tense as she. His body was taut, hands clenched tightly into two fists, and the look was gone. In its place, shining out from those black depths, was something so hidden and raw, Bulma couldn't even put a name to it. Part of it was the old, familiar standbys of anger and pride, but this time, there was something more, an emotion she recognised often on her own features. Could the Saiyajin Prince actually feel regret for what happened between them? As much as she craved an answer, she would never receive a clear one from her husband or those dark, impenetrable eyes of his. Buoyed by the unknown, she opened her mouth once more, the need to tell him the truth overriding every warning bell that was going off in her head. 

"I did have a rendezvous tonight, but not of the type you're thinking of. An old dear friend, a leader in the resistance has been captured. Somehow Zarbon has found out about my connection to him and came to tell me the danger that he is in. They actually think he is part of some great conspiracy alliance and if they do not get answers from him, they will kill him and destroy Chikyuu. Please, Vegeta, is there anything you can do? Couldn't you ask your Father, Cawlife, one of the merchant Empires to stop him? It is my home, I can't see it die." Standing as stoic and unaffected as always, the Saiyajin only snorted at her, not offering the pleading woman before him any compassion or consideration. 

"For all of your avowed intelligence, woman, you truly are mindless of the ways of politics if you think I could, or would, do anything. That territory belongs to the Cold, and there is nothing, outside of moral suasion or protest, that can be done to stop them from doing whatever they want with it. Most importantly though, why should I do such a thing? Save a planet of weakling rebels from the fate it has decided for itself? Stick out my neck for a group of beings that are too weak to fight and too stupid to give up? You really have lost your mind." 

"How dare you. They are just as brave as you, Vegeta. They are willing to fight even if it means their death, which is more honour than you could ever claim. How can you be so flippant? You go on about your own power and influence but you cannot even save the life of someone I love, y ." Her tirade ended abruptly as a strong hand grabbed her hair and yanked her against a warm wall of muscle, a vibrating wall as he growled at her inflamed remarks.  

"You insolent wench, how dare you talk to me about bravery. You're nothing but a bitch with no honour at all. What difference does it make what happens to that pathetic little planet? You gave it up for a life as a whore in the Cold Empire. You have piqued my curiosity though, who is this great noble individual from whom you are willing to risk your pretty neck over? Another of your former flings? Is that what you want, another chance with an old 'love'? Or maybe you want both of them?"  

She couldn't take it anymore, the bottled up anger accumulated over her seven months of hell finally blew as she screamed and struck out at him. The blow probably hurt her more than it had he but the shock alone was enough to make him release her, the tension still there in his posture but that burning rage had been extinguished from his eyes, replaced once more by that unreadable glare. 

"I hate you, Vegeta, with every fibre in my being and shred of my soul, I loath and despise you. I have asked you for only two other things in my whole life and in yet you have taken from me everything I have, and have given nothing but scorn and revulsion in return. Do you know what the most ironic part of it all is? I told you all of this because I wanted to warn you, to prove to you that I am not the creature you believe me to be, and you still throw my past back in my face. I would have given you everything I had if you had asked it of me. It would have been yours, freely and openly, if you had given me a chance, but instead you gave me up for dead, and now that is all there is between us." While confession might have been good for the soul, it still ached inside to say those words and know that she might as well have been telling her inner most secrets to a brick wall. She was too tired now, too wounded, too raw with emotion to deal with him and his anger tonight.  

Grabbing the edge of her gown once more, she walked the rest of the way to the house, ignoring the man behind her but still haunted by his final look to her. His eyes followed her progress all the way back to the house, that unreadable _expression taking in every step, every detail with like a man possessed. 

 

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Table of Contents
Chapter 2