CHAPTER SEVEN
  Marron awoke to the sensation of being carried through the air.  She struggled to push up from the fog that seemed to be covering her mind.  She had fallen asleep and then woke up to someone giving her a shot.  What was in the syringe?

        °»She can°«t be awake,°… someone muttered, setting her on the ground.  The voice was familiar, she thought dreamily.  So familiar°ń °»That shot should have kept her out for at least two hours.°…
        Two hours.  She and Trunks had slept for about that long.

        °»But, then, she is half cyborg and her father is the strongest human.  That must be why.  Well, might as well wake her up fully.°…
        Marron was shaken roughly.  The fog quickly dissipated and she stared up. °»Jisan Kenji?  What°«s going on?  Where are you taking me°ńand why?°…
        He didn°«t answer, just hauled her to her feet and forced her to walk. °»Come on.  We don°«t have time to talk.°…

        °»What?  I don°«t understand.  Will you please explain?°…

        °»Well, why not?  You can°«t do anything to me.°… He turned her around and bent down so he was to her eye level. °»I have something very important to tell you.°…

        °»Okay,°… Marron replied uncertainly.

        °»You see, I really am your uncle.  And I really have been looking for 17 and 18 for quite a while.°…

        °»17 and 18?  But their names are Taro and Azami now.°…

        °»Yes, yes, those are their real names.°… Kenji brushed that aside as unimportant. °»But you don°«t get it, do
you?°…

        °»I°«m afraid I don°«t.°…

        °»Well, my dear little niece, Dr. Gero was 17, 18, and yours truly, 23°«s uncle.°…

        Marron felt her world come crashing down. °»Y-y-your uncle?°… she gasped.

        23 smiled evilly. °»Yes, Marron-chan.°… The endearment was said mockingly. °»My uncle changed me into a cyborg, and your uncle°«s going to do the same to you.  It°«s nice to carry on those family traditions, you know.  It gives you such a feeling of steadiness and continuance in this ever-changing world of ours.°…

        Marron couldn°«t react.  Her mind felt frozen, like everything had been stripped away from her at his words.  She got absolutely no sense of dishonesty from him. °»A cyborg?°… she got out.

        °»Why, yes.  You deny having any special powers, but your lineage being what it is, you must.  The key is just unlocking it.°…

        °»You°ńcan°«t.  No.  You can°«t.°…

        23 considered that. °»Hmm°ńseems like I practically already have, Marron-chan.°…

        °»No°ńno!  Stay away from me!°… She tried to run, but her legs felt like they were made of lead.

        23 slapped his forehead. °»Don°«t tell me I put a delay reaction element in your shot?  Aiee, how clumsy of me!  Sometimes I just can°«t believe myself.  Well, looks like you°«re stuck here.°…
        Marron stared at him, feeling the panic mount. °»No°ń°… she whispered.

        °»Oh, yes, dear niece.  Oh, yes.°… 23 grinned again and pushed her forward. °»Now walk,°… he ordered.

        Marron obediently turned around, but instead of walking, flew straight up.  If she could outfly him, maybe she could get to her parents°ń
        23 grabbed her leg and yawned. °»Is that really only the best you can do?°… he asked in amazement.

        Marron whimpered as he pulled her back down. °»Are you done trying to get away?  I hope so, because I can catch you every time.°…

        °»No°ń°…

        °»Is that all you can say?  Look, it°«s happening.  Sorry, but it°«s true.  And you°«re going to be a cyborg, just like your mother.  Aren°«t you excited?  Come on, you know you are.  So, shall we go?°…
        Numbed by her shock and the drugs she had been given, Marron couldn°«t do anything but walk. _Oh, Trunks, where are you?  I need you°ńI need you to save me. Oh, please, someone help me._
 

***
        Trunks sat up in bed, gasping for breath.  Marron was in danger.  That was all he could say with any certainty.  She needed him.

        Bra ran in. °»Niichan?  Are you all right?°…

        °»Huh?  Of course I am.  Why wouldn°«t I be?°…

        °»You yelled out Marron°«s name.°…

        °»I did?°…

        °»Yes, and you sounded worried.°…

        Trunks stared at her. °»I am worried,°… he admitted.

        °»Why?°…

        °»I don°«t know°ńshe°«s in trouble, I just feel it.°…

        °»Well, then, go after her!°…

        °»But I don°«t know where she is or anything!  In fact, I°«m not really sure?°… He broke off as he got an image of her being attached to some kind of machine.

        °»You°«re not really sure of what?°… Bra asked.

        °»Never mind.  She is.  I have to go.°…

        Bra watched as he pulled on a pair of jeans. °»You°«re just going to°ńgo?°…

        °»Do you have any better ideas?°… he snapped.

        °»Yes.  Go ask Tousan about this.°…

        °»Tousan?  What would he know?°…

        Bra rolled her eyes. °»_Men_!°… she exclaimed. °»Hello?  You°«re obviously mated to Marron-chan, so ask Tousan
how you can find her.°…

        Trunks froze in position. °»M..mated?°… he repeated. °»You think I°«m-I°«m mated to Marron?°…

        °»It°«s sooooooooo obvious, Trunks.°…

        His eyes got that faraway look again and he began freaking again. °»I don°«t have time!  Marron needs me now!°…

        °»And what good will you do flying around aimlessly and directionless?°… Bra demanded.

        °»What is going on?°… another voice asked.

        Trunks and Bra stopped, then turned. °»Oh, Tousan,°… Bra said in a small voice.

        °»All this yelling woke me up,°… Vegeta said, leaning against the doorframe, scowling a scowl fiercer than Trunks had ever seen. °»Now, it takes quite a bit of noise to wake me up, so I think I°«d like an explanation of what, exactly, is going on.°…

        °»Uh°ńNiichan, why don°«t you take this one?°…

        °»Oh, no.  I think you°«re explanation would be far more interesting.°…

        Bra attempted a smile at their father. °»Uh, Tousan?  See, Trunks here has a problem.°…

        °»Yes, I gathered that much from your conversation.°…

        °»What else did you gather?°… Trunks asked in dread.

        °»Something about a mate°ńwhat was her name again?  I  forget.  Oh, yes.  Krillin°«s brat.  Marron.°…

        Trunks felt the blood drain from his face. °»Tou?Tousan°ń°…

        Vegeta was in front of Trunks and boring holes into Trunks°« eyes before he could get another word out. °»Just answer me one question.°…

        °»Wh-what?°…

        °»Are you mated to her?°…

        Trunks stared at his father.  Vegeta was physically shorter than Trunks, but that never seemed to affect how intimidated Trunks was by him.  He didn°«t answer immediately.  He opened his mouth, but instead of a reply came an agonized scream.
        Vegeta watched his son writhe. °»He is,°… he said with contempt. °»To her.°…

        °»How-how can you tell, Tousan?°… Bra asked timidly.

        °»He feels her pain.°…

        °»How do you know she°«s feeling pain?°…

        Vegeta graced her with a glare. °»I am connected to him.  He is my son.  I can feel what he feels and see what he sees to a certain extent.  This°ńmating of his with her°ńI can see into her mind, just a bit, just as he can see into hers.°… He pulled Trunks to his feet and pushed him. °»We have to save her,°… he told his son.

        °»We?°…

        °»If your mate dies, you will die as well.°…

        Trunks gaped at him.

        °»Not a physical death, of course, but you will wish you were dead, too.  A terrible half-life, feeling incomplete at all times.°… An obscure kind of pain filled Vegeta°«s eyes as he glared at his son. °»I could have warned you not to get involved with a human.  Saiyajins live so much longer than humans do°ńit would have saved you much pain when she grows old and dies and you°«re left alone.°… He turned towards Bra. °»You might want to keep that in mind as well.°…

        Trunks couldn°«t think of an appropriate reply. °»Um,okay, Tousan.  Can we go now?°…

        Vegeta scowled at him again and nodded. °»Let°«s go.°…
 

        The two flew in complete silence.  Finally, Trunks couldn°«t stand it. °»Tousan?°… he ventured.

        °»What?°…

        Trunks wasn°«t sure how to phrase his question.°»I°ńabout Marron-chan.  Are you°ńangry about it?°…

        °»She is an unacceptable mate for someone of your station.°… It was said flatly and Trunks felt his heart sink.  Then Vegeta°«s eyes gleamed with a rare flash of humor. °»But then, your mother was also unacceptable.°… He looked away. °»I°ńI am glad you found the one.°…
        Trunks knew Vegeta would never repeat those words.  He hoped his father could see his gratitude. °»Thank
you, Tousan.°…
        °»For what?°… Vegeta growled. °»For stating the obvious? Your human side is showing again.°…

        Trunks smothered a grin. °»Yes, Tousan.°…

        °»Is she calling for you yet?°…

        °»Calling for me?°… Trunks had barely finished the question when the bond between he and Marron re-established itself, and the first thing he felt was pain. Marron was calling out to him°ńshe needed him.

        °»Go to her,°… Vegeta said, his voice strangely intense.

        °»Go to her?°… Trunks repeated. °»But, Tousan°ń°…

        °»_Go to her!_°… Vegeta shouted.

        Something cleared in Trunks°« mind and he knew what Vegeta was saying. He just had to concentrate on her
desperate cries for help°ń

        °»That°«s it.  Go!°…

        Trunks took off like a shot.  He could find Marron now, it would be easy, and whoever she was scared of would not see another sunrise for this.  No one did this to _his_ mate.  A strange thought occurred to him. _So this is what Tousan feels like when Kaasan°«s in danger.  No wonder he works to hide it._  There was great power in this, Trunks could feel his ki growing exponentially at the very thought of Marron being in danger, but there was also a great vulnerability.  And
any sort of vulnerability was completely unacceptable to Vegeta.  He stopped suddenly and looked down at
cave full of catacombs. °»Here.  She°«s down here.°…

        Vegeta stopped next to his son and looked down. °»What are we facing?°…

        Trunks closed his eyes and concentrated, trying to read Marron°«s terrified thoughts. °»23,°… he said, puzzled.

        °»23?°… Vegeta repeated. °»Who the he?°…

        Trunks°« breathing was labored as he tried to sort out Marron°«s thoughts. °»He°«s°ńanother android.  17 and
18°«s°ńbrother?°… He suddenly began swearing. °»Kenji!°… he exclaimed as realization dawned. °»That°«s why she?°… Trunks broke off and began powering up.

        Vegeta grabbed Trunks°« arm and held him.

        °»Let-me-go,°… Trunks ground out.

        °»Trunks, listen to me.°…

        He just ignored his father and struggled to get away.

        Vegeta set his jaw and hit Trunks. The force of the impact sent him reeling back a few yards in the air
before he regained control.

        °»_Now_ will you listen?°… Vegeta demanded harshly. °»Do you think that I haven°«t felt exactly what you°«re feeling?  _Baka-_.  You can°«t just blast in there and start destroying everything in sight to save your ladylove.  Firstly, it won°«t work.  Secondly, it will get us killed.  Thirdly, your mother would then follow us to the afterlife and kill us again.°…
        Trunks was still seething, but he reluctantly nodded.°»So, then, what°«s the plan?°…
        Vegeta looked at his angry son and sighed. °»We°«ll get in touch with the others and°ńblast in there and start
destroying everything in sight.°…
        Trunks blinked, then grinned savagely. °»Good.°…

***

        The battle was basically over before anyone else got there.  Vegeta, sympathetic to his son°«s feelings, blasted anything that moved while Trunks tore the place apart looking for Marron.
        He stopped and touched a wall. °»She through here,°… he said and prepared to blast through.

        °»Wait!°… Vegeta snapped.

        °»_What_?°…

        °»Just remember this: She is not your target.  I°«ll take care of her.  You want to go after 23.  You want to make him regret he ever did this to your°ńmate.  You want to torture him, hurt him.  I°«ll get Marron.°…

        Trunks nodded as the rage pulsated through him.  He destroyed the wall and flew through.

        Vegeta sighed again and followed his son.

        Kenji/23 looked up in shock. °»Much faster reaction time than I counted on,°… he complimented.

        °»Yeah, well, life°«s full of these little surprises.°… Trunks looked around.  The cavern really was a lab.  There were all sort of gadgets Trunks immediately recognized from his work in Capsule Corp.  One notable difference between this and his mother°«s lab, though, was the fact that Marron was in one corner of this lab, strapped to all sorts of machines and monitors.  He went over to her and took her hand. °»You okay?°…

        °»Been better,°… she croaked.  There was a tube in her throat and she couldn°«t really talk.

        He smiled briefly and prepared to blast the machines.

        °»I wouldn°«t.  It will kill her if you do that,°… 23 said casually.

        Trunks froze.

        °»Leave it,°… Vegeta advised. °»If she can be unhooked without damage, your mother will be able to figure it
out.  Just go get him.°…

        Trunks smiled. °»You°«re right, Tousan.°… He turned to the android. °»So, 23, it°«s down to you and it°«s down to me.°…

        °»I _am_ in the room,°… Vegeta said to nobody in particular.

        Trunks grinned savagely, looking more like Vegeta than either would care to admit. °»Yes, you are, but I know you°«ll let me deal with this scrap of garbage all by myself.°…

        Vegeta grinned back. °»True.°…

        °»How touching.°… 23 yawned. °»Can we just get started?°…

        °»That anxious to die?°… Trunks asked. °»Strange.  But, if you ready to go, let°«s go.°…

        Vegeta made himself comfortable next to Marron as Trunks and 23 began fighting.  The flurry of kicks, punches, other hits, and ki blasts was almost impossible to follow, but the one clear thing was that Trunks was winning.
        Then Vegeta saw what Trunks was too close to see.  23 turned, tripped Trunks, and launched a ki blast?but
not at Trunks.  The blast was aimed directly at Marron.
        Vegeta could see the despair cross Trunks°« face.  He was too far away?Marron would be killed.  Without even thinking about it, Vegeta flew in front of Marron and absorbed the shock.  With no time to prepare any sort of defense, Vegeta was flung across the cave and stopped only when he hit the wall.
        Trunks screamed in rage and frustration and very deliberately placed his hand around 23°«s throat and powered up.

        23 looked up and Trunks could see the defeat and humiliation in his eyes. °»Good,°… Trunks whispered as he destroyed the cyborg.

        The other fighters arrived then _en masse_.

        Goten looked around. °»You°ńyou already finished!°… he sputtered. °»You woke me up for _nothing_!

        °»Is Vegeta all right?°… Goku asked.

        °»Is Marron all right?°… Krillin asked at the same time.

        °»I don°«t know and I don°«t know,°… Trunks replied.

        °»Let me make it easier,°… Vegeta growled, standing up. °»I°«m fine.°… He also looked around. °»Hm.  A bit excessive, maybe, but well done.°… He dusted himself off and left.
        Trunks went over to Marron and knelt next to her. °»How are you?°… he asked, taking her hand.

        °»Anxious to get these out,°… she said and shuddered. °»Can we get Bulma-san over here or me over there? Preferably soon.°…

        °»Whatever you want,°… Trunks said then kissed her lingeringly.

        Everyone gaped at them.

        °»_That°«s_ your new?°… Goten started, then stopped.°»This is me shutting up,°… he said.

        Marron looked over at her parents. °»Uh, Tousan, Kaasan?  Um, I haven°«t been entirely honest with you
about something.°…

        °»You think?°… Krillin asked.

        °»Look, we can yell at her later.  Let°«s get her unhooked first,°… Jinzouningen Azami interrupted.

        °»Yeah, you°«re right,°… Krillin agreed. °»I°«ll go get--°…

        °»Okay, move over, shove aside.  Paramedic in the house,°… Bulma cut in.

        °»--Bulma,°… he finished.

        °»Too late, Vegeta already got me.  So, let°«s take a look at this, shall we?°… She knelt on Marron°«s other side and examined the tubes and monitors.  She started laughing.

        °»What°«s so funny, Kaasan?°… Trunks asked.

        °»This.°… Bulma chuckled again and unplugged the machine

        °»Kaasan!°… Trunks cried.

        °»He bluffed you,°… Bulma said.

        °»He what?°…

        Bulma stood up. °»He bluffed you,°… she repeated. °»Nothing was happening to her.  He was prepping her for becoming a cyborg, but nothing had happened yet.°… She shook her head and laughed some more. °»Marron could have gotten herself out at any time.  That°«s what°«s so funny.°…

        °»Oh, yeah, har-dee-har-har,°… Trunks muttered as he helped Marron to her feet.



 

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