ONLY A PLANK BETWEEN ONE AND PERDITION
When Goku appeared in front of Capsule Corporation, it was sheer bedlam. His father had gone Super Saiyan, and was fighting off Dr Gero, brawling in the street in front of the dome-shaped building. Thankfully, there seemed to be some sort of evacuation going on, and Bardock had enough presence of mind to keep the fight confined to a single area. Meanwhile, in the sky…were those two Cells brawling?!
"Kakarrot! Little help?" Bardock yelled, breaking Goku out of his reverie.
"Bulma and the others, where are they?" Goku demanded.
"Probably running for their lives! I saw Bulma running off to get her Trunks, the baby one. Kakarrot, they were going to use your wife and friends as hostages! Gero here hacked 16 and sent him to the Lookout!"
"WHAT?!" Goku yelped.
It was at that point that Gero managed to catch Bardock with a blow that sent him reeling. "There's a time for talking, and a time for fighting!"
Goku promptly went Super Saiyan, and smashed Gero to the ground. "Take your own advice, Gero! I've had enough of you trying to come after my loved ones! You leave them out of this!"
Gero sneered as he got back to his feet. "Leave them out of this, Son Goku? Bulma, Yamcha, Roshi, Krillin, they all helped interfere in Red Ribbon plans. You stood in the way of progress, of making sure that there is order and progress in the world! Do you think yourself virtuous? YOU'RE NOTHING BUT AN UNTHINKING, BRUTISH RELIC OF A SPECIES WHOSE TIME IS LONG SINCE PAST! YOU MADE ME AND MINE SUFFER IN THE YEARS SINCE THE RED RIBBON ARMY'S FALL, AND YOUR FAMILY AND YOU WILL SUFFER FOR IT."
Goku glared at Gero. "I heard your commanding officer wanted the Dragonballs for one thing: to make himself taller. He ordered the deaths of innocent lives, tortured them, thrown the lives of his own men away, just to make himself taller."
"Commander Red was a fool," Gero sneered. "He refused to accept who held the real power in his army. Neither did Staff Officer Black. I was the Red Ribbon Army. I still am. And Saiyans have no place in my world."
He was smashed to the side by a Riot Javelin from Bardock. "Maybe not, but we're here, and you're little more than a senile brain in a tin can," Bardock sneered. He looked at Goku. "Kakarrot, are you going to save Lapis and Lazuli from 16?"
"Gohan's up there," Goku said. "And he's got more potential than you realise."
"Then he will die," Gero said as he got to his feet. "You killed my son, Son Goku, while you were destroying the Red Ribbon Army's base(1). You took my son, and I will take yours, along with interest."
"If he was one of the Red Ribbon Army…he killed other people. That's a rather short-sighted view, isn't it?" Goku retorted.
"For the greater good, Son Goku, not that I would expect a monkey-tailed brute to understand higher concepts!"
He was sent flying by yet another Riot Javelin, with Bardock remarking, "Weren't you the one going on about a time for talking and a time for fighting, you old asshole?"
Gero sneered as he got back to his feet. "True…but I have an advantage you do not. My Android body does not tire, especially as I used the perpetual generator I designed. You, on the other hand, may be a Super Saiyan…but you're flesh and blood. I only need to wear you down in a war of attrition."
"Assuming we were equally matched, and I didn't have my son to back me up," Bardock retorted. "Kakarrot, ready to help me turn the man in a can with a plan into Spam?"
Goku nodded. He needed to deal with this quickly, though, just in case Gohan and Lapis couldn't deal with 16…
The present Cell caught his rather more ugly counterpart in a grapple. He had to admit, he was having a rather harder time of it than he should have, especially now that he had reached Perfection. He realised that Bulma had forcefully accelerated his growth in trying to get someone who could match his ugly twin, but that came at a cost. While his doppelganger hadn't reached Perfection, he had absorbed the lifeforce of what had to be at least hundreds of normal people, if not thousands, and he had gone through the normal gestation process. Whereas the present Cell had been granted the power which forced his evolution.
Part of Cell cursed Bulma for forcing the process through. But this actually caused Cell to think. If this was Perfection, and he wasn't that much stronger than his counterpart, then that meant there was considerable room for improvement. And that excited the parts within him that came from the Saiyans. Battling, improving one's self, that was the raison d'etre for a Saiyan.
Part of him came to a conclusion. Perfection didn't mean that he was the ultimate being per se. Rather, it was the first step along such a path. In any case, Perfection was a term indoctrinated into him by Doctor Gero, and if Gero had meant to make him suffer through such an ugly-looking body before achieving Perfection, then he wasn't exactly an authority on what Perfection entailed.
The present Cell then wondered, why didn't Gero make Cell into his Perfect form in the first place? Why make him reliant on the absorption of Androids 17 and 18 to achieve his final state? Absorbing lifeforce from humans was all very well in bringing up the levels of ki, but absorbing two Androids? Why not make it so after a certain level of ki was absorbed, he would elevate his state?
His uglier counterpart lashed out with his tail, and the present Cell broke the grapple to grab onto the tail, squeezing down hard. "GAAAH! WHY THE TAIL?!" the ugly Cell snarled.
"Because I'm not going to let you drink me," the present Cell hissed. "You couldn't afford the price, my dear, uglier double."
"Why the hell are you defending them?!" the ugly Cell snapped. "They have done nothing for you!"
"They let me reach Perfection. Call it a whim," the present Cell said. "Besides, like I said, my malformed sibling, you offend me."
"Oh, cry me a…GAAAAAAH!" the ugly Cell howled as the present Cell ripped off the tail. He then glared at the present Cell. "You do know…I'm going to regrow that, right?"
"Of course. Doesn't stop it from being painful, does it?" the present Cell said with a smirk. "Or from reducing your ki. If you give up now, I'll make your death only moderately painful. Just a Kamehameha strong enough to turn you into ashes. Even our regeneration has limits."
"True. But your power is not that far above mine, which makes this more of a war of attrition," the uglier Cell said, grinning painfully with his beak-like mouth. "And you know what? That's fine by me. Because sooner or later, the cavalry will arrive. Can't you sense that ki coming our way at rapid speed? Vegeta's coming, and he's not at all happy about Goku leaving that battle with him…"
Hercule and Videl looked at Gohan, Dende, Popo and Lapis as if they had gone insane. "So…ki's actually a thing?" Hercule asked. "That's how Piccolo and your dad fought at the Tenkai'ichi Budokai?"
Gohan nodded. "It takes time and practise to draw it out properly, but you're already a well-trained martial artist, Hercule. With time and patience and the right training, you could."
"I could even fly?" Hercule asked. There was a strange, almost child-like air to the question, as if Hercule had briefly glimpsed Santa, and was still trying to make up his mind whether he was truly real, and hoping that was the case.
"Yes. But we'll have to wait until this mess with Cell is over," Gohan said. "What about you, Videl?"
"I've been doing some martial arts training for a little while," Videl said. "Probably nowhere near Tenkai'ichi Budokai level, but I'd be able to hospitalise a mugger."
"She's Daddy's little angel," Hercule said proudly. He walked over to the edge of the Lookout, and looked down. "Learning that ki is real, that there's some sort of Guardian looking over Earth, that there are aliens walking amongst us…puts things into perspective, doesn't it?" he remarked, surprisingly solemnly for the boisterous man.
"I think it's cool!" Videl said, smiling.
Even as Gohan, Dende and Lapis smiled back at the dark-haired girl, they couldn't fail to hear the apprehension in Hercule's tone when he suddenly spoke up. "Hey, are you guys expecting anyone? Only, there's some punk in green armour flying our way!"
Before they could react, Hercule leapt to the side as Android 16 flew up, and then landed on the Lookout. "16?!" Lapis demanded. "What're you doing here?"
"17, I need you to come with me, urgently," 16 said. "There's trouble at Capsule Corp."
Lapis frowned. "And since when did you call me 17? I thought we got you to kick that habit months ago."
"Where's 18?" 16 said, ignoring Lapis' remarks.
"Training with Trunks and Gine." Lapis folded his arms. "And I've got the sneaking suspicion you didn't come all the way up here to say hello."
16 glared at him, and advanced, only to suddenly spasm and convulse, his hands going to his head. Then, his expression changed, becoming full of a fear that was almost never on the stoic Android's face. "Lapis, Gohan! Get these people and hide! Gero hacked me! I won't be able to hold off his programming for much longer! He wants to help Cell reach Perfection!"
Gohan dashed in front of 16, before he looked at Lapis. "It's you he wants! If he gets you, it's over! I'll hold him off!"
"Gohan, he's stronger than you!" Lapis snarled. "I ain't gonna let you fight 16 alone! You'll die if I leave you!"
"We'll ALL die if you don't!" Gohan snarled(2). 16 then swatted him aside, Hercule catching him.
"You will come with me," 16 intoned, advancing on Lapis, his internal struggle over, and Gero's control back in place. "Your willingness is unnecessary."
Gohan wiped the blood from his mouth, before he nodded his thanks to Hercule. "D'you think you can do a Fastball Special?" he asked.
Hercule, after a moment, smiled. "Sure, kid! Windup…and the pitch!" And with that, he hurled Gohan as hard as he could.
Now, Hercule, in terms of strength, was nowhere near the level of the Saiyans and their immediate compatriots. But he was still an extremely strong man by human standards, and the speed boost Gohan had at the beginning of his trajectory, enhanced by Gohan letting loose a burst of ki, fuelled by his anger, to fly at speed, meant that Gohan was heading towards 16 at quite a lick of speed.
In one of those moments of slow-motion clarity that seemed to lend speed to thoughts, Gohan thought, This seems oddly familiar. Big tall armoured guy with a weird hairdo, and I'm about to tackle him at high speed. Oh yeah, this is a bit like when I got angry and attacked Raditz.
16, however, saw him coming, and grabbed Gohan, using Gohan's momentum to fling the part-Saiyan away, overshooting the Android. But Gohan, to his credit, did a high-speed turn in mid-air, and, as he swooped down on 16, brought his hands together over his head. "MASENKO!" he yelled, firing the ki blast.
As the ki blast detonated, enveloping 16 in a cloud of dust, Gohan flew right into the cloud, bullrushing 16, and sending the Android flying over the edge of the Lookout. He then looked at Lapis. "Go find Grandma and Trunks! Get them to come out, and you stay with Lazuli for as long as you can! We need their help now!"
"Kid, I'm not leaving you to beat 16!" Lapis snapped. "We've got a better chance of stopping 16 together!"
Gohan felt a surge of frustration at Lapis' recalcitrance. As much as he appreciated the Android's loyalty and willingness to help, 16 would be able to snatch Lapis with little trouble. The green-armoured Android was easily the most powerful of them, even if the gap between strength had been narrowed. "Lapis, Grandma and Trunks will have a better chance! Now do…"
"ROCKET PUNCH!" Suddenly, Gohan's head exploded into a dark void filled with stars rushing at him, and he skidded along the tiles of the Lookout, ending up near Videl and Dende, the latter quickly beginning to heal them.
The small part of Gohan's brain that remained lucid after that blow to the head noted that he must have a concussion at the very least. The world shouldn't be spinning quite that much. Distantly, he heard the sound of battle between Lapis and 16, and that small lucid part urged Dende to heal him faster. He needed to get up, he needed to be up, he needed to save Lapis!
However, as the fog cleared from Gohan's mind, he saw 16 smash Lapis across the Lookout. Lapis struggled to get to his feet, and failed. 16 stormed over, picked Lapis up in both hands, and then smashed Lapis' back over his knee. Lapis gargled a scream of agony, before passing out.
16 picked up Lapis, and placed him over his back like a sack of produce, before looking at Gohan. "If 18 wishes to stop me, then I will be waiting at Capsule Corp." And with that, he flew off the Lookout.
It took every bit of self-control Gohan had not to tear off after 16. 16 and Lapis couldn't be tracked by ki sensing, and 16 was still too strong. Instead, he looked at Mr Popo. "We need to tell the others in the Time Chamber."
Popo nodded, and they ran for the Time Chamber. Gohan hoped that his father would finish off what he was doing soon. Or maybe Goku could intercept 16 and Lapis before Cell could get his hands on Lapis. But even so, this was a disaster, and one they needed to deal with.
If only they knew how…
CHAPTER 17 ANNOTATIONS:
Okay. Well, first things' first. Sorry about this chapter taking such a long time. Inspiration was considerably lacking, and it was only sheer luck that I managed to find enough to do this one. And let's be frank, you probably will be waiting a while for new chapters.
But let me make this clear. Demanding or asking for new chapters in reviews or PMs is more likely to turn me off doing more. This may seem odd, but I don't like extra pressure being put on me, and I write at my own pace. Having people ask for or demand new chapters just pressures me and shuts my creativity down. It's great that you guys enjoy my story, don't get me wrong. I'm glad Mater Familias is loved (in fact, as of writing, it's now got two entries on Tropes Pages on TV Tropes: Godzilla Threshold and Sneeze Cut, so thanks to those readers who made those entries!), but the thing is, I write on my own terms. So, please be patient. I know that's a dirty word on the internet, but even so…
Why did I do this here? Well, this seems to be the work (or at least one of them) that gets the most requests for an update outside of my Harry Potter fics. It's gotten to the point where I've placed this on my profile, though something tells me few people actually read it.
Okay, rant over.
Since posting the previous chapter of Mater Familias, we've had some shakeups in the Dragonball universe, huh? The Goku Black arc has ended in Dragonball Super, and the contentious Universal Survival arc is happening. Dragonball Z Abridged has finally reached the Cell Games proper, and had a hilarious series of shorts featuring Cell versus other anime and video game characters (my personal favourites are the Kenshiro one, the Light Yagami one, and the Ken and Ryu one). And tying both Dragonball Z and the Abridged Series together, I recently learned that Team Four Star actually make an appearance in the 're-enactment' film of the Cell Games in the Majin Buu Saga for Dragonball Z Kai. Hell, hearing Takahata101's Nappa voice from the faux-Hercule was hilarious in the clip posted online.
Oh, and I've posted another Dragonball Z story: Super Saiyan Saviour, a crossover with Undertale. It's still in fairly early stages, though.
Now, back to the story. I always intended 16 to be fighting back from within, albeit unable to succeed. I hope you guys liked what I did there.
1. What happened to Gero's son in Dragonball Z Abridged was too appealing not to integrate into the story. I thought it a great spur for Gero's revenge.
2. Lapis and Gohan are echoing Grace and the Doctor's desperate lines from the 1996 Doctor Who telemovie.