Goku had fought Vegeta twice before. The first was when Vegeta first came to Earth, in the company of his brutal retainer Nappa. The second time was when Vegeta came back to Earth after his training, and found the Androids allied with the others. During that fight, Goku came down with the heart virus. Both times were acrimonious. But this time was even more so. Goku was in danger of losing himself to his Saiyan battle-lust, which was heightened in his Super Saiyan state. But he needed to focus. Despite Vegeta's claims to the contrary, he had to know something of Gero and Cell's plans.

As it turned out, Goku didn't need to beat it out of him. Vegeta merely smirked after managing to catch Goku with a glancing blow, sending him sprawling some metres away. "By the way, Kakarrot, how's the wife doing?"

"What does that have to do with anything?!" Goku demanded, getting to his feet. Vegeta was striding arrogantly towards him. "Did you lead Gero and Cell to them?!"

"They already knew where you lived, Kakarrot," Vegeta said. "They're vile and base creatures, but they serve their purpose. With their help, I will ascend back to the pinnacle of all, where I belong."

"Gero and Cell are using you!"

"No, I am using them! Once I am done with them, I will dispose of them. Just as I will dispose of you, Kakarrot. I will leave you alive and broken, long enough to see the life snuffed out from your family! You and your whore of a mother stole many things from me! My pride, my chances for immortality and killing Frieza, being the first Super Saiyan of our time! The Androids were but the final insult!" Vegeta grinned. "Cell will kill the Androids. He will help me surpass you all…before he dies."

"Vegeta…did Cell tell you how he'd make you stronger?" Goku said, glaring at his foe. "Did he tell you that he would absorb those Androids to make himself stronger?"

Judging by the look on Vegeta's face, Cell hadn't told him how he would get stronger. "The Androids are supposed to make him Perfect. Of course, you're either perfect, or you're not me."

Before they could continue, a wave of ki washed over them, a familiar signature by now. "Cell!" Goku hissed in dismay. It was coming from Capsule Corp.

"Yes…" Vegeta said. "As I thought, he's become Perfect already…and that power level is nothing compared to me. Let him stand astride his own pitiful pedestal before I topple him from it."

He can't have become Perfect, Goku thought. Lazuli should still be in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber with Trunks and my mother. It could be that he had somehow managed to capture Lapis, but I would have sensed a battle at the Lookout, unless he surprised them. Gohan's ki hasn't changed, and neither has Mr Popo's. No, something else is going on. Wait…is that a second Cell I can sense? What the hell is going on?

"Stop worrying yourself, Kakarrot," Vegeta sneered. "I'm your opponent. NOW FIGHT ME!"

As Vegeta lunged forward, Goku hoped he could stop him soon. He needed to help the others, but Vegeta wouldn't give him the chance to concentrate and use Instant Transmission to get to them…

Bulma felt the cool skin of Cell's hand on her face. Strangely, despite her understandable panic, it was surprisingly soothing. But what was even more surprising were the words, spoken in a gentle, if deep and rich voice.

"Why are you afraid of me?"

Bulma's eyes snapped open, meeting those of Cell, who was peering at her curiously. "Are you my creator?" he asked.

Bulma shook her head vehemently. "No, no…we…we took you away from him." Then, realising she might have made a mistake saying that, she added, hastily, "Dr Gero is your creator. Do you know that?"

Cell, standing, shook his head. "No. I only know that I had a creator, and that I had a purpose. My mind is filled with words, techniques. Words like Kamehameha, or Gallick Gun." He stared at his hands. "And I was to absorb Androids 17 and 18…to achieve Perfection…and yet…I feel whole. Have I absorbed them?"

"No. I gave you a sample of their cells…well, what Gero made their cells into. They're friends, I don't want them eaten."

"Friends…I don't have friends," Cell murmured. "There was someone I was to kill…Son Goku…but never why. And always this exhortation to become Perfect. And then, I didn't hear the voice anymore. To tell the truth, it was a relief not to hear it anymore. It was maddening, even when it taught me so many things. Words and concepts." After a moment, he asked, a frown on his face, "You said you took me away from my creator. Why?"

"Because…he was planning something bad. It's like…with kids who are being raised by a bad father. They're taken away and raised by someone else," Bulma said. "I just thought…instead of destroying your tank, I might be able to raise you away from the computer. That was the voice you heard, a computer Gero used to try and indoctrinate you."

Cell blinked, and then his frown deepened. "Why did you give me those samples from 17 and 18?"

"Because my family is being threatened by Gero, and…I thought maybe you could help. I was desperate, I wasn't thinking straight. But my son…he's being held hostage, as are my parents, and my friends. Like I said, I was desperate, and I'm babbling, and…" With that, she began to sob, putting her face in her hands.

After a moment, she pulled herself together, and got, shakily, to her feet. "I guess I was an idiot anyway. Even if you aren't anything like your other self, you've no reason to help us."

"Other self?"

"It's a long story involving time travel and alternate timelines," Bulma said, waving her hand dismissively. "I only heard about him, I haven't actually met him, yet, though I saw him briefly with Dr Gero when he hijacked our systems." She shook her head. "Never mind. I…"

Suddenly, the door burst in, and the diminutive form of Krillin entered. "Bulma?! Are you all right?" He then registered the presence of Cell. "Whoa! What's that?!"

"Krillin…this is Cell, the one we got from the lab," Bulma said. "I introduced him to samples we got from Lapis and Lazuli. Krillin, are the others still with my parents?"

"Yeah, Bardock and Piccolo are still with them, but we sensed that huge ki surge…16 didn't stop me from getting here, though. I think I can sense Vegeta and Goku fighting quite a while away," Krillin said. "This is Cell? He looks pretty damn different from the one we saw on the screen. Why did you infuse him with those samples?"

"I was desperate, okay? I thought I might be able to persuade him to help us!" Bulma retorted.

"I'm right here, you know," Cell remarked, folding his arms.

"I know," Krillin said. "That's what's scaring me."

Suddenly, the building shook, for the second time in perhaps ten minutes. Krillin yelped, "What was that?"

"Probably Gero and his Cell entering. They'd have to break in somewhere out of sight, given that we're in lockdown."

"If they are back, then how long do you think it's going to be before Gero's Cell starts eating us?" Krillin asked.

"If he does that, he won't have any hostages," Bulma said.

"Not gonna lie, Bulma, but I don't think he gives a crap," Krillin said. "They'll probably send 16 to the Lookout to try and snatch Lapis and Lazuli, and if that happens, we're seriously screwed!"

Bulma scowled, before she plucked the sample tubes from the ruins of the tank, and threw them into a chute marked 'Incinerator'. "Just in case the wrong Cell gets a hold of them."

"Is there even a right Cell?" Krillin asked.

"Again, I'm right here, you know," Cell remarked.

"Who's right there?" rasped a voice. And then, Cell, the future version rather than the present version, walked in, and stared, his slitted pupils meeting the magenta irises of his counterpart. "Oh."

The present form of Cell frowned, looking the more insectoid version of himself up and down, before remarking, "I'm glad I skipped over that phase. I wonder, though, is meeting like this liable to cause an explosion from a paradox(2)?"

"What the actual fuck?" the future Cell rasped. "Are you me? Ah, you must be the one who was still in Gero's lab. Though how you managed to gain your Perfect form already…how? HOW DID YOU DO IT?! TELL ME!"

"And why, pray tell, should I divulge that?" Perfect Cell asked.

"Because we're the same!" Imperfect Cell (as Bulma privately denoted the more grotesque insect chimaera as) snapped. "We are twin brothers, separated only by time and relative dimensions in space!"

"And if you knew how to do it, would you leave all these people alone?" Bulma asked.

"Puh-lease," Imperfect Cell sneered. "I am a Perfect being, or at least I will be, about to go through the ultimate apotheosis to a level above such petty concerns as morality. Power gives me the licence to do what I will. Lesser beings are my playthings, to be discarded at my whim. Perfection, by its very definition, means that I am the supreme being…with no equals or betters. Only lessers."

"Then by that logic," Perfect Cell said with a smirk, "I am already your superior by dint of reaching my Perfect form already, and thus have no need to divulge what I know. Besides, you are disgusting."

"I'm you!" Imperfect Cell snarled.

"With no élan, grace, style, or lips," Perfect Cell said. "Out of the two of us, which would have the best chance of getting a kiss?"

In the silence that followed, Bulma couldn't help but laugh. "He's got a point there, Bug Boy. How many women would want to kiss a beak on an oversized cicada?"

"Your opinion was neither asked for or wanted, Bulma Briefs! Besides, you're one to talk about kissing and other intimate acts, spreading your legs for that narcissistic drama queen with the pointy hair and the short man complex," Imperfect Cell sneered.

Bulma slapped him, but only ended up bruising her hand. "Like I said, you have no élan, grace, style, or lips," Perfect Cell said. "I believe I have taken offence to you." He put his index and middle finger to his head, as if in thought. "What to do, what to do…" Suddenly, energy crackled around his fingers, and he pointed them at his Imperfect counterpart. "SPECIAL BEAM CANNON!" he roared.

Imperfect Cell dodged the corkscrew beam of ki, which lanced through several walls before exploding. Perfect Cell lunged, and soon, the two versions of the same bioengineered creature were brawling their way through walls. Bulma paused only to check on Selipa's tank, and found that Selipa could safely be decanted, before she yelled at Krillin, "Take me to the others! With those two brawling, it might distract Gero and 16 long enough for us to escape! We need to find Trunks as well!"

"How far do you think we'll be able to get?!" Krillin demanded as Bulma drained the tank and pulled Selipa out, allowing the Saiyan infant to cough out the liquid sustaining her.

"Far enough! We need to evacuate Capsule Corp before those guys bring it down around us!"

They found not only the Briefs, Bardock and Piccolo there, but also Chi-Chi, Yamcha, Tien and Chiatozu. Those four, being injured, were being tended to by the others. "What the hell happened?!" Piccolo demanded.

"I may have doomed us all," Bulma said, Selipa crying in her arms. "Or, at best, I've managed to rustle up a distraction to get the hell out of here. I'm sincerely hoping it's the latter, and only the latter. With any luck, we might have a new ally."

Suddenly, Bulma was sent flying as Gero entered, smashing her aside. She was lucky he restrained himself, or else she'd be pulp, along with Selipa. "So, you attempt to defy me?" Gero sneered as he picked up Selipa. "Well, I guess this Saiyan child will be the first to die."

As Gero prepared to kill Selipa, Bardock lunged, only to be backhanded away by Gero. "Get away from my daughter!" Bardock hissed.

"Why? If you are indeed the father of Son Goku, then this brat will grow up to be as troublesome, if not more so," Gero sneered. "Maggots turn into flies."

As Bardock watched on in horror, Gero's hand seemed to descend on the crying form of his daughter in slow motion. Bardock felt the emotion, the fury at his own impotency welling up within him, the anger at it, the pure anger at being unable to do anything. His wife and his son were both Super Saiyans. That damned Prince was one. But Bardock wasn't, and it was going to get his daughter, his flesh and blood, killed, because he wasn't strong enough.

The dam broke, just in time. The whirlwind of golden ki surrounded Bardock. The surprise and hesitation of Gero allowed enough time for Bardock to snatch his daughter away, and thrust her into Krillin's arms. He then glared at Gero with emerald eyes, golden hair glowing above them. "You're dead, you bastard," Bardock snarled. "You just haven't realised it yet." And with that proclamation, he surged forward…


And there you have it. This chapter and the previous one were originally a bit different, with my forgetting that Goku had left the Lookout to try and help the others originally. I modified it, then, to give him something to do.

Incidentally, a couple of new characters will be introduced in the next chapter (which will be a while coming). It's a bit contrived, but even so…

1. This title is a bit of a clever pun. Apoptosis is the technical term for cell suicide…which, considering Cell is fighting himself, is kind of appropriate.

2. This is a reference to the Blinovitch Limitation Effect from Doctor Who. Although mentioned a few times in other ways, it's shown to have literally explosive implications in Mawdryn Undead.