Here is the latest installment of Machine Planet.  In the chapter you'll finally learn a little bit more about Wrench's abilities and learn a little more about him as well.  So far, he's not really done anything too spectacular in the way of fighting or power displays but in this chapter you finally get a tast of his abilities (and when I say taste I mean only a taste.  You also might get a little indication of one of the twins' abilities if you read carefully enough.  Don't worry you'll still have some surprises in store as far as he and the twin's powers and abilities go! * evil smirk * There's not a whole lot of action in this chapter but you'll still find it interesting I'm sure.  The exposition is absolutely necessary to the story.

All Previous Disclaimers Still Apply.

Chapter 14: Waiting and Planning

16 wasn't entirely helpless.  Adrift, yes, but not helpless.  As a mostly inorganic being he didn't require oxygen so he wasn't in the least bit upset or in any immediate danger.  He moved as little as possible using small, imperceptible movements to keep himself in relatively the same spot with hardly any effort.  He took his cue from the Cold Sisters who intrigued him because they didn't seem to have to fight as he did not to turn end over end, in fact they seemed to hardly move at all.  The injured one looked pale, and strained but not the other.  They both were calm however, indicating they had no fear of being lost floating in space for all eternity.  For this reason he would remain here.  Perhaps he could also benefit from whatever thing they were apparently expecting.

It seemed like an eternity, however his internal clock informed him that only 20 minutes had transpired, when he could finally see something.  It was heading towards them quickly and before long he could tell it was a ship.  A small one, probably a private passenger or cargo ship as it appeared to be unmanned.  Without warning, the two tsirijin females began to be inexplicably drawn toward the vessel.  They fairly collided with the nose before slinging around it and skipped like a pebble across water along its side to the rear of the vehicle.  Then, like a shot, they whipped towards the back and out of sight.

Spending little time on wondering about the method the females had used to head towards the ship he quickly conceived of a way to get there himself.  He knew that his only chance lie in following the twins and trying to gain access to the ship.  Detaching his arm he deftly caught it with his other hand as it began to float away.  Spinning it around so the hand was toward his body he used his remote control sensors to lock its fingers around his shirt collar.  As the rocket came to life he found himself hurtling backwards toward the ship.  When his sensors told him he was only meters away he shut off the engine, pulled his knees into his chest, and flipped over until he was coasting toward the vessel feet first.  Reversing the polarity of the magnets in his feet he slowed his approach until he was going more slowly, and then changed their polarity again.  Drawn down, his feet latched harshly onto the hull of the ship and the giant cyborg steadied himself. 

Frowning slightly as he gained his bearings 16 realized he was about half-way to the stern of the ship and since that was the direction the Cold Sisters had headed he began half-running half-walking down the hull.  His large strides quickly propelled him towards his goal just in time to see the doors to a cargo bay slam shut.  His easy way into the ship lost the android set to work kneeling by the airtight seal of the doors.  Running his hand along the seam the android began trying to puzzle out how he could get inside.  It was his only option, Trunks needed him, Vegeta was counting on him and so he had to gain entry.  The question was how?

***

Bulma sat staring at the small machine before her, turning it over and over in her fingers.  She had to finish it.  She knew that if she didn't do it of her own free will she would be forced to anyway, as a puppet.  Despite that fact she had been wrestling with these thoughts for quite sometime she had come to no conclusion.  Which way was better?  Either way she was helping to kill people, most likely innocent people.  Either way she would be dehumanized.  Either way she would loose her soul.  That's what they were demanding.

She started as she felt a light touch from behind.  Turning she found herself staring into the serious face of her 4 year-old son and the forgotten item dropped from her fingers clattering to the floor.

"Trunks, what are you doing here?" she asked in shock sliding from her chair.

"I've come to rescue you," he said turning and grasping hold of her hand.  "Come on!" he cried dragging her with him.   "He's coming!"

Bulma ran behind her son through the door into the long dark corridor.  Suddenly a small figure appeared ahead of them bathed in an eerie glow.  Sliding to a stop she could see who it was, and grew angry.   Yet again he had appeared from nowhere to thwart her escape.

Trunks protectively leapt in front of her.  She watched him drop into a fighting stance as her heart leapt into her throat.  Her blood ran cold as she looked at the cold and savage expression on her child's face.

"If you come near her I'll kill you" Trunks declared with a menacing snarl.

"What's the matter Bulma?" Wrench taunted.  "Why are you surprised? He is Vegeta's son after all.  Killing comes naturally to him."

"No you're wrong" Bulma remonstrated, "my son is not a killer."

"Perhaps not" a deep baritone declared "but I am."

"Vegeta!" Bulma exclaimed in relief.  She reached out to him with a trembling hand only to have him brush by it abruptly.  Tenuously she drew it back as she watched him take his place next to their son.  Neither acknowledged the other, their sole focus was on the foe that blocked their path, causing a dread to well-up in her chest.

"You see Bulma" Wrench began, "they have eyes only for battle.  That is a saiyajin's true nature."

"That's a lie and Son-kun is proof of it," she declared.

"The hit on the head made Kakkorot defective" Vegeta stated without a glance behind.  "Despite his weakness even his true nature still peeks through from time to time.  Just look in his eyes when he has no choice but to kill.  All traces of his human contamination are gone.  His soul is cold and untouchable."

"No" Bulma protested.  "Saiyajin aren't evil.  They were made that way by Freeza."

"What do you know woman?" Vegeta snapped without taking his eyes off Wrench.  "You know nothing of my past or the Saiyajin Empire."

"That's right he's never told you anything of his past" Wrench began in a taunting voice.  "How well do you truly know Vegeta?"

"Enough talking" Trunks screamed charging a blast in his hand.

"Not so fast" Wrench said with a wave of hand making a thousand receivers rise up from the floor onto their spidery legs.

"Foolish toys" Vegeta sneered shooting a blast of energy at the line.

With a joyful cry Trunks added his energy to Vegeta's.  Bulma watched frozen and silent as the attacks bounced harmlessly off of an invisible wall.  The machines began marching forward in regimented lines towards her son and husband as they urgently fired off attack after attack.  Wrench's laughter filled the black void about them as the walls fell away.  Laughing in scorn Vegeta flared into super saiyajin and ran recklessly forward toward the advancing wall of robots and before she could raise her hand in mute protest their son followed.

"No!" she cried breaking her tongue from its prison of impotence.  "Come back its too dangerous" she called uselessly as father and son slammed their way past the first two files to come to a stop in the center.

Abruptly the Saiyajin Prince screamed and his blue aura flared.  A blinding explosion forced Bulma to turn and close her eyes.    Sounds of ki blasts filled the air as she blinked away the colorful spots dancing in the air before her.  Her eyes cleared after a few everlasting seconds.  As the scene finally cleared she could see her family's pointless struggle.  With unbelievable speed a long thin metallic tentacle whipped out curling around her son's outstretched hand.  Dozens more tentacles shot out as a group of robots surrounded the furiously struggling boy. 

"Vegeta!" she screamed desperately.  "Help Trunks!"

Vegeta said nothing but continued his own battle and her heart sunk. 

"Trunks!" she screamed rushing towards him as several receivers pounced on him.

A blow knocked her to the ground.

"It won't do any good," Wrench said with a twisted smile.  "He's already mine."

Looking quickly back in the direction her son once stood she saw a mound of skittering writhing robots.  A small hand rose out from their midst and her son slowly emerged from the swarming mass of machines his eyes empty and cold.  His beautiful blue eyes were lifeless and blank. 

"No" she whimpered tears streaming down her cheeks.

"You see" Wrench said "Vegeta didn't care enough to save his own son.  He didn't lift a finger to help him, just like he won't lift a finger to help you."

Snapping her head back toward the source of her torment she saw a single receiver resting silently in his hand.  He grinned as he tossed it to the ground and she closed her eyes, slumping her shoulders in defeat.

Bulma bolted straight up in her bed.  She stripped off the damp sheet and closed her eyes banishing the nightmare.  She knew nothing like that could ever happen.  Vegeta would never do anything like that.  She needn't upset herself by dwelling on a preposterous nightmare that sprung from the unsettling reminders of what he used to be and Trunks was doubtlessly safe at home light years away despite the nagging idea that he wasn't had somehow crept into her mind.

Exhaling she lay back on the plush pillows.  She needed to get more sleep.  Who knew what she would face the next day.  She closed her eyes and tried fruitlessly to relax.

***

Trunks sighed as he tore his eyes away from the Ki belt's circuits.  In his boredom he decided to occupy his mind with better understanding its workings instead of how utterly alone and scared he felt.  He was going to a strange planet and the lizard ladies would probably try to find him so he thought knowing how the device worked would be wise.  They could be invisible but so could he with the belt.  Maybe when he landed, instead of seeking asylum as his father had ordered, he would just go invisible and hide from the people on the planet too.  After all, if no one had seen him then he wouldn't have to hide who his father was and no one could tell the twins where he was.

No matter how hard he tried he couldn't keep his mind from his dismal situation or the recent past.  He kept playing and replaying the events of the last few days puzzling over how what started out as a grand adventure had turned into such a nightmare.  Above all though, two things dominated his mind: his last talk with his father and Android 16 eyes as he turned from him to make his sacrifice.

He didn't want to dwell on the morbid so the young demi-saiyajin decided to consider his father's instructions yet again.  He wished that he had paid a little more serious attention when they had spoken but now it was too late to be sorry.  When his father had come in saying he had to speak with him he was more concerned with feeling angry over being excluded from the landing party than listening.  To add insult to injury the realization that he had lost his father's trust was especially distasteful.

"Where is the accursed belt?" Vegeta demanded.

"Over there in the corner…" he began sullenly until his father snatched it up.  "Hey, what are you doing with it?"

"I'm giving it to the big bucket of bolts to hold until I am safely away.  I want to insure that you cannot follow me." 

"Why won't you let me go?" he cried tears spilling from his eyes.  "Why don't you trust me?" he added hanging his head as his heart sunk in shame.

"This is not a game brat" his father began from across the room.  "There are dangerous people here that would do anything to harm me or anyone that is part of my family."

"Like the changelings you showed me pictures of?  Freeza's sisters?" he asked sourly.

"Especially them" Vegeta reminded him. 

"I know that they're shape shifters, Dad, and the only way to tell who they really are is the color of their eyes.  You've told me already about a billion times."

"If you have to escape from here and go to Minnasei remember…"

"Not to tell anyone that I am the son of Vegeta, part saiyajin or have anything to do with Earth" he finished quickly.

"Good" said Vegeta "then you have been listening."

"Well you do know a little about fighting and space," he conceded.

At this his father smirked.  "Do I have your word of honor that you won't try to follow me?" he asked.

Trunks looked up into his father's stern face and saw a glimmer of hope.  He wanted him to be honorable, above all else, always and although part of him wanted to rebel the other wished desperately to please him.

"You have my word," he said solemnly and he was rendered speechless as his father tossed the belt onto his bunk and wordlessly left the room.  He didn't have to say anything, his returning belt had spoken volumes, his father trusted him to uphold his honor and he felt ashamed of his anger earlier.

Turning this moment over yet again in his mind the boy found one item of information sticking in his mind.  The tsirijin's eyes had changed color even though his father had said they couldn't.  They had appeared as perfect copies of 17 and his father right down to the blue and black eyes.

"Just perfect now how am I supposed to tell if they come?" he grumbled.

His eyes fell onto the belt.  Maybe it was better that he hid totally and masked his Ki.  The boy sighed.  Things were a lot more complicated than he had thought they would be but there was nothing he could do now but deal with it.

***

"I don't think you should give this message with me" Snow scolded her sister. "You are weak from blood loss and you over exerted yourself getting us inside."

"I'm not ready to drop dead" Blizzard assured easing herself down into the console. "I can last through a few more minutes and the sooner you stop complaining and we make the call the sooner I can get into the tank."

"I'm perfectly capable of handling him myself and you need rest" Snow chided crossing her arms.

"I want to be there," she insisted quietly.

"Either, you are up to something or you've suddenly developed a taste for the lunatic's company" Snow said accusingly.

"Please" she answered, wrinkling her nose in disgust. "I've had enough of keeping him company for the past two cycles to last me an eternity.  It was bad enough pretending to like him when he was our 'adopted brother' but now as a husband it's unbearable."

"Once the pact was dissolved there was no other way to convince him to let us stay in the Frost Clan and Father insisted that we stay."

"No, Father insisted we stay" the woman stated "but it was you that decided it had to be as the start of his harem.  Father never would have allowed it under those circumstances."

"I thought it would all be over before we came of age and we'd be called back to our birth clan.  How was I supposed to know our entire family would end up dead.  We made the decision to pull off the charade together if you remember."

"But it was your idea" Blizzard answered testily "you've always wanted more than was your place to."

"And look how its all turned out" Snow continued.  "We now currently have the largest empire of all with the combined holdings of both the Frost and Cold Clans.  Once we gain control of the Machine Planet Guild we won't have to hide anymore.  No one in the universe will be able to stop us."

"Are you really sure we can find a way into the planet?  They don't just let anyone pay a visit you know."

"They let Cooler in before and I think it won't take much to convince the idiot doctor to let him in considering our Clan's interest in the Saiyajin Prince."

"So you want me to play brother dear and get in?"

"Exactly."

"Why not you?"

"For the last time I am going to be the one to bring in that little half-breed brat."

"If you can control your temper."

"Oh shut-up and just make the call" Snow snapped.

Blizzard smiled cockily and morphed herself a nice suit of armor.

"Why are you doing that?" Snow asked.

"I may have to go around harem style while I'm there but I'm not going to do it anywhere else if I can help it.  You may like going around, appearing half-naked all of the time, but I don't."

"But we are naked technically dear" Snow said with a smirk "we form all of our clothes from our bodies so it isn't really clothes is it?"

Blizzard growled and hit the button to make the call.  After all there was about as much use arguing with her sister as pounding her head against a steel barrier.  Snow always got her way unless she could be tricked into doing otherwise and that was a difficult thing to accomplish.  Fortunately she was one of the few beings who had ever succeeded in manipulating her and was allowed to live afterwards. 

***

The young kyouryuujin nervously peered around the darkened chamber.  He had never personally seen Frigid's "Chamber of Horrors", as the other slaves had dubbed it, before.  A fetid, stomach turning, smell attacked his sensitive nose as his eyes came to rest at the center of the chamber where the Tsirijin Lord stood.  Gulping and offering a momentary prayer to the Mother Goddess that Frigid's voices didn't tell the lord he contained some coveted power Mezin entered and fell to his knees.

"Long live King Frigid, the greatest of the tsirijin, ruler of the Frost Clan, destined to rule the universe." He greeted.

"What do you want," Frigid impatiently demanded scrutinizing the young man with narrowing crimson eyes. 

Mezin looked up and realized that the tsirijin lord appeared to be kneeling at some sort of strange alter, it was the alter he'd heard so much about he realized with a shudder, and was holding a golden bowl in his hands.   Daring to meet those eyes he found himself rendered speechless, transfixed by the cold, disturbing stare of the changeling.  Those eyes seemed to look right through him and yet capture his mind in an iron grip.  Trying desperately to shake himself loose Mezin couldn't help but cringe at the absolute madness he saw lurking there in his soul.

"My Lord" he whispered shakily, trying to disguise the tremble in his voice "you have just received a transmission from the Lady Shadows.  They wish to speak with you."

Frigid let out a choking gasp and was silent for one heart-pounding moment staring into the darkness of the room.  "No!   I will speak with them!" he shouted in defiance to the air clanging the metal bowl as he threw it onto the platform before him.    Rushing to the view screen he pounded on the com-button with his fist.  "Put the transmission through" he ordered.

Mezin silently watched the outburst afraid to move and come the tsirijin's attention once more.  The moment the monitor winked on the picture of the two tsirijin females, kneeling on the ground strangely he felt almost safe.  He had heard they seemed to have a calming effect on Frigid and that was something to cling to.

"Long live King Frigid, greatest of our kind," began one twin.  "Ruler of the Frost Clan, destined ruler of the universe" finished the other.

Mezin couldn't help but stare curiously at the two sisters while seriously hoping he was deep enough in the shadows to avoid notice.  Although the two spoke as one they actually looked different for once.  He hadn't been around the compound long but from what he understood they always appeared identical and only when they spoke could you differentiate between them.  Tonight one appeared to be wearing some kind of armor but the other seemed to be clad in what they were normally attired, a skintight, revealing bodysuit indistinguishable from her bare flesh.  He watched them as they raised their eyes to the tsirijin lord careful to observe their mannerisms.  Though the twins were identical externally he knew they differed greatly in personality. He hadn't been around long enough to identify them by action and manner he had been told by seasoned slaves that Blizzard was the more aloof and milder of the two carrying herself with an aristocratic dignity.  The one called Snow on the other hand was graceful and open, almost familiar in her manner, but had a definite quality of predatory sensuality.  She was also said to be highly temperamental and manipulative.  Of the two Mezin hoped he never had to deal with her.

"We apologize for having to leave so abruptly" the armored one stated in a strained and tired voice.

"We had to for a very good reason" the other said furtively glancing up from under lowered lids.

"Speak quickly" Frigid demanded "I'm in the middle of a ceremony and the spirits are restless."

Mezin shuddered realizing the strong stomach-turning odor was from a fresh sacrifice and he hoped it was nobody that he knew.

"We have discovered that Prince Vegeta has more than just a mate my lord" the armored one continued.  "He has a son as well and he was on the ship that just departed our orbit."

"A son?" Frigid gasped before pausing.  "Yes" he began delightedly babbling "that would atone for everything he has taken from me.  Absolutely everything he has done to harm us.  How marvelous I must have them both.  With them I could bring the last of the saiyajin to his knees and when I have him I have all of his power.  His power is great and his blood demands to be shed."

"We anticipated this my lord" the un-armored one replied.  "Blizzard will go and acquire the female from the Guild and I will fetch the boy for you."

Mezin now looked intently at the one who had just spoke realizing that this one must be Snow.  He had been told many tales about her by the other slaves that made him blush just thinking about them.  She apparently took it upon herself to "initiate" all of the attractive young men and depending on how well you pleased her you lived or died.  A few were even favored with her special attention often catering to their specific tastes and fantasies.  She hadn't been around much since he began his service and he was thankful he hadn't yet met her in person. Since he had always been told he was rather good-looking he feared catching her attention.

"I think it would be best if I get the boy for you" Blizzard spoke up a slightly irritated lilt to her voice,  "that is if you want him unharmed.  Snow has a bit of a score to settle with the boy and you know how violent she can be."  Stopping and changing the subject of her address from the tsirijin lord to her sibling the paling female smirked.  "Besides Snow, I thought sure you'd jump at the chance to work with your old playmate again.  Maybe this time you can kill him so that he stays dead."

"I thought you were worried about my taking out vendettas on these missions" Snow quipped "of the two I'm much less irritated with the child."

A loud wail broke forth from the lips of Frigid.  "I don't care who does what" Frigid whined "just be quick about deciding it.  Vegeta is still sneaking around here and I want to flush him out of hiding."

"We will require a ship sent to us" Blizzard stated.

"But there are no extra ships but for my personal…"

"That's quite alright.  I'll make due with the pod in this one."

"Are you sure Snow?" Blizzard queried suspiciously.

"Of course I will explain everything later" the woman said sweetly.  "There's no need to bother our mighty lord with such trivial details."  Turning her violet orbs onto the said leader they caught a penetrating, seductive glow.  "We live to do your will.  Goodbye.  We will rush back all the sooner to be close to you once again."

"Poor Snow" Frigid said sadly.  "You have been away far too long on your mission.  I miss you as well.  I promise to take extra time with you upon your return."

"My Lord is too generous" she fairly purred with a bow.

Mezin shivered trying hard not to imagine what it would be like to have such a display directed at him.

"Goodbye, My Lady Shadows," the tsirijin lord said sweetly.  As the screen winked out Frigid wheeled about clapping his hands in delight.  "You are privileged to have brought me such wonderful news" he excitedly informed the now prostrate Mezin.  "I now will give you a greater honor" he said rushing to the alter and snatching up the golden bowl.

Mezin peered up at the tyrant with a strange gnawing beginning in the pit of his stomach, which tightened still further as the creature motioned for him to rise with a delighted smile.  Doing as he was bade the young man carefully avoided looking into the bowl and seeing what it contained, determined not to break eye contact.  However, he could hardly avoid the contents of the bowl as the lunatic reached in and trust them under his nose.  The smell coming from the bloody organ turned his stomach upside down and he fought very hard to keep its contents at bay knowing what such an insult would cost him.

"You may share in the power of the sacrifice" the tsirijin said delightedly, "by taking a bite of the heart."

Mezin tried to fight the wooziness that came over him as he looked down at the organ and watched as the bodily fluids dripped down the fingers of its holder, slowly running down his arm and oozing onto the floor.

"Come you needn't be afraid" the changeling encouraged.

Mezin knew that if he didn't do as requested his life was over.  He felt his head swimming and he took a deep breath.  He wanted to live after all and even though he would most definitely regret eating a piece of heart he would rather live.  Leaning down toward the short tsirijin's outstretched hand he held his breath avoiding the noxious smell and tried not to shutter as his incisors sunk into the tender, slimy flesh.  A wave of revulsion threatened to overwhelm him until he hurriedly chewed and swallowed the disgusting morsel before the taste could completely fill his mouth. 

"Now you may go" Frigid said benevolently.

The young man bowed fighting the gagging sensation he felt in his throat and turned on his heels.  He tried not to hurry as he felt the acrid bile rise.  As the door hissed behind him Mezin rushed to the closest garbage receptacle and lost his battle, evacuating the contents of his stomach. 

***

Bulma walked down the corridor wringing her hands.  She was beginning to wonder if she shouldn't go back to nervously pacing the floor in front of her bed or tossing and turning in her bed.  At least there she felt safe from attack and wouldn't jump at every sound and shadow.  Why she thought a short walk would help her nerves she had no idea.  Strangely enough, despite having loved and been immersed in the world of machines for most of her life, this place unnerved her.  She could swear there were mechanical monsters lurking in every shadow waiting to pounce on her.  Gritting her teeth she prepared to turn around and started back until a soft glow from under one of the doors caught her eye.

She wondered who could be up at this time of night and at the same time dreaded it.  However, her curiosity was stronger than her dread so she hit the button and the door slid open revealing a figure bathed in the soft glow of a computer screen.  The figure wasn't that of Kougou or Wrench but it was familiar and as her eyes began to adjust to the light she could see that he was a man.  The man, who had been hunched over the keyboard, cocked its shaggy head of lavender-streaked with gray and popped out of the chair hiding the screen behind his body.  He froze creasing his graying brow and his mouth began to move preparing to stutter something out like a guilty child preparing to defend himself having been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

"I'm sorry" Bulma managed to say softly in guilt discerning his dark pink features in the backlight.  "Ceres, isn't it?"

"And you are the Saiyajin no Hine" the man replied in a harsh whisper.  "What are you doing here?"

Feeling thoroughly ashamed at her intrusion Bulma tried her best disarming smile.  "I couldn't sleep so I went for a walk" she answered.  "I was just being nosy.  I wondered who else could be up at this ungodly hour is all."  She tittered unconvincingly until his displeased expression halted her display.

"Now you know" he stated with growing courage.  "I wish to be left alone."

"I can take the hint" Bulma said crestfallen.  Yet another failed attempt to make a connection with someone was almost more than she could take at this moment but she fought back the tears and turned to leave. 

"One more thing" Ceres said in an uncertain whisper.  "If you have a heart tell no one about finding me here."

"I'm sorry" Bulma replied, "I didn't mean to intrude on anything private.  Regardless of what you think of me I'm not an unfeeling monster nor do I report to Kougou or his lackey.  I'm the last person who wants anything to do with giving them an excuse to make another person a living puppet."

"Then you don't share your mate's love of causing suffering" he stated in surprise.

Bulma wheeled around fresh tears of frustration brimming in her eyes.  "Look!  I've had just about all I can take from you and your sanctimonious buddies!  I know Vegeta was responsible for a lot of bloodshed during his years under Freeza and I can't speak for how he felt when he did them, but I do know this: he's not the same person now that he was then.  I know you think I must be a monster to defend him but I can't change how I feel about him.  We built a new life together and he left behind his past. He didn't want to continue on the way he'd been forced to live and he changed."  Stopping abruptly she looked at the man's stunned expression and was shamed into silence.

"You honestly think he regrets everything he did?" Ceres asked.

"He's never talked to me about it" Bulma confessed "but I do know that when I ask him about it he refuses to tell me anything.  I can tell the memories of that time are painful to him and he feels ashamed of what he did in some way."

"If he does then he truly has changed a great deal from the man that I watched bring about the destruction of my planet."

"You knew him long ago didn't you?" Bulma ventured.

"I did not know him personally but I was forced into his association at one time" Ceres answered.  "He was sent to my planet by Freeza to negotiate for a weapon that I had designed.  I was required to deal with him and the others who came representing other prospective buyers.  Wrench was among them, as well as Kougou.  Many were interested in my weapon."

"Then you know a lot about all of these people and their connection to Vegeta.  Maybe you could help me understand why Wrench wants to fight him so much.  I'm being used like bait and I'd like to know why."

"Perhaps I will tell you, another time.  It's late and if we are here too much longer we could be caught."

Bulma sighed and nodded.  She didn't want to have to answer to anyone just now herself so it didn't take much convincing.  "Then I look forward to speaking with you again."

"As do I," the scientist said inclining his head.

"Thank you," Bulma said choking back tears of relief.  "Its nice to know that I might just have one friend in this Dende forsaken place."

Turning she hurried from the room and as the door closed behind her she smiled.  Now maybe she was getting somewhere.  If she could just get him to talk to her, to trust her, then maybe Ceres was the answer to her prayers.

***

"That was positively disgusting Snow" Blizzard criticized slumping forward.

"It keeps him pacified" Snow stated with a matter-of-fact tone before rising and giving her sibling a hand up.  "Distracting him was the only way to keep him from prying to deep into our business."

"Except now he has expectations upon our return.  Since you initiated it and are so fond of sex of any kind you can do it."

"Even I have my standards Blizzard and dislike the whole affair probably worse than you.  Maybe in the beginning I enjoyed manipulating him but he's so easy to control it quickly became tedious.  As far as me deriving even the slightest crumb of pleasure, he is a fool and has absolutely no imagination…"

"Please!" Blizzard protested.  "Spare me the details."

"You are far to easy to unnerve, sister dear!" Snow chuckled.

"Now tell me what scheme you had that requires such secrecy."

"Well, I know time is of the essence, but if I have to go to the Machine Planet and play Cooler I might as well look the part.  Maybe I could convince them that the ship was off hiding somewhere away from their sensors but if I can go to the base and pick up the copy of his shop then the charade will be much more convincing."

"If you think going to that much trouble is necessary then by all means go."

"Of course it is.  I'll be up against foes that know me far to well.  My act has to be flawless."

"Well, I'm not so sure that Doctor Kougou and his gaggle of scientists will pose much of a problem" Blizzard needled "but, there will be at least one foe that knows you well."

"Don't remind me about that Baka."

Blizzard chuckled.  "What you can't even say his name?  How childish can you be Snow?  Do you still resent him that much?"

"There are few beings I hate as much" Snow fairly growled.  "And you are well aware of that fact, which is why I don't understand you pushed me towards this part of the plan.  You should be far more worried about me loosing my cool and killing him than Vegeta's spawn."

"I thought the freshest wound was the most sore.  After all it's been over ten years.  Don't you think your ridiculous rivalry has gone on long enough?"

"It will continue until one of us dead."

"If that's the case then it should have been over years ago."

"Let me rephrase it then:  It won't be over until one of us dies for good."

 "Then go ahead and kill Wrench to settle your score but not before you have Vegeta's Mate and leave the rest of the place untouched."

"If I succeed and Vegeta does his part then there's no need to keep the Guild around any longer."

"Don't destroy our chances for technology just for spite Snow.  There's no reason to destroy the entire Guild just dispose of Wrench and you can kill Kougou as well for that matter.  The scientists are what's important."

"I know that Blizzard, I'm not a hatchling."

"No you only have the temperament of a spoiled hatchling.  Remember, you must control your temper or you'll give yourself away.  Cooler wouldn't get as easily riled-up as you."

"I have far more self control than you give me credit for." Snow chided grabbing her sister's arm and steering her toward the medical bay.  "Now I've fought with you for far to long, you must get into the tank.  Remember to stay in there for the full cycle.  You must be fully healed before you attempt to take on the boy.  Remember not to underestimate him.  He may be a child, but he's part saiyajin and Vegeta's son."

"I won't underestimate him.  You make it sound like I don't know what I'm doing." Blizzard stopped in front of the chamber and tore her arm out of Snow's grasp.

"Your last opponent nearly killed you Blizzard, you were so sure you had him backed into a corner so that you weren't prepared for his counterattack."

"How was I supposed to know that his arm flew off like a missile?  I'm sure that you've never encountered anything like it before either, so stop counseling."

"A Shadow Sister should be prepared for anything," Snow quipped smugly watching as her twin stepped inside the regeneration chamber.

"I never make the same mistake twice.  You, however are another story, you seem to have a talent for underestimating Wrench.  Don't do it again."

"This is pointless" Snow shouted in exasperation slamming closed the canopy of the regeneration tank.  "I'm starting the tank and setting off for the base before too much time has passed."

Blizzard watched silently as her sister walked over to the medical console.  "Be careful, sister," she said before donning the breathing mask.

"You too," she answered shortly beginning the start up sequence.

Blizzard smiled as the green fluid began rushing into the chamber.  Everything would work out as planned.  Despite all of their arguing, she and Snow were the perfect team and they always played to win.

***

Lealia walked briskly down the hallway finding it difficult to keep her mind on maintaining her camouflage and finding her way through the complex.  She tried to remain calm but the fear of being discovered was so great that she couldn't stop her heart from racing.  She knew from the past that becoming upset would make her become visible.  Unlike changing shape, which was automatically retained once achieved, the camouflage effect required focus to maintain.  Your body had to adapt rapidly to match the change in the scenery.

Two years of using the ability just wasn't enough to master it.  For most of her life she hardly ever had used her natural talents out of fear.  When she first had realized her ability to fade into the background as a child her grandmother had charged her never to use it.  She had reasoned that that, unlike the shape shifting ability that could be used to hide her non-kyouryuujin features, going invisible had no practical purpose except for mischief.  After being caught in several failed attempts to spy on adults or sneak out of the house she had diligently obeyed.  After all, her grandmother had frightened her warning that her lack of skill could lead to exposure and to Freeza finding her.  Freeza, the monstrous changeling who would kill her if she was ever found, was always the scare tactic of choice for her grandmother to make her behave.  It had worked so well that she hadn't attempted the ability until after her grandmother's death years later.  Now under the care of her uncle, and in adolescent rebellion, she used it sneak out and meet her friends in the middle of the night.  This phase quickly passed once one of her friends, a boy she began to see in secret, found out how she was sneaking around and panicked.  They had to relocate hoping that her uncle's high profile in the government wouldn't make it impossible to cover up.  Since then she had been under house arrest, finishing her education with a private tutor, and getting a job where she could be under Zenac's protective eye.  Then Frigid's army came and they were forced to go into hiding.  At first, when her uncle had joined the liberation movement he had kept her from joining as well.  She then began practicing her abilities again and set out to prove how useful a shape shifter that could go invisible could be to them.  So now for two years she had been practicing faithfully, still in hiding from her allies as well as enemies, and she still hadn't mastered her abilities well enough.

This was the first time that she had ever tried to go this deep into hostile territory and her inexperience also made her nervous.  She apprehensively locked onto every sound and sight to the point of distraction.  She paused briefly to regain her composure and closed her eyes taking in deep breaths.  Shutting out all of the sounds about her and focusing on her heartbeat with each breath she willed it to slow down until she was calm once more and ready to go on.  Eyes still closed she took four measured steps forward and slowly took in the world around her once more.  She suddenly became aware of the sound of footfalls just ahead of her and her eyes flew open just in time to see someone rounding the corner right in front of her. 

Lealia was able to sidestep around the young man and plaster herself up against the wall next to her before collision but wasn't quick enough in withdrawing her tail.  The frightened girl watched as the young kyouryuujin tripped over her fourth limb and took a header into the solid transcrete floor.  Before she could think she instinctively rushed to him and reached down to touch his shoulder.  Freezing in realization of what her action could cost her she shrunk back but not before he turned his head in her direction and began to rise.  He stopped and looked straight at her in shock and she then realized that she must have become visible.

"You..." he stumbled out in confusion staring at her in skepticism.  "You're one of the one's that helped the saiyajin earlier but you don't look exactly like you did then."

"Oh Goddess!" the young woman muttered in horror patting the sides of her head confirming the horrible truth that not only had she revealed herself but in her true form, tail, horns and all.

"How did you just appear out of nowhere," the young man continued in a daze.  "That is unless you really aren't here and my mind is just so overwhelmed with becoming a cannibal that I'm hallucinating…."

Lealia clamped her small hand over his mouth before he could continue on.  "Shhh!  I guess I should explain but not here.  Somewhere private."

The young man wrinkled his brow but nodded and she removed her hand.  They both stared at each other nervously for a moment until the sound of footstep startled them.

The young man pushed himself back onto his feet clumsily.  "Somebody's coming!" he exclaimed lamely.

The way he was panicking told Lealia that she would have to take over if she didn't want things to get any worse than they already were.  "Do you have a key for that storage room?" she asked pointing at a nearby door.

"Yes."

"Then open it, hurry!"

Rushing to the door he fumbled with the mouth of the pouch about his waist, thrust his hand inside and began perusing the cards.

"Oh Goddess!" Lealia exclaimed nervously as he stared blankly at his hands.

"I think this is it" he said unsurely.

"Just try it!"

"Okay" he stumbled as the girl completely vanished once again.  When he looked up and saw the two beings rounding the corner he realized that he'd just ran out of time.

***

Seventeen leisurely walked down the center of the camp.  Vegeta had been in a foul mood when he'd returned to their tented quarters and since he had no real need for a shut-down cycle he decided to give the saiyajin space and take in more of the camp.  Unfortunately most of the group was now asleep and there was nothing in the way of activity to observe.  This meant he had to amuse himself with reassessing the memories he'd recorded from earlier that day.  As per usual the more and more he mulled things over in his mind the clearer it became to him that Vegeta's connections in the past to Frigid and the young kyouryuujin's parents was very significant to their success.  He didn't like the idea that he was totally dependent on Vegeta's telling him these things given the saiyajin's reticent and private nature.  Since more than likely he wouldn't be getting any satisfying answers from Vegeta he needed to seek the information from someone else and for that reason he found himself heading toward the tent of Zenac.  He seemed fairly important in the social structure of both the refugee group and the freedom fighters additionally he had seemed somewhat sympathetic toward Vegeta making him an excellent candidate for a source. 

17 smiled to himself confidently.  Despite what many seemed to think he was quite good at collecting information covertly and subtly besides by intimidation and force.  He contained both protocols in his database but he found the later more enjoyable than sneaking around.  That was the only reason he usually leaned towards the more destructive solution.  He also was quite good in divining which method would work best in a given situation and his extensive resources were telling him that an open request for information would probably work best with his current subject.  Therefore, after a covert investigation of the kyouryuujin to reaffirm his choice of informant he would speak to him and get what he needed.

Nearing the location of the tent the android's enhanced hearing detected two hushed voices.  Closing his eyes he locked onto the voices, both male, and he began to listen as he stationed himself outside.

"So they both are gone" the rich deep voice his systems identified as Zenac's said.

"Yes" the weaker higher timber of the other began "the Cold Sisters are leaving space as we speak."  After a few moments his processors had analyzed the voice and found it most consistent with the sampling he had stored for the kyouryuujin called Bel.

"Then now is the perfect time to strike and we have more reason than just Prince Vegeta's ultimatum to act in haste."

"There is something else I learned from tapping the transmission Commander" Bel stated.  "I now know the reason for Vegeta's desire to find the Machine Planet."

17 quirked his eyebrows in interest, it seemed their hosts not only fought but had their enemies under a highly developed surveillance protocol. 

"You know how it has been suspected for years that the Machine Planet Guild was responsible for kidnappings.  Well, it seems we now have solid proof of such a case.  It seems that the Guild has kidnapped his mate."

"Then it seems his motivation for this undertaking is personal rather than monetary as we assumed.  Now I understand his sense of urgency."

"Yes and that being the case I made a copy of the recording to give to him.  I thought he would appreciate knowing that the Cold's, who know the location of the planet, are planning on going and collecting her first in an effort to gain the upper hand over him.  Plus there's even more sir."

Apparently Bel was the resident technology expert and an excellent spy.  Vegeta would indeed be very interested in this information.

"I'm listening."

"One of the ladies indicated that he has a son as well.  They evidently attempted to capture him but failed.  One of them, Snow I believe is leaving in pursuit of him as well."

A strange feeling filled the android's chest.  16 was with Trunks.  What had happened to them?

"I think our guest would be very anxious to hear this, however I think it might defeat our purpose.  Without the location of the planet to use as a bargaining tool I'm afraid we have very little in the way of persuading him to help our cause.  Bel I think you'd better try to hack into their systems and see what you can find."

"I thought Lealia was going to do that."

"My niece is not acting like herself Bel" Zenac admitted disappointedly.  "My request fell on deaf ears tonight.  I've never seen her so full of hate for anyone as she is for Vegeta.  She flatly refused to do anything to help him."

"Perhaps if we share the true reason for his mission it would change her mind."

"I'm afraid she's also still having difficulties with our plans to assassinate Frigid."

"I thought she understood we had to get rid of him."

"In a way she does, but he still is part of her other heritage and that connection makes her want to know him. She knows everything about her father but next to nothing of her mother and he could provide that missing link to her.  I can't

say that her feelings are irrational, I understand them but her expectations are unrealistic.  She doesn't want to believe that Frigid is the demented monster he is."

17 shook his head in disbelief.  The more he listened the more complicated it seemed to get.  One thing was certain, he and Vegeta should get in and out quickly before they got too tangled up in the mess here.  It would be best to stay clear of the girl.  Not only did she seem to have every reason to hate Vegeta, but every reason to sympathize with the enemy.

"I guess that means I'm doing this myself then."

"I can send someone with you to act as a cover and lookout."

"I wouldn't mind that, who do you have in mind."

Hearing this the android thought this would be as good a moment to act as any.  He'd gotten most of the information he required from listening to the conversation.  If he was going to help things move along quickly then he needed to make himself useful.  Calmly he pulled the tent flap aside and stepped nonchalantly into the space.

"Why not me?"  he asked to two men who responded by drawing and training blasters on him.

"What are you doing here?" Zenac demanded.

"Eavesdropping" 17 matter-of-factly admitted shrugging his shoulders.  "When I heard of your intentions to send Bel to retrieve the data and the need for a bodyguard to accompany him I thought I should make myself available is all.  After all, I have nothing else to do and this would help move things along faster.  No one else here, aside from maybe Vegeta, stands a chance against those clones so it only stands to reason I should go if I want you to be successful."

"Why should I let you go?  What guarantee do I have you won't put him in danger once you have what you want?" Zenac queried signaling Bel to lower his weapon as he lowered his.

"Vegeta's wife, or mate as you put it, is a friend of mine.  I owe her a very large debt so I'm here to make sure she gets home safely.  Making enemies of people who could help us rescue her would be a stupid thing to do under these circumstances.  Wouldn't you say?"

"Very well," the Kyouryuujin said with a nod of his green head.

"But Commander!" Bel objected.

"Just do as I say Bel," Zenac stated pointedly making it perfectly clear there was no room for argument.

"By the way Commander" 17 said "I think I would share that recording with Vegeta as soon as possible.  Nothing puts him in a foul mood like being kept in the dark.  If you want any chance of getting his help don't anger him."

***

The two clones stared blankly at Mezin and he grinned stupidly at them while he placed the other pass keys in his pouch.  To his relief the two clones turned their attention up the hall.  Clones were too programmed to actually notice anything unless it was really out of the ordinary.  He thanked the Mother Goddess that a in slave standing in the hallway fumbling with keys wasn't an unusual sight as he watched them disappear down the corridor.

"Um, its clear now" he said shyly into the air.  "Are you still there?"

"Yes" a soft musical voice said near his ear making him jump.  "Now open the door," it ordered bluntly.

"Alright" he answered softly perusing the key-card in his hand briefly before approaching the door. 

Sticking it in the slot the young kyouryuujin was happily rewarded with a soft hiss as the door opened.  He sighed in happiness and turned looking over his shoulder not sure where the exotic rebel might be.  He cried out in alarm as he was roughly yanked forewards off of his feet and fell against a lithe, soft body before they both tumbled to the floor.  The door mysteriously shut out the light from the hall mercifully disguising his embarrassment as he realized he was on top of her body, all of his weight pressing against hers.  He blushed as he felt her breasts brush against his chest as she pushed him gently off her and left him sprawled on his back and dazed.  He blinked as the lights in the room suddenly came on and looked up at the pretty odd-eyed woman was standing before him, blushing as well.  At least that's what he thought the dark blue that tinted her cheeks was.

"I'm sorry I ran into you and put you into this position" she began awkwardly, "but as long as you are here I might as well ask if you could help me."

Mezin suddenly was awakened from his daze by her words and their implication.  "If it has anything to do with an assassination attempt on Lord Frigid I don't think I can."

Lealia smiled sympathetically noticing the all to familiar signs of fear cross his face.  "Actually I need your help to do just the opposite, save his life."

"Saving?  But I thought you were a freedom fighter!"

"I am" she began tentatively "but I don't think he has to die for us to gain our freedom.  I'm certain that the Cold Sisters are the ones really behind the atrocities committed here and that if I could just get the chance to talk to him I could reason with him."

"Reason with him?" he said incredulously.  "Believe me he can't be reasoned with, he's crazy.  You have no idea about the sick and demented things he does with no prodding from the Lady Shadows.  You'll be killed."

"I know the stories I've heard but I'm sure that they can't all be true.  He's ill and he needs help.  I'm certain that once I speak to him I can convince him to let me get him that help.  Please if you know the way into his personal chamber take me there now."

"Why are you so sure he'll listen to you?" he asked moved by the earnestness in her voice.

"Once I tell him who I am I know that he'll listen."  Lealia took a deep breath to steel herself to his reaction.  "You see, he's my uncle."

Mezin silently studied her features more closely as the weight of her words struck him.  Now he understood why she had the tail and the mismatched eyes.  She was half tsirijin.  "Wow" was all he could manage before he fell silent not knowing what else to say.

"Now that you know why I want to help him" Lealia began looking pleadingly into his eyes "will you assist me."

Mezin was touched by the emotion he saw lurking in the young woman's face.  Knowing what she was, who she was related to, frightened him but her eyes spoke neither of madness or malice.  She seemed innocent or wantonly oblivious of the horrors the mad tsirijin lord committed.  "If you'd seen what I saw today I doubt you'd think so well of him.  What he made me do after he finished taking the call from the Cold Sisters was horrible."  He shivered reflexively as the thought brought the horrible taste back into his mouth.

Lealia watched as the young man obviously struggled with an unpleasant memory and she felt guilty.  She had no right to place this young man in this position.

"I know it may be impossible for you to understand but no matter what he's done I still feel I have to try.  I won't keep you here any longer.  Please don't tell anyone about our meeting."

Mezin's heart sank as he heard the sadness in her words.  She was determined to see Frigid and he was afraid for her.  If she did enter the Lord's chamber tonight she'd be faced with the truth of his madness in all its gory glory and he seriously doubted she was prepared to face it or Frigid's anger at her intrusion.  Despite his better judgment he rose and put a hand on her shoulder.  As her eyes came up and met his he froze and the strange warm feeling that came over him made him speak words that he somehow regretted yet simultaneously didn't.  "You shouldn't go to his chamber now, I'll take you to his throne room tomorrow."

"Then you'll help me," the young woman asked in disbelief.

"Meet me in this room at daybreak" he said pressing the key-card in her hand "I'll knock when I get here."

"Thank you" she said ecstatically grabbing his hands pressing them in hers.  She watched as he reddened and withdrew them giving her an uncertain dimpled smile.  She noticed for the first time that he was rather handsome.  "What's your name?" she asked.

"Mezin" he said shyly looking back up at her.

"I'm Lealia" she answered smiling back reassuringly.  "I'll be here."

He nodded once and turned from her.

"Thank you again," she added as he hit the release that opened the door.

"My pleasure" he answered giving her another slightly more confident smile before walking away.

Lealia clutched the key-card to her chest and smiled before fading away.

***

Zenac stood nervously outside of the tent where his saiyajin guest was quartered.  Clearing his throat he prepared to speak.

"Prince Vegeta?" he called in an even tone.  To the Kyouryuujin's surprise the response was immediate.

"My people intercepted a communication that I thought you'd be interested in hearing."

"Unless it has to do with the location of the Machine Planet I wish to be left alone."

"Not even if it has to do with your mate?" he prodded gently.

Vegeta rapidly appeared in the entrance viewing the nervous kyouryuujin with narrowing eyes.  "Do not say another word about my mate if you value your life" a deep threatening voice echoed in his mind.  "Think carefully before you answer.  How do you know about my mate?"

"Bel is very resourceful Your Highness," the rebel leader began out loud carefully choosing his words "and he came across something just tonight that he and I thought you might find very interesting."

"Very well" Vegeta stated.  "I will listen to it."

"Follow me" the Kyouryuujin said with a bow, his long green hair falling about his shoulders.

***

17 peeked through the crack in the door as the two groups of guards passed by the room in which he and Bel were concealed.

"How's it coming?" 17 whispered over his shoulder to the kyouryuujin technician behind him who was hunched over a notebook computer like device.  It had been 20 minutes since the hacker had begun his attempts to infiltrate the system.

"I'm in already" Bel replied cockily in a hushed voice.

"How long should this take?" the android inquired.

"There's a lot of data to search through so it should take at least an hour," the kyouryuujin said meekly.  "I'm sorry it can't be faster." 

"Its too bad 16 isn't here" the android muttered to himself.

"Who's 16?" the technician asked.

17 mentally reproved himself for vocalizing his thoughts.  "He's another android like me" he answered simply.

"You mean there's more androids than just you?  How many others like you are there where you come from?" Bel asked clearly excited.

"Only two as far as I know.  One of whom is 16" he answered hoping this would end this line of questioning.

"When were you made?"

This question caught the normally unflappable cyborg unawares.  The truth was he had never stopped to consider much about his past or where he came from.  18 had gone on a soul-searching quest for their beginnings but he had never allowed her to share what she had learned.  He didn't want to know.

"I don't know" 17 answered truthfully "I have no memory of the first time I was activated.  My creator erased it from my memory."

"That's odd.  Why would he do that?" he asked.

"He wanted to control me," the android said.  He didn't like this line of questioning it was bringing up memories that he didn't care to resurface.  "I didn't let him though.  I killed him before he could."

"You killed him?" the technician asked nervously.

"Don't worry" 17 said with a mischievous smirk directed at him "I won't kill you as long as you stop asking annoying questions."

***

Bulma rubbed her eyes and tried to stifle her yawn.  Much to her chagrin they didn't seem to have anything on this planet to stimulate brain cells in the morning.  What she wouldn't do for a steaming cup of coffee right at this minute.  Instead she had to yawn her way through the morning and hope that Kougou didn't take offense at her tired state.  The fact that the Doctor had Wrench conduct her to his office immediately obviously indicated he had something in store for her. She cringed at the prospect of having to face anything traumatic without caffeine.

"Now my dear" Kougou was saying to her "My excellent friend has informed me that your reluctance to build weapons has not lessened greatly.  Normally I would just dispense of the pleasantries and have you fitted with a control module but minds of you caliber rarely achieve their full potential under too much control.  Wrench suggested that we ease you into things slowly and you might not object to working on something that wouldn't be used for violence."

The human woman sent probing look in the biomech standing beside her who smiled disarmingly in return.

"He told me" continued the doctor "that your company on Earth had developed a revolutionary storage system you call encapsulation."  He paused producing a small capsule case from his pocket.

"You stole that from the factory!" Bulma exclaimed shooting a glare in Wrench's direction.

"Alas," the boy sighed with a shake of his golden head clasping his hands behind his back, "I'm afraid its true.  Not only am I a kidnapper but a technology pirate as well."

"And that is precisely why I hired him" Kougou interjected.  "He acquires technology like your capsules and great minds like yours for my purposes."

"And now you want me to help you manufacture capsule technology" Bulma added morosely.

"Oh no" Kougou said with a wave of his hand "You won't be working with me on this but with one of my trusted partners, Ceres.  I think you remember him."

"Yes I do" Bulma confirmed.  She tried not to reveal her relief at hearing this news.

"Wrench thinks you'll work very well together and I tend to agree.  He's not as quick on bimolecular applications as he is with machines, however he is quite remarkable.  He knows how things run here and will be able to assist you very efficiently."

  "Assist me?" Bulma asked in surprise.

"You are the resident expert in this technology, who else could head such a project?" Kougou asked in amusement.  "Do well with this and you will get still other privileges.  Can I trust you not to rebel against this order?"

  Bulma looked up at the scientist thoughtfully.  She needed to buy time with which to think of a plan to escape or Vegeta to find her.   Now she was being handed an opportunity to do so without sacrificing her scruples.  While it could be said she'd be a fool not to take it she couldn't help but feel slightly weary of the almost too perfect of circumstances.  Bulma couldn't help but look at the man-child standing next to her with an air of complacency about him.  He seemed to have made a lot of suggestions to the doctor in this endeavor and it worried her that his surmises were so accurate.  How could he have possibly guessed that Ceres of all people would be someone she wanted to work with when she wasn't even sure about him until a few hours ago when they talked?

"I don't think I'll mind helping in this case" she said.  She really had no choice but to take it despite her reservations.  Besides maybe she could find someway to use it to her advantage.

"Excellent" the teenaged daidaidorjin said with a flourish of his hand.

"Wrench, you will conduct her to Ceres and inform him of this new assignment."

"Naturally" the youth said.

***

Lealia ran through the passages and toward the camp.  In a few hours she would have to go back to the storeroom but she was certain she'd be missed if she didn't at least speak to her uncle.  Stopping a moment to catch her breath the half-tsirijin gasped and leaned onto the wall at the mouth of the passage.  A part of her felt panged about deceiving Zenac in regards to her daring attempt to find peace but she knew that if she were to have this chance then there was no other way.    For this reason she had to be completely composed and her breathing normal to avoid suspicion.

After a few moments her breathing was measured and easy and she walked slowly towards her uncle's tent.   When she got close enough she could hear the sound of many different voices.  Picking up her pace she stayed outside and headed towards the corner where the voices emanated.

After a few moments she realized it was a recording, apparently one Bel had gained from surveillance.  As she listened she was surprised that apparently she was listening to the very recording that Mezin had told her about.  This development made her heart sink.  She knew her uncle was waiting for just such an opportunity to strike Frigid's forces.  When her plans for peace were so close she couldn't risk that happening but she wasn't quite sure what to do about it.  As the recording came to its end Lealia resolved to speak to her uncle, to appraise him of her plan and convince him to give her this one final chance when her uncle spoke.

"I know its not a comforting thought to know that the Cold Sisters are after your family and there is little you can do about it from here, but all is not lost.  I can help you get off world, I have access to fast moving ships, and if you hold up your end of the bargain I will make everything available to you."

Someone was there with him and she froze the instant the voice of that one answered.

***

As Bulma followed Wrench down the hall the more the coincidence of her being paired with Ceres seemed too great to ignore.  She wondered if Ceres had been caught after all and the information pried from him.  Maybe this assignment was just to keep them under a close eye and Wrench's iron control.  She knew there had to be some way to dredge the information from him if she was careful enough.

"So Wrench" Bulma began carefully.  "Why did you want me to work with Ceres today?"

"Why would you ask that?" he answered raising an eyebrow.  "I'm not the one that put you to work with him, it was the Doctor."

"He said you suggested it though."

"Yes" the biomech said stopping.  "I thought it would be a chance for you to get your feet wet with out compromising your principles.  It was only a suggestion, however, I can take you back and have the doctor assign you to something else if you like."  The last of his speech was punctuated with a smile that all too clearly said checkmate.

"You know very well that's not what I meant" Bulma answered crossly.

"Then what purpose does this line of questioning have?" He said with an arrogant smile.

"Forget I said anything," the woman stated knowing how thoroughly cowed she was.  Wrench wanted to use the mystery of how much he knew of her activities as a measure of control and would tell her only what he wanted her to know.

"Very well," Wrench said simply "let's hurry."

She followed him in silence the rest of the way until they reached the lab in question.  All activity instantly stopped and all eyes turned nervously towards them.

"Ceres" Wrench said walking towards the bewildered and nervous scientist.  "I've come to give you a new project."  The blonde stopped and gestured towards Bulma.  "You will be assisting the Princess here with her new project."

"But what of the one's I'm supervising" Ceres stuttered.

"I'll take those over and if I run into any bumps along the way I'll consult you."

The look of significant fear that crossed the faces of all of the lesser scientists was not lost on Bulma.  No one wanted Wrench overseeing anything.

"Now Bulma why don't you take Ceres over there to that station and demonstrate the capsule technology for him.  Everyone else go back to your various duties.  I'll just be over here if I'm needed."

Bulma exchanged glances with Ceres briefly before they both went to their designated spot while everyone else went back to work while still managing to eye them suspiciously.

"Well, I guess I better show you this" Bulma stated pulling out a capsule labeled indicated it contained a hover bike.  "My father invented a technology that allows us to take any object and suspend it in a spatial distortion inside one of these capsules."  Popping the switch she threw it down and with a puff of smoke the bike appeared.

In that instant the entire mass of people in the lab froze, transfixed.  The sight was almost comical.  Their expressions ran the gambit of absolute shock to exhilarated amazement.  Included in the later group was Ceres who immediately ran towards the bike and began examining it.

"Remarkable" the man said.  Apparently everyone agreed indicated by the murmur of conversation that began ripple through the room.  It filled Bulma with pride that the invention her father had built his entire fortune on had thoroughly confounded the brightest minds the universe had to offer; there was one person in the room, however, who seemed thoroughly displeased.

"Why have you all stopped your projects?  You are to be working not gawking" Wrench said his hard emerald eyes scanning the room. 

Everyone instantly began to work feverishly eyes lowered.  Ever cool the biomech leaned nonchalantly on the station directly behind him, his back to the crowd, facing only Bulma and Ceres.  Bulma and the biomech exchanged glance for a moment.  Wrench merely smiled opening his hand and producing a ball of ki.

"I take it I'm to help you duplicate this process for our uses" Ceres pro-offered.

"Yes" Bulma answered smiling at the other scientist.  "It would be nice if I could use the blue-prints of the factory to describe things to you."

The computer at the workstation in front of her unexpectedly leapt to life and the first blueprint appeared on the screen to her astonishment.  A small window popped up and a message typed by itself that read:  Ask and you shall receive.

The aqua-haired woman's gaze snapped up to meet the smirking face of Wrench who levitated the ki ball straight-up and into a circular pattern apparently to impress her with his abilities further.

"Big deal" she grumbled.  "I know someone back home that can do the same thing."

"Are you alright?" Ceres asked her at her shoulder.

Bulma was about to answer when the ball flared still brighter.  Sparks of electricity began igniting with-in before violently erupting and engulfing the ball.  The turbulent mixture of ki and arching electricity circled around one another vying for supremacy all without leaving the tight sphere leaving the woman awed.

"Bulma" Ceres said startling her.  "Let's get to work."

"Sure" she said sitting down at the station with a small smile of thanks trying to ignore the sphere as it floated and darted around the room.  "Let's get this over with."

***

Vegeta sat staring at the screen before him, his outward manner never betraying the internal turbulence going on inside.

"I will find a way off this world with or without your help" Vegeta stated gruffly in answer to the kyouryuujin's offer of help.  "You had better hope that your computer geek comes back with what I need.  I cannot waste more time here than is necessary."  The Saiyajin Prince turned his thoughts inward seeking inner calm upon realizing that Zenac and possibly more of his group now knew about his family.  Could he trust this man with the information?  One thing was for certain he was no fool and to merely believe in Zenac's altruism was indeed foolish.   Carefully he erected his barriers to emotion once more and put his senses on alert.  This man certainly was no ally and he should be careful.

"I agree but tracking the Shadow Sisters will be no easy task," Zenac replied.

"I think I am more qualified than most to track them."  He answered probing the surrounding area with his Ki sense.

"True, but you haven't taken into account the latest technology they use."

It was then he felt it.  There was a ki outside.  So he hadn't been hasty in deciding not to trust Zarbon's brother, Zenac was hiding someone outside.  His mind began to race trying to place it with one of the new kis he had recently encountered.

"I've seen the ki maskers and artificial ki generators but they are easy to sense when you know what to look for," he absently replied.

"Are you aware of the eye implants?" Zenac asked.

"Implants?"  He said momentarily changing his focus.

"For years the Shadow Sisterhood was a closely guarded secret among the tsirijin because ignorance of their weaknesses was essential to success.  About eight years ago the Machine Planet came out with a new implant that could change the color of the irises as well.  The Colds were the first to take up the new technology and when they broke off entirely from the home world they started revealing themselves and the Sisterhood.  Since then all of the operatives were forced to get the technology as well in order to compete."

This turn in the conversation made him come to a realization.  It was the girl, Zarbon's daughter outside.  So Zenac thought he was sly using her.  If he thought that Vegeta was unschooled in detecting such one's he would quickly burst that bubble.

"I have other ways to detect them.  Relying on your eyes with shape shifters is dangerous."

"Exactly and I have equipment that detects them you can use."

Vegeta looked accessingly at the kyouryuujin man before him.  Why was he still so eager to help him in his quest despite the plethora of reasons he had to do the opposite ?  When he trusted him so little he had planted a spy?  "Why are you helping me and going out of your way to please me?  So I will kill the tsirijin for you?"

Vegeta detected a change in the Ki outside its emotions were swirling tumultuously.  Vegeta inwardly grinned.  Zenac's spy was a rank amateur.  If he thought he could threaten him into doing his dirty work for him by letting him know he knew about his family and sick the girl on him afterwards to see how things came out he would be sadly mistaken.

"Partly yes" Zenac admitted "but mostly it is because I respect you for breaking away from Freeza's mold and beginning a new life not seeking universal domination," the kyouryuujin stated seating himself on an unoccupied cot.  "That was what was expected of you, you know.  You were Freeza's prodigy, every bit as ruthless as he, and it was thought you would follow in his footsteps.  No one would believe the truth, Vegeta, merciless killer of millions, chose to settle down on an out-of–the way planet and start a family.  Who would have guessed you could change so dramatically?"

Vegeta looked in surprise at this man's frank comments.  He had recognized a change in his demeanor, he was no longer as harsh and unbending as he was in his youth but he had always considered himself fundamentally the same, however, that was not the case.  Everything that had driven him to action formerly had changed.  Zenac was not speaking like a man trying to entrap with promises he didn't intend to keep but as one truly personally interested in he and his life.

"It is true, the desire of universal conquest lost its appeal to me long ago, but not for virtuous reasons.  My desire stemmed primarily from the desire for revenge, to take everything from Freeza he held dear for myself.  Once he was dead the desire slowly faded."

The Ki outside shifted again.

"Yet you didn't have to drop completely out of sight nor take a mate for yourself.  Choosing family above power is a noble choice.  Many others, with the same choice before them would have decided differently.   Choosing family above power is a noble choice."

"I am far from noble.  I still kill without mercy those who threaten anything or anyone that is mine."  Vegeta was surprised to see how unruffled the man before him was at this last comment.  It was a veiled threat yes, but one none-the-less, and this man had betrayed nothing, not even in his ki.  Either this man was the best liar in the universe or he had no reason to believe that such a threat was directed at him.  Could it be he had misread the others intentions?

"But for far different reasons than before," Zenac continued.  "You won't let anyone stand in your way when it comes to protecting those you love.  Your family has become the reason rather than pride or greed.  Many others, with the same choice before them would have decided differently."

The ki outside was in turmoil.  Perhaps it was time to up the ante.  The man had seemed protective of his niece, if a change in subject threatened to unnerve his spy then perhaps Zenac would show some reaction.  "Like your brother?" Vegeta asked.

Zenac froze and regarded him with surprise.

"Yes I know who you are, Zarbon's brother, and that is why I find your generosity toward me, the one who killed him, odd."

To say that the other man's demeanor surprised Vegeta was an understatement.  He was stricken, but it had nothing to do with the girl outside.  The look he gave Vegeta was one of weary frankness.  His words still shocked him more.

"I cannot say I regret the fact you ended his life of depravity.  I almost view it as a kindness."

Not only did the words shock him but they had a devastating effect on the ki outside.  He could only listen in stunned silence to man before him who without doubt had no idea his niece was outside.  He wouldn't say such a brutal truth otherwise.  Of that Vegeta was certain.

"I didn't like what he became."  Zenac continued.  "You must understand, he was different before he let Freeza warp his weaknesses.  He left home to train under the changeling as a ruse to help the fledgling resistance movement.  He would learn how to fight and understand our enemy and come back and share what he had learned with us so we could be effective in our fight.  Instead he came back and betrayed us all.  I was only allowed to live because of my relationship to him.  Freeza set before me a choice, help him weed out the rebels or every member of my race was forfeit."

"So you chose the needs of the many over the needs of the few."

"And I was labeled a traitor just like my brother in the process" Zenac stated somberly.  "I've had to work hard ever since to clear my name."

"And you are still working at it."  Vegeta felt the torment in the girl's ki outside and almost felt guilty. 

"To prove myself, yes.  These people came under my leadership by chance, not by choice so I'm doing the best I can to provide for them now and secure their freedom for the future.  If I don't gain their respect and their trust then I have failed."

Vegeta tried to ignore the ki outside.  He tried to convince himself he had no reason to care that in his probing he had probably destroyed this girl's opinion of her uncle but he found this knowledge disturbing.

"You wish to regain your honor by bribing a warrior to kill a tyrant for you" Vegeta commented.

"It may seem strange to you, a warrior born and raised to fight, for me to seek another to do my dirty work for me but I'm not a warrior.  I've never claimed to be anything more than I am, a politician."

Still Vegeta fought with the thoughts that peppered his mind: Why should he feel abashed at misjudging this man?  Why should he care that the girl outside was in emotional upheaval?  Why should he even consider telling this man she was outside to repair the rift?  He was not responsible for the girl's distress.  Just because he killed both of her parents meant nothing.

"You are no ordinary politician," Vegeta stated regarding the man before him in a different light.  No politician I have ever seen would fight in a battle with a blaster."

Zenac smiled.  "I do what I must."

"Would you kill him yourself if you could?"  The fluttering of the ki outside told him perhaps the answer to this question would be the most painful of all.  Pushing it to the back of his mind he told himself he didn't care how she felt, what mattered was he might have just found an ally.  He couldn't risk loosing this man's help.  It would make things much easier to have only one enemy not two.

The kyouryuujin thought for a moment and leaned back in his chair.  "Perhaps, if a blaster could do it.  I dislike physical violence."

"Because you'll get your hands dirty?"  He said trying to ignore the retreating ki of the distraught female.

The azure skinned alien gave the saiyajin an annoyed glance.  "I'm not my brother," he answered knowingly.  "The reason I don't like it is because I couldn't even defeat an infant if I tried."

Vegeta began to chuckle at this remark feeling less tense now that he knew the girl was gone. 

"I'm glad you find it amusing."

"I've never met an honest politician until today."

"I don't mince words your Highness," he said with a serious air.  "My people are ill prepared, armed with faulty weapons, have no training and they aren't fools.  I can't keep this group together for much longer with the odds against us as they are.  That is why I need your help.  I must end this soon and to do that I must face him but I can't go in to see him alone."

Once again this man surprised him.  Apparently Zenac intended on accompanying Vegeta to confront Frigid.  Examining the man before him more closely for the first time he saw just how tired he was.  Zenac knew there was no real way out and so he was opening admitting his weakness and yet he was still willing to put himself in danger for the best interests of his cause.

"You may be a politician but you have a warrior's spirit.  You are a warrior with words instead of fists."

"You do me great honor addressing me as such."

"Have you ever thought of leaving here?" Vegeta asked.  "The planet is so decimated I doubt you'll be able to survive here."

"Some would go but not most of them.  They'd rather die fighting here than leave.  They won't abandon they're home and I won't abandon them."

The grave silence that fell over the room gave Vegeta pause for thought.  Zenac had managed to assuage many of his suspicions with his open dialogue but one ghost still hung over his head.  The saiyajin felt an uncharacteristic knot form in his throat with it.  "Who is the girl, the one with the odd eyes?"

The look of fear the kyouryuujin shot him was unmistakable.  One he had witnessed on the faces of many of his victims in the past, the ones on whom the threat of their loved ones lives was used to sway.   This time however, he didn't want to incite it as he had a moment before.   Now too he understood the fear, he had experienced it for himself recently and he felt a stirring of jumbled feelings begin in his breast, feelings he was afraid to name, as he recognized it in another. The same troubled gnawing at his conscious with which he had been fighting from the moment he found out the identity of both Zenac and his niece came anew with it.

"She is my niece," the man said truthfully in answer.  "Her knowledge of your being behind her father's demise is the reason for her outbursts.  Please, think nothing of them.  She is young."

"Young?" he asked feeling partly relieved that she mightn't be who he thought she was.  After all if she was the daughter of Ice then she would be around just two years younger than he.   "How old is she?"

Zenac froze.  "Her age is difficult to explain."  He stopped quickly unsure how to proceed.  "You see her heritage is mixed so though she should be completely mature by kyouryuujin standards she is just passing out of adolescent developmentally speaking."

"She is part tsirijin" the saiyajin stated dully in realization his instincts must have been right.  "Then her mother was Ice."

"Yes." Zenac said simply watching the odd expression pass over the saiyajin's face.

Vegeta rose not liking the feeling of helplessness that had suddenly come over him, the sudden resurgence of guilt left him powerless to move for a moment.  His weakness made him angry but not more that the thought that crept into his mind that told him he owed the girl something in reparation for his actions in the past.  He had no qualms about killing Zarbon, but the same doubt that had plagued him from the moment Freeza had revealed his manipulations that had led him to kill his tsirijin sensei came flooding back to him every time he thought of it.  She had been guilty of at least one crime however, his mothers death and that had been the one piece of information he had clung to.  By saiyajin law she had deserved to die at his hand, so why was he unable to find peace with it? 

A sudden crackle of the com device on the table behind the pair broke the spell.

Zenac rose and rushed to the device.

"Commander!  My system just reported back" the voice of Bel said.  "It says there is no record in the network even mentioning the Machine Planet."

"Damn!" the Kyouryuujin muttered.  "Return to base Bel."  The kyouryuujin politician turned to face the Saiyajin Prince defeat and despair written all over his face.  "It seems you are not under any compulsion to aid us, Prince Vegeta.  Once your friend returns you'll want to be on your way.  I still will provide a ship if you like."

"No" Vegeta answered quietly.  "I think a little visit to Frigid is in order first."

"You still intend to face him?"

"If anyone knows the location of the Planet he does" the saiyajin said simply "and I have something he wants with which to bargain.  If he happens to get himself killed during our meeting then you can count yourself fortunate.  You can still come if you want."

With that Vegeta turned and began to leave stretching out his senses despite the uneasy understanding he had just come to with the rebel leader.  His caution seemed rewarded when he detected the ki rapidly approaching from ahead and raised his eyes instinctively to meet it.  When it halted just ahead of him and he saw nothing where the owner should have been once again the unbidden feelings of guilt began clutching at his chest.  Why was he having such a dilemma with this?  Why couldn't he bury it down deep enough to silence it?  Since it was obvious she didn't wish to reveal herself he decided to walk on, after all what good would it do to reveal her spying to her uncle?

He was surprised when she began following him.  "What was she up to?  If Zenac hadn't asked her to follow me then why is she doing this?" he silently wondered.

"I know you are there girl," he announced when he was certain they were far enough away from the tent for Zenac not to hear him.  "I can sense your ki.  You might as well show yourself."  When she made no reply he continued.  "I know that you were listening to your uncle and I for quite awhile back there."

"What do you want?" the mellifluous voice asked suspiciously.

"To advise you," the Prince stated.  "I have little doubt you are trying to scheme something against me."

"Why should I do that and even if I did would it matter?  I thought you were invincible," Lealia answered waspishly.

"It matters because it could end up destroying everything you have," he said confidently approaching the signature.  "I was once in your place.  I had two chances to avenge the deaths of both my parents and the loss of my Kingdom.  Only one attempt succeeded, and it was against your mother."

"Why are your saying this?" she snapped reappearing before him her eyes flashing.  "I know you killed her in cold blood."

At that statement any soft feeling Vegeta had for the girl were recplaced with indignation.  "Who told you that lie?"

"My father sent word of it to my grandmother" she answered.  "He had no reason to lie."

"That shows what little you know of your father" Vegeta sneered.  "He helped set the whole thing up to get back into the good graces of Freeza."

"That's not true!"

"Your Father wasn't an honorable man girl.  It was his statements that ultimately led to my actions."

"And I suppose that my mother wasn't honorable either!"

"She was far from an angel" Vegeta sneered.  "She was an assassin, and a spy.  She had as much blood on her hands as I have upon mine.  Did you know she killed my mother?  Did you know she killed her own father and older brother by Freeza's whim?"

"That can't be true!" she gasped in horror.

"I assure you it is true" Vegeta answered coldly.  "Why do you think Frigid is such a blithering idiot?  He saw it all, apparently she couldn't bring herself to kill him believing it a kindness, and instead it left him a basket case."

"This is just more of your lies and deceit!" Lealia countered.  "Don't think that you can fool me like you have all the others.  You probably don't even have a family in danger.  That's probably a lie too."

"Think what you want of me but I'm warning you not to interfere in a misguided attempt to exact vengeance," Vegeta warned.

"Or what, you'll kill me too?" she spat. 

"Only if you make it necessary" the saiyajin growled.

"Thank you for reminding of the blood-thirsty monster you are" she answered before disappearing.

Vegeta almost took off after her retreating ki when it headed for the tunnels to the surface when his better sense kicked in.  What could she possibly do?  Frigid wouldn't admit her, she was a rebel, and even if she was foolish enough to do so what did it matter?  Nothing Frigid could do could answer his power.  He turned and headed back for his quarters.  The moment 17 showed up they would leave for the surface and he could put this mess far behind him.

***

Bulma sighed at last feeling relaxed.

"If you're tired we can continue tomorrow," Ceres said with a pitying smile.

"I don't want to go back to my cell just yet" Bulma replied disconsulately.  "I was kind of enjoying the quiet and not having my every moved scrutinized."

"Wrench was giving you a hard time in the beginning" Ceres agreed.

"Not just him" Bulma answered.  "Everyone even you watch me like I'm some kind of freak.  Wrench's adolescent scare tactics don't bother me half as much as all the prying eyes do.  I don't intimidate easily."

"And that's why he's trying so hard" Ceres answered.

Bulma smiled.  This was the most relaxed and friendly conversation she'd had with anyone since her arrival on the Machine Planet.  Working with her side-by-side for a few hours had made Ceres much more comfortable around her and for that she was glad.  Now that the whole lab and their watchdog had left he was much calmer as well. 

"Ceres" she ventured.  "I have to confess I'm glad we were assigned to work together today.  You seem to know a lot about Wrench and everyone here.  I wonder if you could answer some questions for me."

The man answered with an unsure bob of his head.

"Wrench's little electrical display today got me to wondering if that's all there is to his abilities.  He seems so arrogant and self-assured in his skills as a fighter.  Is there more to his power than what I saw today?"

"Why do you want to know?  If it's to find some way of hurting or destroying him I wouldn't advise it."

"I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind but that's not the reason.  He has this insane desire to fight Vegeta and he seems to believe he's capable of winning.  I want to know if he's really as powerful as he says he is."

The graying scientist sighed.  "I suppose its understandable that you want to know just what your mate is up against if he makes it here."

"There's no ifs about it" Bulma said determinedly "he'll make it here and when he does Wrench will be waiting.   I want to understand exactly what and who this man-child-biomechanical thing is that makes him think he's so superior to other beings."

"To help you understand a little background information is in order."  Ceres began folding his hands on the tabletop.  "Wrench was once a very normal being.  His race is called Kagamijin and its philosophy on technology is very unique compared to most.  You see, all known species through out the universe use technology but with very different views as to its ethical use or importance.  Some like the saiyajin, use it to a minimum believing physical power is more important than mechanics.  Others, like mine, use it almost to excess believing in its merit above all else.  The Kagamijin believe that neither is more important than the other and there must be a balanced symbiosis between them."

"For example, most laser technology uses the amplification of light as its basis, however, the Kagamijin developed lasers that use ki energy as their basis.  Some warriors even had weapons that responded only to their ki signatures.  They created some of the most unique technology I've ever seen.  It's a shame Freeza destroyed them."

"Freeza?" Bulma asked feeling a pit forming in her stomach.

"Rest assured that Vegeta was not a part of that attack.  The Ginyu led that particular assault and left few survivors.  A few apparently escaped and settled somewhere anonymously, but as a whole their culture and technology have been totally whipped out."

"And Wrench was one of those survivors" Bulma stated nodding.

"Only because he was here.  He totally abandoned his world and his people for the life of a mercenary and pirate long ago.  In fact if you mention his species at all he will tell you he is no longer Kagamijin but a Biomech, his own self-created identity.  About the only thing he holds onto from his roots is the belief that there needs to be a balance between technology and manpower.  With all of the alterations he's had made to himself I fear he believes he has achieved the ultimate form a being can attain to."

"His search for perfection is what has made him what he is then?" Bulma asked.

"Yes and I might say his current incarnation is quite a remarkable work of genius, his, Kougou's and regrettably mine.  Wrench has the vision and either I, or Kougou make it so.  Kougou is the bioengineering specialist and I the robotic and mechanical.  What he is today is the result of 21 years of annual continuous upgrades carried from one body to the next."

"Continuous?  Both biological and technological upgrades?"

"No, mechanical upgrades have been done to him regularly, the bioengineering was only applied to his current incarnation before he had to switch bodies the last time."

"How many times has he switched bodies?"

"His current self is his third life, but he's only switched bodies twice, and only because of premature death in both cases.   The last time he was forced to switch bodies while the new one was only 5 years old, which he was most displeased with, but reliving your childhood was preferable to dying."

"What exactly did he do with his ki in that little display?"

"This is difficult to explain.  Wrench essentially has three power sources in his body to draw from.  The first comes from his natural ki.  Most androids have so much of their organic systems removed they are no longer able to produce their own ki any longer and an artificial life force is added to replace it.  Although Wrench can produce his own ki he still had the artificial ki generator installed.  Using ki boosters, the same kind that were utilized in the blaster weapons I told you about, he somehow manages to enhance his natural ki, draw on the artificial ki and flawlessly combine the two."

"So that's two what about the third?"

"That's the electrical power from his mechanical systems" the rose-colored scientist replied.  "You see, before the ki boosters were invented Wrench had the same system that allows our probes to use their own system's power to electrocute defensively installed.  Again, he found someway to fire it from his body just like ki that I cannot explain.  When he adds all three energies into one attack it stupefies me no matter how many times I see it."

"Just how powerful is he?"

The man turned and looked at her gravely.  "I would have to say that in his current state he could easily stand toe-to-toe with Freeza or Cooler and hold his own, if not come off victorious."

With this revelation Bulma closed he eyes and exhaled in relief.

"But, its not what he is now that really concerns me" Ceres confessed with a bow of his graying lavender head.

Bulma reopened her eyes and measured his slumped form objectively.  "What do you mean?" she asked.

"I mean that he hasn't reached the apex of his power and he won't reach it until this body is fully mature."

"How powerful will he become then?"

"I believe that he has the potential to become the single most destructive force the universe has yet known and it will be my fault."

"What did you do to him?" the woman asked in disbelief.

"To answer that I have to tell you the story of how I came to meet both he and Vegeta."

Suddenly, the terminal before them leapt to life with the face of the subject of their conversation.

"That is a topic that I wouldn't mind Ceres, except for its reason.  You can tell her anything about my arsenal but my most recent upgrade."

"Have you been listening to our entire conversation?"  Bulma asked.

"Of course" the green-eyed blonde replied with an imperious grin.  "I see and hear absolutely everything that goes on in this station at all times.  How do you think I was able to stop your escape attempt two nights ago?  How do you think I knew you wouldn't find working with Ceres objectionable?"

"I knew you found out about our conversation last night from somewhere.  You already knew Ceres was in that room before I got there, didn't you?"

"Ceres and I have a little deal" Wrench revealed steepling his fingers.  "I look the other way when he contacts his family off world and in turn he helps me covertly develop personal upgrades that no one, including the Doctor, knows about.  Just as I told you, Bulma, as long as you stay useful to me I will keep you alive."

"You seem to keep a lot from the Doctor" Bulma observed.

"Yes, well I'll let you in on a little secret" the biomech said leaning forward conspiratorially.  "I'm the true power behind the Machine Planet.  Kougou is little more than a figurehead now.  He's handed so much of the details of running the place to me and being as I'm able to tap into and control any and all devices here or manufactured by our operation he knows absolutely nothing that I don't want him to know.  He spends all day every day immersed in creating that he does little more than think and experiment.  I must confess even in that avenue I hold a certain amount of control.  A few well placed suggestions and I can often convince him of things he never had any intention of doing."

Leaning back in his chair he now shifted his attention to the silent alien scientist.  "Ceres you're free to tell her the story of our first meeting, however explaining to her the exact nature of the weapon is off limits.  I think that story is better left for another time.  You'll both need your sleep if you hope to accomplish anything tomorrow and the Doctor expects a full report in the morning of everything you've gathered today.  Good night, Princess, Professor."

After the monitor winked off Bulma felt a gentle hand on her shoulder, and turned into the earnest face of Ceres.  "Please Bulma," he implored "tell Doctor Kougou nothing of my contact with my family on the outside.  If he knew he would insist that I be put under control and Wrench would do nothing to stop it."

"Don't worry" Bulma said feeling a deep pity "I won't say a word.  I understand how important contact with your family is.  At least its possible for you, I'll never be allowed anything like that."  Suddenly, an idea loomed in her mind, which she wisely cut off before verbalizing.

"He is right about the time as well," Ceres mumbled  "if you'd like I can drop you off at your quarters first before going to mine."

Bulma smiled.  It had been a long time since she met a chivalrous gentleman and it was kind of refreshing despite her highly feminist sensibilities.  "Thank you, but I'd like to spend a little more time alone here.  I'm not quite tired enough to sleep and the beds here aren't all that comfortable for tossing and turning in."

"Goodnight then, Bulma" he said inclining his head and bringing his fist toward his chest.  Seeing her mystified expression he added, "A saiyajin salute for the Saiyajin no Hine."

As he turned and left Bulma allowed a melancholy smile to tug at her lips.  Professor Ceres was truly a decent man and he was just as miserable here under the control of Wrench and Kougou as she, except it was quite obvious he had lost the will to fight and had resigned himself to his life of slavery.  If she could she would see him escape as well as she.  Slowly her mind drifted back to the stray thought that had resurrected her dead hope of escape.   If she could somehow hide a signal on Ceres's outgoing line and broadcast a distress call with coordinates perhaps Vegeta would find it.  If he did then he would come and rescue her, and she would convince him to take Ceres along to reunite him with his family. 

So what mysterious power is Wrench hiding?  What does it have to do with Ceres' weapon from the past?  Poor mixed up Lealia, what will happen when she speaks to Frigid? Where exactly is Trunks headed to and what will he face there? Will Blizzard and Snow succeed in their plans?  Will Vegeta ever find the location to the Machine Planet? Those are questions that will be answered in further installments of the Machine Plane Saga. 

The entire coarse of events to which Ceres is referring will be laid out in detail in Vegeta Trilogy: Part 2 The Angel of Death which I will get to once part one is finished and that will be in two more chapters. (Yes, one of those chapters does include Ice's demise at Vegeta's hands which when you read it will shed light on his feeling about the subject and why he says what he says to Lealia).  Now that I've finished typing this one I will be typing up the next Vegeta Trilogy chapter. 

Until next time Minna-san!