Part Two: Shadows of Earth
"They were here?" Gohan demanded.
"Yes, lord," the Malcathi said. His form looked a lot like the natural form of his people, except that there between his shoulders and his hips was something like the body of a giant anaconda. His tail was short and stubby and ended in a suction cup, assumably for better traction. He looked at Heater, who was in his four-armed form. "Four arms. That would certainly make my job easier; I ought to try that the next time I'm strong enough to acquire a new transformation."
"What were they doing here?" Gohan demanded.
"The criminals known as Sixteen, Seventeen, and Eighteen were looking for information about you. Who you were, your history, the worlds you frequent…"
"My god, they're going to bring the fight to you!" Heater said.
Gohan sensed something. "What's that?"
"What's what?" Heater asked.
"Get your scanner," Gohan said.
Heater put on the scanner. "A unique signature, and there's something else odd about it…"
"I think it's suppressed," Gohan said.
"King Gohan, I presume? My name is Cell." On this world, he didn't exactly look out of place, but his power was unique. It was a little like Frieza and King Cold, which put a chill in Gohan's spine, but he was also like Piccolo, Krillin…and Gohan's own father.
"I am he," Gohan said. "Tell me…what are you? No offense intended."
"It is a long story, but lets say I'm here to take care of your little android problem," Cell said.
"Are you, now?" Gohan asked skeptically. "What's your connection to the criminals, Cell?"
"How do you know that I have any connection to them at all?"
"I believe Seventeen said something about 'destroying that Cell-thing,' was that it?"
"Well, I'm obviously not destroyed," Cell said.
"Stop evading, Cell."
"I am a biological android created to destroy Seventeen and Eighteen. The problem is, Sixteen is too strong to me," Cell said.
"Yeah, well, Sixteen is too strong for me, as well," Gohan said.
"True, but together, together we are strong enough," Cell said. "So what do you say? We double-team Sixteen, and then I can kill the other two at my leisure."
Something wasn't right. "Why you?"
"Because it's what I was created to do," Cell said. "Would you take my destiny from me?"
"I don't know you. How do I know that you don't have any ulterior motives?" Gohan said.
"Like what?" Cell asked. "What ulterior motive could I possibly have for offing the three biggest bad guys in the galaxy?"
"I can think of a few dozen things. Mind, I can think of at least half a dozen reasons why each of those things wouldn't work, but still, maybe you haven't thought it out that far. Or maybe there's some other thing that I haven't thought of yet," Gohan said.
"My, being king of the galaxy has certainly given you a suspicious mind," Cell said.
"How do you know I'm not naturally suspicious?" Gohan asked.
"Perhaps I misspoke," Cell said.
"No, you spoke with familiarity," Gohan said. "How do you know me?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Cell said.
"Try me," Gohan said.
"Well, for one thing, I come from the future," Cell said.
"Okay…continue," Gohan said.
"I am a biological android engineered from DNA collected from your father, Piccolo, Krillin, Vageta, Frieza, and King Cold for the purpose of hunting and destroying these androids," Cell said.
Hence the name "Cell," thought Gohan. "You haven't been doing a very good job of it."
"It's this sixteen…he didn't exist in my home timeline, and he's as strong as I am," Cell said.
"Alright. Can you find my ship?"
"It's the only one of Saiyan design here," Cell said. "Believe me, it sticks out."
"Good. Wait for me there," Gohan ordered.
"Do you really think we can trust him?" Heater asked.
"Of course not," Gohan said. "I don't know what other option we have, though. The androids are too strong for even me. Well, sixteen, at least. Even among people in a league of their own, he is in a league of his own."
"Apparently not, if Cell is as strong as he claims."
"I believe him, that far, at least," Gohan said. "He was suppressing his power level."
"How do you know?"
"He was good at it, but there are ways that you can tell. Moments of distraction when his power would spike for an instant, that sort of thing," Gohan said. "Also, the way he acted. He moved like everything around him was made of glass. It's actually kind of funny; I don't think such thoughtfulness comes naturally to him, but he had to make the right impression if he wanted my help, didn't he?"
"Are you psychic now?" Heater asked.
Gohan snorted. "If I was psychic, I'd know what he was planning, and probably refuse to help him with it. No, I'm just good at reading people. It's a quality that comes in handy both as a fighter and as a ruler."
"So we are going to work with him, even though we don't trust him?" Heater asked.
"Something Bulma and I learned while we were on the run for two years, you do what you have to do to survive," Gohan said.
"Tavilhee webwork!" Cell was encased with a thousand golden wires.
He smiled, and broke the golden netting. "Destructo disk!"
Gohan contained the disk with the webwork and crushed it. "What are you thinking? If that thing had breached the hull of the ship, we'd all be dead!"
"Oh, right, I forgot, you can't breathe in space," Cell said.
Gohan rolled his eyes, exasperated. "How do you know that move, anyway?"
"I was created with the cells of all those fighters. With some of those cells came…memories," Cell said.
"What sort of memories?" Gohan asked.
"Fighting styles, mostly," Cell said.
"Anything about me?" Gohan asked.
"Well, yes, but…well the history of my timeline is…different than it is here," Cell said.
"How so?" Gohan asked.
"Well, Goku defeated Frieza in my universe," Cell said. "Vagita joined up with your lot, and then went on to be killed by the androids. You and Trunks lived on for a while--"
"Trunks?" Gohan asked.
"He doesn't exist in this universe, but he was the son of Vagita. His mother was…a human woman. Anyway, you two lived on for a while, but by the time I came along, you were dead," Cell said.
Gohan weighed his words in his head. The best lies were those that were closest to the truth, so he could safely assume that this "Trunks" person was real, and that Vagita really had come over to the god guys. After all, what would have been the purpose of inventing this? Just to have two more characters in his little play that the androids would have to destroy? No, didn't buy it. If there was a lie in there, it was somewhere in the last nine words. Anyway, back to reality, "Look, just try not to destroy the ship, okay?"
"I can't promise that," Cell said.
"Why don't you guys fight on the outside of the ship?" Heater asked. Gohan stared at him. "Don't give me that look; you still have that force shield, don't you?"
Gohan used the Wire of Ka'irith'rath to bounce the Destructro Disk back at Cell, and it cut off his arm.
"Oops! Look, Cell, we can fix--"
"Don't worry, it'll grow back," as if that were the cue, a new arm sprouted from the stump. It reminded him of something he had seen Nameks do from time to time, and he remembered that Cell had some of Piccolo's genes in him. "Ka…me…ha…me…ha!"
Gohan knew some tricks that would have allowed him to bat the attack aside, but he didn't want Cell to know all that he could do, so he faced off with the brunt of the attack. "Ka…me…ha…me…ha!" The two blasts met, and stalled each other. Gohan put everything he had into it, but Cell was still winning, the blast was slowly but surely getting closer to Gohan. Then Cell flexed, and it was no longer slowly getting closer to Gohan; he had to dodge quickly in order to save his skin.
Cell gestured for Gohan to follow him inside (they were in space, so he couldn't speak). That was enough for a day. Now that he had someone to compare himself against, Gohan felt himself getting stronger at a faster rate than ever. They went into the ship, and Gohan went to his quarters.
"Bulma," he ordered the phone.
"Gohan?" Bulma asked. "How are things with Heater and Cell?" Gohan had been keeping her up to date.
"Getting stronger every day," Gohan said. "How are you?"
"Honestly? Horny. Hurry back so that we can do something about that," Bulma said. "How can you be standing it?"
"Two words: misplaced aggression. It is actually helping my training," Gohan said. "How's the baby coming along?"
"The same as it was yesterday," Bulma said. "What should we name it, do you suggest?"
"If it's a boy, I want to name it after my father. If it's a girl…what's a good name for a human girl? I don't really remember humanity," Gohan said.
"Something outlandish and original, like 'Trees,' or something," Bulma said softly.
"Hmm. That seems kind of woody. Especially for a girl's name," Bulma said. "Why?"
"No reason," Gohan said.
"I think naming him after his grandfather if it's a boy is a good idea, though, so let's do that. If it's a girl, though, I reserve the right to name her," Bulma said.
Gohan smiled. "As you wish, my queen. You always were the dominant personality."
"Well, I should hope so. When we arrived on the scene, you were only five."
"And I want nothing more than for you to continue to dominate me. So, how are things back home?" Gohan asked.
"The androids haven't shown up yet, if that's what you mean," Bulma said. "As for what's going on in court politics…"
Who was this Gohan kid? In Cell's home timeline, he had been nothing. Well, nothing special, at any rate. Here…Cell was actually a little bit afraid. He didn't realize it, but his people worshipped him like some sort of god (his memories from Frieza and King Cold told him that this was not right). Also, he wasn't even a Super Saiyan, but he was already more powerful than any of the others had been in Cell's home timeline. Even stronger than Trunks--and he had been the one who had defeated the androids! What was more, his strength was growing at an alarming rate.
If he ever learned to go Super Saiyan, he would be able to kill Cell, easily. Well, then, he mustn't learn that. Perhaps he couldn't go Super Saiyan. It made sense; he was half human, after all. But no, Trunks was half human, and he could do it. Then again, genetics were a funny thing. He thought about the ease with which the boy could go between his "hi-power" and "low-power" modes, like flipping a switch, no power-ups or -downs required. Perhaps this was his version of going Super Saiyan. Certainly, it had the same effect. But somehow, it didn't mesh right. The way he could go between the modes without expending any energy to get there was much more efficient than truly going Super Saiyan, and thus couldn't have been an inferior version of it. It was too…perfect.
Another thing that bothered Cell about the boy and his powers was that they didn't seem to need all that long to regenerate. They'd work out all day, and Cell would put the boy into a shape where he should have been dozing for a solid week, and then early the next morning he'd be up and totally refreshed. Raring and ready to go. And he'd be stronger than the day before. It was barely noticeable, but it was there. What was the true depth, the true source of this power? Was it Saiyan in nature, or human? Was it both or neither? There were no answers. Only more questions.
Well, Cell would watch the boy. If he ever showed signs of turning Super Saiyan, he'd kill him. He'd find some other way to defeat Sixteen. In the mean time, he'd be cautious, but he wouldn't worry about it too much.
Gohan came up with the idea of making a scanner that could find the androids' power signatures, and asked what Cell knew about the androids' schematics. Cell considered feigning ignorance, because if they could make a scanner, they could make, say, some sort of paralysis machine that would allow Gohan or some lackey of his destroy them at his or her leisure, but decided to tell him everything he knew about their schematics--which was everything, as he had them hardwired into his memory (except for Sixteen, of course). After all, if they tried that route, he could always sabotage the attempt.
"The androids are here," Bulma said over the phone.
"Are you alright?" Gohan asked.
"Yeah, they landed on the far side of the planet and are taking their sweet time in coming here, as if they're trying to scare the people off, or playing some sort of game."
"That's what they do. It's all a game to them. Crushing worlds is their idea of fun," Gohan said.
"They're monsters," Bulma said.
"Yeah, well, that's why they need to be destroyed," Gohan said.
"There's something else you need to know. The people…they aren't evacuating."
"What! Why not?" Gohan demanded.
"They have such faith in you. They believe that you'll come in and save them at the last moment," Bulma said.
"Well, I certainly hope that I don't come in at the last moment, but otherwise, I'll try not to disappoint them," and with those grim words, he turned off the phone. He swore.
He told Heater. "Great Kai!" Heater swore. Many people out here believed in beings called Kai, who were the guardians of the universe, or some such. Gohan was vehemently yet quietly skeptical on this point. After all, if they existed, why didn't they step in to stop the androids? Or earlier, to stop Frieza and the Saiyans? "Still, what do you expect?"
"I expect my people to behave sensibly," Gohan said.
"The people are deeply loyal to you, sire," Heater said.
"I guess!" I just hope I'm worthy of that loyalty.
"You should rethink your choice of allies," Sixteen said, seeing that Gohan was fighting with Cell.
"That's the pot calling the kettle black," Gohan said.
"They are my siblings; it cannot be helped. You have no idea what you will be helping to happen if Cell gets what he wants," Sixteen said.
"True, but I know what will happen if you get what you want, and it cannot be allowed," Gohan said.
"I was hoping not to have to kill you, but you give me no choice," Sixteen said.
"The feeling is mutual," Gohan said.
Cell flew at him and began throwing punches, which Sixteen dodged with ease. Or with seeming ease. His range of expression was far from fluid. Gohan shot at him with a series of blasts, all of which missed. Sixteen was throwing punches at Cell, but they were actually pretty even. Cell was dodging with about the same vigor that Sixteen had dodged him with.
Gohan flew at Sixteen as fast as he could, feet first, and kicked him with such force that it could have caused an earthquake. Sixteen felt it, showing the first sign of his power actually having limits that Gohan had seen yet. Cell took advantage of the momentary distraction to grab Sixteen's head with both hands, and would have torn it form his shoulders if Sixteen hadn't of torn Cell's arms from their sockets instead.
Just like when Gohan had wounded him, Cell did not bleed. Instead of being deterred by this loss, Cell attacked with his feet and his tail, kicking, slapping, and trying to stab Sixteen with what continued to remind Gohan disturbingly of a hypodermic needle.
Sixteen grabbed Cell by the tail and used it to whirl him and then toss him at the into the ground, causing earth and stone to shatter. Gohan blasted him with a Kamehameha wave at point blank range. Sixteen screamed, but it actually did more damage to Gohan by sapping his strength than it did to Sixteen.
Cell flew up to meet them and removed Sixteen's head from his shoulders with a karate chop. He then blasted the android's body, blowing it to pieces. They stared at each other, panting.
"With him out of the way, the other two are easy picking for the likes of us," Cell said. "Hey, Heater, get up here and track them with that scanner."
Heater flew up to them. "Alright, but don't you think you two should recuperate a little?"
"Oh, I intend to," and with those words, Cell impaled him and started…sucking was the only word Gohan could think of for what he was doing. Cell's power level skyrocketed.
"Wire of Ka'irith'rath," Gohan intoned, and used the garrote-esque energy wire to slice Cell's tail off. Heater fell to the ground with a loud thud.
"Hay, now, what did you do that for? No matter. It would have taken a dozen humans to reinvigorate me the way he did, and I didn't even get to finish him off," Cell said.
"What a callous attitude towards killing. I'm surprised you aren't on the same side as the androids," Gohan said. They were circling each other like a pair of wolves.
"Oh, we are, in a matter of speaking. It's just a minor disagreement, really. They want to remain free creatures and defy our maker, while I want to absorb them into myself and become the perfect being Dr. Gero imagined," Cell said.
"I can't let you do that," Gohan said.
"You just did. The only being who was strong enough to keep me from my goal, you just helped me to destroy," Cell fixed the scanner to his head. "Bye, bye." He flew away from Gohan.
"Kamehameha!" Gohan shot at him, but Cell dodged. He flew back and backhanded Gohan into the ground, where he lost consciousness.
"What do you think you are doing, son of Kakarot?" a somehow familiar voice said. "How dare you lay down on the job when your enemy is well on his way to becoming even more powerful than he already is."
It was Vageta. "What are you doing here?"
"Penance. The Kais said that if I help you, they'll let me out of HFIL," Vageta said.
"This is a dream," Gohan said.
"Believe what you will, but let me tell you this; if you don't stop Cell, no one will," Vageta said.
"How can I beat him? He is so much stronger than I am," Gohan said.
"You will find the strength somehow, because if you don't the universe will end. Cell was designed to kill, and kill is what he will do. Kill, and destroy, until there is nothing, and only he remains. In you, the galaxy has a sole hope. You are the sole survivor of the saiyan race, redeem the crimes done by our people," Vageta said. Everything went dark except for Vagita and Gohan. Then there were stars. There was a map of the galaxy beneath Gohan's feet. A star died. Then another. Then another. "This is what will happen if Cell is allowed to reach his true power. People will die. Planets will die. Stars will die. Quadrillions of souls, lost. Genocide on such a scale to make Armageddon seem trivial."
Gohan felt all of those sentients dying, "No. No, I can't let this happen!"
"You better do what you can quickly, because you are hanging onto life by a thread," Vagita said.
"No! I will not lose! I will not let those people die because I wasn't good enough! I will persevere, somehow, for their sakes!" He felt power surge through him, his hair turned blond and his eyes turned blue.
"Yes, feel the power of the Saiyans in your blood! Know that you are a Super Saiyan, and the most powerful being in the entire universe! Know also…that I am sorry. If not for me, you may have lived a normal life. If I see your father when I leave HFIL, I'll give him your regards. Good bye, Gohan, last of my people. Redeemer of my people."
Gohan rose from into the air, and tested his limbs. Neither of his legs nor his right arm were working, and he couldn't feel anything beneath his waist. Damn. Even injured and broken and half-dead, Gohan felt more powerful than he ever had before. Sensing Cell, who was also more powerful than ever, he flew after him, finding him in record speed.
Cell didn't look the same as he had, but he ws still Cell. "My, Gohan, back from the dead? Just barely, I see. Even being a Super Saiyan won't be enough to save you from me, weak as you are with injury. I have already absorbed Seventeen, and am about to absorb Eighteen." The hypodermic needle opened into a funnel, and went over Eighteen's head.
Gohan blasted it. "I'm not going to let you win, Cell."
"If that is the way you wish it, very well. I will destroy you now," Cell said. "Kamehameha!" Gohan batted it aside. "Destructro Disk!" Gohan caught it in his hand and smashed it.
"Tavilhee Webwork," Gohan whispered. Cell was bound by a thousand tiny threads.
"You…you aren't going to incapacitate me and then kill me. That…it wouldn't be fair fighting," Cell said.
"Fair? Do you think this is a game? Do you think I am playing? I'm fighting for keeps, Cell. There is no such thing as fair," Gohan said. He punched Cell in the stomach, chest, and lower gut at least half a dozen times.
"Wha…what did you do to me? I feel like I'm going to be sick." And with that he puked up Android 17, and he began to morph back into his original form.
"All that work seems to have been for nothing, Cell. Too bad for you," Gohan said. "Although, you did help me overpower the androids, so, thanks."
"Fine. I may be beaten, but I'm going to take you with me!" Cell said.
"Oh, and how are you going to manage that?" Gohan asked.
Cell began to plump. "I was designed with the ability to explode. The slightest jarring will set me off, and I'll take the planet with me!" Gohan grinned evilly. "What are you smiling about! I'm serious!"
Gohan sat on Cell, and pressed two fingers against his forehead. Suddenly, they were on another planet. "Say hello to the Instant Transmission technique. Good bye. I'll be back to mop up what is left of you."
Seventeen and Eighteen were found guilty of three hundred counts of planet-wide terrorism, two million one hundred thirty-three thousand five hundred and seventy one counts of first degree murder, and so much property damage and so many counts of manslaughter that Gohan lost track. They would have been killed right then and there, but Sixteen had made a plea bargain for their lives, so instead they were sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor, and all three of them were fitted with restraining bolts that would allow Gohan to blow them up if they gave him any reason to do so. Sixteen had been facing the (relatively) minor charge of aiding and abiding known terrorists, but as part of his plea bargain he had agreed to become his siblings' keeper, and would be punished right along with them if they misbehaved.
Things were calming down in the galaxy, but not for Bulma and Gohan. The androids had told them that the Earth had been ravaged by the robot armies of one Dr. Gero, and that that was what had made them leave in the first place, which was ironic considering how Gohan and Bulma had refused to return home for fear of causing the Earth being overrun by alien armies.
Gohan, Bulma, and their new baby entered the royal yacht, the fastest ship in the known galaxy.
"And just where do you think you're going?" Dende asked, Heater and himself making a dramatic entrance.
"There's a spot of trouble on the homeworld," Gohan said. "Don't worry, we'll call you."
"No, you won't, because we're coming with you," Heater said. One of his arms and most of his abdomen was mechanical now.
"It could be dangerous," Buma said.
"More dangerous than the androids and Cell?" Heater asked.
"I have been your friend through hell and high water, Gohan, ever since we were on the old Planet Namek. I know you aren't thinking about leaving me behind," Dende said.
Tears almost welled in Gohan's eyes. "Oh, you guys…come, then."
And so the four travelers (five if you count the baby) left, and the ship sailed for distant shores. This world, Earth: it was the place of Gohan's birth, yet he knew so little about it. He thought it should feel like he was coming home, but it didn't. It felt like he was entering strange waters.
This is the end of Part Two. Stay tuned for Part Three.
Author's Note: The scene where Cell and Gohan were sparring and the two Kamehameha waves met and stalled was a direct reference to the final battle with Cell. Seventeen being spat up by Cell was a direct reference to when Eighteen was spat up (both events then led to Cell blowing himself up. Yes, Gohan knows the Instant Transmission technique. He had been learning fighting styles from across the galaxy, and where did Goku learn it in the canon? In space. Heater becoming part-mechanical was a not-so-direct reference to Frieza becoming half-mechanical. Really, it was more like a foreboding. Really, though, except for the whole thing with Seventeen/Eighteen being spat up and Cell exploding and Gohan/Goku using the Instant Transmission, it was all coincidence. I'd get to a part in the story and realize that hey, I could do this without compromising the plot integrity. There were other references to the canon, I'm sure, but I forgot what they were.
I'm sorry for making you all wait this long, but I lost inspiration, and felt that it was better to wait for it to come back instead of sadling you with an inferior product. One more thing. I had this thing where I was going to let people vote for the sex of the baby, butI decided to rescind that. For one thing, I can't work on Part 3 until I know what sex the baby is, so this whole thing restricts my freedom of motion within the story. Besides which, I think that it might be a violation of the guidelines to have something like that here. So, sorry to go back on my word, but I'm going back on my word. (I actually meant to do this a while ago.) I will read the reviews to see what people thought, though, and who knows? Maybe you people had a good idea I can use. I hope that that is some consolation. (I haven't actually read the R&R's yet, felt it was better to make this apology unbiased.)