Howdy! It's been a little while, and I have to say that I honestly wasn't sure about this chapter at all. To the point that it'd been written a few times before I decided on what I was going to publish. Anyways, I won't run my suck here. On to the chapter! It's a long one, just a fair warning.
CHAPTER 15: Blood Red
"Get down!" shouted Gohan, diving backwards with the blast and forcing Jeanine onto her butt. Without thinking, he dropped Videl as quickly and gently as he could at her feet, and leapt out at his father, shielding the women.
Goku's blast erupted against the wall at the end of the hallway, and he rushed forward to meet Gohan, sending another blast at his son. Fearing for the two women behind him, Gohan allowed the blast to hit him, and kept pushing through the resulting explosion and smoke with a strained grunt. He met Goku on the other side of the smoke and immediately drove his shoulder into his father's gut with such force that he felt his clavicle pop with the strain, sending Goku backwards to hit a doorway halfway down the hall, shattering concrete and bouncing off of it to collapse to the floor in a heap where he lay motionless. Through the whole process, Goku was completely silent. Gohan breathed heavily and fought against the surge of adrenaline coursing through his veins, reeling from what he had just done. He shook his head in disbelief and shut his eyes, feeling out with his ki. His father was still up the hall from them, behind one of the walls to his right, not crumpled on the floor in front of him.
"Son of a bitch…" he muttered, opening his eyes and looking back at the Goku he'd just struck. "I guess we just found the guy responsible for the church." He turned to look at Jeanine and felt a jolt when he realized that she was cradling Videl's head, looking up at him fearfully.
"You're sure? That looked a lot like..."
"That's not my dad." He said simply, returning to her and squatting down next to her. "They used Androids in the past, I think that is also an android."
Gohan wiped Videl's hair out of her eyes, then looked back up the hallway through the two gaping holes where he and his father had burst through. He could hear a lot of commotion through those doors, and grunted in annoyance, "Well, new plan. We're going to go meet up with my dad, then I'm getting everyone out of here before anything else gets in our way."
Without waiting for a response, Gohan gently scooped Videl up into his arms once more, and quickly made his way to find his father. He entered the room when Jeanine hit the buzzer and found Goku gently shaking his mother, trying his best to wake her up. He'd already covered her presumably exposed chest with his orange gi top, and a cold sweat was accumulated on his brow. Gohan felt a chill roll through him. His mother looked like death had already claimed her. Her ki was so diminished that he could barely feel it. If it weren't for the monitoring machine she was connected to, he would have given up hope, but the heart rate was shown at 30 beats per minute. It was slow, but she was definitely alive, and she was being pushed oxygen through a mask.
"Hey, I just ran into you in the hallway." Said Gohan, catching his father's attention. Goku turned his head about to look at him quizzically, the strain of finding his wife like this obviously getting to him.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Gohan shook his head and turned towards the doorway, pointing with his head, "Out there, it looks like our friends here still know how to make androids. Just knocked one out of the fight that looked a lot like you, but it was definitely far weaker. Get mom unstrapped, we're heading to the lookout, gotta get these girls to Dende before their condition gets worse."
Goku looked down at Videl, and Gohan saw his face go even paler when his eyes traced over the hasty bandages across her chest that were already turning red with blood. He didn't say anything else, only nodding and pulling the straps loose. Jeanine watched them for a moment before Goku seemed to realize she was there, and he looked towards his son again as he picked up Chi Chi. "Who's she?"
"She's the doctor who was taking care of them in custody, I offered to get her out of here since things are about to get hot. Now get over here, we need to get them out of here, I can hear more coming." Gohan glanced towards the doorway to the cell, hearing the sounds of heavy boots and rifles directly outside in the hallway.
Gohan turned towards Jeanine as his father joined him, "Doctor, come over here, and hold onto both of us."
Jeanine looked uncertain for a moment, then glanced towards the door as she heard footsteps about to cross the threshold. Gohan cradled Videl's head with his arm, and used that hand to press two fingers to his helmet, right where his forehead would be, yelling "now!"
She jumped, then did as she was told, just as she heard a soldier clear the doorway and yell at them to stop. She clasped her hands down on both of their arms, and heard a gunshot just as she felt like she was being pulled through a tiny tube by her navel. A split second later, she felt her feet firmly plant onto something solid that felt like tile, and her eyes were graced with the deepest blue sky she'd ever witnessed. A quick glance around found her on a pearly white platform that appeared to be floating in space, for she could not find the horizon anywhere. Her awe-struck state only lasted a moment before she heard a strained groan from her right followed by a sickening wheeze, and turned to find Gohan dropping to his knees, placing Videl gingerly on the ground. There was blood running down the front of his armor, and she saw him quickly clasp his hand down on his neck with one gloved hand, shifting back from Videl's still form.
"Shit!" he grunted, and Jeanine thought she heard the gurgle of fluid in his throat as he said it, but it was hard to tell through the helmet. She froze, unsure of what she was seeing until he ripped his helmet off with his other hand, and she could see blood spraying from between his fingers at an alarming rate.
"Gohan!" Goku's panicked cry rang out, but Gohan waved him down, pointing towards the center of the platform, struggling out between wheezes, "Go… Dende."
Goku didn't say anything else, merely placing Chi Chi down right next to Videl and sprinting off without a second thought. Jeanine came out of her shock as soon as she realized where the bleeding was coming from. She hurried to Gohan's side, pulling on the zipper to her bag and searching rapidly for something stop it.
"Just hold still, I've got some gauze-", he jerked back as she tried to reach for his hand and replace it with one of her gauze pads. He tried to say something, but just coughed, blood running down his chin and spurting from under his hand with the increase in pressure. His eyes widened for a moment as he began to realize how bad he'd actually been hit. "Gohan! That's your carotid! I have to try and slow the bleeding, or you'll be dead in a minute!" Gohan hesitated, but relented quickly and nodded his consent.
Jeanine bit her lower lip and pulled his hand away from his throat, replacing it with the gauze and trying to assess the damage quickly before putting pressure back on the wound. It wasn't pretty. The specialized rounds they were using made a wound unlike anything she'd seen from a gunshot before. As best she could tell, the round had penetrated his neck just to the right of his trachea and exploded, blowing out the front of his neck and leaving a solid quarter-zeni sized hole directly over the entrance wound, charring the skin at the edge of it. After double checking that there was no exit wound with a sweep of her hand, she pressed down on it as hard as she dared. There wasn't much else she could think of to do. She was cutting off blood to his brain by doing this, but if she didn't, he'd bleed out for sure. She looked him in the eyes, pleased to see that both of his onyx orbs were searching her face for something, and felt for any hint of spinal damage with her other hand. Noticing nothing immediately wrong outside of the arterial bleed, she marveled at how resilient Saiyans had to be to only get wounded this badly. She was positive that if he'd been human, he'd have lost his head entirely.
"You're losing blood fast, I need you to lay down on your back, okay? You're going to be okay, Gohan, I just need you to stay focused for me. Focus on trying to breathe." The demi rolled his eyes at her, but complied, rolling back onto his rump and slowly laying onto his back. Jeanine was worried about how much blood he was losing, as his face was already starting to turn a dull grey color in spite of doing her best to stifle the flow. She looked around her, wondering what she was supposed to do now, scanning her bag to see if there was any sort of surgical tool she could conceivably use to at least buy him time to get to a hospital. "Where's Goku? How is this Dende guy supposed to help? I don't understand…"
She was brought out of her panic when his blood-soaked, gloved hand pressed itself on top of hers, and she spun her head back around to look at him. He was simply staring back at her, his expression completely calm. He nodded, and she could tell he was letting her know that it was all okay. She didn't know how he could be so calm considering his wound was definitely fatal. By her reckoning, he had about thirty seconds left before she couldn't do anything more to help him. But then the answer came running up behind her.
"Man, that looks bad," said Dende, taking in his friend's grey complexion and the large pool of blood that he was currently laying in as he ran across the platform towards him. Goku jogged to a halt as he neared the group, while Dende circled around Jeanine. Stopping at his friend's head, he dropped to his knees and immediately got to work. "Jeanine, go ahead and remove that for me, okay? I'll take it from here."
The doctor was stunned into inaction. She wasn't sure what she was most surprised about. For one, the speaker was green, like really green, with antenna and pointy teeth and long elf-like ears. Then he'd just told her to remove her gauze from the wound, allowing it to breathe free and bleed faster again. Then there was the fact that he knew her name! She hesitated, unsure of what to do while her mind tried to catch up, until Gohan's bloodied hand patted her arm, and she looked down at him. He nodded at her again, giving her a thumbs up. She pulled her hands back, getting up to her feet and hunching over him to watch the green man carefully, still too confused and stunned to speak.
Dende held his hands over the wound and closed his eyes, and initially, Jeanine thought that nothing was going to happen. She was about to step back in and say something when she noticed something that made her stiffen even harder. Sinew and muscle were crawling back together across the wound. She felt her jaw drop when she saw the severed Carotid snap back together, the blood pulsing through it forcing it to bulge slightly with every heartbeat. It all wove back together until the skin meshed and there was no sign that the wound had been there at all, discounting the blood. Gohan's eyes closed momentarily, and he rolled onto his side, coughing up the blood that had poured into his lungs through the hole in his windpipe.
She heard Goku sigh in relief as his son kept coughing, spraying saliva and blood onto the tile as he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. She finally let it go, pressing her hands to the sides of her head, accidentally smearing his blood on her face, and looking around at them with wide eyes, "What. The. Hell just happened?!"
All three of them turned their eyes towards her, and Goku started calmly, "Well, Dende healed Gohan's wound. He can do that, considering he's the Earth's Kami and all."
Dende shrugged and said back to him, "Well, I had the gift before I came here, but-"
"Wait… Wait. The Kami of Earth? Like, god?" she stammered out, feeling herself grow even more faint than she had been upon watching that miracle healing.
Dende gave her a sheepish look and said, "Well… Yes. Sort of. I usually prefer to be called the Guardian of Earth. Uh… Welcome to the lookout?"
She couldn't believe what she was hearing, but at the same time, she didn't know if she could dispute it either. She'd watched him perform what she would only ever call a miracle. She was good at her job, but the kind of trauma that he'd just healed would have been considered a lost cause in most situations. Then there was the fact that he'd called her by name, even though she'd never met him before. Plus, he just looked strange. She planted her hands on her hips and nodded, pursing her lips and trying her best to keep it together. She spun on the spot a couple times, looking up towards the sky and struggling with the freak out she was clearly holding back.
"It's okay, everyone has a hard time coming to terms with it their first time," said Gohan, who's breathing was leveling out now that his lungs were cleared of fluid. She turned to look at him, and he sat back on his heels, pressing his palms down on his knees and breathing deeply. He looked towards Dende and continued, "Dende, help out mom and Videl please? They're both in bad shape."
"Of course. You need to settle down for a bit too, Gohan. You're still pale as a ghost," said the Guardian, concern flooding his voice as he went and knelt down next to the two women. He focused his efforts first on Videl, who's life was still slipping away, though much slower than before. Goku went to his son's side and helped him stand, ignoring the amount of blood that was still all over the place.
"Thanks," grunted Gohan as he got to his feet. As soon as he was fully erect, he shut his eyes and swayed dangerously, getting caught immediately by his father.
"Whoa kiddo, I think you just need to take it easy for a minute. That's a lot of blood you just lost, you're gonna be dizzy for a little while," said Goku, almost sounding amused.
Gohan blinked a couple times then looked down at the tile, observing just how much blood he'd actually been drained of. "Yeah, no kidding. A minute more and…" He turned his head towards Jeanine, and gave her a weak smile, "Thanks, Doc. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have lasted much longer like that, I think you might have just saved my ass."
Jeanine wasn't sure how to respond, she looked down at herself, her arms covered in his blood. "Honestly, I didn't think you would make it, I had no idea what I was supposed to do."
"Yeah, but you did do something, so thanks."
She decided after a moment that she should just accept the thanks, and nodded. A moment later, Gohan seemed to realize something, and turned back to his father, "We still have a base to deal with. If they've got androids, we need to get back down there and make sure it's all dealt with properly. And we need to get whatever information we need from them to clear your name. The others don't know yet."
Dende looked up from his work and gave Gohan a reproachful look, "I don't think you should be going anywhere right now, Gohan. Considering your current condition, you're probably going to wind up worse off, or accidentally injure someone who's on your side because you're delirious. This isn't just a solo battle with some monster like Cell this time, there's tons of people down there. You need to stay out of it for a little while, at least until you look like you're not going to keel over any second."
Gohan looked like he was about to retort, when Goku grasped his shoulder firmly and grinned at him, "Hey, it's okay son. He's right, and besides, Vegeta and I can handle it! He's down there with the Saiyans right now, I can feel it."
Gohan wasn't sure how he'd missed it, but once he focused for a second, he could feel Vegeta's ki spiking down below. He pondered for a second why he wouldn't have noticed it earlier, then conceded their point. If I don't even have the mental clarity to find Vegeta's ki in the middle of a fight, then maybe I do need to take a breather.
"Fine," he grumbled, "I'll stay up here and keep an eye on the girls then. If they wake up, I'll be here to fill them in. If I feel something going wrong, though, I'm coming down to help."
Dende seemed to deflate a little, as if he'd thought he would have to find a way to force Gohan to back down. Goku smiled, then gave a little salute with his hand and pressed two fingers to his forehead, disappearing from the lookout once again.
Jeanine jumped a little, then looked between Gohan and the spot he had just disappeared, stumbling over her words as she tried to figure out what just happened. Gohan noticed her struggles and said dully, "I'll explain what I can to you, since you're being subjected to all this so quickly. You might want to take a seat, so let's get these two resting inside first." He indicated towards the Namekian, and cleared his throat, giving him a significant look when he noticed the guardian staring at the ground thoughtfully, idle.
Jolting upright, Dende shook his head and gave him a sheepish grin when he cleared his throat. He turned from Videl and began focusing on Chi Chi, and a few moments later, her complexion seemed to brighten just a little, with her breathing picking up considerably. It took only a few moments before both of the women's ki leveled, and Gohan was satisfied they were no longer in immediate danger. He retrieved his helmet, and pressed the buttons on his watch, reverting back into his blue gi.
Jeanine hesitated again, staring at the young man as his clothing switched so rapidly. He stooped down to pick Videl up tenderly, and the young guardian likewise picked up his mother, albeit awkwardly due to his smaller stature. "Come on, we'll go inside for now. I'll get Popo to bring us something to drink," said Dende, his voice a little muffled from behind Goku's gi shirt that was still covering Chi-Chi's chest. Jeanine shook her head to clear her mind and followed them once she realized they were almost at the building in the center of the platform. A few moments later found them in one of the many rooms with a pair of beds. Gohan lay Videl down on the bed and sat down on the edge of it tiredly. Jeanine helped the guardian place her other patient on the opposite bed, then sighed heavily and sat down in a chair at the edge of the room. She swallowed and looked between Gohan and Dende, anxiety pulling her nerves taut as her adrenaline finally started to wear off. Gohan glanced at Dende and nodded.
"Well," Gohan started quietly, "I suppose I should start with how we got here."
Goku popped back into existence right behind Vegeta, just as they were descending upon the location of the Red Ribbon base. All of the Saiyans that made up the quick reaction force were present, making their total number, with Goku included, fourteen. They all pulled up short, startled by the sudden appearance of an additional Saiyan in their midst.
"God dammit Kakarot! I hate it when you do that!"
"Sorry Vegeta, come on, let's go!"
Without waiting for another response, Goku turned towards the two hanger doors he could see in the distance, and felt the others follow him down. Tora called over the wind to him, "Where is Gohan? Shouldn't he be with you?"
Goku nodded and glanced over his shoulder at him, "He's back up on the lookout. I'm not entirely sure how, but the guns these guys are using are capable of hurting us pretty bad if we're not careful. Gohan took one to the throat while we were getting out, but he and the girls are going to be fine."
Vegeta gaped at him incredulously, "You mean to tell me that your son was brought down by a human weapon?"
"Yeah, so watch yourself in here. There's a lot of them. And more than that, Gohan said he ran into an android that looked like me, so there might be more."
"Good," growled Vegeta excitedly, "I've been hoping there would be more of those tin-cans someday."
Now they were almost on top of the first hanger door that opened directly into the sky, and Vegeta leveled his palm at the structure, unleashing a blast that struck the huge metal door and detonated with an incredible boom. The Saiyans stared down at it, all of them preparing to fight as the rock and metal around the door crumbled, allowing the huge structure to collapse into the hanger below. As the dust started to clear, Goku heard the rumble of jet engines behind them, and turned to look over his shoulder. In the distance, and closing fast, was a pair of large jet-copters burning their way towards them. He peered at it for a second, then realized that there were new streams of smoke burning their way, letting them know they had incoming missiles.
"Hey, they're shooting at us!" he called towards the back of the group, and he saw Borgos turn about to face the two oncoming vehicles.
"Heh, are they serious?" He asked, excitement bleeding into his words. "Well, alright! I guess it's party time. You guys go ahead, I'll take care of these two."
Not needing any further prodding, Goku and the others dropped into the new hole in the base, and the bullets immediately started flying. Glad that the Saiyans had been trained every day since their arrival, none of them were struggling to avoid the rounds fired at them, which were pouring out from every defensible position in the massive room. Vegeta grinned viciously and growled in low tones which all of the other's were still able to pick out, "Get to it. Make it quick, we've got some searching to do. Remember, the peons might know something valuable too, so try not to kill them all."
Goku called after the others as they scattered, "And if you see an android, call it out!" Resigning that he wasn't even sure himself if there were more Androids, and what they would look like if they did make an appearance, he turned about to figure out where he should go. Everywhere he looked, the Saiyans were making short work of all of the human fighters that they encountered. Screams mixed with the war cries of the Saiyans, and the rapid crack of weapons fire. The assault of battle on his senses sent his blood burning for the fight in a way that he hadn't fully experienced in years.
Spotting a pair of soldiers emerging from the same door he and Gohan had gone through initially, he pushed hard off of the ground and rushed them. Neither of the two men even saw him coming. He dropped the first one with a hook across the face, then lunged forward and punched the second one in the gut, below his armor. They both hit the ground at about the same time, unconscious. He looked down the hallway once to make sure there was nobody else down there still, then turned his head about to search for someone else to knock out. He felt the blast coming a split second before it hit him in the back of his head, and his vision swam for a moment. He turned drunkenly on the spot and saw his vision temporarily go black as something struck him hard in the face, sending him sailing backwards to sprawl across the concrete floor.
Gathering his wits quickly, he shook his head and looked up towards his assailant, and was surprised to find himself staring at his own face. The other him was staring right back, wearing an exact copy of the orange gi he was wearing now. He was forcefully reminded of the imitation doll that Popo had made when he was a child to help him train, though this version looked to be for sure made of flesh. Temporarily stunned, Goku froze, still halfway on the ground. Without saying a word, the Goku copy dropped into a deep stance and burst towards him, obviously intent on continuing the fight. He threw his fist forward as he neared, and Goku flipped himself up and over his copy.
"Whoa! Man, this is weird!" he said, still struggling with what he was seeing. He landed on his feet, and was immediately back on the defense, blocking a flurry of punches from the copy. He noticed that even though he looked like a perfect copy of Goku, the other him didn't fight anything like the forms he'd learned over the years, leaving him to try and guess where the next attack was coming from. But this only lasted for a moment before Goku retaliated, driving a kick up under the chin of his copy, snapping his head back with a loud crack. In the momentary pause after the kick, Goku stepped into his copy and drove his fist into his chest hard. He felt himself cringe a bit when the punch elicited a harsh sound that made him think he'd pulverized the copy's rib cage.
He hesitated at that, staring at the broken body as it crashed into the side of a vehicle head first, and another loud snapping sound accompanied the warping of metal and screeching of tires on polished concrete as the vehicle and the body skid across the room and into a shipping container. The xerox crumpled to the ground, his eyes staring blankly up at him and his mouth agape, with blood starting to pool around his head. Goku couldn't help himself, he rushed forward to see just how badly he'd hurt his copy, and felt his stomach sink a little when he couldn't find a pulse. The sound of boots behind him pulled himself out of his confused thoughts, and he spun around, putting up his guard. But it was only Vegeta, who was staring at the other Goku confusedly.
"I guess this is the android? I didn't feel it. It's bleeding, like the blonde and her brother."
Goku nodded and stood up, sparing a glance towards the body on the floor. "Yeah, it must be. It looks like a younger me… But if it's bleeding, then you don't think...?"
"That's something we'll have to figure out later. Come on, the others have all moved off into their own parts of the base. You ought to do the same, let's clear this place out so we can get the information we need to clean the Saiyan name."
Goku was slightly surprised that Vegeta was actually here to look for anything besides a fight, even having heard him say something to that effect to the other Saiyans. Judging by the ki of the others around the base, they were actively plowing through the opposition without any major hindrance, likely creating a terribly high body count. If anything, he'd assumed that Vegeta would have just taken this as an opportunity to show off how badly the Earth had underestimated them, and had all of the people here slaughtered. Shaking his head, he and Vegeta looked about the large room, just in time to see a pair of figures drop from the hole in the ceiling towards them. It took a moment before Goku realized that it was Borgos, and someone he'd somehow forgotten in all of the drama of the last few weeks.
"Piccolo! What are you doing here?"
The tall Namekian smirked and landed lightly on his feet, looking about the inside of the structure before responding, "I'd heard that Gohan found some of your old Red Ribbon buddies, thought I'd come see what came before me in your long list of enemies."
Goku grinned up at him with a chuckle, which the prince obviously was annoyed by.
"Do you two mind? Namekian, I don't rightly care that you're here. Unless you know where to find what we need in here, you're useless to me."
Piccolo gave him an annoyed glance and pointed over to the opposite side of the cavern from them, to a pair of unmarked doors that were still sealed shut, "Sounds like a few of them fled into there. Also, I should point out to you that there was a huge convoy leaving the base outside, probably the majority of their forces relocating," seeing the Prince's annoyed stare, he shrugged and crossed his arms, "Anyways, I think that those doors are where your little clone came from," he glanced down towards the dead Goku, which Borgos only just seemed to notice, looking between Goku and the dead xerox confusedly.
"Well, well. Looks like you might prove useful after all. Come on," grunted Vegeta, turning about and marching towards the unmarked doors. Goku gave his clone one final glance and stood to follow.
They headed off towards the two doors, pausing only momentarily along the way to pick up more of the Saiyans as they came out of the areas they'd just cleared of enemy combatants. Goku noted that the Saiyans were actually taking prisoners as well, with an enormous group of them, far too many for him to count in any reasonable amount of time now seated in the center of the massive chamber, hands on top of their heads and their gazes fearful. Borgos rushed off after spotting Raditz and Tora arguing about something, surely to mediate whatever was going on and leaving the rest if them to pursue the objective.
When they reached their target, they had formed a sizeable group with Pinache, Avoca, Shugesh, and Erkin bringing their numbers to seven. Vegeta sized the door up for a brief moment, and Goku noticed that they were much larger than the other ones they'd come across. After a moment of searching, none of them could discern how to open them. With a grunt, Vegeta stepped forward and kicked the steel door, which bent and gave under the intense strain of the hit, breaking free of its concrete frame and falling inwards. With a thunderous racket, the door hit the floor on the other side, accompanied by a series of screams that told them they'd dropped the door on someone. Without a second glance, Vegeta stepped over the door and into the dusty corridor, trailed by the other Saiyans. Piccolo and Goku shared a glance before following them, and instantly, they were swallowed into obscurity by the dust hanging around them.
They'd made it twenty feet or so into the room when Goku heard something ahead of him that forced him to hesitate. He couldn't sense anything with his ki, and neither did any of the others. He felt Piccolo's hand reach out and grab shoulder to get his attention, and heard him grumble, "Somethings wrong here."
They both froze in place at his murmured comment, and Goku could tell that the others in front of him had as well. There was a sudden glow of golden light to their front, just as the dust was starting to settle, and Goku felt his eyes widen suddenly in shock. "Get down!" he yelled, dropping to his belly as he saw the beam of energy burning through the hallway, illuminating the remaining dust. Goku watched as it cut horizontally across the room. The other Saiyans dropped in front of him, getting out of the way of the beam as quickly as they could. For Shugesh though, it wasn't quick enough. Goku saw the light draw across his arm as he dropped to the side, just below the elbow, and heard the Saiyan scream in agony as his hand and forearm went spinning through the air, trailing smoke and the smell of burnt flesh.
Reacting immediately, Goku rushed past the others towards the source, and burst through the remaining dust to come face to face with Vegeta. Pulling his punch at the last second to avoid hurting the prince, the majority of the force lost, his fist crashed harmlessly against his face. Vegeta didn't even hesitate to react. He drove a fist up into Goku's throat, then kicked him sideways into a wall. Stunned by how hard he'd been hit, he staggered against the wall, trying to get his uncooperative throat to stop aching, coughing repeatedly. He looked up through the haze in his mind towards the Prince, and was greeted once again by the peculiar sight of two of the same person being in the same place at once. There was Vegeta, as he'd known him years ago during the android invasion in his blue and white armor, and there too was Vegeta, as he'd seen him moments before outside the door in a newer set of Capsule Corp. armor. It was so bizarre seeing them coming to blows, and even stranger when he saw the copy of Vegeta manage to hit the real prince directly in the face, forcing him to skid back towards the others, holding his nose with an annoyed growl.
"Vegeta, It's another one of the Androids!"
"I can see that, you moron!"
Behind the prince, Pinache and Avoca both leveled their hands at the fake prince on either side of Vegeta and unleashed a pair of blasts that thrummed with power. They impacted the clone and detonated, shaking the structure around them and sending up another cloud of dust that obscured their view. Bits of rock and dust fell around them, filling the air with the sound of the cave becoming even more unstable. Standing at the ready, Goku and Vegeta peered into the darkness while Erkin was half carrying, half dragging the moaning form of Shugesh back out the way they came. Preparing for anything, they waited patiently. There was a dull glow coming through the dust, wavering, as if it were breathing.
"It looks like whatever it was is burning," said Avoca, her voice tense and very unlike her usual boisterous self.
The dust slowly settled, and they all stiffened at what greeted them. The copy was standing in the same spot as he had been, staring down the prince, and glowing gold with the tell-tale brightness of a super Saiyan.
"How?" asked Vegeta numbly, his words failing him.
Not offering a response, the fake Vegeta simply lurched forward, moving straight for the prince. Stuck in a state of confusion, Vegeta took the force of the tackle straight to center-mass, and the two of them burst back through the doorway into the cavern, rolling across the floor before Vegeta got his senses about him and kicked the copy off. Rising to his feet, he powered up to Super Saiyan as well, yelling over his shoulder as the other Saiyans and Piccolo emerged behind him, preparing to fight, "Go! I'll deal with this one."
Pinache and Avoca both turned about and moved back into the hallway at a run, leaving Piccolo and Goku to watch him for a moment as the two Vegetas started fighting once more.
"Let's go, I think that whatever we're looking for will be back here somewhere", said Piccolo, his voice emotionally vacant.
Goku nodded and joined him, and they caught back up to the other two quickly. Making their way through the long corridor, it occurred to Goku that there wasn't a whole lot to see here. There were very few features in this hallway except for the odd doorway, and what looked like camera bubbles hanging from the higher parts of the walls at regular intervals. Stranger yet, was that Goku couldn't feel much in the direction they were going either. There was a number of humans this way, but nowhere near enough of them to constitute any sort of threat.
"Well, end of the hall up here," said Pinache gruffly, looking over his shoulder at Goku. "You know where we're supposed to go? The prince was pretty vague when he told us what was going on back at HQ."
Goku was a little surprised to be getting asked for direction, having gotten used to Vegeta taking charge of all of the Saiyans in almost every situation. He shook his head and said, "Not really, but I think what we need is to find the person in charge. I can sense some more of them up ahead, I think they might be trying to protect the top guy."
"Okay. What's the plan then?"
This time, Piccolo spoke up sternly, looking straight at the doorway at the end of the hall, which was a wood panel door as opposed to the steel ones they'd been seeing so far. "You guys want him alive. Or her, whoever is in charge, right? Then pull your punches a bit, don't aim to kill. They shouldn't be much of an issue for you anyways."
Nodding in acknowledgement, they started to slow as they neared the door. Once they had all halted, Goku stepped up to the door and listened carefully. He couldn't hear anything on the other side yet. It wasn't until Piccolo grabbed him by the back of his gi and jerked him to the side that Goku heard a muffled command of "fire!" from behind the door. He yelped as rounds started ripping through the wood, filling the air with splinters and the amazingly loud racket of rifles being fired in confined spaces. Goku watched two rounds hit Avoca in the chest, where her armor took most the damage. She winced visibly and ducked back out of the way, while Pinache managed to somehow take a bullet to his right ear, which promptly exploded, leaving a bloody mass hanging off of the side of his head. He too got out of the way, holding the side of his head and hissing in anger. Avoca pressed him against the wall and shushed him, plucking the fractured bullets from her armor irritably, and rubbing the spots she'd been hit to reduce the sting.
"Cease fire! Cease fire, I think we got them." Came a voice from inside. A moment passed while Goku and the others stared at the door splintered door, wondering just how many of them there were inside. He held a thumbs up towards the two Sayans opposite of him to be sure that they were good to fight still, then waited for a second more, holding up a hand to stall them.
"Are you sure we got them? These Saiyans are tough…" came another voice, obviously uncertain.
"We drew them into a fatal funnel, hosed them down with a crew served, and there's no movement on the other side of the door. I think we're good."
"Well, how about you go take a look then?"
"I better stay on the gun."
"Anyone else wanna go check?"
"Fine, pansy asses. Reload, just in case."
There was a shuffling sound, and then the sound of belt links and magazines being swapped in multiple weapons on the other side of the door. Recognizing the perfect opportunity, Goku quickly rounded the corner and burst into the room, catching well over two thirds of the dozen guards in the ornately decorated room in the middle of reloading. Quickly identifying the nearest soldier who was still ready to fire, he sent a weak blast at him to get him out of the fight before sharply kicking the soldier to his immediate front in the side of the head. The man crumpled to the ground before he could make a sound. The other three filed into the room after him, likewise finding their own targets and dropping them with such speed that the humans in the room didn't even have a chance to fight back. When the dust settled, the four of them were scanning about the room for anyone else to take down.
"Damn, those little projectiles hurt! How bad is my ear?" asked Pinache, wiping a large amount of blood from his neck and looking at it in disgust.
"Hell, you were always ugly," said Avoca, giving him a wide grin and relaxing.
It took a moment before someone noticed that there was now a fifth person in the room with them. Piccolo spun about towards the opposite wall from the one they'd come in, and growled, "Another one."
The four of them turned and prepared themselves, but only found themselves being greeted by a very well-dressed older gentleman of lanky proportions with a silver mustache. He was standing before the door as if he'd been there the whole time, and didn't seem to care at all about the mess that had been made before him. He simply stared at Goku, his eyes searching the orange clad fighter for something, but no discernible emotion on his features. Avoca made to attack, but Goku held up his hands to stall, "Whoa, hold up. He doesn't look like a fighter."
The other three in the room stayed at the ready, but Goku stood up straight and held his hands up to try and assure the old man he wasn't going to hurt him. "You know, you should probably get out of here old timer, this place isn't very safe."
The mustached man glanced around at them before seeming to prop himself up even higher than his already pompous posture and said in a matter of fact tone, "It would seem that you're here to see the Commander. He said something to that effect. He is expecting you now."
Goku honestly wasn't sure what to make of that. While it hadn't been a particularly hard fight, they did have to blow through a lot of people just to get here, and it sounded like whoever was in charge had already given up, considering they were now interacting with what he could only describe as a butler.
Seeming bored of the events going on, the butler sighed and reached behind him, pulling a heavy looking wooden door open with a white-gloved hand and indicating into it, while staring at Goku. The others in the room hesitated, unsure exactly what was going on, until he stated, "Very well, I will go first then. Follow me please."
"Is this guy for real?" asked Avoca under her breath, to which Goku just shrugged, giving her an uncertain look. Deciding that he would humor the old man though, Goku nodded his direction and began walking confidently after him as he disappeared through the doorway into the dark room beyond. Goku noted that there was a faint blue light glowing in the darkness, and wondered what could be back there. He didn't immediately sense any life in that direction at all, wondering if perhaps the Butler was an android, but reasoned that someone had to be back there, since the old man had said the commander was waiting for them. He kept his senses wide open for movement, any form of energy, and felt the other three following after him quietly. The tension was building in his gut, not knowing what sort of situation they might be wandering into.
I wonder how Vegeta is faring against his Android? Hopefully he's having a better time of it than this right now, because this feels an awful lot like a trap.
Vegeta grunted as his fist impacted the gut of his pale imitation. Wind was driven out of the copy, and he could feel the heat of it on his arm, and yet the copy didn't make a sound, not even in the intense pain the blow should have caused him. It was still strange to Vegeta that he couldn't sense the clone's energy at all, especially since he could feel the heat of the super Saiyan aura radiating off of it. Gritting his teeth, he spun on the spot and drove his heel into the side of the copy's head, causing it to crash through a chain link fence surrounding what appeared to be generators. The copy hit the side of one of the machines, and it caught fire, exploding in a fireball as the fuel inside was released into the burning aura of the super saiyan.
Vegeta stood straight and stared into the inferno, a scowl visible on his face as he felt three more Saiyans approaching him from where they'd collected the prisoners. This fight had already gone on too long, considering what he was facing was just a much weaker version of himself. Just the thought of it sickened him. There was only room for one prince of all Saiyans, and yet he was struggling to put down the imitation, evidence of his hesitation evident in the crimson streak running down the side of his head from the hairline. He hadn't ascended yet, slightly worried that he would bring the cave down around them if he did.
"Prince Vegeta, what is that thing?" growled Tora from behind him as they caught up to him. "Do you need-"
"Shut your trap! Make sure none of the fodder gets in the way, we might need them for information. In fact, get them moving outside so that I don't have to think about them."
"Yes… O-of course."
Vegeta glanced at him over his shoulder, feeling his brow furrow deeper. He couldn't afford for these Saiyans to get caught in the middle of this fight if things got further out of his control. This copy of himself was obviously hiding something, though he couldn't tell if it was reserves of power, some new technique, or a weapon. It should have died multiple times already, but it just kept coming back at him. Whatever it was doing, it was clearly more capable than he'd originally thought, and losing Saiyans to combat here would be a loss that he didn't want to deal with. Even more importantly, if he couldn't handle this fight, they'd lose their confidence in his capabilities as a fighter, something that he depended on in his old life to maintain order within his ranks.
There was another explosion from the rows of generators, and the copy emerged from the flames, clearly burning, but not seeming to care as his clothing and armor was smoldering. He stepped over the broken fence and locked eyes onto Vegeta, who's stomach stirred uncomfortably at the sight. This isn't even a clone, a clone of me would be just as prideful and driven as I am. The Android twins show more emotion than this thing. Just what the hell is it?
His thoughts were interrupted as the copy burst forward with speed that surprised Vegeta once again, easily outpacing what it was capable of when their fight first started. The copy returned Vegeta's kick, almost in perfect form to the original, which Vegeta was only just barely able to block. But he'd underestimated the force behind the blow, and the arm he'd blocked with crashed into the side of his head, blurring his vision for a moment as he was likewise flung to the side. He felt his back crash into the top of a vehicle, and heard the twisting shriek of metal and busting glass as it warped around his body, only to feel himself bounce off of the vehicle to hit the solid rock of the wall. The cave around them rumbled in protest, and he heard the tell-tale sound of debris from the ceiling crashing among the human survivors.
Groaning in annoyance, the Prince breathed in deeply and lifted his eyes, watching everything come back into focus again as the dust settled around him. Thoroughly annoyed that he'd been taking it so easy on the copy, he shook the dust from his hair and stared back in the direction he'd come from. That's the last time I underestimate my… clone. He's clearly trying to piss me off!
He glared to where he could see the Saiyans corralling the terrified humans towards the other end of the large hanger, where he could see the bright light of the day flowing in from the outside. Satisfied that they would be out of the way enough for him to handle this properly, he locked eyes on his approaching copy once again, who was now clearly burned after his ordeal with the inferno, with oozing wounds where the fire had peeled away his skin. A small grunt was all he let out when he let his power flow freely, his aura bursting up around him to accompany his golden hair once again. The copy hesitated for a moment, and Vegeta though that he recognized a trace of fear cross its eyes, but reasoned that it must have been a trick of the light.
"You want a fight? You're in for the last fight of your life. I hope you're prepared for hell, whatever you are."
Goku found himself passing through a final hallway that was lined with ornately carved hardwood panels and what looked like a dark red velvet. Golden studs were placed in a repeating pattern at about chest height where the fabric was inset into the walls. The blue glow from ahead became an overpowering glare that blotted out much of the color in the room they emerged into. There was a slightly raised platform, upon which sat a heavy looking hardwood desk, and a high-backed chair that was facing away from them at that moment. But he knew someone was occupying it. The semi-sweet smell of burning flavored tobacco assaulted his senses, and the tell-tale trace of smoke rising in ribbons from the other side of the chair told him so.
He had to stare around the room for a moment though, taking his eyes off of the figure they'd all come for, noticing that the walls were lined with multiple screens, all of which were displaying pictures of him. Or more accurately, him, his son, and Vegeta. There were three which stood out from the rest, which he very clearly recognized. The first was Vegeta when he'd first transformed in front of them, unleashing the final blow against Android 19. The next was of Gohan at the very end of the Cell games, his left arm in tatters, blood oozing from so many wounds that Goku couldn't count them all quickly enough, and a pained, but determined look in his eyes. It hurt Goku to see, as he'd not actually seen what his son looked like during the fight, he'd not seen how much damage he'd sustained saving Vegeta's life. Things had been too hectic as he'd tried to make his son see past his own insecurities to fight off his greatest foe.
The last image was of himself, transformed into a super Saiyan three and struggling against the creature known as Majin Buu as he swallowed the form of Gohan, only a few years past; yet another memory he didn't want to remember. That had been one of the worst things he'd ever witnessed, the sounds of his son's panicked breathing, and the frantic order for Goku to leave him to die still haunting his nights regularly. Pushing the thoughts aside, he heard the Butler smartly click his heels together, standing straight as a reed and turning his nose up towards them as he loudly stated, "Sir, the intruders."
"Aye, I know you daft bastard. Be silent."
Goku stiffened as he heard the voice. It was one he certainly recognized, though it rang in his head as if a phantom where whispering silently into the back of his mind. The other three with him tensed as they sensed his ki spike, they knew that Goku had recognized the man. Goku crossed his arms and stared up at the back of the chair before asking incredulously, "Commander Red?"
The figure exhaled a huge plume of smoke before the voice spoke out again, "You know, you've been a real pain in the ass for me, Goku. Thirty years I've been plotting my revenge against you for all of the lives you took, the best laid plans possible propped up to ensure your fall, and yet?" The chair spun about, and Goku felt his eyes widen as the figure of Commander red came into view for him for the first time in over thirty years. He hadn't changed in many ways, but the things that had changed were blatantly obvious. His hair, which had been a bright red color in his younger years, was now a dull silver, along with his moustache, which had likewise turned silver. Only streaks of the original red still colored his locks. And there was now also the scar, the supposedly fatal wound that had been drilled in the center of his forehead by Officer Black.
"Yet, you seem to be able to just muscle your way out of everything, don't you? You and your kin see fit to just slaughter and burn your way through any obstacle."
Avoca snorted in amusement behind him, saying bluntly, "Belive me old man, this was nothing. Most of your boys out there are still alive."
The old man waved her off, taking another puff on his overly large cigar and grunting, "They are just chaff. A mere buffer and a tool to use to make sure your kind pays. Every single one of them believes in the mission to rid the planet of Saiyans, a hateful and evil breed of alien who should have gone extinct years ago! They're here because they were convinced by my message that Goku needed to be gotten rid of. Because the dull lives they were living before counted for nothing, and accomplished nothing. All I did was give them purpose against a proper enemy. But I obviously should have been more selective in my ventures, because they all turned out to be miserable failures! You should never have been able to find this place..."
Goku felt his anger flare in a way that hadn't in a long time, "You mean to tell me that you were willing to waste the lives of thousands of people, just to get to me? You lied to them to make them think we would take over the world! You were willing to waste the lives of my wife and daughter in law! What gives you the right to use people-"
"Power gave me the right to do what I saw fit after you took everything from me! The kind of power that you'll never be able to achieve for all of your strength! Through wealth, through influence, through rallying the Human race against monsters like you! Ten million lives are worth the cost if it meant ridding this planet of you and your kind, and I have the power to make that happen! That bastard, Officer Black, helped me to see the world clearly, ironically in what should have been my death. He clearly stated with that ball of lead, that if you weren't capable of controlling the world around you, then it would fall into chaos and ruin! Just like my first attempt to get the dragon balls! You are the epitome of chaos, Son Goku, and I fully intended to see you pay for the years of it you've brought upon me!"
Red had halfway stood from his chair, slamming his hand down on his desk and dropping his cigar as he finished his tirade. Piccolo grunted and crossed his arms, "You're truly clueless, aren't you Red. At least when I took on Goku for my father's revenge, it was as an equal in the final push, man to man in single combat. You played dirty, breaking all the rules and allowing innocent people to believe your lies and throw themselves against an enemy they don't need to, and frankly can't fight. Now you're the one trying to take the moral high-ground against Goku because smacked you around a few years ago? Don't make me laugh, those that died today died because you convinced them they had to."
Red shifted his gaze to the Namekian, "I'm no saint, demon king, but then I wouldn't be the man I am if I were, just as you wouldn't be the alien freak you are today if you hadn't gotten your face rubbed in your own shit after your first fight with him." Goku felt Piccolo stiffen angrily behind him as the words washed over him, but Red ignored the look he was being given, and continued, "It takes a monster to rid the world of one, and I am more than willing to be that monster, because you Saiyans are the true evil here. Your friends, your families, the thousands of people here? I don't care about them, because they mean nothing in the grand scheme of protecting everything that I value, that we as a race value. You just needed to be gone, defeated, out of Humanities hair for good. Only then will we be able to become what we were meant to be!"
Goku pointed up at him and said said, "You're delusional, and you've failed! We're here, your forces have been captured and dispersed, and soon everyone will know about the frame-job! How many people are going to rally to your cause when they find out what you've been doing, all of the lies you've been telling your own people! Your game is over, money can't save you, and neither can your veil of lies! You can still surrender, and stand trial for your actions."
Goku expected anger, resentment, or maybe a hint of fear as he addressed his old enemy. But what he got instead was an unhinged smile. Not a sly smirk, but a full-blown grin as Red looked down on him from his higher vantage point. That was the smile of a man who knew something they didn't, who had another card hidden up his sleeve. He had something, and Goku had the feeling he was about to find out what, regardless of what he did next.
"You think me beaten already? You're truly dense if you thought that this was the only plan I had to deal with you. I just wanted to see the look on your face when you realized that you had lost. Along with saving my life, putting my brains back where they belong, our old friend Gero left quite a few things in my possession. He thought clearly about his last few years on this rock and what to do with them, even after he'd wasted his mind away to build himself a new body, falling into madness. A fool if I'd ever seen one, but a damn clever one nonetheless."
Piccolo crossed his arms and grunted, "You mean your little android clones of Goku and Vegeta? I'd hardly call those an improvement over Gero's last design. They're weaker than the first Androids we encountered, even these Saiyans here could have gone toe to toe with those models."
"Haha! Exactly what I would have expected from you Goku, but I admit I'm surprised to hear the ever-so-wise Piccolo stoop to naive idiocy."
He gave his butler a significant look and nodded. The old man nodded back then went stiff, and Goku watched in confusion as his face blanked out completely, with what looked like lights flashing behind his now vacant eyes.
"You should know, since you asked," started Red, catching their attention, "that they are Saiyans. Cloned from the DNA left on the battlefields over the years! Goku, Vegeta, and that brat child of yours, all! What's even better? They learn faster, heal faster, and they can be controlled! Every android that Gero ever built has led to these creatures, genetically programmed to become even stronger than Cell was! They do as I say, and only as I say. It's too bad that I had to waste one of them for Captain Wilhelm, a slip of judgement that I surely intend to repay him for in the future."
Goku felt his eyes widen as the words washed over him, and he hesitated. But Pinache, the closest one of them to the old man, had no reservations. He immediately rushed the butler and drove his fist into his face, crushing the old man's skull against the wall. It turned out as Goku had suspected, the Butler wasn't entirely human either. The shiny metal of his skeleton and the sparks that originated from within told him that this one at least was another android. Goku stared after him in horror for a moment, before the Saiyan turned his eyes back upon Red, snarling, "No more of those creations! You've done enough already!"
But whatever order the Butler had given in those brief moments started showing all around them. Red, though seeming moderately annoyed for a split second at the destruction of his direct attendant, stood up from his desk, his head barely looking over it at them, almost comically. The walls behind him were shifting, a hissing sound permeating the tense silence that followed Pinache's outburst as nine caskets were revealed from behind the wooden panels, three of them open already. There was even further hissing from the remaining six caskets, and they opened shortly. Six figures emerged from the them, and Goku felt his heart race as he recognized two of Gohan, Vegeta, and himself. And all six of them were completely void of any outward expression.
"Oh, that's probably not good…"
Avoca's quiet reaction mirrored Goku's thoughts. But Pinache once again decided he wasn't going to wait, and rushed the nearest clone.
"Wait!" called Piccolo, but it was already too late. Pinache let out a pained howl as the clone of Vegeta he'd rushed ducked beneath the wildly swung punch and grasped his wrist in a vice-like clamp, breaking the appendage. A glare of light flashed from between them, then burst out of Pinache's back through his abdomen, tracking a burn mark across the wall as the light slowly died out. Pinache's surprised expression stuck in Goku's mind as he watched the Saiyan slump over and collapse on the floor, holding his gut and groaning in pain. Goku knew that the wound was bad, but he couldn't judge how much time he had before it was too late. He was preparing to rush forward and deal with all six of them when Red spoke again.
"You three, hold the rest of them up. Everyone else, you know where to go. Execute directive zero."
Without a word, all six of the clones sprang into action. The three remaining fighters in Goku's group launched into action as well, trying to intercept the clones before they could do whatever directive zero was. Goku met a clone of his son first, punching it directly in the face and sending it hurtling back against the wall. Piccolo likewise stalled a clone of Vegeta, kicking him away from the others. But three of the clones, one of each, had burst back through the door they'd come in before Avoca could properly get her defenses up. The Goku clone that rushed her was trading blows with the female Saiyan, only being forced back after Avoca yelled in pain from a harsh kick to the side of her leg, driving a ki-infused palm up beneath the clone's defenses into his gut. Goku glanced her over, noting that she was holding her leg awkwardly, supporting her weight on her right one, before darting after the three escaping clones.
He'd barely made it five feet before he felt a pair of hands grasp his throat from behind, slamming him backwards onto the ground and splintering the hardwood floor beneath the impact. Goku reacted, immediately spinning himself up into a standing position just as the fist of his son's clone smashed into the place where his head had been moments before. He caught the kick that was sent his way and pushed hard with the force of his ki, sending the clone crashing through the desk in front of Commander Red to impact the wall behind. Red shielded his face as splinters and whole chunks of wood knocked him to the ground backwards, and Goku spun back around, looking for the clones who'd rushed past them. But they were already out of sight, and he couldn't sense any of them. A loud grunt from Piccolo drew his attention again, and he spun back around to find the Namekian grasping onto the clone of Vegeta as he was trying to get back up. He pressed his palm up against the clone's chest, and a moment later, a bright flash of light burst from the clones back, spewing blood and smoke from the wound.
"Goku! Go! I should be able to take the other two!" Piccolo's stern words shook him out of the shock of the situation they'd just been thrust into, and he nodded, immediately making his way towards the door out. But he paused as he saw Avoca limping over to Pinache's side, unsure of whether or not he should help them first. Piccolo intercepted the clone of Gohan as it rushed back towards Goku, grasping it by the throat and throwing it at the mirror of himself, sending both clones careening into the opposite wall. His eyes met Goku's for a moment, and tracing his gaze, he saw Avoca starting to drag Pinache back towards the entrance.
"GO! THEY'LL BE FINE!"
Goku looked between him and Avoca before coming to a quick decision. He rushed back to Avoca's side, picking up the still groaning Pinache and placing him over his shoulder, ignoring the feeling of warm blood oozing onto it. He grabbed Avoca by the arm, steadying her as she hobbled on her one good leg.
"Can you keep up?" he asked quickly, as Avoca stared back at him, a frustrated glare on her face as she tried to put weight on her leg.
"It's broken, but I should be able to-"
"DAMMIT GOKU! DON'T LET THEM GET AWAY!"
Piccolo's shout stirred them both back into action, and Goku hefted the Saiyan over his shoulder before running back the way they'd come in. Avoca struggled to keep with his speed, and eventually just decided to fly back alongside him until they got to the huge metal door strewn across the floor. They came back out into the cavern, and looked around quickly to get a sense of what was going on. Goku could feel Vegeta somewhere off towards the opposite end of the cave, and he had most certainly been adding more and more of his power to the fight. But the huge mass of human prisoners and the other Saiyans where much farther away. Behind them, he could still feel Piccolo's ki rising and falling as he battled the other two Saiyan clones. There was no sign of the three that escaped them earlier. It was when he felt Vegeta's ki spike up all the way to that of an ascended Saiyan, the walls around the cavern shaking dangerously, that he diverted his attention back to that fight. The glow of super Saiyan auras flashed against the walls opposite them, hidden from view by a row of jet-copters that were tied to the ground.
"Look out!" Avoca's yell caught his attention, and he looked up just in time to see a huge chunk of the ceiling falling down on them from above. She shoved on him to move, no doubt trying to get him and Pinache out of the way at her own expense. But Goku simply grabbed her around her waist and pushed off of the ground hard, further into the cavern, avoiding the huge boulder entirely as it crashed into the polished concrete. They landed heavily, and Goku stumbled before catching his momentum, barely keeping Avoca upright as they came to a halt. He released her quickly, and turned to hand off Pinache's body to her. She hesitated before taking it, still favoring her right leg and looking at him curiously as she hefted the weight of her fallen comrade onto her own shoulder.
"Get him out of here, go up through the hanger door we blasted in, and get him to capsule corp! Bulma should be able to help him."
"What are you going to do?" she asked harshly, looking towards where Vegeta was, clearly in awe of the power she was feeling.
"If he needed to ascend for this, then these clones might be more of a problem than I thought." She looked like she was about to protest, a harsh look coming over her face, but he cut her off quickly with his best command voice, "Just go, I'll deal with it!"
Shocked by the forcefulness in his words, she swallowed the statement she was about to say and nodded, pulling Pinache's limbs in tighter before taking to the air. Goku watched after her for a moment to make sure they got out before he turned towards the sounds of the fight he was looking for. Taking to the air himself, he rushed towards the fight, even as more rocks and chunks of the ceiling started falling in on them. He worried for a moment that he should go back for Piccolo, but upon seeing the two Vegetas, his mind focused in on the fight in totality.
Both of them were in rough shape, though Goku could tell that the clone was far worse for wear than the real one. The clone was horribly burned, whole parts of his flesh just melted away, along with most of his hair and a large portion of his face. Underneath were the tell-tale signs of an augmented skeleton, shining bright silver in the darkness of the cave. But the super Saiyan aura surrounding him was still burning brightly, and there was no sign that it even cared how badly it was injured. The prince was likewise looking haggard, though mostly in the way that he was holding himself, and the way he stared at the clone. He was frustrated, dumbfounded, possibly even a bit wary of the clone of himself.
Just as Goku was about to intervene, the clone lunged forward, closing the considerable gap between them, and making to drive a hard round-house kick into the prince's head. Vegeta deflected the kick and sped under the leg before the clone could react, and drove a hard fist right into the face of the clone. Metal bent and warped under the force of the blow, and the clone was sent hurtling into the wall behind him, plowing through rock and causing even more tremors. Vegeta breathed heavily and grasped at his ribs, growling in annoyance, "The hell is this thing? It should have died already."
Goku dropped from his vantage point and came to the Prince's side, which Vegeta noticed out of the corner of his eye. The prince gave him a harsh glare and spat, "Well? Did you find him?"
Goku pulled up short at his tone, nodding quickly and looking his friend over for worse injuries, "Yeah, you okay?"
"Yeah! Fucking peachy! Little bastard won't stay down!" He winced as he drew in a deep breath, telling Goku that the prince had sustained a broken rib at least.
"How did he manage to fight you like that? The others we fought-"
"I don't fucking know Kakarot! Every time he got up, it was like he was gaining power. It's like our power boost when we come back from a bad fight, but way faster!"
Goku furrowed his brow, recalling what Red had stated when he was still in the office with him. They learn faster, heal faster, and they can be controlled! Every android that Gero ever built has led to these creatures, genetically programmed to become even stronger than Cell was! "Yeah, that makes sense…"
Obviously upset by the vague statement, Vegeta grasped the front of his shirt and growled in frustration, "What the hell are you talking about?!"
Goku held his hands up defensively and said quickly, "They're clones of us Vegeta, except different. Red said something about them being the culmination of all of Dr. Gero's work, all of his androids!"
Vegeta glowered at him for a moment as he processed the information before releasing the front of Goku's shirt and looking back towards the crater in the wall where the clone had disappeared, "Then that means they need to die quickly. If these are the creations of that madman, then this fight should have been ended much quicker."
Without another word, Vegeta raised a hand in the direction of the hole in the wall, which was starting to glow gold again, and Goku could feel the power building in his hand before the words ever came. "Big bang attack!"
"Wait Vegeta! Piccolo is-"
The glaring blue light started as a pinprick in his palm before expanding rapidly to the size of a beach ball. The energy blast shot from his palm, recoiling against his arm and bursting right into the center of the hole, swallowing the clone in a flash of light. The blast burned through more rock, and the air around them grew impossibly hot for a moment before it detonated, and Goku felt his eyes widen in fear. Reacting quickly, he grasped onto Vegeta's shoulder and pressed his fingers to his forehead, locking onto the first energy source he could feel and blinking them out of existence just as a burst of fire and molten rock washed over the spot they'd been standing.
They were spat out directly in front of the huge group of humans that had been taken prisoner, right in front of his older brother. Raditz yelped in shock, leveling a palm at them and settling back instantly into a defensive posture before realizing what he was seeing. Before a word could be uttered from either party, a huge explosion reached their ears from behind the large group of humans and Saiyans. Most of them turned to look, and many humans cried out in fear as a whole side of the mountain that was concealing their base exploded outwards, a massive fireball billowing upwards spewing smoke in a mushroom cloud that rapidly rose into the sky.
Goku stared at it, his mouth agape. He was feeling out with his senses for any sign of Piccolo, but he couldn't immediately feel it over the magnitude of energy that had been unleashed. He felt Vegeta's ascended transformation recede to nothing as they watched, and his anger flared. Rounding on Vegeta, he grabbed the front of his armor, glaring at him with a look that he rarely ever let cross his face. "What the hell did you do that for?! Piccolo was still in there!"
Vegeta hesitated for a moment, and Goku thought he saw something akin to regret cross his features before the familiar glare took over his face again, and he thrust Goku's arm back. "What the hell do you think I did it for? That clone was gaining power with every hit! I had to destroy it before it became a real threat! The Namekian would have agreed with me!"
Goku couldn't deny that Piccolo would likely have taken Vegeta's side, but he wouldn't admit it out loud. Clenching his fists, he retorted heatedly, "That doesn't mean you had to bring that whole place down around him! We could have gotten him outside first! Or we could have-"
"Hey!" the shout caught both of their attention, and both of them turned towards Raditz, who had his arms crossed and was staring at Goku with an annoyed expression.
"What the hell do you want?" growled Vegeta irritably.
"The namekian is still alive, only the two of you didn't notice because you're too busy arguing."
Goku paused a moment, looking back towards the cloud of smoke billowing upwards. He reached out with his senses, daring to hope. Sure enough, he could still feel Piccolo's ki in the distance, still as strong as ever. Whatever damage had been done to the base, he'd escaped it. But it was still in the same spot, mixed in among the glaringly hot energy of Vegeta's blast. Goku had to admit that he was impressed with how far his older brother had come in terms of ki sensing. Granted, he'd started to pick up on it while they were still dead, before Buu, but he had struggled to understand what it was as well has their parents had.
"Before you go off chasing him down, what should we do with the peons?" asked Raditz, obviously annoyed that they were taking prisoners. "It would be a lot easier to just kill-"
"For once, Raditz, use your pathetically smooth excuse for a brain!" snapped Vegeta, glaring at the taller Saiyan with barely concealed disdain, "We're going to need them to tell everyone what was going on if we're going to keep up any sort of trade with this planet."
At that point, Shugesh, who was now moving about by his own power again and cradling his stump of an arm that had been hastily bandaged, spoke up, "Fuck 'em! This planet has only been a nuisance since we got here! We haven't been real Saiyans since we arrived, playing all this political bull shit!"
For once, Vegeta seemed to pull up short at the statement, looking back at the short Saiyan with an uncertain expression on his face. Shugesh had clearly mirrored his own thoughts as of late, stating a sentiment that both Vegeta and Gohan had previously stated in his presence. But Vegeta was quick to hide whatever thoughts had just crossed his mind, pushing past Raditz and grasping Shugesh's throat, pulling the chubby Saiyan in close, turning his face beet red from the lack of oxygen.
"This planet, as much as its inhabitants may piss me off, is my home now. More than that, it's our best chance at keeping our own race alive. Last I checked, we've barely got enough to keep our own numbers strong against the planet trade, and rebuild our population! Or did you forget that we're on the brink of a galactic war with a force that's thousands of times our superior in sheer size?"
Shugesh struggled for breath for a moment while Vegeta glared around at the other Saiyans, completely ignoring the fearful stares of the hundreds of humans behind them. The other Saiyans surrounding the humans seemed unsure of their own opinions, staring at the Prince with an even combination of anger and uncertainty. Goku had to admit, he could understand Shugesh's concerns, though not his sentiment. They hadn't received a very warm reception since they'd come into the light, with more hostility than he would have ever expected. Vegeta released Shugesh, who dropped to a knee and grasped at his throat as his face slowly started to return to its normal pale hue. Vegeta scanned the Saiyans again, his expression stern, "Any of these humans gets away, any of them dies at the hands of a Saiyan before we get what we need from them, then I will personally see to their punishment, is that understood?"
There was a chorus of confirmation from the Saiyans, except for Raditz. Vegeta turned his head to look at the tall Saiyan. They locked eyes, and Raditz searched his face for something for a few moments before he crossed his arms and grumbled, "Fine."
Goku, sensing the tension still persisting, scratched at the back of his head and looked around for something to break the silence. Suddenly, Piccolo's ki flared wildly behind the group, and his mind caught back up with what they were doing out here in the first place. "Darn, I just remembered! Vegeta! There were three of the clones that got out, they escaped from the room we were in, Red told them to do something called 'directive zero'. I don't know what that means, but-"
"What?! Why the hell didn't you say something sooner! What did they look like?"
Goku paused, noting the slightly panicked look on Vegeta's face as he said it, "Well, it was clones of you, me, and Gohan. But I don't know-"
"Dammit Kakarot! What the hell do you think they're supposed to do? What has that bastard been doing this whole time with his anti-Saiyan propaganda? Why are we even here in the first place?! Use your fucking head!"
It took Goku only a few moments of reflection before it struck him. They're going to go attack more humans! They look like us, so everyone will think…
"Dammit! But I don't know how to find them!" Goku said, the weight of his mistake finally dawning on him. Even if it cost the lives of the others, I shouldn't have let those clones escape. They're the biggest threat right now.
"You let them escape, so you figure out how to track them down!" yelled Vegeta, his anger nearly boiling over. Goku thought for a second that the vein in his temple was about to burst. But Goku had another thought as he tried to figure out what he was supposed to do next.
"Wait Vegeta, we have to do something with these guys first! We can't just leave them here if we're supposed to get them to talk, and you don't have a way to move them all."
Vegeta looked over his shoulder at the crowd of humans, who were watching the exchange intently, obviously concerned about what their fate would be. Obviously, they'd just heard Vegeta say that they weren't to be harmed, but the change in the conversation had obviously put most of them back on edge. Vegeta considered them for a few moments before sighing heavily and pinching the bridge of his nose in irritation.
"We need to get them somewhere secure, so that they don't try to make a break for it. Dammit, I hate it when you're right about something Kakarot. Fine, you!" he pointed at Raditz, catching the Saiyans attention again, "Keep them here. We'll be back."
Goku, already guessing what he was thinking, let his aura out about him in preparation for the next move. Before Raditz could respond at all, Vegeta took to the air, his own aura bursting up around him. Goku spared a quick look towards Raditz, who was staring back at him with an annoyed sneer, before following the Prince. They shot through the air towards the cloud of smoke hanging in the air, locking in on Piccolo's ki.
"We find the Namekian, and get the hell out. Got it?" growled Vegeta from in front of him, not even sparing a look his direction.
"Yeah, I got it."
They closed in quickly, coming in low over the side of the mountain that used to contain the base. They dropped to the ground, still cooling from the magnitude of the explosion that had just taken place. They began searching in the direction they could still feel Piccolo's ki in. Goku was still able to make out parts of the structure they'd been in before through all of the rubble, most of it having been blown outwards. The back wall that housed the door they'd gone through to find Commander Red was still standing, with a huge overhang of rock casting everything in shadow. There were only remnants of the light fixtures still stuck to the overhang, and there was no sign of any of the vehicles that had littered the huge hanger. Goku didn't even want to imagine how many people might have still been inside the base when it had collapsed. Besides Piccolo, he knew there must have been more humans hunkered down in defensive positions.
"Here, I think this is where we got in before." Said Vegeta flatly.
Instantly, they began pulling rocks aside, digging their way through the rubble. It was hard and tedious work, some of the boulders they came across measuring dozens of feet around. But within minutes, they managed to dig their way to the doorway, or what remained of it. It had partially collapsed, and required them to try and shimmy their way through the wreckage so as to not cause any further collapse. But they made it through, finding themselves in the same hallway where they'd first encountered the Vegeta clone. It was pitch black. They made their way through the hall, and Vegeta held out a hand, pumping a tiny amount of ki into it to create a ball of light that floated in his palm, giving them enough light to navigate. When they made it to Red's office, they found Piccolo leaning up against a wall, and Goku winced at the state he was in.
The Namekian was missing his left arm, his gi top was mostly shredded, and there were dozens of wounds littering his body, most of them bleeding. Goku rushed to his side, and Piccolo jerked up, preparing himself for another fight.
"Wait, it's me!"
Piccolo froze, his eyes glowing in the dim light of Vegeta's ki, his fist retracted to strike out at him. Realizing who was in front of him, Piccolo sagged slightly, leaning up against the wall again with a groan. Goku made to rush to his side, but Piccolo waved him off with a growl.
"I'm fine, Goku. Those two were a lot harder than I thought they would be, they turned super. Almost had the upper hand on me. I just need to get some of my energy back, and I'll be okay."
Goku hesitated for a moment before looking around in the bleak darkness of the previously lit office. Obviously, when the base had been destroyed, the power had been cut to this room. But he could make out the two corpses of the Saiyan clones. His own clone was split in half, legs draped over the remains of Red's desk, and his torso crushed into one of the caskets that were still visible. The Gohan clone was beheaded and laying at their feet. He also noticed that Commander red was sprawled out on the floor still, unmoved from his original position when the fight had started.
"Goku," said Piccolo, his voice tired, "did you get them?"
Goku froze, not wanting to respond. Piccolo stared back at him as he turned about to look sheepishly at him. Vegeta cut in harshly, "No. He didn't. Which means we need to go track them down. We need you on your feet, Namekian."
Piccolo stared at Goku with what he could only describe as disappointment on his face, but didn't say anything. If Goku was honest, he'd have preferred that Piccolo yell at him again. He knew he'd missed his chance, and the three clones were likely going to make innocent people pay the price for it. But Piccolo just groaned and struggled to his feet, propping himself up against the wall with a single hand. "Fine, we've got work to do. What's the plan?"
Vegeta simply nodded at him and said quickly, "First things first, we need to take the prisoners to the lookout. I think that will do as a holding cell for all of the humans we captured. Get Dende to help us with these wounds, then we go destroy these imposters."
"And hope that we can defeat them before they do whatever it is they were programmed to do." Finished Piccolo with an annoyed grunt. "Right, okay Goku, get over here. It's time to get moving."
Understanding clearly what the plan was, Goku nodded. But before he joined them, he looked down at Commander Red again. Making a quick decision, he picked up the diminutive man and slung him under his arm. He joined them again, pulling Piccolo's remaining arm over his shoulder and looking expectantly towards Vegeta.
"Grab on, we'll go get the others first."
*AT THE LOOKOUT*
Gohan couldn't help but feel sympathetic towards Jeanine. Only a couple hours ago, she had no idea what the world around her was really like, what the universe had in store. She didn't know that teleportation was a thing. She didn't know that there were intergalactic space monsters capable of destroying worlds. She didn't know there were real androids, or cyborgs, gods, demons, or any of the other things that he'd just told her about. Of course, he'd kept it as minimalist as possible, but it was still a lot for her to take in. She sat in the same chair she had been in when he'd started, her jaw slack and her expression faint. Her dark complexion was much paler than when he'd first encountered her.
He was periodically checking on Videl and his mom too, as neither of them had stirred yet. Meanwhile, he could feel the battle unfolding below. He was moderately concerned when he'd felt a power signal fading down there, but couldn't identify who it was. What'd really concerned him, however, was when Vegeta's ki had spiked up to the point that Gohan knew he'd transformed into an ascended Saiyan. As far as he'd been able to tell, there was no real reason to do so. And yet, mere moments later, there was a huge explosion of ki that told him the prince had just unleashed a colossal blast that all but blotted out all of the other ki he could feel down there for a few moments.
But he'd trudged on, explaining things to Jeanine, doing his best to keep calm, even as Dende left the room with Popo in tow, no doubt to go look down on his world to find out what was happening. What are you doing down there Vegeta?
"I'm sorry, Gohan. It's just... that's so..." Jeanine was struggling to find the word to describe what she was feeling at the moment, a sentiment which Gohan understood all too well.
"Rediculous?" he finished for her, giving her a knowing smile when her eyes finally met his, "Welcome to my life. This is the reality that the whole Earth is going to be subjected to, ready or not. That space monster I mentioned? He's long dead, but his entire military will likely be sweeping down on us sometime in the future unless we can hold it up somewhere else. That's why this whole ordeal with my wife, my mother, and the red ribbon army is such a bad thing right now. It literally couldn't have come at a worse time, just when the Saiyan population is at its weakest."
"I'm still having a hard time believing... That Majin Buu episode that we had a few years back, was that you guys? I can barely remember any of it, I thought it was just a dream."
Gohan swallowed as images from that time came flooding into his mind, from the time he got swallowed by the creature to the final bout as an Oozaru. He nodded, and said in a diminished tone, "We tried to minimize the effect it had on the world, tried to keep people from remembering. Almost everyone died in just a few days."
"And these, dragons balls-"
"Dragon balls, yes."
"Right, dragon balls, they brought everyone back to life?"
Gohan nodded in the affirmative, momentarily getting distracted as he felt Piccolos ki spiking down below, marveling that he hadn't noticed his old mentor on the battlefield at all until then.
"But then, why wouldn't you just... use them to get your mom and Videl? Or to destroy that army you were talking about? It sounds to me like you guys have all the cards in your hands."
Gohan returned his gaze to hers, not needing to ponder the question at all. It did make everything seem so much easier, didn't it? "It's not so simple as that, unfortunately. There's restrictions to using the dragon balls, and once you do, they're gone for a year. More than that though, we've recently found out that there are consequences to using the balls, though none of us knows what they are yet. We're not going to be able to rely on that anymore, not even to fight against a whole galaxy of bad guys."
Just as the words left his mouth, he felt a surge of ki right outside of the lookout building. Vegeta, Piccolo, Goku, many of the Saiyans, and several hundred weaker ki that he could only imagine belonged to humans, all just appeared in his mind. His eyes shot around, as if he could see them outside, and he found himself on his feet before he could even think. Jeanine froze stiff at the sudden movement, looking around worriedly.
Gohan cut her off, "Hold the thought doc, wait here with them, somethings happening."
Without a backwards glance, he rushed out of the room towards the group, thankful that he'd recovered enough to not get dizzy from the exertion of simply running. He burst out into the light of day, and had to pause when he caught sight of all of them. Gohan had to guess there were over four hundred humans there, all in varying states of health and dress, some of them even appearing to have gotten caught sleeping. None of them had been prepared for the mass instant transmission, and quite a few of them had collapsed in shock upon being spat out on the lookout. More than that, Gohan saw a lot of hasty first-aid in the form of bloodied bandages, splints, and stretchers. Of the fourteen Saiyans he knew would have gone down to fight, including his father and Vegeta, only twelve were present here. More than that, Piccolo was halfway being carried by Goku, one of his arms completely torn off at the shoulder. Goku was carrying the short man he'd seen on the television at the mall speaking at a government hearing, and Gohan had to wonder if that was commander Red. But he didn't dwell on it. Vegeta's armor was badly damaged, and Gohan noticed he seemed to be breathing shallow. What the hell happened down there?!
He felt a wave of guilt wash over him as he realized that they could have definitely used his help. Doing a quick head-check, he realized that both Avoca and Pinache were missing from the group, and he couldn't pin-point them down below either. He also realized with a jolt that Shugesh was nursing the stump of his left arm, glaring resentfully towards Vegeta. Gohan rushed to his father's side, grabbing a hold of Piccolo, and easing the Namekian to a seated position.
"Man, what happened? You guys are a mess!"
Piccolo nodded in thanks and looked towards his protege with a tired expression, "Clones. You, Goku, and Vegeta, they cloned you. The two I fought were capable of turning into super saiyans, as was the Vegeta we encountered."
Gohan felt his mind numb for a moment as the implication washed over him. "Clones? You mean androids, right?"
This time, Goku filled in the gaps as Dende rushed over to see to the wounded, starting with Piccolo. "No, clones. I was surprised too, there were nine of them. We took down five at the base, and Red said that they'd already lost one."
"And you let three of them escape to who knows where!" finished Vegeta with a snarl, not even looking at them. Goku seemed ashamed for a moment before Gohan cut into the conversation again.
"Three of them got away? To do what? Where? Why can't we feel any of them out?"
No sooner had the words left his mouth than he felt it at the edge of his senses. It wasn't a power being unleashed, he couldn't even say that he really felt anything at all. It was more that something was simply missing. He glanced at Dende, and realized that he hadn't been the only one to notice something amiss, even through the murky state of his own mind. Piccolo stirred at his side as the majority of his wounds were mended, moving to stand with a grunt, "Well, that answers a couple of your questions."
Goku clenched his fists and stared down at the tile, his expression anguished, "They didn't!"
Gohan took a deep breath and closed his eyes to try and focus, feeling out with his ki to find whatever it was he'd just felt. As faint as his mind still was, it took him a second to locate it, and he found a huge amount of nothing. It felt wrong, there was definitely supposed to be something there, but as clouded as his mind was, he couldn't remember what. It wasn't until a second later that he realized exactly what it was that he'd felt happen, but Dende was the one to say it out loud.
"They just destroyed West City."
A/N: Well, there you go guys. I genuinely had a hard time deciding where I was going with this in the latter half of the chapter. I actually had 5 different paths that I was considering taking, and ended up deciding on this one. I can say with certainty that this arc is going to come to a close in the next chapter, so for all of you out there that weren't into the suspense as opposed to direct action, rest assured that it's soon to be over. For now though, I'll leave you with this, and I hope you have a good day/night/whatever time of day it is for you, and we'll see you around next time.