This page, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Planet Trade Organization/Volume II, is property of KidVegeta.

This article, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Planet Trade Organization/Volume II, contains the following:

Adult Content, Swearing, Drug Use.

Reader discretion is advised.

Trophy This page, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Planet Trade Organization, was a recipient of the official 2015 Dragon Ball Fanon Wiki award for “Best Multi-chapter Stories”. Great job!
Trophy(2016) This page, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Planet Trade Organization, was a recipient of the official 2016 Dragon Ball Fanon Wiki award for “Best Multi-chapter Stories”. Great job!

This is the second volume in the series of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Planet Trade Organization. It consists of accounts starting post-Namek. This section begins the period of time where Cooler took sole reign of the Planet Trade Organization. Several soldiers of King Cold persist, and their accounts confirm that he was killed on Earth with Frieza during this volume. All chapters are written in the first-person perspective.

This volume's theme song is Ether by Electric President.

The previous volume in this series, volume I, can be found here. The next volume in this series, volume III, can be found here.

Planet Trade Organization Leaders: StartEdit

This section will detail who is in charge of the Planet Trade Organization as of the start of this volume:

Leader Role Number of Soldiers Relation
King Cold Ruling King of the PTO Several million Father of Cooler, Frieza, and Nitro
Cooler Crown Prince of the PTO Several trillion First son of King Cold
Frieza Prince of the PTO Several trillion Second son of King Cold
Nitro Prince of the PTO Several trillion Third son of King Cold
Arcterial Ruling lord of the PTO Several billion Younger brother of King Cold
Frost Military General of the PTO Several thousand Daughter of Arcterial
Icer Ruling lord of the PTO Several billion Younger brother of King Cold
Polaria Military General of the PTO Several thousand Daughter of Icer
Hail Military General of the PTO Several thousand Daughter of Icer
Avalan Military General of the PTO Several thousand Son of Icer
Zarbon Military General of the PTO Several thousand Frieza's second in command
Digranite Military General of the PTO Several thousand Cooler's second in command
Fassfu Military General of the PTO Several thousand Nitro's second in command


Please note: this section contains spoilers for this book. Light grey regions indicate unclaimed territory.

At the beginning of this volume
After King Cold's and Frieza's deaths
At the end of this volume

Chapter I: After the FallEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Lychin
Position: Governor in Frieza's empire
Date of account: December 24, 762 Age

“Turn it off.”

The nearest soldier looked up at me, a quizzical look on his face. “But sir, wh–”

My fist entered his skull so fast, he didn’t even have time to scream. Shaking blood from my gloved hand, I turned to the others. “Anyone else want to question my leadership?” They all shook their heads. The silence was deafening. “Good. Now someone, turn it off!”

Another alien, a fishy-looking one with purple skin and bulging eyes, obeyed me. It was good to see at least one of them still held loyalty to me. At once, the light of the video feed cut out, and we were left standing there in the darkness together. We had nothing to say.

The computers hummed and blinked. A few of my subordinates coughed or shifted in their stances. The tension was as thick as mud, as choking as a hand wrapped around a throat.

At length, I received a call on my scouter, marked urgent. I took that as my excuse to flee the room, to get away from it all. I just wanted to run, to keep running until everything was left behind. But such thoughts were impractical. I was a governor. It was my duty to hold us together in these dark times.

Reaching the end of the corridor, far away from anyone else, I stopped. “What do you want?” I spoke into my scouter, perhaps too curtly.

“Have you been following what’s been going on?” the voice replied.


“A-and?! Don’t you think this is a big deal?!”

I remained calm. “Of course it is. But what do you want me to do about it?”

The other voice was annoyed. I knew this man. It was strange, though, for I had never heard so much panic, so much fear in his voice before. “Our long-range scouters blew up! The outpost is in critical condition! Hundreds are dead…” There was an extended silence. “H-hello, are you still there? Governor Lychin?”

“I’m here,” I replied softly. “You need me to send rescue ships. Is that correct?”

“Yeah! And we need them as quickly as possible!”

“Very well, I’ll get a crew out to as soon as I can. Is that all?”

The other governor scoffed. “You know why our long-range scouters blew up, don’t you?”

I sighed. “Indeed. I had my crew turn ours off just in case. It seems my foresight was correct.”

That seemed to cut through the other governor like a knife. “We… we had to see how it would end!”

“That was a foolish risk. We all knew how it was going to end, and yet here you are, with hundreds of your soldiers dead. And needlessly, I might add.”

“As you say, governor…” the other governor replied. There was restraint in his voice. I knew he wanted to lash out at me, but if he did, he would risk losing my rescue ships. “Well, now what?”

“Now, we continue on as we always have. We keep our outposts in line. We wait for someone above us to contact us about what to do. Until that happens, we can do nothing.”

“You aren’t going to rebel?” The other governor’s voice was suspicious.

“Even if I was, do you think I would tell you?” The alien in my ear scoffed again. “Very well. I will send you the ships you need, and you can relocate your forces here on Planet Frieza 68. If that is all, I think our conversation has reached its end.”

“Don’t leave me out here,” the other governor warned. “If you are planning something, I don’t want to be the first casualty.”

“Believe me, governor, you’re far more useful to me alive than dead.”

I hung up.

Returning to my command post, I found it much as I had left it – the place was still clothed in near darkness, with only the bright and flashing lights of the computer screens giving the cold, steely room any color. Yet there was one thing out of place: a soldier now stood where I had once stood, and he turned to face me when I came walking in.

“Back to your post, soldier,” I ordered him.

“Shut it, old man,” came the reply.

That took me aback. Suddenly, adrenaline shot through my veins and my hearts began beating faster. I stepped back, gaining a bearing on my situation. In the low light of the room, it was hard to make out if there were others with this rebel – if my other subordinates had joined his reckless, suicidal treachery. It made sense, of course, why this was happening, and I was angry at myself for not anticipating such a turn of events.

“Back to your station, soldier!” I shouted one last time.

“Ain’t happenin’,” came the low reply. “You saw what was on that screen, same as us. Things’ll never be the same.”

“No,” I admitted. “But this isn’t the end.”

The other alien wasn’t listening to me. “Nah, the empire’s lost. I’m not gonna be your slave any longer. I’ve had it with this fucking Planet Trade Organization!”

The alien charged me. Low, red light suddenly came on and bathed the room in color. The room began to shake. I looked out the nearest window, for the quickest of moments, and saw explosions roaring up in fiery plumes in a nearby complex, not more than a few hundred feet away. There was likely fighting breaking out on the floors below us as well. I swore under my breath. I knew that there would be some pushback… some consequence for what we had seen on that video feed. But I had not expected it to be so desperate and so impressive.

But I had to start small. First, I had to deal with this alien. As he came roaring towards me, sprinting carelessly with his arms flung behind him, I saw that he was none other than Cranbry, my installation captain. Why did that surprise me? Why didn’t I recognize his voice before? I should have known. I should have expected this. He had never been a loyal beast, but he had been good at his job. And that had seemed cause enough to keep him. Plus, no one could have ever expected that what had happened would happen…

I met Cranbry’s fist with my own in an offensive blocking move. “Get back to your post, or I will kill you!” I shouted. That just made my captain laugh. He pressed forward.

I blocked his advances as best I could. I was not as young as I had once been, but I was still powerful – still more powerful than him. I knew this. I could not lose confidence. Not now. Even so, I was not powered up, and I had not the time to power up. As it was, my foe held the advantage. He pushed me into a corner, beating me mercilessly. My block became sloppier and sloppier until he shattered it entirely. Then I was flung into the far metal wall, bruises and welts forming across my face and chest. I tried to stand up, and he kicked me down. I tried to create an energy attack, and he slapped it aside. Everything had changed so quickly, that it felt like I had no chance.

Cranbry kicked me in my ribs, cracking my armor and causing me to fall over, gasping for air. I tried to stand again, and this time he came running with a flying kick at my face, hitting me in the nose and smashing it. I fell. Sitting up on my hands and knees, breathing heavily, my head and mind numb, I tried to blink away the tears of pain. I didn’t know what to do. Everything was moving so fast that time itself had slowed to a crawl. I saw a drop of dark liquid fall from my nose and stain the metal floor. My breathing was all I could hear.

I felt something grab the right shoulder pauldron of my armor and try to stand me up. I closed my eyes, focused my energy. All I had left, I put into my fist, shaping the energy into a jagged dagger. By the time Cranbry had pulled me up, sat my on my knees, and stood back, preparing to finish me off with an energy attack of his own, I saw that my attack was ready. It was now or never.

My captain thrust his palms out, and shining energy began forming in front of him. It would take only a second to charge up. This was my moment. Just as he went to fire it, I kicked off the ground, flipping over Cranbry. His attack went sailing by, and I felt the air warm around me as it went. I landed behind my foe, on my feet, and just as he began to react to my maneuver, I stuck my piece of energy, as slender and deadly as an icicle, straight through his ear and into his skull. He was dead before his attack exploded against the far wall.

Blood sprayed from Cranbry’s body, coating me in the sweet, sweet sanguine. I turned to face the others. Before I could open my mouth, before I could bark out a command, they were all charging me. I couldn’t believe it. Every one of them was a turncoat. Every one of them had decided to betray me. I swore under my breath again, cursing my bad luck. I would lose many good men this day, I knew.

None of the others held even a fraction of Cranbry’s strength. They were all technicians, scientists, servants. They weren’t fighters. But they bled all the same. As injured as I was, it felt good to break through their bones with my fists. Bodies fell, screams echoed, and blood flowed in the room where once silence and inaction had been king. I had known these men – some for years, some since before I first set foot on this outpost – and yet, it appeared they no longer knew me. A mere hour ago, everything had been okay. Everything had been okay, until it hadn’t.

The last soldier I killed was the fish-faced one who had previously turned off the video feed. Funny how he had been loyal to that end, mere moments ago. My anger surged upon seeing him charge me, and I took him to the ground before punching him to a meaty pulp. So many times did I hit him that his skull caved in and his eyes popped out and his flesh tore to bloody ribbons and I lost recognition of his face. But it was not enough. I kept going, kept beating his lifeless, worthless corpse until he was but a pile of flesh and guts and bone.

By the time it was over, I was dripping with blood and sweat and disgust at myself. What had I become? These were my men. But they had defied me. They had tried to kill me… just for their freedom. I stood up and looked around. The blood of so many species glowed nicely in the light of the room.

I looked out the window. Explosions were still going off. Fighting had no doubt broken out across the entire planet. It would take a long time for me to subdue what remained of my garrison. I looked down, clenched my fist, and felt drops of blood drip from my body. I was tired, so tired of it all. But a governor has no time to sleep, no time to complain. I signed up for this.

Preparing to leave, I suddenly received another call on my scouter, also marked urgent. Though this one was coming from the scouter, it was a video call, not a pure audio one, so I raised my left gauntlet, pressed a button on it, and a little blue hologram of a most unexpected being appeared.

“Governor Lychin,” the Arcosian said coolly.

“L-lord… Cooler!” I gasped.

“Not expecting me?” He smirked. “It looks like you’ve been in a battle, governor.”

I nodded. “Some of my soldiers didn’t take kindly to what they saw earlier.”

“Are the rebels dead?”

“Most are,” I lied. “The others will be soon, sir. You can count on that.”

“Good. Now, governor, tell me… what did you think of the events earlier today?”

I gulped and looked down. Blood was still falling from my body like drops of rainwater, though I could take heart in the fact that at least none of it was mine. After a few seconds of collecting my thoughts, I spoke, “I did not expect Frieza to lose. I thought he was the strongest being in the galaxy.”

Cooler frowned. “Careful, governor. I was always stronger than my brother. Though you were a part of his empire, do not pretend like you didn’t know that.”

“Right, sir. Sorry, sir.”

“Make no mistake, governor. Whoever this mysterious golden-haired warrior is… whoever killed my brother… he will pay for what he’s done. And I will make him pay. But until we get to that point, I need your help in keeping this empire together. Frieza’s region of the Planet Trade Organization could easily fall into civil war. I do not want that. I am contacting all of his governors to let them know that they are now a part of my empire. All of you are now with me. This is not the end!” Cooler’s face shone with determination, notably even in hologram form. “Even if Frieza is dead, nothing has changed. I want your planet locked down. Any and all traitors are to be executed, and once they are, I will send a team there to inspect the place and make sure that it is ready to resume its normal activities. Keeping this empire together will be difficult. It is in a fragile state currently. So I need your full cooperation, your full strength, to aid me in this task. Do you understand, governor?”

“I understand, Lord Cooler. I will make sure my planet is devoid of any traitors or rebels as quickly as possible. You can count on me. My soldiers and I are happy to join your empire, I promise you that! Long live the Planet Trade Organization!”

Cooler gave a wry smile, turned around, and exploded into a cloud of blue data, which soon faded to nothing. I sunk to the floor, and found myself next to the body of Cranbry.

“Thank you for your service, captain,” I said, pulling my bit of energy out of his skull and dissipating it. I sat back against the floor and sighed. Explosions echoed in the distance. Energy was raining in the sky. There was much to be done. I wondered how many of my soldiers were rebelling, how many would be left once this was all over. But I knew that if all of them had to die, then so be it. I would not let the traitors rule this day. Frieza may have been killed on Namek by a mysterious golden-haired warrior, but this was not the end. I would not let it be.

And yet, as I sat there, I wondered. Why had I not joined Cranbry? Why had I not sought my own freedom? Was it fear? Fear of dishonoring my family name? I couldn’t say. Like any of the others, I would have loved to be set free, to no longer work for the Planet Trade Organization. I was as loyal as they come… and yet even I saw the value in being the master of my own destiny. So why hadn’t I joined with them? We could have rebelled as one, this entire installation. Planet Frieza 068 was one of the largest, most advanced outposts in Frieza’s empire. We could have given Lord Cooler a serious headache if we had refused to join his empire. And yet, that’s all we would have been: a headache. We would have died all the same. And I wanted to live.

My people, the Faereth, had not forgotten the last major slight to our species, which had occurred a mere nine years previously. That had been when Avalan, son of Icer (who was the uncle of Frieza) had executed one of our own – a distinguished warrior named Loquano – for being a traitor himself. There had been no trial, no respect for Loquano, though I and one other governor had been present for his execution. My people had not forgotten. And now with Frieza gone, the rebellious thoughts of the Faereth would become even more vociferous than before. There would be a Great Council of Faeri, I knew – the first one in three hundred years. They would surely call it in secret, so as to not alert Cooler. But I had already staked my claim of loyalty. Could I go back now? If my people decided that now was the best time to fight for our freedom, could I join them? Who was I really loyal to – the Planet Trade Organization, or my own people? I could not say. But what I did know, deep inside me, was that I wanted to live. I would rather live than be free. Such a strange thought, to be sure. And in this day and age, it seemed like a most radical notion.

I looked down at my fists and clenched them. I had the blood of traitors on me this day. And yet, I wondered if I also had that blood inside me. I stood up, walked over to the nearest computer panel and pressed a button.

“Is everything alright there?” I asked, half expecting there to be no answer.

“Governor Lychin, sir, we are here!” came a high-pitched reply.

I let out a sigh of relief. At least the fighting hadn’t reached the docking bays. “Good,” I said. “Are there any rebels amongst you?”

“N-no sir! We killed them all… like you wanted, right?”

“Correct. Good work, soldier. Tell me, are all of the spaceships still intact?”

“Uh…” there was a long pause. “Y-yes, sir! I believe most of them are, sir.”

“Excellent.” I sat down in a nearby chair and leaned back, closing my eyes and savoring this moment of peace. It would be the last such moment for a very long time. “Send every working ship to Planet Frieza 79. It appears our brethren there had a little accident and need evac as soon as possible. We are bringing them here.”

“I’ll get the pilots ready, sir!”

“That will be all, then.”

I felt the aching in my body and knew that I was indeed wounded. Cranbry had gotten some good punches on me. I would need a trip to the rejuvenation tank. But not yet. No, there was still work to be done.

I stood up and cracked my neck. Looking out of the window, I saw that the nearby complex was on fire. Many were dead. Many more would die. But that was the price of loyalty.

As I prepared to leave, to save my planet, I got the queerest thought: what if I was exchanging one group of traitors for another? At least Cranbry and the others had been people I’d known. These others from Planet Frieza 79… they could be using me. The governor and his men could be coming to kill me.

My fear faded in the next instance. I knew my strength. I would not let anyone intimidate me. If those coming in from Planet Frieza 79 were indeed traitors, they would die like all the rest.

It was a prideful thought, one rooted in arrogance and optimism. And, looking back on it now, I can say it was, without a doubt, the most foolish thought I ever had.

I stepped forward and prepared to leave that cursed room, to reclaim my planet for Lord Cooler’s sake. And as I opened the window and flew out into the crisp morning air, I felt something cold and wet hit my cheek. I looked up and held out my hand. It came as a shock, though it perhaps shouldn’t have, when I realized that it had started to snow. It was the first snow of the year, I knew, but it would not be the last.

Chapter II: The Wars to ComeEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Salza
Position: Second in command of Cooler's empire, leader of Cooler's Armored Squadron
Date of account: December 24, 762 Age (first scene)
January 14, 763 Age (second scene)
January 20, 763 Age (third and fourth scenes)

The wind blew in swirling vortexes around us. The cold was unbearable. It took all of my strength not to shiver. It was dark that day, so dark that I could barely see a few feet ahead of me. Neiz and Dore were kneeling in the dirt, just on the edge of sight, their heads bowed. I stood at the side of Lord Cooler, steadfast and loyal. It was my place to be at his side. I was his right-hand man.

Lord Cooler sat in a finely-wrought throne, made of dark, polished marble, his eyes closed. He was as still as a statue; we tried to be as strong as him.

A windstorm on the Stomping Grounds was a rare sight, but fitting, I thought, given the circumstances. The whole world seemed like it was throwing a tantrum. The skies cracked with thunder, dim and dreary, and it seemed like at any moment the sky was going to release a torrent of rain. This was not the sunny, warm planet I thought I knew so well.

We waited as long as we could. We didn’t want to have to break the news to Lord Cooler; not here, not now. But I knew he would find out soon enough if we didn’t. And then he would berate us for withholding this information from him. I nodded to Neiz. It was time.

“Lord Cooler! We have news about Lord Frieza!”

“Eh?” Cooler eyes opened. “Did he defeat that sniveling Saiyan on Namek?”

“No, my lord… it appears Lord Frieza was killed in battle!”

A flicker of some emotion passed across Cooler’s usually calm face. “What? My brother killed by a Saiyan? That’s absurd. How could a Saiyan generate enough power to destroy Frieza?!”

Neiz looked uncomfortable, but he proceeded anyways. “It happened, my lord! This Saiyan has been living on Earth. He left Vegeta right before Lord Frieza blew it up!”

Cooler closed his eyes again and sighed. When he next spoke, he seemed to be speaking more to himself than to us, but I stayed on alert, nonetheless. “I never did like him… and now he goes and disgraces my father and I by getting killed by a Saiyan…”

At once, Cooler’s eyes shot open. There was a cold rage in them, flickering like two lonely flames in the night. He stood up, his fists clenched, his teeth bared. I felt fear shoot through my heart; I thought then that he might kill us, might release some of that anger inside of him.

Instead, my lord had different ideas. “Salza?” he barked.

“Sir?!” I bowed obediently.

“Prepare the ship for departure.” That caused Dore and Neiz to stand up, partially in excitement, and partially in confusion. “I don’t know who this Saiyan thinks he is, but no one attacks our family and lives!” Lord Cooler’s rage was building; I could sense it. He desperately wanted to kill this Saiyan. With a flick of his tail, Lord Cooler demolished the marble throne behind him. He was done playing games, done allowing his family and the Planet Trade Organization to be walked all over. I had never seen him like this before. Those eyes of his narrowed and focused and seemed to pierce the darkness with their hate. “No one!” he shouted again. “Plot a course for Earth.”

I bowed again and then scrambled off into darkness, Dore and Neiz running after me. And I thought then, curiously, that I was not just running to start up Lord Cooler’s ship, which was parked nearby. No, I was running from Lord Cooler too. I was running from the venom in his eyes.

“No, no, no, Cooler… he’s not dead,” King Cold rambled on, in that tedious tone of his. He held a cup of ice wine in his hand lazily, and it looked like the slightest breeze could knock it from his grip. “It’s true that he lost on Namek to that… monkey, but he’s not dead, no. We can not be killed so easily, son. I thought you of all people would know that.”

Cooler glanced over at me, a look of annoyance on his face. He blamed us for the bad information, but how could he? Everyone had thought Lord Frieza was dead… everyone except his father.

“Will he survive, then?”

“I should hope so,” King Cold mused, sipping his ice wine pleasantly. “I have the greatest scientists in our empire working on crafting him a new mechanical body as we speak.”

Cooler’s eyes lit up again. “Mechanical body? What are you talking about?”

“Oh Cooler, you haven’t seen him. I’d almost forgotten. Frieza was marred… grievously in that battle. It’s a miracle he survived. His body was ravaged and broken almost beyond recognition… but now it’s up to me to put him back together again.”

“Will he be stronger than before?”

“Oh yes, the scientists have high hopes. When his new body is complete, Frieza should be better than ever,” King Cold said carelessly. “Now what was this you said about getting revenge on Earth? You wanted revenge on your poor little brother, didn’t you? As much as you two have grown to despise each other over the years, I must say that surprises me!”

Cooler looked away, scowling. “Frieza disgraced our family name by getting beaten by a mere Saiyan. It was my duty to remind the universe the power that’s in our blood.”

“Doubtless,” King Cold said, taking another swig of ice wine. “But now that you know Frieza’s alright, why don’t you put that trip off?”

“That Saiyan must answer for what he did,” argued Lord Cooler.

“Frieza will want revenge when he comes to. And once he feels the capabilities of his new mechanical body, I’m sure he will deal with that Saiyan easily. This is his fight, Cooler, not yours.”

“As you wish, father. I will return to governing my part of the empire, if you don’t mind,” Cooler turned away and flicked his tail in irritation. “Come Salza, we have much to do.”

“I’ll see you back here for Nitro’s birthday,” King Cold reminded his son. “Do not forget that date again, please. I wouldn’t want to have to take another dozen planets from you.”

Cooler did not respond. He walked off, and so I followed him.

Once we were back aboard his ship, preparing to depart from King Cold’s outpost, I turned to face my lord, bowed, and spoke:

“Lord Cooler… now that we know Lord Frieza is still alive, what will we do about those planets you took from him?”

The Arcosian sat in his chair and gave me another look of annoyance. “Frieza’s mortally wounded. His recovery time, if he does recover, will be extensive. Someone must rule his planets in his absence, even if he’s still alive. And that someone is me. I am the eldest son of King Cold. It is my right to hold my brother’s empire under my control so long as he is unfit to rule. And should he seek revenge on that Saiyan and die…” Cooler closed his eyes, savoring the thought. “Well, that would be most unfortunate, wouldn’t it? But I have prepared for my brother’s foolishness in the past, and I will do so again now. His planets are mine, for now.”

We made our way back to Ipha, the chief moon of Planet Cooler 01, more often known as the Stomping Grounds. While the moon lacked an atmosphere, a sprawling metropolitan city covered much of its surface, all cube-shaped and sanitized in whites and oranges, in standard Planet Trade Organization fashion. We landed at the capitol building and made our way to Cooler’s headquarters, a small war room guarded behind hundreds of guards and dozens of empty, decorative rooms. No one save for Cooler’s highest-ranking commanders could set foot inside there.

Supreme General Digranite and Admiral Articho awaited us inside, bowing profusely when they saw the angry visage of their lord come striding inside. Others were there too – Senior Governor Nectarian, Commander Boisenberry, and several others of less notability. There were no guards in here – every officer present was strong enough to defend themselves, and Lord Cooler liked keeping what was said within these walls within these walls. Low-ranking soldiers could not be trusted with secrets.

“What’s new today?” Cooler asked as he found his seat. He perched on it like a bird preparing to lunge at its prey. Everyone else took their seats after him.

Digranite was the first to speak. He stood up and said, “An emissary from the Galactic Bank has requested an audience with you, Lord Cooler. He has been asking to see you every day for the past week. I have told him you were too busy to see him, but he will not leave. Do you want me to slit his throat, sire?”

“No. Maybe one of these days I won’t be busy. It’ll be good for him to stay around, not knowing when I will see him. He will be forced to stay until I do. That should make him angry… but there’s nothing he can do about it. These fools from the Galactic Bank deserve to learn some humility.”

“As you wish, my lord.”

Then Admiral Articho stood. “My lord,” he bowed extravagantly, “there have been more reports of pirate attacks across the far colonies. We suspect space pirates, perhaps Jolean or of the Aphotic Prince’s ilk… but we do not know for sure. There are also reports of attacks in Lord Frieza’s territory… pardon, I mean your new territory.”

Lord Cooler flexed the fingers of his right hand. “Digranite, send out patrols of our best pilots. Find out who is attacking us. If they are just Joleans, destroy them. If it’s the Aphotic Prince or some new foe, I expect that to be made known to me.”

“It will be done.” The Supreme General bowed and exited.

Admiral Articho continued to stand. “There is more, my lord. Several of Frieza’s former governors are squabbling. The leaders of planets 71 and 53 are almost at open war. Several others are not far behind. They seem to forget that even with Lord Frieza’s death, they are still a part of the Planet Trade Organization. I request leave to remind these governors who they serve.”

“Do it.” Cooler looked bored. He glanced over at me, giving me that same icy stare he had been giving me since he had learned what had happened to his brother. It was at that moment that I realized only he and I knew that Frieza was actually still alive. He would have to tell the others sooner or later. And I believe Lord Cooler wished to tell them later.

I began to drum my knuckles on the table, even as the talk continued about the governors in Frieza’s region and what to do about their rebellious actions. The anxiety of knowing what the others did not was too much to keep down inside of me. I was witnessing one son of King Cold make a political play on another. Should Lord Frieza learn what Cooler was intending to do, it would result in open war. And I did not know why Lord Cooler was risking that, just to make his empire a little bigger.

Breaking me out of my thoughts was Commander Boisenberry, who was the next to report. He stood and spoke, “My lord, Lady Frost has asked for an audience with you as well. She has things she wishes to discuss in private, and she refused to say what they were to me.”

Cooler sighed. “Very well. Set up a date. But not today and not tomorrow.”

I felt Lord Cooler looking at me again, but I did not return his gaze. He and I knew what Frost wanted, as did General Digranite. What Frost and Cooler had done together (and perhaps what they were still planning on doing together) was a tale that, should it get out into public knowledge, could also start a war. I gulped. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I still felt a cold sweat down my back. It was hard holding all of this knowledge inside. But I did. And that’s why I was Lord Cooler’s right hand man.

“Is that all?” Cooler asked the room. “Is there anything else I need to know about?” The officers all shook their heads. Cooler stood up, this time. “Back to your stations, then.” We all went to leave when suddenly, Cooler spoke again. “Not you, Salza.”

And so the others left, staring at me as they went. I remained behind, alone with the angry lord.

“Sir!” I said, bowing hastily after the last officer left the room.

“Spare me the theatrics, Salza,” Cooler grumbled. I quickly broke my bow. “Arcterial and Icer,” he began, standing up. He found a pitcher of wine and poured himself some before downing the whole glass in one breath. “They wanted to kill Frieza. They tried to get me to help them. And after I refused, they abandoned their plot to kill him at our last grand feast.”

“Yes sir,” I replied. “You have told me about this before.”

“I have,” admitted Cooler. He poured himself another glass. “They were right. Even after Frieza led the victory against the Nikkarins, we still should have done it. I thought that he had become too popular – that it would cause too much pushback to kill him after his greatest military victory. But…” he murmured, sipping his drink, “life would be so much easier with Frieza out of the picture. For one moment, it looked like that was going to happen, and then father had to go and ruin my hopes.” He slammed the glass on the table, shattering it. “My uncles will not be satisfied, especially Arcterial. They will try something. They will try again to kill Frieza, or perhaps even me. They want the power my father has. They will not be satisfied until it is theirs.”

“We should go to your father, Lord Co–”

“No,” he seethed. “My uncles’ treachery cannot be proven. Not yet. They want to take my family out, but it will be an enormous task for them. They will have a hard time killing me or father. Nitro and Frieza… perhaps those two will fall in the wars to come, but I would gladly welcome their deaths, just as my uncles would.”

“Then what should we do, Lord Cooler?” I asked.

“Stay on alert, Salza. I want you to keep my armies in check. Don’t let them spread out or get too far away from the center of my empire. These pirate attacks and rebellions going on in Frieza’s region could be an attempt to stretch my army thin, to make me vulnerable. I won’t have it. Keep eyes on Icer and Arcterial, if you can. Watch their children. And if you find anything suspicious, alert me.” He turned to face me, boring into my skull again with that gaze of his. “Only me. Do you understand, Salza?”

“Yes sir. I will do everything I can to make sure Lords Arcterial and Icer don’t try anything funny.”

“Good,” he breathed. “That will be all for now.”

“S-sir…” I asked, not willing to leave quite yet. “Are we still going to Earth?”

“Frieza is going to Earth, once he has his new body. Hopefully he’ll die there,” Cooler said. “If not, I’ll kill him myself and blame the Saiyan for it. Not many know he’s still alive, and I wish to keep it that way. Hopefully father will keep him out of the public eye until he gets back from Earth. If that happens, killing Frieza will be far easier than I had hoped. Even if everyone finds out he survived Namek, it won’t matter. Frieza is never returning to rule his empire. That torch has been passed to me.”

I bowed again. “As you wish, Lord Cooler.” And with that, with my liege lord staring me down with a simmering anger that I wasn’t sure wasn’t at least partially directed at me, I left the war room. And I was never happier in my life to leave Lord Cooler’s side.

The ships flew in lanes across the surface of Ipha like shining, strobing lights, like sparkling drones. There were thousands, if not millions, here. And yet, none of them were aware of what was going on. I took that to heart; it made me feel special to be one of Lord Cooler’s trusted aids.

I made my way down the halls, into the empty outer rooms of the capitol building. Few guards lurked this deep in the building – they were mostly near the front of it. I did not expect to run into anyone here. Around one corner, I stumbled upon Senior Governor Nectarian, standing and talking with a couple of blue-skinned aliens who looked like piles of sludge. They were females, judging by their voices, though they stopped talking as soon as they saw me. I saw that each of the blue-sludge creatures was holding a hover carriage. In the right carriage was a teal-skinned baby Arcosian with yellow eyes and spiky black body armor. He was wailing, though he stopped as soon as he saw me. Across from him was his twin sister, an Arcosian who was even smaller than her brother. She was pink-skinned, with bright blue eyes and white, rounded body armor. She was looking up at Governor Nectarian.

“Hello, Salza,” Nectarian said, his gruff voice echoing through the hall. “What are you doing here?”

“Returning to my post,” I said. “Lord Cooler has given me a special task.”

“I have no doubt about that,” the governor replied with a smile. His yellow, polished skin looked like it belonged on a statue, not a living being.

“I should ask you what you are doing with Lord Cooler’s children,” I pointed out.

“Ah yes,” Nectarian said, his eyes darting from one caretaker to the other. Both women kept their mouths shut. “Well, like you, I just happened to run into them on my walk back to my ship. I had not had the chance to see Cooler’s young twins before, and I wanted to learn as much about them as I could before leaving. You never know when you’re gonna see them again, eh?”

I nodded, not allowing him to pick up on my suspicion. “You should get to your ship as soon as you can. Lord Cooler does not like it when his most experienced officers aren’t working.”

“True, true. There is much to be done.” The man glanced down at the two babies again and then began walking away. “If you see Lord Cooler again before I do, tell him for me that little Haimaru and little Raimie are two beautiful children. I’m sure they will do a marvelous job of ruling our great empire once Lord Cooler is gone… in the distant future, of course. Heh!”

I glanced at the two caretakers, who cowered before me. Once Nectarian was out of sight, I slapped both of them across their sludgy, fat mouths, causing them to both fall over. “These are Lord Cooler’s children!” I roared at them. “Next time, try a little harder to keep them safe!”

With that, I ran off, the confused, horrified faces of the two women imprinted on my retinas. In truth, they did nothing wrong. There was no reason for them to not stroll the two babies around the capitol – and one of Lord Cooler’s most senior officers should have not been seen as a threat. They were inside Cooler’s own capitol building, inside his most protected building on the moon. And yet… that look in Nectarian’s eyes gave me pause. There was something off about him, something not right. I would have to pursue him further to see what he was up to.

Lord Cooler asked me to watch for signs of malignity coming from Lords Arcterial and Icer. Perhaps I had found their mole. Perhaps I had found the man who was going to try to bring down Lord Cooler’s empire from the inside. All of the day’s proceedings had seemed to be one conspiracy theory after another, but here, perhaps, I had found an actual threat. Governor Nectarian wanted to kill Haimaru and Raimie, I was sure of that much; and I wouldn’t let him. I wouldn’t let him get away with that. This war had already begun, I realized then, and I wouldn’t let our side take the first casualty.

I gulped again and then raced after Governor Nectarian. Hopefully he hadn’t found the way to his ship just yet.

Chapter III: Angels of WrathEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Natsumiko
Position: Commander in Cooler's empire
Date of account: April 7, 763 Age

“Welcome to Planet Cooler 116,” I said, bowing politely.

Governor Sipova stepped out of her ship and glanced around. “This is my welcoming party? You? Where is everyone else?” Her voice was sharp.

I felt my ears going red. “I-I’m sorry, governor. The legions are running combat drills right now… we weren’t expecting you for several more hours.”

The old woman, her skin grey-purple and wrinkled like a churning sea, was unmoved. She was as ugly a Faerin as I had ever seen. Her white hair was tied tightly in a bun behind her head and seemed to be stretching her lumpy skin unnaturally over her pin-headed skull. Time had not been kind to her. Dignified though her face was, she could not even stand to look at me. “Take me to Governor Rowane,” she snapped. “We have business.”

“As you wish, my lady.”

Planet Cooler 116 was a tropical world, wild and untamed, save for the little outpost that sprawled across its southern pole. Because of the axis of the planet, the South Pole was not as cold and barren as such a place would appear on most other planets. Indeed, this outpost had a twelve year cycle of summer and winter – six years apiece. Currently it was summer, though the season was waning. The air was not so warm as it had been yesterday, and it had been that way for many weeks. Soon, perhaps within half a year, it would be winter again. For the next six years, they would be forced to stay inside, to watch as their outpost got covered in feet and feet of snow, only to emerge once again in six years when the light and warmth of the sun returned. I hoped that I would be transferred before that happened, but that was unlikely. With how poorly-manned the outposts were getting, such requests went unanswered most of the time.

The cobbled streets were thin and narrow, old as the empire. On either side of us, tall, looming buildings crowded in gangs of polished marble and stone. This city was a remnant of a long forgotten civilization, a refined culture that did not survive our conquering of the planet. Yet artifacts of their existence remained, perhaps out of laziness more than lust. It is easier to take over a city than to build a new one.

A few soldiers were on patrol, and they stared at Governor Sipova as we passed. A few saluted, a few bowed; all were unsure what to make of her. It was rare that another installation’s governor would come to visit. Certainly, I had never seen such a thing happen before. But I was not one to question what was going on. I was merely a Commander, a military officer. Governor Rowane was the one in charge of Planet Cooler 116.

“Is it far?” she asked.

“The governor’s office is not far,” I said politely. “He should be there, waiting for you. But as I mentioned before, we weren’t expecting you so early…”

“I like to arrive early, and I expect Rowane to see me at once. He would not keep a fellow governor waiting. That would set such a bad example.”

“I will make sure he is in,” I said, clicking my scouter. “Governor Rowane? Governor Sipova has arrived. She wishes to see you.”

There was a long pause and then a longer sigh. “She’s early.” I did not reply. The governor was watching me, her hawkish gaze boring into my skull. “Very well. Send her up.”

“As you wish, sir.” I looked over at the staring woman. “He will see you, my lady.”

“Oh, how wonderful.” The Faerin’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “It is good to know that Governor Rowane has granted me that honor.”

Ignoring the woman, I led us on down the cramped streets. It was roughly noon, when the sun was at its apex, and yet, here in the path between the buildings on either side of us, we were covered in shadows. Few others passed by us here. It was as if we were back in the dead city, back before this planet had been officially added to the empire. I remembered conquering it, destroying the screaming blue-skinned dwarfs that inhabited this place by the millions. The city had burned all those years ago. But it had not been destroyed. And I had been younger, a mere sergeant in Cooler’s fifth legion. Now I was a commander trapped on a ruin of an outpost, where nothing important ever happened, where careers came to die. We were a part of the Planet Trade Organization, but the connection to the empire felt tenuous at best and laughable at worst. We could rebel and no one would know.

Coming to the end of the road and rows of buildings, the stone street split out into a wide, flat crossroads. Ahead was only one building – a sprawling three-story mansion that was the governor’s office. There were trees sprouting up from little holes in the pavement in neat rows, but elsewise, the path to the governor’s office was barren and bright – so bright my eyes began to water as soon as we stepped back into the light.

Ahead, rows of spikes lined with the decomposing skulls of captured and executed rebels stood just in front of the building. Even from this distance, we could smell their reek.

“My apologies, my lady,” I said quickly. “This was Lord Avalan’s idea. He very much enjoys making examples of rebels.”

The woman wrinkled her nose but spoke not a word. It was then I was struck with a curious thought: is she here to see Governor Rowane, or Avalan? Avalan had arrived only recently – a month or so ago – but he had quickly made the place his new base of operations from which he had ruled as a governor. Rowane had been displaced to the lower stories of the building, to act more as a figurehead until Avalan decided to leave. When he would, we knew not. And it was not our place to ask him to leave, as much as we all wanted him to.

Avalan was a brutish, crude man, lacking all of the elegance and refinement that was commonly seen in his species. Despite Planet Cooler 116 being a wasteland, I would rather live in boredom than terror. I wanted him to go more than anyone else. He was like to take soldiers who displeased him and torture them before mounting their heads on those spikes. The soldiers died screaming, swearing they were loyal to the Planet Trade Organization, but Lord Avalan never believed them. He had already killed one hundred of my own soldiers, and I could do nothing but smile and thank him for it, lest a spike be prepared for me.

When we reached the building, the governor himself was waiting for us on the steps outside. He smiled warmly at the Faerin and kissed her hand. “You can leave us, Commander Natsumiko,” Rowane said in that tired voice of his.

I bowed and stayed outside, guarding the door. But from what? It wasn’t like anyone was going to come and attack us. I sat down on the steps leading up to the door, lowering my head into my hands, and closed my eyes, hoping to get a few moments of rest before the governors’ meeting was done.

When I next opened my eyes, the sky was aflame. Craters dotted the once-pristinely-kept cobbled roads. The trees were on fire or charred black, and in the distance, I could bodies, splattered on the pavement and ripped to shreds. An overwhelming sense of nostalgia broke across my body in waves when I beheld the city beyond burning.

Above me, explosions and engines roared. Ships, I knew. I looked up and saw small groups of space fighters making their way through the sky in giant circles, shooting at anything they wanted to. Pirates. The thought cut through my heart like plasma through ice.

“Soldiers!” I screamed into my scouter. “Form ranks! Regroup at the capitol building! Now! We are under attack!”

Static greeted me. Fear was not far behind.

I waited a few moments, but no one came. Rising into the air, I began to power up. The patrolling pirates would not last long if I had any say in the matter. When they came roaring around again, I raced up to meet them. The higher into the air I flew, the more hopeless it all seemed. The air around me was exploding with energy and metal as others tried to repel the fearless conquerors, but there were just so many of them. As I broke through the first layer of clouds, I saw an entire fleet – perhaps 500 or more ships – simply hovering in the upper atmosphere, waiting. These were too many to be a random pirate crew, too many to be even Jolean in origin. No, this was something different, I knew. Something greater than just a rabble of plunder-seekers. Gulping, I ignored the fleet and instead faced down the three ships coming right at the governor’s office. They opened fire. I realized at once they weren’t shooting at me – they couldn’t even see me. They were aiming for the building. I had to dissipate my attack, and was only able to do so at the last second.

Two bolts whizzed past me. I could feel their heat. The next salvo did not escape my reach. I put up energy shields around me to absorb the attacks, and then released hellfire on my enemies. It was good to see them burn, to know they were not invincible. As many as there were in hiding, these were not the best fighters I had ever been up against. They could be killed.

I descended back towards the ground, though I remained a hundred or so feet up in the air to survey the carnage. I knew there would only be a short amount of time to regroup before that fleet decided to come at us. Yet, when I looked down, I saw burning buildings, bodies, fleeing soldiers, and a few skirmishes taking place in scattered regions around the outpost. A few more pirates patrolled the skies. Why were so few attacking? What game were they playing? Why didn’t they smother us at once? Even I knew that we would all die if that fleet decided to descend upon us. My legion here or not, I had no choice but to defend my governor and Sipova and Lord Avalan. They were all more powerful than me, but it was my duty to keep them alive.

On the horizon, I spied a black mass coming towards the capitol. I clicked my scouter, searching for answers, though no matter how much I spoke into the thing, no responses came. The pirates must have wiped out our communications array. Yet, the scouter still worked in one way – in detecting power levels. And that mass had a helluva lot of power levels in it.

I flew over, and my heart nearly skipped a beat when I saw my legion marching in regimented lines. Everyone was here – every one of my men who had been on combat exercises. I descended in front of them.

“Where were you?!” I roared.

“Out training,” one drill sergeant grunted. “Communications were out. We didn’t know what was happening, so I gathered us up to return. We didn’t hear from ya, ma’am.”

“I tried contacting,” I replied. “But we don’t have time. There’s a fleet of pirate ships attacking us!”

The sergeant cocked his head. “I don’t see no space pirates.”

“They’re above the clouds,” I replied. “A few scouts have already attacked, and the city is burning because of it. But there’s no time. Get everyone into defensive positions. We must repel these space pirates!”

“As you wish, ma’am.” The sergeant turned to the other higher-ranking soldiers, and they began to split up the legion into smaller groups. As they did so, various brigades of soldiers went running this way and that, as composed as anyone could be in these trying times.

“There are foot soldiers too! Be careful! Some attacked us in the city!” I shouted out, and the officers nodded in understanding. The first two brigades lined up in front of the buildings, putting themselves between the governor’s office and the rest of the outpost.

“If any come for us, we’ll blast ‘em back to whatever hellhole they came from!” one sergeant laughed.

I landed and looked at the governor’s building. It was smoldering. The two blasts from that ship that had gotten by had made their way to the building and ripped two smoldering holes in the side of it, right in the middle of the third story. That was where Rowane and Sipova would be – and Avalan too, most likely. I wondered if any of them were hurt. If so, they were probably trying to contact me on their scouters… and getting only static in response. Even so, I had no time to go and check, for at that moment, I saw, descending from the skies, our foes.

Clouds of gold and grey and white burst to glittering dust as the black-shining demons plummeted down towards us like hungry jackals. The indigo-streaked sky behind them, the space pirates shot forward in what seemed like endless lines. My legion took their stances and began warming up energy. Those who could form energy naturally were positioned in the back, while those who needed energy blasters were in the front rows. All were ready for what was coming at them. They had been trained by my sergeants and myself to never run, to never fear their enemies. They did well, to that end. None ran. None showed fear. And they died all the same.

These ships were stronger than the patrols I fought. Energy bounced off their hulls or their energy shielding like water off an umbrella. In returning fire, the space pirates were more fortunate. We had no such shielding or armor. Their blasters tore my men to pieces. The first wave of pilots reduced our ranks by half and nearly leveled the entire city. The mansion behind us collapsed in on its own weight. The upper floors collapsed inward, leaving a cold ruinous remnant of the bottom floor in tatters of dust and cracked stone. Yet even then, I could not move. I had to stay with my men.

“Fire! Use all your energy! Don’t back down! Kill them! Kill them here!!” I screamed until my voice went out. We fired our energy; we spent all we had. Only the occasional ship caught fire or exploded. Most survived. I should have known – but there was nothing else we could have done. Space ships beat ground troops every time. Especially good space ships. Once again, I was struck by how professional our foes were. They came at us in orderly lines, as orderly as ours were. They were regimented, disciplined. These were not normal space pirates. They were not here for plunder and riches either, it seemed. They just wanted to kill us.

The second and third waves did just that. If the first wave decimated us, the next two completed the objective. We were reduced to wounded, fleeing soldiers by that point. On the third wave, I was hit partially by a blast that destroyed the street around me and left me lying in a crater. When I stood up, the soldiers who had been standing around me were gone – vaporized, I realized in horror. I felt a sharp pain in my side. Looking down, I saw my hand covered in blood. The pain came again more fiercely, and my vision began to blur. Above us, the metal vultures continued their rounds, hungry and merciless. Only my men screamed. Our foes were laughing, I knew. We were such a pitiful group. We couldn’t even defend our own outpost.

I got up, half scrambling, half crawling, to the destroyed governor’s office. I didn’t know why I was running, what my plan was. I just knew I had to reach them. I opened the door and was met with a puff of dust. Coughing and blinking heavily, I stumbled inside. The whole place was ruined, and a fire was growing in the left corner of the room. All of the lights were out.

“Governor?! Lord Avalan?!” I screamed hoarsely.

No response came. I went further into the building, past lines of ruined bookshelves and more rubble. In the back, I found, where much of the upper floors had collapsed down into this level, three beings – three of the highest-ranking members of the Planet Trade Organization.

Avalan was cowering behind an overturned table. Sipova stood calm and graceful, looking uninjured. Rowane was holding his cheek, where I could see, behind his blood-stained glove, the remnants of his face. Half of it had been blown away, it looked like, including one of his eyes and most of his nose. He had been orange-skinned and furry once. Now he looked like a burnt rug ready to be thrown out.

“How is it out there?” Rowane asked at last.

“It’s… it’s over, sir. They took out all of my soldiers. I’m all that’s left.”

Rowane bowed his head. “I didn’t think it would end like this.”

“Snap out of it!” Sipova barked. “We are still alive. We can fight.”

“They have a fleet of ships,” I tried to explain. “It’s… it’s not anything we can stand against ourselves. They are too strong and too many.”

“Lord Avalan… please… we have to get you out of here,” Rowane said, turning to face the cowering Arcosian. “Even if we die, we must make sure you do not fall.”

“I… I don’t wanna leave!” Avalan shouted. His voice was high and cold and childish – a shocking sound. I had never heard him sound so pathetic.

“My lord,” I started, “It’s best if you get out of here.”

“I told you, fools! I’m not leaving! Never! Not me! I’ll hide here until they leave!”

The three of us exchanged glances. Sipova looked quite uncomfortable. “Lord Avalan is in charge,” she replied dryly. “We do what he wants.”

“When they come for us, we must fight,” Rowane declared. “We must protect Lord Avalan.”

I laughed. “Sir… we’re in no state for that.”

“I know Natsumiko, but it’s all we can do. We will die this day, I know it. But better to die a warrior than a coward.”


We did not have to wait long. Standing there in pain and in silence and in darkness, I realized I did not hate Sipova as much as I once had. Funny, that we were going to be dying together. I would have never guessed this to be my end. Even so, I could not focus on my thoughts for long, for at that moment, the door blew open. We stood at guard, waiting to ambush whoever came for us. As it happened, our plans didn’t go as planned.

He was cloaked all in black, and was a foot shorter than me. When he came walking over towards us, I sprinted forward to attack him. The hooded figure simply used an afterimage to teleport out of the way. His speed was such that I didn’t even realize he had dodged my lunge until I felt his real form kick me in the back. I flew into a nearby wall and tasted copper in my mouth. Coughing, I rolled over just in time to see the hooded figure reach the other two. Rowane charged him as I had, and the result was similar – though my governor was knocked out by the force of the blow leveled upon him. Sipova did not attack.

“Do what you must,” she said. “I will not stand in your way.”

The hooded figure ignored her, walking forward until he found Avalan huddling in the debris.

“Avalan,” the hooded figure said slowly. His voice was mechanical and low. It didn’t sound right. Was it a voice distorter? I couldn’t tell. He could have been a robot, too. But I was delirious with pain, and it took all of my effort to not spiral away into unconsciousness. I didn’t have the strength to think about that too much. Avalan did not respond and did not even look at the figure opposing him. “Avalan!” the voice said; his tone was now much more forceful. The hideously-malformed Arcosian turned this time and was met with a fist to the face.

He fell away, howling and cursing and spraying blood from his nose.

“When I speak, you will answer me,” the mechanical voice said.

“I’m the son of Lord Icer!” Avalan wailed rodomontadely. “Y-you can’t… do this to me!!”

“You are disgusting and vile and cowardly,” the hooded man replied. “There is nothing special about you.”

“Liar!” Avalan whimpered.

The hooded man kicked him. Avalan went flying like a sack of something you would put into a sack.

“You’re weak,” he said with a mad laugh. “And now you’re my prisoner.”


Another kick hit Avalan on those brown growths on his chest. The little lord keeled over and began spitting up blood. I didn’t know what to feel. I hated Avalan as much as anyone else, but seeing a space pirate humiliate him like this felt like a humiliation for the Planet Trade Organization as a whole, and that made my blood boil.

“Get up, or I will take your arm,” came the voice.

“Y-you don’t command me! You won’t!” Avalan howled. And yet, as soon as he saw the hooded figure warm up energy in his hand, he jumped to his feet.

The hooded man didn’t stop warming up his energy. He shot his blast at Avalan then, and I was surprised when the Arcosian didn’t scream. When the light cleared, it was clear that the attack was not an attack at all – the hooded man had simply covered Avalan’s wrists and ankles in energy bindings. Then, he stepped forward, headbutted Avalan into unconsciousness, and slumped the sickly man over one shoulder. Just like that, the terror of the Planet Trade Organization was taken out.

Who is this hooded figure? How did he get so powerful? Is he going to kill me now? All these thoughts flooded through my brain, but they were answered in the next moment, when the hooded figure stepped away from the table and returned to Sipova.

“Governor Sipova,” the mechanical voice droned. “I did not expect to find you here.”

“H-how do you know me?” the woman said, betraying the first hint of emotion.

“I know you are a governor of the Planet Trade Organization. You are an experienced, senior member of the Faerin elite, and you serve on that species’ noble council. You have done much for your people and your empire. And that, I’m afraid, is why you must die.”

Before Governor Sipova could even scream out in despair, the hooded figure raised a hand and incinerated her head clear off with a cyan energy ball. She fell with little grace. Then, the hooded man looked over at me. He contemplated me for a moment as I braced myself for the energy blast that would end my life. Then, he turned away and walked off, Avalan still slung over his shoulder. There was a certain gait in his stride, a certain confident calmness in it that reminded me of something I couldn’t think of at that moment. And then, I passed out.

I awoke a long time later in a medical bay, lying next to Governor Rowane. Both of us were alive. Both of us had survived, somehow. Why hadn’t the hooded man killed us? I had no answer. I still have no answer. It took us a long while to recover, anyways, but we never returned to Planet Cooler 116. The whole outpost had been destroyed, its occupants killed save for the governor and myself. There was nothing to return to. Due to Governor Rowane’s injuries, he was reassigned to a different position in Cooler’s empire, in a more behind-the-scenes role. I was reassigned to a military garrison at Planet Frieza 057.

As for Avalan, he is still missing. The whole empire is in chaos trying to find him. His father and sisters are going mad with grief and paranoia. This action is threatening to split us apart, to cause the Planet Trade Organization to collapse from within. I have no doubt the hooded warrior, whoever he was, knew exactly what he was doing.

Still, I cannot shake what the man said to Sipova before killing her. He had known her – he had been one of us, once. He knew exactly what it would mean to kill her. The Faerin are already on poor terms with the rest of the empire, and now losing one of their most senior leaders is probably only going to escalate that. The hooded man knew exactly what he was doing. He was trying to bring down the Planet Trade Organization the only way he could. Militarily, no one has any chance of defeating us. We are too big, too vast an empire. But if a foe can make us destroy ourselves, make us eat ourselves alive from the inside out, then there’s a chance for the Planet Trade Organization to crumble. The hooded man was smart. His wide political knowledge meant he was no regular space pirate. He was someone on the inside, trying to incite anarchy.

I said as much to Lord Icer, after I was released from the medical bay. He personally questioned me about the incident, trying to figure out what happened to his son. I couldn’t help him much. But when I told him my theory that the hooded figure was most likely some high-ranking officer on the inside of our own organization, he simply laughed me off and told me to get to my new post as soon as possible.

Chapter IV: His Brother's WorthEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Frost
Position: King Cold's niece; Military General
Date of account: April 30, 763 Age

Green and blue they flashed, like tethers swimming out to space. They were dancing for us. They were putting on a show, reminding me of the auroral storms of my homeworld; such storms, if they could be called that, were famous for the way they appeared suddenly like roving bands of multicolored flames in the sky. Few, aside from us Arcosians, would ever see such phenomena with their own eyes. Even in my youth I had not been scared of them. I had embraced them, welcomed them, eagerly awaited them every year. The beauty of it all had touched me deep in my chest, deep enough to take my breath away. I felt a similar tightening now.

“You called for me, father?”

Lord Arcterial stood grim, his arms folded, his back to me. The spectacle of light and lightning held his interest, not me – his only child. Such disinterest did not offend me; I was used to it, after all those years of father favoring Glacial. Yet Glacial was gone; I remained. The trails of lightning, all neon and aqua, sparkled and flashed, exploding soundlessly across the surface of the asteroid. From our commodious outpost, there was no sound. We were bathed in artificial light, so white and sterile it made me sick. The darkness outside, the blues and greens and blacks of space, the stars beyond, twinkling and radiating light… it all seemed so much simpler, so much more daring. I didn’t want to stay inside this little room with its filtered air and sound-suppressed walls. But the other option was so… undignified. I was a lady of the royal family, cousin to Frieza and Cooler and Nitro. It was not my place to venture out there.

“Astonishing skill,” my father murmured. I tiptoed over to him to get a better look.

“They are good, aren’t they?”

“They have been well-trained. Years of practice. This is not the first asteroid they’ve mined, believe me.”

Lightning cracked in rhythmic pulses, obliterating scores of rocks and slabs of metal before fading away into the dark of space. These were such small bursts of light, such quick explosions in the grand scheme of things. They flashed and were gone, swallowed whole by the boundless void. The miners themselves were white rupestrine scratches against the horizon, as small as fingernails.

“Father, you have not brought me here to watch mining operations, surely?”

“No,” he sighed. “But take note, dear. These are some of my most skilled men. They are mining ytterbium, a vital resource for our empire. Their contributions to the Planet Trade Organization are invaluable. And yet… they receive no recognition for what they do.”

“That could be said about many of us.”

“Yes,” my father spoke. “The Planet Trade Organization can only exist so long as the sum of its members keeps it alive.” He turned away from the wall window. “Sit down, Frost,” he said, gesturing to a nearby bench.

I scoffed. “I would rather not.”

“Suit yourself.”

“What is it you require of me, father?”


The word took me aback. I felt heat rising in my cheeks, felt a clenching in my stomach. Folding my arms, I said, “Father, please…”

“There is no better time than now.”

“I-I already tried! Cooler will not help you.”

Lord Arcterial began to pace around the room, flashes of lightning silhouetting him against the window as he strode. “That was before. But now… with Frieza so wounded, with Hail crippled, and Avalan abducted…”

“Avalan was abducted?” I asked. This was the first I had heard of that. “By whom?”

Father shrugged. “Space pirates of some sort. I would assume it’s the Aphotic Prince’s doing. Two of our own survived to tell of it. From what they’ve said, the Aphotic Prince came for Avalan and Avalan alone. He took Icer’s son alive. That much we know.”

“That Aphotic Prince?”

“There’s only one Aphotic Prince, dear… and he’s been around even longer than the Nikkarins. Been trying to take us out for years… and yet, only now he decides to take one of us hostage. I don’t know what game he’s playing.”

“He’s trying to tear us apart.”

“Well, if he is, it’s going to work. We have found our opening.”

“Father,” I said, stepping forward. “Y-you aren't the Aphotic Prince, are you? You don’t have Avalan hidden away somewhere in here, do you?”

He growled and shook his head vehemently. “Don’t make jokes, Frost. You know my intentions as well as anyone. Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know, father.”

“Regardless, with how things are now, Cold is too preoccupied with saving his son’s life to notice us. We can strike quickly and efficiently. But we need support. The two of us cannot take over the Planet Trade Organization by ourselves.”

“Cooler will not–”

“I know Cooler!” Arcterial roared. “He hates his brothers and his father. And much has changed since our last attempt at this. He will help us now. You will go to him.”

“I will not,” I whispered.

“You will! You are my daughter. You must obey me.”

“Have Icer help you,” I said sardonically. “I’m sure you two can make common cause against Uncle Cold.”

My father frowned. “Icer is… I don’t know what’s going on with him. Icer is strange. What he wants out of all of this, I do not know. He supported me last time, but I always felt like there was something more going on with him. He wouldn’t want me on the throne, no. That’s not like him. He had other motives… I’m sure of it. But what those motives are, I do not know. Either way, I do not trust Icer. He may betray us to Cold or try to kill me after we take out my older brother and his sons.”

“You need his strength.”

“Aye, as it currently stands, it’s twelve against two. Those are poor odds.”

I sat down on the bench to think. Father gave me a curious look, but I ignored him. Burying my head in my hands, I shut my eyes and tried to think as hard as I could. “Raimie, Haimaru, Kuriza, and Yuki are too young to be threats,” I breathed at last. “Avalan, Hail, and Frieza are crippled or missing… they won’t be threats. That leaves Uncle Cold, Cooler, Nitro, Uncle Icer, and Polaria. Five on two is not so bad as twelve on two,” I reminded my father.

“Poor odds still. Cold and Icer and Cooler are all stronger than you. That means I would have to face them myself.”

I bit my lip. “Are you stronger than them?”

Father’s face swelled with pride. “I know I’m stronger than Cooler! Icer is my younger brother… he must be weaker than me! But Cold…” Arcterial’s voice trailed off, and I thought I detected a hint of fear. “I don’t know if our combined strengths could overwhelm him. And that’s assuming we are able to defeat the other four without him learning of it.”

“It is a risky plan,” I noted. “Is it worth your life to become the leader of the Planet Trade Organization, father? Wouldn’t it be simpler to let things stay as they are?”

“Nonsense,” he barked. “Cold is a terrible ruler, and he will be the death of us all if I don’t stop him! Many would rally to my side – many of the soldiers and officers of our legion – if they knew what I was planning. But I don’t want a war. We have bled enough.”

“We will bleed more if you go through with this. Besides, father, it doesn’t look like we will be able to defeat the others, even if it is five on two – and that’s a best-case scenario.”

“That is why we need Cooler!”

I stood up again and moved towards the door. With my back turned to my father, I said, “I don’t want to see him.”

“This isn’t about you,” my father replied. “This is for the good of the Planet Trade Organization. If we don’t do something soon, Cold’s incompetence will destroy us all.”

“I-I don’t…”

“Frost,” my father said, his voice as sweet as honey as as smooth as milk, “please. We are so close. There is no better time than now. It will only get harder from this point on.” I felt his finger touch my shoulder and I shivered. I did not face him. “You are my only child, my wonderful, powerful, stubborn daughter. You will carry on my name when I am gone. All I want is for you to be able to do that. But if we don’t eliminate Cold… there is no future for any of us. You know that. Please.”

A sigh escaped my lips. My shoulders slumped forward. Funny how this felt involuntary to me.

“Good,” he murmured, rubbing my shoulder the way Cooler once had, “Go to Cooler. Tell him what I have told you. His target is Nitro. Yours is Polaria. I will execute Icer. And after that is done, we destroy Cold together.”

I wanted to tell him this was madness, that I would not help him. I couldn’t. The words locked in my throat like sludge. Lord Arcterial commanded a presence of power and terror that I thought neither my uncles could match. I was loathe to admit that my father scared me.

I was numb when we walked out; my mind felt as if it was racing and submerged in ice water at the same time. Polaria was my cousin, a fierce warrior – a better warrior than me. She was stronger, smarter, younger. It would be difficult to defeat her, foolish even to try. I had few ideas for how to fulfill my duty I knew at least it would have to be an ambush of some sort. I couldn’t let her power up.

I thought back to the last time I had seen her. That had been at the feast. She had run into me just before things got underway… just after I had talked with Cooler, just after I had told him…

Tears came to my eyes, fresh and warm. It was a good thing Father was leading us out.

How risky this all was going to be did not sink on that day. All of this fighting and blood and death for my father’s ambition seemed natural then. His words were soft as poison, as brittle as ice. It was going to be for the good of the Planet Trade Organization, he told me. I was his only daughter, yet he was willing to risk my life in his own power grab. He probably didn’t know that I was weaker than Polaria. He probably assumed I was stronger. He knew so little, my father. But I wasn’t sad. There was a fire rising in my throat, a sense of pride and thankfulness that my father would even think that of me, that he would assume I had so much worth to begin with.

We came around to the garage of the outpost, where many ships lay at dock. Father and I were about to part ways for our separate ships, our separate paths, when a light flashed on Lord Arcterial’s gauntlet.

The little hologram was none other than the grim space lizard, Zashisaro – King Cold’s Captain of the Guard. “Lord Arcterial,” he squeaked, bowing heavily, “new reports have come in from Planet Frieza 328.”

My father raised an eyebrow. “The iron shipments have arrived?”

“Regrettably, that is not so,” the other man hissed. “The miners’ last transmission was frantic and incoherent. From what I gathered, they are still being hunted by that demon we discussed earlier.”

Arcterial laughed carelessly. “There are no demons, Zashisaro. Those miners are liars, all of them. They are making excuses so they won’t have to work. None of them are dead, and no demon is hunting them, I promise you that!”

Zashisaro nodded his head. “Be that as it may, my lord, it appears this clever ruse of theirs will not end on its own accord. It looks like they will continue on with it as long as they can. Shall I send a detachment to deal with these traitors?”

“Do it,” my father grunted. “Is that all?”

“Yes, my lord,” Zashisaro bowed again. “I will be with King Cold and his son if you need anything further from me.”

“Very well.”

The hologram exploded and Lord Arcterial frowned. “Zashisaro… I forgot about him. We will have to deal with him and his guard too, before we reach Cold.”

“Is that a problem?”

“An irritation, perhaps, but one we cannot overlook. Remind Cooler of Zashisaro and his power. Cooler will not underestimate that lizard. He will take him out for us.”

“As you wish, father,” I said solemnly.

“Then this is goodbye, for now.” He clasped my shoulders with those big hands of his. “Do not return to me until you have brought Cooler to our side.”

With that, Lord Arcterial strode off, his cloak billowing behind him. I stepped onto my own ship and a servant took my own cloak from me. At once, I felt very tired and very ashamed.

“Where are we going, my lady?” said the blue, square-faced alien, meekness thick in his voice.

“To Cooler,” I told him. “Quickly now. I want to get there as soon as possible. I have urgent business with my cousin.”

The servant’s eyes lit up. He looked at me for a moment and then stumbled off lazily. He was a useless fool, I knew. I would have to replace him soon. But not before I got to Cooler. Cooler would have soldiers for me to use. Good soldiers, I knew. Cooler ran one of the most disciplined parts of the entire empire. But could I ask him for new servants? He owed me. We had done things together that cousins wouldn’t normally do. That experience had cost me immeasurably; and Cooler had come out of it with mere emotional indifference. But he wouldn’t understand the difference. I would have to show him.

I clenched my fists and felt energy warming between my fingers. I had to breathe deeply and clear my mind to bury the anger. It would never go away; that I knew. Anger cannot be killed. But it can be forgotten, can be buried deep inside to let the sands of time erode it away into something unrecognizable. It would be no use destroying this ship. Father would not approve.

I felt the ship lift off, felt the weight of my body shift as we accelerated to near-light speed. I rubbed my stomach and bit my lip. Tears were welling up behind my eyes again, though I tried to hold them back. I wondered what I would say to Cooler when I arrived, what he would say to me. Would his eyes have that same cold look of fire in them? Or would he be more understanding, more loving?

I didn’t want to find out. But, for the good of our empire, I knew I had to.

Chapter V: It's Not Really AliveEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Desolé
Position: Scientist-in-training in Cooler's empire
Date of account: June 13, 763 Age (first scene)
June 14, 763 Age (second scene)

“Beautiful creatures, aren’t they?”

Dr. Boson strode from one hanging tank of water to the next, sometimes tapping on the glass, sometimes muttering to himself. The creatures inside drifted lazily, like seaweed. They were completely unaware.

“Hard to believe the Saiyans created them,” I replied.

The good doctor laughed nervously. “The Saiyans created crude things, to be honest. They had little about biochemistry figured out, and they knew nothing of bio-hydroponics. They thought they had to plant their Saibamen to bring them forth… but that meant the creatures would be affected by the quality of the soil they were planted in. It’s primitive – absolutely foolish to let the soil dictate the power of the Saibamen. Scientists in Cooler’s region improved upon the design, I must admit… creating variants that could grow with a simple energy impetus. But even that innovation is without grace, without certainty of power. No, no… it won’t do.”

He pressed his hand to one glass tube, where a huddled blue alien swam unconsciously. It was as tiny as a fingernail, curled up in a fetal pose. It looked like a sunken flower petal in a vast ocean.

“They are cannon fodder,” I said. “The others saw no reason to make them stronger.”

“Saibamen are stupid. The previous generations were, at least. My models – the F6s – will have enhanced intelligence. I can assure you of that. They will be conscious. They will begin to understand.”

“But doctor,” I protested. “The reason they were made so stupid is because–”

“Quiet Desolé,” Dr. Boson shot back. “I am aware of what these creatures were once used for. But that doesn’t mean they have to be mindless beasts forever.” His voice lowered to a whisper. “No… let’s give them a little elegance, a little grace… add some sense to that beauty.” He returned to his computer station, reached for a syringe, and stuck it in a clear plastic tube. Ejecting the green substance within it, he typed something on the computer and then turned back to face me. “The original Saibamen were green-skinned nitwits. But these… my new creations… they are the proper evolution of the Saibamen… the full realization of this species’ potential, Desolé. They will be the future of the Planet Trade Organization. Biochemical warriors! Yes, an insurgency like the Nikkarins will never happen again. Not under my watch. With the Saibamen, our armies will be limitless.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Are they alive?”

“Of course they’re alive!”

“Will they replace the standard soldiers?”

“Not yet, no, no, no. I will make them stronger… they must get stronger! As it stands, Saibamen usually peak at a power level of 1200. That is respectable for a regular soldier, but not for my exquisite creations. No, that won’t do. I had to inject them with raw energy. I had to put a little of my own intelligence in them,” the doctor grinned. He raised the ash-grey sleeve of his lab coat to show a clear tube attached to his skin, feeding on green blood from an open vein.

“Sir… is this wise?” I wanted to call him mad, but my insult caught in my throat. “I mean, do you know what that will do to them?”

“No, not really.” His voice was disinterested, and he was looking down at his computer again. “Hopefully, they will get a little bit of my strength… and perchance some of my mental capabilities. One can hope. These experiments will help me understand Saibamen biochemistry. I want to learn how these creatures operate, how to improve upon their genetic signatures. As you can see, Desolé, these ones are blue-skinned. These are not the common green-skinned Saibamen of yesteryear, ha! These are a stronger, smarter, faster breed. They will be, anyways, once they mature. Come, let me show you.”

He led me out of his artificially-lit laboratory to walk down a hallway. The place was barren and cold, save for a few flying robotic contraptions I had no doubt Dr. Boson created himself. They helped him by following any orders he gave them or serving as memory dumps or extra hands. The one he had buzzing around him now was called Tinfoil McGee, due to his outer shell being made from a silvery, tinfoil-like substance. It did not surprise me that Dr. Boson had gone a little mad in here – but his obsession with the Saibamen was both disturbing and unexpected.

This place, Planet Frieza 019, was nearly completely abandoned. Dr. Boson’s lab comprised the entire outpost. Aside from him and his assistants, there was no one else here – no guards, no natives, nothing. Loneliness can make one go mad, I knew. It seemed like even a brilliant scientist, such as Dr. Boson, could not escape that. His obsession with the Saibamen was not healthy, I thought, not natural. But if that kept him from getting too lonely, who was I to stop him from continuing down this road?

He led me down the halls, muttering this and that, noting the great architectural designs that had been implemented across the entire complex and the sickly whites that colored the walls (space ivory, as he called it, which was his favorite color). He told me about how all of his previous assistants had learned on-the-job, and that it would be no different with me. I knew not what had happened to his last assistants, what had befallen them. It was a secret looming over us. Perhaps Dr. Boson didn’t realize that I didn’t know, but it wasn’t my place to ask. He was a respected man – one whom I had studied in the Planet Trade Organization’s Academy of Science. It was extraordinary just to be in his presence. I felt myself short of breath while I was around him, anxious and very much aware of my own mental deficiencies. I had graduated at the top of my class, but I was a fool compared to this man.

We came upon a turn in the hallway, and when I followed Dr. Boson around the corner, I was met by a series of glass walls. Inside them were cages full of blue Saibamen. Most were sectioned off to be alone, but a few were lounging together, sunning themselves on high carpet spires in the artificial light.

“Magnificent, isn’t it?” the doctor tittered. “These are my first generation test subjects. They are, all of them, mature.”

“Have they been biochemically engineered?”

“Oh yes. And all of them have my blood inside them, too.”

That made me shiver. “Are they stable?”

“Oh, quite. They listen to my every command! Look,” he said carelessly, striding up to one of the walls and clapping his hand. At once, Tinfoil McGee flew forward and shot a thin pink laser beam into the wall. Out from the hole came a datapad, which Dr. Boson began to type upon. “These new Saibamen are ultra-loyal beasts. The experiments prove it.”

A large rainbow-striped beach ball was lowered into the cage from a metal claw that came from the ceiling. Once the ball was on the ground, the Saibaman in that cage got up and ran over to it, sniffing at the thing in curiosity. “Now, Stripe,” Dr. Boson said, clearing his throat, “I want you to pick up that ball and carry it to the other side of the room, where you will drop it into your bed.” There was a little mess of blankets and pillows in the far corner, as well enough as I could see.

“You named them, doctor?”

“Of course, Desolé. These Saibamen are my children!”

“Right, of course.”

It was clear, even then, that Stripe had earned his name because of the white stripe of skin running vertically down his skull, from the top of his head, to where his nose should be. Stripe had a devious look in his eyes, and he was eyeing me instead of listening to his master. When Boson gave him another order, Stripe looked over at him for a second, then returned the gaze of his bloodshot eyes back to me. As I stared him down, a grin began to spread across Stripe’s face. He stood there, motionless, calm as the wind; and then he shot forward in a blue blur, hitting the glass panel and sticking there like a suction cup. His mouth opened wide, his sharp, pointed teeth presented for us to see. He continued to stare at me, and I thought I saw him grinning.

“He doesn’t seem to be listening to you, doctor.”

“Ah… well, he’s tired! That’s it! Tired Stripe! Bad boy, go get some rest!” he ordered the little Saibaman. Stripe grunted, extricated himself from the wall, and ran off to his bed. “He’ll be more responsive in the morning, I’m sure,” Dr. Boson continued. “Come, Desolé, I want to show you one more thing before we call it a night.”

He strode off, and I followed, but before we rounded the next corner, I saw Stripe staring at me again. He warmed a green ki blast in one claw and threw it at the beach ball. The ball popped soundlessly; too bad Dr. Boson didn’t see what had happened.

In the next room, there was a larger cage with glass-like walls on all sides. The cage was pyramid-shaped and its glass walls were slightly opaque. Standing in the middle of it – well, hanging from chains – was a tall green-skinned alien: a Jolean.

“A rebel,” Dr. Boson assured me. “I had several of them shipped out here a few months ago.”


“For experiments, Desolé!” he said, patting me on the shoulder, fondly. That left my stomach feeling warm. “See, each one has a number branded on their chests, so I can keep track of them.”

It was true; this Jolean had a large ‘3’ emblazoned upon his bare chest. It looked disgusting. Just thinking about how much it would have hurt to get branded made me shiver.

“What experiment are you trying with this one, sir?”

“This one,” Dr. Boson said, narrowing his eyes and furrowing his brow, “has worn out any use he had to me. Let me show you instead the full capabilities of my Saibamen.”

Tinfoil McGee sputtered forward again, conjuring up a datapad for its master. Boson flicked the numbers on the keypad at a blinding-fast pace, well beyond what I would have assumed possible for a man of his age. From the ceiling, another blue Saibamen came tumbling down into the cage. This one was not Stripe, for it didn’t have a stripe. Instead, its head was elongated and it had a fat little body.

“This one… I call him Pinhead.”

“Nice name.”

“Thank you. Now watch what he can do. And here,” he said, handing me a scouter, “make sure you record his power level.”

My eyes widened just as I began to realize what was going to happen. “Doctor–”

“Pinhead, work your magic!”

“Gruuh!” came the grunt from Pinhead.

He really was a pinhead – but he was a powerful one. I watched in horror as the blue Saibaman scampered forward and began to claw the Jolean to death. The Jolean screamed. He wriggled; he fought. It was no use. His green skin was flayed from the muscles and bones underneath. Blood splattered across the opaque walls, dripping down in a dark, distorted streams. Chunks of flesh were wrenched from the rebel’s body and flung about. Wet, still warm flesh makes the sickest sound when it hits the ground. That’s a sound I will never forget.

After a while of this, the Jolean’s screams died down, and the sounds of feeding, the sloshing of gore and blood and bone, were the only sounds remaining. I had to look away.

“Well, what do you think?” Dr. Boson asked me again. His voice was eager; he set his hand on my shoulder. It was so warm, I shuddered. “Did he do good?”

“35,000…” I breathed, not daring to return my gaze to the cage.

“Excellent! That’s one thousand more than the last time I checked. They’re getting stronger!” Dr. Boson laughed. I nodded curtly. He noticed. “What’s the matter, Desolé? Engineering the perfect bio-warrior doesn’t interest you?”

I looked away from him. “It’s not that, sir. It’s just… well, I didn’t come here to work on Saibamen. The Academy didn’t mention anything about them…”

“That doesn’t surprise me. The Saibamen are a recent obsession of mine. But fret not, Desolé! We have more we are working on here. Everything your teachers told you about… I am working on those things too! Streamlining titanium-vanadium alloys to be tighter and lighter, improving the laser capabilities of our space ships, and even working to harness distant-star radiation for solar powering our space ships! All of these things are still on the table.”

I sighed in relief. “That is good to know. I confess, doctor, that I know more about those subjects than I know about these Saibamen.”

“Don’t you worry, Desolé. Soon enough, you will become as much an expert in this field as me. It will take some time… a few weeks, maybe a month. But you will grasp all of this quickly, I’m sure. And before you know it, you will be helping me create a perfect, new warrior class for our empire.”

“As you wish, sir. I am yours to command.”

He laughed and shrugged me off. “Now, now, Desolé. You’re my new assistant, not my slave. And if all goes well… you could very well end up being my successor.”

I smiled and felt that warm feeling in my stomach again. “Really, sir?”

Dr. Boson was typing something into a nearby datapad, his head down. “Yes, yes, of course. Now, I can show you the rest of the lab tomorrow. I think it’s time we get some rest. It’ll be an early morning tomorrow, I’m hoping. I want to get these Saibamen fully operational by lunchtime.”

“Sir…” I interjected. “Before I go, there is one thing I have to say. I have a message to relay.”

Dr. Boson’s face went dark. He turned away from me and began walking down the hall. I followed him out. “Frieza,” he whispered after a while of pacing.

“Yes, doctor. Do you know about Namek?”

His voice was low and drenched in ire. “Everyone heard about Namek. Every damn member of this empire.”

“They want you to return…” I began.

“No. Out of the question. There is too much work here to be done. Besides, with Frieza gone, someone else will be in charge. Either of his brothers or one of his uncles or cousins. I liked Frieza… but I don’t like the rest of his family. I don’t want to deal with them.” Dr. Boson’s voice was pompous, but precise. He was a leader, a real man. He had charisma. He made me feel good just listening to him speak… even if I didn’t like what he was saying. I realized then that he held a power over me. It was a feeling I had not felt before, nor felt since. I didn’t know why I felt it, and I knew even less about how to stop myself from continuing to feel it.

“There are some scattered reports that Frieza actually survived Namek,” I suggested.

“Lies, all of them. The planet blew up, kid. Your kind are powerful, but not that powerful. Besides, even if he survived the planet’s explosion, whomever that golden-haired warrior was, he wouldn’t have let Frieza get away.”

I couldn’t argue with his logic, and I was too tired to anyways.

Dr. Boson stopped and turned to face me. My face flushed, but he didn’t seem to notice. “The Arcosians are durable…” he murmured. “Yes… you are all so powerful, so difficult to kill. Why is that?”

“You are confusing me with Frieza, doctor. I am not related to him. I have none of his family’s power. In fact, I’m not very powerful at all. It’s why I chose to be a scientist instead of a warrior.”

Dr. Boson shrugged. “You’re an Arcosian either way. And I’ve never met a species that is harder to kill than yours.” He eyed me like a piece of meat, but for some reason I didn’t mind. “Yes, you will do. Come with me, Desolé. I have a new idea.”

“What is it, sir?”

“The Saibamen need to be more durable. Come, this cannot wait.”

Dr. Boson was the smartest scientist in Frieza’s empire. I couldn’t refuse him.

I awoke early, ate alone in my room, showered, and dressed all before the sun rose. I wanted to leave a good impression on Dr. Boson; I wanted him to know that I was serious about being his assistant. He would come into the lab, I knew, in an hour or so, and find me there already hard at work. That was the plan, anyways. I scratched at the bandage on my arm, covering the vein the good doctor had pricked into. All for the good of our experiments, he had told me. The Saibamen had to be more durable. They had to be more like Arcosians. This empire had been built by Arcosians, and now it would be protected by Arcosian blood.

Yawning, I flicked off the lights and left my room. Outside, the hallway was empty, save for a small, boxy robot who was cleaning the floors. It did not even look up at me as I passed it. I wondered if Dr. Boson had created that one himself, or if it had come with the place.

I came to the door that led into the lab and immediately noticed that something was wrong. There was water – or some other watery substance – all over the floor leading into the place. The door to the lab had a small circular window just at eye level, and the glass in it was cracked. The door itself was ajar. Inside, I found the place to be a wreck. Tables were upended, papers littered the floor. Most of the computers were broken, their monitors caved in or melted. The lights were flickering and sparking. The floor was covered in about two inches of water. Yet everything was quiet.

“Doctor?” I called out. My voice echoed once and was lost. “Dr. Boson?”

I moved forward and saw the syringe we used to inject my DNA into the Saibamen last night floating in the water. Terror hit me then, like a slap to the chest. I started breathing faster; I could hear my heartbeat in my ears, pounding, pounding, pounding. I tried calling out for him again, but I was met with choking silence. Sparks flew through the air. I saw a robot drift through the water, half-melted. That one wasn’t Tinfoil McGee, but it was the same type of robot. I knew not what had happened. With how crazy Dr. Boson could get, maybe he just accidentally blew something up and was off looking for paper towels to clean up the mess.

I didn’t believe it.

In the next room, I found a similarly-flooded out area, though here, burn marks streaked across the walls and ceiling, and the destruction was more apparent. There had been fighting here. I saw a blue arm – a blue Saibamen arm – floating in the water. The water in this room was dark, most likely from the blood, I knew. The far door had been blasted open. I ran to it. What I found inside were the Saibamen pens – all of them empty. The glass walls were cracked and melted open – every one of them.

“Shit,” I said under my breath. “Dr. Boson, are you there?” Nothing.

I closed my eyes and steadied my breathing, feeling the energy warm in my fingertips. I had never been a fighter, never been powerful. I wanted to be a scientist. I chose this profession to get away from all the fighting. I was Arcosian, but I wasn’t very strong. I knew that my chances against any foe were low. I didn’t even know my power level, but I suspected I was not close to the 35,000 I had measured on Pinhead yesterday.

An explosion rocked the lab hard enough that I had to grab the nearest wall to prevent myself from falling over. It was close, I knew. I could smell the smoke, could hear the fires. I called for Dr. Boson and got nothing in reply. Running to where I heard the explosion, I was met with a blast of hot smoke, billowing down the corridor. I shielded my eyes and pressed through it, coughing and blinking away tears. I entered the next room, a room I had never been in before, and saw what I had hoped I wouldn’t. The smoke was just beginning to clear when I beheld Dr. Boson impaled on a metal beam in the center of the room. Dried green blood crusted on the side of his mouth, and his eyes were wide and white with unknowing fear. He was dead.

This was the kitchen, I could tell immediately. Standing over by the refrigerator was Pinhead. He was browsing for food. I ducked behind a table so that the Saibaman wouldn’t notice me. I watched him pick out a plate of food and then return to the main kitchen table, where Stripe sat. Stripe was apparently reading a magazine, holding a steam-stick in one hand. He had a top hat on – where he had gotten it, I hadn’t the faintest clue – and a monocle. He looked positively robust, not like any Saibaman I had ever seen. Pinhead set down the platter of food, and the two began munching away. They began talking in a crude, guttural language, one I could not understand. But what struck me more than anything was that they were communicating at all. From all I had learned about Saibamen in the past, I had never thought they were intelligent beings, capable of sophisticated communication. Yet here two of them were, conversing like any normal species.

Another blue Saibaman was swinging from the light fixture attached to the ceiling. After a few swings back and forth, the light ripped from the ceiling and fell to the table, right on top of Stripe. Stripe jumped up angrily and slapped the other Saibaman. That made the other Saibaman mad, and soon the two tumbled to the floor, kicking and biting and screaming. A second later, Stripe flared ki around his fist and punched the throat of his foe so hard that the Saibaman’s head blew clean off. Satisfied, Stripe stood up, dusted himself off, and returned to his chair. He took a long inhaling breath from his steam-stick and then sighed. He was alive, I realized, so very alive that it chilled me to the bone. Dr. Boson had created these monsters, and they had killed him for it.

I knew I had to get out of there. I was no fighter, and I didn’t know how many Saibamen were in here to begin with. Dr. Boson was dead. I couldn’t stay any longer. I felt hot streams of water flowing down my cheeks and tried to blink them away. It was no use. I had only known Boson for one day… but he had been the one. He had been my only hope for a decent future.

I crouch-walked back to the door I had come from, knowing that that was the path back to the hangar bay, where our ships were at dock. If I was quick, I could get out of there before any of the Saibamen realized what was going on.

But that day just wasn’t my day. I opened the door and was met by a little blue Saibaman – or Saibawoman – carrying a handful of confetti and enemas. When it saw me, it dropped what it was holding and howled. I heard Stripe and Pinhead jump up from the table. There was no time. I had to get out of there. I ran.

Blowing past the Saibaman, I skirted through the water-soaked halls, sliding and slipping until I remembered that I could fly and that flying is always faster than running. I moaned, bringing forth all of my ki to cover my body. It had been a long time since I’d done this, and it felt weird, but I didn’t have time to complain. I had to fly. I had to live.

There was a rebel with a large number ‘7’ plastered on his bare chest running down the halls in the opposite direction from me. I screamed past him, but I threw my head over my shoulder just to watch him die. The Saibamen pursuing me lit him on fire like he was covered in gasoline. That rebel – also a Jolean – bellowed and fell to the water and burnt to a crisp. I had slowed my pursuers, but only in the slightest way. I didn’t know if I could face one of them, let alone the three. And with all their hollering and shouting and the noise of the pursuit, I knew it was likely that others were in tow as well. Dr. Boson had likely been swarmed. I couldn’t let myself end up like that.

It was not far to the hangar. I found it to be completely undamaged from the Saibamen, and sighed in relief when I saw my ship parked in the far corner. I came upon it, opening its cockpit with my psychic abilities. As I went to jump inside, however, a hand grasped my tail.

I turned around and saw the fat, pinheaded Saibaman with a grasp on me, grinning and cackling. The others were not far behind. I could see them on approach from the distance, two blue dots getting larger and larger with every breath.

“Get off me.”


I kicked him as hard as I could, putting a dent in that pinhead of his. He groaned, spitting blood as he tumbled backwards. “You shouldn’t have killed him!” I roared through my bared teeth. “He was your master!”


“You pathetic, stupid beast! His blood – my blood – is inside you! And this is the thanks we get?! We created you! We made you what you are!”


The Saibamen rushed me with feral desperation. I pushed him back, slamming an open palm hard into his chest. Pinhead staggered back, hurt, but not damaged too severely. I could see that it would take time to kill this foe – time I did not have. Maybe I could have killed the animal, but the other two Saibamen were bearing down on us. I knew for certain that I could not fight three of these monsters at once. I had to get out of there.

I shot a finger beam at Pinhead. It hit the beast in the kneecap, causing him to stumble and collapse. I smiled in victory. I knew he wouldn’t be able to stop me now. Stepping into my ship, I started it up and frantically pressed all of the buttons needed to get myself back into space. For the briefest of moments I felt like Dr. Boson, triumphant and cool.

“Graaahhah!” came Pinhead’s cry. I looked over just in time to see him hurl a purple ki blast at me. I used all of my powers to quickly form an energy bubble around me and my ship, and that was enough to absorb the attack. This greatly annoyed poor Pinhead, who never liked to see his attacks miss the mark. Luckily, he did not see how much that barrier had drained me – a simple ki attack like that made me feel as exhausted as an entire day’s work would. But the simple creature had no idea. If only he would have tried again…

The ship began to hum. It was time. All I had to do was close the cockpit, sit back, and I would be free. And then, with the madness of an unconscious being, Pinhead threw himself at me. It took all of his energy, all of his might, but he managed to use his own ki to propel himself into the cockpit. Then he latched onto me and cackled. I felt my skin start to heat up – felt his skin start to get hotter and hotter and glow whiter and whiter. He was going to explode, I knew.

Shouting in shock and fear, I rolled out of the ship and tried hysterically to get the creature off of me. It was no use; he was hugging me too tightly. I staggered forward, pulling uselessly on Pinhead’s torso. Stripe and the other Saibaman were nearly to us. It was all over.

And then, I remembered an old technique my mother had taught me before sending me off to the Academy. Into my hand, a pink dagger of ki formed. “Believe me, Desolé, I’ve had more uses for this technique than you could believe,” my mother had told me once. Well, I don’t think she ever envisioned me doing this.

With a cry, I slammed the dagger against the Saibaman’s arms and legs, severing each one of them. Blood splattered all over me, and the crunching of bones and flesh nearly made me vomit. It was as gross an experience as I had ever experienced. The Saibaman let out a screech of pain and realization, but it was too late. He fell from me with a wet thud. And then I kicked his glowing torso away… right at the two Saibamen approaching from the air.

The explosion was as satisfying as it was loud. I didn’t stay to see if any of the blue monsters survived it. I fell back and pulled the four claws off of me. My skin came off where the nails had dug into me, leaving long trails of blood and exposed muscle in their wake. It was excruciating, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry from the pain, but that wasn’t the point. I knew what I had to do. I needed to survive. I couldn’t let myself die. The smartest man in the universe had just gotten himself killed, but I knew I couldn’t follow in his footsteps. Not to that end. I collapsed on the metal floor and felt my blood trickle down my body. My chest heaved. I smelled smoke. A fire raged ahead of me. I looked up just in time to see the green-yellow flames leaping from one parked ship to another. A little flying robot flew over to the inferno and began spraying water on it, but Boson’s measly device was soon engulfed by flames, too.

I coughed and stood up. Limping over to the ship, I used the remainder of my strength to get myself inside the thing. The cockpit slammed closed, and the ventilators quickly got rid of all the smoke. I breathed a sweet sigh of relief as pure, filtered air entered my lungs. I looked over to the fire, wondering if any of the Saibamen had survived. At one point, I thought I saw a shadow moving amongst the flames, as short and feral as any blue monster.

I could see just what I’d done, and it scared me. I knew what I’d become. But no one else would know. I quickly pressed the launch button, and my ship took to the skies, leaving Planet Cooler 019 for the first and last time. I would never return, never return to find and properly bury Dr. Boson or to make sure if the Saibamen had survived. That was for others to figure out. I was merely a young acolyte of the Planet Trade Organization’s Academy of Science, after all.

Still, as I drifted into unconsciousness as my ship left the planet’s atmosphere, I couldn’t help but think about how Dr. Boson’s obsession had gotten the better of him, how he had allowed himself to be destroyed by inferior creatures – creatures he had once thought beautiful. He was dead now, and Frieza’s empire – and the Planet Trade Organization as a whole – would suffer mightily for that. Yet we didn’t realize at the time just how sorely he would be missed. For me, the aching went beyond all of that; there was a special place in my heart for the doctor whom I had spent only a few short hours with, a long, low burning sensation that spread through my body when I thought of him. But it was a feeling that would forever go unheeded because of the machinations of a few little blue monsters.

Chapter VI: Treacherous AmbitionEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Tanarilo
Position: Captain in Nitro's empire
Date of account: July 29, 763 Age

Captain Tanarilo. That’s been my rank for a decade. Has a nice ring to it. But I’ve been in this army more than thirty years. I’ve conquered more planets for Lord Nitro than any active officer, outside of General Fassfu, of course. It was my time. Hell, I wasn’t asking for much. I just wanted a little respect. I wanted what was by rights mine.

They gave the promotion to Thrash instead. That moron couldn’t tell his hand from a rock on the ground, but I guess he was loyal. Now he’s a commander. I worked hard for Lord Nitro and his empire. They let me down. They made me do this.

I stood and gazed out at the endless expanse of space. From my room, I could see the boundless expanse, the infinite light of distant stars. It was a curious feeling to know that that light had taken so long just to reach me – me, a mere captain in Nitro’s army, drifting lazily through space. What a tragic end that journey must have felt to all those photons.

I bathed myself, carefully washing every inch of my body to make sure I was spotless. I wanted to look perfect before this was done. I had to be at my best. Returning to the command center of my ship, I laid out my finest set of armor, polished white-and-gold metal that denoted my high rank. It wasn’t high enough. We had a good thing going, Nitro’s empire and me. We went way back. They betrayed me, not the other way around. It didn't have to end like this. But if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I don’t let myself get fucked. I don’t take bullshit without fighting back. That meant this could only end one way.

Sighing as I ran my fingers across my most regal armor, the communications device began to beep. Annoyed, I strode over to it, pressed the flashing red button, and stepped back to be greeted by furry, narrow face of Master Po on the video screen. He was scowling.

“Tanarilo, where’ve you been?” he growled. “I’ve been trying to raise you for an hour.”

“Been training,” I lied. He didn’t need to know I had just come from a nice relaxing bubble bath.

“Well next time you’re out training, make sure you have your scouter with you.”

“Yes sir.”

Po looked at me with contempt. “New planet for you. Transferring the coordinates now. You got three days.”

“Yes sir.” The camera twitched to black – the same black as the endless space outside. I shivered.

I ran my fingers through my hair and sat down, contemplating what to do. Sure I could go complete that mission Po had just assigned me. That would be easy. Textbook. I’d done a million of those. I could do it in my sleep. I was powerful enough. I was too powerful, really. Too powerful to waste my potential on planet clearing missions. Funny how command didn’t seem to think so. They knew I could do it, at least.

I wouldn’t, though. I had business elsewhere. Po would have to wait. He was old and irritable, but he’d never know. I would make sure of it. He wasn’t going to yell at me; not if I had anything to say about it. He would never find out what I was going to do. Everyone thought I was loyal; everyone thought I was just another officer in the Planet Trade Organization, satisfied with the shit being served to me; everyone thought I was just along for the ride.

I redirected the ship. The planet I left for was another one in the pool of those needing to be cleared – only, this one was assigned to another team. I worked solo, but many of us worked in teams. That was not uncommon. Thrash’s team was five. 12,000; 11,500; 12,200; 11,700: those were the power levels of his lackeys. They would be no problem. Thrash himself had a power level of 23,500. Easy pickings. Mine was 36,000.

This would be easy, I knew. I had planned it all out. I would make it look like an accident. Thrash’d get himself killed, and there would be an opening for a new commander. That was my rank; I’d earned it long ago. It was time Master Po or General Fassfu promoted me. And if they had decided to skip over me again… I’m not sure what I would have done. But that’s a story for another day.

The planet was a foggy, small place, covered in festering bogs and decaying forests. The heat was nearly unbearable. I exited my ship in my finest armor, and within a few moments, I was already sweating as if my life depended on it. There was little time. Scanning with my scouter, I realized that Thrash and his team had already cleared most of the planet. I got a faint lead on them on the far side of the planet and knew I would have to get to them quick or they would leave me here to rot like the rest of this miserable place. I didn’t want them to know I was here. I couldn’t conceal my power level, so if I took to the skies, one of them might pick me up on their scouter. That was a risk I had to take.

Funny how Thrash had these lackeys, when he was a lackey himself. Lackeys are easy to kill. They are as loyal as they are stupid. But too many of them together… that could be a problem. I doubted I could kill Thrash’s entire team if they attacked me at once. Luckily, I had the element of surprise on my side. Even if they figured out I was here, even if they ran into me, none of them would suspect what I was going to do to them.

Step one: take out their scouters. Step two: destroy them one by one. I was a damn good hunter. My species, the Ghizhac, are renowned as the best hunters this side of the universe. I wasn’t about to dishonor my blood. I knew what I was doing. It was rational, thought-out, foolproof. There were six Planet Trade Organization soldiers on this planet today; and by the end of it, there would be only one – or perhaps none at all. I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

It began raining as I flew through the upper atmosphere. I figured the higher I went, the less likely it was that Thrash’s team would detect me. I thought about what I was meant to do as I flew through the clouds, through the humid, thick air. Thrash’s men were good soldiers. They were just pawns in this game. Thrash himself was more foolish than evil. Hell, maybe I was the villain in all of this. I didn’t care either way. Shame to see talent wasted, though. But it had to be done. I would not suffer such injustices. If others had to die because of that, then so be it.

It took me a few hours to reach them, and by that time, the sun had risen high in the sky, causing the heat to reach ridiculous heights. Sweat rolled down my brow now, dripping into the wind to be lost forever. Up ahead, a village burned. I touched down in the mud, making my way cautiously up to the place. I got four readings – Thrash and three of his lackeys. Where the fourth one was, I didn’t know. I kept my eyes peeled.

The natives were small, stick-like beings, with painted yellow-and-red faces to go along with their brown, wood-like skin. They lay in piles all around, some still bleeding out into the swampy ground. I stepped over them, not daring to look too long at their faces. I had other things to focus on. Still, as I trudged through the butchery, I couldn’t help but wonder how long these people had existed. How long had they been here? What had their plans for today been? Did they even know what was going on before they were wiped out? I looked up at the planet’s star, which was a yellow ring pulsating beyond a veil of fog, just barely perceptible. I could feel its heat as if a laser was pointed directly at me. I wondered how long ago the light I was now seeing had been sent out to shine down upon this planet. A few minutes, I knew. No more than that. Had any of these creatures been alive that long ago?

Beyond some blown-out huts, I found the four. They were sitting around a pile of bodies, relaxing. Two of the lackeys were eating. The others were sitting back, enjoying themselves, laughing and conversing. Unaware, all of them.

“Any news on that power level you recorded earlier?” I heard Thrash say to one of his men after a while.

“Nothing. It was there for a moment, then ‘poof’! Gone… just like that.”

“Glitch, maybe,” another one suggested. “None of these pathetic losers had a power level above 100. Why should one be above 30,000? Doesn’t make sense to me.”

“Doesn’t make sense, yeah,” Thrash agreed. “Make sure you get a new one when we get back.”

“Yeah, sure, commander. But it’s never malfunctioned before…”

I saw the fourth one. He was around the corner, standing at the bog’s edge, pissing. Decayed trees and swamp moss was growing all around him. There were two dead natives at his feet. I clicked my scouter and got a reading: 11,700. Strange, I thought, that my scouter hadn’t picked up his power level earlier. He was here just like all the rest. Was my scouter malfunctioning? I didn’t know; it could’ve been the heat.

Either way, I slid up to him without a sound. Years of practice had taught me how to hunt, and this foe was a prime target. His back to me, pissing himself into bliss, he was a sitting space duck. He wasn’t concerned at all; he had no concept of me, no understanding that he was being hunted. He let out no more than a sharp gurgle when I placed my hand over his mouth and ripped out his throat with my two shorter hands. A moment later, I released a ki blast in his neck cavity, vaporizing his head. I set him down carefully in the water, where his blood mixed with the dark, briny waters. His body sank into the water with the rest of the rotting wood and natives’. It looked as pretty as it did natural.

Returning to the edge of the conquered town, I caught a glimpse of Thrash and his gang. Thrash was up, pacing. His three men were lounging still, without a care in the world. Just as the natives had been before their apocalypse had come to them. We all get what we deserve; we all get what’s coming to us, in the end. These four just didn’t know it yet.

“Any of you seen Roopers?” Thrash asked. The three shook their heads. “He’s been gone a while.”

“Maybe he fell in the lake,” one responded. “Would be just like him.”

“Roopers?!” Thrash yelled in my direction. “Soldier, answer me!”

A dead man cannot speak. How I wished Thrash could no longer speak. He never said anything worth saying. I clenched my fists and nearly ran for him there. But no, I had to hold myself back. I had to remain the disciplined hunter. Stalking is so much easier when the prey doesn’t know you exist.

“Oy, one of you go get him,” Thrash grumbled. “And if he’s just out there messing about, he’s going to pay.”

“I want him to pay in chocolate. Three bars for the rest of the crew!” one soldier declared.

“Enough with the candy,” Thrash replied. There was anger in his voice. “Go and get him. Put some effort in, for once. I’m not asking again.”

For a moment, the man sounded authoritarian – almost like a commander should.

Nevertheless, one of his soldiers let out a long sigh and got up. This one was a yellow-skinned squat fellow, with six eyes, an oblong-shaped head, and a sallow appearance. He was not even half as tall as me. I ducked behind a torn-apart house, waiting for him to pass. As expected, he made his way over to the edge of the town, where the swamp met the muddy ground. This one had some suspicions. He looked this way and that for his friend, and I could not as easily sneak up on him. No worries. He was still easy prey.

I picked up a rock and sailed it past him into the waters beyond. That spooked him. Just as he turned to see the splash, I ran up to him. He heard me coming. It must’ve been the mud. Just as he turned around to face me, I hit him head-on with a ki blast. The little frog-like warrior let out a sharp cry – just for a moment – before he was blown away. The ki attack was louder than I had hoped, and the smoke that it produced was even worse. This was bad – real bad. I had just blown my cover.

“What was that?!” I heard Thrash yelling.

There was little time, I knew. I had to take out their scouters. I ran over to the cover I had used previously and saw the three remaining members of Thrash’s team now congregated. All of them were standing, battle-ready. They were looking this way and that for power levels. I saw them begin scanning in circles, and knew there was no time. I had to take them out now. They would spot me in a moment if I didn’t. Three finger beams were released not a moment later. I didn’t have time to focus on aiming or to think about what was happening. I had to react. I had to survive. I had to win.

One scouter broke. Another soldier was hit in the face, his cheek getting torn open. He fell to the ground in a cloud of blood, cursing and writhing. Thrash’s scouter remained operational. I fired another finger beam at him, but this time, he anticipated it and dodged. He knew where I was now. I had to run.

“Come out, bastard! What are you doing?!” Thrash’s voice was closer now. He was moving between the destroyed buildings. I got glimpses of him through the light, through the cracks, but my scouter was a better guide. It told me exactly where he was. And then I knew I could not run. I would have to face him down. I was stronger; it would be no matter. I would win either way. But confronting him head-on was riskier, and it could destroy my entire plan. I had no choice, though.

“Commander Thrash,” I said coolly, stepping out from behind a building.

He was running, but when he saw me, he stopped. Silence pervaded; I felt sweat rolling down my neck. It was so hot, so unbearably hot. Why wasn’t Thrash sweating too?

“What are you doing here?”

“I’ve come to make things right,” I said. I stepped forward, my armor gleaming in the light. “This has been a long time coming.”

“What are you talking about? Are you the one who killed my men?”

“You know the answer to that.”

Thrash’s face narrowed. “Traitor!”

He clicked his scouter, perhaps to contact Master Po, or even Kirka. He couldn’t do that. No, he couldn’t. It was unacceptable. I roared and formed ki in my hand. He saw me do so and braced for the impact. With his free hand, he created a quick blast and shot it at me. The blast went right through me; an afterimage had fooled this supposed commander in Nitro’s empire. Pathetic.

From behind Thrash, I materialized and destroyed his scouter with an easy blast. He staggered around to face me and our eyes met. He was an ugly beast. His face was pale, almost translucent, though there were dark red spots of flesh under his eyes, around his ears, and lining the edge of the wide fin that spread across the top of his head like a mohawk. His eyes were bloodshot, but I saw fear in them too.

“You know my power level,” I stated. “And I know yours.”

“Soldiers, form up! Soldiers! Get over here!” Thrash’s voice quivered when he yelled.

“Commander, I’m all’s that’s left,” one tall red-skinned alien with horns and bulging muscles shouted back as he ran over. “Bastard took out Hoopers.”

Thrash growled. “Kill him. Kill him here!”

“Aye, commander!”

The big-muscled warrior ran at me. I took one deep breath then rushed him. My speed was blindingly-fast compared to his. He didn’t have time to react before I crashed into him, knocking the wind out of him. I felt his ribs crack against my fists. That was a good feeling. He fell into the mud like a half-sunken tree and struggled to stand. Forming a ki ball in my hand, I laughed. This was too easy. How could such weaklings be important members of this empire? Maybe that’s why it had all gone to shit. No one was getting promoted anymore based on ability. No, it was the bootlickers and yes men who got the good jobs. Well, I was going to put an end to that. The ki ball dropped onto the red alien’s head. A moment later he began to scream as his flesh dissolved from his bones. I didn’t watch. I had seen this all before. Stepping over the breathing corpse, I approached Thrash.

“You and I have business.”

“You’ll die for what you’ve done, traitor!” Thrash spit. “I will rip your head off and eat your brain!” He was a brute, but a scared one.

“Then come.”

Commander Thrash came at me with a shout, his arms thrust behind him as he sprinted. I jumped over him, landing in the mud as he blitzed past me. Spinning around, I covered my foe in green fire. He yelped in pain and returned a flurry of homing beam attacks back at me. Angry little things they were, white and red just like him. I batted many of them aside, but some hit me. One tore into my shoulder, ripping my muscles apart.

It was my turn to scream.

Thrash let out a whoop of surprise and jubilation. He came at me again. What a fool. What a hapless, useless fool. I had already baited his soldiers. He had seen me do it. Yet there was no recognition in his eyes; there was no understanding as to what I was about to do to him. He fully thought he was going to beat me. Numbers don’t lie; they never do. The warrior with the higher power level always wins. Every soldier knew that. He knew that. He didn’t want to believe it. He wanted to believe he had a chance. The one who is about to die always wants to believe they have a chance – however faint – that they may yet live.

Commander Thrash ran up to me, preparing to impale me upon an energy spike he was holding between his hands. As he thrust the blade down upon me, where I lay, I rolled aside, kicked his feet out from under him, and blasted him away with a blue energy explosion. He went tumbling into the water.

I stood, feeling my ruined arm. It was my left arm, my good arm. I grimaced and shook the blood from my gloves. Looking down, I saw that my once-pristine armor was now covered in mud and grime. That annoyed me. It was time to end this. I didn’t want to get any messier than I already had.

Thrash surfaced in a spire of foam, flying into the air and somersaulting before landing on one knee in front of me. “Impressive,” he said. “No one’s made me work this hard in a while, ha! But it’s time for you to die. These games can only go on for so long!”

Too true. I walked over to him and then teleported suddenly up to his face with a punch ready. His skull cracked against my fist and he screamed. This was not a scream of pain; it was one of horror, of realization that he was about to die. I kicked him in the chest, sending him flying back. Teleporting into his path, I caught Thrash by the neck and threw him into the air. Then I teleported into his path again and elbowed him down hard. He hit the ground, bouncing savagely. I landed and wiped the sweat from my forehead. It was so hot, so humid. I would give anything to be off this hellhole.

My prey tried to stand, tried to raise his fists. I beat him down. I kicked him, I punched him, my blows coming in flurries too fast for him to block or even see. Blood burst from his skin, welts formed across his arms and face, his teeth flew from his face. One eye was already swelling shut. He tried to speak, but a torrent of blue blood came rolling out like a waterfall. He went to collapse, but I caught him. I pounded him again, pounded him over and over and over. He wasn’t yelling anymore; I was.

“Why did they pick you?! Why?! Answer me!! Tell me what they saw in you that that they didn’t see in me!”

He gurgled. I punched him some more.

“Why? Why?! WHY?!?!”

No response. Beads of sweat dripped down my face and landed on the bloody pulp in front of me. His blood was running freely into the mud, to be washed away into the nearby swamp. His breaths were coming shallow now. My shoulder hurt. My fists hurt. I was lightheaded. I yelled out again and kicked him. He didn’t so much as moan in pain. But he was still alive.

With all my fury, I picked Thrash up by the shoulder pads and made him kneel before me. Then I grabbed onto his forehead, drew up ki around my hand, and pulled. A section of his skull ripped off, and blood poured out, covering me, my fine armor, and the ground, in dark life’s blood. There before me was his brain. He said he’d eat mine. I slammed my fist into his, feeling the wet sliminess of it, the pink, oily matter that was his consciousness.

One ki blast was all it took to cleanse his skull of the sickness inside it.

His corpse fell, and I dissolved it away. Couldn’t leave any evidence. I did the same for the soldier I had hit in the cheek. His scouter was still on. I wonder if anyone had been listening on the other end. Probably not. I dissolved him away too; all of the evidence was now gone.

Feeling my shoulder again, I grimaced. I’d need a rejuvenation tank, I knew. But I also needed to clear that planet for Master Po. Three days. I clicked my scouter.

“What do you want, Tanarilo?” came the deep voice.

“Three days, you told me,” I replied. A grin spread across my face. For a moment, the pain in my shoulder, the heat of this planet, and the injustices I had endured all seemed to melt away. I was a lonely flame in a sea of euphoria, burning defiantly. “Don’t worry, Master Po. I’ll get that planet for you in two.”

Chapter VII: Cold WarEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Po
Position: Fleet Admiral in Nitro's empire
Date of account: November 11, 763 Age (first scene)
November 14, 763 Age (second scene)

Some say the Planet Trade Organization died when Frieza lost on Namek. Some say it died when Cooler got himself killed on Earth. Others think it’s when Nitro was murdered on Mrov. Not me. I know exactly when our illustrious empire died. It was a quiet thing; no one noticed when it passed us by. No one grieved, no one gave into despair. One moment, we were the greatest empire the universe had ever seen – and the next, well… we were just walking corpses after that. Shame no one realized it at the time.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. The image is stuck clear in my mind, and it will remain that way until the day I die. I’m sure of it. I was sitting alone in my room. It was dark; the milky, distant beams of starlight were my only source of light. It was cold in that room, so cold. I raised my hand and saw a thin layer of frost on my glove. Making a fist, I felt a satisfying crunch.

My peripheral vision told me something was moving off to my left. That was good, I knew. He was finally waking. I stood up and cracked my back. My cape was billowing; a great wind was roaring through the room. Annoyed, I ripped the thing off. A second later, it was sucked effortlessly out into the void.

My cape dangled on the open window, pointing out towards the vacuum of space for a fraction of a second before tearing and becoming one with the blackness. I sighed, knowing that it would cost a lot to replace that cape, but we could manage. We were the Planet Trade Organization. We got what we wanted. That was why I was never too concerned about losing expensive items.

My neck muscles cracked with satisfying pops, and still I saw no more movement. I was growing impatient. The harshness of the void should have caused him to rouse by now. This was far past when he had attacked in the past; in previous exercises, he had already tried to kill me by now. Not this time. I had noted a slowing of his aggression in every test after the first three, however I did not think it would continue to this ridiculous length. It should have, by now, leveled off. His period of trepidation should have only been a few moments, no matter how many times we did this. He was just a beast, a creature that had no sense of consciousness. He did what he was meant to do: hunt. He was getting clever, I’d give him that. But he couldn’t ignore his primal instincts for long. Soon, he’d have to try to kill me. I was waiting.

“Do it!” I yelled. “Do it now! Come on!” My voice coughed out of my mouth, and then was sucked out with the cape. Most of the sound went with it. I wondered if the monster could hear me.

There was a rustling behind me. I spun around, just in time to see a hanger of clothes on the far wall swaying back and forth. That was not something that concerned me. The whole room was windy on account of it being opened bare to space. But I had everything bolted down I wanted. I kept a lot of stuff in here – boxes, furniture, places to hide – so the monster would have an easier time stalking me. It wouldn’t be fun if there was nowhere for him to hide. If I knew where he was, this would already be over. But I didn’t.

He was fast; I’d give him that. That was one thing I had never gotten used to, after all of the times we had done this. His ferocious speed took me aback every time. I looked left, to where a desk stood, drinking in the darkness. I thought I saw a flash of beryl eyes. I shot a ki blast at them. The explosion rocked the desk, chipping its nearest leg and briefly bathing it in yellow luminescence. There was nothing there. Unsure, I took a step backwards.

Expecting the worst, I teleported just behind myself, leaving an afterimage in my wake. I fell into the line of hanging clothes behind me, punching around for the creature. Nothing again. This was unusual. This had never gone on for so long before – was he truly learning? Was he just lucky? Had he actually become the predator this time, and me the prey?

I saw him. He was on the far side of the room, hiding behind my chair. He was peeking out at my afterimage, which was turned to face away from him. I saw him cautiously bound forward on all fours, his bony tail high in the air. His entire exoskeleton was polished silver, lined with ridges and spikes. His shoulders hung low, and his sharp, pointed head seemed too big and long for his body. He looked goofy in a way – a little cute, even. He was long and wiry, like a scavenger, and the way he moved, he acted like one too. He wasn’t so confident as an apex predator. He wasn’t me.

Just as the monster lunged into the air, his mouth wide, spittle shooting in all directions, I jumped from the wall of clothes and kicked him in the chest. I felt his ribs break against my heel, felt the air leaving his thin little torso. How could something be so powerful and look so pathetic, I wondered. This thing could have torn apart any of my soldiers, yet it could not even begin to stand against me.

The creature groaned and tried to stand, but he collapsed to the floor. Blood was dripping from the sliver that was his mouth. I stood over him, my arms folded.

“Clever boy,” I spat. “Not clever enough.”

The thing tried to stand again, this time using all of his energy to propel himself upwards. At the same time, he swung his tail wildly, trying to trip me. I caught the beast’s tail and used it to slam him back down on the floor. As soon as I let go, his body curled up and began to slide down the floor, towards the open door. He no longer had the power to keep himself inside.

Just as the ball of spines and ridges that was my pet hit the window, I caught him by the arm and began to pull him back in. I was not ready to give up on him. I saw him wake up, saw him look up at me; for a moment, there was confusion plastered across his face. Then came burning ire and even a little fear. There was some awareness in those eyes. But not enough.

“You’ll do better next time,” I assured him. Then I covered him in purple energy, instantly putting him into stasis, and carried him back over to his cage. Once I had put him inside, I fell to my chair again. I clenched my fist and stamped my foot against the ground, trying to rub the sore spot I had used to break my beast’s ribs. Those would have to be repaired, surely, before we tried this again. And he would never forgive me for maiming him so. Oh well.

Lost in my musings, I didn’t hear the communicator ringing. Only when the light of it flared up through the room, briefly causing the entire place to be awash in tepid blue light, I sat up and looked at who was calling me on the video screen. It was none other than Lord Nitro.

I hastily ran over to the video screen and turned it on. There before me sat, in lazy repose, my emperor.

“Po,” came the dry voice.

“M-my lord… give me a moment!” I shouted over the swirling winds. Then, I ran over to the door, unlocked its keypad with my retina scanner, and then entered the password to close the window into space. Once it was closed, I returned to the video screen; and it was too late by the time I realized how disheveled I must have looked.

“Busy?” Nitro asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No, Lord Nitro. I was just training.”

“Very well.” The little Arcosian sat up and stared me down. “You are done with training for a while, do you understand me, Po?”

“Yes sir.” There came no reply. I could hear my heart beating so loud, I knew Nitro could hear it too. “Uh… Lord Nitro, why is that?”

“I thought you would never ask. You see Po, my brother Cooler thinks now that my other brother Frieza’s been injured, he can take his empire. And if he can… well then, Cooler can take my empire too. That is what he hopes. Are you following me?”

“H-hold on, sir… did you say Lord Frieza is only injured, not dead?”

“It was reported he died on Namek,” Nitro said, shaking his head. “Fools. They underestimate the durability of my family. No, he’s alive… terribly wounded, I cannot lie, but alive. He will recover. And then, once he sees Cooler’s taken his empire as his own…”

“There will be war,” I finished.

“Exactly. There was always going to be a war, but I didn’t anticipate it happening with my father still alive. No matter; we will meet our foe head on. Cooler will try to expand into my territory. He always promised he wouldn’t, but he’s a liar and a thief. He cannot be trusted. I have already assigned many of my naval detachments to begin patrolling the borders of my empire. But there is one place… one planet I think he will strike first. This is a planet he and I fought over years ago. It ended up becoming mine, but he hasn’t given up on it. At our last family reunion, he told me that he had never forgotten about that planet. I could see it in his eyes, how serious he was. It’s on the border between our empires, but it’s clearly mostly in mine. It’s my planet. He will go for that one first.”

“I understand, Lord Nitro.”

“Kill any of the soldiers he sends to attack that planet.”

“Kill them?” My eyes widened. “Shouldn’t we, uh, just take them as prisoners?”

“The time for mercy is over. There is only one way this will end. If I don’t kill him, he will kill me. I cannot be weak. I will not lose.”

“We will do as you command, Lord Nitro.”

“Report to me any suspicious activities. And Po, should this come to war… I expect you to defeat whichever navy Cooler sends. He will not anticipate an attack. You have the element of surprise, and you will most likely have more men than whatever force he sends. Don’t screw this up, or it will be the last thing you ever do for this empire.”

With that, the video message ended, and I was left in the darkness again. I could hear my pet whimpering and clawing at the armored glass that surrounded his cage. I shook my head, ran my hand through my hair to straighten it, made sure I wasn’t covered in dust or dirt or anything too disgusting, and then strode out to face my crew.

Three days we waited, hiding behind the second moon of Planet Nitro 227. Then they came. The whole fleet was prepared, waiting like a loaded spring, licking our chops. I had fifty-three ships with me. Most were medium-sized anti-pirate screamers, specializing in taking out other space ships. There were a few larger ships, such as mine, that were disc-shaped and mirror images of the flagships of Frieza, Cooler, and Nitro – albeit smaller. Of the enemy, we counted thirteen smaller ships – probably single or double pilot models – and two larger ones, akin to my own. And of their thirteen fighters, all were larger and older than mine – that was perfect. It would be easy pickings for my more modern, more nimble fighters.

“Alright,” I told my crew. “There they are. We’re going to take them out as quickly as possible. I don’t want any of them getting away.”

“Aren’t we going to ask them to turn back?” one pinheaded alien wheezed. “Or at least take some as prisoners?”

“No.” I began to pace back and forth. “Open a channel to the whole fleet.”

“Aye aye, sir!” This soldier, a blue-skinned noseless wonder, gave me a thumbs-up once he had done so.

“I want this to go as smoothly as possible. I will not tolerate any casualties. We will win this battle – that much has already been decided now that we can see their strength is only fifteen to our fifty-three. But there is no reason for us to lose anyone. I will hold a commander personally responsible if his underlings try anything reckless that could endanger themselves or others. Do you understand me?”

The various commanders and captains grunted.

“Good. Now, we must attack them. Everyone to your positions.” I had already told them how to position themselves and what they were meant to do. Three days here, and I had scouted the surrounding area well enough to know how to use it to my advantage. “Everyone except for Commander Tanarilo, with me.”

Then we were off. I felt the ship lurch forward, and I was followed by no less than thirty other ships. It was a bit of a gamble using Commander Tanarilo. He was a freshly-promoted commander, having held that rank for less than a month. But he had replaced the late Commander Thrash aptly, clearing planets and leading his new team as well as I could have hoped. He had always been a good pilot, and he’d been in this army nearly as long as me. I didn’t fear him. Even if he was newly-promoted, he was no rookie. He was the best man to help me end this thing. And that’s why he had to stay behind for now.

“Look sir, they’re approaching the planet!” an underling squealed; indeed, it was so – Cooler’s navy was whizzing off to the planet, oblivious to us. They were just interested in conquest, just interested in making their emperor’s empire just that much bigger.

“Hail them,” I said.”

“Bu-but sir! I thought you said–”

“Do what I told you, or I will find someone more loyal to warm that seat!” That shut him up.

A moment later, a figure appeared on the screen. He was a purple-skinned, middle-aged alien clothed in the armor style of Cooler’s region, which meant he had only one shoulder pauldron. He was a Faerin, if I remembered correctly, a member of the most powerful servant race in Cooler’s empire. He looked surprised to see me.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him, my voice dripping with anger.

“U-uh… who is this?”

“What are you doing here?!”

The man gulped. “Th-th-this… this is p-p-p-part o-of L-lord Cooler’s terr-territory!”

I shook my head. “Tell your precious Cooler that Lord Nitro sends his regards.” I walked over to the computer monitor my useless soldier sat behind and killed the connection myself. “This is what you’ll get when you mess with us,” I said quietly, not to them, nor to my crew. Then, I began to speak to the fleet again, “Spread out. Form a half circle around me, just as we practiced.” We had in fact been practicing this for the past three days. Everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to do. The only thing we hadn’t known was how big the opposing navy would be. Now we knew, and we knew it would be no problem. It was all about execution. “Bottle them up,” I ordered.

We formed a semicircle around the fifteen enemy ships, pushing them to our right and their left, guiding them towards the moon and away from the planet. I made sure no one got close. I didn’t want fighting to break out here. If that were to happen, we would lose at least half a dozen ships – an unacceptable number. I had to prove to Lord Nitro that I was one of his best soldiers, and a convincing victory here, a total annihilation, was the only way to do that. He had put a lot of faith in me, and I wasn’t about to let my emperor down.

“Don’t get too close,” I reminded my commanders and pilots. “If they start rushing us, spread out and surround them.”

But they didn’t. While the fifteen ships had by this point moved away from the planet to confront us, they were not brave enough to charge at us headlong. They, like us, knew that would be their deaths. I was sure the Faerin was weighing his options, perhaps even thinking about calling up Lord Cooler himself. I doubted he had that number.

“Push them. Let’s go! The longer this goes on, the more the advantage slips through our grasp! Let’s end this now!” I nodded to my crew and they flicked on the thrusters.

We shot to the side, leading the charge. It was a most unexpected charge, not one the Faerin would have expected, I knew. We didn’t charge into his fleet – instead, we put ourselves between them and the planet, still formed in a ragged semicircle. Now they turned to face us again. It was perfect.

“Fire!” I shouted.

The black-and-white sky suddenly burst with tendrils of green and red and blue and yellow and purple and orange. My soldiers were firing at regular intervals, but it still looked like colorful chaos, like we were desperate, like we wanted to make a beautiful mess of things. The enemy ships, as expected, shot back to avoid the attacks.

“Push forward!”

We did. Together, my fleet, thirty-one strong, began to fly at the enemy. They knew they were doomed, knew they could not stop us. They couldn’t outrun us either. But they knew staying put would destroy them. In essence, they knew they were dead but were unwilling to accept it. So while they stayed facing us, they continued to back up. A few began warming up energy attacks of their own and flinging them back in response. But we were too far apart. The plasma bursts shot out, hot and radiating with energy, but before long, the cold of space reminded them just who was really king out here. Both ours and theirs burned out long before they reached one another. It would have looked rather pathetic from afar, truth be told, like two people hurling insults at one another, both too afraid to actually get close enough to trade punches. But this was all part of the plan.

It took only a few more moments of this to push the fleet to the moon, to the bright side of it. They had not a clue of what was about to happen.

I smiled as I paced back and forth in front of the great window on the bridge of my ship. “Commander Tanarilo,” I spoke into a secure connection.

“I’m here, sir.”

“The fleet is yours.”


I briefly toyed with calling up the Faerin again, to see the look on his face when he realized what was going to happen. But I couldn’t. I was a Fleet Admiral, a respected officer in Nitro’s army. It wasn’t my place to gloat, to degrade myself in front of my men. I had to be professional. I had to see this thing through and make sure everything went according to plan.

And like hungry birds, Tanarilo and his twenty-two ships came shrieking out from behind the dark side of the moon. They were all light ships, small and quick. The larger ships of the Faerin’s fleet could not so much as turn around to face their new foes before Tanarilo was on them like a cruel hunter. His ships circled and dived and spit plasma. I saw explosions, saw ships go up in flames; others vaporized and were lost, and still others tried to flee. They all perished. They hadn’t even managed to lock on their weapons to Tanarilo’s fleet before half of them were destroyed. And as soon as they turned to face my newest commander, he retreated behind the moon, and the rest of my fleet was on them from behind. I made sure my ship landed the killing blow on the Faerin’s flagship. When I saw that one go up in flames, sputtering and spinning before going dark and beginning to drift through space like a bit of space junk, I knew we had won. Looking around, I didn’t see any damage on our side. A soldier quickly confirmed that all of the ships in my fleet were still intact – though a few had been slightly damaged.

“Report,” I said to Tanarilo. “How many ships do you have?”

“Twenty-one,” came the reply. “Though a few of ‘em need to get repaired before we go home.”

“Very well. Rejoin the fleet, commander. We are going to dock at the base on Planet Nitro 227 for some repairs.”

“Aye, Master Po. You can count on me,” the man replied, laughing. “I cooked those Cooler boys up for you real nice.”

“That you did. I will be sure to tell Lord Nitro all about your feats when I see him.”

I turned away from the window of carnage back to my crew. Many of them were smiling, and most of them were watching me. I myself was not smiling, and I knew they were all wondering why. They should have known better; that they did not solidified their role as underlings. This was a game played between predators, between real hunters. There are only the hunters and the hunted, those who wield power and those who wish they had some. Usually a predator hunts prey. But sometimes two predators clash, two fearsome beasts are forced to fight. And there’s only one way that can end. These stupid sycophants would never understand.

I told my crew to send us down to the planet – the planet that had been the cause of this battle. It was symbolic, in a way, of the larger war that was to come, I knew. Cooler and Nitro were both predators, and I’d be lying if I thought I was on the stronger one’s side. But it is what it is. We took the first victory, and we would have to wait for Cooler’s response. His fury would be terrible to witness, I knew. It would be even worse to face on the field of battle. Maybe he would lead the next fleet himself. If that were to happen, all of us would die. I could not stand there then and look at my crew and think we had done a great thing. Yes, we had beaten a weaker foe, but this victory meant nothing. Cooler still had billions of soldiers, and so did Lord Nitro. This war was far from over.

I felt like an animal trapped in a cage, unable to escape. I could see the doom that was coming to us, but there was nothing I could do to stop it from swallowing us whole. It was best if the crew didn’t know; and not even the officers knew, I think. I don’t believe anyone else saw what this victory meant, aside from me: the death of the Planet Trade Organization. Now we would have rival empires, rival kingdoms, vying for the same land. The empire would collapse, and new, smaller, weaker, lesser empires would rise in its place, to fight amongst themselves in a furious effort to attain former glory (if there was any). Brother against brother, it would be. The war to come would be terrible, I knew. I was on the wrong side, the losing side. But there was nothing I could do about that. Lord Nitro liked me, and I liked him. We would die together, I thought. Maybe that would be my only way out.

Tiredness tugged at my eyes and I excused myself from the bridge. Returning to my dim-lit room, I sat down in my chair and sighed, feeling the strain of a hard day’s work rippling through my body. I looked over at the cage, where my pet lay. He was lying on his back, propped up against the farthest wall, his tail flicking about like it had a mind of its own. His eyes were trained on me.

“Cheer up old buddy,” I spoke wearily. “At least you don’t have a choice.”

Chapter VIII: The InfiltratorEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Abacho
Position: Soldier in Cooler's empire (under Avalan)
Date of account: December 27, 763 Age

Avalan was a prisoner of the Aphotic Prince. It’d been like that for months. The whole empire knew. And no one was doing a thing about it – ‘cept for me, of course. Avalan had never been a popular leader – I’ll admit – but he was still part of the royal family. It was our duty to protect him. Why wasn’t anyone else trying to rescue him? Why was it left all up to me?

Found the Iceberg after a month; took me a few more weeks to get inside. The Prince’s space pirates were more cautious than I’d hoped. They did background checks and had me meet with three separate recruiters. I gave them the normal story – that I was defecting, that I was tired of the Planet Trade Organization bossing me around. Same old bullshit. Thousands, maybe millions, pulled that same card before me. Worked out for me too. Didn’t have to say much. They went through their protocol and welcomed me in. It was easy – too easy.

They put me on air patrol at first. I brought my fighter with me, so I got to fly. They didn’t have any extra ships anyways. Things were worse than they seemed. Looked like everyone, not just us, were running low on supplies.

I only got to see the Iceberg by accident. Two weeks into my mission, our depots were raided by Jolean filth. We had nowhere else to go but home.

Never seen anything like that before – and I’ve been stationed on more than two dozen alien worlds. It was massive, something I hadn’t expected at all. I thought it would be some small smuggler’s den, not a mega-city. The whole Iceberg was inside a massive asteroid, the size of a small planet. Millions of soldiers lived in there day in, day out. I don’t know how no one had found this thing. I know years back, Lord Arcterial had really tried to track down the Aphotic Prince, and with how big the Prince’s hideout is, I don’t know how he didn’t succeed.

I was ready to go at any moment. When the call came that the Joleans had torched our refueling station, there was nothing I needed to do aside from prepare myself mentally. I had no fucking clue where they were hiding Lord Avalan, but it didn’t matter. I had a rat, burrowed deep inside that asteroid city, waiting just for me. She’d tell me everything I needed to know.

I had only a few minutes, I knew. We landed in one of the outer hangers and the other pilots went to get drinks at a nearby bar, leaving me an opening. An hour – that was all I had. Then, the ships would be refueled and I’d have to leave. I needed to find Lord Avalan and somehow get him out of the city before then. I thought I had most of my plan figured out already.

She stood at the edge of a street corner, three blocks from the dock, just where I knew I’d find her. I was lucky to land in working hours, elsewise she might’ve been asleep or out working somewhere else. This was the place we had decided to meet; only, she didn’t know when that would happen. We spoke a month before that day. I told her it could be anywhere from a day to a year before we met face-to-face. All things considered, I lucked out. Didn’t take as long as I thought it would.

There was surprise on her face, I saw, but she quickly hid that and pulled her shades down to avert her eyes. I walked past her, not daring to look her in the eyes, as if I was just another passerby in that clogged metropolis. Skyscrapers on all sides of us, hover cars buzzing by, thousands of people flowing this way and that, it was pandemonium. No one would notice when one violet-skinned three-armed alien stuck out a finger and an armored pilot reached over and plucked the little baggie away. It was fluid. We never spoke, never stopped. I kept going, pocketing the bag. I felt it over, making sure I could feel the thin metal keycard inside. Once I was sure it was there, I knew I was good.

At the next intersection, I split off from the crowd and made my way down a back alley. Glancing around, I made sure no one was watching me. No one was; only heaps of trash, old food, and a cracked set of armor met me there. I took out the baggie and ripped it open. The keycard fell out, as did a note. ‘Floor 94, Room 2’ was all it said in neat, small print. After reading the message three times, I incinerated it with a small ki blast, and let the ashes fall from my trembling fingertips.

I knew which building she was talking about. It was the only one that mattered: the skyscraper amongst skyscrapers. The tallest, sleekest building in the entire asteroid. It stood like a tree amongst twigs, compared to the others, all black and angular and imposing. But I had a key in. Easy stuff. There’s always talk about how easy it is to bribe a Planet Trade Organization officer, how rampant the corruption is in our glorious empire. Well, I’ll tell you, it’s just as bad with the Aphotic Prince. He took in all of the rebels, all those disillusioned with the Planet Trade Organization, yet so many of them were as easily bribed as those they hated. She gave me a keycard for a small pile of cash, less than I had expected. It was funny, really. I had expected to pay twice as much as that, but it looked like she was desperate for the money. Hell, if it got me back Lord Avalan, I wasn’t going to complain. And she’d never know how much I was truly willing to give up to rescue my lord.

I changed my clothes in that back alley, and when I emerged, I was dressed in black robes, denoting my position as an officer in the huge skyscraper, or so the woman had told me. I didn’t understand this asteroid’s customs, and to be honest, I still don’t. There was a perceptible difference when I returned to the streets. The crowds parted for me, all of the civilians and off-duty soldiers eyeing me with nervous respect. For once I felt a little important. I didn’t dare smile or look at any of them too long. I didn’t want to betray myself.

I expected resistance; there was none. I walked up to the skyscraper, met the guards at the door, showed them my keycard, and was let in without waiting more than a minute. Once inside, I was alone in an entryway. The floors were polished green marble, and the room itself was poorly-lit. That was on purpose, the woman had told me. It was no matter. All I had to do was find a gravity lift and I was good.

There was a woman at the desk inside, perhaps expecting me. “ID?” she asked, boredom in her voice. I handed the keycard, which had a picture of me on it, all courtesy of my little rat. She looked it over, and I thought I saw some concern in her thin, birdlike face. Her face was pinkish with darker spots lining it. She had four eyes and mandibles, which clicked rhythmically as she studied the keycard. “New one, eh?” I nodded, not fully understanding her. “Alright, go on up.”

I took the card back and almost ran to the gravity lift. I wanted to get out of there. There was something about her, some kind of awareness that no one else I had thus far met possessed. She would figure me out soon enough, I knew, so I made sure I never saw her again.

In the dark light, the gravity lift’s energy sparkled blue and drifted upward lazily like blood spurting from a body in 0g. I gulped and stepped inside. I hadn’t used one of these before. I was nervous, nervous that something bad would happen. I felt a rush, and the darkness blurred with the blue dots hovering in the tunnel. My stomach reached my mouth and I had to swallow bile, had to force myself to not throw up. I couldn’t draw any attention to myself. Not here; not now.

The gravity lift spit me out at floor 94. I retched soundlessly on the carpet in the low light, praying that no one saw me. When I finally stood up, I found this floor abandoned much as the ground floor had been. It was a long hallway, with doors lining the walls down both sides. Each was numbered. The lights were a dim yellow up here, and they flickered every few seconds, as if they were about to go out. It was creepy, made me feel uncomfortable. I found door two, put my ear to it, and once I was convinced no one was waiting to ambush me, I slid inside.

Pure black met me at first, and then electricity, blue and snaking up to the ceiling, illuminated everything. The electricity exploded in blue bursts every few seconds, providing me with snapshots of light, of time, of being. Mold was rife in the room, like a plague. I could smell blood too, and sweat, thick as ice. The next flash of electricity showed me the black figure at the center of the room, chained and hanging from the ceiling. Walking over to him, I noticed he was hanging over a pool of some kind of liquid – something sizzling and smoking when I put my toe to it.

Avalan’s eyes opened and he let out a gasp. His eyes met mine when next the energy lit up the room. His purple eye was bloodshot and droopy. His yellow, more lucid, stared at me wide and tearful. “P-please…” he cried hoarsely. “No… more…”

“Lord Avalan,” I said with a stiff bow, “I have come to rescue you.” I pulled down my robes to reveal my face. There was no recognition in his eye. He didn’t know me. Of course he didn’t. I was just a soldier of his. We hadn’t met face-to-face before today. “I was a soldier in your empire. I have spent months working my way in here… just to save you, sir!”

Avalan didn’t seem to understand. He jerked his head back and forth. Sweat rolled off his pale, deformed flesh to drop into the pool below him. In the light of this room, it was as if his malignant growths glowed too. They were brown and scabby, covering much of his body. He would have been a handsome man, a capable warrior had he not been wracked with such a crippling disease. What a pity. “Tr-trick…?” the Arcosian gasped.

“No trick sir. I’m here to bring you home.”

Avalan’s eyes lit up. “Go,” he whispered harshly. “Go away. Leave… me…”

“I can’t, sir. We have to get you home. You don’t belong here.”

I walked behind Avalan to see what was holding him up. When I saw what it was, I nearly threw up again. Two metal hooks dug into Lord Icer’s son like spikes. They were burrowed deep in his flesh, past muscle and bone, hanging him like a slab of meat. Blood, fresh and dried, covered the wounds, and streams of purple flowed down his back to the pool below. The way his blood traveled over his growths made them look alive when the electricity flashed again. This time it flashed, it hit Avalan and rattled through his body, causing him to shake violently. Once it was over, the Arcosian slumped forward, smoke rising from his flesh. The room began to smell of sulfur.

He was drooling now, moaning softly looking back and forth, as if for me, but he saw nothing. I put a gloved hand on his back, patting him in comfort, but that action caused my lord to jump in fright. His chains rattled and fresh wounds opened where the hooks cut him again. He let out a cry that someone just outside the door would have heard. My heart began to beat faster.

“Sir, please, you have to be quiet. I know this will hurt, but if you scream like that again, someone will come in, and they’ll know what we’re trying to do.”

“You can’t! Don’t! Noooo!!”

“Why?” I grabbed the hooks and began to ease them out of the open wounds.

Avalan screamed again. It was not a scream of pain, but of anticipation, of horror. “Stop!” he cried. “Don’t do it!”

I stopped, as my lord commanded. “Sire, why?”

“If… if you pull those out…” he was sobbing now, “I-I’ll… blow up! I’ll be gone… returned to dust! They put explosives in there… if I move at all… I’m dead… please… I don’t want to die…”

I leaned down to peer into the wounds, and sure enough, I saw two small, blinking devices pressed against each hook, between bone and metal. A cold dread covered my body. I felt like I wanted to die, like I wanted to vaporize out of existence in shame. “I can’t get you out of here,” I heard myself say. It wasn’t a question, nor was I talking to Avalan. I just couldn’t keep my thoughts inside my head. “I can’t get you out of here!” I fell to my knees, burying my eyes in my gloves. “Fuck!” I should have expected this. I should have brought a team of professionals with me. But no one else had wanted to go. Lord Avalan was in the presence of his last true, loyal servant. That was almost as pathetic as the state he was in.

“Pl-please…” Avalan wheezed. “Go, before they find you. They’ll hurt me so,” he whimpered, “if they know you were here.”

I crawled forward until I was kneeling in front of Avalan. “This is not your home,” I said, determination clear in my voice. “This is not where you will die! They cannot keep you here!”

Avalan wasn’t looking at me. His gaze was blank, pointed down towards the simmering pool at his feet. He was convulsing slightly, shaking back and forth, bobbing his head. “Te-tell them… no more attacking… the Aphotic Prince.”


“L-l-leave him… a-alone! He’ll let me go… if we leave him a-alone.”

“He’s an enemy of the Planet Trade Organization. Him and his kind.”

“Do it, do it, do it!” whined Avalan. “You must. Promise.” I did not reply. “I-I tried to stop them… b-but I was bad. I’ll be good now, I swear. I’ll be good! N-no more fighting.”

“It’s not my decision to make,” I said at last. “But I’ll relay your message.” I stood up stiffly, as if to leave. In truth, I didn’t want to go. Didn’t want to leave him like that. But what choice did I have? “I’ll return with someone who can get you out of here. I swear, my lord.” I bowed again. “It will not be as long as before. But I must hurry if I am to return.”

Avalan was drooling again, his sweat dripping down to the pool below him in a flowing procession. “Where is my father? Wh-why hasn’t Daddy come for me?!” There were tears in his eyes when he looked up. “Why hasn’t he saved his Avalan? I-I thought… I was his favorite.”

“I will bring him next time.”

“Daddy works with them,” came the childish voice of the broken Arcosian, high as a winter gale. “I overheard them talking a-about it… he does business with the Aphotic Prince, I know it. P-please… he can save me. Bring my father.”

“I will.”

Avalan’s lip was shivering, but he looked satiated. I went to leave when the door cracked open of its own accord. In strode two aliens, both clothed in the same robes as me. I darted behind a table, with boxes stacked high around and on top of it. They didn’t see me, mostly on account of the dimness of the room. I was lucky the lightning didn’t flash as they entered; otherwise, I would’ve been a dead man.

“Da-daddy?!” Avalan whimpered.

I held my breath as the two strode confidently into the room and made their way right up to the broken son. “Ugly bastard, ain’t he?” one cackled. “He likes to scream, though. I’ll give him that. Watch.” The alien punched a blade into Avalan’s belly, causing a torrent of blood to spray out. The Arcosian screamed like a child, his wailing going on uninterrupted for several seconds. I felt a chill cover my body. I wanted to save my lord, but it was no use. I would just get myself killed if I tried.

I crawled slowly towards the door, keeping my eyes on the torturers. They never turned around. Their focus was their prey, the helpless son of Lord Icer, who would make these fools pay in time, I knew. To think that a member of the royal family of the most powerful and largest empire in the universe could suffer such a humiliation… it boggled my mind, made rancor course through my veins like electricity. I didn’t stay to watch the butchery unfolding before my eyes. The two shocked Avalan twice more before cutting a few pieces of his flesh off. The new torturer took particular pleasure in ripping one of Avalan’s growths off. That caused the young prince to howl in sheer agony before passing out from the pain. At that moment, I knew it was time to leave.

I cracked the door open just wide enough for me to squeeze out and then I was running down the hall, not looking back. I didn’t care if anyone else was there to see me. It made no difference. I knew simply that I had to get out of there. I had to tell someone what I’d seen. I had to meet with Lord Icer himself. I had to get his son back.

I took the gravity lift back down to ground level and ran past the receptionist outside. I didn’t pause to greet the guards. I ran out, ran into the crowds until I knew I was lost amongst them. I ripped off my robes, leaving only my pilot’s jumpsuit below. This time, the common people did not notice me. That was just what I wanted. I wanted to disappear, to be swallowed whole. As long as I got to my ship, everything would be good. Terror made me run, but no one was chasing me. At least, I thought no one was.

I was out of breath by the time I returned to the pumping station where my fighter sat parked. The other pilots had not yet returned. I hadn’t even taken thirty minutes. That was bad. Real bad. I wanted to leave now. I was itching to leave. But I couldn’t. My cover would be blown if I did anything stupid, and then I’d never get back here. I couldn’t let that happen. But I didn’t know if, in the state I was in, I could stop myself from blowing it.

As I stood there, trying to figure out what to do, I heard footsteps behind me. I quivered but for a moment before spinning around to be met by the three-armed girl that had made all of this possible. I sighed in relief and wiped my brow.

“How did it go?” she asked.

“Poorly. I’ll need a second trip,” I said, trying to remain as vague as possible, in case anyone was listening in on our conversation. “I need to bring others next time.”

“Really?” She smiled lustily and stepped forward. “That’s going to cost more. Much more. Too much, I think.”

“I know. I’ll manage.”

“No, you won’t. This was risky. I shouldn’t have done what I did. And now I’m feeling so… guilty.”

I knew what that meant. “Yeah, yeah, you want more money. How much?”

“You don’t understand,” she said, smiling sheepishly again. “I shouldn’t have let you in. I shouldn’t have let you see. And now, I can’t let anyone know you were here.”

“So that’s how it is.”

“Sorry, love.”

She fired a greenish-black energy blast at me with such speed I didn’t even realize she had attacked until the hand I put up in reflex began to smoke and burn. I cried out and fell backwards. She looked me over, but did not try a second attack. She smiled and bit her finger.

“That’ll do the trick,” she said, sadly. “Don’t come back, love. You won’t make it far.”

“Please…” I pleaded. “I have to save him.”

She shook her head. “The Aphotic Prince will fix him; he promised he would. He will save Avalan from himself. That is more than anyone in your empire (she spat when she said that word) could do for him. Now get out of here before I really hurt you.”

I raised my hand to make her stop, but that simple act caused a gushing of pain to spread through my body. I groaned and fell back down. The tingling was worst in the fingers of the hand her attack had hit. I wanted to speak again, but my words choked up in my throat. I saw her turn and descend back down the steps to the city. She wore a delicate pink dress, as thin as silk. She seemed to float on the wind, out of sight and out of thought, back to the lambent chaos of urban insanity.

I returned home that night, and my hand was getting much worse. There was poison in her attack, just like there had been poison in her words. I should’ve known. I checked myself into the hospital on Planet Frieza 062, and they told me the grave news – there was no treating the corruption in my body. I was going to succumb. I had a few days, maybe a week.

That didn’t stop me. I couldn’t just sit in a hospital bed and waste away. That wasn’t my style. I got right back in my ship and flew off to Lord Icer’s planet.

Two days later, I arrived. My arm had turned black by then, and it had begun to smell of sweet decay. I tried to schedule a meeting with the man, telling Icer’s receptionist that I had urgent and time-sensitive information about his son. She had been helpful, promising to give the Arcosian my words at once.

But one day passed. Then two. Then three. I returned to her scheduling office everyday, which was located in the capitol building on Icer’s main planet. She promised me Icer knew, that he was contemplating my message. But he never got back to me. Another day passed. The poison had long since spread to the rest of my body by then. I soon found that I was too weak to leave my ship, which I had slept in ever since coming to Icer’s planet. And then one day came where I was too weak to leave the ship at all. Still no response came. I used my scouter to stay in contact with the receptionist. She assured me Lord Icer knew what I wanted to tell him, but he never came to see me.

I don’t have long. I’ll be dead in a day or two. And with me dies what I learned, unless Lord Icer sees me. I don’t know why he won’t give me a few minutes of his time. Shouldn’t he want to find his son? Shouldn’t he be concerned? It doesn’t seem like he is. Avalan said his father worked with the Aphotic Prince. Maybe that’s the reason why. Maybe he knows where Avalan is. Maybe he had a part in it. No, that couldn’t be. I won’t believe it. No father would be that cruel to his son.

But as I sit here in my ship, rotting away, I can’t help but feel Lord Icer knows something I don’t about this whole Avalan affair. I only hope that after I’m gone, someone else will save Lord Avalan, that someone else will have the courage I had. Because that’s one trait I’ve noticed not many people have anymore in this crumbling empire of ours.

Chapter IX: Asteroid BluesEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Kustar
Position: Mercenary soldier
Date of account: May 28, 764 Age (first scene)
June 3, 764 Age (second and third scenes)
June 4, 764 Age (fourth scene)

Smoke hung in the air so thick you could actually see it. We sat in huddled circles, around indigo-lit tables, cards face down. One of the men coughed. Two others argued in hushed whispers just to my right, the stench of alcohol on their breath. There was a scaly, three-eyed merc rambling at anyone who would listen, which was quite rude since several of us were in the middle of a hand.

“Frieza, I saw him myself!” old three eyes was insisting. “He survived Namek! His father rescued him. He was badly injured, so they made a new cybernetic body for him. I saw it myself! I did! He’s stronger now, Frieza! He’s gonna come back with a vengeance, I heard. Gonna kill that Saiyan from Earth who humiliated him first, though. He’s already set off. Then he’ll be back for us, mark my words. Frieza’s coming home soon!”

I wouldn’t believe such tales, but what really annoyed me was how the alien’s ridiculous conspiracy theory about Frieza surviving Namek had enthralled the table. It threw me off my game. My reads vanished; everyone was engaged in conversation again. I didn’t know what to do. So I went all in, mostly as a panicked move. I bet all of my money. Most got out at once. The scaly alien folded; the frog-faced one did too; the twin stick-like aliens threw their cards in before it was even their turn.

Another, a cobalt-furred man with dark spikes poking out down the back of his head, eyed me from across the table. “I think you’re bluffing,” he said at last, throwing his chips in and revealing his cards.

I sighed and felt regret wash over me – a familiar feeling, to be sure. His cards were paired, and I saw paint. Mine… well, when I turned them over, the rest of the group laughed.

“Nice hand,” I heard myself say. I pushed the rest of my chips into the pot. That was it; at that moment, I had hit rock bottom. I was broke. All of my money was gone. Twenty years ago, I would have never thought that possible. I had stolen unimaginable riches from Frieza’s treasure horde. But Tamaga had run off… seventeen years ago? Or was it eighteen? I couldn’t remember. It was soon after we got our payday, soon after she promised to marry me. That had been a lie, just like my hand. Both had cost me dearly. What Tamaga hadn’t taken, I’d whittled away to nothing through years of gambling. Here, in the 764 Age, the final bits of Frieza’s treasure were now well and truly gone.

“Tough luck,” a frog-faced alien grunted. “They cleaned you out!”

“That’s Ace for you!” another one hissed. “They say he never loses. You were unlucky to get it all in against him.”

Their words meant nothing to me. I didn’t know these people, and I’d never see them again after tomorrow. That’s what I hoped, at least. My fingers itched. I wanted hack something. I wanted to do something; I wanted to be someone. That was what I was born to do. I had never been good at cards, but what else was there to do out here in the deep of space? Bounty hunters and mercs like to gamble. That’s all they do. I was never really one of them.

I got up to leave when the nearby video screen flickered on. The raucous noise of arguing drunks and chips shuffling all came to a sudden stop. “Attention bounty hunters! A new reward is available!” said an ultramarine-armored alien, looking as slick as a fly trap. “For the price of 5,000,000 Woolongs, deliver this fugitive,” the wiry man said as a video popped up showing a lavender-skinned female Uttovelm covered in tattoos and scars posing; her name, Doo Houni (a name as pretty as her face, I thought), appeared on the screen too, “to the appropriate authorities.” Another slide materialized, telling the onlookers that this woman was supposed to be taken to the Planet Trade Organization officials on Planet Uoto. “Dead or alive,” the broadcaster continued, “with a preference for her to be delivered dead. Good luck, prospective bounty hunters! This bounty expires in one week.”

The screen went blank. Ace stood up. He had a small animal cradled in his arms; its black fur shone in the smoky room, and its sharp teeth glinted from the reflection of the holotable. “I’ll find that bitch,” he declared. “Ace don’t lose to no one! I’m the best hunter out there! I think it's time to blow this scene!”

He gathered up his chips and ran out. He looked fearsome and played a mean game of space poker, but if anything, I almost laughed. He was so lame the way he just declared he’d find the Uttovelm and get the reward. He had a lot to work on. I ran my hand through my hair, past the scar Tamaga had left for me on my forehead when she stole my money, and thought. Doo Houni would be a dangerous foe, likely as strong if not stronger than me. Her bounty was huge, the largest I had ever seen on that show. Since my time working the bounty hunting cantinas, I’d never captured someone so sought-after.

But there’s a first time for everything. I walked out of the room, past the tables of guys like me wallowing in hard luck and trying to fight their way out of debt, and a smile found its way onto my face. If only I could capture Doo Houni, maybe my luck would change. It’d been a long time since I was on the upswing. I was more than ready for a little good fortune.

Never knew Ace before I sat down at his table. But he seemed to have it out for me. I found his ship with all the others on Uoto. The bounty hunters came in droves, with the promise of riches, and I knew they’d blow my cover. We all landed in the outer territory of Uobat, the largest city on the planet, and the one where the Planet Trade Organization had established its largest planetary outpost. It was the safest bet, I knew. Other hunters might’ve gone to smaller cities, but they weren’t going to find Doo Houni.

When I landed, Ace and a few others were still in the hangar, fitting themselves with armor and tracking devices. Ace glanced over at me as I jumped out, but I didn’t give him the satisfaction of returning the gaze. This was not between me and him; I just wanted the money. I didn’t give a fuck about that alien. I’m sure he cheated at space poker anyways, though I had no way of proving it.

We combed through the PTO’s records on gang bosses in Uobat as well as the other cities. All of the big gang leaders were known. Doo Houni was not amongst them. There were a few files the Planet Trade Organization officers had on lower ranking gang members, and again, there was no sign of her. It was as if she was a ghost. None of the officers had ever heard of her, and they weren’t even aware of the bounty. Something about this was fishy.

I thought maybe she was a lower-ranking gang member, one who hadn’t made a name for herself yet. The only way to get to her would be to contact the gangs directly. That was dangerous, I knew. But I had a lucky card up my sleeve. His name was Jack. My old robot buddy I’d stolen from the Planet Trade Organization before I’d left them. He was a little round thing, half the size of my head, all grey and black and non-threatening. Just like Frieza’s fortune (up until today), only this little guy had stayed with me through the good and the bad. I programmed him myself. With a click, I directed him to scout Uobat’s gangs. Each one operated like a legitimate business, and they all had stores and warehouses and other types of buildings where one could contact them. With this little guy, I knew I had the advantage. Gang members don’t want to talk to real men. They want to stay in the shadows. When they saw my hacked bot, they’d know I was just as dirty as them. Someone would have the answer I was looking for.

While Jack was out scouting for me, I took to the streets. There was a curiously high number of aliens out there. Many of them were bounty hunters, I knew, desperate treasure seekers just like me. That would alert Doo Houni, I knew. If she was smart, she’d know something was up, that people were hunting her. There was a huge reward for her, so I could only assume she was some sort of criminal mastermind, but really I knew nothing about her. I had her picture burned onto my scouter, which gave me a reference in case I happened to see her out on the street, but I didn’t.

I didn’t see Ace either, that fucker. He was better than the others, so it didn’t surprise me that his tracking skills took him away from the common rabble. I knew I still held the edge over him.

At that moment, a skinny Uttovelm shopkeeper came running over to me, breaking me from my thoughts. “Hey, you!” he shouted angrily.


“What are you doing here?”

“I’m on vacation,” I lied, brushing him aside. “Leave me alone.”

“You don’t get it!” the shopkeeper snarled. He ran up to me, grabbed my shoulder and pulled me down to him (I was several feet taller than him). “It’s all going bad,” he whispered. “You’re kind aren’t welcome here. Get out while you can. Go, shoo!”

“My kind?”

“Foreigners. The Uo-Bo-Kalic don’t like you. I don’t like you! But I’d rather see you go than die. Blood in the streets ain’t good for business, eh?”

“Die? Are the gangs going to start something?”

The man’s eyes grew wide and he spun around, as if trying to find someone eavesdropping on us. “Do-don’t say that! Just leave!” I saw it in his eyes. The gangs were behind this. The Uo-Bo-Kalic, or whatever it was called, was the largest gang on the planet. That much I had gathered from the files given to me by the Planet Trade Organization officers. But why they would want to kill all foreigners didn’t make sense to me.

“Why now? Haven’t there been other species here for years?”

“Been gettin’ worse,” the shopkeeper whispered. “Over the last couple years, and in the last few months especially. Too many. Not enough Uttovelm anymore. And just since yesterday… lots comin’ in. Don’t know why. Kalic don’t like it. They will make it stop.”

I knew more would be coming searching for Doo Houni. That would only make things worse. “Thanks,” I said, handing the man a few Woolongs for his trouble. “I’ll keep that mind.”

“Leave tonight!” he urged me. “There’s no time!”

But I would not. There was money to be made. I needed that 5,000,000. It wasn’t a matter of life or death; that struggle had already begun. If I didn’t get that money, I was as good as dead anyways. So I wasn’t afraid. I’m not sure how many other bounty hunters knew about this, like I did. Probably not many. Ace knew, I’m sure. He was too smart, too aware of his surroundings.

They were eyeing me – the shopkeeps, pedestrians, and other Uttovelm were keeping their gazes on me and the other aliens. There was disgust in their eyes, a sense that they were better than us. I knew it was time to leave – not the planet, but their gazes. I didn’t like them staring at me. Ace wasn’t out here getting stared at. He wasn’t being hunted. He was the hunter. So too would I be.

Jack returned at nightfall. Uo-Gal-Norrim and Sao-Il-Borahk had never heard of my quarry. No response from Kalic. That wasn’t unexpected, but a bit disappointing. The biggest gang likely at least knew of her, if she was someone worth knowing. And judging by the size of her bounty, she was.

I waited a few more hours, got a few more messages from Jack. No one else had heard of Doo Houri. None of the gangs knew of her. Maybe she really was a ghost. I decided to call it a night and return to my ship. I needed to sleep over this, really think this through. Maybe Jack would have a lead or two for me in the morning.

A few of the other ships were occupied; most of the bounty hunters were still out hunting, including Ace. Good for them. I hoped they would all wear themselves out that night, allowing me another advantage in the morning.

When I went towards my ship, opening the cockpit with my arm pad, I saw a man standing in the shadows, just beyond my ship (which was the furthest into the dock of any of the ships). He was on the other side of a door leading further into the Planet Trade Organization outpost, illuminated by artificial light. The dimness and dirtiness of the dock had not yet tainted him. He stood there unmoving, his eyes closed, his hands clasped in front of his throat. There was a device in his ear, I could tell, blinking purple. He was being instructed by someone. The man was wearing a blue and gold robe of such quality I had never seen before. The patterns were minimalistic on the silk, but elegant – the sign of nobility. His skin was purple, his ears pointed, his platinum blond hair combed back in supreme confidence.

At last, the man opened his eyes, and he saw that I was watching him. He studied me for a moment and then motioned for me to come over. I did. I don’t know why I did. I didn’t want to. But there was something about him, something alluring, something that made me want to listen.

“Bounty hunter,” he said when I reached him. I nodded, even though the way he had said those words made me think he looked down on my profession.

“Is there something you want?”

“You’re here for the reward?”

“I think you know why I’m here, man,” I replied. His eyes shone gold and a smile crept onto his face. “Why were you watching us?”

“It was you who was watching me.”

“Then why were you standing there?”

“I was watching you.”

I grit my teeth in annoyance. “But I just said–”

“Quiet,” the man commanded. He had an air about him, as if he were a king. He raised his hand calmly, fluidly, and didn’t look at me. “Tell me if anyone has found her.”

“Her? Do you mean Doo Houni?” The alien did not respond, but a subtle jerk of his head told me all I needed to know. “I checked all the nearby gangs. No one’s heard of her. You wouldn’t happen to have a lead, would ya, man?” I asked hopefully.

He looked at me with distaste. “It is the job of the hunter to find the prey.”

“With all due respect, I can’t find someone who doesn’t exist.”

“Oh, she exists. I would have expected her to be found already, but it is no matter,” the well-dressed alien said. He turned away from me. “Look for her in Ookat, working as a driver. I would have hoped she could have been taken out tonight, but I can arrange for tomorrow. Noon, on the dot. Don’t miss it,” he told me. “Or you will never leave this place.”

He left me there, his indigo cape billowing behind him. Who that man was, I never learned. How he knew where Doo Houni was hiding out, I never figured out. But clearly he had it out for her. He wanted to arrange her death, with me as his pawn. No idea why that was; but it was good pay, so I did it, no questions asked.

Ookat was a smaller city than Uobat, more factory town than metropolis. Great plumes of smoke, exhaust, and burnt chemicals rose into the sky from ranks of iron buildings. Each one had a fence around it: metal, barbed, imposing. They didn’t want anyone getting in. There weren’t many people there.

Downtown was where I went, where Jack found the driving service – the Uo-Khanak Company. I gave the female Uttovelm working the desk a picture of Doo Houni, and she confirmed my target worked there. It was all so easy. Why had that man come to me with that information? Why hadn’t he revealed it to begin with? Why didn’t he tell someone else instead, like Ace? I didn’t know, but it made me feel uneasy, like I was being played. Too much money was on the line for me to back out now, either way. This all seemed too straightforward for 5,000,000 Woolongs.

After a bit of prodding and a small bribe, the receptionist gave me the coordinates of Doo Houni’s next stop, which was precisely at noon. She was picking up several wealthy clients on Uoah Street, just before it intersected Oolabat Street. With that information, I set off.

I found the streets not long after and was happy to see that the area was relatively deserted. I had only a few minutes, though, so I got to work at once. Using Jack, I hacked into the grid on the road just ahead of where Doo Houni would stop. There was a hovering light that would signal when she could move forward, and I was going to hack it to my benefit.

When noon came, I was ready. I saw the luxury hovercar with tinted windows fly over and park just in front of a tall-looking skyscraper. Immediately, three men came striding out – aliens, all three of them. They were fancily-adorned in crimson-and-fuchsia robes. They were purple-skinned, with pointed ears, long, light-colored hair, and thin faces. They were the same species as the man I had talked to the night before. I watched them get in, and then the car began to speed forward towards the light ahead. I had hacked into the light so that when the car approached, it would send out an EMP pulse, paralyzing the vehicle. Then I would destroy the front of her car with my ki. Her passengers would be fine, but she would not survive. I hoped that would suffice for my client.

It all worked beautifully. The car pulled up to the light, and the light twitched, fell to the ground, and send out a wave of EMP. The car could not move as the EMP washed over it. That was my chance. I lunged forward…

… and something caught ahold of my leg and pulled me back.

Ace, the alien with the cobalt fur and ferocious face, stood above me, looking down. He was wearing a menacing smile, but he helped me to my feet.

“You,” I breathed. “Get out of here! This is my kill! I was here first!”

“She’s getting away,” Ace smiled, his teeth clicking. He pointed at the hovercar, which was now rushing off down the road.

I swore under my breath and pushed Ace out of the way. “Thanks for that. You’re a real asshole, you know that?”

Ace was still as a statue, his energy more subdued than before. “It’s for you own good. Don’t chase her. This isn’t what it seems.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Were you approached by a Faerin yesterday?”

“What’s a Faerin?”

“Purple skin. Pointy ears. They all dress like they’re kings and queens.”

“Then yeah.”

“He wanted me to kill you.” Ace licked his lips. “But I said I wouldn’t. Bounty hunters don’t go after one another. Not in the code. Not good for business. He wanted me to kill you just as you attacked her, making her fly off into the air. He wants her to make for space.”


Ace laughed. “How would I know?”

I bit my lip, looking from the street to Ace and back again a hundred times. I didn’t know what to do. “It’s a lot money,” I said after a while.

“She knows you’re after her now.”

“That won’t be a problem.”

Ace nodded, his eyes shining with fervor. “If you want to hunt her down, be my guest, but know this: you are getting yourself into something you are not even remotely prepared for, if you do this. You may die, like the rest.”

“The rest?”

“Butchered today. Gangs came together to take out most aliens in the big cities. It was a bloodbath. I’m leaving. I don’t want to die. I think those men in that hovercar are trying to get out, too. You would be wise to join us.”

I felt the pull; I did. But it wasn’t forceful enough. “It’s a lot of money,” I repeated. Then I gathered my ki around me and flew off after the car.

“See you at the tables,” Ace called out, as if we were friends. Was he playing a game? Was he actually a friendly alien? I did not know. I didn’t have time to think about it. But it was strange how he was acting so different now.

The hovercar had gone a long way since I had last seen it. I tracked it down several streets with my scouter, and once I had it back in sight, I began warming energy between my gloves. The first attaack hit the right side of the car, near the front, where my memory told me the woman was seated. The car began to weave across the street, dodging incoming traffic. Uttovelm on the streets ran screaming as I tore up the asphalt, chasing down my quarry with a torrent of ki.

The car was burning; a fire was raging on its hood. It was slowing. Yet that was when it tried the most desperate maneuver of all – it took to the air. As all hovercars can, invariably, fly, this was not impossible, but it was unexpected. What Doo Houni was doing was pure desperation. She knew I could fly, that I could track her, and yet she did it anyways. She was trying something, anything, to save herself. It wouldn’t work. While she flew high, turning her hovercar into a smoke plume like all of the others rising from the factories around us, I stood back and watched. She was going straight up, trying to lose me in the clouds. Not a chance at that.

I air sprinted after her. When she broke through the first layer of clouds, white and puffy and low-hanging, I remained calm. I’d be able to take her out no problem. The tricky part became her passengers. I didn’t know if that man wanted them to live or not. I would play it safe; I would catch the car and bring it back to the surface after I killed the driver.

That was my plan, anyways.

She broke through the second layer of clouds. These were much higher in the atmosphere, and were tinted golden from the aura of the planet’s star. When we broke through, I beheld a most curious sight: a fleet hovered just beyond the cloud layer. They were painted purple, carved out in rounded, voluptuous shapes, and had strange glyphs and symbols I could not read adorning their hulls. They were well-armed and too numerous to count. Were they Uttovelm? I didn’t have time to guess. I caught up to the hovercar before it could reach the fleet. I didn’t know if that would be her escape or if it was a fleet waiting for someone else.

I punched my ki-saturated hand through the window next to Doo Houni. For a moment, I got one good look at her, her horrified, confused tattooed face, and then my fist entered her skull, severed her spine, and tore through the seat behind her. I pulled my hand out and shook the blood off it. Doo Houni did not even scream. She was dead. Her body slumped back against the remnants of her seat. I could hear screaming coming from the back of the car, so I stuck my head through the window.

“It’s okay. I’m going to return you to the surface,” I said to the men in the back of the car. “You’re safe. I’m not going to hurt you, I promise.”

I ducked back out and grabbed onto the car, preparing to return it to the city, when the flagship of the fleet ahead of us moved forward. A speaker began to blast from the front of it, and the voice that came out was both familiar and chilling.

“Drop the car,” the male voice ordered me. I did so at once, almost in reflex. “Step back.”

I shot back several feet. Then, the flagship’s energy cannons warmed up and fired upon the tumbling hovercar, decimating it instantaneously. That magical, tingly feeling of regret spread across my body again.

“What was that for?!” I screamed at the ship. “I needed that car for my bounty!”

“Everything has gone according to plan,” the voice replied. “We are quite aware of who you are, Mr. Kustar. You will receive your 5,000,000 Woolongs shortly.”

“Wait… are you the ones who put up the bounty to begin with?”

“That’s correct. Now please return to your ship, where your payment will be waiting for you.”

Before I could say anything else, all of the ships vanished, engaging their cloaking devices in utter simultaneity. I was left there in the upper atmosphere of Planet Uoto, the freezing winds bearing down on me from all sides, bewildered. There was nothing for me to do except return to my ship.

As I flew back to the hangar, I passed over many a city. The streets ran with blood in most of them. The expelling of the foreigners was taking place. I had been warned of this. Why was this happening now, though? That I could not know. Was the person I killed tied to this? She was a simple hovercar driver. No one knew about her. She was a nobody on this world. Why had she commanded such a high bounty? What did she do to provoke the wrath of that fleet? Why were the Faereth involved? None of it made sense to me.

I was left with more questions than answers that day. But I was a bounty hunter, a gambler, a warrior. It wasn’t my place to question these things. I returned to my ship, collected my new fortune, and set off home, back to the gambler’s den that would soon take all of my money again. And knowing that fact didn’t stop me.

Chapter X: Moriq VohaerilEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Salza
Position: Second in command of Cooler's empire, leader of Cooler's Armored Squadron
Date of account: August 24, 764 Age

“This whole empire is falling apart.” Lord Cooler stood on the far side of the bridge, his arms folded, gazing out the long viewing window into space. “Planet Uoto was one of the first I ever conquered…”

“They have not been in rebellion for long, sire,” I said quickly, trying to calm his fury. “The Faereth have already mobilized a naval blockade around the planet to prevent the Uttovelm from poisoning the rest of the empire with their treasonous thoughts. Admiral Bael has assured me that he will have the matter under control shortly.”

“Bael,” Cooler whispered, venom thick in his voice. “That man’s just as dangerous as the Uttovelm. Who put him in charge?”

“He’s your senior admiral for the region, Lord Cooler. He’s been in charge of the Faerin navy for decades.”

“Remind me to demote him once we’re finished here.”

“Yes, my lord!”

I didn’t know what the issue was between Bael and Cooler; it was not something I had any inkling about before that moment. Since Lord Cooler was already in a bad mood, I decided not to pursue the matter any further. Still, Emperor Cooler threatening to demote one of the highest-ranking officers in the entire army over seemingly nothing shocked me. I knew it would have repercussions if he actually went through with it. The Faereth were already angry with the rest of the Planet Trade Organization over a variety of issues I didn’t care about. But even I knew this latest slight would be enough to turn their quiet grumblings into open rebellion, much like what had happened with the Uttovelm. There was precedence now.

In the distance, a small planet emerged from space, dark and covered in blinking lights. This was the world of the Galactic Bank, or more accurately, the planet they used to meet with clients. We knew almost nothing about them, which made me nervous. I knew Lord Cooler was strong, but what if they were setting up an ambush? The Galactic Bank was very angry with the Planet Trade Organization for refusing to pay back its debts, and Lord Cooler told me they were the only group bold enough to threaten us – they had apparently threatened Lord Cooler’s father and uncles a few years ago to their faces. I can’t think of anyone else ever doing such a thing. That should have been grounds for immediate execution. But the Galactic Bank was different. They commanded respect like us, mostly because we didn’t know the scope of their powers. That and they held us by the throat with the debt issue.

“There is still the matter of my brother,” Lord Cooler said, turning from the window to walk back to his seat. “Not a year ago, Nitro’s forces attacked an army of my soldiers attempting to regain control over a planet that is rightfully mine,” he reminded me. “I have yet to make Nitro pay for that.”

“We could attack him, Lord Cooler! Send in your Armored Squadron!”

“No,” the Arcosian brooded, putting his hands under his chin after sitting down on his throne. “That would lead to war. War is the last thing I want. I need Nitro, and Nitro alone, to disappear.”

“Sir… the only one strong enough to kill Nitro is you.”

“I am aware.”

The room fell silent; I shivered. “Should I open up a date in your schedule, Lord Cooler…?”

“Before the year is out.”

“Understood, my lord!”

“Nitro has crossed me for the last time. I don’t care if we’re blood. He must go. He’s almost as useless as Frieza. Had that Saiyan not maimed Frieza, I would have already killed him.”

It was no great secret that Cooler hated his brothers. The biggest mystery was why he hadn’t killed them yet, since he was always telling me about how much he wanted to. Maybe that’s all this was – fantasy. But him scheduling a date to assassinate Nitro had me worried. He’d never gone that far before. It wasn’t my place to tell him this was a bad idea, though.

“And my uncles, now that father’s become preoccupied with Frieza, are on the move.” I knew that much. Frost had visited Lord Cooler not long ago. Half the empire knew why, but no one would ever speak up about it, not if they valued their lives. “I am worried about them. I believe they wish to kill me.”

“But Lord Cooler, were they not allied with you before?” That was all I would say aloud; we both knew what their plot had been, and why it had failed. King Cold, Frieza, and Nitro had been slated to die, only a few years ago. And yet, they had survived to the present. Now, I’m sure, Cooler was angry that he hadn’t used that opportunity for his own gain. He wanted his brothers dead, desperately, and he had mismanaged his best opportunity to remove them from existence. He knew that; I knew that. It didn’t need to be said.

“Lord Arcterial is, for now. But he wants more. He wants to rule the empire; I can see it in his eyes. He wants what we have, and he will stop at nothing to get it. If that means allying with me today, just to kill me tomorrow… I do not doubt he has something bigger planned. We must keep an eye on him, Salza.”

“Of course, my lord.” I had been keeping an eye on Arcterial and Icer, ever since Lord Cooler tasked me with doing just that, but nothing had come up. If they were planning a surprise assassination, they weren’t telegraphing it. I shivered again. If they were planning something, it meant they were doing it with the utmost secrecy, with the utmost care. It would be basically impossible to stop, whatever they decided to try.

“And Icer… there’s something wrong with him. I don’t know what it is, but he’s weird. He’s wrong. He’s hiding something. Arcterial isn’t able to conceal his ambitions very easily, but do not think for a minute that my other uncle is any less bold. I should kill him too. Just in case he’s setting anything up. I never liked him much anyways.”

All this talk of murder was making me upset. First fratricide, and now avunculicide. This wasn’t like Cooler. He seemed scared, otherwise I don’t think he would be considering killing anyone who spooked him. Perhaps these were just ideas; tomorrow, like as not, he would return to his normal self and forget he even mentioned starting a galaxy-spanning civil war. To even think about killing his uncles over nothing more than paranoia was insanity.

We reached the dock, and our ship eased into its spot. Outside, guards began inspecting the hull and prepared our exit. Cooler stood and walked off, his tail swishing back and forth.

“There is one more matter before we go inside,” I said.

“What is it, Salza?” Cooler’s voice was deep gravel, impatience and arrogance.

“The matter of the Galactic Fighting Guild.”

“What of it?”

“They want higher wages. After the Ginyu Force was destroyed on Namek, they are being hired much more often, and they are demanding more money for this increase in work.”

“Ha,” Cooler laughed dryly. “They should be glad they have any work at all. They will get nothing more from me. I have no money to spare anyways. You know that, Salza. That’s why we’re here.”

“Of course, my lord.”

“If they’re whining about getting so much business, maybe they should retire.” Cooler stepped forward, through the doorframe that led outside. “Is that all? Is there anything else?”

“No, my lord.”


The guards led us to the entrance to the meeting room: an ominous black door three stories high in a room of dim, blue light. Marble pillars surrounded us, and delicate vases were perched atop them with figurative pink-and-gold cursive scrawls on them. I felt an instant desire to run and knock one over.

The guards left us to gawk at the monolithic door, a clear sign of the Galactic Bank’s power. They wanted everyone to know how great they were. In a way, that was impressive. We were just about to go through when I got a message on my scouter that gave me pause. A soldier, blood leaking from his armor, stood in a sunny desert, clutching at his many wounds. His skin was green, his head bald and vaguely fishy.

“S-salza… is that you?” he asked, speaking to me through his scouter.

“What do you want? How did you get onto this channel?”

“No time…” he spat, blood bubbling on his lips. “Let me… talk… to Lord Cooler…”

“No,” I replied, restraint on my tongue. “Tell me what you want first.”

“It’s his brother… his father… I was one of the soldiers who came to Earth with them… I have news…”

I saw the look in his eye. There was blood everywhere. He was dying. He had access to this channel because he was one of King Cold’s elites. And yet he stood alone. The Arcosians were nowhere to be seen. His fellow soldiers were nowhere to be seen. What had happened?

“Ve-very well…” I said, half afraid, half confused. I handed my scouter to Lord Cooler. “A soldier wishes to speak with you, my lord. My apologies, but I think it’s important.”

He took the scouter, clearly annoyed, and put it on. Standing there in the silence, the near-darkness, the creepiness of a foreign world, I felt on edge. What was going on? I had not the faintest clue. I could hear my heart beating.

“Is that so?” Cooler spoke at last. He folded his arms and looked unimpressed. His tail was going mad. “Very well, soldier. I will not forget your bravery. Die with honor.”

Cooler ripped the scouter off and threw it to me. “What happened, Lord Cooler? Was it something important?” I chanced to ask.

Cooler looked at me. His eyes were two fiery pools of blackness, raging for something I did not know. “My brother and father are dead,” he said, simply. “I am now the sole leader of the Planet Trade Organization.”

“My lord!” I yelled, my voice breaking. I didn’t know what to do, so I went to one knee.

“Get up, Salza,” he muttered. “We’ll get this meeting over with… and then… then, there will be much to do. Nitro… my uncles… even the Faereth. They will all be dealt with. They must be. Now that I have sole command, everything will run a lot smoother. Everything will be dealt with. No more hiding behind my father’s ineptitude. These fools will have to face me.”

“My lord, aren’t you sad?” I asked. “Y-your father…”

“He was a drunk and a lazy fool. The universe is better off without him. They will see how truly powerful our empire can be, now that I’m in charge. Come Salza. Let’s show the Galactic Bank. They will be the first to witness the Planet Trade Organization… reborn! We won’t be weak anymore. We won’t let people walk all over us. We will destroy those who try to hurt us, until the entire universe fears us again. Father, Frieza, Nitro… they all shamed my family and my empire. But I, and I alone, will right their wrongs.”

With that, Lord Cooler stepped forward, pushed open the great door, and went inside to meet the bankers. I followed him breathlessly, my head spinning with delusions of grandeur and the dismay that came with it.

Three aliens sat at a table in the center of the room, perfectly positioned from one another. Their beards were trimmed neatly and pointed below their chins, their hair slicked back, their fine black-and-grey robes spotless and glowing. Each was pale white, with fleshy pink-and-crimson crescents jutting up from the backs of their heads, spread out in half circles. Each one stared at Lord Cooler when we made our entrance, their eyes silvery and wide, seeing and not seeing. Not a shred of emotion was displayed on their faces. I felt uncomfortable.

The room was circular, and lining the walls was a large seating area, several stories high. Those seats were packed too, mostly by members of the same species sitting before us, but there were others too. All wore the robes of the Galactic Bank. All were stoic, not revealing anything about themselves. They would get along with Lord Cooler, I thought, though as of late, perhaps not.

We took our seats on the opposite side of the table. The alien in the middle stood up, brought a fist to his chest, and bowed stiffly. “Moriq Vohaeril,” he said sweetly.

Cooler nodded and did not return to the bow.

“That is our customary words of greeting,” the alien explained gently. He sat back down with such fluidity that he looked like he was about to fade out of existence. “They mean welcome, of course, but they are also a statement of who we are – the Galactic Bank.”

“These words are us,” the alien on the right smiled. “They tell the universe that we are the Galactic Bank, no one else; no more, no less.”

It was a threat, I knew. Cooler picked up on that too. I saw him sit up a little straighter, though his semi-scowl did not change. “There is business for us to attend to,” my emperor said, ignoring the bankers’ ramblings.

“Yes, the matter of the Planet Trade Organization’s debts,” replied the alien in the middle. “We gave you those loans in good faith, sir. You agreed to our terms to pay the money back, with appropriate interest.”

“I agreed to nothing,” Cooler said. “That was my father and my uncle Icer who came up with those terms with you.”

“Just so. Regardless, these terms are binding.”

“My father is dead,” Cooler said, as if bored. “He negotiated the interest rates with you. But now he’s dead. And I’m in charge. I am not going to pay 25% interest any longer. My empire cannot grow with such money leeching.”

“We are grievously sorry that your father has passed,” the alien on the right said, his eyes flashing, “but that has no bearing on the contract he signed.”

“5%,” said Cooler.

“We are not here to negotiate.”

“The Planet Trade Organization is the most powerful empire in the universe,” Cooler reminded them. “It would be unwise to provoke our wrath.”

“Empires come and go,” said the alien in the middle seat. “But the Galactic Bank has been around for more than ten million years. We watch empires like yours rise and fall and fade away into obscurity. And never once have we not collected our debts. Debts are paid, one way or another. If you don’t want to have debt, don’t borrow money from us. What is done is done. The contract must be fulfilled.”

“Or what?” Lord Cooler’s tail twitched.

“Or we will collect the debts ourselves. We will not wait long to collect what is rightfully ours, especially if a client has violated their contract.”

“Are you threatening me?” Cooler’s words came in a whisper, cold as ice. “The king of the Planet Trade Organization?”

“Even kings must pay their debts.”

“I will pay,” Cooler grumbled. “But not at the current interest rate.”

“We are not here to compromise with you, your grace,” the alien in the middle said again. “We are quite content with our current position.”

I knew what that meant. They weren’t frightened of us. Why not? Cooler’s family was comprised of the strongest warriors in the galaxy. They could destroy this entire banking guild as easily as crushing a bug. Cooler was humoring them, not the other way around. Were they bluffing, or just stupid?

“With King Cold dead, undoubtedly, your empire will be thrust into chaos,” said the alien on the right. “Due to these sudden and unforeseen circumstances, it is the determination of our members that we will give you a time extension to repay the loan… an additional six months. How does that sound?”

Cooler stood up, and a hush filled the room. Previously, some of the spectators had been murmuring to one another infrequently, but now, the noise died like any hope for galactic peace had when we learned King Cold and Frieza had been murdered. “I am the ruler of the most powerful force in the universe. All living things are mere playthings to me! You will not insult me like this, or you will face my wrath.”

The alien in the center seat smiled warmly and cleared his throat. “We are willing to lower the interest rate to 20% as well, in a sign of good faith. We would not want to lose our largest and most lucrative customer, after all. Your services are most appreciated, King Cooler.”

“5%,” Cooler demanded.

“20%,” the alien replied calmly. “We have lessened our demands twofold, King Cooler. It would be wise for you to appreciate what we have already done.”

“You bankers think you rule the universe. Do you not know who I am? Do you have no idea what I’ve done, how many people I’ve killed, how many planets I’ve conquered?!”

“We are quite aware of your record, my king,” the alien on the right stated. “Impressive as it is, it holds no relevance to our discussion.”

“You don’t get it,” Cooler continued. “I already told you. Everyone in the universe is my plaything. Everyone is subservient to me! I am the most powerful being to ever live, and no one will stand against me. Especially not you! If you want to live, you will lower the rate to 5%.”

“We will not be doing that.”

Cooler glanced over at me. I looked back helplessly. I knew I couldn’t say anything, and even if I did, he wouldn’t listen. I was just a spectator now, like all the others. I could smell it in the air; there would be blood.

Cooler closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he looked back up at the three aliens, he said, “My father was a weak ruler. You walked all over him, played him however you liked. You tried the same thing with me. But I am not my father. Everyone will soon come to learn that the Planet Trade Organization is no longer going to be disrespected by anyone, especially you – you will be my first example.”

Cooler roared, conjuring up his aura. The room suddenly blazed with blinding light, and some of the spectators shouted in surprise or began to run. A moment later, the light faded, and there stood Cooler in his fifth form, his evolved form. This was the form that made him stronger than Frieza, stronger than anyone. He was the first Arcosian to reach that form, and the most deserving. His body had become spiked, his head had fanned out a bit, like the aliens sitting before us, and his body armor had grown to cover his entire body, including his mouth. He was an efficient, imposing killing machine now.

The three aliens sat unconcerned, smiling slightly, but not giving off any other sense of what they were thinking. “If you are mad, your grace, you would be well-served to turn around and go home to deal with that privately.”

Cooler hollered out, his voice bouncing across the room, before raising his hand and shooting a purple death beam right at that alien. My emperor’s foe jumped into the air with speed that took my breath away. Teleporting across the walls and ceiling, he dodged Cooler’s slew of attacks with ease. This was the strongest being the galaxy he was facing. How was he dodging these attacks? No one had ever put up such a fight against Cooler’s fifth form.

Such defiance clearly surprised my emperor as well, for he soon took to the air, and called up his ki around him, to raise his power level even further. And that was when he caught the smug alien, right in the neck. His fist went through the man’s throat, severing his head in a spray of purple blood. A moment later, the alien’s head landed with a wet splat on the marble floor in the center of the room. For a second, the others looked at it, horrified. Then, their eyes began to glow grey and silver and black, all together. No one ran. Their power levels were rising. I scanned the room, and saw many rising above a million before my scouter exploded.

“Lord Cooler! There are too many!”

“Quiet Salza,” came the confident response. “They will pay for their disrespect! They must!”

He raised his hands and began pointing them rapidly at all of the aliens in the stands. Death beams screamed out, hitting the onlookers below with such ferocity that many of them exploded into piles of meat and blood. Others took to the sky, to try to bring Cooler down. He yelled, bringing his energy closer to him, and then released it in all directions, his hands and feet and tail thrusting outwards as a heated wave of ki rolled around the room, incinerating aliens by the dozens.

The two other aliens, the more powerful ones sitting at the desk in the center of the room, had not yet moved. They sat there, like statues, staring at me. I began to tremble with anxiety, knowing that they were stronger than me, that they could end my life if they wanted to. Above, Cooler butchered the remaining spectators with bloody, efficient ki attacks, cutting through them like a water dancer. Soon, all was quiet again. Cooler descended to the ground, covered in blood. He wiped his mouth and crossed his arms.

“Don’t have anything to say for yourselves?” he asked the two remaining aliens. “Any last words?”

The alien on the left smiled fondly. “Every debt is paid, one way or another. Every debt is collected, in the end.”

Cooler raised his hand, but when the energy left his fingertips, the two aliens dodged out of the way in utter synchronicity. They appeared on either side of Cooler and aggressively launched punches and kicks at him. He parried their blows, but their combined attacks pushed him back. They fought like I had never seen aliens fight before – their moves were too fast to see. They moved through the air, dispersing and rearranging their atoms, as if they didn’t truly exist, as if this was all just a showcase of grace and power for me to witness. Beings should not have been able to move as they did.

Cooler struggled against them, taking blow after blow before falling to one knee. Then, he rose, and his aura became as fire. He would not be defeated so quickly. Not now that he knew the empire was his. He pushed the two back, as swiftly as they moved, hitting them over and over until their backs were up against the far wall. He hit one in the face, splitting his cheek and spraying blood all over Cooler’s body armor. The alien did not even scream. He continued to fight. Cooler was going to win. My emperor was the strongest being in the universe.

And then the door we had come through opened again. It must’ve been hundreds of them. Bankers, all. Most were like the three Cooler had struggled so mightily against. Others were of the species I had seen in the stands. All had blank faces, shining eyes, clean, perfect appearances. All wanted to kill Lord Cooler, to do to him what had been done to his father and brother. I knew that couldn’t happen. Nitro couldn’t be left in charge of the Planet Trade Organization. He was the worst out of the four. No, we had to get out of here.

“Lord Cooler!” I pleaded. “They are coming!”

He spun around, blood (which was not his) dripping from his face. “Rats!” he bellowed. “Come to die like the vermin they are!”

“There are too many!” I screamed. “Don’t let them kill you! Not after all that’s happened!”

I drew a ki sword and sliced at the nearest banker who charged me. He was cleaved in two, his upper half flying by me with a grunt. Still more charged at me, including one with a crimson-and-pink head crest. I knew he could kill me. I stepped back, gulped, and then ran for Lord Cooler. He kicked the nearest banker to the floor and incinerated the alien by shoving a ki blast down his throat. The last one remaining was the one he had torn the cheek of, but there was no time. Lord Cooler knew what had to be done. There were too many. He wouldn’t survive the upcoming battle. I wouldn’t. Dozens charged us. Individually, Emperor Cooler could destroy them. Together, they had enough ki to vaporize him. And in their hands, energy was already warming.

My hand grasped his. I could feel the sweat and blood on it. And in the next moment, light covered us, and we were gone.

Cooler let go of my hand, and I sunk to the ground, panting. He stepped forward, to stare at the new dawn. We were standing on a rocky overlook, next to a waterfall. An outpost was in the distance. Planet Cooler 017, I knew. I sighed. Good thing Cooler knew the Instant Transmission technique.

“They will pay for this,” Cooler growled at last, shaking blood off his fingers. “Just like all the rest.” He sighed. “Nitro, my uncles, the Faereth, the Uttovelm… and now the Galactic Bank. My enemies are too numerous to count. But like all the rest, they will die.”

“Sir…” I panted, “shouldn’t we tell the empire that Lord Frieza and King Cold are dead?!”

“In due time, Salza. First, I must consolidate this empire. I can’t let it fall into disrepair, as it has been. It was close to unraveling, but now… the empire will be reborn. I will nurture it back to its former strength. If I have to do it myself, I will kill all of our enemies. The time of disrespecting the Planet Trade Organization is over. And it starts with Nitro swearing loyalty to me. Then my uncles, and their spawn. And I have not forgot young Kuriza. They will all recognize me as their king. And once they have, we will group our forces together, as we did against the Nikkarins, and smash the Galactic Bank. They have an arrogance built over ten million years… an arrogance that needs to checked. It is time they are humbled. I will be there as every last one of those fools breathes their last breath.”

Birds were chirping in the distance. My belly rumbled. I thought of Governor Nectarian, the man whom I had imprisoned. He was still locked away, in some dungeon on Ipha. I wondered who had sent him, if anyone had. Someone in the family wanted to kill Lord Cooler… and what if they were still alive? What if it hadn’t been Frieza? Lord Cooler would still have to face threats from the inside, even as he was now turning his focus towards the Galactic Bank. That would be the perfect opportunity for someone, like Lord Icer, to make his move. I would be watching, and waiting. I didn’t know if I could do anything about it, though.

“Sir, what about your uncles… Nitro… won’t they still try to kill you, once they learn the news?”

“They may,” Cooler admitted. “But they won’t succeed. I am stronger than all of them.”

Not together, I knew. But I didn’t say that. It was just like with the bankers. Individually, they had put up a challenge, but not enough to kill him. It would be much the same against Cooler’s family. Only, he wouldn’t be able to escape so easily. They would hunt him down together if they hunted him at all. They would appear at the most unexpected of times, I knew. I feared the bankers would try something similar. They were too smart to let Cooler’s attack go unanswered.

I was getting a headache. I wanted to eat, relax, think things over. Everything was moving so fast. So many people wanted to kill my lord, and it was exhausting trying to protect him, trying to think up ways to save him, especially since I knew his greatest threats were stronger than me. I could do nothing but watch, if the bankers suddenly attacked again.

Lord Cooler had become the new leader of the Planet Trade Organization, in an unexpected twist of fate. And yet, I did not feel better for it. His number of foes had grown impressively large; his list of allies grew only thinner with each passing day. This was nothing if not a pyrrhic victory, but Lord Cooler wouldn’t want to hear that. I stood, felt the pulsing in my head and mumbled to Lord Cooler that I would get to work at once. I don’t know if he heard me. He stood there, next to the waterfall, watching the sunrise, plotting his next moves.

And it would be me who would have to pick up the pieces. My life was tied to his; if he died, so too would I. If he succeeded, I would become rich beyond comprehension, wealthy and powerful enough to rule entire galaxies by myself. I didn’t know if I wanted that. But I knew one thing – I had work to do. I had conspiracies to unravel, assassination attempts to foil. And most importantly, I had to keep this empire running as Lord Cooler became more and more arrogant about his abilities and blind to the realities of our universe.

It was a pity, I thought, how for all his intellect, he couldn’t see that this empire was going to crumble, one way or another. He wanted to save it. That was a noble idea, but not a realistic one. I just hoped we would manage to keep a part of it alive for the remainder of our lives.

Chapter XI: DignityEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Hail
Position: King Cold's niece; retired Military General
Date of account: September 3, 764 Age

The sun burned like a razor blade in the sky, and the heat felt good on my skin. It was nice to be outside. The water gardens were empty, save for me and my handmaidens. It was embarrassing enough that they would have to watch. I took my place across from Nimbi, the first of my handmaidens. She was the strongest. In my prime, she wouldn’t have been a challenge.

The seclusion of the water gardens was what attracted me to this place. When we had been children, Polaria and I had taken our water dancing lessons here. Our instructors remained on duty to this day, immortalized in pink marble near the pond. In there, expensive Caecondi swam, a gift from my father. Such beasts were aquatic predators native to my homeworld. The pond’s temperature was accordingly regulated, and even now sparse chunks of ice drifted across the water’s surface in marked contrast to the semi-tropical climate of the rest of the gardens. The creatures would never attempt to attack me, despite their ferocious ways; they would die if they ever left the water, even for a moment. So I liked to sit at the pond’s edge and watch them hunt and kill and swim and play. I had spent much more time there as a child, trying to take breaks from water dancing. I hadn’t expected to return so soon.

But ever since that day… everything changed. Now I didn’t know if I would ever be able to leave.

The ground was tiled, all ivory and faded coral. Water fountains were spread across the vast expanse, too numerous to count. Trees sprouted up from holes in between the tesserae, many of them bearing fruit. Parasitic flowering vines grew upon the pink marble walls, giving the water gardens a green, cozy feeling. The mixture of bare, beautiful rock and living plants had always comforted me, since I was a child.

A calm wind was blowing, sweetened by the perfume of the flowering vines. I inhaled, closed my eyes, and called forth my energy. It flowed through my body, sluggish and faint. I felt my cheeks heat up. This was a supreme embarrassment. A member of the royal family, the daughter of Lord Icer, and a former military general in the Planet Trade Organization should not have been reduced so. I opened my eyes, presenting all the energy I could. Nimbi remained motionless, without emotion in her face. If she felt for me, I did not know.

Her scream echoed across the empty gardens, and then she was upon me. I could track her easily. If there was one thing that hadn’t been damaged on my now-useless body, it was my eyes. I sensed her, saw her teleporting around me, knew exactly where she was going to land, and yet… my body was too slow to hurt her. The skin grafts had saved me, I’m sure, but they made my skin tight and numb and no longer mine. It was as if I was operating a skeleton that wasn’t me, as if I was wearing a weighted jacket that was two sizes too big. I was but a passenger inside this broken body.

My fist swung forward; Nimbi flipped away from it gracefully. I rushed her, swinging my tail around, but again Nimbi teleported out of the way. When I saw her reappear behind me, I used all of my energy to jump into the sky, twist around, and come crashing down on her with my foot. She dodged that attack too by spinning aside. I landed on a cracked slab of stone – my own doing. Breathing hard, I got up and ran screaming at my foe. She jumped over me in a front flip and kicked me in the back of the head. Every move was so delicate, so precise. I had no hope of beating her. I saw what she was doing, could anticipate her dodging moves. My body just wasn’t strong enough to punish her.

“Enough,” I panted. I wiped the sweat from my brow, though I could not so easily wipe away my shame. My face burned. “That is all for today.”

“My lady?” Nimbi asked, surprised. She descended back to the ground. “We were just getting started.”

“I’ve grown tired.”

“Would you like refreshments?”

“Yes, that would be lovely. And prepare for me my daily messages. I should like to get my business attended to before the sun goes down.”

“At once, my lady!” Nimbi shouted, bowing. She ran off with several other handmaidens.

One of my servants remained: a young Arcosian girl. She was timid and slender, perfectly suited for the subtle shapes of the garden. I dragged my feet over to her, and she used a cloth to wipe me clean. The aroma in the air was making me a little light-headed. I felt something as the girl pressed the towel to me, something of an electric shock building in my stomach. So much of my skin had been ravaged that I hadn’t expected to feel much of anything anymore. But for that one brief moment, under the shade of a fruit tree, I was alive again.

“Your touch is soft,” I murmured. “What’s your name?”

“Incyse, my lady.” Her voice was sweet as honey.

“You’re new.”

“Yes,” the girl replied meekly, bowing her head. “My father worked for your father, and they arranged this. If my lady is not pleased with me, I can leave…”

“Nonsense!” My voice was rising. I grasped the girl’s wrist and brought her close to me in a half embrace. Her eyes were wide with confusion, but I saw them quickly turn to pity and then to disgust. She found me repulsive. I couldn’t blame her; a burn victim’s beauty is always and forever consumed by the fire. I let her go and turned away, feeling the heat rising in my cheeks again. I was such a stupid, careless girl. I wasn’t fit to be Lord Icer’s daughter. It was not my place to display such emotions; I should have never let a lesser being see me so.

As the awkwardness was building, I cut through it with as professional a tone as I could muster. “Take me to my meeting area, Incyse. I have much left to do this day.”

“Would my lady like to finish getting cleaned off first?”

“No,” I said sharply. “I will go as I am.”

The ice wine cleansed as it slid down my raw throat; its sour kick was worthy of the royal family, I thought. We sat in the shade, under two massive fruit trees, arranged on cushioned chairs, with a small table in the middle. Nimbi sat alone at the table, perusing a datapad, her head down, her tail flicking back and forth in annoyance.

“What news is there?” I inquired at last. I had impatience of my own; I think that is a common trait among Arcosians.

“Much and more,” Nimbi replied, not looking up. “Your father sends his love. He hopes you are doing well.”

“He would be better served to give that message to me in person,” I retorted. “Has he mentioned Avalan?”

“No, my lady.”

Why my father had forsaken my brother, I did not know. I held no love for Avalan, but he was my blood. He was a member of our family. In truth, I had grown up hating him, partially because of his deformities, but mostly because of how crass and irritating he was. Now that my own skin had been disfigured, I empathized with him more. I could see how he had grown up so hard, so mean, when all it took was one look from someone to make you feel like you were worth less than dirt. His appearance, who he was, was nothing he could change, no matter how hard he tried. That must’ve been frustrating for him.

Avalan had been abducted by the pitiful Aphotic Prince, and yet my father sat on his hands and did nothing to try to get his son back. It was as if he wanted Avalan to die. I didn’t understand it. I wouldn’t. We had argued about this already; Daddy had promised to find Avalan, but his actions spoke louder than his words. He wasn’t really looking for his son.

I looked up at the nearest tree and saw the sunlight glimmering off one of its fruit: an orange-skinned sweet, fleshy pouch. It was ripe, I could see. Maybe even overripe. It was time for someone to pick these trees. I looked back at my handmaidens and decided that was a task best suited for Incyse. I would not speak to her directly, no. That was not suitable. I would have one of the other handmaidens instruct the girl on her new duties.

“Anything else?” I croaked. “Something good?”

“Lord Arcterial and Lady Frost send their love too,” Nimbi read, “and they would like to come visit soon if my lady allows it.”

“I will have to think about it.” I wanted to see them, but I didn’t want them to see me. It would be too painful. Still, it would be a mistake to refuse their offer; they were family. “No response at this time.” Nimbi looked up with surprise, but I waved her onto the next message. “Give me some good news this time, Nimbi.”

“Apologies, my lady, but there doesn’t seem to be any.”

An overripe fruit fell from the tree in front of me, splattering its fruit on the blushing stones. No one stopped what they were doing to look at it, except for me.

I sighed, frustrated and felt sudden weariness perforate into my body. I thought coming here would remove me from the stress of political life. But I was still a princess, burned or not, and I had my duties. “Tell them to me.”

“Planet Uoto has been in open rebellion for several months. Lord Cooler is planning on sending a task force there to subdue them. He does not have many available soldiers, as he states here… he has been busy putting down rebellions in Frieza’s region. He requests that my lady sends help.”

“Why couldn’t he request the support of my father or Polaria? Or even Arcterial?”

“He did. Their navies are all assigned on missions across the universe. Yours is the only one not currently active at this time.”

Because of my condition, Nimbi wouldn’t say. But she implied it, felt it, as did the other handmaidens. It was a guilt trip. And I was going to take the bait. “Fine. Send them. Cooler will have temporary control of my army until Planet Uoto is brought back into the Planet Trade Organization. Once the planet is subdued, my army will return to me immediately.”

“I will inform him at once, my lady,” Nimbi hummed. “There is a second message from your father, as well.”

“The usual one?”

“Yes, my lady.”

“Tell him no.”

“As my lady commands.”

I yawned. “Is there much more?”

“Not much,” Nimbi swore. “The next bit of news is nothing you have to act on.”

“What is it?”

“The outpost three planets away from this one was lost last night. What is unusual is that only our soldiers disappeared – there was no other damage to the installation, as far as anyone can tell…”

“What do they think did it?” Fear caught in my throat, forcing me to swallow my next thought. I closed my eyes and saw a wall of flames rushing at me, a furry creature in gold-and-grey armor, howling with laughter. I opened them and sat up, causing my handmaidens to look up with alarm.

“My lady, are you okay?” Nimbi asked.

“Yes, fine. Continue.”

“Well, I was just saying that no one knows what did it. There are no guesses. It could have been a freak accident. General Salza thought it could have been an extremely rare wormhole that sucked them all away.

Or maybe it’s a threat, an actual threat against our empire. But I didn’t say that. I nodded and sat back down. “We do nothing at this moment. I don’t have an army anymore, as you know. It is not my business to investigate the planet. But, should a similar thing happen to any other planets, particularly those nearby, I want to be alerted.”

“Of course, Lady Hail.”

“Lastly, a Faerin by the name of Admiral Bael has requested a private meeting with my lady.”

“That name sounds familiar. Who is he?”

“One moment,” Nimbi replied, tapping on her datapad. That almost made me laugh. If this Bael was worth knowing, we shouldn’t have had to look him up. “Found him, my lady. It appears Admiral Bael is the leader of the Faerin fleet on Planet Faeri. He is a senior member of the Faerin Council and is one of the most respected members of his race as well as one of the most decorated and senior officers in our empire.”

“Very well. I will meet with him. When did he want to stop by?”

“Within the week.”

“Tell him I’m available tomorrow.”

“B-but…” Nimbi looked up. “What about Lord Arcterial and his daughter?”

They were family; family is harder to face. “Tell them I am busy. I have a meeting with Admiral Bael, after all. I will try to meet with them next week.”

Nimbi lowered her face, remaining as emotionless as she could, and typed the replies. “Sent,” she said at last.

“Is that all?”

“Yes, my lady.”

“Then you are excused, all of you.”

“My lady, shouldn’t we stay, in case something happens… in case you need help?” I was a cripple now; I had almost forgotten. I looked down at the spoiling fruit and wondered if my Caecondi would dare eat it.

“Thank you for your concern, but I’m fine. This place holds no dangers for me. All of you know that.”

They bowed and left, as quickly as they dared. I know they didn’t like being around me. I was a horror to witness. They probably didn’t like my personality as well, but that was to be expected. Servants were rarely happy being servants.

Once they were gone, I sunk into my chair, and my body finally began to unwind. It was stressful being around people. I always had to be on, always had to be ready and professional and hiding myself from them lest they glimpse at the vulnerabilities within me. Now I could relax. I shut my eyes and dreamed of dreaming. My dreams were my last safe place, for I was never burnt in them. I was as fast as Polaria in my dreams – a little faster even. I beat all my foes. I could dance the water dance better than anyone.

Another fruit fell, splattering noisily and breaking me out of my fall into unconsciousness. Anger spread swift as a blizzard inside me for not having Incyse take down the rest of the spoiled fruit before leaving.

Soon, my sleepiness returned, and this time, when I closed my eyes, nothing woke me. It was just me and my nightmares then – which was exactly how I liked it.

It was evening when Incyse returned. I had woken from my nap already and was sitting on the edge of the pond, feeding small fish to my Caecondi. She came running breathlessly, holding a datapad. Her energy irked me. In this serene garden, where my natatorial predators could soundlessly tear smaller fish to shreds, I felt at peace. Incyse destroyed that harmony I felt with this place, perhaps unconsciously, but not without consequence. She would be reassigned for this, before the sun set. That much I swore to myself.

“Lady Hail, Lady Hail!” the girl was screaming. “Lady Hail!”

“I am here,” I replied, not turning to face her. “You need not yell.”

“Sorry…” the girl breathed, “but I have an urgent message for you, from Lord Cooler.”

“What is it? Is he complaining about the size of my army? Well tell him that’s all I have. He can’t get greedy about something that doesn’t exist.”

“Uhm,” Incyse said, handing me the datapad, “we weren’t allowed to see what it says. It’s only for your eyes.”

A chill covered my body, despite the warmness of the garden, even in the dying throws of evening. Whatever Cooler had for me was something beyond the rebellion on Uoto. Was this about killing Frieza again? Didn’t he know I wouldn’t be able to help him with that anymore? “Leave me,” I told the girl. “And if I catch you listening in, it will be the last mistake you ever make. Do you understand me?”

“Y-yes, m-my lady!” the girl stammered obediently before running off.

I waited three minutes, eying the bushes, the trees, the marble walls for any sign of Incyse or the others. When I was satisfied they weren’t watching, I unlocked the datapad with my retina ID.

A small holo-figure of Cooler leapt up from the screen and stood with his arms crossed. He looked furious. “I have just received a report that my father and brother were assassinated on Earth.” I gasped audibly, bringing my hand to my mouth. “For now, I am withholding this information from the general public. Only members of our family and select, trusted officers know. Do not tell anyone else. I will eventually relay this information to the highest-ranking officers in our empire, but only at a time and place of my choosing. Until then, say nothing. As a result of my father’s death, it is now my right to assume sole and total control of the Planet Trade Organization. Everything will remain as it was under my father’s rule, except that Frieza’s previous territory will be taken over, mostly, by my forces. Sections of my late brother’s empire will be distributed to my uncles Icer and Arcterial and their children. It is my right to rule the Planet Trade Organization, and any who stand in my way, be they family or not, will face the same end. It is advisable that all members of my family come to my base on Ipha, the largest moon of Planet Cooler 01 – more commonly known as the Stomping Grounds – so that we can discuss this matter further. Nothing else about this affair may be discussed over electronic communications. If I find that anyone has disobeyed my orders, they will be arrested and punished however I see fit. Don’t force me to do that. Be smart about this, and come see me on Ipha if you wish to discuss this further.” Cooler’s arms dropped to his side and he kneeled, raising a fist to his chest. “That is all. This datapad will self-destruct in five seconds.”

I threw the device into the air, and it exploded a second later. The explosion was loud enough to cause several overripe fruit from a nearby tree to fall. My handmaidens came running over not long after, the desperate fools.

“We… heard… an explosion!” Nimbi shouted, distress in her voice. Moments later, she and five other servants rounded a corner and met me.

“I’m okay,” I said. “It was my doing.”

“Were you preparing for our next sparring session tomorrow?” asked the handmaiden.

“No,” I said. “There will be no more sparring sessions.” I could no longer be a fighter; that much I had figured out. “I need you to contact my father. That message he’s been sending everyday…”

“He wants you to join him and take a position as his new fleet admiral.”

That was because he knew I couldn’t fight on the front lines like Polaria anymore. My body was worthless. But my mind remained. My father had a curious way of showing his love. It was ruthless and logical. He knew everything. There was no pretending, no putting on a fake persona around him like with the handmaidens. He stripped us down, showed us our truth worth. He knew my body was worthless, but my mind was not. I nodded. “Tell him I will accept his position on two conditions. The first is that we will find Avalan before doing anything else – before putting down any rebellions, facing any enemy armies, or taking out any bothersome pirate gangs. Until Avalan is found, nothing else gets done.”

“Understood,” said Nimbi. “I will send him the message, my lady. What is the second condition?”

Another rotten fruit fell at my feet. I stepped on it, squishing its cold, mushy form between my toes. “The second,” I spoke confidently, stepping forward, “is that he must promise to help me kill Cooler.”

Chapter XII: A Taste of HorrorEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Lyogan
Position: Captain of the Guard in Cooler's empire
Date of account: September 17, 764 Age

“Minister Ctugyol,” I said with a bow. “We were expecting you. Welcome to Planet Cooler 113.”

The Quglith descended from his ship without a word. The breeze rustled the tentacles around his mouth, and his slick skin, shimmering with slime, faded to pale jade in the light of the setting sun. Orange and emerald was the sky; night was fast approaching. We had much to do – there was much that needed to be done before the sun rose again.

“Captain Date is waiting inside,” I told the Quglith, as guards escorted us from the landing pad back towards the outpost. The alien grunted in understanding, his little tentacles moving back and forth and making a sloshing sound. “Apologies for the guards, Minister… we have been getting reports from the other mining facilities… there have been a growing number of attacks on the miners. Don’t know how much of that is true, and how much is just made-up stories. But the system-wide iron production has flatlined – you know that, of course – and some people are in fact disappearing. So we can’t be too careful. Something is going on. We aren’t sure what it is, though.”

Inside, past the automated doors and white walls, I led Ctugyol to Captain Date, a grizzled veteran of Frieza’s army, who had been reassigned to our outpost following an insurrection by his soldiers (many of whom he killed himself after learning of their treason). Still, he had been demoted, and being placed on a far-distant mining world had not made him happy. He was a grumpy fellow, an impatient officer who looked down on all of us. But he was loyal to the empire, and pragmatic, and that was why Ctugyol was here.

“Captain Date!” I said, saluting the man upon entering his office. “Minister Ctugyol of the Quglith is here to see you.”

I bowed and stepped aside for the pale-skinned alien. He sat down in a chair opposite of Captain Date, who looked up from behind a stack of papers to glance at this new fellow. Satisfied that this was really Ctugyol in the flesh, he brushed me off and told me to leave.

They were discussing a new contract for iron ore. Ctugyol’s homeworld, Ctaedi, was rich in iron, and the Planet Trade Organization needed iron badly. So much of what we produced required iron. The Quglith had been a slave species in Frieza’s region before our emperor died on Namek. Now they belonged to Cooler, and they were wary of letting others come to their planet to mine it. Cooler had not yet ordered such mining to take place, for he didn’t want another rebellion on his hands.

I knew enough about the problems going on in the empire. Dozens of worlds in Frieza’s region had ceded from the Planet Trade Organization in open rebellion. Some had forged alliances with others, some had already begun attacking loyal Planet Trade Organization systems and planets. And a few had even been brought back into the empire, through force or through bribery. The greatest rebellion going on right now was the one on Planet Uoto, spawning a massive conflict between the Uttovelm and Faereth. That was taking up all of Cooler’s time. He didn’t have time to focus on the depleted iron shipments. The Quglith were using that to their advantage.

But that was where we came in. We wanted this to go as smoothly as possible. Our mining outpost was the closest to Planet Ctaedi. It would be us that would go there, should the Quglith allow us. And if they didn’t… well that would be one more war for the Planet Trade Organization to wage. We were stretched thin as it was. I didn’t like the prospect of fighting the Quglith. They were a queer group of squids. I’d heard tales of how they practiced blood magic and how they hunted other aliens for sport. I didn’t know if those stories were true, just like I didn’t know if those reports of demons hunting down the miners in the other iron mines were true.

Something had to be true about that. The iron wasn’t coming in like it used to. Some planets had been entirely wiped of all life, inexplicably. I shivered, thinking about the possibility of being hunted down and butchered like an animal. Maybe it wasn’t the demons after all. Maybe it was the Quglith who wanted to start a war as an excuse to break away from our empire. I wouldn’t put it past them. But if that was true… why was Ctugyol here to negotiate with Captain Date?

Planet Cooler 113 was part of a system-wide mining operation that spanned several solar systems, dozens of planets, and even more moons. This was the heart of the Planet Trade Organization’s mining systems, where so many raw resources were acquired for further production of goods. From iron to nickel to steel to vanadium, all sorts of metals were mined for. I’d been here all my life. First I’d been a miner, working in the underground tunnels with a laser torch, but I had been promoted a few years ago, and now I was the Captain of the Guard for the outpost. I didn’t mine anymore. I didn’t really miss it; the work was tough and the hours long, but it was interesting to get out and explore the planet, to forge underground tunnels with my ki, to chat with the other miners as our laser torches did the emperor’s work. Now I sat around the outpost, going on patrols, getting reports from the guards, and it was mind-numbingly boring. In one way, I wished that the demons were real, that they would come here, so I could get a little entertainment.

I did my rounds, asked the same questions to my guards (“Have you seen anything suspicious?”, “Is the perimeter clear?”, “Were there any strange power level readings all day?”, etc.) and got the same responses – nothing ever happened on this planet. I stopped before a large window looking out on the forest beyond the outpost, into the wild where iron lay under the ground and many beasts and predators lurked. We hadn’t cleared the planet of life, for there was no point. We had fences around our outpost, and that kept the animals out. None were strong enough to hurt anyone able to use ki or a ki blaster, anyways. And though we were technically supposed to have cleared all of the life off this planet before beginning our mining, who really was going to come here and check up on us? The laziness of the officers above us was something we were sure about, because we were just as lazy.

I thought about home, how long it had been since I had seen my family. Mother and father were long dead – they had been gone for over two decades. My grief had so dulled with time that now I barely felt anything when I thought of them. But my sister and her children were still around. I wanted to see them, to return to the jungle of my homeworld and remember the old days. Sometimes, when I got really lonely on my patrols, I thought about having children of my own. But the pain of childbearing was daunting; I could never get past that, and so childless I remained.

My boredom with this outpost was something I would deal with, I resolved. I would see how much vacation time I had accrued over this past year. Then I would visit my home, where I knew I belonged. I was not a miner by heart. None of us were. We were slaves, just trying to make a living. Frieza, and now Cooler, had forced us into this life, and we did the best we could with it. But sometimes it wore on me. As I stood there, looking at the forest beyond the outpost, I was reminded of home, of swinging through the vines with my father as a young girl and playing in the mud and sun with my friends and catching bugs in the dark with my sister, and a heaviness befell my heart. I needed to go back, I knew. I needed a break from this empire.

The lights flickered a few times before going off. I felt a tingling sensation spread across my skin. Normally, it was a pale opalescent color, as was common with any member of my species, but in the darkness, I became invisible. It was an unconscious reaction, having to do with the biology of my skin. I didn’t understand it, but it’d been like this since I was born, so I was used to it. Being invisible in the dark wasn’t a tremendous help anyways, since most species can’t see in the dark. But mine can. The Tahmiers were famous for this ability, and that was why many of my species worked as assassins and bounty hunters across the universe. But for me, a mere soldier on a mining outpost, I rarely ever used this ability; it was more of annoyance than anything else.

It surprised me when the lights went off, I will not lie. Generator failures were rare – in the fifteen years I’d been here, it had only happened once before, and that was because a miner had somehow spilled molten iron ore on the last generator. The generator had melted, and we had lived in darkness for a month until a new one had been brought to us. The old captain, a man named Torlini, if I remember correctly, had executed that miner for the inconvenience he caused the outpost. I wondered where Torlini was now, if he had ever amounted to anything after being transferred. Maybe he had traded places with Date, and that was why Date was so mad.

A few seconds later, the lights came back on. I could hear murmuring come from the halls, as soldiers and guards were talking about what had just happened. A curiosity it was – nothing more, nothing less. Soon, the talk died down, and everyone returned to their posts.

The sun set behind a column of clouds before they were done. I watched it, pacing outside on the landing pad, until I was notified that Ctugyol was ready to leave. Then, I escorted him out. He didn’t say a word to me, didn’t even look at me. He thought he was better than me. Briefly, I toyed with the idea of killing him, to see if I could, but that was only a passing fancy. I brought him to his ship and watched him sail off into the night’s sky, wondering if we had won our iron, or if we would have to take it ourselves. For all my boredom, I would rather the negotiations went well.

Captain Date was standing in the center of the barracks, speaking with a wrinkled lizard-like alien with blue skin and red eyes, when I returned. “How did it go, sir?” I asked him, butting into the conversation.

There was annoyance on Date’s face, and he furrowed his brow when he heard me speak. “Damn squid-jaws. Don’t want us on their world unless we’re under constant supervision from their military. I said I wouldn’t have it! They are servant race, just like us. The minister wouldn’t listen. That was his condition. I said I’d think about it. I tried all sorts of things, offered him money, more territory, but it didn’t work. They want to have complete control over us if we take their iron.”

“The iron belongs to Lord Cooler now.”

“It does,” said Date, his face going dark with fury. He tugged at his orange beard. “They’d be invaded by now if Lord Cooler wasn’t busy dealing with other insurrections. I have half a mind to call up the nearest navy and send them to Ctaedi for orbital bombardment. Those bastards cannot deny us the iron. They cannot put such harsh conditions over us. They don’t rule us. A captain of the Planet Trade Organization, such as myself,” he began, ire thick in his voice, “outranks everyone on that planet! They cannot refuse any of my demands. It doesn’t matter who they think they are. And they won’t. Come morning, I’ll…”

The lights flickered and went off again. The other soldiers stood up and began murmuring to one another. I felt a familiar tingling feeling spread across my body, as pleasurable as a lover’s touch.

“Generator’s gone out again,” said someone I couldn’t see. “Figures, don’t it?”

“It’ll be weeks before we have light again!” one soldier complained. “I can’t live in the dark, I can’t, I can’t!”

“Hehe, scared, are ya? What a baby,” another replied.

“Hey, take that back!”

“No, I ain’t never apologizin’ to a baby!”

A scuffle broke out, but I quickly ended it with a couple boots to the offenders’ heads. The captain lit the room with a ki ball in his hand and called for order. His emerald skin glowed in the darkness. “Lyogan, go see what happened to the generator.”

“Yes sir.”

I turned towards the door, conjuring an energy blast of my own to guide my way when the lights came back on.

“Huh, what’s going on?! That’s twice now!” squealed a soldier.

“Somethin’s not right!”

“The generator’s faulty,” Date said, “that’s all it is. Lyogan, go.”

I nodded and began walking when a breeze touched my neck. I shivered and spun around. It was wrong. There wasn’t supposed to be a breeze inside. The air was filtered, the lights artificial and bright, the walls sickly white. Everything inside this place was controlled and manufactured. And then I felt a second breeze. And then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth.

“Captain…!” was all I said before I saw the first demon materialize behind Date and stab him in the neck with a pink ki blade. Date’s eyes went wide, and he grunted for a fraction of a second before exploding in a pink, digitized mist.

Other demons appeared around the other soldiers. Shouting erupted from the Planet Trade Organization’s side. Not a sound came from our foes. They charged us with blinding speed and cut us down. No bodies hit the ground. Everyone exploded, vaporized or disintegrated, and died. Some managed to call upon their ki before being met by the blades, but their attacks shrugged off our foes without so much as causing any damage. It was chaos. Ki blasts were flying around, exploding on the walls, destroying the outpost. Smoke was rising. Everyone was screaming, crying, begging for mercy.

One demon saw me, its eyes glowing yellow. It was tall as the ceiling, wrapped in smoke and darkness. I could make out the faint outlines of sharp, pointed armor clothing it. Its mouth was as wide as my head, open as if trying to suck in all the air in the outpost, its black teeth thrust outwards in three rows. It looked like it was smiling.

The lights flickered and died. Warmness washed over me. The demon looking my way cocked its head, stared at me again, sniffed the air, and then turned to kill another soldier. I stumbled back and fell against a wall. I was too petrified to move, to think. My body was numb and shaking and my head was as empty as a mined iron deposit.

I watched the butchery unfold, my hand to my mouth. The demons moved like the night, silkily as the wind. Their bodies were all black, and they were all as tall as the one that had almost killed me. Their only distinguishing features from one another were their eyes – amber and sapphire and cyan and rose and blood-red and silver. They saw but did not see. I was safe, I realized. A few sniffed the air to track down their prey, but for some reason, that led none of them to me. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t help the other soldiers. I watched them scream and plead for mercy and die.

When it was over, the demons formed up and began rummaging about in the room. One with blue-green eyes ran a long finger across the wall as it glided by. I rolled out of the way. The creature stopped, as if it had heard something, tilting its head slightly, and then continued on. Two more ahead of me hovered in front of the door. They talked in a language of clicks and guttural vibrations – sounds I would have never thought possible for living beings to make. I shivered again, felt tears behind my eyes. I had to get out of here, I told myself. They didn’t know I was there. I could get away. There were pods, fueled and ready to launch, sitting outside. If only I could get to them…

Above, a steady stream of sparks flowed from the lights. I knew that if they came back on I was dead. I didn’t know how the demons were controlling them, so I didn’t know how much time I had. I squeezed by the ones at the door, feeling the weight of their presence in the air as I tiptoed past. They smelled of smoke and ash and death, and I had to put my hand over my mouth to stop myself from gagging.

In front of me was a hallway, but before I could get to it, an automatic door stood in my way. I realized the problem with this only after I already reached it and caused the door to open. At once, the demons stopped their clicking and whipped around to look at the door that had seemingly opened by itself. They stared, unblinking in my direction. I was frozen in horror, silently pleading, praying for them to return to whatever it was they were doing.

Then, one barked as ferally as I had ever heard, and the lot of them exploded into digitized clouds of nothingness, like Date and the others had when the demons’ ki had touched them. I ran. My heart was in my throat. I dared not look back, dared not see if they were following me. If they couldn’t see me, I knew they could probably hear my boots on the metal floors, but I didn’t stop running. I was stricken.

I came to the landing pads, after passing through several automatic doors. There was a pattern. The doors opened in a straight line to the outside. Surely the demons would realize that. The doors weren’t operating randomly. I didn’t even pause to think at that moment why the doors were working at all – the power was supposed to be out. The lights, after all, had gone out. Why did the doors still work? Alas, in my foggy panic, I didn’t pause to think about that.

I found the pods and unhooked one from its fuel supply and opened the door. Then, a demon flashed into existence in front of me, its long face brooding and peering about, looking for prey. Its rigid, pointed ears moving back and forth, as if trying to hear. I stopped and held my breath. The demon crawled over the pod, trying to figure out what was going on, sniffing and feeling with its pointed fingers. After a minute or two, it grew bored with the pod and glided away. I let myself breathe and stepped forward to the pod. I knew I would only have a moment. They would see the pod flying away through the night’s sky. I only hoped they wouldn’t be able to react before I was gone. I had to make sure the demon was occupied with something else.

Closing my eyes, I kept my body as still and silent as I could. With one hand, I formed an invisible ki blast. Just like me, it would not be seen. Feeling its warmth on my fingers, I opened my eyes and aimed for the sky behind me, where the demon was wandering off to. I had been able to create this kind of ki blast since I had been a child. It was not an attack. It was a bit of fun, something my mother had taught me when she had still been alive. I used to entertain my friends on my homeworld with this technique. Now I would use it to save my life.

The ki flew from my palm, soundless like a soft wind. I was already running back to the pod before it reached its destination. I didn’t want to waste even a moment. That could be the difference between life and death. Stepping into the pod, I put my fingers just in front of all the buttons I knew I would have to push. It would take me two seconds to push them, to get into the air. It would take an additional fifteen seconds to reach space. All of this I knew; I had used these pods many times. I didn’t know if that was enough time. But I had to try.

The ki blast exploded overhead, causing an echoing of sound to spread across the now-derelict outpost. Sparks danced and twirled in the air, like conscious fireworks, purple and green. The demon looked up; I saw it take to the air to inspect the sparks. I slammed my gloved fingers desperately against the buttons. The pod hummed awake and began lifting upwards. My heart was in my throat.

The demon did not notice me – not at first. Only as I rose farther and farther in the sky, when the pod passed in front of the light of one of the planet’s moons, casting a shadow down on the outpost, did the demon understand what was going on. It let out a long, bellowing grunt and sprinted through the air after me.

“Come on, come on, come on, you old junker! Go, go, go!” I urged the ship, looking out the little glass window at the demon chasing me. “Just a little bit further! Faster!”

The ship was going as fast as it could, as fast as it would without tearing itself to pieces. The demon’s eyes glowed like blood in the night. Ki was in its hands. The blasts soon sailed past me, on all sides, some getting so close to the pod that I could feel their heat. Ahead, the sky turned black, and before I could scream another word, we were in space. The demon was gone, left behind. They couldn’t breathe in space; that much I was thankful for. How they had gotten to the planet, I didn’t know, but what I did know was that the demon wasn’t following me anymore, and that’s how I survived.

But that wasn’t the worst of my troubles. My ship was damaged, grazed by one of the demon’s fell blasts. It was hemorrhaging fuel. I wouldn’t get far like this. And I couldn’t go back. Either the demons were going to kill me, or I was going to waste away out here in space. I was stuck between two impossibilities. I wasn’t ready to die… not yet.

“Mayday, mayday,” I yelled into my speaker. “Any Planet Trade Organization forces respond, over!”

Static greeted me. I didn’t know what to do.

“Mayday, mayday! This is Lieutenant Lyogan, Captain of the Guard on Planet Cooler 113… we were attacked by demons, and I’m the only survivor. My ship is damaged, leaking fuel, and I won’t last much longer… please, anyone… is there anyone out there?”

I repeated that message over and over again for the next two hours, as I watched my fuel resources deplete to almost nothing. My ship drifted lifelessly through space, and I knew I would soon join it in one regard. And then, something happened that still gives me chills to this day, when I think of it. A voice spoke in return. A voice answered.

“Lieutenant Lyogan, this is Captain Torlini. We have tracked your pod and we are coming for you. Are you still alive?”

“Ye-yes…” I breathed in numbed relief. “Cap… Captain Torlini, do you remember me? I was one of the soldiers working with you on Planet Cooler 113 years ago! Whatever you do, don’t go back there. Demons of unimaginable power have taken over the outpost!”

No response came for a while. At last, Torlini said, “Very well, Lyogan. We will pick you up, and I want to fully debrief you. These demons you are talking about… do you know where they came from, who they are loyal to, what they want?”

“I do,” I said fiercely, tears in my eyes. I thought of Captain Date and the others, murdered in cold blood over nothing but a little iron. It sickened me. “It’s the Quglith,” I replied. I did not know that for certain, but it was my best guess. My emotional state made me make that guess, made me be so bold. “They control the demons, or perhaps they are the demons… I don’t know. But I do know it was them.”

“How do you know that?”

“The demons have only been going after the iron mines… and the Quglith have been in a trade dispute with the rest of the empire over their own iron mines. I think they are doing this to get back at us, to start a war.”

“Then they shall have it,” Torlini replied angrily. “We will discuss this matter further once you get on board. I have sent a rescue boat to pick you up. It will be there in a few minutes.”

“Thank you…!” I whispered. The tears loosed then, and I knew I was going to get justice for my fellow soldiers.

Yet, as these things often are, that was a poor, hasty judgment on my part. It is the biggest regret of my life that I implicated the Quglith in this demon plot. They were not involved at all. The demons were their own kind, their own people. I didn’t learn that until much later. But a war was started at this moment; it was the wrong war. We should have united against the demons. Instead, I let my paranoia get the best of me, and I started a war with another faction of the Planet Trade Organization. And that, unfortunately, was one of the main reasons, the Planet Trade Organization fell as quickly and as completely as it did, when it did. But that moment was not yet upon us. No, at this moment, I felt triumphant, felt full of clarity, thought I knew who the demons were. I was so wrong. And soon, the empire would pay dearly for my sin.

Chapter XIII: Bleed the GhostEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Glacial
Position: Slave
Date of account: September 30, 764 Age (first scene)
October 2, 764 Age (second scene)

“Leech?” came the scraggly voice of Captain Swichie.


“My plasma cutter.”

“At once, sir,” I replied, reaching for the tool before handing it to the captain of the prison ship.

He took it from my outstretched hands and grinned. “Good boy Leech,” the man beamed.

He began cutting through the meat with the torch. I looked away; my stomach rumbled; my mind was blank. My tongue ran across my loose teeth, causing me to wince. I blinked fearfully at the captain, hoping he hadn’t seen my expression. The man was too focused on his food to notice. He was a big man, a bearded man, a man without honor or fear or remorse. He was my master, and I loved him.

There were no other guards, no other soldiers, no other slaves. It was just me and the captain. I could’ve tried something if I wanted to. The implant in my left arm wouldn’t allow me to succeed, and I couldn’t bring myself to try anyways. Even if that implant had not been there, I don’t know that I could have tried to kill him. Swichie had become my new father; he was very generous to me. I picked at the tough skin on my forehead and waited until the captain had finished his meal, as had been my duty for the last three years. I stood still, intent, quiet. I was the captain’s favorite pet, and he had rewarded me greatly for that.

A blue hologram flashed on the table, where Swichie’s gauntlet lay. He had taken it off to eat. The figure was none other than the grim-faced lizard, Zashisaro. He was the Captain of the Guard for King Cold, making him one of the most senior officers in the entire Planet Trade Organization. I had seen him talking with Swichie more than once, though their conversations had rarely been even remotely interesting (they loved to talk about rising helium prices and potential names for the prison ship, which Swichie had yet to name). This time, Zashisaro looked different. He wasn’t his normal laid-back, intimidating self. He looked anxious – worried even.

“Captain Swichie,” the figure squeaked. Even as a hologram, he frightened me. I shivered and looked away.

“Zashisaro,” Swichie replied, boredom in his voice. “I’m eating. I’d rather not talk unless you have something important for me.”

“Return to Planet Cold 001,” Zashisaro said sternly. “I have convened a meeting with all of King Cold’s top officers, including you.”

“I haven’t been there in years,” Swichie mused, using his plasma torch to prop up his chin. “What’s happened?”

“I cannot say over this channel. It’s not… safe. Return as soon as you can; that is all I can tell you, captain.”

“You want me to bring the prisoners?”

“Bring them or slit their throats. I do not care. I only need you here as soon as possible.”

“Fine, fine,” Swichie grunted. “I’ll be there, don’t you worry.” He clicked the hologram off, and Zashisaro’s form dissolved into stardust. The officer stood up, sighed, and brushed off his armor. Why he ate in full armor, I never knew, but he’d been doing this for years. Maybe he was paranoid about an assassination attempt.

Our eyes briefly crossed before I bowed my head and moved aside. Yet, my master followed me to the other side of the room, and when I stopped, he grasped my shoulders and made me look him in the eyes again. “Leech,” he began, “you have served me well these past few years. Your devotion is something to be admired.”

My heart sunk. The graveness in his voice, the squinting in his eyes, the way he gasped my shoulders… I was just waiting to feel my neck ripped open. My tongue instinctively returned to my loose teeth, to probe them and cause myself to feel spikes of pain. This time I didn’t wince. My hands drew into fists, and I was distinctly aware of how hollow my fists felt, what with so many of my fingers missing (the middle and pinky fingers of my left hand and the ring and pinky fingers of my right hand). The thought of striking at my master flashed through my head for a moment, but it was quickly extinguished. Swichie was a good master, a man of compassion. If he was going to kill me, he would only do it if I deserved it.

“So that is why…” the captain continued on, breaking me out of my thoughts, “I’m taking you with me to King Cold’s palace.” I thought I saw the hint of a grin on his face, but it was so tiny, it might’ve just been the shadows playing tricks with his wrinkles.

“S-sir…?” I stammered, not understanding. “I have no home, s-sir! I’m no one. I-I’m not–”

“Don’t insult my intelligence.” The panic welled up in me so fiercely, I had to swallow down bile and vomit at the back of my throat. I trembled and gaped. “You are an Arcosian, are you not, Leech?”

Confused, I replied, “Y-yes sir…”

“Then that planet is your home. Of course, a lowly creature such as yourself has never visited King Cold’s palace. It will be an honor to step foot in there for the first time, won’t it? I’m sure in your previous life, you only dreamed of being invited to such a prestigious locale.”

“Yes sir!” My face flushed. I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood. I kept urging myself to remain calm, to not break. I was already broken enough. “Thank you for this honor, Captain Swichie!”

“Don’t mention it, Leech,” the man replied warmly. Then he kicked me in the stomach, causing me to keel over and start coughing. The man began laughing. I spit up blood, felt my ribs for any cracks, and grimaced. “Clear my plate, and get out of my sight, you sniveling dog,” Swichie said coolly. “Hurry up. You have five minutes.”

“Ye… yes sir.”

The plasma torch lay on the table, closer to me than to the captain. I turned around and walked out.

As with any other day, I performed my regular duties, attending to Captain Swichie’s needs – cleaning up after him, making sure he was well-fed, polishing his armor, etc. – before I ate breakfast. The mess hall was empty when I arrived; it was that dead hour between the end of lunch and the start of dinner preparations. I was used to this, being a ghost. I coasted up to the counter, where a small amount of gruel had been left for me. I slurped the bowl down in five seconds, and my stomach growled for more. I looked down at it, noticing my bones poking out from under my flesh. Some of that was because they were broken.

After I was done, I returned to my chambers and lay down, exhausted. I felt my stomach again, probing for which of my bones were actually broken, and which were not. It was not an easy game, this, but it was one I had played for all I could remember of my life.

I loved Captain Swichie. He was my father, my only family. I had no one else. The other slaves didn’t like me. They had resented me ever since I had been removed from mining duty. I no longer had to endure that long, difficult daily operation. But if only they knew what I had to go through instead…

I picked at the device in my left hand, just under my wrist. It was about a foot long, faintly diamond-shaped, and the blue light in the center of it blinked every 3.4 seconds. A few years ago, I had tried to destroy it, but after it had been implanted in me, I could no longer produce ki. All of my energy was instantly sucked from my hands whenever I called for it and stored in that device. Swichie inspected the device every day, to see how much energy it had built up. If there was anything in there, he would beat me savagely. There had not been any for three years, and yet still my bones were broken on a regular basis.

My ears were keenly-trained, and when I heard the soldiers returning from space mining, I got up and fled the bunk. I didn’t want to see them. Like a specter, I vanished into the shadows, to be alone. They knew what I was, how miserable I was. It wasn’t pity they felt, but hatred. They wanted to see me burn out of existence, not fade away. I returned to the hallways of the ship and made my way down the other side of it, towards the prow. This prison ship was massive, perhaps the longest, most well-armed warship in the Planet Trade Organization’s fleet. I don’t know why it was given mining duty, instead of being the flagship of their navy.

I didn’t meet another person as I walked, lost in my lack of thoughts. Eventually, I came upon a window wall, staring out into the harsh desolation of space. The lights of countless stars, some closer than others, blinked in staggered, fervent beats. It was not long before my heartbeat aligned with the nearest one. I could see a planet in the distance, too small to make much out.

Before I could guess any further, Captain Swichie’s thick voice burst out from the loudspeakers: “Now approaching Planet Frieza 068. We’re stopping here for a day to refuel, and then we’re continuing on.” He did not say to where. Maybe his soldiers didn’t even know where we were going. Certainly the other slaves wouldn’t know, either. That meant only I knew. His favorite pet, his son. A warm feeling spread through my stomach, and I nearly smiled.

There were ships in the distance, I could see, flying about. Planet Frieza 068 was a fortified military outpost with a large garrison of soldiers and one of the largest fleets in the empire. That made sense. I wonder if any of them had ever seen a ship like this before.

Sweat slicked my body as I thought of going to King Cold’s planet. Others would see me, others who were not on this ship. Officers, Zashisaro… perhaps even the royal family. I felt tears coming, blinking them back, but it was no use. My only relief came from the size of this ship, the way I could just disappear away from the others. I wished I was a ghost – a real one. I wished I could disappear completely. I wouldn’t be able to do that in the palace. There, I would be put on display for all to see, like a caged animal.

Something wasn’t right. The ships flying at us were not going their own way; they were coming right at us, aggressively. There were five or six of them, each not even a tenth of our size. They were marked with the standard Planet Trade Organization insignias, and each ship was recognizably one of the most common models of space cruiser in the empire. These were no foreign pirates. Why were they coming at us, then?

I felt the prison ship lurch left to avoid them. The pursuers changed their trajectories to follow us. That was when I knew we were being hunted. A few moments later, I heard the smaller ships make contact with the outer hull of Captain Swichie’s. He had not had enough time to use the ship’s energy defenses; these mysterious hunters had come onto us too soon. I felt the ship vibrate as the others cut their way inside. I braced myself, wondering what I was supposed to do. Was I meant to go to Swichie? Was I supposed to hide? I couldn’t create energy, couldn’t even defend myself. Most of all, I didn’t want these newcomers to see me. The shame of my appearance caught in my throat; I grew angry at myself and scampered away.

This ship was not well-manned. We had probably a thousand slaves on board and a few hundred guards at most. It was probably less than that, in truth. I didn’t know the full numbers. The whole crew had never been together in one room for me to count. We were not well-suited for boarding parties. The ship was colossal and imposing and deadly fast so that it could defeat any pirates we encountered in space – and this had been the case before. During my time in the prison ship, I had witnessed Captain Swichie destroy more than a dozen fleets of pirate raiders with the ship’s defenses. The fact that this group had come out from above Planet Frieza 068, in apparent friendly space, had taken all of us by surprise; that was the only reason they weren’t already dead.

“All hands to the bridge! We are being boarded by pirates! Get up here, you louts! Now! There is no time! They will be on us soon!” I heard Captain Swichie screaming. I turned and made my way down a side hallway towards the bridge. I didn’t know how I could help, but instinct made me go.

They were already at war when I found the bridge. On one side stood my captain’s soldiers, armored and in disciplined ranks. On the other side appeared a ragged group of pirates, some wearing Planet Trade Organization armor, some wearing strange gold-and-grey armor, others wearing a motley of different types of foreign and exotic armor. At their head stood a lavender-skinned, red-bearded alien, tall and muscular. On his head was a massive, flowery three-pointed hat; on his shoulder was a squawking mechanical parrot; and in his hand was a glowing crimson sword of energy.

There was Swichie, leading the Planet Trade Organization’s side, trying to push the rabble of space pirates back. Briefly, he locked in blows with the head pirate. He shot electric energy tendrils at his foe, while the pirate swung his blade wildly in response. Briefly, the electricity hit the blade and absorbed into it, causing it to grow brighter and larger. Swichie stepped back, shooting a barrage of ki at the alien, who shrugged off each attack with ease. The other soldiers focused fire on the pirate too, but it was no use. Though he was covered in a cloud of energy, he was not damaged. He stepped out of the smoke and burning ki, and grinned.

“So that’s all ya got, eh? Yer dead now, fools!”

“Wait!” screamed Swichie, trying to prepare a more powerful attack.

But wait the pirate did not. He rushed forward, slicing his way through a dozen guards before coming upon Swichie. The captain released his great energy blast, a river of green flames, on the pirate’s chest, knocking the man over. But when the lavender-skinned alien stood up again and wiped away the blood from his mouth, there was nothing more Swichie could do. I watched as my father was decapitated. A feeling of numbness washed over me then. I heard myself screaming, ran my tongue across my loose teeth, blinked furiously, trying to undo what I had just seen. But it was not to be.

The remaining guards were butchered to the last man. The pirates focused on their foes, except for one… He was of the same species as the pirate lord, lavender-skinned and red-haired. Yet this one was clean-shaven and his hair was slicked back. He was skinnier and less muscular than the pirate lord as well. But he saw me. I ran; he chased. We flew down the long halls covered in artificial light, the pirate angling ki blasts after me as I tried to dodge them. I was weak and slow, and several caught me, tripping me, but I got up, ignored the pain and kept sprinting onward. At first I had no plan, but soon, I realized that we were nearing the escape pod area. There was my chance, I knew. And I felt no guilt now. Swichie was not alive to keep me here anymore. My father would want me to survive. I stumbled towards the escape pods with the last of my strength.

When I came to a pod, I spun around to see how close the pirate was behind me – he was a bit farther back. Despite my weak state-of-being, I had easily outrun him. He must’ve been in very poor shape. I pressed the escape pod button, and the door slid open. On the keypad, I prepared the pod for disengagement, waiting for it to warm up. In that time, though, the pirate reached me.

“Thought you’d get away?!” the pirate yelled, out of breath. In his hand was a purple ball of ki. I knew I was trapped. I couldn’t get away in time. He’d throw the ball, and it would hit me. I would not be able to dodge it from this range.

“Please,” I begged. “I’m just a slave. I’m not part of the crew. Let me go…”

“Yer Arcosian,” the pirate pointed out. “I’m not gonna let ya get away. Yer wunnadem big shots. But so’m I, heh! I’m Crusty Pete, after all,” he boasted. “There’s not a more noble and truer corsair in all the universe. I’m adored by women ‘cross the galaxy, ya know. And Cap’n Slagg’ll promote me fer catchin’ ya.” He smiled, flashing me his broken, dark teeth.

Before I could say anything, the pirate raised the energy ball above his head and flung it at me. In instinct, I screamed and raised my hands above my head to shield myself. I felt the heat explode against my flesh, felt a prick of pain and then nothing. My arms went completely numb. Across my face and body, a warm wave of air glided, and a bright light followed, purple and tasting of iron. And I was falling, falling back into the pod. The pirate was shouting something in the distance, but my ears were ringing. Desperately, I slammed the door close with my tail and not a second later, the pod shot from the ship like a spore.

I was out in space again, a free Arcosian.

The numbness still covered my body. I didn’t know whether to feel joy or sorrow. Looking down at my left arm, I saw the ruin it had become. The energy regulator implanted deep in my muscles was cracked and frying. Its light was blinking madly. Blood pooled around it, running down my arm and into my clenched fist. My skin was broken and charred, smoke still rising from the cooked flesh.

“Where would you like to go?” came the voice of the ship’s navigational AI.

I jumped, not expecting that. Even more, the thought of something asking me what I wanted was even more chilling. I sat there in silence for a while, absorbing what had just occurred, and then spoke, “Take me to the nearest outpost.”

“Planet Frieza 068 is the nearest outpost. Would you like to be taken there?”

“That’s the one,” I breathed, feeling my arm. The pain was starting to return, and I knew how terrible it would be once it fully did. I wasn’t ready. But that didn’t matter. The universe waited for no one.

“We will arrive in several hours.”

“Good,” I said, leaning back.

My tongue ran across my broken teeth, and I thought about my father. He had been a good man. He had made me a nice, complaisant servant. But he was gone now. Where was I to go? What was I to do? I was without a master, without a future. Or so it seemed. But in reality, my other self, the one Swichie had buried deep inside me, was just starting to re-emerge. The one who had existed before Leech was not dead yet. It was him, not Leech, who had given the order to the AI. There was only one reason he would have decided to go to that outpost in particular.

I made a fist again and blood spurted from my open wound. I held it up to my face, watching with curiosity as purple streams flowed down my pale skin. The blood fascinated me. It was me, my life presented in something that actually existed. The blood rushed downwards in streams, warm and wet. I was alive, I knew. I was no ghost, no matter how much I wanted to be. I had survived. The guards and the slaves on the ship… no one else would be making it out. Only I had succeeded. Only I had survived. Ironic though that was, I couldn’t bring myself to laugh.

I jumped and gasped, realizing that I had had a different name once. What had it been? I could not think of it at that moment. The blood dripped down my forearm in constant streams. My heartbeat slowed. I felt at peace. And then, the blinking light of the machine inside me stopped blinking, and its soft buzzing sound died with it. Silence followed and my heartbeat grew faster again.

I raised a hand, closed my eyes, and concentrated on my life-force. I thought about my power, felt throughout my broken body for where it was hiding. A few minutes later, a spark of yellow energy bloomed on my fingertip. My eyes opened wide and stared at the tiny burning star. It was spherical, half the size of a fingernail.

Tears rushed down my cheeks. I could not extinguish the light, could not look away. For years I hadn’t been able to create energy. For years, I had been a slave, numb to pain and to myself. And now…

In time, my energy would grow and my wounds would heal. There was time yet, I knew, for me to come back. But what was my name, and who was I? That I could not yet remember; I dared not look that deep into my damaged mind. Instead, I drifted towards Planet Frieza 068 and to my future. At the time, I, Leech, didn’t know why I was going there, but someone else inside me – an older, nobler man – did. And I trusted him lead me out of the darkness.

Chapter XIV: Armageddon WindsEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Ntalou
Position: Soldier in Cooler's empire; bounty hunter
Date of account: October 3, 764 Age

They were cloaked in ash and smoke and blood. I felt sweat rolling down the back of my neck and inhaled, filling my lungs with burning vapor. It was a good feeling, the rawness in my throat. The others seemed to be having a good time, too. The hall was filled with shouting Uttovelm, raucous, drunk, energized. A drum beat with slow reverberations and a crew of Uo-Bo-Kalic men were singing some nationalistic tune. In the corner, men were sparring violently; blood flew, and the snapping of bones and screams of the fallen echoed through the hall.

I looked down at my plate, grabbed the first thing I knew had had parents, and tore into it. The crisp flesh was flavored with Ugali bloodpepper – my favorite. I enjoyed the heat more than most; those sitting next to me were gagging and guzzling down cups of Shanhi, a type of substance similar to milk that counteracted the spice of bloodpeppers.

I didn’t need any, myself. I grew up on a bloodpepper farm. My father worked on the outskirts of U'nh Ir, toiling away into obscurity until one day he had been killed in a gang dispute between the Uo-Sic-An and Uo-Bo-Kalic gangs. It had been an accident, a case of mistaken identity. But you can’t bring people back. I remember the day they told me he was dead so clearly in my mind. Everything had changed after that – the Uo-Sic-An took me in and offered me a place in their gang as repayment for what they did to my father. It sounded like an easy gig, so I took it. Little did I know that I would spend the next twelve years serving as Uzbekh’s bedslave. He was the leader of the gang back then. He’s not around anymore.

I dug my nail into the wood table, thinking over what I knew had to be done. In some ways, I felt the same pride as the warriors standing around me. I was an Uttovelm to the core; my blood was hot with pride for my people. We were the strongest warriors in the galaxy; our strength was matched by no other species. No other race in the Planet Trade Organization had so many warriors, officers, and distinguished warriors. It was a simple fact.

Things needed to change. For the past few months, the gang lords had been pushing their xenophobic agendas, which finally erupted with the ‘Great Cleansing’, as they called it – where most of the foreigners on our planet were slaughtered in the streets. This was the first time in over three hundred years that the gangs had united over something; I just wished it had been for something worthwhile.

Now here we were. The largest, most powerful gangs had gathered to discuss a breaking from the Planet Trade Organization, a rebellion of such scale that our entire future as a species was being put at risk. If we failed… Cooler would destroy our planet. If we succeeded… well, I don’t know how we would. Our planet was in the heartland of the empire. I didn’t see this ending in our freedom unless the Planet Trade Organization itself collapsed before we broke away. But the gang lords were angry, angry they were slaves. Fury is a difficult emotion to rid oneself of. We were all slaves once; I remembered my time as Uzbekh’s bedslave acutely. It was not a time in my life I had fond memories of, but I overcame it. When he died, I rose in rank until I became a lieutenant in the Uo-Sic-An. And now here I was, a free woman – a warrior like all the rest. I wanted them to see, but it was no use. I had already tried. The higher-ranking officers in the Uo-Sic-An were not open to my suggestions. They wanted blood and freedom and would die for it. A woman’s words would not sway them.

I took another bite of flesh, letting the grease run down my face. The tingle of bloodpepper on my tongue made me feel alive, brought clarity into my mind. I knew then that I had no other choice. I was not just trying to save my own skin, but the lives of every innocent Uttovelm who lived on this planet. They had no voice, no say in this matter; and yet, they would pay for this war as equally as the rebels would, should things go wrong. That wasn’t fair.

I saw them shuffle in, each with their own guards surrounding them: the gang leaders of the five largest gangs on the planet. For so long, the Uttovelm had been separated into cities, with each metropolis acting as its own country, in a way, wanting nothing to do with the others. As such, we had genetically diverged – there were lavender and lime green and mud brown Uttovelm, skinny Uttovelm, some without spikes coating their bodies, some with tails.There were warriors from Uobat, Uonali, Uokar, Ookat, Sa'glo, U'nh Ir, and even the tiny island of Uosaohk. Representatives from perhaps three dozen cities were here, as far as I could tell; it was the largest gathering of different factions of Uttovelm in over a thousand years.

A brief silence fell over us as everyone watched the spectacle, and then when it was clear that the gang leaders were only going to watch a Ualir fight, the interest of the onlookers waned, and soon the roar of conversation, drunken laughter, and singing returned. The gang leaders were focused on the adolescent Ualir fights – a predatory winged beast native to my homeworld. Their horns were prized for the sweet meat inside, and it was no surprise to me that all of the gang leaders were supping from upturned horns of onyx and bronze. To eat an Ualir horn is to tell the world you have hunted down one of the adult beasts – the highest mark of physical prowess in my culture; I’m not sure that those five gang lords had done so. There was prestige that came from eating an Ualir horn, and I think that’s why they were dining on them openly. It would have greatly surprised me to learn that the gang lords had gone out hunting together.

The squeals and shrieks of the Ualirs died down a few moments later as the cloud of dust and blood that surrounded their pen dispersed. Inside, the single Ualir who had won was prancing about as the Uttovelm jeered at it. A few wounded beasts lay on the ground, struggling or trying to crawl away. From where I sat, I observed the victorious beast jump on the wounded ones and tear their throats out. Once it was alone, the Ualir howled, flapped its wings, and began to pace back and forth in the pen, blood dripping from its snout. That was when Galiakh, the gang leader of the Uo-Bo-Kalic (the largest gang on the planet), stepped into the ring, calmly walked over to the Ualir and snapped its neck. His strength was such that as he twisted its throat, its head popped off, and a spire of purple blood spurted upwards like a fountain. The onlookers roared with delight as Galiakh twisted the beast’s horn off right then and there and sucked the sweet meat from inside. An adolescent horn is not filled with meat as sweet as that of an adult Ualir’s, nor is killing one considered as great of a feat of strength. Still, the onlookers cheered, and I couldn’t help but feel emotion stirring in my belly too.

Once the fighting was over, the gang lords made their way towards the great feasting table raised over rows of lesser tables where the rest of the Uttovelm sat feasting. I stood up and made my way over to the group. When I arrived, I pressed my claim, and the guards of Uo-Sic-An parted, leaving me face-to-face with my boss, Sharlyke. He was the nephew of old Uzbekh, a more mellow, courageous man. He had sense in him; I just didn’t know if he had enough.

“Ntalou?” came his gruff voice.

I fell to a knee, putting my fist over my chest and bowing my head. “Forgive me boss… but I needed to speak with you about something.”

“What is it?” the man asked, boredom clear in his voice.

“Don’t go through with it,” I said suddenly, standing up. “Please, boss… convince the others.”

The man’s face wrinkled in annoyance. “On about that again, eh? Peace? That’s what you want?”


“It’s not happening. Everyone’s too hot. We want blood.”

I felt the bristling fire of bloodpepper on my tongue. “Boss, it’s hopeless. You have to tell them. If we rise in rebellion, Cooler will beat us down and blow up the planet. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again. I’ve heard that he’s on his way here as we speak.”

“Who told you that?” Sharlyke looked surprised. “I hadn’t heard anything about that. I knew the fleet was blockading us, but…”

“Cooler doesn’t tolerate insurrection. He’ll destroy the planet. Think about our people, boss. The other gang leaders are willing to sacrifice everyone for a hopeless rebellion. We’ll be wiped out if their madness continues to rule us.”

“That’ll do, Ntalou. Go back to your seat.”


“That’s enough!” He shoved me hard in the chest, pushing me back, and then he and his guards moved on. “I’ll see what the others think,” he spoke as he walked off, “but there are no promises.”

My heart began to beat faster. There was a chance, I knew, slim as it was. If Sharlyke could convince the other gang leaders… maybe we wouldn’t be destroyed. I watched them all take their seats, Galiakh of Uo-Bo-Kalic at the center of the table; Casabar of Uo-Gal-Norrim took his seat to the right; Gakk, from Sao-Il-Borahk, sat down at Galiakh’s left; further down, Sharlyke took his seat; and on the other side, Kantolh of U’nabi San took his seat. Combined, these men commanded more than sixty percent of the planet’s warriors. They were a formidable group of Uttovelm, a group that could take on nearly anyone… except Cooler and his well-equipped soldiers.

We took our seats, and I began to notice how swelteringly-hot it actually was. Fires roared around us. Smoke rose from the tables, covering the place in fog. We inhaled the warm air and felt lightheaded. The gang lords sat atop their perches, behind a veil of smoke, like some forgotten statues. That is, until a call to order followed when one of the guards began blowing a twisted gold-painted Ualir horn. Then there was silence, and then the gang lords addressed us.

I will not regurgitate what most of them said here; they had rambled through these speeches so many times before, it was hard to keep track of who’s turn it was to unleash the propaganda. All of them called for arms, called for the Uttovelm to break free of the shackles of the Planet Trade Organization, and all claimed they would be the one to bring back Lord Cooler’s head. Such fools they were. When it was Sharlyke’s turn to speak, he said what I had prayed he wouldn’t, but what I knew he would.

“We’ll take back what is rightfully ours!” the man screamed, holding a glass of indigo fire wine in one hand while his other swung wildly to color his speech. “Too long have the Uttovelm been disgraced by the empire, by Lord Cooler… and most of all, by the Faereth!” A roar erupted from the crowd, boos and jeers and curses flying through the air like an energy barrage. If there was one thing that riled up our kind more than anything else, it was the Faereth, that ancient imp-like species of bankers and connivers. They were, all of them, wealthy, crafty little buggers. We hated them. I hated them, and I didn’t even want a war to break out between our sides.

Long ago, before the Planet Trade Organization took over the universe, our two species waged intergalactic wars that had lasted hundreds if not thousands of years. Most of the wars we won, and the final Great War, the one I had heard the stories about a hundred times, was going to end in the extinction of the Faereth. Our great naval commander, a man named Uotokh, smashed Faerin fleet after Faerin fleet until there were none of those lilac-skinned creeps left to stand against us. Uotokh was about to glass their homeworld when Cooler arrived, destroyed his fleet, and enslaved both of our species. Our kind had never lived it down, since that day… the humiliation, the tantalizing possibility… it was too much. We wanted to regain the ancient honor of our species, to destroy our mortal enemies and make Cooler pay for interfering.

In one way, I could understand. The lesson of that story is instilled in every Uttovelm from the time they are old enough to walk. Every one of us hates the Faereth and every one of us is at least annoyed that Cooler prevented us from wiping them out. Thus, I realized then there was little I could do to stop this rebellion. I knew how it would end; I could see it with my waking eyes. And yet, madness had gripped the hall, gripped the gangs, gripped the planet. Everyone had become suicidal; they were infatuated with delusions of grandeur and thoughts of how each one of them could become the next Uotokh.

My boss ended his speech looking at me, calling for unity and for blood, and I did not keep the gaze for long. I dropped into my seat, grabbed another bloodpepper-crusted slab of meat, and gnawed away at it. I would have to do something I did not want to do; I would have to become a person I did not want to become. But it was for the good of my species, I knew, and in the end, I was but a single insignificant member of the Uttovelm. If I knew I could save us, no matter the personal cost, why would I try anything else?

Then Graliakh, son of Graelikh, stood. Silence befell the room. No one even chewed. The smoke rose and the drum beat in the distance. The heat of bloodpepper cascaded down my tongue. Graliakh brought his fist to his chest and grunted. All of us returned this mark of respect.

“My friends,” the man growled. “The others have spoken true about what must be done for the future of our kind. It is time for this plan to be enacted! Words are but air, hot and immaterial; anyone can speak and spew thoughts. But to act, to stand up for your freedom… that is something different entirely. I know many of us have had quarrels in the past. Many of us have even tried to kill each other. That is okay. We can go back to that once the war is over!” The crowd hooted and howled. “Until then, there are Faereth that need to be shown the bottom of our boots.” Another cheer rose. “They sit above our planet even now, blockading us! Our planet has been made a prisoner by those bastards! What authority do those sniveling runts have?! They think they can ambush our fleet, kill our men, and threaten to bombard our planet if we don’t give into their demands?! I remember an Uttovelm long ago who refused to bow down to the Faereth… and he would have destroyed them had not Cooler appeared!” The crowds grunted in remembrance and restless anger. “The Faereth will be reminded of what we did to them before, when the galaxy ran with their blood and music was made of their screams! Uttovelm from across the world are scared of what will happen to us should we choose to fight, but I ask you this: what will happen to us if we allow the Faereth to intimidate us?! How can we look ourselves in the eyes, say we are warriors of valor and strength, if we cannot defend our own planet, if we are too scared of those pathetic aliens to act?! I say to hell with them! Let the galaxy flow with imp blood again!!”

Everyone rose to their feet, waving meat and cups, spitting and shouting and chanting Graliakh’s name to the beat of the drum. I stood too, even as Graliakh continued his tirade. I knew it would continue on for some time. But I could not sit and watch it. I didn’t think they would attack the Faereth so soon, but judging by the gang boss’s incendiary words, the war was going to start within a day. I had little time.

I snuck out of the hall, making sure no one saw me go, lest they peg me as a traitor. Once outside, I sprinted home. There, in an ice cooler was my ticket into the Faerin fleet – a little bounty I had collected three and a half months ago. I had killed the man inside that cooler on a whim, to earn some side money, but even three and a half months ago, rumblings of rebellion were taking hold of the cities, and that was of course when the ‘Great Cleansing’ had happened. It had occurred to me at that point to keep the man I killed in a cooler, to save him until I needed to confront the Faereth.

For the man I killed had been targeted by the office of Admiral Bael, the senior officer of the Faerin fleets and the man who commanded the blockade around Planet Uoto. Bael himself had promised rich rewards for whoever caught the man he wanted. Well, I caught him, and I killed him, and as I looked in my ice box and saw the frosted, milk-white body inside, I knew I would be asking for more than what Bael had promised for his corpse.

The air up there was stale and crisp, enough to make me gag. I felt out of place amongst the Faereth – I was big, pink, muscled. They were frail, tall, long-faced with eyes of fresh lavender, shining platinum, and sky rust. Few of them wore armor, instead sporting long robes laced in exotic colors. The very air was perfumed with the unmistakable fragrances of their planet’s flowers. They were what we Uttovelm were not; dainty, pretty, weak.

They stared at me, perhaps in awe that a brute such as myself had managed to get onboard Admiral Bael’s flagship. Funny, that. I tried not to mind, tried not to return their hateful gazes, but it was hard. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t here for me – I was here to save my species. The Uttovelm, whether they knew it or not, were counting on me. I clicked my tongue, hoping for another taste of bloodpepper, but that sensation had long faded.

Before me stood a thin Faerin, perhaps a youth. He was the first in line to see the admiral; I was just behind. In his hand was a scroll, sealed in thin cobalt energy. I had seen these before, albeit rarely. Once, Lord Cooler had presented one to the governor of my hometown of U’nh Ir. There had been a big ceremony for it, but I didn’t know what it was for, or why the document had had an energy shield around it.

“From the council,” the Faerin was saying. “They request that you read their decree immediately, admiral.”

“I will,” came the dry reply of the man known as Bael.

He was tall for a Faerin, willowy and elegant. There was a cool arrogance about him reflected in his stern face, his pulled back platinum blond hair, and the sleekness in his body. He looked more statue than man, except for those piercing eyes of his; the color of molten gold they were, hyper-aware and curious, seeing everything in an instant and yet honing in on anything they wanted to. Bael sat on a throne of dark material, perhaps onyx or ebony or katchin. It was laced with red gold, and rubies, emeralds, and sapphires were placed along its sides and back. Two silver Faerin skulls were carved into the edge of each armrest, with pink diamonds for eyes. Those seemed to sparkle and watch me, and I had to look away. Behind the admiral stood rows of guards, Faereth fully clothed in gold-and-indigo Planet Trade Organization armor. Each of them held energy pikes and wore pointed helmets with black visors to obscure their faces. Their capes were periwinkle and glittered like stars.

The messenger approached him, like a child approaching a god. The very air around Bael seemed to glow and shine, as if he were descended from the heavens. I had never seen anything like this. He was enough to take my breath away.

Bael snatched the scroll and placed his finger on its seal. Instantaneously, the energy shielding around the scroll melted away, and he unfurled the yellowish paper, reading it over in a quick glance. I saw a change in him once he had read whatever was on that scroll. His chin rose, his eyes shifted, and for a moment, the air of confidence he had about him seemed to vanish. But it was just for a moment; he did not allow himself to remain vulnerable in our presence long enough for everyone to properly perceive it.

The scroll went up in flames in Bael’s hands, erasing whatever was said on it. “I understand,” Bael said at last and the messenger stood. “Tell them to expect me. I have business to attend to first. It may take me some time to clean up the mess here.”

“The council will be notified,” the messenger swore, bowing again before running off.

It was my turn. “Admiral Bael,” I said as respectfully as I could, bowing awkwardly, “I have come for the bounty.”

“Which one?”

“Kustar, the mercenary.”

The Faerin’s eyes lit up. “Show me.”

I opened the cooler where I was keeping the body. Bael walked over to me, unassisted by his guards, and peered in at the corpse. Kustar was three and a half months dead, but I hadn’t maimed him, and the ice kept him as fresh as possible. The admiral seemed to like what he saw, for a small smile crept onto his face when he saw the dead man. He stepped away and returned to his throne.

“You will be paid what was promised,” Bael spoke. “Thank you for your service, bounty hunter.”

“Why did you want him dead?” I asked suddenly. It was something I had been wondering for the past four months, but I hadn’t expected my emotions to get the better of me like that. I tasted bile in my throat and felt my tongue tingling.

Bael’s eyes flickered and focused on me. “It is the job of the bounty hunter to collect bounties, not ask questions.”

“I was just curious, sir.”

“Don’t be.” He waved me away. “Now leave me.”

“Wait sir, please…” I stepped forward, dropping the ice box. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I am Uttovelm.” I looked up at him sheepishly. “I am from the planet you have set this blockade around.”

The admiral was not amused. “Traitors all. I am merely enforcing Lord Cooler’s rule.”

“I understand that, sir… but please… if I give you information about the rebels, will you promise me something?”

“Promise you what?”

“That you spare our planet. I won’t try to defend those who are raising arms against the Planet Trade Organization. I will not stop you from killing them, or taking them hostage, or whatever you want to do to them. They are traitors, I know, and they deserve traitors’ deaths. Please, just spare the cities, the civilians… the innocent people.”

“Innocent people?” Bael’s voice was raw, like a knife across bone. “What innocent people live in that cesspool? I see none.”

I didn’t know if that was a serious question or not, so I simply gaped at the man.

“The Uttovelm have always been uncivilized savages,” Bael began, standing again and walking over to a wall window looking down on the planet below. I followed him over to it. Outside, I could see capital ships stretching out as far as the eyes could see. There had to be hundreds of them, if not thousands – one of the largest, most impressive fleets in the universe. The guards stayed put, but they kept their eyes on me. “Tell me bounty hunter: do you know the history between our species?” Bael asked.

“I do, sir. I understand that there is ancient animosity between the Faereth and Uttovelm.”

“There is. Old wounds never heal. Oh, they may be buried for a time, but the cause for justice, for vengeance, for making your enemy hurt never actually dies. It may soften with time, but such wounds never truly heal. They can be reopened as easily as a careless breath of wind.”

“Sir, please… millions will die.”


I wanted to throw up. I wanted to be home, to be back in the heat and the smoke… someplace I knew. This ship, this man… it was hell to be here, to have to endure this Faerin’s words, to feel so isolated and so foreign. “I just want an end to the conflict.”

“There will be no end, not as long as the Uttovelm persist.”

My heart was beating faster and faster. I felt my palms slick over with sweat. This couldn’t be happening – it wouldn’t happen. I couldn’t let it. “I know what you want to do, and I know what some of my people want to do. I urge you to have some compassion… some mercy, sir. Please! Not all of us wanted this rebellion. Some of us fought against the genocide of the foreigners and the coalescing of the gangs.”

“Innocents?” The man raised his hand as if to wave, but did not look at me. “Who are innocents but complacent rebels? They may not be out on the frontlines with their brethren, but they are not actively trying to stop them. They give them food, shelter, their silent support. If you are not actively fighting against the rebels, you are with them, to some degree.”

“Please, admiral… there are women and children.”

“Children? So what? Children grow up to be rebels. Why is it my duty to wait until they hit that age where they may face me on the battlefield? Why is it not more prudent to snuff them out before they mature? These women who breed with rebels, producing more rebel offspring are no less guilty than the warriors who fight against Lord Cooler’s empire.”

I could see that this was quickly spiraling out of control. Admiral Bael held every advantage. He didn’t even need to be humoring me. He was doing that for his own pleasure. He had already made up his mind, I could see. He wanted war; he wanted to destroy the Uttovelm as much as many of my kind wanted to destroy the Faereth. I would have never thought someone who looked so fancy could be as bloodthirsty as my gang boss.

“I will tell you those conspiring for war on the surface… the gangs and their leaders and where they are meeting if you will only promise not to destroy the whole planet over a small rebellion.”

That amused the man. “Small rebellion? You are crafty with your words, I’ll give you that, Uttovelm. You are clever for a bounty hunter.” I didn’t know if that was a compliment or not. “But very well, you have my word. I will not harm the rest of the planet if you can give me the names of the rebel leaders. We will take them and them alone, execute them, and end this rebellion cleanly.”

I sighed in relief and told Bael the names of the five gang bosses who had formed the rebel alliance. I told him which cities they were from and where they were meeting, how many soldiers and supplies they had, and how much of the general population supported their cause (honestly, I significantly under-represented those numbers – I told him only 30% of the population supported the rebellion, when in reality, it was over 80%). Once I was done, Bael left the window and returned to his throne, though he did not sit on it.

“Guards, arrest this rebel,” the man said, looking half at me.

“Wha… what?! Sir?! I just gave you information about the rebels! We had a deal!!”

“You performed your duties well, bounty hunter. But you were in those rebel meetings. You were one of them. Even if you have now defected, you still participated in a conspiracy against the empire. The good does not wash out the bad. You must pay for your treason.”

Two guards came for me, and I tried to shake them off me, but I couldn’t. These Faereth were surprisingly strong. They wrapped energy bindings around my neck, wrists, and ankles, sapping my strength, bringing me to my knees. “Admiral Bael…!” I screamed. “Do not do this!”

“That is not all,” he continued, silencing me with a raised hand. “Commander,” he spoke to some Faerin I could not see, “commence the orbital bombardment. It is as we feared: the Uttovelm are conspiring to destroy us and attack the Planet Trade Organization. Level all of their cities. Vaporize all centers of life. I want the planet crippled by the time Lord Cooler arrives. He will be told we had no other choice. The gangs banded together and tried to destroy us. We knew not the extent of their strength, where all of them hid. Pass this information along to the other ships.”

“No!!” I screamed. “Stop this madness, admiral! You are no better than the gang leaders if you do this!”

“No better?” The man’s golden eyes shimmered with lust. “That’s where you’re wrong, bounty hunter. Your gang lords dream of destroying my people. They fantasize about impossibilities. I have real power; I have a fleet capable of wiping out all life on Planet Uoto and hunting down any Uttovelm who are deployed off-planet. I can do what I want. Your kind cannot. There will only be one end to this conflict, I have already told you. One side must perish. And though you may think me biased, I believe it’s reasonable to assume that the brutes, the savages, the simple-minded beasts are a better casualty than my kind. The Faereth are too important to this universe. We have too much to offer… far more than the Uttovelm. It’s a pity, really, but unavoidable. Your species will be relegated to history, while mine will write it. Take her away.”

I tried to fight, tried to shout again, but they shoved cloth in my mouth and bound my arms and feet. It tasted sour and wrong, but I could do nothing. Dragging me away, I saw lights flash by the window out to space, like bursts of lightning. The ships were preparing their deadly plasma salvos; the bombardment had begun; the end of my species was nigh. I could not look away as tears streamed down my cheeks. I could just make out the distant formations of cities between the expanses of grey-brown deserts and crimson-and-silver mountain ranges. I could imagine how many were already dead, how many were dying as I looked down. Guilt spread through my body like a cancer. I couldn’t help but think I was responsible for this. I had given Bael information on the gang leaders. He had broken his promise to trick me. I had thought him honorable, and he had used that to his advantage. But at the same time, I didn’t know if he had been planning on doing this the entire time.

We were all going to die. The sins of our forebears, the sins of our gang lords would be the end of us. So too would my sins. I didn’t know where they were taking me. I didn’t care. They should have killed me for all I cared. I’d rather be gone than have to see the destruction of my homeworld. I longed for the days of living with my father, harvesting bloodpepper with him, the smells of spice and the sounds of laughter heavy in the air. But everything goes away.

On and on dark plasma went, energy rolling over the mountains and swamps and forests and cities, washing away millions of years of evolution in reckless bursts. Bael was no better than the gang lords. He was a genocider, a cold-blooded murderer. He wore fancy clothes and acted like a king, but that didn’t make him a good person. Inside, he was rotten. My only hope was that Cooler would arrive soon and put an end to this bloody insanity. Some part of me hoped that Cooler saw the value in our species and didn’t want the planet to be destroyed, but most of me knew that was an irrational thought.

The flagship shuddered as it fired its first wave of yellow plasma. I watched it pass by the window, down to the planet, silent and bubbling. I wondered how many would die now from that one shot.

More than anything, I wondered how many of us would have died had Uotokh not defeated the Faereth; if he had been defeated, we wouldn’t be here to experience this pain. Our ancestors would be long dead. And the same thought occurred to me that we would be just as free had he managed to eradicate the Faereth. Then it wouldn’t have come to this.

But there was no way out of war. It was either us or them. My hopes and desires were that Uotokh would have defeated the Faereth all those hundreds of years ago – that he would have been the genocider that Bael and Galiakh were trying to mimic. It sickened me, this universe. The cycle of death and hate and vengeance. It was a destructive cycle, an immoral cycle. And even if the Faereth wiped us out, I knew the cycle would continue and come for them eventually. That’s what Bael didn’t get. If he started this, he would never escape it.

I could only hope that one day Bael would get what was coming to him.

Chapter XV: BloodchildEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Hail
Position: King Cold's niece; Military General
Date of account: October 21, 764 Age (first scene)
October 23, 764 Age (second scene)
October 24, 764 Age (third scene)

“The fleet is yours.” Daddy paced in front of me, his dark cape fluttering like a nervous banner in the wind.

“I… I do not know what to do, father.”

He paused, peering out over the hundreds of space ships lying in wait. “Hail,” Lord Icer began, “you cannot learn how to command a fleet without practice.”

“Is that why you brought me here? So that I might test my intellect against space pirates?”

My father nodded curtly. “If you are to become my new admiral, you must learn, Hail. The first thing you must learn is to never risk your entire strength against a lesser foe. My fleet has never lost a battle because we never found ourselves in a situation we could not overcome.”

“I see, father.”

“Against pirates and raiders, this task may prove difficult. You will face scores of smaller fighters, pesky as birandyos (a type of blood-sucking bug native to my homeworld). They will try to lure the fleet into disadvantageous positions – between moons, into asteroid fields, or into the line of sight of a star. They will try to peel individual ships away from the fleet so that they may swarm over and devour them. Do not fall for such feeble attempts at deceit.” Lord Icer was as calm as a paper bird. “They will test you, Hail. They will always be testing you. They search for weakness, hunger for it. Any opportunity you give them, they will take. It took me years to build up this fleet. It is imperative that you do not destroy what has taken me so long to grow. Have patience.”

“I will not fail you, father.”

“Good. Show me what you have learned,” he said, stepping back, allowing me to take the position in front of the wall window of the bridge. Around us, elite alien pilots worked silently, hanging on my every word. They would do exactly what I told them, even if it meant their deaths. It would be their deaths anyways, if they disobeyed me. The inside of the ship was dimly-lit, the steel dark and wrought in sharp angles. The computers beeped and blinked with reds and blues and greys. Everyone stood; no one dared sit down. Complaceny wasn’t something my father valued. Even his captain’s chair lay empty, and I could guess it had been that way for a long time.

All was silent. The soldiers stood poised, ready to enact my commands. Father had taught me much and more of naval theory in the past few weeks, but I still felt vulnerable, green as I had been the first day of my water dancing lessons. A nervous lump was making its way up my throat. The other ships hovered unmoving, coiled like springs waiting to burst forth. It was chilly on that ship, the air conditioning recycling stale air with cold impunity. I felt Daddy’s eyes on me. He wanted me to succeed, I knew, but I felt immense pressure. I could not fail him. My body had been broken; my mind was all that remained. And if that proved to be poor in my father’s eyes… I’d have no worth at all.

I clenched my right hand. I didn’t feel it, but in a way I did. Since my injury, my right arm had been amputated and replaced by a cybernetic limb. It looked life-like, I suppose… from a distance, anyways. My handmaidens had likely thought it was real too, but I knew better. I couldn’t feel anything down there, where the Nikkarin brutes had burned me. Where Frieza had gained a power increase from his cybernetic attachments, I had not. The rest of my body had been ravaged to the point of being mangled irreparably. Certain cybernetic attachments had kept me alive, but the damage to my body had been too extensive, too complete. I had been injured far worse than Frieza had been, and I would never recover like he had. Entire sections of his body had been cut away on Namek; I was stuck with my wounds; Frieza had made his clean break, but it didn’t matter anyways. Even with his recovery, with his power increase, he had died on Earth. Unlike my cousin, I didn’t plan on dying. And that meant never fighting again. I would use my abilities instead to lead my father’s fleet. Soon, I hoped, I would impress him enough to hand me full control over his ships.

“There’s a Jolean outpost not far from here,” Daddy whispered. His voice was soft as stardust on an astral wind. “Their ships are small, weak, unorganized. Eliminate them.”

“Yes, father,” I gulped. I raised my hand and lowered it, alerting the pilots to move the fleet forward.

Hundreds strong we were, lumbering onward towards the asteroid field where our quarry lay in wait. Surely they would be expecting us; we were too large a host. If they hadn’t sensed us or spotted us with their naked eyes, I’m sure their radars would soon alert them of the incoming fleet. I swallowed away my fears and tried to clear my mind. My only focus was on destroying the pirates, nothing else. I tried to forget who I was, why I was here, the pressure on me. It was hard – too hard. I didn’t succeed.

The ships took their positions in front of the asteroid field in a semi-circle, spread out in single-deep rows. Thickly packed they were, standing more than a dozen ranks up and down.

“Our scouters have picked up signs of Jolean pirates,” one of the crewmembers told me. “They are massed around that asteroid there,” he said, pointing to one just to the left of my father’s flagship. “They are not moving.”

“Burn them all,” I said coolly. “Tell all ships to focus fire on that asteroid.”

“Aye, my lady,” the man replied, and he spread the order across the fleet.

In a flash, all of the energy cannons lit up, in vibrant reds and blues and yellows, plasma shooting out across the desolation of the void. I counted the seconds it took for the burning balls of energy to reach the asteroid field. It felt like an eternity. And then the explosions came, soundless and glimmering, an unusual sight in this usually peaceful frozen tundra.

“No signs of life,” a crewmember observed. “All power level readings have vanished.”

I allowed myself a smile, even as my fingernails dug into the palm of my hand. “How was that, father?”

Lord Icer’s eyes shone as two pale blue flames. “Be aware of your surroundings. Do not fall into complacency.”

“But father… the pirates are all destroyed.”

He did not reply.

“Forward,” I urged the crew. “Let’s get visuals on their destroyed outpost.

“Aye, my lady.”

The fleet groaned into momentum, moving into the asteroid field as one. I wanted to keep our full strength together. And yet, as we moved ahead, I saw flashes of light, felt waves of energy erupt and ripple through the fleet.

“Mines!” one of the crewmembers shouted. “Cloaked, the bastards! Dozens… hundreds… they are just starting to show up on the radar!”

“Pull back!” I screamed. Before me, smaller ships were being incinerated when they entered the mines’ range. Larger ships were taking extensive damage too. But it was not so easy to turn the fleet around. We were already in the asteroid field. That was when the fighters came at us. Small they were, and quick as birandyos. “Form up! Focus fire on these pirates!”

“As you say, my lady!”

But it was no use. They were more familiar with the asteroid field than we were. The Joleans bobbed and weaved, took cover, and only popped out to release their energy bolts before retreating again. My father’s fleet was gigantic and defenseless – an easy target. I felt lost. I looked to my father, who stood with his arms crossed, emotions vacant from his face. This was my test, I knew. I could not break now. Not after all I’d been through.

“Up,” I ordered the crew. “All of us up. We’re moving above the asteroid field.”

The soldiers enacted my command at once, and the wounded fleet sped away from the asteroid field as quickly as we had arrived. Sure, we took casualties along the way; the Joleans were merciless and desperate to take any last shots they could. A few single-pilot ships burned up and were lost, but that was the price we had to pay. More would have died had I not done this.

Once we hovered above the asteroid field, I gave the order to destroy every last rock. The fleet formed back into rows and spit out plasma and energy in sweeping arcs. There was nowhere for the space rats to run. We destroyed their cover and most of them died in those rocky explosions. The few who tried to flee were taken out by the long-range lasers of our capital ships.

I did not feel victorious. Counting our casualties, I came to 28. 25 were single-pilot fighters – easily replaceable – but three had been destroyers, specialists against larger space ships. Those would not be replaced so easily. My father could do it, but it would cost him.

A blush crept up my cheeks. I did not look at him again. My head bowed, I ordered the ships to make repairs and tend to their wounded crewmembers. Our ship had not been hit by a single blast; that came from being shielded by so many allies. But I still felt the guilt of loss, of causing too many loyal soldiers to sacrifice themselves needlessly.

“Scouts.” My father’s voice came from just behind my ear. “Hail, we discussed this.”

“I know.”

“Always send out scouts to give you information about the terrain. Had you done so, you would have been alerted to the mines, and perhaps one of the scouts would have seen the Joleans lying in wait all around the asteroid field.”

“But… father, there were no power level readings. We targeted all of the readings we found.”

“Space pirates use special jammers, alloys, and ship designs to lessen their power level signatures. It has always been so; I have told you this.”

“I’m sorry, father.”

“You are learning,” he replied in a whisper. “But you must take everything I tell you to heart, Hail. Nothing I tell you does not matter. Everything has its purpose. If you are to become my admiral, you must not only learn through experience, but allow your instincts to guide you. Some things I cannot teach you; some things happen too fast or are too specific to each battle. For these, you must let your own instincts guide you. If there is only one thing I can tell you, it is to be decisive. An indecisive leader is a weak leader and one who is easily smashed in battle, even if they have the larger army.”

“I understand, father. I am sorry for disappointing you.” He said nothing. “Where are we going next?”

“There is one last lesson I will teach you before we reclaim my son.”

“You have found Avalan?” My heart rose to my throat, beating passionately. “Where?”

Daddy looked over to one of the guards by the door leading out of the bridge and made a gesture with his hands. At once, the doors opened, and two soldiers marched in, a prisoner in their arms. She was shackled head-to-foot with energy chains and was covered in bruises and cuts, many of them fresh. Her skin was a light shade of purple; she had three arms, long hair, and a slender frame. I did not know what her species was; I had never seen someone like this before. She was young, but there was a look in her eyes that told me she was not naïve.

“Up,” Lord Icer commanded, and the soldiers made the prisoner stand. I could see that she was weak – her legs were shaking, rustling the chains wrapped around them. “Tell my daughter what you told me.”

She looked at my father for a long time before shifting her gaze to me. The alien looked almost as pitiful as me. “Lord Avalan… he’s being moved. Aphotic Prince’s gonna give him to the Joleans. It’s a trade… that’s what I heard…”


“Money. They need money. They’re running low.”

“How do you know?”

The woman bowed her head and began to breathe hard. “I know… cause I’m with them.”

I glanced over at my father, but he didn’t return the look. “It doesn’t make sense, though,” I said. “Why would they ransom Avalan to the Joleans instead of us? The Planet Trade Organization has far more money.”

“Enough, Hail,” Daddy said, his voice cutting through the room like a delicate knife stroke. “The deal is already in place, and it is going down in two days. We will be there for it, and we will take Avalan back from the barbarians who stole him from me.”

I nodded, but something still seemed off. The woman was strange. When she looked at me, there was life and fire in her eyes that did not reflect in her appearance or speech. And my father wasn’t questioning her that much. He was usually much more cautious. Was he just impatient to get Avalan back? I didn’t think so; he hadn’t seemed to want to get Avalan back with great urgency before I sent him my ultimatums.

“Very well,” I said at last, though my stomach was twisting in knots. “Let’s go get my brother back.”

“Please… Lord Icer,” the prisoner croaked. “I gave you your information… Please… let me go…”

“Thank you for your service,” he said stiffly, not looking at her. Then, in a flash, a blue finger beam shot from his finger like a bullet, straight through her heart. She fell to the ground with a gentle thud, bright green blood pooling around the slit that was her mouth, bubbling out onto the cold steel floor.

Our last test involved tracking down a rogue captain. I do not remember his name, but he stole a ship from uncle Arcterial’s navy. Uncle Arcterial was busy, it seemed, so it was left to us to destroy the rebel. It would be good practice, I knew – finally, I would be able to engage a capital ship in combat. Daddy realized this too. He left the rest of the fleet in the system where Avalan would be traded to Jolean marauders. We took his flagship, the Charybdis, alone to track down the rogue captain. Only my father’s crew, myself, and him were going on this mission.

It did not take long to find the captain. He was moving through system after system, from port to port to outpost to military fortification, looking for soldiers to join his cause. We never learned what his cause was, but he left enough of a trail that it was easy to find him. He had but the one ship.

“You can either choose to take him unaware or confront him head-on,” my father advised me. “Since this is a single engagement, your options are nearly limitless, Hail. The Charybdis is by far the more powerful of the two ships, though.”

I knew why he told me that. It would be a failure if I did anything other than crush the captain. I would need to destroy his ship, kill him, and all while not allowing the Charybdis to take much, if any damage. It would be a tall order, but not an impossibility.

“I will take him unaware,” I said finally. “That way has the least amount of risk.”

Daddy nodded curtly, as he was wont to do. “As long as the ship is vaporized, anything is fine.”

“Why must I vaporize it?”

“Arcterial wanted me to fetch his ship for him. I am not his servant; if he really wanted it back, he would have tracked it down himself.”

“But you wanted us to go after this one.”

“For your training, Hail. Not for my brother. He assumes I do this for him because he is older than me and it is his right to rule me. But it will not happen that way. I will kill his rebel for him, but at the cost of one of the fastest, most powerful space ships in his fleet. That is how it will go.”

I had never seen a triple star system before. It was breathtaking – one was red, the other blue, the other yellow, each one burning out tirelessly against the blackness of space. In the distance I could see the only inhabited planet: Planet Frieza 049. That was where the rebel was. That was where I would end his life.

I ordered the ship to come up around behind one of the planet’s moons, to hide in its shadows as we got close to the destroyer. I knew the ship would be on alert for anyone coming to destroy its rogue crew. The rebel was, after all, a rebel. He knew what he stole, what the price of doing what he did was. He would expect nothing less than the complete fury of Arcterial coming after him. As it so happened, my uncle couldn’t be bothered. It was my job to be this captain’s nightmare.

The moon shielded us from the radar of the rebel ship, a lesson I had learned in the asteroid fields against the Jolean corsairs. When we ducked out from behind the moon, there lay the planet, dark and humming with cities. The ship was in orbit, slowly drifting just above the atmosphere.

“Ready cannons one and two. Bring the lasers online,” I ordered the crew. “Thrusters on my mark!” Everything hummed to life. The computers squealed and blinked furiously as the rhythmic tapping of keyboards took over the bridge. I shivered. It was now or never. “Three… two… one… go!!”

The ship lurched forward and I would have fallen over if I hadn’t grabbed onto the railing with my good hand. The Charybdis shot like a missile over to the destroyer. They saw us, at the last moment. The ship engaged its own thrusters, boosting away from us, towards the northern pole of the planet. The energy was already being released from my ship, though. As I had planned, my quarry wouldn’t have enough time to react. The rebel captain was trying to warm his energy turrets, yet there was not enough time. My pinpoint lasers disabled his offensive capabilities and a moment later, waves of energy rolled over the hull of his ship, washing it in red plasma. If he had shields, I never knew, for in the next moment, the ship exploded in violent puffs of indigo and silver.

I realized I had been holding my breath, had been digging my nails into my palm. I relaxed, letting a long breath out of my lungs, and faced my father. His arms were folded and he was staring at me coldly. I had seen this look many times before. My father wasn’t a warm person, wasn’t the kind of man who would praise me for a job well done or come over and hug me. He respected me; I could see it in his eyes. He knew I was the right Arcosian to lead his fleet. And that was worth more to me than any hug.

“We travel to Avalan now,” Daddy spoke at last. “Prepare yourself. We cannot screw this up.”

It didn’t feel right, but I didn’t exactly know why… just a feeling I had. Why would the Joleans trade money for Avalan, and why would the Aphotic Prince give up his most valuable hostage? Was this really a money issue? How could Jolean marauders – scoundrels and scavengers, all – have more money than the Aphotic Prince anyways? And what would they do with Avalan?

My father’s entire fleet lay behind the large gas giant in the system, which had enough moons to cloak every ship. His fastest fighters were positioned at the front; in case anything went wrong, they were meant to find and rescue Avalan. As my father reminded his men, Arcosians could breathe in space, and we are very difficult to kill. It’s more than likely that even in his weakened, perhaps tortured state, Avalan alone would survive if the Joleans’ and Aphotic Prince’s ships were destroyed.

“A dozen Jolean single-fighters,” Lord Icer observed. “One massive ship. That’s their command vessel. The Aphotic Prince,” he said sourly, “has two dozen single-pilot fighters and two larger ships, perhaps capable of carrying half a hundred crew apiece. Avalan will be on one of those.”

“The Aphotic Prince’s ships are junk,” I noted, looking at the hyper-magnified pictures of the two groups. “This is strange, father. Look at the Jolean ships. They are new, sleek, brightly-lit. The Aphotic Prince’s side seems to be made of old junkyard fighters, and I can’t make out any pilots in them. How do we know this isn’t a trap?”

“It isn’t. There are power level readings coming from both fleets, including one that is much higher than the rest.”

“The Aphotic Prince himself?”



“I don’t like this.” Daddy stepped forward, away from the monitors and looked out over the bridge window out into space. Ahead of us a brown-cratered moon orbited lazily. “This plan is too risky. My son is out there… my only son. In the chaos of battle, he could be injured, or worse. If the Aphotic Prince gets away with him, we will never see Avalan again. And if they see us coming, the pirates may kill him for fear of losing him. No, this is no good.”

“Father, you have taught me well,” I said. “I will not fail you.”

He looked at me with those ice-blue eyes of his. It felt like he was probing my mind when he looked at me like that. “You have become highly proficient at leading my fleet these past few weeks, Hail. But you are still a novice. I cannot risk my son’s life. I know you mean well…”

My cheeks grew hot. “I want to save him! I must, father!”

“No,” he said at last, “this is my duty. I let Avalan get captured. I must return my son to us.” He clapped his hands and a furry-faced soldier scurried over. “Commander, take my cloak,” he ordered, and the officer did so. “Hail has the bridge while I’m gone. Should anything happen to me, my daughter will be your new leader.”

“Aye, my lord,” the alien spoke, bowing.

“Father… please… take me with you.”

He looked me over, and I could see the disgust in his eyes. “Your place is here. That is what I’ve been teaching you these past few weeks, Hail. You are my admiral, my daughter. But you are not your sister… not anymore.”

He left me like that.

The nearest window opened, and Lord Icer stepped fearlessly out into space. A blue aura covered his body before he screamed off into the void. Soon, Daddy was too small to see, another distant light in the endless expanse.

“Cameras,” I ordered. “Follow him. Zoom in on the fleets. I want to see this battle unfold.”

“Aye, my lady.”

We would not have cover much longer, but that didn’t matter anymore. The scarred moon was passing me by, and I was not sad to see it go. Ahead, the two pirate fleets were moving closer. I saw both of the larger ships in the Aphotic Prince’s fleet take center stage, while the largest Jolean ship hung back. I wondered how long it would take my father to get there. Terror caressed my heart softly, reminding me that Avalan could already be dead, or worse… he could have ended up like me.

Lights erupted. The ships boosted in all directions, many in panic, many shooting their blasters. My father was on them. I couldn’t see him, even with the fully-zoomed-in cameras. Explosions drifted across sight. Finally, I spotted a little ball of blue bouncing about with such speed I didn’t think what I saw was truly real. If that was my father, he was more powerful than I could have ever imagined. He cut through the Jolean ships as if they were made of paper. Even the largest one was taken out with a single supernova attack. It was all so clean. The Aphotic Prince’s side was engaging both Jolean fighters and my father in the confusion, unsure about who or what was attacking them. They exploded into dust just as easily as the other pirates. The two bigger ships attempted to flee, but at once, I saw them burst into pink mist, dissolving away into nothingness.

“No!!” I tried to shout, but the word caught in my throat. I didn’t know if Daddy had gotten there in time, if he was the one responsible for destroying the ships. Pink energy wasn’t something I had ever seen him use. It didn’t seem right. The remaining fighters traded shots before fleeing in all directions, though a few of the stragglers exploded in similar pink clouds before they could get away. I didn’t know what to think.

“Move the fleet forward,” I said. “Let’s see if my father found Avalan.”

At once, the entire fleet, more than eight hundred ships, broke from cover and bore down on the battlefield. We found no living beings – only ship parts, blown-apart corpses, and stardust. It was all so quiet, so peaceful.

“Faint power levels readings coming from ahead!” one of the crewmembers said.

“Show me.”


I could see it. There was a blue aura being chased by long pink tendrils – energy attacks. Who could be attacking my father out here?

“Suppressing fire. All ships aim at whatever is pursuing Lord Icer.”

“Aye, all ships warming up attacks.”

Then Lord Icer came. I saw him with my own eyes. Daddy was holding something in his arms as he flew. I had never seen him fly so fast, so hard, use so much energy. I had always thought he was stronger than Polaria and I, but seeing him now, I realized just how far behind him we really were. My father could have very well been the strongest being in the universe this day.

Energy sailed past him, locking onto whatever was beyond. I couldn’t see anything. There was just the dark of space, the twinkling of distant stars. It didn’t make sense. A moment later, Daddy was in front of the Charybdis. “Open the door!” I commanded, and the window to space opened up. No one was sucked out; everyone grabbed onto their monitors or nearby railings as Lord Icer flew inside and crashed onto the ground.

“Out of here!” Daddy yelled hoarsely. “Take the whole fleet back to Arcose!”

“F-father… why?!”

“Hail, don’t question me!” he shrieked. “Go, just go! There’s no time!”

I nodded. “Do as he said, commander.”

And thus, we were off, speeding away from the battlefield as fast as the ships could go. Lord Icer stood up and revealed what he was holding in his hands – my brother, Avalan.

Avalan looked a small, broken thing – a sick animal. He was covered in dark blood, and his growths seemed to have only become larger and more spread across his body since I last saw him. There were large chunks of skin missing – from his torso to his arms to his cheek to his back, where the largest wounds were (these were still bleeding). I was repulsed; I had to look away. I never could stand Avalan when we were growing up, and I had always found ways to call him ugly and disgusting, but now, he looked horrifying, grotesque, monstrous. And just like how he was born, this wasn’t his fault. Pity overcame me, and the tears soon followed.

“Avalan…!” I ran over to him and hugged as tightly as I could.

My brother was moaning softly, licking his lips and looking around, confused. “Daddy… s-save me Da-da-da-addy… p-p-please… I d-don’t want to h-hurt… no more, no more, NO MORE!!!”

I backed away as my father stood up and placed Avalan on a floating medical table, which two doctors were pushing along. “Sedate him,” Lord Icer commanded. “I don’t want him to have to experience anymore of this pain.”

I watched solemnly as one doctor stuck Avalan in the neck with a syringe and then carted him out with the help of the other. That was all it took. My brother was back. The Aphotic Prince’s plan hadn’t been a trap… Avalan had really almost been ransomed to Jolean pirates. I shuddered, thinking what those monsters would have done to him.

“Call for Arcterial, Frost, and Polaria. I want them to meet me on Arcose,” Daddy said to one of the crewmembers, breaking me out of my thoughts. “Tell my brother and daughter I have something of the utmost importance to discuss with them, and it cannot wait.”

“Father… what was that out there that was chasing you?”

He looked over at me darkly and then motioned for me to follow him out of the bridge.

In the hall, alone, Daddy said, “I don’t want the others to know. You are to tell no one what I am about to tell you.”

“Of course father. I would never betray your trust.”

“There was something out there,” he said to me. His voice was shaking; I had never seen Daddy like this. Was it dread in his voice, or was he just out of breath? “Something ancient and powerful. Not pirates. No, it was coming for Avalan, just as we were. A beast,” he whispered. “A demon. Those reports from the mining facilities… ancient shadow creature who shoot digitizing energy… I never believed it before. But I saw half a dozen ships digitized in front of my eyes by pink energy. They wanted Avalan; they wanted me. We would not have gotten away had you not picked us up. I was using all of my energy, Hail. All of it; I was at my maximum. And still the demons were gaining on me.” I shuddered and felt my face go numb. “There is something coming for us,” he muttered. “Something that wants to destroy our empire.”

“That Nikkarin – the one Polaria interrogated – said that his kind were running from a ghastly demon species that had brought them to the brink of extinction…”

“I know. Now I know… I must tell Arcterial about this. He must know. He must help me prepare for the coming war. This one will not be like the last. It will not be so easy. I fear we have not the strength to defeat such foes.”

“Don’t say that, Daddy!”

“It’s the truth, Hail. At least I think it is. We don’t have enough information yet; I will need to learn all I can about these demons as soon as possible.” He sighed and cracked his neck. “But there’s nothing we can do now. Let’s go see how Avalan’s doing.”

Chapter XVI: The Snow-Shadow ButcherEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Zashisaro
Position: King Cold's Captain of the Guards
Date of account: November 17, 764 Age

I began that day like every other day. At first light, I rose and performed my Tzano muscle stretches. An ancient tradition of my village, Tzano was nevertheless unpopular on my homeworld. Other similar traditional ceremonies existed, I’ve no doubt, but I knew little of such things. Tzano involved lighting special incenses and inhaling the smoke until the body and mind become one. I sought the Way through relaxational breathing and the purifying of my four lungs. If done properly, my entire body would become loose and hyper-sensitive, giving me a power advantage, as well as a mental one, over my foes. I had practiced this technique every morning of my life, as far back as I could remember. It was not a religion so much as a way of life – the only Way. The spices and herbs in the incense burners affected me in a way that I could only describe as giving me clarity. When I wake, the world is foggy and confusing, but after inhaling my Tzano incenses, my mind opens up like a flower in bloom. I feel at peace, in harmony with myself. That is the secret to how I harness my full power.

They were screaming when I entered the torture chamber, a plate of thin-sliced Caecondi in my hand. My belly rumbled, so I engorged myself upon the flesh in front of them. One swung from chains to my left, limbless, eyeless, tongueless, his grey-white fur covered in dry blood. Others sat around me in pens and cramped cells, screaming, moaning, jingling their chains. The one kneeling before me was wrapped in energy bindings, which sapped his strength to prevent him from breaking out. He was purple-skinned, had round horn-like appendages growing on his head, lacked a nose, and had fleshy whiskers growing from his the sides of his mouth. This was Commander Sta Fu, a disgraced officer from Frieza’s slice of the empire. No one but me (and the other prisoners) knew he was alive.

“Commander,” I said with a cruel smile, “good morning.”

He looked up at me with bloodshot eyes, pale as the moon. His lip trembled and soon he dropped his head again. He was thin; I could see bones poking out from under the skin of his stomach and arms. He was weak. He would soon die.

“Look at me, Commander,” I spoke. “Don’t you dare look away.” He raised his face again, and I could see the terror in those eyes. He knew what I usually did to him every morning. “Tell me why you are here.”

He shook his head and began to cry. “P-p-p-please…”

“Answer me!”

“I-I made a t-t-terrible remark about King Cold,” he sobbed. “I-I’m sorry! Please… let me–”

“Good.” Sta Fu had once called King Cold a drunken lout during a dinner party in this very palace. Suffice to say, this place had become his new home not long after. “That was most unwise of you.”

“I’m s-so sorry!” the man pleaded, his voice breaking. “I’ll never do it again!”

“No, you will not.” I had put a fear in him so strong I knew he would never be so careless with his tongue again. When he tried to speak, I raised my hand and silenced him. “There is something I must tell you now, Commander.”

“S-sir?” he shivered.

“King Cold is dead.” The alien’s gaze remained wide and full of trepidation. “As you might have guessed, this changes everything…”

The energy bindings fell from Sta Fu’s wrists and ankles, though he didn’t move. I powered down the energy inhibitors and stepped back. Looking up at me as if this was a trick, the alien said, “Wh-what is this… sir?”

“The man you insulted is now dead. He cannot hold you here any longer.”

“This is… s-some kind of trick,” the alien guessed. “Pl-please… sir… no more… I’m not a t-t-traitor!”

“If you believe it’s a trick, stay here and rot. I will not stop you. But if you want to be free again Commander… there is something you must do for me.”


“Kill Polaria,” I hissed. “The late king’s niece. That annoying little warrior princess.”

He didn’t want to do it. Even after spending so long in this prison, such brazen treason didn’t sit well with him. I’m sure it was terrifying enough that I was even discussing this openly.

“I… I don’t know if I can, sir. Lady Polaria is–”

“A nuisance. She is the greatest threat to me at this moment.”

Sta Fu trembled. “S-she’s a member of the royal fa-family!”

“She is. Would you like to kill her, or should I turn back on those energy bindings?”

His eyes went wide again and he shook his head violently. “No, no, no, no! I-I’ll… I’ll do it. General Zashisaro, I will not fail you,” he said with a bow.

Ushering the man out of the torture chamber, I began walking down the metal-lined hallway with him. “Let’s get you to a rejuvenation tank. I have a ship waiting for you, with a full crew and provisions for three years.” I knew he had reservations about this assassination; even now, his face was still furrowed in concern, and I doubt he felt as treasonous as me. But he would come around in time. He feared me enough to do what I asked of him. “You can choose to fight her, or give her this,” I said, producing a vial of lime green liquid.

“Poison?” Sta Fu’s eyes narrowed. Now he knew I wasn’t playing; I really wanted Polaria dead. “Poison’s a woman’s weapon.”

“Maybe it is. But this woman is one of the strongest warriors in the universe. If you don’t want to die, I think you’ll approach this task with prudence. I don’t want to see you fail, Commander. And I know you don’t want to fail me. Because if you don’t kill Polaria, and she somehow doesn’t kill you…” I left the rest of the threat unsaid. I had done enough to this alien over the years that I knew his imagination of what I might do if he disappointed me would sufficiently horrify him.

He nodded obediently and took the vial. “Is there anything else, General?”

“Yes. Should you get caught, you will not say who sent you.”

“Of course not, sir.”

“Good, good. This poor lizard doesn’t want to get into any sticky situations. You won’t put me in any of those, Commander.”

“I will not,” he repeated, stiffly. I swallowed two more slices of Caecondi and bade him onwards.

We came to the room with the rejuvenation tanks. He stepped inside gingerly, where several guards awaited him. “They will take care of you, Commander. I must confess, I have much to do, so I won’t be seeing you again until after you have completed your mission. Good luck,” I said, patting him on the shoulder. “Remember, Arcosians aren’t invincible.”

He nodded, perhaps in a daze, and the guards took him from me. I returned to the torture chamber, where shouts and pleas and cries greeted me. Everyone else wanted out, now that they had seen what had happened with Sta Fu. I pressed the electricity button on the wall, and a moment later, they all quieted down. The smell of burning flesh and fur rose into the air. Wrinkling my nose, I made my way over to the hanging beast who was kept separate from the others. Unlike them, he wasn’t in a cage or hooked up to the electricity-producing machine.

“Hello, my old friend.”

The furry beast whimpered. I tried to remember when I had taken his arms and his eyes, but I couldn’t. All of the torture sessions had blurred into one… well, all except one. “Ah-ee… ah-ee… ah-ee…” the beast moaned. Pity he had lost his tongue. He sounded so base now.

“In my life, I have only ever served one Arcosian,” I said the the hanging alien. “King Cold conquered my homeworld and earned my allegiance. His family means nothing to me. A girl – a little warrior princess – once instructed me to keep you alive, to torture you everyday for what you did to her sister. And I have. I have made you scream a thousand different ways. I took your eyes, your arms, your tongue, and countless other parts… so much that I barely recognize you now, beast. I broke you for what you did, and I don’t regret it.”

The beast rattled his chains and moaned again. “Ah-ee… ee… ah-ee…”

“He’s gone,” I said. “The strongest being in the universe, somehow defeated… and now I’m free. I will not be a slave to my master’s family.” I gulped and finished the rest of my Caecondi. “Your biggest mistake was provoking the princess’s wrath. I’m sure you had no idea it would come to this. And despite all that, you have shown your worth, beast: you eliminated her twin. For that, I give you my thanks.”

I dropped the plate. Before it shattered against the black stone floor, a viridian energy blast formed between my claws and shot at the Nikkarin, incinerating him in one pitiful puff. When the dust cleared, the chains swung back and forth, charred and free, empty as a new day.

“The storm will be here in three hours,” a guard reported, contacting me on my wrist-comm. “Should I make the preparations?”

“Sta Fu must be gone by then. His ship has a rejuvenation tank. Put him in that one if he’s not healed by then.”

“Aye, General.”

“Has everyone arrived?”

“Most have, sir. All but four of the officers.”

“Who is not here yet?”

I could hear the guard typing away at his computer. “Uh… Captain Swichie, Captain Shyotai, Master Sapras, and Commander Kurosukiro… no wait, Kurosukiro’s ship has just entered orbit, sir.”

“Good. Make sure they are escorted into the throne room and given seats, drinks, and snacks.”

“Aye, General. It will be done.”

“Alert me if anything changes.”

“I will, sir.”

I left the torture chamber and walked down the halls of King Cold’s palace. They were eerily empty now that King Cold was dead. His guards were my men now, and I had them out working for me; no longer did they line the walls or patrol about. Everyone was off doing something. I stopped in front of a window and looked out over the pure white tundra expanding out as far as the eye could see. King Cold’s palace was situated on Planet Arcose’s south pole, far away from Arcosian civilization. He had always liked it that way; the solitude of this place had given my lord great comfort. He had been the strongest being in the universe, and this was the hub of the entire Planet Trade Organization, but still, King Cold had never kept much company. I was the Captain of his Guards; my men and I had been, for the most part, his only companions. I would be sad to see this place go. I think I was just beginning to understand how soothing its isolation was.

Snow was falling in delicate streams; in the distance, a blue-black mass of clouds was blowing towards us – a storm of such crippling severity that it would force anyone in this palace to stay inside until it passed. All estimates stated that the storm would remain around the palace for at least a week. I didn’t have a week. No, there was much to be done. I was free, at last. But I wasn’t going to return home and forget that I ever was King Cold’s Captain of the Guards. I wanted the universe to remember who I was, wanted the universe to fear me, as it had feared and respected King Cold.

A ship descended from the sky, shooting towards the palace. That was Kurosukiro – the last of Cold’s officers who would be coming. Swichie, Shyotai, and Sapras would not be joining us. This much I already knew. Sapras had fled. He feared me; he feared what I would do to him. I didn’t know why the other two hadn’t come, but they had been the only two to actively ignore my follow-up messages. It was a shame; Swichie and I had once been friends, and I had known Shyotai since before I had been stationed on Arcose. Maybe they were already in rebellion.

It mattered not. I didn’t need them. By the end of the day, I would have my new fleet. Then, I would turn my fury against the rest of the Planet Trade Organization.

The hall was abuzz when I entered. The noise lessened, but most of the officers continued to converse with each other as I walked in… that is until I took my seat on King Cold’s throne. Then the aliens, many of whom stood with food in one hand and drinks in the other, became silent. They stood and sat and bathed me in their rancorous gazes.

Their rudeness annoyed me, so I didn’t greet them. “King Cold is dead,” I declared. “He was murdered on Earth along with Lord Frieza by a golden-haired Saiyan.”

Murmurs broke out across the room, the ferocious looks of King Cold’s officers turning to confusion and panic. It was pathetic how they had become. I’m sure half of them didn’t even know Frieza had survived Namek.

“How long ago?!” one man shouted.

“More than two months ago,” I said coolly.

“What?! Why have you waited so long to tell us?!” a bearded lavender-skinned alien I knew to be General Maguro shouted.

I shrugged. “You learned as quickly as I could gather you.”

“You did not need to gather us for this! You could have sent us a message!” another hulking alien shouted; this one I recognized to be Admiral Fukahin. She was hairless, but looked like she could use some. She was an ugly creature either way, pink-skinned and wrinkly and as large as a small space ship.

“I did what I thought was best,” I contended.

“Get up!” another shouted. “That’s not your throne.” I think this one was the ill-tempered Kurosukiro, a small imp-like beast with green skin and yellow bulbous spots covering her body like a fungus. The voice was certainly shrill enough to be hers.

“You’re right,” I said. “It’s not.” I didn’t move. Raising my hands above my head, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I could smell a trace of Tzano spice on my nose. Feeling my body and mind as one, I opened my eyes again and looked down upon the pathetic creatures standing before me. Many were enjoying refreshments. Even more of them were whining, filling the hall with their incessant noise. They had no idea, any of them. “I apologize for what you are about to see,” I told them.

I raised my hand, screamed, materializing ki around my fist, and punched myself in the upper chest. I felt my hand break through my armor and pierce my skin, as I knew it must. There were gasps and mutterings and a few people even shouted at me, calling me mad. I spit up blood and wiped my mouth. Feeling the pain burn across my body, I nearly fell off the high throne that shimmered with gold and onyx. My body began to shake, and I felt my mind wandering, slipping away. It was all I could do to stay in the moment. I returned their looks as blood seeped from my open wound; they were all wondering what I was doing, what I had done. Fools, every one of them. I only wished I had the time to cut each of their throats.

“Madness! Madness has gripped this hall!” That was General Tobikkare, a man I hated more than most. Years ago, he had tried to get me demoted after we had had an argument in the palace’s southern wing. I did not forget; I would not forgive.

“Y-you… misunderstand…” I gasped, clutching at my wound. I had overdone it. I should not have powered up so much. “All of you… will… burn…”

With that, I closed my open hand into a fist and the throne room exploded in flashes of light and rolling waves of heat. I had prepared this attack the moment I had entered the hall, waiting for the right moment to unleash it. They weren’t suspecting a thing. All of the weaker ones – everyone with a power level of 30,000 or below – were incinerated instantaneously. The more powerful officers were damaged, some more than others. Each required finishing off. At that moment, the doors on all sides of the hall opened, spewing dust and smoke inwards. The walls were cracked; the marble columns damaged and sagging; cracks in the floor and ceiling were spreading. My guards marched in, energy blasts in their hands. They mowed down any officers who had survived. Though many pleaded or tried to flee, my men were steel; they did as they were ordered and butchered the last officers of King Cold.

Standing up from the throne, I limped down the steps towards the others. There, Tobikkare awaited me. He was covered in cuts and scrapes and was holding a wounded shoulder, but he was very much alive and quite angry.

“You treasonous bastard! I always knew you were a traitor!”

“Th-thank you… for your service…”

I punched him back. He tried to block, but he was too weak; this wasn’t a battle, it was a slaughter. Tobikkare had to know that. There was no escaping, no hope of victory for him. When he skidded back, the white-bearded red-skinned alien tripped over a pile of bodies, and I saw my opening. Lunging forward, I grasped onto his throat and ripped it out, letting the blood cascade down my claws. His was warm and sticky and it gave me much pleasure to watch him struggle, watch him gag, and watch him die.

Standing up, I saw few remaining officers in the hall – Fukahin, Maguro, and Kurosukiro being the strongest left. Others were being mowed down, butchered with energy and punches and ganged up on by my soldiers. Not one of my men was even injured. This surprise attack had worked tremendously in my favor.

“Give… up…” I said to the remaining three, “and you’ll be spared…”

“Mercy!” Kurosukiro squeaked, falling to her knees. Guards surrounded her, fists and energy blasts raised.

Admiral Fukahin growled and charged a group of soldiers, who concentrated fire on her and brought her to her knees. I teleported over to her and kicked her so hard in the back of the head that my clawed foot went through her skull and out the backs of her eye sockets. Blood, crimson and viscous, splattered around, coating my old lizard skin. I laughed, in spite of myself. That one had been on my nerves for more than a decade. She commanded almost all of King Cold’s fleets. And now, with her dead…

Maguro’s arms were crossed, and he stood hovering just above an upturned table, one foot resting on the side of the knee of his other. He looked none to pleased. Scars covered his face – scars he had won in defense of the Planet Trade Organization serving King Cold faithfully. He had spent so many years fighting and winning. I know he must have felt terrible knowing it would all end here, like this.

Breathing hard, I made my way over to him. I didn’t have much time. I would need to get medical attention soon, lest I collapse and maybe never wake. That thought brought the first waves of doubt into my mind, disrupting my mind-body harmony.

“Stand down,” I ordered the soldier. “You rank below me, General.”

“Aye, I did. Before you were a traitor.”

“King Cold’s dead,” I hissed. “I’m not betraying anything.”

“This empire goes beyond him. You owe your loyalty to Cooler now. He’ll succeed his father. The Planet Trade Organization goes on,” the lavender-skinned alien spoke, utter disgust on his tongue. “They’ll have your head for this.”

“I’ll have yours first.”

Like a blur I moved, creating golden ki discs in either hand. I threw them at Maguro, the first one taking him in the stomach, the second sailing past him and impacting against the far wall. The cracks in the stone spread, and dust began to fall from the ceiling. A second later, a portion of the palace collapsed, falling into a messy pile of rubble. At once I could feel the cold on my skin, knew the storm was almost here. Sta Fu was gone. Everyone was dead, save for Maguro; I had to hurry. I didn’t want to be trapped here. My plans would be destroyed if the storm imprisoned me on this miserable world.

He tried to rush me, but I saw it in his eyes; he was resigned to the fact that he would die. Even if he beat me, all of my guards stood behind me ready to wipe him out. But it was my place to challenge him now. I had to show my strength, show my worth as a leader and a warrior. I thought of Polaria then and began to laugh sourly.

“Find this funny?” Maguro grunted, pulling the sharp energy disc out of his belly. “You truly are mad, lizard!”

“You should have seen this coming.”

I jumped forward, afterimaging around in broken digitized bursts, confusing him. He looked about, trying to track me, but I knew what this looked like to him. My form had split into three or four Zashisaros – each one morphing and un-morphing with the others in a dizzying display. Maguro’s scouter had been fried in the explosion; he had no hope of tracking the real me.

I teleported behind him, creating another energy disc – this one purple and black, burning as if it had been set aflame. I grabbed the man in a hug and pulled my face up to his ear.

“The Planet Trade Organization is dead. Go to your master, General. He’s waiting for you.”

With that, I slit the bastard’s throat and hurled the disc at him. When it detonated on his body, incinerating it, I returned to my guards. That was when I saw that there was only one more soldier left – Kurosukiro, the small imp. She’d given up, just as I had asked her.

“You are the last officer of King Cold,” I lied. “How does that make you feel, imp?” My mouth opened wide, revealing my teeth. I was breathing hard, seeing spots.

“I give up! Don’t kill me!”

I grinned, in spite of my pain. My breathing turned to silent chuckling. “I was going to, I admit. But you just gave this poor lizard an idea.” I shook my head. “Bad idea. Oh well. You can’t change the past. You’re mine now.” I nodded to the guards, and they seized Commander Kurosukiro. “Take her to my ship. Bind her and put energy restrainers on her. I want no one to know I have her.”

With that, a host of guards shuffled out of the room. Others remained, scanning the bodies, searching for any last signs of life, but they found none. When they reported back to me, I ordered them to board my ship for departure. We would never be returning, I knew. And then it was just me, alone in that throne room, with a sea of corpses. These people had been powerful, not just physically, but politically too. Their deaths would leave a massive void in the Planet Trade Organization’s power structure. That was good. I raised my hand, creating another energy blast. When the light faded, every corpse had vaporized. I was now sure that I had succeeded in killing everyone… well, almost everyone. Swichie, Shyotai, Sapras, and Kurosukiro were still alive. I had one of them already in chains. The other three would join her shortly.

An indignant wind was blowing through the hole in the wall. I looked around, noticing the structural damage around the room; the marble pillars were cracked or fallen over, and soon the entire room would collapse. I looked up at King Cold’s throne. There was something about its desolation, its isolation, that was beautiful to me. I inhaled deeply, trying to taste Tzano, but there was no trace left. Gold and onyx and bejeweled was the throne, and, if everything went as planned, no one would ever sit on it again. It would be buried in snow soon enough, a fate that seat very much deserved.

Blasting a hole through the wall, I stumbled outside. The storm was close, a bruise in the sky screaming towards me. I stood against it, holding my wound. It was so cold out there. My injury burned and my blood froze. I swallowed hard, pushing my way through clouds of frozen air and falling snow. Coming upon a clearing, I looked up at the sky and saw, distantly, the small forms of ships. The fleet was up there – all of King Cold’s remaining ships. Those ships were ready to go, ready to fight. They just needed an admiral to lead them.

My body was growing numb, my vision faint, but there was one last thing I had to do. The chill was overbearing. I had never been this cold before. I didn’t know how the Arcosians could stand it. Adrenaline rushed through my body, but was instantly cooled. I felt so tired. I could not sleep. I would not sleep. Raising my wrist-comm, I addressed the fleet.

“Th-this… is Zashisaro… the C-captain of the Guards… we have be-been a-ttacked! Lords I-Icer a-a-a-a-and Arcterial ambushed us and killed everyone else! I-I’m wounded and I-I’m going to die… please… send a ship for me… I-I have turned on my beacon… I a-await anyone w-with enough courage to save me…”

And with that, I fell to my knees. Looking down at the breastplate of my armor, I saw the dark droplets of blood frozen against it. My ship would be gone by now, with all of my soldiers on board. Sta Fu was long gone, on another mission for me. I was all alone. I had no way to get off the planet. All of the ships were gone. This was a massive gamble, but if I didn’t do this, things would seem suspicious. I couldn’t have the fleet be suspicious of me. I needed those ships.

The storm approached. I felt like I was going to freeze whole. My wound was burning so hot, it was like I was on fire. Why didn’t that warm me up? ‘Twas a cruel paradox. The Arcosians must be truly cold-blooded to be able to live in such coldness. A lizard such as myself would be better-suited for a lazy villa in a temperate desert.

Just as I was beginning to give up hope, I saw a glimmer of light in the sky, and my heart began to beat anew, shaking off the ice that had tried to embrace it. And when I saw the approaching twinkle in the sky shine as only metal would, I knew I was saved.

Electric heat nodes covered my body, in an attempt to raise my core temperature. I sat at a table, fire wine in my hand. Around me, soldiers gathered about. None were officers; all of them looked at me with awe and confusion. Surely they knew who I was, had thoughts about who I was… but they were also deeply concerned about what I had told them.

“Icer and Arcterial, eh?” one asked, at last breaking the silence.

“They waited until we were all together. We had gathered to discuss King Cold’s assassination…” I paused, letting the others absorb that one, “… when they appeared, barring the doors and butchering us savagely! We pleaded for mercy… but they wouldn’t listen… They wanted us dead. They wanted to take over the Planet Trade Organization… But we all know Cooler is supposed to rule, not them.”

That was the delicate line I had to tread for now. So long as Cooler and Nitro lived, I couldn’t be openly treasonous in front of the common soldiers. I’d have to kill those two, hopefully before I destroyed Icer, Arcterial, and their remaining children.

“We must alert Lord Cooler!” a soldier suggested. “He needs to know that his uncles are plotting against him.”

I downed the cup of fire wine in a single gulp. “I’ll tell him myself.” Standing, I looked around. “Take me to Admiral Fukahin’s flagship,” I ordered them. “This fleet is mine now.”

“S-sir…?” one of them asked, not understanding.

“Everyone else is dead,” I reminded him. “I was King Cold’s right hand man – the Captain of his Guards and his strongest and most loyal warrior. And this fleet is his fleet, is it not?” The soldier nodded fearfully. “I am the last surviving officer of King Cold’s army. This fleet is mine.”

“Understood, sir.”

“Good. Spread the message around the fleet. Let everyone know what Arcterial and Icer have done, and tell them that I have survived, and that I will not rest until those two answer for their treason. We will protect Lord Cooler and his right to rule, protect the stability of the Planet Trade Organization… and we will not rest until we have brought peace back to our empire.”

“Aye!” most of them shouted, raising their fists dutifully. I made sure to take note of those who did not seem so enthusiastic about me.

“I can take you to Admiral Fukahin’s flagship,” one of the soldiers offered. “Would you like to go now, General Zashisaro?”

“Yes. Our campaign begins today,” I told them. “We will set course for Arcterial’s fleet at once. Does anyone know where it is?”

“Last I heard the fleet made a refueling stop at Planet Cooler 179!” one of the soldiers shouted.

“Very well. That’s where we’ll go.”

And with that, I was taken to Fukahin’s flagship, which became my flagship for the time being. Soon, my own ship would miraculously reappear with all of my guards, and I would return to using it. But now was not the time for that. I had to play this carefully, after all. I set course for Planet Cooler 179 almost immediately afterwards, the full support of King Cold’s fleet behind me. We were going for Arcterial’s fleet first, not only because it was larger, but because Arcterial was not as cunning as Icer; that much I knew. It would be advantageous for me to eliminate the lesser threat first, so that Arcterial could not join with Icer against me. If they combined their forces, I would never defeat them. I had to strike now, before they knew what I was planning. I had a better chance of defeating the less intelligent brother of my lord first. Common sense dictated that I enacted my plan like this.

Thousands of ships were in this fleet. Millions of aliens were on board these ships. They were all mine. The tales they had heard about what had happened on Arcose had infuriated every one of them and made them mine. We were loyal to Lord Cooler; we were preserving the empire. That’s what they all thought. That’s all they needed to think.

I had won their loyalty. Now I just needed them to conquer the universe for me.

Chapter XVII: Great Council of FaeriEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Lychin
Position: Governor in Cooler's empire
Date of account: November 17, 764 Age (first scene)
November 18, 764 Age (second scene)

It had been a long time since I had been in Mithran. Decades, perhaps. I was not yet so old.

The streets were awash with rainwater, pouring down from the midnight sky like soldiers flinging themselves off a cliff. Blue the lights flashed, then purple, then a light shade of green. The city hummed and buzzed, magnetic hover vehicles spinning by on streets around me; the skyscrapers towered tall and pointed, made of dark steel. Hovering advertisements bobbed through the air as air taxis zoomed through the sky.

Around me, other Faereth moved. Every now and then, a Leqir drone or brancher would come stumbling through the tightly-bound crowds, skulking off in the opposite direction. And I even saw a traveling space-badger merchant with gold chains in his fur, jingling as he hobbled with a covered bag of goods over his back. The Faereth around me were workers, most of them. They had grey faces, wore patternless grey clothes, were ambitious and cutthroat and destined to the lives they already had. They were not like me. Had anyone known that a governor was on the street, the roadways would have parted for me. But I much preferred traveling incognito. I wore a faded brown jacket and black pants and a white undershirt. All of my jewelry was gone, my scouter, my armor… now I was one of them again, if only for a night.

Coming to my stop, I stared up at the skyscraper, seeing how far it went. I counted two hundred fourteen floors before the windows disappeared upwards into the soot clouds. The rain felt good on my face, running down my cheeks.

Auntie Guanaba would be waiting for me. She’d be wondering why I was late. I opened the door and stepped inside. Awaiting me was a hovering white-and-black ball. An attendant, I knew. I told it the floor I needed, and it bounced over to the gravity chute before turning it on with a shot of blue laser directed at the ‘on’ button. I thanked the bot, swiped it a bit of coin, and stepped into the chute. When I flew, it was as if I were living the life of a raindrop in reverse.

Her apartment was tucked around the final corner on floor four hundred thirty-one. I knocked, and she opened at once, greeting me in a dress of thin silk lace, dark as wine, with trimmed gold. Smiling, she said, “Lychin, oh Lychin! Come in, come in. It’s been so long hasn’t it? How’ve you been?”

“Well, and yourself?” I said, stepping into her humble abode. Around me, kitschy miniature statues of animals and little people were spread about on racks and shelves and tables. The place smelled of sweet spices and there was a taste of dust in the room. Everything was carpeted and cozy and cramped; the walls were painted lavender, the carpets the color of the dawn. We sat down, drank some chilled wine, imported from Vyrelian, and talked. She had invited me over. When the Great Council of Faeri had been called, the first one in my lifetime, she had offered to give me a place to stay until it was finished. It was an excuse to catch up. I hadn’t seen her since I’d been a boy, with wild aspirations about being a Planet Trade Organization warrior conquering planets for Lord Frieza.

“How’s the outpost?” was her first question.

“Good. A little colder than here.” I thought of the impending winter. It would be coming early this year, my scientists had predicted. Perhaps the first snows had already appeared… It would be more difficult to take care of the rebellions on Planet Frieza 68 when everything was covered in three feet of snow.

“And you get to boss all the other soldiers around?” I nodded, sipping my drink. “How many?”

“Five million, three hundred sixty-one thousand, five hundred twenty-nine.” The recitation came out a little more robotic than I had hoped.

Her face went white. “Lychin…” Her eyes grew watery as she stared at me. There was something in her look… something wrong… “You’re parents must be so proud!”

She hadn’t been talking to them, it appeared. Did they have another falling out? Did Auntie Guanaba ruin another party with her drunken ranting? I’d likely never learn from the devil herself. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“Oh, come on Lychin! You’re a governor on one of Cooler’s planets. You’re going to continue your family’s legacy, I’m sure of it.”

“Thank you.”

Leaning forward eagerly, Auntie said, “So, tell me about a day in the life of one of Cooler’s governors.”

Her hand brushed against my knee. I pretended not to notice. “It’s not that intriguing, to be honest. I spend most of my time buried in paperwork and administrative duties.”

“Do you ever go out and fight on distant worlds?”

“I used to.”

Her hand was creeping up my leg. “But no longer, Lychin?”

“No longer.” I drained my glass and stared at the dregs at the bottom of the cup, black as space.

“You have to tell them tomorrow,” his aunt urged suddenly, rubbing my thigh with one palm. “You have to convince them.”

“I know.”

“What are you going to say?” she asked.

“I don’t know.”

Smiling, my aunt bounced to her feet and grabbed my empty wine glass. “Well, I’m sure you’ll think of something, Lychin. You always do.”

She left me there to think as she poured more wine. Aunt Guanaba was a little ditzy, and she could be overbearing at times, but she was not wrong. I knew I had to be the voice of reason in the council tomorrow; there would be serious repercussions not only for us, but for our entire species, if we let madness sway our minds. We could choose to break away from the Planet Trade Organization, or stay. It would only require a few well-placed words, a charismatic demeanor, and conviction to get my message across. That’s what I hoped. I didn’t have a speech prepared, though. I had meant to write one and meant to memorize it, but I had procrastinated too long, and now there was no time.

Aunt Guanaba returned with two full glasses and we grew drunker and drunker as the night wore on. We talked of the past, of my childhood and our family, and of the future – of legacies and riches and power. I kept my tongue guarded and didn’t say too much, for I knew that when she got drunk, Auntie Guanaba was like to spill secrets. I only reflected what she herself thought (that the Faereth should break from the Planet Trade Organization and that I should become a bureaucrat in the new Faerin Empire).

In the back of my brain, I knew that I had to go to sleep soon – the council would commence at dawn – but I couldn’t bring myself to. I noticed, the more drinks she had, the clumsier Auntie’s advances grew, until her hand was on my chest, feeling my hearts beat in syncopated rhythm. The drunker I got, the less I cared about what she was trying to do. My head felt like it weighed three times what it normally did. I swayed back and forth, and I felt her breath on my cheek.

The incessant rains stopped an hour later, and the clouds parted, showing a double full moon. Vyrelian and Naelan were hovered like two eyeballs, pupil-less and dead, bathing the midnight city in white, pale light.

At dawn I rose, tired as a corpse, dressing myself in my best attire. If last night I had clothed myself as a boring peasant, this morning I would be a god-king. The dawn rose milky and silvery, thick streaks of clouds stretched out across the horizon. The city was not yet alive; only every now and then did I hear a the distant scream of a magnetic hovercar race by on the street below. Looking out the window, I couldn’t see more than a dozen stories down – the fog was too thick. I sighed, looking over my outfit: a cobalt-and-ivory robe, interlaced with ebony lines tracing through the patterning around my chest, which was my family’s crest. Around my collar and my cuffs and in the center of my family’s crest, white gold was spun with silver. I put on my cape, a slightly darker shade of blue, lined with white silk, clasped it with a brooch of pink diamond, and left my Auntie sleeping where she lay. That was good. At least one of us would get some rest.

At my nightstand lay my scouter. It was blinking with a message marked ‘urgent’. That would be Governor Madron again, no doubt. He was watching my outpost for me while I was away. The governor of Planet Frieza 79 was a jittery fellow, and he was always calling me. Like everything else he had called up to talk about, this message could wait. Yes, part of my planet was in rebellion with Frieza dead. No, it was not a serious priority. Any half-wit could get that planet under control. It would just take a little time. If he didn’t bring peace back to my outpost by the time I returned, I’d make sure to never leave him in charge again.

I stopped by the factory on my way out, though I didn’t stay long. Standing at the entrance, my hand on the metal gate, I peered off, past a half-mile of dead grass, to the distant building, as broad and towering as a skyscraper in its own right. That was where my twin toiled away, day after day in obscurity. I wondered how the work was on her. I always asked, when we talked through our computers, but she never gave me an honest answer. I could see it in her face. This place was wearing her down. Maybe I’d see about getting her a new job, once this council business was all over. I was going to see her then and there, but I was running late, and it was starting to rain lightly (rain would ruin my robes). So I took to the air. On my homeworld, pedestrian air travel was frowned upon, or, in some cities, even outlawed. No one would care if I flew, though. I was a governor. And I was late for a very important meeting.

In the distance, floating research stations hung like ornaments in the upper atmosphere. The trees were starting to come into bloom for the day. Everyday, trees on Faeri flower; and their flowers die by nightfall. In the morning, fresh blooms are opened during the summer season. I could smell their sweet fragrances even as I flew over them, thick and deep and pure, the defining characteristics of imported tropical species.

Next to me, scaled eel-like creatures slithered through the air. One flew right at me, and when I didn’t get out of its way, it went sailing over me, hissing and baring its teeth. These were Seivals, annoying scavengers that infested every city on the planet. They were primarily meat eaters, but the metropolitan strains had learned to eat anything.

The council halls were located deep underground in the Mithran capitol building. In the distance, I could see blue-green flames rising three hundred feet in the air over that building. The immense white marble torches had been lit. They were supposed to produce flames large enough to alert everyone in the entire world that a Great Council of Faeri was in progress. That had been the mindset thousands of years ago. Now, in a modern world, in the middle of a claustrophobic city, the move seemed all hubris and no logic.

And that’s precisely why I liked the display.

Some were drinking wine already, but I couldn’t. My head still ached from last night. I ordered a Synthetic Pelocian Shake and a glass of water, and that was enough for me. We were drawn in a large circle. There were three hundred or so seats. I didn’t bother to count. Some of the councilmen were governors, others were local politicians or merchants or high-ranking military officers. There were three empty seats: one was for the deceased Governor Sipova, a heavily respected senior member of the Faerin elite; another was for some General… I couldn’t make out the name on their card; and the third was reserved for Admiral Bael, the leader of the Faerin fleets – the largest assemblage of imperial ships owned by any group outside of the royal family. I didn’t know if Bael and the general without a name were coming or not, but I assumed so. Bael was one of the highest-ranking members of the Planet Trade Organization. It would be a massive opportunity wasted if he didn’t show.

In the middle of the circle of distinguished Faereth, a fire burned. Smoke rose lazily towards the ceiling. Around us, torches lit the bare stone walls, grey-black as night. There were no guards; no one else had been permitted down into the depths of the council chambers. We were twenty-five stories below ground level, safe from orbital bombardment. Every one of them wore robes or dresses, flaunting their wealth and style. Golds and crimsons and purples and lavish pinks and silvers and blues decorated my fellow Faereth, and it almost made me sick to behold the range of colors before me. It was all so silly, in a way. Everyone was very serious about showing how much money they had; to me, that seemed beside the point. We weren’t here to compare inheritances.

Don’t get me wrong – my robe was expensive and lavish, but I only wore it on the rarest of occasions, and it was a modest showcase in comparison to many of those around me.

Minister Harame stood, raised his hand, and cleared his throat. With Governor Sipova dead, he was now the most senior member of the council. “We were going to wait for Admiral Bael, but it appears he will not be arriving anytime soon… so, with that, I declare this Council of Faeri… underway!!” He spoke firmly, his dark purple skin wrinkled and covered in spots. His hair was white and wispy, and nearly all of it was gone. “After three hundred long years, the Great Council of Faeri has been revived! Come, my fellow noblemen and noblewomen, join me in ushering in this new phase of Faerin history!” The flame in the middle of the table flared up, trailing blue flames snaking towards the ceiling. Soon the flame turned green before settling on a vibrant shade of purple.

Mutters of enthusiasm and impatience rippled through the hall. Smoke rose before me, slightly obscuring Harame’s standing figure. He wore a feathered helmet and a ruby-red robe with a plum-colored sash. They applauded him when he sat down, and the minister seemed rather pleased with himself. I sipped my shake and thought of my sister.

A dozen or so seats to my left, a woman stood. Leaning over, I saw her holo-placard read ‘Governor Jahu’. She was young, barely an adult, with the most pretty, youthful face I had ever seen. How she had managed to become a governor at her age, I could not guess. She must’ve been a genius… or she slept with the right person. I stood on guard, keeping my eye on that one. “Governors, officials, officers, good morning.” Everyone grunted a ‘good morning’ back at her. “You all know why we’re here. I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will: today, all of us will decide if our species should break from the Planet Trade Organization after hundreds of years of imperial occupation of our homeworld, or if we should remains loyal to our Arcosian overseers.” Occupation. Overseers. Her words sounded so combative, I was taken aback. “I know where I stand, councilmen and councilwomen. Do you?” A few of the others grunted in affirmation. “Good,” Governor Jahu spoke sweetly. “We are all descended from free men and free women, Faereth who once ruled over their own empire hundreds of years ago. And now we fight wars for aliens who have never even been to Faeri and who we do not know. We fight and bleed and die for the Arcosians and their hapless slaves, and what thanks do we get?” Silence filled the room. “We are expected to sacrifice ourselves for Cooler and his family. Tell me, fellow council members… by what right do they own us? Are you happy being their slaves, their pets, their sycophants, living in fear that one day you may say the wrong word or forget to bow or make a tiny mistake? We all know how brutal Cooler and his family are. They are known to murder our kind for nothing. They don’t care. We are not people to them… just meat for their endless wars.”

Minister Harame was fumbling with his mustache. Seeing that Jahu was done, he raised his arm awkwardly, pointing at the flames, and bellowed, “Uh… alright… wh-who’s next?!”

“I am,” came a voice from across the circle. A middle-aged Faerin stood, his platinum blond hair displayed in a semi-mohawk. He was not a handsome man, but he was not ugly either; scars covered his face and he was clean-shaven. His holo-card read ‘Commander Tikaban’. “Friends, Faereth, countrymen… I am perhaps not the best authority for this council, as I was a lowborn boy who never knew his parents and lived in extreme poverty until I enlisted into the army. I’ll not bore you with the details, but let’s just say that through the years, I rose to the rank of commander. And now here I am. I’m wearing this,” he said, feeling his brown-and-opal robes, “because of the Planet Trade Organization. I was a poor boy without a future or a voice, and Cooler’s army gave both of those to me. And now here I stand before you.” A heavy look crossed the man’s face. “And yet, for all that… I cannot bring myself to defend our empire. They fight needless wars, are ruled by bloodthirsty psychopaths, and don’t give a damn about any of us. It’s as Governor Jahu said,” the man spoke, pointing to the sitting governor, “we’re just their playthings, in their minds. I know the army from the inside out. All the other species are just like us, living in fear, trying their best to impress the leaders. But why? What has Cooler or his family ever done that’s made them worthy of being our leaders? I know I can’t think of any reasons. For me, I see a value in having an army, in such an upbringing, but I don’t see why we can’t create and run our own army instead. In the days of old, the Faerin Empire was the most feared organization in the universe. Our territory stretched as wide as the Planet Trade Organization’s today. Why are we serving some foreign race, when we could, instead, return to our roots, and remember who are? I vote to leave the Planet Trade Organization, and I hope all of you will vote with me for the sake of freedom.”

Following the commander, Governor Abliune and Mayor Tamerin spoke. Each of them regurgitated the points of the first two speeches, so I shall not repeat them here. I had known Abliune for more than twenty years. Her world had been involved in trade with mine, and we had twice combined our forces to fight off enemy space pirates. I was shocked to see her defect. Tamerin was a firebrand old man with a reputation that preceded him. I knew what I was getting with him, but his biting words – calling for the dissolution of the Planet Trade Organization, the assassination of all members of the royal family, and the return of our personal liberties – took my breath away.

One man, a Governor from Cooler’s region, brought up Governor Sipova’s death, noting that this empire could no longer protect its senior members (she had been killed by the Aphotic Prince’s space pirates). There were those who complained about Salza rounding up more Faereth than any other species on the suspicion of treason. And then there was the matter of Loquano, a highborn Faerin elite born into a wealthy family. He had defected to the Aphotic Prince’s side and Lord Avalan had executed him for that. There had been no trial, no technical findings of guilt (in truth, Loquano had been guilty of being a traitor, not that that would matter to this lot), even though Governor Guva and myself had been present for the execution.

I found that my body had become coated in a thin layer of sweat as this council had gone on, and my fists had tightening so hard that I think I sprained the pointer finger on my right hand.

It was striking to me how many of them were traitors. I hadn’t expected this. I thought it would be a more balanced debate, with slightly more in favor of leaving, but enough opposing voices to tell the other side’s arguments. I could see things were quickly spiraling out of control.

That was when Elder Statesman Saphodine began to speak. She was an old woman, wrinkled and tiny, hunched over and withered. “I have sat here in silence for more than an hour, listening to one Faerin after another spout treason like mad dogs. I’ll remind you all that we are part of an empire – we did not willingly enter into the Planet Trade Organization. Cooler conquered our species and threatened to wipe us out if we did not join him. So we joined him. We are slaves, yes. Every one of you brings up that point as if it is notable. It’s not. Every other species in the Planet Trade Organization, sans the Arcosians, are slaves too. We can’t leave the Planet Trade Organization because we aren’t in control. Cooler owns us. He owns our planet, our ships, our wealth. That became true the moment we bowed down to him and swore ourselves loyal to his cause.”

Governor Jahu stood. “That was the past. We need not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors today.”

“Do shut up girl,” the Elder Statesman rasped. She gave Jahu a look of ire and then continued, “The problem with ignorant Faereth such as that one is that they have no experience. They don’t understand how the universe works. They believe we can defect from the Planet Trade Organization with no consequences.”

“I don’t believe anyone said that, my lady,” a man said rising. His holo-card read ‘General Sennoni’. He was a heavy-set thick-bearded Faerin, dark-skinned and regally-dressed in so much gold, he looked like something out of a story. “We know the risks of our secession. That is why we called this council.”

“Do you?” I said, standing myself. All eyes fell upon me, and a cold sweat ran down my spine. I shouldn’t have done that. I wasn’t ready to speak. I had been frantically trying to come up with my points in my head and had even wrote a few of them down on a napkin, but now… “I don’t believe anyone has stated clearly what will happen to our species if we leave the Planet Trade Organization.”

“It will mean war,” General Sennoni admitted. He was still standing, defiantly, not willing to give up his speaking position to me. “But we’ve won wars against greater odds in the past.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Let me explain something to everyone, so that you may appreciate what will happen to us should we secede from the empire. Cooler is stronger than anyone in the universe. His family are all strong – even the children. Not even our best warriors could harm the weakest member of the royal family. You don’t get it.”

“We have the largest fleet of any race,” Governor Jahu said fiercely, standing again.

“We do,” I agreed. “It’ll take Cooler a few more seconds to destroy ours than, say, the Sobren fleet.” I said. I could hear the choler rising in my own voice and I was too angry and too tired to try to mask it. “If we declare ourselves traitors, Lord Cooler will destroy our planet. He will ravage us across the universe, hunting down every last Faerin until our species is extinct. We could gather all of our soldiers together and try to kill him in one single battle, and he would wipe us all out without breaking a sweat. None of you get it,” I said, looking out over the circular table from one well-dressed elite to another. “If we leave the Planet Trade Organization, we will have doomed our species. Yeah, like any of you, I’m mad that I’m a slave. I don’t like the position I’m in. But we can do nothing about it. I mean, we could leave the empire and get wiped out, but I don’t think any rational Faerin would consider that an option.”

“Do you know the story of the Teraklan Empire, Governor Lychin?” Commander Tikaban asked. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I shook my head. “Five thousand years ago, they ruled an empire much like the Planet Trade Organization today, with dozens of slave species and hundreds of worlds under their command. Five thousand years ago, the Teraklans came to Faeri, trying to annex us into their empire. And do you know what we did in response?”

“We fought them off and we maintained our autonomy,” Elder Statesman Saphodine spoke dryly. I nearly laughed. That old woman had some fight in her; she was my only ally in this struggle, it seemed, but she was holding her own, completely unafraid of those who opposed her.

“We did indeed,” Tikaban admitted. “But we did more than that. After we smashed them in space above our homeworld, do you know what we did next?” No one spoke. “We hunted them down and killed every last Teraklan. That was the price they paid for daring to try to enslave us. And then we took what was theirs, setting up the last Faerin Empire. You see, governor and elder statesman… we Faereth are not like other species. We take what we want. We are free. We cannot be slaves. We will not!”

Governor Jahu added, “We did it before, and we’ll do it again! The Faereth will rise from the ashes of the Planet Trade Organization to reclaim the universe for ourselves!”

“You sound like an Arcosian,” I observed. “You’re mad. You’re just the kind of person who will lead us to ruin. Until you see Cooler destroy our homeworld with your own eyes, you will never believe him capable of such an act!” I swallowed, briefly crossing eyes with Saphodine. I looked around the room at as many of the sitting nobles as I could. I knew this was my chance – my only chance – to convince them. “It’s true that in the past, we fought off an expansionist empire and created our own sovereign domain in their image, but that story is not relevant for one reason: Cooler. Lord Cooler is a force unto himself, unlike anything else in the universe. So long as he lives, we cannot stand against the empire.”

“So we’ll poison him!” Jahu shouted. “We’ll find a way…!”

“Find a way to kill every member of his family?” I asked. “That’s insane. There’s no way we can kill them all, and so long as even one of them lives, we are not safe.”

Mayor Tamerin stood. “I have heard enough from you, boy!” he shouted, pointing a crooked, shaking finger at me. “You should be imprisoned for treason! You are no Faerin! You’re Cooler’s lap dog.”

Murmurs broke out across the hall. I could see I was losing the audience. “Thank you, mayor, for your wise words. As always, you are the voice of reason in these discussions,” I said with all my venom. “Governor Jahu and Commander Tikaban are well-meaning, I’ve no doubt, but Tamerin,” I spat, not even saying his rank, “is the kind of man to doom us all. His hate will provoke Cooler’s wrath. Listen, everyone… I don’t like being a slave. I’d rather the Faerin Empire still existed. But it can’t. Idealism is not realism. Though my peers may be well-meaning, they are irrational and dangerous. They will lead to our species’ undoing. Don’t you get it? I’m not defending a good empire or a good emperor. I hate Cooler as much as any of you – perhaps not as much as Mayor Tamerin, but still…” They laughed at that, which was a good sign. Tamerin gave me a wide-eyed, savage look. My thoughts turned to my aunt and my parents, all of whom had urged me to advocate for seceding from the empire. But then I thought of my sister, of her daughter, and I couldn’t bring myself to make common cause with such reckless hate. “We can live as slaves, or we can die free.” My voice came soft; the room had fallen silent to listen. “It may sound nice, dying free. But just think about it. Your family names, your legacies, your wealth, your children… all gone because of your pride. You can’t stand being a slave, so you’d rather doom your entire species to death. My sister has a young daughter,” my voice rose, breaking in the process, “and I want to see her reach adulthood, to experience the universe as I and her mother have. How is it fair to doom so many innocent Faereth to death just because we don’t like having to answer to an Arcosian overlord?” I blinked away tears. I didn’t think this would get me so emotional. “We are rich, we live easy lives, and we can do almost anything we want. Most species do not have the liberties we do. I ask you again, fellow council members, are you willing to sacrifice your children, your children’s children, and every other innocent Faerin, for a mark of pride to say that you are free?”

No one responded. Commander Tikaban, who had been the only other person standing, sat down. More muttering broke out across the hall, as Faerin elites discussed amongst themselves what to do. I remained standing, peering down upon everyone else, showing them the tears in my eyes. I didn’t know what had come over me. The recklessness, the emoting, the vulnerability… it wasn’t like me. But again, when I closed my eyes, all I saw was my sister and her daughter, and I knew I was right.

Minister Harame finally got to his feet, clearing his throat noisily. “Very good, very good. Settle down everyone,” he said, causing the room to fall into silence. The old man sucked at the air and rubbed his nearly-bald scalp. His glossy blue eyes scanned the chamber, looking over each and every councilman and councilwoman in a slow, awkward exchange. Once he had met eyes with everyone, Harame said, “Given the discussions that have taken place, I believe it is time for everyone to vote.” He licked his lips and smiled, looking quite pleased with himself. “All in favor of leaving the Planet Trade Organization, raise your hands now, or forever hold your peace!” he said, raising his voice to a booming quiver.

My heart was in my throat. I had said all I could, done all I could. I prayed that the others would not give in to madness, and recognize the cold stark reality of our situation. Yeah, it was ugly being slaves. I got that. I didn’t like it one bit. But the reality of our situation was that we could either be slaves (and calling us slaves was a very loose term, in truth – we had so many privileges, and we could travel freely through the empire) or die. My life was not so bad that I would rather die.

Before anyone could raise their hands, the far doors slammed open. In strode a man, tall and slender and confident, his platinum blond hair pulled back, a look of extreme arrogance upon his face. His skin was a vibrant shade of violet, and he was clean-shaven. I knew this man. Admiral Bael wore a tight-fitting suit of scryihl armor, which glimmered silver, ash black, and indigo. I sucked in a breath and exchanged a look with the governor sitting next to me. Bael was not playing around. If the others had been flaunting their wealth with their robes, Bael had one-upped them to an extent I had never seen before. Scryihl was the most expensive substance in the universe, and it was the most durable. I reckoned that suit cost Bael a fortune larger than the combined net worths of every other aristocrat in that council chamber, including me. His periwinkle cape billowed behind him, sparkling like stars in the night’s sky. Coming to a stop just in front of the table, Bael allowed a thin smile to spread across his lips like an opening wound.

“I apologize for my tardiness. Please forgive me, fellow council members,” the man spoke. His voice was deep and threatening, and no one dared challenge him. “I was held up at Uoto. But now those rebels are dealt with, I am here.”

“Uh… Admiral Bael…” Minister Harame stammered, getting to his feet and rubbing his bald head nervously, “w-we… we were just about to vote on the m-matter…”

Bael’s smile vanished like snow in the night. “I am no admiral, Minister. Perhaps you have not heard, but Cooler demoted me.”

Gasps spread across the round table. Harame went pale and looked as if he were about to faint. “I-I-I… I… I-I…” the Minister tried to say.

Bael raised his hand calmly to silence the blundering old fool. “I know. It’s shocking. Cooler was quite mad with how I treated the Uttovelm. But I will make no apologies for what I did to them, my friends. They were traitors, and they deserved to burn.”

“Admiral… if you are no longer the leader of our fleets, who is?” Governor Jahu asked, rising to her feet. She was a feisty one, Jahu. So many people were paralyzed with fear in the presence of Bael, yet she, a mere girl, stood as if he were just another man.

Bael’s golden eyes surveyed the room before landing on me. “Ah yes, he’s here.” The former Admiral clasped his hands in front of his throat and spoke, “Rise, Admiral Lychin.”

Another wave of gasps permeated the room. A chill so cold I felt like I was going to be frozen in ice spread across my body. My mind went blank, and my face went numb. Me? Did he say my name? I didn’t know what was going on.

“Admiral Lychin,” Bael growled. “I do not have all day.”

Standing, my eyes wide, my hearts beating like furious drums, I looked over the council room again. “I… I’m not the admiral…” I squeaked at last, my voice as meek as a child’s.

“That’s where you’re wrong.” Bael’s voice was sharp as a knife. “Cooler appointed you himself.”

More talking spread through the room. They were all giving me hateful looks now, even Saphodine. “H-he… he never told me!” I tried to say. “I had no knowledge of this.”

My heartbeats were growing in my ears; they were all I could hear. I was trembling now. I could guess what someone like Bael would do to someone like me, if this were true. I didn’t even know if it was. Truthfully, I had no knowledge of Cooler making me the new admiral of the Faerin fleets.

Bael’s face softened into a wide smile. “I believe you, Admiral.” The others looked uncertainly at him. “I know the game Cooler’s playing. He wanted me to kill you so he’d have an excuse to imprison me. Well I won’t kill you, Lychin. I know you’re a scapegoat, another pawn in this game. And more importantly, you’re a Faerin, like everyone else in this room.”

There were murmurs of agreement from the seated nobles. “Admiral–” I began, but Bael raised his hand again.

“I was loyal to Cooler,” he said, posing regally in front of the round table. I noticed that he did not take his empty seat. He did not deem it necessary to join us. The thing about a round table is that everyone seated at one is equal. There is no head seat, no place for a king. That is why Bael did not join us, I knew. Still, my trembling did not lessen. If anything, it grew worse. “I spent decades protecting his empire, battling rebels, space pirates, and all sorts of alien threats. And this is the thanks I get,” he said, lowering his voice to a hoarse whisper. “I end the rebellion on Uoto and Cooler demotes me.” He looked at them all, his eyes like fire. “I was loyal to my liege lord. But he betrayed me. He betrayed us all by making a mockery of our fine fleet. When word of this spreads to the other planets…”

“Bastard!” a voice shouted.

“Kill Cooler!” a woman shrieked.

Others joined in, calling for Cooler’s head and for the Faereth to break from the Planet Trade Organization. Bael let them shout until the room became a den of chaos. Then, he raised one hand delicately, and they all shut up at once. He held them tightly in the palm of his hand.

“I was loyal once,” Bael repeated with melancholy in his voice. “And this is the reward I get for my loyalty. Well, I’ll tell you, council members, I’ve grown tired of being loyal.” A cheer exploded across the table as hundreds of Faereth shouted in triumph. A coldness settled in my heart, and I sunk into my chair. I felt tears coming again, but these were the wrong kind. “Will you join me, friends?” he asked, his arms extended, his marvelous form-fitting scryihl armor glowing like a supernova. “Will you help me rid the universe of injustice?” They roared in approval. It was all over. Bael looked at the nobles coldly and silenced them again with a raised hand. “Good,” he said in that deep, confident voice of his. “We should have done this a long time ago. It’s my fault for believing in Cooler. I was naïve. Never again. I swear to you all, the universe will run with the blood of Cooler and the rest of his family,” Bael declared violently. “His brother and father may be dead,” the man spoke, pausing to let everyone cry in horror again (that new nugget of information was perfectly-timed, I thought; that meant he had thought all of his speech out well in advance, the sly bastard), “but Cooler, Nitro, and their uncles remain. We are slaves – their slaves. Yet around us, a hundred different enemies attack the Planet Trade Organization, bleeding the empire, and our fearsome Arcosian lord cannot annihilate any of them. What does that say about him?” The council members shouted horribly at Bael, calling Cooler every name possible. I shuddered. “This empire is dying. Soon it will be dust and ash. My friends,” he said, extending his arms outwards in a dramatic display, “do you want to go down with that sinking ship, or do you want to earn you freedom?”

It was not hard to guess what the others wanted.

As chaos overtook the room, some Faereth screaming for Cooler’s head, others chanting Bael’s name, others pledging loyalty to their admiral by kneeling at his feet, Bael’s eyes found mine. They were pure energy, pure molten light. I thought I saw another knowing smirk appear on his face, for a fraction of a second, and then, he looked away and back towards those whom he had won over so easily.

A dead flower fell from a leafless tree in front of me, landing just at my feet as I walked back to my aunt’s apartment. So lost in thought was I that I didn’t even realize at the time that I was still in my finest robes. Surely, the pedestrians on the streets were giving me strange looks. I was too lost in thought to care.

When she opened the door, her first words were, “How did it go, Lychin?” I noted the hopefulness in her voice even then.

“I need wine,” I said bluntly. “Lots of wine.”

I stepped inside and did not greet her, instead going straight to the bedroom. I could not wait to change my clothes. Auntie Guanaba was confused, but I was not in the mood to humor her. I slammed the door behind me as I waited for her to pour me my glass. Coming up to the bed, where the bag with all my other clothes lay, I once again noticed my scouter, which was flashing red to tell me it had an urgent recorded message waiting for me. Picking the little device up, I pressed the message play button.

It was Salza who had delivered the news.“Governor Lychin, I am pleased to announce that Lord Cooler has graciously decided to rename you the Admiral…”

“Salza, you cunt,” I breathed furiously, crushing the scouter between my fingers. “You fucked up everything.”

We had been so close… so close to saving our species. I had given it everything I had. And I had failed.

Stepping out of the bedroom, I met my aunt in the kitchen. She was quietly preparing the last touches of dinner to go with the wine. Though my belly rumbled at the sight and smells of what she was making, I wasn’t hungry. I came up behind her and spun her around.

“Lychin!” was all she could say before I kissed her. The kiss was long and deep and affectionate.

Pulling away, I grabbed the nearest wine glass and drained it in one breathe. “This wine is shit,” I complained.

“Lychin?! What’s going on?! What happened at the council?” I could see the fear in my aunt’s eyes. She feared me, thought I had gone mad. That brought me back to reality.

I set the empty wine glass down and pressed my fingers to the bridge of my nose, trying to clear my thoughts. It wasn’t fair, I knew, how I was treating her. I was becoming like my aunt… ruining parties and getting drunk and acting so violent that she made sure no one would like her. But that wasn’t me. So I looked back up at her wearily and said, “We’re out.”

“Oh, Lychin, that’s wonderful!” Aunt Guanaba murmured, rushing over to me and wrapping her arms around my neck in a careless hug. “Did your speech help?”

“It did.”

“That’s so good, Lychin! Wow, you are a remarkable man, do you know that?”

I sighed. “I’m sure my parents would be proud.”

“They would be!”

I nodded apathetically and turned away from her. She couldn’t help it, and it wasn’t fair of me. She didn’t know. “Call my sister,” I said a moment later, still not daring to look at my aunt again, for fear of letting her see that I was weeping. “Tell her I need to speak with her urgently.”

Chapter XVIII: The First Snowfall of WinterEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Glacial
Position: Son of Arcterial
Date of account: November 22, 764 Age

It was like being suspended in glass, living in that rejuvenation tank. I was stuck in there for more than a month. The doctors were my only company. No one else ever came to see me. I half expected my father or sister to show up, but it appeared my caretakers either didn’t know who I was or were keeping my identity a secret. I felt so lonely in that tank – cold and tired and worn, like used sandpaper. I had to break free.

When I became fully conscious (to the point where they knew I was awake), there were still several doctors checking up on me. Their numbers thinned soon after, until it was only me, a single hunched-over doctor with an orange mohawk, and a new, strange officer who would sit and stare at me outside my tank. That one had wispy white hair, deep mauve skin, a tall, thin form, and small crimson horns. He was clothed in dark armor, wore a blood-red cape, and had his yellow eyes trained on me for days before I got out. I had no idea who he was at first.

When they judged me no longer broken, they let me out, though I could not leave that room. One day, when I awoke, the water drained, and the tank opened, and I stepped out to a dark-lit room with a towel and a cup of ice water awaiting me. I swallowed the water and wiped myself off and looked around. Where exactly was this place? I had no memory of being brought here. I knew I had escaped Captain Swichie’s ship after pirates had stormed it, and the planet I had been going towards… it had been Planet Frieza 068, I remembered: one of the most modern outposts in the empire, and one of the largest too, boasting a garrison of more than five million soldiers. The fleet that generally protected the planet was surely gone, off to some war or another. That was the only explanation for how those pirates had been able to take over Swichie’s prison ship.

The ice water felt good on my raw throat, and I sat down. My face was buzzing numb, my head felt heavy, my eyes burrowed into my head, as if I was looking out of my face from a slightly different vantage point than I usually did. I felt sick to my stomach, but there was nothing in it to wretch up.

The far wall lit up with white, strobing lights, and an aero-door slid open with a pop. In strode the blood-red man. This time he was wearing a lavender-and-burgundy silk robe with fine silver patterning, and his usual blood-red cape. There were fleshy bits on his face, like open wounds, glowing scarlet in the low light. He was an alien of a species I did not know.

“So we meet at last,” the man rasped, sitting at the table opposite me. I sipped my drink and noticed that my chest was twitching. I tried to stop it, but it was no use. “Not a talkative one, are you?” My silence answered him. “No? Well, this would go a lot faster if you helped me out.”

“What’s going on, where am I?” I whispered hoarsely.

“You crash-landed on Planet Frieza 068 – a bit of an archaic name, to be honest. Frieza is dead, after all.”

A touch of cold permeated through my body, as if I had been slapped by an ice hand. Frieza dead, just like that. The tormentor of my dreams, the smug little asshole who called himself my cousin, now dead. It was a surreal moment, sitting in that dark room, just me and that man, learning that one of the most powerful beings in the history of the universe was dead. I don’t suspect he knew that I hadn’t known. I kept my face guarded and my eyes blank. Frieza’s death did not affect me, as far as he knew.

“What does that mean for the empire?” I croaked.

“We’re still chugging along, same as always,” the man said. “Cooler has taken over completely.”

“What about King Cold?”

“Uh…” the man scratched his chin and gave me a weird look. “Who is that?”

That was when I remembered that many officers in the Planet Trade Organization didn’t know about Frieza’s father. “Nevermind,” I said. That was good, though. If Cooler had taken over, it almost surely meant King Cold was dead, or at least maimed. For the first time in a long time, I felt a spark burning in my mind. It felt so strange, so out-of-place, that for a moment, I nearly blacked out. Composing myself, I stopped my head from swaying and my chest from twitching and returned my gaze to the man.

“Are you holding me here as a prisoner?”

“Why would I?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I’m not.”

“Then I would like to go.” I stood up, the cup in my hand.

The man shook his hand. “Sit. We need to talk.” Our gazes met, and I frowned. He shook his head and said, “I’m Governor Madron. This is not my planet, but I’m in control for now… while Governor Lychin is away on official business for Lord Cooler. That means you are under my command, Arcosian.”

The way he said that made me think he didn’t know who I was. “I understand, governor. I don’t wish to trouble you. With your leave, I would like to have a little food to fill my belly, and then I’ll be on my way.”

“You would like that, wouldn’t you?” Madron smiled. “Sit,” he commanded. “I will not ask you again. Tell me how you got here.”

Sighing, I sat. It would be better just to get this over with. “My ship was preparing to dock above the planet and refuel before heading out for Planet Arcose. We were attacked by pirates, and Captain Swichie was killed, and I barely escaped…”

“Captain Swichie?” The man’s yellow eyes narrowed in thought. “I don’t know that name.”

“He c-commanded the Sovereign, my lord,” I said. “The largest ship in the Planet Trade Organization’s fleets.”

“Huh. Never heard about that before. Were you part of his crew?”

“No,” I replied, bowing my head. “I was a worker. A slave. I was there because I committed treason against King Cold and Frieza.”

The words seemed to hang in the air, like frost. I looked at the pink-skinned governor, looking him over. I wasn’t sure if I could kill him, if it came to that. I didn’t know why I was being so open with him. “Right, well, they’re dead now. Lord Cooler probably won’t mind. I’ve heard he doesn’t get along with his family anyways.”

“That is true.”

“He’s going to war with Lord Nitro, his brother,” the governor mused, biting the tip of his finger. His gaze never left mine, as if he were studying me, to see what reaction I had. “The time is now.”

“The time for what?”

“You know what.”

“I don’t,” I said wearily. “And I don’t want to play games with you, my lord. I just want to eat and rest, and find my way home.”

“Home,” he agreed, nodding. “You know, it’s funny, Arcosian. When you were in my rejuvenation tank, I could have killed you if I had wanted to. While you were sleeping, you were defenseless. So many of your bones were broken. Your body was covered in bruises and cuts and scars. I didn’t know how you were still going. And I still don’t.”

“No offense, my lord, but that’s really none of your business.”

“Ah, there it is again.” Governor Madron leaned in, smiling his yellow-toothed grin. “My lord. Such an elegant turn of phrase. Precise, minimalistic, universal. And only someone who grew up in a good family talks like that. You see, Arcosian, regular soldiers and lowborn aliens across the universe all say m’lord. But not you. Who are you?”

The question hung in the air for a long time. “My name is Leech, governor. My father was a noble from Arcose. I enlisted in the military when I reached adulthood and worked under Lord Frieza for most of my time… before everything happened…” It was not a complete lie – in fact, the only lie was the omission about my lord father’s true position on Planet Arcose. He was no mere noble, after all. It was interesting, to think then, that my father had become even more powerful than he had been before I had been put in chains. Now, only lords Cooler and Nitro and their children stood in his way of taking over the Planet Trade Organization. I didn’t know if he still had such ambitions, though.

“Leech? That is a queer name for an Arcosian.”

“My father was a strange man.”

“I bet he is,” the governor spoke, smiling again. There was something in that smile I didn’t like. He didn’t refer to my father in the past tense, as I had. “So Leech, tell me why I should not put you back in chains.”

“If you try, I will kill you,” I responded apathetically. “I’m not going back in chains. Either I kill you, or you kill me, if that’s how it’s going to be.”

That made Madron laugh, and when he laughed, the slits in his cheeks and neck opened up as fleshy half-bowls and seemed to reverberate with his voice. “I don’t want you to go back to prison, Arcosian. I want you to help me with a little problem I have.”

“If I help you, will you let me go?”


“Then what do you need help with?”

“You see, Arcosian, I am a humble man. I’m not a governor of a such a prestigious world. Some could argue that aside from Planet Frieza 001, this is the most sought-after governor post in the entire region. I don’t doubt that, but it’s not for me. This isn’t my planet. I’m the governor of Planet Cooler 079.”

I didn’t understand. “How did you end up here, my lord?”

“When news of Frieza’s death spread… there were rebellions on my world. Many died. Many more were killed when our long-range scouters exploded as we tried to read Lord Frieza’s and his opponent’s power levels on Namek. My outpost was crippled. Governor Lychin kindly evacuated those of us who survived to this place. This is a big world, after all. It has room for my small garrison. There are millions of soldiers here already. What would it matter if a few more soldiers were brought here?”

“I don’t see a question here, governor.”

“My soldiers are not unruly, for the most part. A few of them have treasonous thoughts, I’ve no doubt, but I don’t think the majority of them do. The same goes for Lychin’s soldiers. He has many more than I do. So he has many more traitors in his ranks. I want you to eliminate them. I want you to restore order to this outpost, Arcosian. There are street brawls everyday. Gang wars, more like it. Murder is as common as an everyday meal. Blood runs through the streets. Hundreds die every week. I cannot control them. They know Frieza is gone. Many of them have taken that as it meaning the Planet Trade Organization is finished.”

My eyes met his. So bold was the gesture that I felt lightheaded. “It is not finished. There are many other members of the royal family. Frieza was only a small part of the Planet Trade Organization.”

“He was,” Governor Madron agreed. “But he was an important piece. Without him, without any semblance of order, this place will descend into anarchy. They need to see a ruler, an Arcosian to sway their minds. Lord Cooler has been too busy consolidating his empire and fighting his own wars to come here and restore the peace himself.”

I drained my cup of ice water and licked my lips. “And why do you think I’m good for this job? Not every Arcosian is as strong as Frieza and Cooler. I’m just a leech, a tired slave. Why am I the one who’s supposed to save this planet for you, my lord?”

“Because,” the man said, standing up and walking over to me, “you lied about who you are.” He placed his arms on my shoulder and brought me to my feet. “Rise, Prince Glacial.”

Numbness spread across my body, and I looked at the governor with horror. “That is not my name…!” I whispered in terror, looking around for any signs of my master. A shadow danced across my vision, and I recoiled in fear.

“I ran blood tests, my lord,” the alien spoke dryly. “Don’t insult my intelligence. I know who you are. And I’m the only one who does. The whole universe thinks you’re dead. Even your father and sister. This is your opportunity to atone for your sins. Forget your past treasons, and save this planet for Lord Cooler, Prince Glacial. Please.”

My chest was twitching. I had to stop it, but I couldn’t. My brain felt like it was covered in a cloud. I was Glacial – I had been Glacial. That thought made me fall to my knees and start retching on the floor. Madron put his hand on my shoulder. I thought of my father and my sister, two people I had tried to forget for many years. To that end, I had failed. Their forms had become cloaked shadows, tall and with shining blue eyes. I remembered nothing else about them, just their warmth and love, as foreign as a planet in Nitro’s region.

“Rise, my lord… and take back the Planet Trade Organization for your family,” Governor Madron whispered in my ear.

So I did.

He put his cape around my shoulders and locked the silver chain with a blood ruby clasp. I stared at him in disbelief. “I was a traitor…” I said uncertainly. “Why are you doing this for me?”

“Because,” Madron sighed, his eyes becoming sullen, “what this empire needs more than anything right now is a rational-minded leader with a legitimate claim to our empire’s throne. They’ll flock to you like space geese, my lord. They thirst for an Arcosian with royal blood to follow. They need someone like you to show them the errors of their traitorous ways. And personally,” he said, shrugging, “I like a good redemption story.”

“Contact my father,” I said sharply, feeling my old arrogant self returning, if only just. This was who I was – I was Glacial. I am Glacial. I am Glacial. I am the son of Lord Arcterial. I had to keep telling myself that, for I scant believed it. But this governor believed it, and that meant, this couldn’t be a dream. Sternly, I continued, “Only my father. Do not let Lords Cooler and Nitro know, and most importantly, Lord Icer must not be allowed to know I’m here.”

“I will tell Lord Arcterial that his son has returned,” Governor Madron said fervently, bowing.

“And do not tell my sister, if she lives,” I commanded. “Frost can’t know. Not yet.” Only when I am returned to her, my army and fleet behind me, would I dare reveal myself to her. I knew I looked too broken to confront her, but this would soften the blow a bit… if my father knew. He was an intelligent man. A bit brash sometimes, but rock-solid and not easily fooled. He would know what to do with that information. If this was all a trap, he could rescue me from it. If it wasn’t a trap, he could come and get me anyways. I would be returned to my father’s fleet, to lead his ships into battle…

No, I could not think about that now. A thin, sly face with a red grin kept returning to me in my thoughts. He had energy in his hand and was laughing. I felt like cowering, felt the familiar pleas come to my lips. Your name is Leech, a voice said in my mind. You’re dead, I reminded him. You hold no power over me.

Governor Madron stood by the door, as leal as I had ever seen an alien stand. He could be playing me, I knew, could be setting me up for a trick. But I was so tired of games, so tired of politics and torture and ambition. I just wanted something to go right for once, for me to be free again.

I had to quell this rebellion. That was it. One small rebellion. And then I would be reunited with my father, and perhaps even my sister.

The tears were in my eyes already, though I blinked them away. There would be time enough for happiness in the future. Now, I needed to get to work. I looked down at my arm, where a large scar remained. Once, there had been an energy inhibitor stuck clumsily against my muscles and bones down there. But it had been ripped out of me for a long time. More than a month. I clenched my fists and felt the power in them, and knew I was ready.

“My apologies, my lord,” Madron said, bowing stiffly and opening the heavy metal door for me. A breath of chilled air greeted us. “Winter came early this year. First snows landed three nights ago. The soldiers tell me usually that doesn’t happen for another month and a half.”

“It is no matter. I like the cold.”

“The fleet is gone,” the governor reminded me. “Lord Cooler took most of the ships, and Lychin took the rest. We are naked from the skies.”

“My father will come for me,” I stated plainly. “He will not forsake his only son, once he knows I’m alive. With his armada at my back, this planet will fall in line. But,” I said, sucking in some air and feeling its crispness burn pleasantly in my lungs, “I plan on smashing the rebellions before my father gets here.”

“As you say, my prince. Anyways, I’m late for my duties. Here,” he said, handing me a little blue chip. “Take this to Lychin’s palace once you’re done. There’s a computer terminal in his office that will allow you to broadcast to all scouters on the planet if you plug this chip into it.”

I took the little piece of metal, thin as skin, and held it close.

My next step was out onto the street. The wind blew swirling through the streets, and snow piles were sprouting around everything like cancerous growths. Snow was falling, as wet and raw as tears. I stood there, surveying the outpost. Corpses lined the curbs, staining the snows scarlet and silver and coral and indigo. Up ahead, a building was smoking. I could hear shouts coming from it. I wondered how many soldiers were in rebellion. Even 1% would be roughly 50,000 warriors. I could certainly kill that many, but it would be tedious and take forever. And they wouldn’t always be openly rebellious, particularly once they learned I was here. My best hope, I knew, was to defeat the rebel leaders and then assuage the common soldiers’ fears with a speech. I was not a man of many words, especially not during my time as Leech, so that prospect scared me.

Next to a ruined side street ahead, a group of aliens had congregated. All of them wore the standard imperial armor, so it made distinguishing the two factions impossible. They soon began to fight, their shouts and screams and blood flying through the air like snow. I glided over to them lazily, my aqua-colored aura around me. When I landed, most of them stopped to stare at me. A few even had their mouths agape. I don’t think they expected to see an Arcosian that day – not one so regally-dressed as me. I looked like royalty to them.

One man with black-striped blue fur and three curled antlers rushed me wildly. He was already bleeding turquoise from a gash in his head, and his punches came sloppily. I sidestepped him and snapped his neck. Standing there in front of the others, I folded my arms and said, “Who here is with Lord Cooler and the Planet Trade Organization?!”

Half of the men raised their voices in a ragged chant of loyalty, their breaths frosting in front of their mouths. Those who did not speak got finger beams to the neck in the next instant. They all fell in unison, in a flash, and bled out in the snow.

“This planet and your lives belong to the Planet Trade Organization,” I told the survivors. “Remember that. Remember what happened here.”

And with that, I was off again. I realized how little Madron had told me. Was there a rebel leader? Were there different rebel factions? Where were they located exactly? It was all so confusing. His red scouter (which he had given to me for this mission) was a good model, but it could only track so far and so precisely. I wasn’t getting any unusual readings.

In the burned-out building, I asked the same question. The aliens inside shrieked and threw energy at me. I vaporized them with a single flick of the wrist. Across the street, an explosion rocked a building, blowing out windows and brick. It was a short fly there to end another few lives.

Down the central street towards Lychin’s palace, I flew. There was more fighting breaking out than Madron had let on. It seemed like everyone was in rebellion. And this was only one city. The entire planet must have been at war. That left me with only one option.

I could kill them all, yes, but then I wouldn’t have an army. I needed an army. They would help me help my father ascend to the throne his older brother had once sat.

I destroyed more from the air, though often it was hard to tell who was good and who was bad, so in such cases they all died. I came to a skidding stop in some muddy slosh just in front of Lychin’s gate, where five aliens were displayed, impaled on pikes, the blood running down their pristine armor. Using my telekinesis, I ripped the gate open and threw the twisted metal into the street. Striding into the palace, I saw no one. A few old corpses were decaying in the snow-covered gardens and half-buried in the frozen fountains outside of the building, but other than that, there were no signs of life. Why wasn’t Madron here? Wasn’t he supposed to be in the governor’s office? He was a governor, after all. Lychin would have left him in command when he left. Things weren’t adding up.

I broke down the door and entered quietly. My scouter told me there were dozens of aliens in here.

The first thing that greeted me was a statue of Frieza just inside the palace, laid between two rising, twisting staircases leading to the second floor. Frieza’s head was gone. Much of his torso and left side had collapsed onto the ground, leaving the painted marble quite unimpressive. The statue had collapsed a long time ago – its destroyed pieces were covered in dust and ash. Again, there were no signs of anyone, though I was getting power level readings all around me. I took to the second floor, where I knew Lychin’s office would be. I knew what I had to do, and it felt strange to be in such a position again. My fingers were tingling, and my heart was beating rapidly.

There had been fighting up here too. Scorch marks lined the fine wooden walls. The aero-doors did not slide open. I had to break them down. Sparks fell from open light sores in the ceiling. The carpets were stained dark with blood. A few skeletal corpses were hanging over railings, trying to escape to the first floor below, while others were sitting up against walls. It was like a graveyard up there. I could taste the dust in the air.

Finally, in the back of the palace, I came to Lychin’s office. There was no mistaking it. The insignia of the ancient Faerin Empire was stamped on his fine wooden door, rendered in red gold and scryihl. I wondered why the rebels hadn’t taken it. The insignia would be quite valuable – enough to buy them all the supplies they needed for their doomed quest, at the very least. Hell, the scryihl alone was worth a small fleet.

I stepped inside only to be greeted by a magnificent painting of young Prince Kuriza, placed just behind Lychin’s desk. Kuriza was posing as a virtuous ruler warrior, though I knew he was neither. He would never grow up to be his father; he was too soft a boy. As I got closer to the desk, I saw that someone had scribbled a mustache, monocle, and demon horns on Kuriza, most likely in permanent marker.

I laughed for the first time I could remember.

Lychin’s computer port was just to the left of his desk, a white-and-black pillar emanating light in the dusty near-darkness. I stepped up to it and drew the little metal chip. And then the world went mad.

They all came out of the woodwork, as I knew they would. Ravenous as space wolves, the rebels tore through the (I’m sure very expensive) red wood in the walls and floors and ceiling and reached for me. One grasped my ankle, holding me in place, while others dropped from above, and even more came from the sides. They were all screaming, their faces taut and their eyes bloodshot and foam forming at the corners of their mouths. I snapped my foot, bringing it up in a kick to my chest. This pushed back those charging me from ahead and ripped the arm out of the shoulder of the one in the floor who had grabbed my ankle.

“Nice trap, plebeians,” I growled, creating a blue energy blast between my hands. I couldn’t make it too big or too powerful, for fear of destroying Lychin’s office. Once it was sufficiently-sized, I aimed it at the aliens charging me, and relished in the heat of it as it incinerated those fools. They didn’t know who I was, how important I was. They were nothing compared to me. The feeling, rising in my chest, as breathless as hope, grew with each death. I kicked them aside, punched new holes in their skulls, vaporized them with cleansing fire. Every one of them fought and bled and died.

I was Arcosian; I was of the royal family. King Cold was my uncle. But he was dead now, like as not; I yet remained. I had some of his strength in me, a kind of strength the common soldiers couldn’t appreciate. They could not touch me, not now. In my head, a voice was screaming for me to submit, to remember who I was. I did remember, and so all the rebels died.

Standing in the dust, sweating, breathing hard, I looked down at an orange-skinned pin-headed alien bleeding out in front of me. His eyes were pure red, his teeth sharp and extended out as two long fangs. He was clutching a wound in his chest and had crawled away from me, to take a seat up against the wall. He was doing good; he knew just how corpses positioned themselves. He would be left here like all the others, forgotten to decay.

“Frieza is dead,” I told him savagely, “but his empire remains. His son, his brothers and their children, and his uncles and their children are alive, rebel. Try though you might, you cannot destroy us. We are strong and right, and we will outlast you! The Planet Trade Organization bows to no one! We are afraid of no one! We will be defeated by no one! Lord Cooler will make sure every one of you is wiped out of existence!” I was screaming by the end of it, and my head was feeling light and airy again. My lips grew numb, and my fingers were trembling. At least it wasn’t my chest this time.

The orange-skinned alien tried to say something, but a mouthful of dark blood was all he could spit out. He staggered and convulsed and held his wound desperately and slumped against the wood, dead.

It was strange, ironic even, to think that I had said those words – me, the treasonous son of Lord Arcterial, fated to a life of slavery as a result of my past transgressions. I had once tried to kill Frieza and his father, and I payed for that. Now I was the only one holding our empire together, at least on this planet. Funny how things change, how circumstances make us who we are. I should say that I never planned on destroying the Planet Trade Organization. I just wanted my father to take over. So the core of the empire, its imperial legitimacy, and the mantle of its power, still struck a chord with me. I knew we were right, that our empire was right. A universe without the Planet Trade Organization would not be better off. We brought technological advances to the universe, brought species together, and protected the universe from outside threats. The Planet Trade Organization was the universe’s shield and the sword, and today, I was the man to wield them.

If only Captain Swichie could see me now.

Chuckling again, I took the metal chip out and placed it in the computer terminal. It still sounded weird and even felt a little weird to laugh, to experience joy. I was not quite right, not quite back. I wasn’t broken anymore, I knew, but I wasn’t whole. I was Prince Glacial again, and I was the best there was.

Sucking in my breath, I thought about what to say. My form materialized suddenly on top of the terminal, melancholic and regal, my scarlet cloak wrapped around me. I was small and digitized, blue and white and fuzzy. That was how everyone was seeing me now, on their scouters and wrist-comms. They would hear me, and they would listen (that included Governor Madron, whom I suspected had had a hand in the trap laid for me in this palace).

Or, they would find my father’s ships waiting for them in the upper atmosphere, with naught but warm plasma and cold mercy to give.

Chapter XIX: FrostEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Desolé
Position: Scientist-in-training in Cooler's empire, Frost's lover/servant
Date of account: November 23, 764 Age (first and second scenes)
December 15, 764 (third scene)

We met in a cramped room that had once been known as King Cold’s torture chamber. It was nearly empty now; all the torture equipment had been removed, leaving only old skeletons and half-decomposed corpses in tiny, bare cages. Dark stains covered the floor, and it was all I could do to prevent myself from having a panic attack. I made sure not to get my feet close to such bio-filth, and did not look anymore at the dead. To my right, a mass of chains hung from the ceiling, charred black. I had no idea what those were for, but Lady Frost was staring at them unblinkingly.

“I’ll not have it. I won’t, damn it!” Arcterial was saying. “My brother’s halfwit lizard torturer will not ruin my reputation, I’ll tell you that much!”

“All he says are lies,” Lady Frost spoke calmly, rubbing her father’s shoulders. “Father, you should not be worried about him. Once you defeat him in battle, he will not be able to lie anymore. His words will be forgotten; his name will be forgotten; all that he has done will be forgotten. You will be remembered in time, not him, father… for all of your feats, and all of your strength… neither of which that skulking lizard can hope to match.”

“Lord Arcterial, you will lead the armada against the rebel Zashisaro,” King Cooler said, pacing back and forth. “I will give you a third of my fleet to augment your numbers.”

Arcterial’s face went scarlet. “Cooler, he took my brother’s entire fleet… thousands of ships… millions of soldiers…”

“Are you scared?” Cooler asked, as if bored. His face betrayed nothing. “I thought you would appreciate me giving you this chance at glory, uncle.”

“I need more ships,” Arcterial said flatly. “Half of your fleet.”

Cooler was not intimidated by the older Arcosian. “You will have a third of my fleet. If you are outnumbered, all you have to do is run.”

“I’m no coward!” Arcterial roared. “You dare insult my honor too, boy?!”

Cooler smirked. “Calm down, uncle. You are strong enough on your own to destroy all that Zashisaro stole. Do not insult my intelligence.”

Arcterial went to talk, sucked in some air, and glanced at his daughter and then at me. There was confusion on his face, intermixed with the rage. But at last, he looked away and knelt before Cooler, to swear he would defeat Zashisaro.

I knew what he was thinking. He was wondering what his daughter and nephew were doing. He had assigned Frost to visit Cooler more than a year ago, to forge an alliance between them against Icer, King Cold, and the rest of Cold’s children and grandchildren. A lot can change in a year, though. Frost never even went to see Cooler. The pain was too deep. I’m sure it persisted to this day – she never even glanced at her new king while we stood in that confined, dirty little room.

She’d talked to me about it once, a long time ago, when she had gotten very drunk. I knew only scant details. She had given herself to Cooler for an alliance, and he’d gotten her pregnant. Ever since then, especially considering how Cooler acted around Frost, she knew she could no longer trust him. When she learned of King Cold’s and Frieza’s deaths, there was no longer any point to an alliance. Our foes were dead… well, most of them. I’m sure Lord Arcterial still wanted to be where Cooler was, to rule the Planet Trade Organization outright, but I doubted my lady would help him any further.

She feared her father and hated to disappoint him, but mating with Cooler again… that would be too much, especially if he gifted her with another child. Now, I was the man in her life, there to keep her bed warm and provide her with counsel. She chose me; I did not choose her. After I escaped Dr. Boson’s horror show, I returned to Arcose to search for new work, and that’s when I ran into Lady Frost. She had come home instead of going to see Cooler. I think she missed being a girl. I didn’t find her that pretty, to be honest, but she was a member of the royal family. She got to decide who she fucked.

That didn’t mean it wasn’t hard. I had to work all sorts of magic in the bedroom to provide her with pleasure. Frost liked my mouth more than my cock, which was very good for me. It was always an anxiety-filled few minutes trying to get hard for her. There was always that fear in the back of my mind, gnawing like space pirates, that I would finally displease her, leading her to kill me. Luckily, she hadn’t tired of me yet. Now, I was like her handmaid, always following her around, even to secret meetings like this one. I guess me being Arcosian helped the others trust me. But given all the scheming and plotting in this family (most of it against each other), perhaps not.

“Zashisaro will pay in blood for what he’s done,” Cooler continued. “Butchering almost every officer in my father’s army is a severe crime. Stealing my father’s fleet is cause for immediate execution. I want him captured and brought back here, so that I may find what makes him scream,” he told Arcterial. Bouncing his head slightly, as if reciting something in his mind, Cooler said, “There’s one more thing I should tell you all: for all his bloodlust, Zashisaro has not killed every officer in my father’s army.”

Arcterial raised his head. “Who survived?”

“Master Sapras, for one. My father’s historian. He is safe with me now. He’s told me all about this Zashisaro and his psychotic bloodlust. Now that I know everything about the lizard, I know how to approach him, and how to defeat him. And that starts with you, uncle, confronting him in open battle and capturing him. Preferably, you will do so with minimal casualties to either fleet. Remember, uncle… I want my father’s ships back.”

“Who’re the other survivors?”

“There’s one more: Captain Shyotai,” Cooler said coolly. “I don’t know where he is, but I think he joined some band of space pirates. The last reports about him stated he was patrolling the outer reaches of the empire, marauding with a small fleet of his own.”

“We’ll destroy him after Zashisaro answers for his crimes,” Lord Arcterial growled.

Lord Cooler nodded curtly. “Lord Icer would have us turn to the space demons instead of Zashisaro,” the king growled, pacing some more. “He believes they are the greatest threat to our empire.”

“Bah,” the old Arcosian spat. “There aren’t any demons! It’s all a lie so the miners won’t have to work as much.”

“Zashisaro believed in the demons, father, and he had no reason to lie about them,” my lady quipped. “These reports have been coming in for almost three years, since the Great Feast.”

He gave his daughter a dirty look. “I know, Frost. It’s an elaborate lie, one that all of the miners are working on together. But you can never underestimate a man’s efforts to be lazy. That’s all this is.”

“Still,” Cooler said, “we should discuss this with Icer.”

Lord Arcterial sighed noisily and waved his hand. “Fine, fine. But there’s no convincing that one, trust you me.”

“Uncle, you requested to meet with me in private for a specific purpose, correct?” Cooler asked. “Well, what is it?”

“Aye, we want you to help us kill Icer and Nitro.”

Cooler chuckled humorlessly and shook his head. “And I assume Kuriza, Yuki, and Icer’s children must die too? Leaving only my line and yours.”

“That’s correct.”

Laughing humorlessly again, Cooler paced by the larger Arcosian. “I’m locked in a war with Nitro. There will be no end to it until one of us is dead. But Icer… he’s my uncle, and he provides me with good counsel. He’s also the one who defeated the Nikkarins, I might remind you, not my brother.”

“We know,” Frost said quietly.

“He will not die, nor will his children,” Cooler proclaimed, “but we will work towards eradicating Nitro and his half-breed disgrace of a daughter.”

I didn’t think it was possible for Arcterial’s face to turn a darker shade of purplish red, but it did. “And… what of Kuriza?” he asked stiffly. I could hear how angry he was, and I’m sure Cooler picked up on that too, for he stopped pacing.

“He’s a boy.” Cooler’s voice was thin. “And he hasn’t disgraced my family. I’ll let him live.”


“Why not? Are you afraid of him, uncle? I’ll remind you that I have two living heirs – Raimie and Haimaru – and they will succeed me when I am gone. So long as they live, Kuriza does not matter. He’s not a threat.”

“But if they…”

Cooler’s face scrunched into a disdainful frown. “My children are protected, uncle. They will not fall into harm. So long as I live, they are not in danger.”

“Fine, whatever,” Lord Arcterial grunted, waving his big hands around. A tingle in my stomach started to rise. He was so majestic, Lord Arcterial. His muscles were pronounced, his skin was the cutest shade of lavender. I could see so much of Frost in him, in the curve of his chin, in the point of his nose, in the shape of his eyes and the build of his chest. I wondered if he screamed as she did in bed. Probably not. He was an alpha male, a leader. He would want to dominate you. Frost always wanted me to dominate her, to fuck her and show her that I was a man – a real man. That’s not the kind of man I am, but I am also not the kind to disobey orders. I just wished that, for once, I could enjoy what happened in the bedroom…

“Icer will be here any minute,” Cooler breathed. “We will meet him in the throne room.”

With that, the king of the Planet Trade Organization walked out of the room, quiet as a shadow. Cooler didn’t do it for me like Lord Arcterial did. There was just something about him, his arrogance and cruelty, that I didn’t like. He had the better body of the two, though. Sleek was he, his muscles defined but not grossly out-of-proportion. I much preferred men like that, ones who looked a little cute and dainty. I suppose Frost was like that, in a way. She was walking that line between masculine and feminine, but she had the wrong parts between her legs, and for that, I could never truly love her.

I went to walk out after Cooler, when Lord Arcterial stopped his lady daughter. “Frost, there’s something I have to tell you,” he said, lowering his voice and peering over his shoulder to make sure Cooler wasn’t coming back.

“What is it father?”

“He’s alive,” the man said at last. All of the rage was gone from him. He seemed almost giddy. My heart was fluttering. Lord Arcterial’s face was so calm and manly.

“Alive?” Frost eyed me for the briefest of moments before returning her gaze to her father. “What do you mean ‘alive’?”

“He’s on Planet Frieza 068, and he’s got an army. But he doesn’t have any ships to get off the planet.”

“Wh-whaaa…?” Frost’s voice trailed off and her eyes grew wide. “I-I-I… I thought he was dead! What’s going on?”

“He escaped from the prison ship Cold stuck him on. It was overrun by space pirates. He was the only one who got out of there alive. And now my son has an army large enough to match anything Nitro or Icer could throw at us.”

“I need to see him,” Frost said at once. I could see the tears in her eyes. “My big brother… it’s been so long. I need to see him,” she repeated, this time more emphatically.

“I’ll not fight Zashisaro,” the old man said, grinning knowingly. “Not yet, anyways. Maybe once I have Glacial back, but not before. No, as soon as this is over, I’m going to Planet Frieza 068, with my entire fleet at my back.”

Frost was standing there as delicate as a snowflake, her eyes big and watery. “Is it wise, father… to disobey Cooler like that.”

“Fuck Cooler. This is my son we’re talking about!”

Frost nodded and sighed and looked to me. I did what was required of me. I had to make her feel loved, to make her feel like she had a man in her life to give her emotional support and make her feel better than anyone had ever made her feel before. She grasped my hand and squeezed hard. I squeezed back. Her palm was coated in sweat. I could feel her heartbeat through her skin, and it was going faster than even when we would mate. She wanted to see her brother – that much was not a lie.

“I’ll go with you, father,” she said. “I want to.”

“I may need you here. I may need you to watch Icer and Cooler, and–”

“He’s my brother, father!” Her voice was high and cold and full of determination. I could hear the blackened chains swaying back and forth, jingling lightly.

“He’s my son!” Arcterial barked. “And he was taken from me by a drunken lout who should have never been put in charge in the first place! All Glacial ever did was for me. He tried to kill Cold so that I could ascend. Same with Frieza. He’s needed in this war, Frost. And so are you. Your purposes are different. For now, you will stay here.”

She squeezed my hand so tight, it felt like it was going to fall off. Her fingernails dug into my pale flesh, as they often did when we held hands. I exchanged a look with Frost, trying to be as sympathetic as I could. She gulped and marched me out of that miserable torture chamber, her eyes red with grief.

Snow was falling into the throne room, light and soft. It was not very cold in there, despite appearances. Half the roof had caved in, and most of the marble pillars had collapsed. The walls were cracked and broken, and there was even a door-sized hole on the far end leading out to the tundra that stretched across Arcose’s southern pole. But there were no bodies. Lady Frost had told me that was because Zashisaro had vaporized everyone in here, to make sure none of them would survive.

We made the climb up the stairs to the throne, wrought of onyx and gold. We sat on the steps around it, while Lord Arcterial took his seat on a silver-and-iolite throne to Cooler’s right. Icer’s throne of ebon opals and golden-brown andalusite remained empty. Snow clumped around the steps and the thrones, and we had to brush the sad sorry coldness away.

It was only a few more minutes until Icer and his daughters arrived. The Shadow Lord wore a dark, ragged coat, though even from distance, I could see his bright, watery eyes, like two chips of blue ice. They peered at us curiously, and they saw everything. And when they came upon me, I shivered.

Behind him, Polaria walked proud and firm, wearing polished cream-and-purple imperial armor and a cape of yellow gold. Hail took up the rear. She wore a thick pink, white, and black cloak, hiding her scars, and her cape was the color of flushed cheeks. Lady Frost once said that one of them was a cunt, and the other a lout. I never asked which was which, but I did know that if this family conflict ever actually happened, it was Frost’s duty to kill Polaria. She didn’t like Polaria.

Lord Icer took his seat without a word, and Hail sat next to me on the steps, while Polaria sat next to Frost. “Welcome,” Cooler said from his throne. “So glad of you to join us.”

Icer gave Cooler a weird look but did not answer.

“The demons of the night,” Cooler mused, almost playfully. “That is why we are here… or part of the reason.”

“Yes,” Icer agreed. “I saw them with mine own eyes when I rescued my son from the Aphotic Prince. These demons are powerful, fast as light, ruthless and organized.”

“I doubt it,” Arcterial heckled from his own throne. This was all getting a little bizarre, in my opinion, for the three of them were sitting on their thrones in a row; they couldn’t really see one another, and they certainly weren’t facing one another. It was like they were pontificating outwards at a crowd, not attempting to speak to one another. “The demons are a myth.”

“Hardly,” Icer replied. “They came for Avalan, and would have killed him had I not been there.”

“You’re making it up. Just like the lizard, just like the lazy miners. This is all part of your plan, Icer.”

Icer leaned forward, looking past Cooler to lock eyes with his brother. “And what plan is that, brother?”

Arcterial’s eyes narrowed. “You know what I’m talking about.”

Returning to his comfortable position, Icer said, “Anyways, these demons are powerful – very powerful. At my full strength, I wasn’t able to outrun them.”

“Then how did you get away?!” Lord Arcterial yelled.

“My daughter, and my ship,” the other brother responded. “I could have defeated one of them, I’m sure… but there were half a dozen, maybe more. Together, they overmatched me. I’ve been training ever since that day, attempting to get strong enough to fight a group of them, and I think both of you should do the same,” he said to Arcterial and King Cooler.

“Bah, your training’s just a desperate attempt to match my power,” Arcterial retorted angrily. “You want to be stronger than me, I know it!”

“Not everything is about you, brother,” Icer whispered. “Cooler, I request your leave to gather the fleets together to prepare a force to take on these space demons.”

Cooler sighed and raised his hand, preventing Arcterial from interjecting. “We are stretched thin, uncle,” he stressed. “Need I remind you that Zashisaro claims that in this very room, you and uncle Arcterial butchered every officer in my father’s army? We must deal with him, and his insurrection.”

“He’s a liar,” Icer spoke quietly, “but he’ll bleed like all the rest.”

“I’ll kill him myself!” Arcterial boasted. “My fleet is going to destroy that traitor!”

“You will not,” Cooler reminded him calmly. “Zashisaro is for me; you will only bring him to me.”

That angered Arcterial, and his face grew purple as an Arcosian storm, but he did not say a word.

“Elsewhere, the Aphotic Prince reigns, a pirate king of an empire far too big for my liking,” Cooler continued. “There are dozens of other space pirate gangs raiding our planets and plundering our outposts, too. On top of all of this, Planet Frieza 068 has broken into open rebellion – that planet has the largest garrison of soldiers in the entire empire. There are millions of soldiers on that world; we cannot lose them. But space pirates destroyed much of the fleet around the planet, and the rest either defected or fled or are being used in one of our fleets at this very moment. My brother Nitro plots with his half-breed daughter to overthrow me, and he’s gathering his armies on the border of our region, preparing to strike. My Uttovelm are in open rebellion. The Faerin fleet was called in to deal with them, and they ravaged most of the planet. Their bloodlust almost cost me one of my most useful warrior species. For that, I demoted Admiral Bael, the leader of the Faerin fleets.”

“Why?” I asked suddenly, my voice high and embarrassingly child-like.

Cooler looked at me for only an instant, his black eyes burning like two pools of evaporating ice. “He has always held ideas of rebellion, and always seemed too full of himself, like Zashisaro. Had I kept him as the admiral, he likely would have done the same thing as that miserable lizard. And now the Faereth have risen in protest, if my sources are to be believed. I’m told they have called a Great Council of Faeri, a top-secret meeting of the greatest, wealthiest, and noblest Faerin, to discuss the matter of their species’ future in our empire. I fear they will attack us, or cede from the empire at worst. If they do…”

“Damn,” Arcterial grunted, “the Faereth provide us with so much money… so many commanders… so many ships. We cannot lose them, Cooler. It will be the death of the empire if we do!”

Cooler flashed a look of annoyance Arcterial’s way. “The point,” the king continued, turning to face Icer, “is that our empire is bleeding. We are fighting wars on a hundred fronts, against many difficult enemies. I don’t have the fleets to spare for these demons. We must destroy Zashisaro, Nitro, and the other rebels and space pirates before we focus our attention on these space demons, of which I’ll remind you uncle, there is no actual proof of their existence.”

“Too true, too true!” Arcterial said, slapping the armrest of his throne.

“Go to the mines and see for yourself,” Icer told the others. “They are there, and they will kill you. These foes are not like the rest. We can beat Zashisaro. We can defeat Nitro, if it comes to that, and space pirates are barely even worth mentioning. These demons have the power and coordination to destroy us. The Planet Trade Organization is our family,” Icer said earnestly, “and the demons know that. They have the duplicity to try to destroy us one by one. They already tried to assassinate my son.”

“Be that as it may,” Cooler murmured, “Zashisaro is the immediate threat that must be dealt with. We will defeat him and take what ships of his we can to augment our fleets. I would also like to destroy Nitro first–”

“There’s no time!” Icer insisted. “Don’t you get it? They’re coming for us, Cooler. Whether we prepare or not has no bearing on when they’re going to attack.”

“You want us to fall into your trap, so you can ally with Zashisaro and destroy us!” Arcterial proclaimed uncertainly.

“Quiet,” Cooler reprimanded.

“Fool,” Icer breathed. “If we were working together, do you think he would have accused me of treason? Do you think I would be here now, if I was with him?” He stared at Arcterial, the pale blue flames of his eyes burning a hole in his older brother, it seemed. “We need to take out each threat swiftly and completely. There are too many. You even forgot the Galactic Bank, perhaps our gravest threat, aside from the demons. We are surrounded on all sides, and our empire is on the brink of collapse. If we do not use all of our strength to take back the Planet Trade Organization, it will not exist a year from now.”

Cooler nodded. “Frost will visit these mines to glean what is going on there. If she finds any evidence of demons, we will focus our attention on them… but only after Zashisaro. His threat is too pressing, and we need the ships he stole.”

Arcterial nodded gravely. “She won’t find anything. You’re wasting your time, Cooler, but whatever.”

“She is not,” Icer sneered. “Your daughter will die if you aren’t careful, Lord Arcterial. She may run into one of the demons I’m talking about…”

“Which don’t exist,” Arcterial finished.

Icer arose. He looked at his silent daughters and then up at Arcterial again. The other uncle took to his feet as well. “Your hubris will lead to the end of your bloodline.” Icer’s voice was bare and hateful, like a winter storm.

“You’re an arrogant little fool who doesn’t know anything!” Arcterial shouted. “And you were never like Cold or I. You were never as strong or as smart as us, and yet you flaunt about like some king. I’ve had enough of you!”

Icer’s ice blue aura flared up around him, though he did not move. Arcterial’s purple aura burned around him too. The tension was as thick as fog, though in the midst of it all, ladies Frost, Polaria, and Hail didn’t move. Neither did Cooler.

Icer was short, small, thin. He was in his species’ fourth form. His skin was a light blue, his armor grey and red. He didn’t look like a warrior. His muscles were small and streamlined like Cooler’s. I realized this, almost in irony, and that was the moment I knew that I liked Icer more than Arcterial. Arcterial was in his second form, tall and brooding, his skin a light lavender, his body armor grey and burgundy – so deep a red, it looked almost like blood, or wine. Arcterial screamed and a white light enveloped him. When the light cleared, he was in his fourth form too. His horns were gone, and he was a bit shorter, but Arcterial was still taller and more muscular than his brother. He seemed to tower over him.

“Stop!” Hail screamed. “Don’t do this, you two!”

“Quiet, daughter,” Icer said. “Arcterial has been in need of a good beating for decades.”

Lady Frost and I exchanged a look. If this was going where we thought it was… some people might die. Frost’s hands were shaking. I grasped them with my own, looked her in the eyes, and tried to communicate to her soundlessly that everything would be alright. I don’t know if she understood me.

They took to the air, jumping and moving too fast to see, before landing in the snow at the foot of the stairs. Cooler looked down on them, emotionlessly. Was he just watching? Did he want one of them to die? I didn’t know what was going on. Did this mean that the coup was under way and we would need to kill Hail and Polaria? I didn’t know how much I could provide in terms of help; I wasn’t born a fighter, and I didn’t like battling. It was all so barbaric in my eyes.

Frost was looking this way and that, perhaps trying to think up a strategy to beat Polaria – Polaria was stronger than her, after all. Below, the two uncles locked into their fighting stances, powered up, and exchanged a last few words:

“You’re a liar,” Arcterial spoke thickly. “You’re a whiny little liar, and you’re going to doom this empire! There are no demons!”

“You will meet them soon enough,” Icer countered. “And when they kill you, you will have no one to blame but yourself, brother. Just as Cold was killed by a Saiyan, so too will you be killed by a lesser being. I know it. You are too arrogant for your own good, brother.”

“You take that back, Icer!” Arcterial bellowed, his face flushing almost black with his fury. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I only say what I mean, brother. I don’t waste words like you,” Icer replied scornfully.

They were in the air before I could take another breath, rushing at one another like mortal enemies. Here, the empire stood teetering on the edge of destruction, and two of its most important members were trying to kill each other. To me, that just about summed up what was going on in the Planet Trade Organization nowadays.

They were too fast for me; I saw their sonic booms in the sky as the two clashed, shattering stone and pillars as they went. Snow sprayed in all directions as the two hopped around the room, trading punches at light speed. Everyone but Cooler was on their feet. I didn’t know if we were about to start fighting. I gulped. If it came to that, Hail would kill me. I knew she would. Even maimed as she was, I was no match for her. I was weaker than many of the regular soldiers in the empire. There was nothing I could do.

Their fighting slowed down when they came to a stop in the snow ahead. Arcterial’s nose was bleeding. There was a cut across Icer’s chest. The two sunk into the snow, Arcterial on top of Icer, beating him mercilessly. A purple explosive wave spread across the room, thrusting Arcterial off of his brother. The warmth of the attack rolled across my body, and I sighed in ecstasy. Standing up, the two wiped their blood away and charged again.

“Stop it, stop it, stop it!” Polaria was screaming.

“Daddy, please!” Hail’s voice was full of fear.

“Enough, you two! Stop this madness!” Frost shouted, her voice shaking. She took my hand in her arm and squeezed.

But they did not stop. They beat each other up; they traded kicks and punches and headbutts and energy blasts. Icer threw twin cyan energy beams at Arcterial, hitting the man in the chest and causing him to fall over, smoking. Later, Arcterial hit his brother with a flurry of finger beams in the belly. Each attack looked lethal to me, as if they were trying to kill one another.

Soon, they were covered in sweat and blood and half-melted snow, and still they refused to quit. The two charged one another and crashed into the snow, punching wildly and screaming, screaming as if they were dying or crying. Their blood flew, their fists flew, and they rolled around, trading positions of domination and submission. And when it looked like they were going to die, and when Frost gave me a look that could have frozen my heart, I knew we were going to fight. It was set up perfectly. I didn’t know whose plan this was, but it was treacherously deceitful one.

And then, Cooler rose from his throne. Walking calmly down the stairs, he watched the two men beat each other with mild interest. We held our breaths, still as statues. I didn’t want to move for fear that Hail would take that as her cue to end my life rather abruptly. When he reached the snow, Cooler bent over and grabbed Icer by shoulder. Throwing the Arcosian off of Arcterial, he picked up his other uncle and threw him in the other direction. The two landed in the snow, on the opposite sides of the room.

“That is enough, “Cooler grumbled dispassionately. Pointing at Arcterial, he said, “You! Go capture Zashisaro for me.” To Icer, he spoke, “And you… we need to have a talk, uncle Icer. Come with me.” Before they walked off, however, Cooler turned to Lady Frost. “Get to the mining facility. Most of them are owned by your uncle Icer. I’m sure you know where they are.”

“I do.” Her voice came gravely.

“Then we are done here.” Cooler walked off after Icer before stopping. He moved his focus from one Arcosian to the other, making sure he stared down everyone except for me. I was glad for that little mercy, at least. “The Planet Trade Organization was started by my father. It is my empire now, and I don’t want to see it fall. If you are not working towards preserving the Planet Trade Organization, or helping me rid myself of all of my enemies, then you can leave. But know this, should you leave, I will hunt you down and kill you myself. I don’t want to see any more fighting, do you understand me, all of you?!” the man shouted, and this time I heard some real anger in him.

It was funny, in a way, how Cooler had to babysit his uncles. But everyone agreed with him and apologized and sunk their heads and limped out of there. I never even looked at Hail or Polaria. I didn’t want to make things worse. They descended the stairs and exited out of the same door their father and Cooler had. Lord Arcterial was long gone too, racing after his son, not Zashisaro. I wondered how that would affect things, if it would actually benefit Zashisaro to wait until Arcterial had Glacial with him. Perhaps not. Zashisaro butchered all of King Cold’s officers, after all. He had no people to give him counsel, no commanders to lead the other ships. That meant he couldn’t break up his fleet, couldn’t try anything tactically complicated. Zashisaro may have won himself his traitor’s fleet, but it had come at a great price.

Frost sighed and put two fingers to the bridge of her nose. “My father can be so stupid sometimes. He lets his emotions rule him. But uncle Icer… why did he humor him? It should have never come to blows.”

“I thought we were going to have to fight too,” I said meekly.

My lady smiled and shook her head. “You can’t fight, Desolé. And Polaria would have killed me. I’m rather glad a battle didn’t break out between us…”

“Of course,” I said quickly. “I didn’t want us to fight, but, I thought it was going to happen.”

“No, Cooler would have not allowed it. He’s in an awkward situation, to be honest. His uncles are his elders, and they’re probably very close to him in terms of power. Yet he’s acting like their parent, or he is being forced to. He won’t do that for long. If they fight again, he’s going to banish one of them, if not both.”

“I hope he does not banish your father. Lord Arcterial is nice to me.”

“He will. My father is the more reckless of the two. He will let his rage get the better of him. Uncle Icer knows just how to play him, I know he does.”

We stood there in the cold, the snow falling around us. Frost stepped forward and kissed me. I embraced her, adding my body heat to her own. It was so visceral, so personal. I didn’t love her. But at the same time, I still felt that fluttering in my heart again, almost as if this was the kind of person I could actually be with. For a moment, the scenery and the context of how we got there made me forget that she was a girl.

“Come, Desolé,” Frost said after a while, brushing her long fingers across my pale, bald scalp. “Let’s go find those demons uncle Icer believes in. Are you scared?” she asked, giggling.

“Yes,” I replied sternly, causing Frost’s smile to break. “For I fear we will not find them.”

We never brought it up even once, and I was fine with that. It had never been my desire to father a child – I never saw myself as a father. Frost didn’t want children, so we didn’t have children. I needn’t explain the things we did to accomplish that.

I held her for most of the flight over. All she could talk about Glacial. She couldn’t wait to see her brother again; they had so much to catch up on. And it looked like her brother was doing well. He had a massive army, if Lord Arcterial was to be believed, and he was very much alive.

“We’ll see him soon,” I assured her. “It’s going to happen. You can’t stop it, my lady. Time waits for no one.”

“I know, I know. But… it seems like an eternity! I want to see my brother now! You don’t get it, Desolé. I grew up with him. I have so many memories, so many happy memories spent with my brother… and then King Cold took him from me and put him on a prison ship. I haven’t seen my brother in 23 years, Desolé. That’s most of my life. My uncle robbed me of time with my brother, and I can’t stand it.”

“So we’ll go fast and find if there are wicked demons or not…”

“We’ll go fast,” Frost agreed. “Because I’ve had about enough of this. I’m always doing things for someone else… for Cooler and father and Frieza and uncle Cold. I’m tired of it. I just want to do what I want to do… and I want to see my brother.”

I caressed her, as I knew she loved it. She had trained me well in the ways of loving her – pretending to love her. I knew the motions, could manage the tenderest of touches, but none of it was real. There was no passion in me, no happiness. It was all robotic. I put myself in her, something I never thought I would do. Ever since I had been a young boy, I had known that I didn’t like girls, and yet here I was, inside one, breeding her and making her scream. She liked that.

I was a good lover. I was kind to her, sympathetic, and I listened. It was like a job – it was taxing and sometimes rewarding. But when she fell asleep, naked and wrapped in her bed sheets, I got up and returned to my work.

I had been meant to explore the limits of Saibaman biochemistry with Dr. Boson, but things didn’t go too well with that. So I decided to change what I was studying. Now, I spent all of my time poring over texts about the things I wanted to learn about. And what I wanted to study, they didn’t teach at the Planet Trade Organization Academy of Science.

I was researching the explosive properties of scryihl, a type of metal that combines pure katchin enhanced with solid energy. The material is sharp and metallic; depending on the light, and how one looked at scryihl, it can appear to be black, or silvery-grey, or a deep shade of purple (and most often, some combination of those three). It was the most expensive substance to produce in the universe – at least as far as I knew.

Those of immense wealth could get a form-fitting scryihl skin built for them. That type of armor was not necessary for Lady Frost and her family, but for high-ranking officers, it was not unheard of. Personally, I had never seen anyone wearing scryihl armor. You would have to be rich enough to buy solar systems to get a suit like that.

No, all I had were little sharp, pointed scraps. And these had cost a fortune themselves. The infused pure energy gave this substance an explosive quality to it – highly unstable and highly lethal, but generally controllable. I found a way to trigger the explosion, at least. I wasn’t sure what I was doing with this, but it was interesting, to say the least. Maybe I would show King Cooler once I figured out how to fully control the substance… but that wasn’t going to happen for a while, I knew. This was slow work, experimental, and highly dangerous. I had to be very careful.

We came to the planet several days later. It was a slate grey world, all stone and sand. Even from orbit, it looked miserable. Planet Icer 015, they called it. It didn’t surprise me that Icer owned several mining planets – it gave him much-needed resources and wealth – but the brazenness of it all seemed a little shocking. Lord Icer sending us to his own planet, which has demons no one but him and his miners have ever seen. This was intellectually deficient – lazy, almost. It wasn’t like Icer. I shivered, for in that moment, I knew he wasn’t lying.

We set down at the main outpost. There were several scattered across the world, but this was the largest and the one that had supposedly been attacked first. Our scouters showed no power level readings, and all attempts to hail the outpost were met with static. The outpost was creepy with no one there. None of the lights were on, and the air tasted of dust. No one had been there for a while. It didn’t make sense. Why would Icer lie about this? Why would he send his miners away? What was the end goal to all of this if there weren’t demons? And if there were…

Sparks shot from the ceiling when Lady Frost tried to turn on the lights. We walked down the corridors in near darkness instead, an energy blast between my lady’s hands lighting our way. On the walls, lines of doors looked out into the world beyond the outpost. These doors led to escape pods, I knew. That meant this wall was an old ship wall, repurposed for the outpost. The doors looked like they had escape pods still parked beyond them, but it was so dark, I couldn’t say for certain.

Her hand was clasped with mine, and her familiar warmness gave me comfort. Every now and then, we called out for the miners. Our red scouters were scanning furiously around the place. There were no signs of a struggle. The lights had gone out, and none of the electric doors seemed to be working on their own, but that was not out of the ordinary. After everyone disappeared, Lord Icer must have turned off the electricity to save resources.

“I heard you moving around last night after we went to bed,” Frost said suddenly. “What were you doing?”

“Oh, I was just working on some experiments I’ve been devising.”

“Experiments? What kind?”

“Working with scryihl. I think I found a way to use the substance as a controlled explosive… like a massive one. The explosion it generates has almost the power of a supernova… and that’s for a tiny piece!”

“It better be,” my lady laughed, “for that price.”

“Yeah, well… we’re the biggest empire in the universe. I’m sure we can spare some money…”

“Tell that to Cooler, or even uncle Icer. Icer would throw a fit if he knew you were bleeding money–”

A gasp of air spread through the empty, dark corridor. I sucked in my breath and felt goosebumps spread across my body. Suddenly, Lady Frost was jerked into the air by a black mass. Her hand squeezed mine as tight as I had ever felt it. It was almost like she was going to break it or rip it off. And then, she let go; she dropped her energy ball and screamed. The beast that held her wore angular, black armor and stood tall as the room itself. I could see its mouth, wider than Lady Frost’s head, crooked rows of black teeth protruding outward as if in a grin. Its skin and the form of its face were mostly lost in the darkness, though I could see spikes, or perhaps horns, protruding from the top of its head, curling down the back of its neck like hair. Its eyes shone like cream, burning bright in the darkness. It never looked at me, but clicked and sang at Frost in a foul, exotic tongue. She kicked and called for me and tried to break free, but it was no use.

In the next moment, a flash of fuchsia erupted, and in the demon’s hand was a burning blade of ki. Before I could do anything, the demon punched its blade into Frost’s stomach. She squealed in pain. I ran. Sweat covered my body; I could think of nothing. Down the hall I sprinted, breathing hard, feeling the tears just at the back of my eyes. My hard breathing was doing just enough to prevent me from losing it. I kept glancing back over my shoulder at my poor lady. She was bleeding and screaming, and her arm was extended after me. I don’t know if she called for me. I don’t remember much from that nightmare.

Lady Frost’s form was turning pink and chunks of her were detaching from her body to float up into the air and disappear in digitized fragments. The demon clicked its tongue and grunted and seemed satisfied.

Falling, I let out a little whimper and tried to stand again. Looking around for any demons, I found only a door leading outwards, to the planet. It was weird that there was a door on the wall like that. We were on the second floor, after all. But I didn’t have time to think or question what was going on.

I wasn’t strong, but I had a few tricks up my sleeve. Groaning, I produced as much ki as I dared around my fist. It was all darkness around me. In the distance, the pink of the demon and the pink of Lady Frost was radiating in the pitch black. Frost’s ball of energy on the ground hummed blue-white and faded to nothing. I looked away. Punching the door, I shattered it and stepped inside. The demon’s clicks echoed down the hall. He would be coming for me. I had to go.

There was an old pod here, covered in dust. I didn’t know if it would turn on. It was my only hope. I couldn’t get away if this ship didn’t work. From ahead, the clicking sound was getting nearer. I knew my lady was gone. Salty tears rushed down my face. I never loved her, but I did.

The pink light was approaching the open door. I kicked and punched and wildly pressed at all of the buttons, until I felt the ship come alive with a deep sliding of metal. Suddenly, all of the lights turned on inside the pod, and I knew what I had to do. A screech echoed down the hall. Lord Icer was right. We were so stupid to doubt him. We would pay for this, I knew. The demons were coming; it would only be a matter of time. But given the state of the Planet Trade Organization, did we have any hope of fighting them off? I thought not.

The pod disengaged from its resting place and shot out of the escape port like an energy blast. I angled the pod up and up and up, towards the sky and the stars, where lords Cooler, Icer, and Arcterial awaited my report. I looked down at the computer module at the center of the pod. I could send them a message right now if I wanted to.

I turned the comm on and said, “Lady Frost is dead. The demons are real. Prepare for war.”

The stark reality of those comments made me break down. I could say no more. As the sky turned to space, and the stars all blurred to white beams around me, I thought of the last time I had been inside her. I had felt nothing. I had finished, as I often did, but I had not been happy. I didn’t like it when she grasped my hand or kissed me. And yet, I loved her, as much as I could. There was a hole in the universe, now that she was gone – a hole in my heart. I swore then and there that, despite me not being a fighter, I would find a way to wipe out the demons, to make them pay for taking my Lady Frost from me.

Chapter XX: The Maw of ChaosEdit

Eyewitness details
Name: Salza
Position: Second in command of Cooler's empire, leader of Cooler's Armored Squadron
Date of account: March 19, 765 Age (first scene)
March 20, 765 Age (second scene)
March 22, 765 Age (third scene)

Artificial amber light rolled lazily across the open hall. The few guards who stood against walls or were patrolling lethargically around were illuminated vividly in the light. Their armor shimmered as with molten gold and sunburnt katchin. To my right, Dore and Neiz were sparring, preparing to take me on. I didn’t feel like fighting both of them today. My headaches had returned as of late, and I did not want to over-exert myself. So our sparring sessions would be quick today – just enough to make sure we didn’t forget how to fight.

The entire hall was pink or white marble, and the ceiling was more than hundred feet above our heads. That made training easier. Black-and-indigo marble columns dotted the room, though I doubted many of them were structural features. The hall was mostly rectangular, split into several rooms; each was separated from the others by walls, though where a door should be, there was simply an open space – an unadorned stone arch bidding any travelers onwards.

We were in the farthest “room” from the door, as was befitting of Cooler’s Armored Squadron. The room nearest us was empty; a long dining table took up most of its space, with pots of various exotic and local flowers and plants spread around the room on raised black stone pillars. In the room beyond that one, two guards were talking while a third patrolled past them. In the center of that room, a Caecondi pond was laid, deep and dark and full of floating ice. Legend had it that King Cooler caught the flesh-eating fish with his own bare hands and carried them all the way here from his homeworld. Around the room, on raised onyx pillars, various war relics, from campaigns against rebels, space pirates, and lesser empires who stood against us, sparkled and shined. Most of them were shiny metal pieces of armor or statues. Gold was a common choice – a color most species could appreciate, it seemed. There were gems and swords and paintings, all taken from civilizations and brilliant war generals who were remembered only in this hall.

In the room beyond that one, two Faereth stood talking as guards patrolled past them. There was a statue of Lord Cooler on either side of the room, standing regally and ferociously to greet anyone who entered the room. Admiral Articho walked in and engaged the two Faereth. He would be in good spirits, I knew. The Faereth, I kept my eyes on. There were rumors that they had called a Great Council of Faeri late last year, to discuss breaking away from the Planet Trade Organization. The rumors had never been confirmed, and all I could find were a few shady sources claiming to have been there to witness Commander Bael proclaim treason and swear to attack our empire with his former fleet. Others had tried doing just that in the past, and they had, everyone one of them, failed, like Bael would if he tried anything similar.

Even if there had been no council, I still kept a close watch on the Faereth. In the past four months, half of all those I had interrogated for information about treason against King Cooler from within his own family and empire had been Faereth. They hadn’t seemed any more traitorous than anyone else I had interrogated. I knew they were angry at us, for various perceived slights. But so many of the slaves species had gripes or complaints about some thing or another – that was always the case in an empire as massive as this one. They would just have to deal with the fact that Cooler wasn’t going to give in to their complaints. We had enough enemies trying to destroy us from the outside; we couldn’t stand the Faereth attacking us from the inside. That would be too much. Such an action would surely destroy the Planet Trade Organization, I feared. I hoped Bael wasn’t conniving in that direction, whatever he was thinking. He was going to try something, I knew. My king demoting him would put Bael in a foul mood, and for a man with as much pride as that Faerin, it was a certainty that he would try to get even with us before long. I would be waiting for him. I was ready. My team was ready. Cooler’s fleet was ready, as were his soldiers. The faster we eliminated Bael, the better our chances were of keeping the Faereth in our empire.

The next furthest room from us was packed with soldiers, moving this way and that. There were more guards posted back there than this far back. That second room into the hall was about as far as most soldiers could go. You had to have a high rank to get into the third, fourth, or fifth rooms (we were in the fifth one, as I have already stated). There were so many people talking and moving about with frenetic energy that just watching them made me nervous. I always had my eyes peeled, searching for treason or assassination attempts against my king. But with how fast everyone was moving about, surely to get to other places in the palace, I could glean very little.

We returned to our sparring soon after, with me warming up against Neiz first. Neiz was a frantic man, somewhat difficult to manage in his cunning. He came at me wildly and slowly, and it was not hard to dodge his sloppy punches. I kicked him to the ground, using just my feet, bringing him to his knees.

“Focus,” I told him. “You are wasting your energy attacking me like that. Force me to fight how you want me to,” I told him, rising into the air. Neiz stood, wiped the sweat from his mouth, and followed me.

“Come on Salza, not so hard!” he complained.

He rushed me with a flying kick. I backflipped over Neiz and kicked him in the back of the head. Spinning around, he shot a mass of energy blasts my way. A simple teleportation allowed me to escape them; Neiz tracked me and shot another salvo of ki at me. I dodged that attack too, as I did the next one, and the next one, and the next one. He was letting me outsmart him. I wanted him to tire himself out, and he was happy to do exactly what I asked of him, even if he didn’t realize it.

When Neiz began panting, and his postured slacked, I teleported forward, spun around and did a frontflip, and brought the heel of my boot down upon his head. Neiz grunted in pain and fell to the ground, his arms and feet splayed out like a star on the cream-and-scarlet training mats lining the ground.

Dore rose to face me. Grinning, he cracked his neck and flexed his muscles and spoke, “I’m stronger than you, Salza. You better look out.”

“Watch yourself,” I whispered. “Do not insult my intelligence or my strength.” He was not stronger than me, even if he thought he was. I was the leader of this squad. Only Digranite, amongst King Cooler’s subjects, was stronger than me. Not this green-skinned brute, nor his brown-skinned amphibian companion. They were both beneath me, in brawns as well as brains.

“Last time we read our power levels, mine was fifteen thousand above yours,” Dore contended. “It’s a fact I’m stronger!”

There were no facts in that oaf’s brain – that much I was sure of. “Show me,” I sneered, “or shut your insolent mouth.”

Dore didn’t like that. He growled and brought himself to full power and charged me. I welcomed him with open arms. For all his lying, Dore was right about one thing – he was powerful. He was a much greater threat than Neiz. I had to use my hands to block, and when I hit him, he did not recoil as Neiz had. My attacks did not do as much damage to him, even when they landed. A sliver of doubt crept into my mind. I had been sick the day we had last measured our power levels, and I had not powered up completely, but even so, he was likely pretty close to my level. He would know that, and it would give him confidence. I needed to break him fast, otherwise this battle could turn from my favor.

I slapped Dore across the face, teleported behind him, kicked his feet out from under him, and sent him to the training mats with a purple finger beam. Yelling, Dore jumped to his feet and charged me again. Our fists clashed, and our punches came at such a pace that I had no time to think about what I was doing and how I should dodge my foe’s attacks. I reacted and let my instincts guide me. It was as if I was watching my body move on its own, like I was a spectator.

The bests fights made me feel alive; this one made me feel minor boredom.

To alleviate my boredom, I decided to assault Dore with a complicated set of move I had been working on recently. To start, I jumped back and warmed up energy between my hands, goading him to charge me. When he took the bait, I aimed the attacks at him and fired. From such a distance, him dodging those blasts was a surety. And when he teleported out of the way of my incoming ki, I was waiting for him where he reappeared. At that moment, I charged him, knocking him up into the air. Then, I pursued him upwards, sending him flying higher by hitting his back with a yellow ki ball. Teleporting into his flight trajectory, I swiped the tumbling alien in the chest, sending him to my left. Teleporting to my left, I swiped at Dore again, this time sending him to the right. I did this three more times, until I was sure he was embarrassed enough, and then I did a spinning kick to send him flying down to the mats and Neiz.

Wiping a drop of sweat from my brow and fixing my hair, I descended to about twelve feet, just enough to hover over my two defeated foes.

“Not fair! Let us attack together!” Neiz complained in that whiny voice of us.

“No,” I shook my head. “I’m tired. That’s all for today.”

“Like hell it is!” Dore complained, rubbing his sore forehead. “Our fight’s not finished.”

“Everything I wanted to show you, I already did,” I told them. “Now, let’s go back–”

“No!” Dore’s aura flared around him, and he kicked off from the ground towards me. Sighing, I began to warm up another ki blast when suddenly, the rooms beyond ours all fell to a hush.

Dore’s sudden dash came to a stop. My energy evaporated from my fingertips. The soldiers in the second room cleared out. And then I saw them: in the center of the first room, milling about near the magnificent onyx fountain carved in the likeness of a young Arcosian warrior I did not know, was King Cooler and his nephew Prince Kuriza. Cooler was engaged in a lively conversation with his nephew, and he was pointing at various paintings on the wall and other artworks and trinkets displayed on raised platforms or laid on display shelves.

I knew why Kuriza was here. Cooler hated Nitro – that was no secret. Everyone in the empire knew their quarrel would end only one way: with one of their deaths. Only my king’s other pressing matters (with his many enemies) had prevented him from already defeating his brother. His other younger brother, Frieza, had likewise irritated my lord, and I’m sure he would have killed Frieza had that golden-haired Saiyan not… perhaps not as soon as the monkey had, but I think it would have been an inevitability. Frieza’s son, however, was not like his father. He was meek and kind and uncertain. Like everyone else in Cooler’s family, he was gifted, strength-wise (he was far stronger than me)… yet, the young Lord Kuriza didn’t enjoy fighting, didn’t enjoy sparring, and didn’t enjoy ruling. He was a fan of the arts, particularly of painting and dancing. That was not why he was here, though. This was Lord Cooler’s single attempt to gain his nephew’s trust.

They were discussing Cooler becoming king, I was sure. Some rebel factions had wanted to use Kuriza as a pawn in their own ascendancy plots. Others would have preferred Frieza’s son to rule instead of Cooler. Those in Frieza’s region likely thought that Kuriza would be their new lord. And he would be. Once he was old enough, he would receive much of his father’s old empire (though Lord Cooler would take some of that region for himself). Cooler wanted to get him on his side as soon as possible. If Kuriza and Cooler were on friendly terms, what was happening between my king and his last surviving brother would not happen again.

Returning to the ground, we toweled off and changed our armor. Dore didn’t speak to me or even look at me again, though Neiz and I discussed a possible next mission to an unclaimed jungle world in the pool of planets needing conquering and clearing. I told him I would think about taking us there.

My eyes and my attention remained on King Cooler and the small Kuriza. They marveled at the Arcosian statue for a while in the second room, spoke with some guards in the third room (I saw Kuriza admiring one’s cape, feeling its softness and texture between his fingers), and paused for a short while in the fourth room to appreciate some more paintings. And then they came for me.

I had not been expecting that, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Cooler always did things like this.

“My king!” I said, falling to one knee and bowing my head. “Lord Kuriza.” My voice came dutifully, and I glanced up at the little lord to give him a nod of respect. He stood there, his arms folded, a disinterested look on his youthful face.

“Rise, Salza,” Cooler said in that usual bored tone of his. “I have called the governors.”

“A-all of them, my lord?” I asked, confused. He nodded curtly. “Why?”

“They must learn about what happened to my brother and father. I have put this off long enough. Now that the Aphotic Prince has been destroyed, and Zashisaro defeated, we will turn our attention against the the demons who killed my cousin,” he said sullenly. “The governors must know everything. I plan to use all of our soldiers against this next foe, so the governors must be brought up-to-date.”

“Of course, my lord.” I eyed Kuriza, wondering why the prince was here for this conversation. Cooler was not careless; he wouldn’t have his nephew here if he didn’t want the boy to hear what he had to say.

“Before that,” Cooler continued, breaking me out of my thoughts, “we are going to Earth.”

“Earth?” I thought we were past this. When Cooler had thought Frieza had died on Namek, he had said this exact same thing.

“My family’s honor was besmirched. I will not let that stand.” He put a hand on Kuriza’s shoulder. “The filthy monkey who killed my father and brother will pay for what he did. He must. For the sake of our empire, I have to restore my family’s name.”

“Sir… is this wise? What if the Saiyan is strong enough to kill you?”

Cooler laughed. “You know that’s not true.”

He did have a level of strength I don’t think anyone else in his family did – an additional transformation beyond what was normally possible for Arcosians. His final form made him unbelievably powerful. The only time I had ever seen him transform, his new strength had taken my breath away.

“B-but, Lord Cooler…”

“Prepare the ship. I want to leave in three days, after my meeting with the governors is over. This will be a short mission. We will go to that planet, find the cursed Saiyan who murdered my family, and kill him. Then we will return to tackle our next enemy.”

“As you wish, Lord Cooler,” I said with a bow.

He was nothing if not calculating. Four months ago, we had been surrounded by enemies. The situation had seemed dire. Our foes had been many: The Aphotic Prince, Zashisaro the lizard traitor, the Galactic Bank, those mysterious demons who used pink digitized energy, Nitro and his empire, the endless clans of space pirates, and all of the local rebellions. But since then, much had been accomplished. Admiral Articho smashed the Aphotic Prince’s fleet and captured the prince himself. The man, a former low-ranking officer in Nitro’s empire, had risen in power and wealth over decades to amass the largest space pirate empire in the universe. And now it was no more. As a result, space pirate attacks were down across the universe, and even attacks by space pirates not affiliated with the Aphotic Prince were becoming infrequent. Zashisaro had been defeated in battle by Lord Arcterial, and most of his ships had been recovered to be re-added into our armadas. The last rebellions were being quelled, though in the midst of all the battles, Planet Frieza 068 had been lost, and with it, millions of soldiers. That had been an unfortunate blow, but given the state we were in four months ago, I’d take it. Now, our enemies were only Nitro, the demons, and the Galactic Bank. Fewer enemies meant more focused priorities. It did not surprise me that now my king had decided once again to journey to Earth to kill that golden-haired Saiyan. If the Planet Trade Organization was to survive and persist as the most powerful organization in the universe, he had to kill the Saiyan. He had to restore his family’s image.

I wrapped a towel around my neck and kept my eyes on Lord Cooler and Kuriza, as they walked back down the hall. They stopped at the pond holding the ferocious Caecondi swimmers, where Kuriza bent down to peer into the frigid waters. Behind them, the two Faerin nobles still stood, deep in conversation. Their eyes focused on the Arcosians, and though I could not see much from that distance, it still seemed a little weird to me how they were staring at the two. They reminded me of Nectarian. Suspicious though they were, I did nothing. My king had given me orders, and I was more than confident that if they tried anything, he could kill them before they could touch Kuriza. Unease ravaged my body, but I had to look at things practically. I took a deep breath and turned around, following Neiz and Dore out of the hall.

I passed through empty halls like a ghost. Planet Cooler 01 – also known as the Stomping Grounds – was to my left, a huge world covered in plains and savannas, and two small inland oceans. Further beyond the planet, the system’s star burned hot and bright. I pressed my hand to my forehead, as if hoping its coolness would quench the aching in my head. Alas, for hope.

Coming through a large archway, I made my way to the entrance hall of Cooler’s palace. Aliens mingled about, some talking to receptionists to book meetings with high-ranking officers. One irate indigo-skinned alien with long fleshy whiskers and round horn-like appendages on his bald, veiny head, was arguing with a guard, asking to see Lord Cooler. The guard refused him, for the King of the Planet Trade Organization was meeting with his cousin, Polaria, and he would be busy all day.

Around me, elegantly-dressed aliens were striding in from the docking ports on the outer ring of the palace. Governors all, I knew. None wore armor. They were all aristocrats and bureaucrats and few of them were fighters. Most were old, many were Faereth, and all had haughty, arrogant looks upon their faces. They didn’t know why Cooler was calling them to Ipha, but they would answer his call regardless. It was my duty to know which of his governors did not appear – but I wouldn’t need to come up with that list for two more days, when Cooler planned on making his speech to them. Any governors who didn’t show up would be put at the top of my list, and I’m sure Cooler would demote them, if not kill them, unless they had a good reason for not attending.

Stepping into a small side door, past paper walls (they only looked like that – in reality, these walls were made of semi-translucent material that was completely soundproof), I made my way down several passageways until I came to a dead end in the hall. The walls were wrought in ancient wood, brown-red and covered in rippling black swirls. That was the telltale sign of the Stomping Grounds’ native trees. The room smelled of spices, piquant to the tongue, and that only made my headache worse.

“They’re breaking off,” came a voice from behind me. Turning around, I saw the hunched-over toad-faced alien I had been expecting. I called him Froggy. I didn’t know his real name.

“Oh, are you sure?”

“Sure. Bael has reclaimed the Faerin fleets from the man Cooler appointed to become the new admiral. He wouldn’t do that if he was loyal.”

“But he suppressed the Uttovelm for us,” I contended. I guess I didn’t expect Bael to be a rebel. He had been with us for decades, distinguishing himself in wars and battles, and he had always been a leal servant. Maybe he was just really good at pretending, but he had me fooled.

“The Uttovelm and Faereth have been at war for thousands of years. Ever since they were brought into our empire, their quarrels have lessened, but the underlying hate between the two races has never gone away.”

“What proof do you have?”

“None. A man who was there–”

“I need proof,” I told Froggy. “Actual evidence that I can show Lord Cooler, or else he won’t risk alienating the Faereth. He doesn’t want to destroy them if he doesn’t have to.”

“He must, or they will destroy him.”

“We’ll talk about this once we get back from Earth,” I sighed, pressing my fingers to the bridge of my nose. Headaches always made me impatient. Chasing shadows of rebellions made me tired. I wasn’t suited for this job. I wanted to fight and kill. Being a warrior was much simpler than this nonsense. “Is there anything else you have for me?”

“No, Lord Salza.”

“Leave me.”

He did. I stepped into a side room, hunched over a chair tucked against a table, and bit my lip. It took all of my strength to prevent myself from throwing up. I knew it was more likely than not that the Faereth would rebel. We couldn’t afford that species leaving us. They would fail, inevitably, but losing all of those soldiers and officers, and all of that wealth…. I needed to find a way to sooth Bael. Maybe that meant convincing Lord Cooler to rename him the admiral of the Faerin fleets instead of that governor he replaced Bael with.

A few moments later, my stomach pains subsided, and I turned my attention to my wrist-comm. Calling up the source I wanted, I spoke, “Is there any news? Preferably good news.”

The voice that responded was another spy of mine. I called this one Spy #2, for I had never seen her in person. “The Galactic Bank is moving. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what their plan is, but they have been shifting money around, and aren’t offering any loans right now. Their offices are shut down, and they won’t meet with any clients. I couldn’t get in. But a source inside told me they are mobilizing for war.”

That was great. The bankers turned to warriors. What was happening with this universe? “Our king will crush them if they rise against him.”

“They are enlisting help. Space pirates, smaller empires, mercenary forces… they are gathering a huge army, and they want to make sure that it’s enough to destroy the Planet Trade Organization.”

“It won’t be,” I told her, though there was doubt in my voice.

Ending the conversation, I moved on through the abandoned halls, until, coming to a sliding paper door with a painted Caecondi on it, I stopped and entered. Waiting for me was a Quglith in sharp cream-and-tangerine robes. His mouth tentacles curled when he saw me.

“Minister Ctugyol,” I said wearily. “Nice to see you again, sir.”

“Lord Salza,” he grunted. His voice was like the sloshing of water, thick and rhythmic.

“I know why you’re here,” I continued, “but I’m not sure how we can help.”

“Help? We need peace.”

“We all want peace, but peace is a fickle thing. What is the name of the commander who attacked your homeworld?”

“Torlini.” The word dripped with hate. I could see the pain in the minister’s eyes. His tentacles twitched. “I want his head.”

“I will give it to you,” I assured the man. “But only after our other enemies have been dealt with.”

His skin was slimy, gleaming in the artificial amber light coming from a bulb in the ceiling. His skin faded to a mud-red color, dull as rust. “Help us now, or we will leave.”

“What you say is treason,” I said after a while. “The Quglith are a part of the Planet Trade Organization. If you threaten to leave, I could have you arrested, and your planet destroyed.”

“I do not care,” the minister growled. “My people are suffering. They are being slaughtered by hellfire raining down from the skies! If you cannot protect us, we will protect ourselves.”

I shook my head and sighed again. The pounding in my head was becoming unbearable. “No, no… I’ll talk with Lord Cooler. Don’t leave. Let me see what he has to say. I’ll go see him now.”

Ctugyol folded his arms and did not respond. I left him there. Every step pulsed with a wave of pain spreading across my forehead like I was being wrapped in energy. I was seeing spots now; I needed to lay down and have some water. I couldn’t be up anymore. But if I did that… the empire would collapse. I was the only one keeping us together, and that was a scary thought. As many enemies as we had destroyed in recent months, more remained, and even more were waiting to spring up and bite us in the back with our attention turned. It was my job to make sure that didn’t happen.

Coming back into the entrance hall, I noticed Lord Kuriza walking through the room. His small white-and-red form was unmistakable. Guards surrounded him. Around, in the chaos, governors, guards, and soldiers tended to their own business. The sounds of a hundred conversations blended into one, and I couldn’t make out any individual voices. My headache was making me lose focus.

But even amongst the seas of people, I quickly noticed the two Faereth I had seen yesterday. They were following Lord Kuriza, and they wore the same shimmering robes they had been wearing yesterday. Pushing my way past governors and senior military officers, I chased after the two. The Faereth were not to be trusted. A heat was rising in my cheeks. Was this it? Was this the moment they showed their hand? I couldn’t let them kill Frieza’s heir.

Kuriza made his way outside, to the royal docking platform, where his saucer lay parked. As he approached it, the ramp descended with a puff of pressurized air, and bright white lights lit up around the platform and on the outer shell of the space ship. There were other guards, patrolling around the landing pad, but no one seemed to notice the two Faereth following them. Breaking from the crowds, I stumbled out of the entrance hall, running after them.

Before I could say anything, the Faereth disappeared into thin air, as if they had dissolved away. I stopped, confused. Breathing hard, looking all around, I saw no sign of them. And then all of the guards died.

It was blinding speed, speed I hadn’t seen in another being in a long time. The Faereth cut through the guards as if they were made of wood – teleporting and using invisible energy blasts to slice the aliens’ throats. And now the prince was alone, unprotected and vulnerable. The two Faereth materialized in front of the boy again, this time grinning. They stepped up to him.

“My lord,” one said mockingly. “So good to see you again.”

“Say hello to your father for me,” the other muttered sinisterly. They had blue energy forming in between their hands.

Kuriza stumbled back, whimpering. Tears were in his eyes, as was confusion. He didn’t know what to say or do; he was too young to understand this was an assassination attempt. He cried for his dead guards, not himself. Kuriza was important, perhaps the most important Arcosian in our empire aside from Lord Cooler (at least until Lord Cooler’s twin heirs matured).

“Admiral Bael sends his regards,” the one on the right said. “Now be a good boy and stand still.”

Kuriza yelped like a babe, falling to his knees. He knew then that he was going to die. The lonely helplessness in his eyes sent a shiver down my spine.

A moment later, a purple blade of ki erupted through the Faerin on the left’s face. He didn’t even scream. Soundlessly he died, his blood leaking from the hole in the back of his head, cascading in warm torrents down my wrist. The other Faerin turned to face me, and I had not the time to slice him too. Leaving my blade in the dead traitor, I rolled forward and created a sonic wave, stunning the Faerin. He howled and staggered back. Standing up easily, I stepped forward and hit his forehead with my open fist. The Faerin flew back into a far wall, crumpling into a mess of broken stone and blood. He wasn’t dead, but he would be out cold for a while. And once he awoke… there would be much for us to discuss.

Turning back to the young princeling, I helped him to his feet. “Are you alright, my prince? Did they hurt you?” I asked him, dusting off his red-jeweled shoulders. It was weird, I suppose now that I’m thinking about it, that Kuriza was in his species’ final form all throughout this trip with his uncle. Most of the times I had seen him before, he had been like his father and stayed in his species’ first form. Maybe it was his uncle rubbing off on him. Cooler detested the restrained Arcosian forms.

“Do you know those two?” I asked him. The boy shook his head. He looked like he was in a bit of a daze. A single tear rolled down his cheek. “My prince, I don’t think it’s safe for you to leave. I’ll take you back to your uncle.”

“That would be… good… Salza,” he said distantly, staring at the dead Faerin and guards, their blood pooling around their corpses. He was a good, fancy little boy. War and blood were not for him – that much I could see now. But he was a vital member of our empire and of my king’s family. I couldn’t let him die. I wouldn’t.

All the fear and paranoia had seemed abstract before, but now we had real evidence of treason. The Faereth had come for Kuriza. They had invoked Bael’s name. There was no going back now. Lord Cooler would need to know.

Eyeing the unconscious Faerin in the corner, I conjured up yellow cords of energy. Then, I guided my energy over to him and wrapped it around him. Using my telekinetic powers, I picked up the alien and floated him over to me. When he was safely slung over my shoulder, I turned once again to the prince, and said:

“Very well, my prince. Let’s go tell your uncle what happened here.” The boy nodded meekly, his lip trembling. “Do not be afraid, my prince. Your uncle is the most powerful man in the universe. So long as you stand with him, no one can touch you. Lord Cooler will burn worlds and annihilate species for you, if it comes to that. Just like your father would have done for you.”

The boy lowered his head and nodded. “Thank you, Salza.”

I smiled and led him back to his uncle. It was curious timing, I suppose, but that was the moment I noticed my headache was gone.

“I have gathered you all here today to discuss a serious matter. No doubt you will find this strange: a meeting between me and all of my governors has never taken place before. But that’s because something serious has happened, something that I cannot keep from you, my most trusted officers, any longer.” King Cooler’s voice echoed through the hall. Everyone was here. The seats were packed; the room was utterly quiet aside from the sound of my lord’s voice. All of the governors from Cooler’s own region, as well as those from Frieza’s region when he had still been alive, were here. All of them except those in open rebellion.

I was not in the hall with them. I had been there at the start, but now I was leaving. I had to interrogate my prisoners. There was little time… we would be heading off to Earth later today, and I wanted to try to squeeze a confession out of them before we set off. Walking down the empty halls, the planet to my right, I saw two governors ahead of me. Their digital name cards read ‘Governor Guva’ and ‘Governor Lychin’. Two Faereth were they, and they were whispering to one another. At once, my attention turned to them. I had seen Faereth whispering like them before.

“Governors,” I said pleasantly, approaching the two, “nice to see you. What are you doing out here?”

“We were just getting back to the hall,” Governor Lychin said coolly. “Please, excuse us, Salza.”

“Listen well to Lord Cooler’s words,” I said, as the two plodded off together. “They should mean a great deal to you.”

They did not look back. Pale light drifted through the void ahead of me. Below, the Stomping Grounds burned crimson and indigo. I wondered if that was a result of the training Cooler wanted to put his elites through.

“My brother Frieza is dead, as is my father, King Cold. They were killed on Earth by a Saiyan.”

The murmurs and gasps of surprise were expected. I felt them wash over me like goosebumps. Below, an explosion so large I could see it from space spread across the surface of the Stomping Grounds, great fire rolling. Something was wrong, I knew.

“Some of you may have thought my brother to have died on Namek, and many of you will not even have heard of my father, King Cold. This empire was his once, though he let his sons rule openly in his stead.”

I took back to walking. The Stomping Grounds were Digranite’s lair; he would have to deal with whatever was going on down there. I was stretched too thin to deal with that myself. The holding cells were not far from the great meeting room, and soon I entered the dark, damp quarters while Lord Cooler boomed from the loudspeakers above like a true king.

They moaned at me, called to me, begged for me to release them. Rattling their chains and reaching their hands out between the bars of their cages, the rebels I had captured were a pathetic lot. Those ones were not my quarry, though. I had interrogated all of them many times, and I was about done with them. Most would be executed before I left for Earth with Lord Cooler.

No, the prisoner whom I wanted was a governor, perhaps the only governor within fifty light years who was not in attendance of Lord Cooler’s speech: Nectarian.

His skin had turned a sickly pale yellow, lumpy and wrinkled and covered in age spots. He was no longer the pristine governor with a face polished like a statue that I had known before. His thick red beard was curled and matted, and his eyes were sunken and dark. He wore only rags, and they were in tatters around his waist. His ribs were poking out from beneath his flesh, and where once he had had a large belly, a pile of loose flesh now hung. He stood upon seeing me enter.

“Governor Nectarian,” I whispered with a smile. “I’m glad to see you’re in good health.”

“Please…” he gasped. “L-let me see… Lord Cooler.”

“Lord Cooler is quite busy right now, as you can hear,” I said, gesturing to the loudspeakers hanging near the ceiling like surveillance cameras.

Out from them, Cooler’s voice came sharp and arrogant, “My brother was not killed on Namek. He was grievously wounded, yes, but not killed. Afterwards, my father found him amongst the wreckage of that world and worked to restore him, adding cybernetic attachments to his body so that he could return to his place as the co-ruler of our empire.”

“P-please…” Nectarian gasped. “I’m n-n-no traitor, Salza…”

“That is for me to decide, my lord,” I said. Glancing over at the one who occupied the cell to Nectarian’s left, I said, “Tell me what the Faereth are planning, and I’ll let you go.”

“Th-the Faereth?!” Nectarian’s face twisted in incredulity, for a moment almost returning back to its old self. “What about them?”

“They’re plotting to destroy us. Admiral Bael is gathering his fleet to march against us, as Zashisaro once did. And he sent assassins to kill the young Lord Kuriza.”

“Murderers!” the governor whispered in horror. Looking over at the prisoner to his left, he said, “B-but… Salza… you can’t think… you can’t believe that I… that I had a hand in this too?”

“You plotted to kill our king’s twin children. How is this any different? It is likely that you were working together.”

“Madness!” the yellow-skinned alien roared. “I am no traitor, damn it all!”

“They sought revenge against the monkey who maimed my brother. They went to Earth seeking justice. And they were met by a warrior they could not stand against. He destroyed them, and put into question the legitimacy of the entire Planet Trade Organization in one fell swoop!”

I created a purple ki ball in my hand. “I can make you bleed if you need to.”

His eyes grew large. “N-no… please… not again… Salza, please…”

“Confess,” I said. “Tell me you plotted against Lord Cooler’s infant children. Who sent you? Was it Arcterial or Icer?”

“I love those children!” There were tears in his eyes, reminding me of Prince Kuriza. How real were they, I could not guess. I couldn’t even know if he was crying for them or for something else.

“My family’s honor has been crushed,” Lord Cooler continued from the loudspeaker. “I will not stand for this. We will not stand for this! Our enemies are many, and they wish to destroy us. This will only help them on their quest.”

“I saw you with them,” I continued. “I saw the look in your eyes.”

That was the moment I threw my energy attack at Nectarian. He flew back and hit the far wall of his cell. In a cloud of smoke, he slumped over, groaning in pain. “N-no more…” he was muttering softly, “no more… no more… please… please…”

“I have decided to go to Earth myself, to confront this monkey who dishonored my brother and father. I will kill him and restore my family’s honor. While I am gone, each of you is to gather your armies. For there are greater threats awaiting us… the shadow demons, who we will face first, and then my brother Nitro and his treasonous slaves, and finally the Galactic Bank and its vain bankers. These are our last enemies, the last of the miserable fools who dare to stand against us. We will destroy them utterly and proclaim a new golden age for the Planet Trade Organization!”

“Bael will die,” I said, now standing in front of the Faerin’s cage. “His treason will not go unpunished.”

“You are dust,” the Faerin said between cracked lips. His entire face was covered in old dried blood from yesterday’s torture session. “The Planet Trade Organization is dead.”

“Not as long as I live,” I reminded him. “And not as long as Lord Cooler is king.”

The Faerin spit blood when he laughed, unconvinced. His eyes shone bright orange in the darkness. “Your time is over. It’s all over. You don’t see it because you’re delusional.”

“I could kill you now if I wanted to.”

“Do it.”

I turned away from the would-be assassin. “Nectarian,” I said briskly, “you will be spared of any more pain if you tell me who sent you.”

“I’m no traitor!” the man whimpered. “I love Cooler. I love this damn empire! I love his children. I want to serve them for the rest of my life.”

“You won’t,” I said sadly. “Your best days are behind you, governor. I fear you will never leave this place…” Sighing I returned to the door leading outside. “When I return, I am going to kill you. It will be slow and painful, and you will beg for death long before I give it to you. But if you confess…” I let my voice trail off. I waited for him to say ‘Arcterial’. I knew that was the uncle who bought Nectarian, but I couldn’t prove it. Icer was too slippery and too deliberate; he would never try something so brazen or clumsy.

Nectarian stumbled to his feet. Though his body was shaking and bleeding, and he looked like he was about to pass out, he locked eyes with me and said, “Have a safe trip, Salza. I’ll be waiting for you when you return, as loyal as I was the day you falsely imprisoned me.”

I left him like that. A cold rage was falling down my spine. I was shaking. I would make him pay. I would hurt him for that. I would make him regret ever standing against me. He was a filthy traitor, a disgusting excuse for an officer. He was going to kill Haimaru and Raimie, my lord’s sweet, innocent children. That thought roused a fury inside me that I had never felt before. For a moment, I considered going back in that room and ending it then and there.

I had to stop myself.

“That’s what he wants,” I reminded myself. “He’s more cunning than he appears. I can’t let my guard down around him.”

Walking back down the corridor to Lord Cooler’s hall, I glanced down at the Stomping Grounds again. A patch of the world where the main outpost had been was smoking and burning. The fires raged so far and wide that I could see them from space. A shiver spread across my body. I wondered what was going on down there. The bleakness of it, the starkness of it, the distance of it, the silence of it made my mind wander. What if the Faereth were attacking us? But that didn’t make sense. They would have destroyed this moon before landing on the planet. Cooler would not be making a speech if we were being attacked. And we had massive energy cannons positioned around the entire planet, to shoot down any enemy vessels that approached too closely. No, this attack, if it was one, was blossoming out of our safest world from the inside. Maybe they were just training, and it wasn’t worth the stress to think about an enemy force being down there, amongst many of Lord Cooler’s best soldiers.

Behind me, the hall door opened. A few governors came out, most of them old Faereth, wrinkled and white-haired. Their deep purple skin seemed to glow in the amber light. Behind them, from the hall, a chant of ‘Cooler! Cooler! Cooler!’ was drifting out. Others were shouting fervently in support of our empire. The Faereth were amongst them, their fists to their hearts, chanting for my lord.

I turned back to the world below me, watching it smolder and smoke. For a moment, I felt euphoric. The Planet Trade Organization was back, better than ever. We were going to crush our few remaining enemies. They had no hope of overcoming us. Everything was going our way. I had planned it all out with Lord Cooler.

But it was just for a moment, like a passing breeze. As the cheers died, Nectarian’s words came back to me. The look he had given me… and the Faerin too, sneering at me, unapologetic for attempting to kill Lord Kuriza… I felt sick again. The cheers behind me dulled into noise, and out came the governors, as sophisticated and elegant as any aliens in the universe. I wondered what would happen if I killed all of them, if I blew up Ipha. How would the universe change? We were all gathered here – the finest warriors and tactical minds in Cooler’s empire.

Yet, we had never been more vulnerable, and I knew, in the back of my mind, that such a gathering of talented, loyal aliens would never happen again in my lifetime.

Planet Trade Organization Leaders: EndEdit

This section will detail who is in charge of the Planet Trade Organization as of the end of this volume:

Leader Role Number of Soldiers Relation
Cooler Ruling King of the PTO Several trillion First son of King Cold
Nitro Prince of the PTO Several trillion Third son of King Cold
Kuriza Prince of the PTO Several billion First son of Frieza
Arcterial Ruling lord of the PTO Several billion Younger brother of King Cold
Icer Ruling lord of the PTO Several billion Younger brother of King Cold
Glacial Military General of the PTO Several million Son of Arcterial
Polaria Military General of the PTO Several thousand Daughter of Icer
Hail Military General of the PTO Several thousand Daughter of Icer
Avalan Military General of the PTO Several thousand Son of Icer
Salza Leader of Cooler's Armored Squadron Several thousand Cooler's second in command
Fassfu Military General of the PTO Several thousand Nitro's second in command


Planet Trade OrganizationEdit

The Planet Trade Organization is a military empire comprised of trillions of soldiers, slaves, and civilians. They control the a significant portion of the universe, and are the largest empire currently. They also engage in a lucrative planet selling business, which is the source of much of their wealth. The leaders of this organization are members of the Arcosian species, though many members of alien species hold high ranks as well.

{KING COLD}, leader of the Planet Trade Organization, killed by Future Trunks on Earth,

  • his children:
    • PRINCE COOLER, heir to the Planet Trade Organization and leader of a large portion of the empire, ascended to the throne after his father's death,
      • his children:
        • PRINCE HAIMARU, an infant boy, twin of Raimie,
        • PRINCESS RAIMIE, an infant girl, twin of Haimaru,
      • his empire:
        • {SUPREME GENERAL DIGRANITE}, a fearsome warrior and the second in command of his empire, killed by the Saiyan Ledas,
        • SALZA, the leader of Cooler's Armored Squadron,
        • DORE, a member of Cooler's Armored Squadron,
        • NEIZ, a member of Cooler's Armored Squadron,
        • ADMIRAL ARTICHO, a senior officer in command of most of Cooler's fleets,
        • ADMIRAL BAEL, a senior officer in command of the Faerin fleets as well as a senior member of the Faerin Government and the Great Council of Faeri, demoted briefly to the rank of commander before defecting from the empire,
        • GENERAL SENNONI, a high-ranking member of his empire as well as a member of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • SENIOR GOVERNOR NECTARIAN, the overseer of an unnamed planet in Cooler's empire, accused of treason by Salza and imprisoned,
        • {GOVERNOR SIPOVA}, the overseer of an unnamed planet in Cooler's empire as well as a senior member of the Faerin Government, killed by the Aphotic Prince,
        • GOVERNOR GUVA, the overseer of Planet Cooler 92 as well as a member of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • GOVERNOR ROWANE, the overseer of Planet Cooler 116, grievously wounded by the Aphotic Prince in combat,
        • GOVERNOR ABLIUNE, the overseer of an unnamed planet in Cooler's empire as well as a member of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • GOVERNOR JAHU, the overseer of an unnamed planet in Cooler's empire as well as a member of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • COMMANDER TIKABAN, a high-ranking officer in his empire as well as a member of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • COMMANDER NATSUMIKO, the installation commander of Planet Cooler 116,
        • COMMANDER BOISENBERRY, a soldier in his empire,
        • {DOCTOR BOSON}, an eccentric doctor in his empire, killed by experimental Saibamen,
        • {CAPTAIN DATE}, a high-ranking officer in his empire, severely wounded during the siege of Magnificat, later became the military commander of Planet Cooler 113, where he was killed by demons,
        • MINISTER HARAME, a Faerin elite and the de facto leader of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • MINISTER CTUGYOL, a Quglith emissary from Planet Ctaedi,
        • LIEUTENANT LYOGAN, the Captain of the Guards on Planet Cooler 113,
        • ELDER STATESMAN SAPHODINE, a high-ranking member of the Faerin Government as well as a member of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • GANGLORD GALIAKH, the current ganglord of the Uo-Bo-Kalic gang and the leader of the Uttovelm rebellion against the Planet Trade Organization,
        • GANGLORD SHARLYKE, the current ganglord of the Uo-Sic-An gang and a member of the Uttovelm rebellion against the Planet Trade Organization,
        • GANGLORD CASABAR, the current ganglord of the Uo-Gal-Norrim gang and a member of the Uttovelm rebellion against the Planet Trade Organization,
        • GANGLORD GAKK, the current ganglord of the Sao-Il-Borahk gang and a member of the Uttovelm rebellion against the Planet Trade Organization,
        • GANGLORD KANTOLH, the current ganglord of the U’nabi San gang and a member of the Uttovelm rebellion against the Planet Trade Organization,
        • {GANGLORD UZBEKH}, a Uttovelm ganglord who was killed sometime in the past,
        • MAYOR TAMERIN, a member of the Faerin Government as well as a member of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • PRABBLE, a soldier in his empire,
        • NTALOU, a soldier in his empire,
        • FROGGY, a soldier in his empire as well as a spy who works for Salza,
        • SPY #2, a soldier in his empire as well as a spy who works for Salza,
        • GUANABA, a member of his empire
        • STRIPE, a blue Saibaman in his empire,
        • {PINHEAD}, a blue Saibaman in his empire, killed via self-destruction,
    • {PRINCE FRIEZA}, his second son, an arrogant young lord and leader of a large portion of the empire, killed by Future Trunks on Earth,
      • his son:
        • PRINCE KURIZA, a young, meek boy, now the ruler of most of his father's empire,
      • his empire:
        • {GENERAL ZARBON}, the second in command of his empire, killed by Prince Vegeta on Namek,
        • {GENERAL DODORIA}, a high-ranking officer in his empire, killed by Prince Vegeta on Namek,
        • GOVERNOR LYCHIN, the overseer of Planet Frieza 068 as well as a member of the Great Council of Faeri,
        • GOVERNOR MADRON, the overseer of Planet Frieza 079,
        • COMMANDER ABO, a high-ranking officer in his empire,
        • COMMANDER KADO, a high-ranking officer in his empire,
        • CAPTAIN TORLINI, a high-ranking officer in his empire,
        • CAPTAIN KRACCHUS, one of the few officers who did not participate in the war against the Nikkarins, saved Prince Kuriza from King Pot Belly,
        • CAPTAIN GINYU, the leader of the Ginyu Force, lost on Namek,
        • {JEICE}, a member of the Ginyu Force, killed by Prince Vegeta on Namek,
        • {BURTER}, a member of the Ginyu Force, killed by Prince Vegeta on Namek,
        • {RECOOME}, a member of the Ginyu Force, killed by Prince Vegeta on Namek,
        • {GULDO}, a member of the Ginyu Force, killed by Prince Vegeta on Namek,
        • {CAPTAIN CRANBRY}, an installation captain on Planet Frieza 068, killed by Governor Lychin after defecting,
        • GICHAMU, a skilled engineer who created the scouters,
        • {NAPPA}, a soldier in his empire, killed by Prince Vegeta on Earth,
        • FEIJON, a soldier in his empire,
        • {BRAKK}, a slave,
        • GADON, a slave, escaped to freedom after the Nikkarins attacked his homeworld,
        • {MURAK}, a slave,
    • PRINCE NITRO, his third son, a recluse and leader of a large portion of the empire,
      • his daughter:
        • PRINCESS YUKI, a half-breed with Saiyan genes from her mother's side,
      • his empire:
        • GENERAL FASSFU, his top-ranking military general and the second in command of his empire,
        • KIRKA, his advisor and the third in command of his empire,
        • ADMIRAL PO, often referred to as Master Po, commander of most of Nitro's fleets,
        • COMMANDER TANARILO, a recently-promoted officer in Nitro's empire,
        • {COMMANDER THRASH}, killed by Captain Tanarilo shortly after being promoted to the rank of commander,
        • {ROOPERS}, one of Commander Thrash's soldiers, killed by Captain Tanarilo,
  • his brothers:
    • PRINCE ARCTERIAL, his younger brother, a strong, but brash leader,
      • his children:
        • PRINCE GLACIAL, a former general in the Planet Trade Organization, branded a traitor and made a slave in King Cold's empire, known as Leech during his time aboard Captain Swichie's prison ship, later escaped to Planet Frieza 068 where he reclaimed his name and titles,
          • his soldiers:
            • {CAINUS}, a captain in his empire, branded a traitor and killed by Captain Ginyu,
        • {PRINCESS FROST}, a beautiful and intelligent young woman, killed by demons,
          • her soldiers:
            • DESOLÉ, a former scientist in Cooler's empire, instructed to be Frost's lover,
    • PRINCE ICER, his youngest brother, a bold and introspective Arcosian,
      • his children:
        • PRINCESS POLARIA, a deadly warrior and commander on the battlefield, twin of Hail,
        • PRINCESS HAIL, a deadly warrior and commander on the battlefield, gravely wounded in the last battle against the Nikkarins, twin of Polaria,
          • her soldiers:
            • NIMBI, the first of her handmaidens,
            • INCYSE, the newest of her handmaidens,
        • PRINCE AVALAN, a malformed, sickly boy,
  • his empire:
    • SAPRAS, an historian and high-ranking officer in his empire,
    • {ADMIRAL FUKAHIN}, a high-ranking officer (commander of most of King Cold's fleets) in his empire, killed by Zashisaro following King Cold's death on Earth,
    • {GENERAL MAGURO}, a high-ranking officer (commander of many of King Cold's foot soldiers) in his empire, killed by Zashisaro following King Cold's death on Earth,
    • {GENERAL TOBIKKARE}, a high-ranking officer (commander of some of King Cold's foot soldiers) in his empire, killed by Zashisaro following King Cold's death on Earth,
    • {CAPTAIN SWICHIE}, captain of a prison ship housing some of the empire's most dangerous criminals, killed by the space pirate, Captain Slagg,
    • {KING COLD'S OTHER OFFICERS}, all killed by Zashisaro following King Cold's death on Earth,
    • PUDDIN, a personal guard who later became a deserter,
    • {MEI}, a soldier who accompanied King Cold to Earth and contacted Lord Cooler about Cold's and Frieza's deaths before dying of his own wounds,
    • {SLUDGE}, a slave, formerly a soldier in Cooler's empire,
    • {GRIMEY}, a slave.

Galactic Fighting GuildEdit

The Galactic Fighting Guild is an organization of bounty hunters, mercenaries, and for-sale assassins. The Ginyu Force was originally associated with this guild before becoming more integrated in the Planet Trade Organization. Other fighters from this guild have been seen in the story, though no high-ranking members have. Recently, they have begun demanding higher wages, which has caused strife between this organization and the Planet Trade Organization to develop.


  • their organization:
    • ACE, a mercenary soldier who worked with Kustar on Planet Uoto,
    • {KUSTAR}, a mercenary soldier who stole a large amount of money from Frieza before deserting, killed by Ntalou,

The Aphotic Prince's EmpireEdit

The Aphotic Prince is a mysterious space pirate lord who has been preying on the Planet Trade Organization for some time. He commands a vast host of space pirates. The Aphotic Prince has no true base of operations, though he uses many asteroids and small planets or moons as temporary bases. Though there have been attempts to kill him and destroy his empire, these have proved to be mostly ineffective. Notably, Cooler's Supreme General Digranite, considered one of the strongest soldiers in the entire Planet Trade Organization, failed to hurt the Aphotic Prince whatsoever in a duel, showing just how strong the pirate lord is. His fleet was later smashed by Admiral Articho, who took the Aphotic Prince prisoner (later revealed to be a former low-ranking soldier from Nitro's empire) and gave him to Lord Cooler. Cooler soon after executed the Aphotic Prince.

{THE APHOTIC PRINCE}, a mysterious space pirate lord of great power and audacity,

  • his empire:
    • {LOQUANO}, a former high-ranking officer of the Planet Trade Organization, defected to the Aphotic Prince's side, executed by Prince Avalan.
    • UNNAMED INFORMANT, a female alien who let Abacho into the Aphotic Prince's hideout but later regretted doing so and killed him.

Galactic BankEdit

The Galactic Bank is the largest bank in the known universe. It offers loans to a variety of organizations, including the Planet Trade Organization. The Galactic Bank always collects its debts, even if the organizations that owe it money refuse to pay. In those scenarios, the Galactic Bank will finance another empire or army to collect its debts from those delinquent groups. Despite just being a bank, the Galactic Bank is considered one of the most powerful organizations in the known universe. After this organization had a falling out with King Cooler, they sought to destroy the Planet Trade Organization and began forming armies and hiring mercenaries, assassins, and other warriors to aid them in the coming war.


  • their organization:
    • VARIOUS BANKERS, many of whom were killed by Lord Cooler during a meeting,
    • TYCHIB ESHIL, an emissary of the Galactic Bank.

Shadow DemonsEdit

Shadow demons that appeared in this book were apparently the force that drove the Nikkarins into the Planet Trade Organization's territory in the previous book. They mostly attacked several mining facilities, destroying the miners by vaporizing them via digitized energy blasts. They were also responsible for killing Princess Frost and nearly killed Prince Avalan. Currently, their motives, how many of them there are and the true strength of these demons, are unknown.


  • their soldiers:
    • UNKNOWN NUMBER OF SHADOW DEMONS, at least a dozen.

Space PiratesEdit

Various factions of space pirates exist. Many are Jolean space pirates, though it should not be assumed that the differing Jolean groups work together or are friendly with one another.

CAPTAIN SLAGG, a former soldier in Icer's army, defected to the Nikkarins' side, then became a space pirate who captured the Sovereign - the largest ship in the Planet Trade Organization's fleet,

  • his pirates:
    • CRUSTY PETE, his first mate,
    • NUMEROUS OTHER SPACE PIRATES, at least three thousand.


  • their pirates:
    • {NUMEROUS SPACE PIRATES}, at least four hundred, all destroyed by Hail's fleet.


  • his pirates:
    • {NUMEROUS SPACE PIRATES}, at least two hundred, all destroyed by Hail's fleet.


  • their pirates:
    • {NUMEROUS SPACE PIRATES}, at least five hundred, all destroyed by the shadow demons.

CAPTAIN SHYOTAI, a former high-ranking officer in King Cold's empire, later became a space pirate after King Cold's death,

  • his pirates:
    • NUMEROUS SPACE PIRATES, at least two thousand.

Zashisaro's EmpireEdit

Zashisaro formed his own empire after King Cold's death, using Cold's former fleets to supplement his army. He murdered every officer in King Cold's armies, however, before doing that, leaving his empire with a dearth of experienced leaders and talented officers. His fleet was later defeated in combat by Arcterial's fleet, and Zashisaro was captured by the Arcosian. Zashisaro's fate is left unclear in this book.

ZASHISARO, the former Captain of the Guards and his chief torturer, later defected to start his own empire,

  • his soldiers:
    • ALL OF KING COLD'S FORMER FLEETS, sans the fleets' officers,
    • COMMANDER STA FU, a high-ranking officer in his empire, imprisoned in King Cold's palace by Zashisaro for making an ill-timed jape about Cold, later released by Zashisaro to hunt down and assassinate Lady Polaria,
    • COMMANDER KUROSUKIRO, a high-ranking officer in his empire and the only one to survive Zashisaro's murder of King Cold's officers, now Zashisaro's prisoner.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.