Title: Shattered Substrate

Summary: There was one moment in Trunks's life that he never spoke about, never shared with anyone. Because when he died during the Cell Games, he didn't go to the afterlife.

Genres: Suspense

Category: DBZ

Characters: Trunks

Disclaimer: Dragonball Z belongs to Akira Toriyama and numerous other companies. This fanfic is only for fun, no monies are being made.

He had no time to move. No time to react. He was too slow, and Cell was too fast. Trunks was able to suck in one last half breath before part of his lungs were disintegrated by the energy beam shot from Cell's hand. Without breath, he could already feel his head getting dizzy from lack of oxygen. He fell backward, and it felt like it took ages to hit the ground. After he hit, Trunks stared up at the sky and tried to hold back the urge to cough. It overwhelmed him, and he gave in. And after he coughed, everything went black.

What happened next was something Trunks never spoke about to anyone for the remainder of his life. He was glad nobody had ever asked him directly about it, because he wasn't sure if he could lie convincingly about what happened. Because while he would later find out what he suspected, that he had died, there was a part of the equation that didn't follow the standard according to others who had fallen and risen again.

He didn't go to otherworld.

Shattered Substrate

Trunks let out a breath and opened his eyes. He felt cool, not quite cold but close. He slowly pushed himself up to a seated position and took in his surroundings. He was sitting on what felt like concrete, and everything around him was dark. There was enough ambient light to see lingering low fog, although the darkness stretched out in every direction. He slowly rose to his knees, and then to his feet.

Suddenly the last few moments before he found himself lost came back to him with a jolt. Instinctively his left hand reached up to his chest, to where the hole should have been, only to find his skin was intact. Additionally, he was wearing his black tank top, blue jacket and gray pants—not the improved Saiyan armor his mother had given him. As he realized his hair wasn't falling into his face, he reached up to find that it was cut short again. He looked as he did when he first made his trip back to the past, not as he did when Cell struck him down.

Trunks's hands slowly fell to his sides as he realized what had happened. He was dead. And apparently this is how he saw himself in his mind's eye, so it would be his appearance in the afterlife. He looked up and saw nothing but an endless darkness stretch out before him. If this was the afterlife... where exactly was he?

Before Trunks could give it any more thought, he heard a noise in the distance coming from behind him. He spun around, and the rhythmic sound steadily came closer. With the cadence and even time intervals, it sounded like footsteps. He couldn't sense anything, but if he was dead, maybe he wouldn't be able to. So he kept his eye trained on the fog, on the darkness beyond the fog, and strained to see in what little light there was in the space he occupied. Just as a dark silhouette of a vaguely humanoid figure began to materialize, a voice rang out.

"You," the commanding voice of a woman addressed him. The clack of her footsteps continued, and Trunks stayed put. He wasn't sure what he would do, but he didn't feel fear so he felt no need to move. "How dare you set your sullied feet upon this hallowed ground?" she near-yelled at him. A gust of wind rose up, blowing the fog away and the light somehow seemed to amplify, though Trunks couldn't tell from where it came. Just as she came into view, something swung down at him and Trunks took a step back.

With enough light now to see all the details, Trunks found himself staring at the end of a long staff that she had leveled at the center of his chest, eerily enough almost exactly where he had been mortally wounded. The staff was silver, and intricately decorated, and the end of it included a large garnet set inside what Trunks could best describe as resembling a heart. His eyes moved up from the end of the staff to the person who wielded it at him.

The woman staring him down was several inches taller than him. She wore a long flowing black gown, that slowly faded into lighter shades of gray as it reached the floor. She had dark green hair, almost black, and eyes the same shade as the blood red garnet set in the end of her staff. Her skin was slightly darker than his, and Trunks found himself staring. She was frightening, intimidating, commanding, and beautiful.

"You do not belong here," she spoke once more, her voice ringing out in smooth alto tones. Staring at her face and meeting her eyes with his, Trunks realized that the light around them was emanating from her, but he felt no ki. He didn't know what to think.

So he merely voiced the first few thoughts that came to mind. "Who are you? What is this place?" Trunks let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding.

Wind suddenly whirled around them, blowing away the last remnants of fog as her gown and hair glided on the wind. Trunks's eyes narrowed and he raised one arm up to shield his face; the blast of wind wasn't typical wind, because it nearly knocked him off of his feet. She didn't move an inch, and her staff stayed pointed inches from his heart, unmoving.

As the wind roared, she spoke, her voice rising above the noise. "I am the gatekeeper, I am the guardian of the stream of time," she answered him, her voice loud but not uncontrolled. "I am Kronos!" she finished with a yell, and she drew back her staff to slam the end of it into the ground, causing the floor to crack beneath their feet. As her staff hit, the wind immediately stopped, and her hair and gown fell back into place as if they were never disturbed.

Trunks lowered his arm since that nearly unbearable wind had stopped. She glared at him and her eyes narrowed slightly. "And you who have broken into this sacred place," she continued speaking, "you stand in the center of existence, in the one knot that binds everything," she paused momentarily, her voice ever-so-slightly decreasing in volume. "You stand at the nexus of time."

Trunks didn't know what to say. His voice was lost on him. Kronos, the god of time? Was he dreaming? No, he was dead, he couldn't be dreaming, but... the nexus of time? He opened his mouth to speak, but too many thoughts rushed in at once. So, after a slight stutter, he said the only thing he knew for certain. "I don't understand."

"It is amazing that your feeble mind can even comprehend my presence in this place as we stand here now," she replied, her voice coming out evenly. "So it is only natural that you do not understand, and it is likely that you never will," she finished.

Trunks opened his mouth to speak but was immediately cut off. "Silence!" Kronos shouted, the world seemingly shaking around him at her words. "I do not have the patience to go through this again with you," she followed up at a normal decibel level.

"Again?" Trunks managed before she was able to continue.

Her eyes narrowed at him in what he perceived as outright anger. "To you, this is the first and only time we will ever meet, but for me, this encounter has happened thousands, millions of times, and will continue to happen until eternity. And yet it has never happened," she explained. "For all the threads of time that exist, there is only I. For all the infinite universes, for all the infinite intervals of time in each of those universes, there is only I. You and I will have this conversation over and over again, ad nauseum, until existence ceases to be. And yet we will never have it. That is the nature of time," she continued, "the nature of that which you have defied."
Kronos's eyes flashed a glowing blue briefly and suddenly Trunks found his vision filled with images of himself. "Perhaps I can show you, and you will understand," she said, and Trunks found himself unable to breathe. Faster than he could comprehend, he saw himself, thousands, tens of thousands, millions of times over, in his mind, in different lives, but always distinctly him. Living his life, different times, different experiences, from everything to eating, talking, laughing, crying, sleeping, running, flying, fighting, and dying. And each time he saw himself die, he felt the pain of that death. They flashed by so quickly, and his deaths were so varied, that his entire body was in pain, as each successive 'death' was another blow, another source of pain. Just as he thought he would pass out from the agony, the visions stopped, and Trunks immediately fell forward to his knees, barely catching himself from falling on his face with his right hand.

Sweat poured down his face and he struggled to catch his breath, his left hand wrapped around his abdomen. "Pain seems to be the only thing that you will understand," Kronos spoke once more. She took three steps forward, moving closer to Trunks, and looking down at him with disdain. "If only I truly had a fitting punishment for you," she added as he struggled to come back to reality, if where he was could even be considered such a thing.

"Why?" Kronos supplied, as Trunks was still unable to do much but breathe and hang on to consciousness. "You have caused me much strife," she answered. "You have broken the boundaries of time; you have spent more than a moment within a rift in time; and now you have died outside of your own existence, giving me the displeasure of your presence in this place," she said, motioning to the expanse of nothing surrounding them.

Her words clarified the slightest doubts he had. He was dead. And he wasn't in otherworld. He supposed it made sense; after all, she said he died outside of his own existence. Perhaps he couldn't take the place of his infant self in the afterlife. But had this really never happened before? Well, it happened with him, an untold number of times, but no one before him? It was simultaneously shocking and yet it wasn't, because after all his mother could do anything, even build a time machine. It was just shocking that she would create the first, ever, throughout all of existence. But maybe... she wasn't the first to create one, but simply he was the first foolish enough to lose his life while outside of his own time. Which sadly, to Trunks, seemed like the more likely explanation.

"I have duties to attend to," Kronos broke through his thoughts with her words, "and they do not include watching you wither." She paused momentarily, and he was able to raise his head enough to look into her eyes. "If you are still here when I return, then it will mean your friends have failed, and you will not be returning to the world of the living," she said without one drop of sympathy.

"What happens if I'm..." Trunks swallowed, "if I'm still here when you get back?"

"This place is not a place for the dead," Kronos replied softly. "If they do not bring your soul back to your body, then it will remain here until it disintegrates."
"How long does that take?" Trunks asked between gasping breaths, still winded from what he supposed he could safely call the 'mindfuck' that Kronos had inflicted upon him.

"In terms that you would understand," she replied, "a matter of days. After which, you will cease to exist. And there is no return from nothingness." With his question answered, she spun around, her gown and hair flowing gracefully around her as one would think of a god, and walked away. As she disappeared from sight, so did the ambient light, and the area around Trunks dimmed to the same levels of near darkness that it was when he first found himself in this place.

After giving himself a few minutes to recover, Trunks finally forced himself to his feet again. He didn't feel like he had his energy, or if he did he couldn't feel it, couldn't access it. He felt as helpless as a normal human in this place, and while he wondered why that was he resigned himself to never knowing. Not knowing what to do while waiting to see if his friends would emerge victorious over Cell, and if they would be able to revive him with the Dragon Balls, he started walking. He went in the same direction that Kronos had both appeared from and disappeared into, because he had no better ideas on where to start.

After about twenty minutes of walking, Trunks saw some dim lights ahead. He walked a little faster, and as he approached he realized he was looking at torches mounted to columns. The fire that burned on these torches was white, and it didn't actually touch the enclosure in which it burned. It wasn't fire, but it intimated that it might be. He followed the path of columns, until he came to a building. The building looked like some kind of ancient temple, although simplistic as it had no statues or monuments. What made him think it was a temple was the open front, where when he walked in, he found a wide open space with more 'torches' burning and lighting a dim room with a statue at the far end.

The interesting part of the room wasn't the statue, or the intricate paintings on the walls, but a short pillar in the center of the room, elevated on a wide square platform. Trunks slowly approached it; something felt distantly wrong about being in this place, but his curiosity overrode all doubts. If he was truly dead, and if his friends failed to defeat Cell and he would cease to exist, then what harm could Kronos bring upon him now?

When Trunks got close, he realized there was water in the pillar. He stepped up just in front of it and looked down at his reflection in the water. The shape was somewhat plain; it kind of reminded him of the old birdbath his mother loved that sat in the rose garden at home. His mother talked longingly about how her mother tended the roses, and he would note the wistful look in her eyes.

He leaned forward and set his hands on the edges of the unmoving water fountain. As he stared at his reflection, Trunks's face scrunched up in concern. What if he never came back from this? And he really did fade into nothingness? What would that be like? He felt nervous, and for the first time he finally noticed that beyond his reflection, the water showed an image of the stars, and even galaxies, backdropped by darkness. A drop of sweat rolled down his forehead, down the bridge of his nose, and hung onto his face momentarily before finally dropping into the water. When it hit, and the water moved, his reflection distorted. Each distortion showed a glimpse of himself, but it wasn't him. He recognized some of those faces, they were other versions of himself that Kronos had let him see live and die. Other possibilities for his existence, that he otherwise would never have known about it. If he hadn't traveled to another time and died.

As Trunks continued to stare and the water started to still, he felt an unbearable thirst. Without even thinking about it, Trunks reached down with both hands and dipped them into the water. With his hands cupped together, he brought water to his mouth and drank. It quenched his thirst, but proved to be nothing amazing.

"No, don't!"

Trunks turned as he heard a voice slice through the silence. Kronos came running up behind him, until suddenly she slowed to a crawl and her voice faded. As her body moved forward, her image split into multiples of herself, each moving forward at a snail's pace with a hand outstretched toward him. The movement was so slow, so slight, that each copy might have only been an inch away from being aligned as one.

A high pitched ringing noise filled Trunks's ears, and his head felt dizzy. He turned away from Kronos, and reached out for the fountain, for something to lean on. As he turned, the fountain was gone, and he found himself standing at the edge of a large square carved into the floor. It held the same image as the water had, of a universe in motion far from where he stood. As Trunks gazed down at the floor, he felt himself falling forward, uncontrollably drawn toward the images of distant stars and worlds. And before he could even react, he had fallen face-first into a sheet of water.

He would have started gagging for breath if he even felt he could move. He fell forward, sinking into the water, as the universe darkened in front of him and everything went black. He continued falling, sinking, drifting toward nothingness. His body felt like stone, immovable no matter how he willed it. His lungs burned for air, but he could do nothing as he plunged into the depths. If he was already dead, then why was he going through this pain? What good could come of it?

A light appeared in the distance beneath Trunks. It slowly grew brighter until Trunks fell into it, or did he fall out of the water and the surrounding black void? He wasn't sure what was happening. Suddenly he could breathe, he could feel wind, but he still couldn't move. As he fell, still at the same slow rate as when he was sinking in the water, buildings began to crop up out of the white void. It reminded him of the Room of Spirit and Time. Was he in another time rift, as Kronos had called it?

As the buildings appeared, he fell past broken and burning skyscrapers. The smell of smoke and concrete filled his lungs as the landscape began to pepper itself with things that looked like his world. The sky remained bright white, and the horizon showed nothing in the distance despite these sudden changes. Finally, as Trunks saw the broken asphalt of a street coming toward him, his fall slowed to a crawl. His body swung around so his feet were beneath him when he landed on the ground, making as graceful a landing as he would if he were in control of all of his faculties.

Once on the ground, Trunks looked up at the skyscrapers around him, some burning, some intact, some barely more than rubble on the ground. As he tried to take it all in, some of the buildings flickered like a television broadcast that was losing signal. Some of these buildings looked like they belonged in West City, but others did not. The architecture was all over the place; streets were made of different material before merging into one another or disappearing completely into the white void. Whatever this was, it smelled and looked real.

As his senses came back to him, Trunks picked up several ki signatures. They were all the same, all four that he sensed. And while he didn't know who, or what, it was that he sensed, they were oddly familiar. He felt a nagging thought tug at the back of his mind, saying he should know who these energies belonged to, and yet he couldn't place it. Not knowing what to do next, he simply willed up his energy and flew to the nearest one.

When Trunks landed only a few feet away from a calm, low level energy that wasn't moving, he couldn't believe what he was seeing. About twenty feet away, sitting on several pieces of concrete rubble, sat himself. It wasn't him, not exactly. He saw himself, but older, a bit more muscular, with the same long hair he had right when he died, but wearing essentially the same clothing he was wearing now. This older version of himself either didn't notice Trunks, or didn't care. He was focused on a small black device that resembled a phone in his hands, staring at it as if it contained the secrets to the universe.

"H-Hello?" Trunks asked cautiously as he took a step forward. It was like looking into a funhouse mirror.

The older version of himself looked up at him, but appeared unfazed by the situation. Trunks only wished he had as solid a sense of self as his other self to look at the situation so plainly. And now his brain hurt trying to process exactly what this all meant.

"How old are you?" his other self asked.

"Twenty," Trunks responded plainly.

"You traveled to the past, trained with father in that hellish room? Went to the fight with Cell?" his older reflection continued his line of questions.

"Yes," Trunks answered, unnerved. Shouldn't he be asking the questions?

His other self nodded a moment before speaking. "Good," he said, glancing down at the object in his hands once more. He waited a moment before he looked back up at Trunks. "That means I can keep you from making my mistake."

Trunks opened his mouth to respond when everything froze and the world turned blue. His other self froze, the sky froze, the 'world' froze around him. But Trunks could still move. He glanced around, trying to figure out what was happening, when a voice spoke to him.

"I did not foresee this."

"Kronos?!" Trunks knew that voice, and he glanced around him, searching for her in vain. He had a feeling he wouldn't see her, because her voice seemed to resound within the confines of his own skull.

"Of all the boundaries you have crossed, of all the tenets you have defied, never did I foresee this."

Trunks stopped moving his body to look at his surroundings, but his eyes still scanned the landscape and sky. "Where are you?" he asked.

"By drinking from the Well of Time, in a body that has been distorted by time, you have created a compound fracture in existence. You have disrupted the very fabric of time."
"What?!" Trunks exclaimed. He didn't entirely understand, but that couldn't be possible... could it? "But you said we've met before," Trunks tacked on as soon as the thoughts came to him, "so hasn't this already happened?" Her first interjection into his thoughts answered that question, but he couldn't help himself.

"No... I have never witnessed such a thing."

"Can't you fix it?!" Trunks demanded in a panic. "You're the god of time!" He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Was he really dead, was this really happening? Or was he merely near death and hallucinating? He was pretty sure he already knew the answer.

"Yet I am still a part of existence. Like an image in a mirror that has shattered, I have shattered with it. It has taken what little power I have left to speak to you like this, now."

"So what..." Trunks found himself fighting down the urge to panic. "What happens now?" He couldn't keep the emotion from seeping into each word he spoke.
"I do not know. I pray your mind is sharp enough to restore the mirror of time, lest we be frozen like this, with the rest of existence... forever."

Trunks clenched his eyes shut as a terrible high pitched noise filled his ears and his head, so loud it was painful. A few moments later, when the noise stopped and he opened his eyes, color had returned to whatever world he stood in, and he knew Kronos was gone.

He looked to his older self, who was still sitting holding that object in his hands. "You can't let her go. No matter what she says, no matter how much she insults you. Don't let her take him on," he spoke with authority and an underlying regret. Trunks stared, but his other self merely kept his gaze locked on the horizon. Or maybe, that's where his eyes were aimed, but his vision was elsewhere. "I..." he started, his right hand tightening around the black phone, "I had the strength to beat him. She didn't. And I let her go off to her death... I let her protect me, and she died for it."

Suddenly Trunks was filled with panic. "You don't mean... mother?" he asked in a higher pitched voice than seemed appropriate for a twenty year old.

His older self turned and looked at him. "No... mother is fine," he answered, his voice losing its edge. "Her death guaranteed that the Earth and our mother would be safe. She died to keep its location secret."

Trunks merely stared as his older self smiled sadly before rising from his seat. He took a few steps over to Trunks, and the younger man couldn't believe the size difference between them. He was at least four inches taller, if not more, and his shoulders much wider.

"Don't worry," his older self smiled at him, knowing exactly what Trunks was thinking, "you've got eight years to catch up."

Staring up at his twenty-eight year old self, a thought hit Trunks. If these other energy signatures that he sensed were all versions of himself, maybe he needed to get them all together. He wasn't sure why; hell, maybe these versions weren't real, and they didn't exist, they were merely his mind playing tricks on him. After all, he fell into water in the starry sky to fall into a landscape of burning buildings set upon a void of white nothingness. None of this made any sense. So anything he tried to do would be better than doing nothing. Kronos was counting on him.

"I have to do something," Trunks looked up to his older self as he spoke. "Can you help me out?"

"Sure," his other self responded. It was weird hearing his own voice answer him, but if he really did break existence as Kronos had said, maybe a little weirdness was to be expected. Trunks nodded to his older self, and took off in the sky for the nearest energy he sensed. It wasn't far away, and within moments he and his other self landed on the ground not far from their next charge.

"I can't believe this," Trunks heard another copy of himself say with his back turned to Trunks. This one was wearing a cream colored suit and had his hair cut short, much like Trunks's hair when he was younger, not at all like the version of himself who he'd just met. Before Trunks could say anything, he heard this new version of himself speak aloud again, seemingly to himself. "I have a meeting in fifteen minutes. If somebody's screwing with the dragon balls I swear I'm going to kick their ass," he trailed off slowly as he turned around to see what looked like two copies of himself. "Who the hell are you?" this new Trunks asked as his eyes narrowed at his doppelgangers.

Trunks was taken aback by this version of himself. He was taller and had a similarly more grown up appearance like the other version of himself he had already met. Something about him was sharper, more calculating. Maybe it was the finely tailored suit, the fancy wrist watch, the designer shoes. Trunks was confused; in what universe did he dress like that?

"Isn't it obvious?" Trunks was startled by his older self who stood to his left as he spoke. "We're you."

"You're not me," the suited Trunks replied flatly before his eyes glanced between the pair. "You look like the one from the future that everyone used to tell me about." He paused a moment while his cold gaze scanned the pair. "You certainly look like you come from some downtrodden and defeated apocalypse."

"So after I went back to the past and changed things," the older, long-haired Trunks spoke, "you're the result of those changes." His voice indicated it wasn't a question, but rather an observation.

"Yeah I guess you could say that," the suited Trunks replied, still staring down the other two with a look of disbelief.

"Clearly you had more of father's influence," the long-haired Trunks replied.

"Well whatever the hell you've done," the suited Trunks cut back in, "you've interrupted me on a very important day. I was just about to go to a meeting with the major shareholders. Mom and I have developed a new commercial spacecraft, the first of its kind, and we need to get the shareholders on board to approve the capital expenditure associated with beginning production," he finished quickly. After a moment passed and he saw no sign of recognition on the faces of his counterparts, he added, "We're talking trillions of zeni on the line here."

"I didn't bring us here," the long haired Trunks responded tersely, "I'm just trying to get us out."

"By what, joining hands and singing?" suited-Trunks shot back, shifting his weight on his feet and placing his right hand on his hip.

Long haired-Trunks glared. "You got any better ideas, smartass?" he countered as equally irritated as his designer suited doppelganger.

"Look, I'm sorry," Trunks finally cut in and stepped forward toward his more business oriented self. "But we have to fix this, we don't have a choice," he added.
The CEO he spoke to rolled his eyes slowly before bringing them back to meet Trunks's gaze. "All right. What do we need to do?"

Trunks was almost afraid to answer. "I-I don't know," he said, and the man he was speaking to groaned and looked away momentarily. "But we have to do anything, everything," Trunks continued. "If we don't, we'll be stuck here forever," he added on, hoping he'd interpreted Kronos correctly when she said things would be frozen for eternity. At the rate this was going, he didn't want to be stuck with these guys—and whoever else—for all time.

Suited-Trunks laughed darkly and shifted on his feet before returning his gaze to the two men who stood before him. "Leave it to our family to break the space-time continuum," he said with a slightly less irritated smirk. "So if you don't know how to fix it, then what's the plan?" he asked.

"You felt the other energies," Trunks's older, long haired self answered for him. This version of him was more confident than he was, and Trunks was glad that so far he at least had one version of himself that was on his side. Trunks mentally groaned; the paradoxes were almost becoming too much to bear. "We'll gather everyone up. I don't know if that will do anything," he elaborated, "but we're the only ones here. There must be a reason for that."

"Fine," the CEO grunted as he checked his watch for the third time during this conversation. It still hadn't moved; his face soured as a result. He looked back up to the other two versions of himself. "Let's go," he said plainly with an almost imperceptible nod.

A few minutes later, the three men landed on the ground not far from another Trunks, though this was one was considerably younger than the others. He was hunched over, and crying, and before anyone could identify anything about him, they heard him mumble one word in between sobs: "Gohan."

Nobody made a move for a long minute, and finally the busy CEO spoke up. "Hey kid, we don't have time for your crybaby bullshit," he started but stopped once an arm shot out in front of his chest. His eyes traveled up the arm to see to a slightly younger version of himself with long hair and their eyes met.

"Do not talk to him that way," long haired Trunks ground out through clenched teeth and glared at his overly dressed counterpart. CEO-Trunks merely grunted in response before taking his gaze away. He didn't have the patience for this crap, anyway.

Meanwhile, Trunks slowly approached a younger version of himself. "Hey," he said softly as he stood next to himself and set a hand on the teenager's shoulder, who was still crouched down with his head in his hands.

"They killed Gohan," he managed to say between sobs. "They killed him, and I wasn't there," his voice cracked and he broke into heavy sobs again. It was hard for Trunks to watch, because he'd been in this exact situation once before, and honestly he wasn't sure how he'd gotten past it. For him, Gohan had died six years ago, but it may as well have been yesterday for how raw the wound still was.

"Hey, look at me," Trunks started, and moved to his left so he was standing in front of his teenaged self. He could now see the blood staining the clothes, and the memory started to come back to him. He remembered that day all too well, and it would never leave him. As hard as it was to relive this memory in such a surreal way, he steeled his emotions. This version of him, basically a past version of himself, needed him right now. And he was going to step up to the plate, considering what was on the line.

Trunks's fourteen-year-old self finally dropped his hands from his face and looked up, his eyes red and tears streaming down his face. "Gohan wanted to protect you," Trunks said softly. "Because you have a very important job to do," he added. Never did he ever think he would have to console his past self after his master's death. But Kronos didn't see it coming either, so he didn't feel bad about it.

Trunks took a knee so he could be closer to eye level with his younger self. "You have to save everyone," he said plainly, staring earnestly into his younger self's eyes. "I'm not good at these kinds of things," he continued, in a slightly louder voice now. "But you've got to get up and keep going. Everyone's depending on you now," Trunks added. He stood up and held out his left hand toward his teenaged self.

The younger boy looked at Trunks's hand before glancing up to his face for a moment. He nodded and took Trunks's hand, and the elder helped him to his feet. Since he still had his younger self's hand in his grip, Trunks pulled him in and gave him a hug. Because he remembered just how he felt then, and thought a strong hug might help. It seemed to have had a positive effect, because when his younger self stepped back, his tears were already drying. Trunks didn't need to say anything else; his younger self seemed to understand everything with a long moment of eye contact.

Long haired Trunks turned his glare back on his semi-formally dressed counterpart. "You didn't have to go through that," he said, their eyes clashing. "Be thankful," he finished.

"Fair enough," the CEO of Capsule Corporation replied, his voice losing its cutting edge from earlier. Having seen what just happened, it jogged memories of his mother telling him about the bleak future that would never be. Perhaps his alternate self was right, and he could show a little more sympathy.

"All right," the twenty-eight year old said as the two youngest Trunks walked over to him. "One left."

Trunks turned as he felt the gathering approaching him. He already knew that those signatures were his own. Perhaps when he was younger and less skilled he would have misunderstood them. Perhaps these other versions of himself had done exactly that. He would find out shortly when they landed. He didn't know what was going on, but considering his mother had tried to make a time machine several decades ago, perhaps she had succeeded and now a mess had been made beyond any of their ability to comprehend.

The quartet landed from the sky a few meters away, and Trunks warily took them all in. One was a mere child, a second not much older. A third a little older than them, but probably in his mid-twenties, and the fourth and what he guessed was the oldest one, oddly wearing a semi-formal suit. Well, they certainly weren't reflections of his past, considering that in his forty-nine years of existence, he was certain he'd never worn a suit.

Before any of them had a chance to say or do anything, Trunks spoke first. "My mother had talked about building a time machine," he said as he slowly walked toward the group. When he stopped walking, he finished his thought with the most pertinent question on his mind. "So which one of you created this mess?"

The two he gauged to be in the middle in terms of age glanced to one another before the older one spoke. "I'm not sure. The time machine hasn't been complete in his time," he motioned to the child, "and it doesn't exist in his," he finished while nodding to the one in a suit.

"And the time machine doesn't exist in my time, as my mother was killed before she could complete it," Trunks answered the question he was certain they were wondering about. "Which leaves you two."

Trunks swallowed thickly. This much older version of himself had let his hair hang loose until it was wrapped into a braid that began at his shoulderblades and continued down to his hips. He looked significantly more battle scarred than any of the other iterations of himself. And it made sense, since he just said his mother had been killed before she finished the time machine. Which could have been when he was still a child and unable to defend himself against the androids.

He sensed that his slightly older self was about to say something, so he gritted his teeth and stepped forward. "It was me," Trunks blurted out. He only let a few silent seconds hang in the air before he filled the void with his own voice. "I died. In the past," he clarified. "Apparently if you die outside your own universe you don't go to the afterlife," he finished, his voice quieting slightly at the end of his sentence.

The oldest Trunks smirked. "Of course our family would be the one to break time," he said with mirth.

"That's what I said," the CEO among them added, feeling rather justified.

The oldest man among them turned his attention back to the one who had 'broken time', as he put it. "My mother was killed by the androids when I was seven years old," he explained. "Gohan and I trained extensively until we were finally able to defeat the androids. A few years later, the Earth was invaded by an alien military force. After some intense fighting, we successfully negotiated a treaty with them," he said nonchalantly. The scar over his left eyebrow and the scar peeking out from his shirt, leading down to his chest said plenty about the type of life he had lived.

"Was it the Republic?" the twenty-eight year old version of Trunks questioned with concern.

The eldest Trunks looked upon his younger self warily. "It was. You know of it," he stated, not asking but rather taking note of this information. That was interesting; so at least one of these kids lived a life closer to his than he expected. He thought for a moment, and opened his mouth to speak.

"I don't think we have a lot of time," Trunks cut in, interrupted two of the three older versions of himself. Despite Kronos saying they would be frozen forever, he didn't think he had just as long to fix the issue. After all, she had said his soul would disintegrate in a few days if he had stayed where he landed. But he wasn't there anymore, so who knew how long they truly had?

"So what do you propose that we do?" the eldest Trunks asked as his eyes narrowed at one of the younger versions of himself. His voice carried a harshness to it that indicated he was none too pleased to be interrupted.

Thoughts raced in Trunks's head. Kronos asked him to fix this, he was the one who broke it, but what exactly happened? Were these reflections of himself across time real, or merely his head playing games? Did his soul fall into water and drown? If so, where was he now? "I don't know—" Trunks started but was cut off.

Twenty-eight year old Trunks set his right hand on Trunks's left shoulder and opened his mouth to speak, but was caught off guard when a blue light emanated from the hand he set on his younger counterpart's shoulder. Everyone stopped and stared, and the older Trunks removed his hand from the younger. The light disappeared when the contact was severed, and they all continued to stare in stunned silence.

"Everyone," the twenty-eight year old spoke, "join hands."

A few moments later, the five men stood in a loose circle and began to join hands. When each set of hands clasped together, that same blue glowing light was generated by the contact. Trunks held on tight to his fourteen year old self on his right, and his twenty-eight year old self on his left. When the last pair of hands joined, that of the eldest two Trunks, the world around them turned blue and wind rushed up from underneath them.

Trunks glanced around, and noticed the outline of a blue rectangle forming around each of his other selves. The wind increased, and the ground beneath their feet started to glow that same eerie shade of blue as the rectangles. Suddenly the rectangle flipped around the eldest Trunks, rotating on an invisible axis down the center. It only spun once, and when it did he disappeared. Trunks watched as the same thing happened one-by-one to the other three, before he was suddenly left alone. He closed his eyes as his head started to feel like it was filling with water. Hopefully they had done something right, because at the rate Trunks was going he feared he would only make things worse.

Trunks gasped and opened his eyes. He stayed still for only a moment before he sat up, looking down at his chest to see a hole in his Saiyan armor, his long hair falling into his vision. He swallowed, his throat extremely dry, and looked up to see the ghostly image of Kronos standing at his feet. His eyes met hers for a split second, before she turned and walked away from him, her image disappearing entirely.

As Trunks blinked and stared at the ground where her feet where moments ago, his friends and comrades in the fight against the androids and Cell started speaking to him in excited tones. He couldn't hear their words, his mind was in another place. Was everything he had experienced real? Clearly he had died. The sky was artificially dark due to the summoning of the dragon balls, something he had never seen before but had been described to him. It wasn't until his mother ran over and hugged him that he finally tuned into them.

And whenever anyone asked about what happened when he died, he would always say the same thing.


A/N Thanks for reading! Please leave a review to let us know what you think.

-SilviaS7 for Team Dragon Star