Deep in the hells, a cloaked figure appears atop the highest spire of the infernal palace of the Duke of the Hell of Evil Warriors. Lightning and fire flash across the eternally dark sky as the great dragon Shen Long looms dimly over the fortress. The dragon's head coalesces into full visibility; though it occupies both worlds, its attention is on the spirit world now, and the answer awaiting it. The demon lord's eyes flare with a lurid red light as he answers the dragon:
"Hear me, Eternal Dragon. From the Kingdom of Night I release these ten spirits: Zarbon, restored to power, Raditz, healed of his mortal wounds, Doddoria, Nappa, Jiisu, Baata, Rikuum, Gurudo, Kyuii, renewed to life, and Dr. Wheelo, restored to his cyborg form. From dusk of this fading day until the next dawn, I release them to you, that you might fulfill the boon requested of you. Come dawn, they are mine once again."
The dragon's eyes flare red in answer. "So be it," rumbles its mighty voice. Its form shifts to translucency again as its attention returns to the mortal world, and its mortal petitioner. "Your wish is granted."
* * *
Goku blinked in surprise at the dark, half-ruined castle that suddenly appeared around him. "What??"
Vegeta appeared beside him in a burst of light. "What?? This is impossible! How did I get here? Did someone make a wish?"
"Where are we?" wondered Goku, looking in all directions. "This place looks familiar, but that place was on Earth! There's no way we could be there!"
"What place? Kakarott, what do you know about this place?" Vegeta demanded impatiently. He hovered in mid-air, looking around warily.
"When I first met Kurillin, we went on a quest to a castle called the Devil's Hand. This place reminds me of that." Goku slipped into fighting stance.
"Devil's Hand. Stupid name; ugly place." sneered Vegeta. "I'd rather know who brought us here, and why!"
"--this from a loser who can't manage a decent haircut? Hah!" interrupted a voice from above and behind them.
Vegeta turned; his eyes went wide with shock. Goku turned to see what had rattled Vegeta; a slight, purple, ugly alien, not particularly powerful. "Huh?"
"Impossible! I killed you, Kyuii! You must be a ghost!" Vegeta back-pedalled in mid-air, eyeing his long-dead enemy. Calm down, he thought to himself; ghost or not, he doesn't seem any more powerful than when I last fought him. I'll send him back to whatever grave he popped out of. Vegeta started to power up.
"I don't like this," said Goku. "Why would one of your dead enemies be haunting us in a demon castle from a planet a zillion light-years away?"
The shadows moved, and a cold, robotic voice boomed out. "Have you forgotten the power of the Dragonballs, Goku? Someone made a wish!"
"I knew it!" muttered Vegeta.
It was Goku's turn to gape in horror as the robotic body of Dr. Wheelo clanked out of the shadows ahead of them. "You have enemies, Goku, and one of them made a wish--a wish that your most powerful enemies would be returned from the grave to destroy you. Now I will have my revenge!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!"
"Eh, what a lamer! 'Now I will have my revenge, ha-ha-ha'. Talk about cliches; 'e's got no style whatsoever." From the shadows sprang the brilliant white-haired, orange-skinned figure of Jiisu, landing in a ballet-like pose. "JIISU!" he shouted.
"BAATA!" The large blue-skinned alien speedster counter-posed with Jiisu.
"GURUDO!" the short four-eyed toad-like Ginyu dashed in front.
"RIKUUM!" the orange-haired giant backed up the other three in their group pose.
"TOGETHER, WE ARE.. THE GINYU FORCE!" They held the pose for a moment, as if expecting applause. Goku simply stared at them, nonplussed. Disappointed, they huddled together, discussing their performance.
"Frankly, I think Team Rocket has a better routine, and are much better looking," came a dry cultured voice. Vegeta was not too surprised to see Zarbon drift out of the shadows, levitating. "Hullo, Vegeta. Nice to see you again." He stood on air with his arms crossed.
"Yeah," snarled a large, ugly, pink alien. Doddoria tromped out of the shadows. "In case you two monkeys haven't figured it out, what the robotic nutcase over there forgot to mention is that the guy who made the wish wants BOTH of you dead." He laughed nastily. "I guess he's afraid you might inconvenience his plans if you get home alive. We're gonna make sure that doesn't happen."
"Who are you calling a nutcase?" growled that robotic voice. Dr Wheelo raised a large weapon-laden arm and pointed it at Doddoria.
"VEGETA!" a figure almost as large as Rikuum charged out of the shadows. "You bastard! You killed me!" Nappa snarled half-coherently. "I fought for you, followed you, taught you, and you killed me! WHY?"
Vegeta stared at Nappa, stricken. Everything Nappa said was true, and he was not proud of it. But--
"I don't like these odds," Goku said, worried, as he crouched in fighting stance, eyeing the enemies all around.
"I have a few suggestions, little brother," said Raditz. Goku jumped and whirled, noticing his dead elder brother leaning against the adjacent pillar for the first time.
Goku watched him warily, "I'm listening."
"Reduce the odds by weeding out some of the wimps while the Ginyus spend the next half-hour trying out their cheerleading poses." Raditz half-smiled, and started ticking people off on his fingers. "Kyuii's a wimp, and wants Vegeta, not you. Nappa--I don't know. He wants some answers out of Vegeta, but he might go after you--then again, he might not. Watch out for the big robot guy--he's a bit monomaniacal about you. He won't be distracted by anything Vegeta does. Zarbon has no quarrel with you, but Doddoria will quarrel with anyone for the hell of it. You know about the Ginyus. And then," he smirked, "there's me."
"Whose side are you on?" frowned Goku. He started to power up.
"Would you believe me no matter what I told you?"
Goku shook his head, still frowning.
Raditz shrugged. "You have good reason not to. When you figure out the truth, little brother, we've things to talk about " Raditz said, then disappeared into the shadows.
"Enough chatter! These fools die now!" thundered Dr. Wheelo. He leveled his weapon arm at Goku and fired!
BZZAAPP! KA-BOOM! Chunks of masonry flew in all directions as Wheelo's blast took out half the west wall. Goku dodged easily; his speed and power were inconceivably greater than when Dr. Wheelo had kidnapped Gohan and tried to steal Goku's body.
"HEY! Watch it!" Jiisu yelled as a boulder narrowly missed his head and interrupted his dance routine.
Nappa screamed in rage and leaped for Vegeta. Doddoria laughed and blasted in Vegeta's direction; Vegeta dodged handily.
"Nappa, you fool! Don't make me kill you again!"
"You won't have the chance!" Kyuii screamed as he dove on Vegeta, cutting loose with a barrage of ki blasts at point blank range. His smirk of triumph turned to dismay as the smoke cleared to reveal Vegeta standing in mid-air, arms crossed.
"Is that still the best you can do? You disgust me!" Vegeta extended two fingers. The laser-fine blast skewered Kyuii between the eyes; he fell to the ground, looking slightly surprised. About that time, Doddoria's energy blast caught Vegeta between the shoulder blades; Vegeta screamed in sudden agony; a chunk of the north wall disappeared, scattering the Ginyu Force as Wheelo continued blasting indiscriminately away at Goku.
"Screw this," said Jiisu to the other Ginyus. "Let's get Vegeta; that nutty robot guy wants Goku, he can have him!"
"Vegeta! Nooooo!" Goku cried out as the Saiyan prince was flung into the southern wall; in spite of the distraction he continued weaving and dodging Wheelo's blasts, his pattern bringing both the Ginyu Force and Nappa into the line of fire. Jiisu, Baata, and Gurudo dodged; Rikuum merely shrugged it off; Nappa started to dodge, too slow--and Raditz tackled him from the shadows, flinging him out of the beam's path.
Doddoria laughed and raised his hand for the killing blast; from above Zarbon's lilting voice called "Don't be greedy, Doddoria, I want a piece of him, too." Zarbon's tremendous blast flashed downward--
--to strike Doddoria! With a shocked wail, the pink monster disintegrated.
"Oops." Zarbon smirked. "I.. missed."
Vegeta's head cleared; Kyuii was down and-- fading away? "That's impossible!" he muttered. Doddoria gone, destroyed by Zarbon's misdirected blast. Raditz, vanished into the shadows again. Kakarott holding his own against the robotic Wheelo. Nappa.. still there.
Vegeta summoned the power for a killing blast, and could not. It wouldn't come. He screamed in rage, and whirled, blasting full power at the nearest enemy--Gurudo.
"Hey!" said Rikuum, looking at the drifting dust. "That wasn't very nice, disintegrating him like that. Oh well, I guess I get to kill you instead." The large stupid Ginyu Forcer opened his mouth wide and exhaled a swirling energy blast not unlike Piccolo's Beam Cannon.
Vegeta dodged easily; Dr Wheelo, who had been behind him chasing Goku, did not. A robotic bellow of rage echoed and re-echoed throughout the ruined castle as his left arm flew apart. Vegeta didn't notice; he was too busy blocking and dodging as Jiisu and Baata double-teamed him. Rikuum waited below, Zarbon hovered, as if waiting for just the right opening. Sweat broke out on his brow; Jiisu, Baata, Rikuum, Zarbon--there were too many of them!
Down below, Raditz and Nappa looked at each other; Raditz nodded. Then both took to the air...
Goku changed tactics; the odds on Vegeta didn't look good, and Dr. Wheelo wasn't going to wear down anytime soon. At full speed he tackled the robotic shell.
"How does it feel to be the one about to die, Vegeta?" Jiisu sneered. Barely had the words escaped his mouth when he was flung forward by a brutal blow to his spine. Raditz! Jiisu had no time to regret his carelessness in ignoring the rest of the battlefield-- Vegeta's fist drove deep into his gut, and he doubled up with pain. Momemtarily defenseless, he looked up to see Baata pinned by Naapa, and that evil smile on Vegeta's face as the Saiyan licked his lips in anticipation.
"Oh no, not again!" Jiisu moaned, and then came a very bright flash--
"No one kills Vegeta until I get some answers," snarled Nappa, as Baata fought to free himself from Nappa's headlock. Jiisu's ashes drifted slowly to the floor below.
"No one kills Prince Vegeta, period," answered Raditz, emphasizing the word 'Prince'. He watched Nappa carefully, with an occasional glance toward Zarbon, who did not seem interested in aiding Baata.
With a tremendous crash, Wheelo hit the floor--and Rikuum. With pile-driver blows, Goku smashed the driving mechanism for the legs, the weapons array on the arms, and for good measure ripped out the control harness along the spine. Rikuum bellowed and tossed the broken shell off his back.
Trapped within his robotic shell, Wheelo raged impotently. Goku ignored him, and turned to Rikuum. A single blow knocked the giant out.
Baata was fighting his way out of Naapa's grip. "Well, why not?" Vegeta said to himself. "Shame to waste an opportunity like this."
With a swift move, Baata wriggled free before Nappa could tighten his grip to counter it--only to meet Vegeta's foot in his face. Bones broke, and the dark blue alien was flung back only to be greeted by Nappa's bearhug. Nappa squeezed with all his strength; the veins stood out on his head. Vegeta could hear Baata's ribs cracking.
"Nappa, Nappa, such unnecessary roughness!" Vegeta chided, mocking. "Let him go!"
"Sure, Vegeta," Nappa smirked. He suddenly released Baata, who spun away from Nappa. His relief was palpable; with distance between him and the Saiyan giant, there was no way Nappa could move fast enough to catch him again. Then Baata looked up and saw Vegeta licking his lips..
Nappa winced as the stupendous blast of white energy consumed Baata. Zarbon still seemed disinclined to interfere; Raditz watched him and Nappa both, and didn't seem to notice Kakarrott rising toward them.
Vegeta eyed his former subjects warily. So, Raditz was still his ally, and Nappa at least wanted to talk first, fight him later. Kakarrott might be a soft-hearted fool, but he was utterly trustworthy and powerful beyond belief--Vegeta could count on him. That left Zarbon. Vegeta faced the green-haired, blue-skinned alien transmorph. So, Zarbon hasn't transformed yet--that meant he wasn't ready for a fight just yet. Fool.
"What are you waiting for, Zarbon? I killed you once, it will be easy to do it again! You're not afraid, are you?" Vegeta taunted.
Zarbon sighed. "What's the point? Vegeta, the wish that brought us back was limited--even if we defeated you, we all go back to Hell at dawn. So you send me there a few hours earlier--so what? And if we killed you, wonderful, you go to Hell with us and I get to enjoy your pleasant company for the rest of eternity."
Vegeta crossed his arms and scowled at Zarbon, not quite sure what to make of the alien's fatalism. "So you vanish at dawn? You're just a bunch of ghosts brought to life for one night? I thought you were the REAL Zarbon," he sneered.
"Oh, I'm very real, Vegeta. It's just the terms of the wish that brought us here were limited, and I wasn't consulted on them. I wouldn't have minded staying a bit longer--several decades would have been nice." Zarbon sighed.
"I killed you, Zarbon. Why don't you want revenge?"
Zarbon sighed again. "Vegeta, whoever made this wish made one bad assumption: that all yours and Goku's former enemies would still hate you more than they did each other. I'd never even heard of Goku until I got to Hell, and I never really hated you, Vegeta. I resented being killed by you, but I got over that when Frieza killed you. That was all the revenge I needed!"
A brief shudder ran through Vegeta, almost too brief to see. He continued as if nothing had happened. "All that tells me is why you didn't attack me. Why bother to help me against Doddoria?"
Zarbon smirked. "As I said, some of us hate each other more than we hate you. You can't even begin to imagine how long I have wished for the chance to kill that pink thug. Ironic, isn't it? Whoever made this wish fulfilled one of my fondest wishes--and thwarted his own wish."
Vegeta's eyes narrowed. There was something fishy about Zarbon's explanation, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He never did, because it never occurred to Vegeta that Zarbon actually liked him in some small way--and Zarbon would never tell.
"Vegeta." Nappa spoke to his prince. "Why?"
Vegeta's eyes were half-closed, regret plain on his face. He sighed. "I should not have killed you. Call it Frieza's teachings, if you must. I was.. angry." He looked, open-eyed, at Nappa. "You should not have gone after the child again. You killed the Namekian, the source of the Earth's dragonballs--and ruined our whole mission! There was no turning back after we left without authorization, for Earth. We'd made our break with Frieza--I had to have the dragonballs to fight him! After you killed the Namekian, there was only a slim chance--Namek's dragonballs. They were still monitoring the scouters, Nappa. We'd have been racing them to Namek, fighting them for the dragonballs--as did happen."
Vegeta sighed again. "And then you just had to go after the child and Kakarott's friend, when I called you off Kakkarott! Kakkarott broke your back for it. You were crippled beyond healing, and could not fight--and I needed you able to fight on Namek! I suppose I could have abandoned you to Kakkarott's friends.. but a clean kill seemed better." He shrugged. "I could not imagine that Kakkarott could possibly defeat me--How could I have guessed that a Saiyan born on our planet could be so soft as to let his worst enemy go after defeating him?"
Nappa's jaw dropped. "You thought you were helping me??" He shook his head, and finally began to laugh at the bitter irony of it.
"Raditz." Raditz turned his head to look Goku, suddenly hovering in mid-air beside him. "I know whose side you're on, but why?"
"Kakarott," Raditz chose his words carefully as he slowly drifted down to the floor, Goku drifting with him, "I came to Earth that time looking for a brother. I never--" he hesitated, and then pushed on, "I never meant for it to turn out the way it did. But-- I'm a warrior, not a diplomat--and I'm a Saiyan. I say and do things that.. aren't wise, and I love to fight even when it's not the right thing to do."
Goku frowned. "Raditz, you threatened my friends, promised to exterminate everyone on Earth, and demanded that I slaughter a hundred innocent people or you'd kill my son!"
Raditz shrugged. "I lied."
"I wouldn't have killed the kid! I was bluffing! Well, not about exterminating everyone else on the planet, that was procedure, but.. not your son. Not that beautiful, wonderful, impossible Saiyan child."
"You were still going to kill everyone else! And you expected me to help you!"
"They weren't people to me, Kakarott--they weren't Saiyans. Just whatever local vermin lived on the planet." He held up his hand, forestalling Goku's angry response. "I know better now, but then--that was not the way I saw it. Kakarott, I've been in Hell for good reason.
"You didn't kill any of them, though. Neither did I, for all my talk--well, there was one guy, but.. Like I said, I get frustrated and say things without thinking them through. It got me killed; worse, it got you killed. I never wanted that--not really. I know I said some nonsense in the heat of the fight, but--"
"'Nonsense'? I wouldn't have called it that! You were slowly killing me until Gohan interrupted you!"
Raditz winced. "The funny thing about that," he said softly, "is that I started breaking your ribs one at a time because I couldn't quite bring myself to kill my own brother. Even after all my loud talk about being a 'true warrior'. I all but begged that green guy to take a shot at me, to give me an excuse to stop killing you." He shook his head. "Our Saiyan pride gives us strength, but it is just as much a trap." He glanced significantly at Vegeta. "And it doesn't survive hard collisions with the truth. I left my pride in broken shards on the floor of Hell."
He bowed his head. "There's no point in me glossing over the rotten things I did. You know what they are, and so do I--now." He laughed ironically. "Death.. is educational that way. But I wish you could understand."
The tall Saiyan clenched and unclenched his fists. "You know more about us now--you know Prince Vegeta. Can you imagine how I felt when I found my long-lost brother--and you didn't even know who you were, you cared nothing about our family, about our whole people, and your tail was gone, and you didn't want to fight? It was like someone had taken all that was Saiyan out of you, leaving a weak and empty shell!"
Goku stood quietly, an strange look on his face. He remembered the time Gohan had been kidnapped by Garlick Jr, and how dazed and empty-headed he had seemed when Goku had rescued him. It was only intoxication from the strange fruits that grew in Garlick's orchards, but at first Goku feared something terrible had been done to his son's mind-- he remembered the horror that the small form he held might not be the son he knew anymore..
"I think I understand you now," he said thoughtfully. "You wanted to push me into showing that I was still Saiyan, that there was still a Kakarott in there somewhere--"
"--but I couldn't think of a very good way to do it, so I tried the first thing that popped into my head, without really thinking it out--I should have known that you'd react, well, how I'd react if I'd been you and you me and Gohan had been my son, and not the way I wanted you to," finished Raditz. "I tried to push you into fighting me, or into killing, to get your 'Saiyan nature' back--thinking that would bring any memories back--but I didn't think what would happen if instead you fought like a Saiyan defending his home, his woman and his son. And you did, and I was the enemy -- and I got us both killed, and I nearly got Vegeta killed and you killed again, and Nappa did get killed--all because I turned you into an enemy instead a brother." He turned his face away, ashamed. "Who needs Frieza? I damn near did a clean sweep of the last of us myself."
"I've learned a lot since then about what it is to be Saiyan," said Goku thoughtfully. He glanced over at Vegeta, who was still talking to Nappa. "I'm not like you or Vegeta, and I never will be, but I've come to understand you." He looked Raditz over. "I lied to you, too."
"What?" Raditz was puzzled.
"I said I'd never forgive you," Goku said quietly. "That was wrong. I forgave you long ago." He held out his hand; Raditz took it slowly, half-disbelieving, strange hope in his eyes. "I do have a big brother after all."