by Becky Tailweaver
Though there's no one there to guide you,
No one to take your hand,
But with faith and understanding,
You will journey from boy to man.
--Phil Collins, "Son of Man"
Though there's no one there to guide you,
Chapter 1: Another Way
The evening winds whipped at the dusty, charred landscape of the Western Capitol, ruffling the scanty, stunted trees and whiffing small papers and trash about. Little of the city still stood; skyscrapers lay prone on the asphalt and apartment buildings were collapsed in on themselves. A few small businesses and markets rose in clusters here and there among the wrecked corpses of greater buildings. There were cleaned areas, repaved roads, bulldozers at rest, skeletons of new buildings--small evidences of the city-dwellers' attempt at reconstruction. Tiny, rickety homes seemed to lean on one another for support as they strove to stand upright. Faint slivers of light could be seen through a few thickly shaded windows.
There were few trees, little grass, and most of the streets were cracked and pot-holed. A few signs and streetlamps attempted to come on, flickering, barely visible in the orange light of the late sunset. No cars moved, no airplanes buzzed overhead. There were no people out this late, but a few stray dogs fought each other over garbage in an alley. The city seemed a ghost town, despite the few, faint, struggling signs of new life.
One place in all this half-dead city still held some hope. A large, domed building was lit brightly from the inside, many windows glowing warmly in the evening light. The surrounding grounds were much more green than the rest of the city, with a few cheerful, if thin, little trees and bright yet scanty flowers. The leaning sign near the front entrance still read in proud, faded red letters, "Capsule Corporation."
One figure could be seen on the back lawn, taking a leisurely stroll of the grounds. It was a blue-haired woman, middle-aged yet still beautiful, carrying a steaming cup of coffee in one hand as she walked. During one point in her stroll, she looked up at the building, a tender smile appearing on her face. She sighed deeply, her attention focused on another figure that also partook of the evening.
Bulma Briefs watched her son brooding on the balcony of Capsule Corporation's second floor patio. Her little foray into the back yard--what was left of it--gave her an ample upward profile view of Trunks, leaning on the railing, sword conspicuously absent. His short lavender hair blew about his sharp-featured face, his blue eyes focused on nothing but the distance. He had that brooding look about him that his long-dead father, Vegeta, Prince of the Saiyans, had often displayed during quiet, lonely moments, and for a second Vegeta's image was superimposed over Trunks in her mind.
She had a pretty good idea that Vegeta was on both their minds.
Trunks hadn't said much about his father beyond his initial excitement upon his return. He'd bubbled at her happily with the whole story, proudly telling her how his father had furiously attacked Cell for his sake, how Vegeta had trained with him--trained him--for the intense battles with the biogenetic warrior, how glad he was to know his father, and everything he'd learned about his power and the pride of the Saiyan race. When the radio had announced the encroaching androids' latest target, the pressing need to defeat them had turned his joy to hard, quiet rage, but the sheer, exhuberant happiness on his face for the duration of that short/long story had let a ray of light into her heart. Smiling in memory, she tried to picture what Vegeta might have been like, had he ever been that happy. Just change Trunks' coloring and hairstyle, and you had it exactly...
A cold breeze whipped her hair, making her shiver, snapping her out of her reverie. It was getting late, almost supper time, and Trunks would come in hungry. Turning to go back in the house, Bulma chuckled softly to herself. Her son might be able to stare off into space for hours on end, but that Saiyan stomach of his would always bring him back to her.
"Hi, Mom. Dinner ready?"
Bulma smiled, her back to him. Regular as clockwork, her boy; it was six PM on the dot. "No, I'm not quite finished yet."
"Can I help you with anything?"
"No, that's okay--oh, would you mind setting the table?"
Bulma suppressed a giggle. It never failed--whenever she asked him to do such inane things as setting the table, taking out the trash, or washing the outside upper-story windows, she always had to bite back a humerous laugh at the thought of an unbelievably powerful Saiyan warrior helping with housework. But Trunks was so willing, even when she needed the car fixed or groceries fetched; Bulma imagined she'd have gotten one of those glares from Vegeta if she'd ever asked him to wash windows.
"You making beef stew or something?" Trunks asked, fetching two non-cracked bowls from the cupboard.
"Yeah," Bulma sighed. Her son's sensitive nose would have told him the minute he walked in the door what was on the stove. "I was a bit tired today and canned beef-and-noodle soup was all I could come up with."
"That's fine, Mom," Trunks replied affably. "I'm so hungry right now it doesn't matter to me."
"That's my boy--you bottomless pit on two legs, you," she said affectionately.
He grinned sheepishly and ducked his head. Bulma smiled at him as she brought the two oversized potholders over to the table so she could set out the two hot pots of soup. Struggling with her puffy oven mitts, she heaved one large pan off the stove.
Trunks caught the pot as she turned, lifting it effortlessly out of her grip, not even fazed by the heat. "Mom, let me help you with these," he scolded. "I don't want you to hurt yourself lifting heavy things."
Bulma shook her finger at him, mock-severely, slipping off the oven mitts and smacking him in the shoulder with them. "I was lifting and throwing large heavy objects long before you ever existed, you big showoff. Don't start babying me all of a sudden."
Trunks carried the second pot. "I can lift anything for you; you only have to ask. Besides, you were a lot younger before I--" He broke off, sitting down to his place, his face reddening. "Sorry."
Bulma sat down herself, and smiled gently at him. "That's all right, son. I know I'm not getting any younger. And I know that no matter how much I might complain about it, I'll still be an old lady."
Trunks looked up at her askance, the ladlefull of soup halfway to his bowl. "What?"
"I don't let delusions of eternal youth and beauty cloud my mind, Trunks," she explained. "I know it's a fact that I'm an old woman now. There's no denying it. I just wish..."
"But..." Trunks set down his now-full bowl but did not begin to eat. He seemed to be struggling for words. "But...you're not old, Mom. You won't die soon." The idea of his mother succumbing to anything--even to inevitable old age--was something he did not want to have to face. She was everything to him--the only other person who mattered so much to him; the only other person who could possibly mean more to him than his master and best friend Gohan. He just couldn't bear the thought of losing her.
Bulma shrugged. "Ah, well. At least I'll see Vegeta again. And Goku, and Yamcha..." She trailed off, her eyes suddenly misty. "It's just as well your father isn't here. All he'd have to say would be smart remarks about my gray hair."
"Father wouldn't do stuff like that." Trunks frowned.
"He always did stuff like that." Bulma sighed again, but it was only a wistful sound. "But despite all that, I can't help wishing I still had him..."
Trunks could think of nothing more to say; instead, he picked up his spoon and began to eat. And afterwards, when he was gone, Bulma had to admit to herself that although every drop of stew in both pots was gone, it was one of the tidiest meals she'd ever had with a Saiyan.
Trunks didn't go to bed immediately after dinner and practice, like he usually did. Instead, he strapped on his sword and flew off into the gathering darkness, just wandering through the sky and feeling the cool wind in his face.
He didn't travel in any particular direction; he wasn't thinking anything in particular, either. He flew aimlessly, very fast and very high. He was just mulling over his strange conversation with his mother; about her growing old, about how she still wished his father were alive. It wasn't any different than most of the other converstations they'd had lately, and she had seemed so depressed. Then again, she'd been depressed ever since he'd done away with that cursed creature Cell, almost a month ago.
Trunks shook his head; his mother had been so down for a month? Where had the time gone? And what could he do to help? He couldn't bring Vegeta back from the dead; every avenue of possibility was long ago exhausted. There was no way on Earth to bring his father back.
He didn't know when the idea popped into his head, or how his mind had come up with it. He thought it had something to do with the bowl-shaped structure he saw ahead of him.
It suddenly clicked in his brain that although Piccolo and his counterpart Kami were gone, Kami's assistant Mr. Popo might still be living on the ancient structure in the sky. It also occurred to him that Mr. Popo might have an answer, or at least a helpful tip, for the question that now burned within him. Picking up more speed, he angled toward the old Lookout.
Landing on the outer platform softly, he advanced over the smooth tiling towards the darkened building in the center. He found himself...nervous, more so than many times before. This wasn't like the anxious, yearning anticipation of a fight--it was more like the inner quaking he'd felt the first time he'd stood eye-to-eye with his Past-Timeline father. What was it about this silent place that kindled those kinds of feelings in him?
The ki was there almost before he realized it. He whirled, sword instantly in hand, and froze.
"Can I help you, young man?" asked the small, rotund, black-skinned man standing there. He wore a turban, ornate vest, and baggy white pants, and stood completely relaxed, staring blandly at Trunks.
The young Saiyan didn't move. "Hey, you're--"
The black man didn't move either. "I am called Mr. Popo, young man. May I ask what you are doing here?"
Trunks instantly relaxed, his sword back in its sheath before Mr. Popo could take another breath. He'd heard a lot about this strange little servant of Kami's--even met him a few times during his adventures in the past. But this Popo didn't know him. "I came to ask you a question, Mr. Popo."
"Me?" For the first time, Popo looked surprised. "No one's ever come just to see me."
"First time for everything," Trunks said. "Will you listen to my question?"
"I will listen, but I don't know if I can answer."
"That's good enough." Trunks took a deep breath. "Here goes: Mr. Popo, do you know of any way that the Dragonballs can be re-created?"
"Why, yes," said the short man, as if it were obvious. "Of course."
Trunks smiled in relief. "Great. Can you do it?"
Popo looked taken aback. "Oh, I couldn't do it. That's a question to ask the Guardian."
For the second time, Trunks whirled, but this time without the sword. The voice that interrupted his stammering was completely unfamiliar, but the figure was not. "A N-Namek?" he struggled to say.
The young adult Namekkian before him smiled gently. "That's right, Trunks."
"You--you're not Kami!"
"Of course not," Dende stated, looking slightly worried, as if Trunks were having trouble grasping latent fact. "Kami died with Piccolo. My name is Dende. New Namek sent me as a replacement."
"Wait a second..." Trunks frowned at the green face, bewildered. "Dende? But...!"
"Oh, I'm sure Gohan has mentioned me," the Namek said, slightly sad. "We were the best of friends on Old Namek."
Trunks stepped back, face blank with surprise. "You're that Dende!" The Namek he'd known in the past by that name had been only a child--but this young Namek stood taller than Trunks, his smooth green skin a shade darker than the child Namek's had been.
Dende, Guardian of Earth, smiled at him. "I am. You came with a request, Trunks?"
Trunks nodded, glad that something was staying the same between the two timelines. His own time-hops and Cell's meddling had messed things up enough. "I need to know if the Dragonballs can be re-created, Dende. I have a wish I want to make."
Dende's smile turned sad. "I'm afraid I can't do anything for you, my friend. I do have the power to create Dragonballs, but not the knowlege. I'm sorry."
The young half-Saiyan's heart fell with an almost audible crash. His posture drooping almost imperceptably, he nodded resignedly. "Sorry to have bothered you, Dende. Thanks for your time."
"Will you lose hope so soon, warrior?" Dende asked after him. "All is not lost. There is a way to do what you seek. The way will be long and hard, but it is a way."
"Really?" Trunks whirled, blue eyes brightening with hope. "Tell me!"
Dende leaned on Kami's staff. "The Dragonballs of this planet are unavailable at this time, but if you were to find other Dragonballs, you could wish Piccolo and Kami back to life. And your other warriors as well. With Kami returned, he could teach me the art of creating Dragonballs. And Earth would have her own set again!"
Trunks nearly leaped up and down. "Yes! What a great idea! I'll just get Kami back and--" He paused, frowning. "Wait a second. What other Dragonballs are there?"
Dende gestured skyward with his staff. "The only others in existence that I know of are on New Namek, my people's home. You could go there and ask a wish of them. If you were to tell them I sent you, they would be glad to help. Goku and his friends saved their lives long ago."
"New Namek?" Trunks burst out. "How in the universe could I get to New Namek? I don't even know where it is; I couldn't find it, let alone fly there! What am I supposed to do--teleport?"
"No," Dende said patiently. "Your mother still has the specs for the ships her family built to send her and the others to Old Namek, doesn't she? She can build you a spaceship--just like that ingenious time machine of yours. But I'm afraid I don't know where New Namek is; you see, I was wished here by my fellows when it became known that Kami no longer answered the Elders' calls."
"Even if Mom could make me a ship, how would I get there?" Trunks asked. "If I can't find the coordinates, how can I program the ship?"
"That's where an old friend of Goku's might come in handy," Dende replied with a small grin. "Have you ever heard of King Kai? He's the ruler of the North Galaxy. He trained Goku in the art of Kaiyo-Ken and the Spirit Bomb. He has the ability to locate almost anything by its energy signature."
"King Kai? Hm, I think Mom might've mentioned him once..."
"Good." Dende nodded. "But I must warn you; I'll have to take you into the Realm of the Afterlife, which is not entirely legal for a living entity, and you'll have to travel Snake Way, the bridge over Hell."
Trunks' mouth fell open as his eyes widened. "Over...Hell?"
"Snake Way is incredibly long, Trunks. It took Goku two days at full speed to return from King Kai's planet."
"Is there a problem?" Dende asked innocently, seeing the young Saiyan's glassy-eyed look.
"My...my mom...I can't leave her alone for...four whole days!" Trunks protested. "She'll think I died or something!"
"Your mother will be fine, Trunks; you've left her alone before."
Trunks took a deep breath. "Well...I at least need to tell her my plans; she can get started on the ship while I'm away. Four days trip, huh?"
"Okay. I'll go tell Mom what's up, get a good night's sleep, and I'll get here first thing in the morning."
"A fine plan, warrior." Dende smiled again, pleased that everything was falling into place so easily.
"Thanks so much, Dende--and you too, Mr. Popo!" Trunks leaped up off the platform, hovering. "I'll see you soon!" With a flash of ki, the young half-Saiyan vanished in the distance.
"I believe, old friend, that it will take Trunks considerably less than four days to complete his journey."
"I agree, Guardian. But the one that comes after it will be much longer."
Dende frowned. "Yes; I see a shadow in his future. The way he will take will not be as direct as he anticipates; a long and winding path awaits him."
"Will it be so long?"
"A long road, Mr. Popo. He will be tested; not just in his fighting prowess, but in his strength of heart. I only hope he will prove worthy."
"He is the son of Vegeta, Guardian Dende. He is just as determined as his father."
Dende smiled once more. "Yes; stubborn as Vegeta--but his heart is good."
Bulma turned over in her bed, dreaming the voice of her son was calling her out of the darkness...
"Mom! Hey, Mom!"
Bulma jerked upright in her bed, realizing the voice of her son was calling her out of the darkness. "Huh? Trunks? What are you...?" Not quite coherent and awake yet, the President of Capsule Corporation stumbled out of her blankets and over to the window her son was tapping urgently on, throwing it open. A blast of cold breeze made her shiver as Trunks stepped in from the balcony to take her in a big bear hug and spin her around. He was grinning wildly, and cold air surrounded him; he smelled of wind and sky, of male-Saiyan sweat and ozone from his power--scents so familiar that in her half-asleep state she nearly lost herself in a memory of Vegeta, the way he would arrive late at night so much the same...
"I found a way! Mom, I can do it--I found a way! All you gotta do is build me a space ship and I'll go into outer space and make a wish on the original Dragonballs and we can have Father and the others back!" Trunks took a deep breath and prepared to launch into another narrative, but Bulma beat him to it.
"What on Earth are you talking about?" she asked, blinking and yawning. "Son, it's almost midnight and you're babbling like a six-year-old. Can't you tell me about your day in the morning? And you should be in bed--" She paused. "What did you say about your father?"
"I found a way to bring him back!" Trunks repeated.
It took Bulma's brain a full and exact five-point-zero-seven seconds to process that statement. "Bring...Vegeta...back?"
Trunks nodded urgently. "I went and talked to Dende--he's the Guardian of Earth now, did you know that? He said that if I can get to New Namek and their Dragonballs, I can wish Father and the others back to life with them. Namek's Dragonballs are very powerful. We can get everyone back!"
"Dende?" Bulma was still in information-processing mode. "Bring...everyone back? Vegeta...Goku..." She gasped. "And Piccolo!"
"Yeah! And when we have him, we'll be able to get Earth's Dragonballs back too!"
Bulma stared at her son for a minute. "Trunks, you are a genius."
Trunks scratched the back of his head, looking for a moment vaguely like Goku. "Well, it wasn't my idea...Dende actually told me about it..."
Bulma suddenly seemed to snap into beautiful genius mode. "Trunks, this is great! And you're the only one who can do this! Poor Dende must have been waiting so long for you to be ready!"
"So...I know this is a lot to ask but...can you build me a space ship?"
"Do you even have to ask?" Bulma replied. "Did you forget who you're talking to? It'll be easy!"
Trunks grinned widely. "That's great! I'll have to go for a bit first thing in the morning; I need to go talk to King Kai--Dende's gonna get me special dispensation to take a short trip down Snake Way. I'll get the coordinates from King Kai and be back in a few days."
"A few days? I should be done with design by then, and you can help me with the construction." Bulma was now in brillant engineer mode.
"I'm always willing to help," Trunks said. "Will you be okay here alone?"
His mother grinned at him. "Trunks. After everything that has happened in the last twenty years, do you honestly think something horrible will happen without you here to babysit me? Of course I'll be fine!"
"Well...okay then. Sorry for waking you up like that."
It seemed that Bulma's attention had turned mostly inward as she was busy making plans for her ship designs. But she smiled brightly at him anyway. "Oh, that's no problem. Your father used to do that a lot! He was such a Romeo sometimes!"
Trunks reddened. "Uh, yeah..."
Bulma blinked at him. "What are you still doing here? You've got a lot of work ahead of you! Off to bed!"
"But...what about you?"
"I've got stuff to do, too. Go on, scat! Get out of here!" Bulma shooed him out her bedroom door, admonishing him to get his backside to bed so he could get up bright and early for his trip tomorrow. With that, the door closed in his face, and his keen Saiyan ears could hear his mother's footsteps heading for her mini-office in the next room over. "Wow," was all he could say for several minutes. He hadn't seen her with this much energy in quite a while.
Great, he thought. She's gonna pull an all-nighter, and probably several more until I'm on my way to New Namek. Maybe I should've waited until tomorrow morning to tell her...but then she'd have been mad at me because I didn't tell her the good news as soon as I got back...
With a heavy sigh that proclaimed the universal truth that sons would never understand mothers, Trunks trundled off to his room, his thoughts darkened with worries of tomorrow.
* * * * *
Trunks' first impression of Snake Way was that it was boring. It was as long and boring as you could get, with absolutely nothing but more road as far as the eye could see. Far back in the distance behind him, barely visible to even Saiyan eyes, was King Yemma's palace.
The King of the Dead had not been too happy with the prospect of letting a living mortal pass through his gates and to cross the bridge over Hell to a sacred place. But with a few kind words from Dende--and a reminder that Dende's people owed a life-debt in part to Trunks' father, who had helped hold off Freeza long enough for Goku to recover--the giant, gruff monarch let the half-Saiyan pass. But, King Yemma declared, one week was his stay limit. None of that "stay for a year for special training" stuff.
Though Trunks doubted he would need a week; Korin had given him two senzu beans to help with his journey, so he wouldn't need to rest. All he had to do was fly.
Trunks chuckled as he jogged, waiting for the palace to be completely out of sight before he turned on the steam. King Yemma thought Goku was fast twenty-odd years ago, before he was even a Super Saiyan? He grinned eagerly, his face falling into lines just like his sire's. Well, King Yemma, you ain't seen nothin' yet!
Gathering his energy, Trunks let it fill and overflow him. With a yell of jubulation, he let his ki expand, not caring who in this outer dimension saw it shine. The golden aura exploded around him, lifting and changing his hair to gold, subtly increasing the size of his frame to contain the new power. Giving an excited leap, he launched into the air, speeding like a falling star. His flaring power streamed out behind him like a comet's tail and a thundrous rushing filled the air as he surpassed the speed of sound. Watching the golden clouds flashing by beneath him, he guaged himself as traveling at about eight hundred miles per hour. At this speed, ten thousand miles wouldn't take him much more than twelve hours. And with the senzus in his pocket, it would be a non-stop flight to Kai's Place.
Far below, two warriors leagues distant in different parts of Hell raised their heads at the rising flash of Super Saiyan power that passed overhead. Both grinned when they sensed the golden energy.
One of them gave a dark chuckle, his grin turning to a smile that was almost...proud. He ran a hand through spiky dark hair as he stared upwards, as though he could see through the impenetrable clouds, before returning to his shadowy abode in a dark corner of Hell.
The other's grin became something twisted, and his chuckle became an eager, insane laugh. Instead of melting back into the shadows, this one rose from his hiding place and made for the bloodstained sky.
And you'll be in my heart
Yes, you'll be in my heart
From this day on,
Now and forever more.
--Phil Collins, "You'll Be In My Heart"
And you'll be in my heart
To be continued...