It was a foreign concept to her, one that she never thought she'd ever experienced, but then again, she never thought she'd be easily killed by a lavender-haired brat who she used to kick around for fun for nearly twenty years.
For twenty years, Android 18 ruled the world with her brother by her side, terrorising the populace and beating up the humans' wannabe saviours. For twenty years, she relished in the fear and destruction she wrought up the humans, delighting in the way she made them flee for their lives like mice, shooting them down as they ran. For twenty years, the twins were unchallenged, undefeated, the true powerhouses of the world and perhaps even the universe. No-one could match them, not even the fabled Super Saiyan.
And then it all changed.
She'd watched him grow up as she toyed with him, always amused at his empty threats to kill her and her brother, beating him down each and every time in crushing defeats. Every time, he screamed how he would destroy her and her brother, that he'd avenge Gohan's death (idiot had it coming: he'd outgrown his usefulness), but she always laughed at him, waiting for the next challenge, eager to send him running home with his tail between his legs.
Until he killed her. How ironic that much like the deaths she had wrought upon the humans, her own death was done in an instant. She didn't have the time to react or think or do anything as her life was instantly snuffed out. All because she underestimated that brat, underestimating that he would somehow gain enough power to destroy her and her brother, too proud and absorbed with her own superiority and now she was paying the price.
Brought before King Yemma himself, the twins were condemned to Hell for their crimes. At first, 18 hated the dreary, miserable place. There were no clothe shops to begin with and the stinky ogres were a nuisance to deal with. They lusted after her, despite their professionalism, their bumbling antics annoying her and her attempts to dissuade them with well-aimed kicks and energy blasts saw her hauled to the prison for numerous stretches of time, usually by some green guy from Heaven called Pikkon. 17 would end up in there with her, defending her honour and causing mayhem at the same time, since he felt like he was finally in his element, despite being dead. Hell became bearable when she learnt of Frieza, the feared galactic tyrant, and it amused her to know that for all his bluster about being the most powerful being ever, he was an insect compared to her, proved when she easily kicked him around without much effort, 17 using the opportunity to establish themselves as the top of the food chain. The fact that they got to pulverise Dr. Gero over and over again didn't hurt either. 18 relished the chance to vent her anger upon her creator, seeing as how she wasn't the one who killed him. It gave her a sense of satisfaction that felt like it'd been missing from her life prior to her death.
And then it all changed when he arrived in Hell: the being who called himself Cell.
Apparently, he was another creation of Dr. Gero and also met his unfortunate end at the hands of a certain purple-haired punk. He then revealed that his objective was to absorb the twins and gain Perfection, but naturally, 18 and her brother weren't having any of that and tried to show him why.
In hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to antagonise the residents of Hell beforehand, because Cell received some surprising back-up from Frieza and his father and several others who wanted to see the twins fall. In their fight for survival, 18 lost sight of her brother for a moment and the next she saw him, he was being swallowed whole by Cell. Even though she couldn't sense energy, 18 definitely felt Cell's immense power when he transformed and she fled the first chance she had, refusing to become a part of him.
Naturally, Cell gave chase and it was only by flying through the Needle Mountain, her smaller frame enabling her to avoid the spikes unlike Cell's larger frame, that she was able to evade him. He did destroy the Mountain and she used the chaos to make her escape, fleeing for her 'life'.
How long had it been since that day? Weeks? Months? Years?...Centuries? Time had no meaning in Hell. All that mattered to 18 now was survival, doing her best to stay one step ahead of Cell. Some days, he would get close and she would hear him booming out her number, demanding she come out of hiding. Other days, she would hear nothing at all, but she never allowed herself to relax and get careless, constantly trying to stay out of the monster's reach. At first, Frieza and the others joined Cell in the hunt, eager to see her suffer, but her superior strength and ability to remain undetected worked to her advantage and for once, she picked her battles, fighting only when necessary as she hid all over Hell in a desperate bid to survive. In the end, everyone gave up, save for Cell. Even after all this time, he remained as relentless as ever, fervent to achieve his Perfection. It was a gratification she refused to give him, not when he had taken the only person who mattered to her and she was not interested on the only way to be reunited with him. She valued her independency too much.
"18!" Cell's voice echoed somewhere in the depths of Hell. "Come out, 18! Stop hiding from me! Show yourself!"
Now she knew how her victims felt. On the safest days (not necessarily true, no day was ever safe, just the ones where she didn't have to run as much), 18 reflected on her misdeeds, something she never gave much thought before. Now she was the prey, being hunted down like an animal for someone's amusement, much like what her and her brother had done to humans for twenty years. Every day, 18 lived in fear that Cell would find her and absorb her, adding to his immense power. She feared the level Cell's power could reach, feared that he could breach Hell and destroy everything in his path. She only destroyed for fun and pleasure, to prove she was the strongest, but she never sought power. Never needed to. Cell, on the other hand, promised destruction on a whole different level, one she did not want to be a part of, especially if it meant losing herself completely to the beast.
In all honesty, she had nothing left except her pride and sense of identity. She was dead, stuck in this miserable, lonely plane of existence for all eternity and she knew she couldn't run forever. Eventually, Cell would find her and absorb her and then it would be game over, for good this time. On days when 18 was feeling low, she wondered what was the point of running and thought about giving up and just let Cell take her, but her pride was too strong for that, despite the constant fear she lived in.
She'd do anything to escape this infernal place and return to the world of the living, but she knew it was impossible and simply resigned herself to her fate, whatever it ended up being.
That's when she heard it. A whisper calling out to her. "18," the voice on the wind said. "18, I can help you."
For days, 18 didn't answer, afraid that she was going crazy with paranoia (which probably wasn't too far from the truth), afraid of what might happen if she answered, afraid that by answering, she could bring Cell a step closer to her location. The voice was not constant; it simply popped up every now and again, reminding her that it was still there, that it was still offering its help, whatever that might entail, and sooner or later, 18 would accept. As the weeks went on and Cell screamed in the distance, she considered it, regardless of what the consequences might be. Finally, when the fear, the paranoia, the suffering became too much, she did just that: she spoke to the Void.
"Hello?" her voice croaked from lack of use.
The voice chuckled in reply. "So nice to finally hear from you, 18. Or do you prefer Lazuli?"
"I don't know any Lazuli."
"That was your name once. When you were human. Before you became an android."
18 frowned. "I wouldn't know. Now, is there a reason you're calling me? I doubt it has anything to do with my past."
"Ah, but it does, my dear," the voice said. "After all, your years of pillaging and murder are the very reason as to why you are here. And the person responsible is another reason why we are speaking."
White-hot rage boiled in 18's veins at the very thought of Trunks, the very first strong emotion she had felt in ages other than fear. Funny how the thought of the person who sent her here was also the reason she could let go of her trauma, even if only for a moment. If there was ever a chance to kill the punk, she'd take it and her voice was cold as ice when she spoke. "What about him?"
"I want him destroyed and I'm giving you the chance to do just that."
"How?" 18 gestured at their hellish surrounding, the Bloody Pond nearby. "We're stuck here."
He chuckled again. "On the contrary. You are trapped here. I am trapped elsewhere. However, I still have enough power to give you another chance at Trunks. All I ask in return is that you help set me free from my prison."
"He'll just kill me again," 18 sighed, the memory of her death flashing through her mind and she shuddered. Is that how all her victims felt when she blasted them into nothing?
"I can provide you with enough power to kill him. I'll even return your brother to you and do the same for him if you feel that'll improve your odds."
18 narrowed her eyes. "You're offering a lot and asking for little in return. Should I be concerned?"
"Trust me, my dear, my freedom is more than enough to repay your debt. However, this is the only time I offer this to you. There are many others who I am sure would be more than too happy to accept my generous offer. What do you say? Freedom from this Hell and a chance at revenge or eternity in damnation, whether here or as a part of Cell?"
18 opened her mouth to reply and then her nightmare came true: a small energy blast that knocked her off her feet and sent her hurtling into a mountain side.
"Found you!" Cell cried in excitement as he flew down in front of her. "At long last, I have found you, 18! You've led me on quite a chase, but finally, we can become one. We can become a family. We can become Perfect."
"I'll never become a part of you!" 18 snarled, igniting a ki ball on both hands. She launched them at Cell and they exploded harmlessly on his chest, much to his amusement. The stinger on his tail widened into a bell and 18 stared at it in horror, the memory of 17 being sucked inside flashing through her mind and she gritted her teeth, forming a large ball in her hands. She launched it with venom and while it drove Cell back, he simply forced the energy ball into nothing and she knew it was over. There was no stopping him now, no escaping him and she could fight all she want, in the end, it would mean nothing. It was just like facing Trunks all over again, except Gero's latest creation was dragging it out for his own twisted satisfaction. Well fine, if she was going to go down, she was going down swinging and fighting for her life. She flew at him, swinging her fists and he dodged every blow and a simple backhand smashed her into the mountain again. 18 gasped, pain in her body, pain she had never felt before and the bio-android grinned, sensing victory.
"18, please, don't fight it," Cell chastised like he was talking to a child, slowing approaching her. She fired several ki blasts and he easily deflected them. "Don't you see, this is how it's meant to be? This is our destiny. This is - who is that?"
18 refused to take her eye off Cell, thinking it was some trick he was trying to pull on her, but then she felt a presence and Cell suddenly choked. The presence had taken on a masculine, ghostly form and was elbow deep in Cell's stomach. The bio-android gagged, bile running down his chin and the ghost tore his fist away, tossing 17's bile-drenched body at 18's feet. Cell made a mewling noise and fell to his knees, holding his pulverised stomach and his body convulsed as he shrank into his original form, his eyes wide with horror as he looked upon the Androids and 18 felt a degree of pleasure at his suffering.
"No! Nooooooo!" Cell shrieked. "How dare you?!"
The ghost released a ki blast at the bio-android and he was no longer there.
"Did you just destroy Cell for good?" 18 asked, unable to believe the possibility after so long.
"No, I've merely displaced him for the time being. He will be back," the ghost replied. "Now tell me, 18, do you accept my offer?"
For the first time in forever, a smirk graced her beautiful face. "Of course. When do we leave?"