*Used with permission*
Decidedly, there would be no end to surprises that day, the girls thought at finding their helicopter gracefully parked at Capsule Corp. They stepped out, their ears finally having quit popping at the differences in altitude, and followed Vegeta and Goten to the front door.
They were greeted by Mrs. Briefs, as always. “Hello, dears, it’s good to see you as yourselves again. How nice to bring your new friends,” she told them cheerfully.
“Actually, we have a project for Bulma and your other half,” Vegeta told her as they followed her in.
Overhearing and much relieved, Bulma joined them in the living room along with Trunks, also home for the summer. “Thank the gods,” she declared. Trunks nodded in agreement, glancing warily at the girls.
Gohan and Videl were also seated in the spacious room, equally relieved. “Welcome back, bros.” Gohan clapped them on the shoulder.
“Believe me, we’re glad to be back,” Goten confirmed dramatically. He handed Videl her bags with an apologetic grin. “Sorry, some is missing because, well…”
“Understood,” Videl assured him, stiffling a snicker.
Introductions were made, and the two girls stuck by their ‘no more questions’ mantra. Bulla and Pan rushed in to greet them, latching onto their respective father and uncle while the situation was explained at length.
“Okay, I see.” Bulma glanced at Vegeta, understanding their motive but saying nothing. “But, where did you discover such a strange plant?” she asked the girls.
“On a class expedition to a tropical rainforest,” Jordan explained, “We wanted to know what was so forbidden about the plant. When we found the alcaloids it contained, we found our way to finish college. We used our bribe money – that our professor told us to bring – to smuggle it back. Only we have no means of legitimate research on the campus.”
“Interesting,” Dr. Briefs muttered to no one in particular, discretely observing the college girls, who did not otherwise fit the profile of drug dealers.
“It also gives you wierd dreams,“ Ashley added, “I dreamt of a pink monster that turned everyone into chocolate and ate them. Crazy, huh?”
The Z-gang exchanged astonished looks. “Yeah… crazy,” Trunks agreed, looking expectantly at his mother.
Bulma had been thinking the whole time. “The company needs more help in the chemical department,” she told the girls, “I’m definitely interested in what that plant is really for, and I think jobs at Capsule Corp would look much better on your résumés. Certainly the police will close the case, knowing research is in our hands. What do you say?”
“You would do that for us?” The girls exchanged astonished looks, accustomed to getting by on their own for so long.
“Just think of it as a win-win situation,” the family scientist assured them. Her father nodded approvingly.
Pan and Bulla curiously approached Ashley and Jordan. “Can you turn us into boys, then?” Pan wanted to know, “Our dads say we need to get stronger.”
Vegeta and Goten turned pale, looking equally horrified. “NO!” they shouted in unison.
“Everyone is staying exactly as they are,” Vegeta declared firmly, “No.More.Trouble.”
“Speaking of trouble,” Gohan told them, “We’ve held Mom off as long as we could. She suspects something’s up, so you’d better go see her soon. Like, today.”
Goten grinned. “You’re right. This is where we came in.” He looked at Vegeta, who nodded, suddenly very eager to leave.
Goodbyes were said, and the girls watched the two of them fly away as casually as birds. “Drunk or not, I told you they’re aliens,” Ashley muttered to Jordan.
The other future chemist blinked. “Yes, you did,” she remembered, hesitating, “Well, Bulma and her father aren’t, Gohan’s wife isn’t, and Mrs. Briefs is nice, but I’m not sure about her.”
They nodded, agreeing for a final time, “No more questions.”
Goten flew with Vegeta toward the familiar mountain near the Sons’ home, in no hurry, but in heavy silence. It left the demi Saiyan perplexed, finding silent refuge normal for himself, but not for Vegeta. Perhaps it was hypocritical, but it was how he thought. Useless, then, to insist.
Finally, he paused in midair to ask Goten, “Bring any water?”
Goten reached into his backpack for a fresh litre bottle, and handed it to him. Vegeta took a drink that did not suggest actual thirst, then floated down to a small wooded area.
Goten followed, watching him lean against a tree in thought. He glanced sidelong at Goten. “I’ve always told you the truth about things you don’t remember, or didn’t see.”
“Well, yeah.” Goten waited patiently for what he obviously could not say in front of the rest of the gang, with two possible newbies.
“Majin Buu didn’t kill their parents,” Vegeta began, “Nor did the other Buu. Given their whereabouts, I killed them.”
Goten was quiet now, in thought. Indeed, he’d told him that whole story, as well as the rest of his past. Though, the number of people in the stadium could have been literally anyone, including their own families. It was also true that statistics were one thing, people one knows quite another. As he’d thought, he felt responsable for them. “But Vegeta, everyone you killed was also brought back. They’re either mistaken, or were told otherwise.”
“They were the same age as you and Trunks,” Vegeta reminded him grimly, “Did you forget anything that happened when you were conscient?”
“No,” Goten recalled, “I also remember what my dad told us he knew from the afterlife. If someone can’t be brought back, it’s because it was their time to go. No mortal can know that.“
“Right, no mortal,” Vegeta underlined.
They’d barely had time to turn around when the skies darkened suddenly, and Shenron appeared before them. “Greetings, Saiyans,” his deep voice echoed around them, “You’re becoming quite predictable. But the younger of you is correct, the people you spoke of cannot be brought back for two reasons: too much time has passed, and it was indeed their time to leave your world.”
“We know they can’t,” Vegeta replied flatly, disliking his intelligence being insulted by mortal or otherwise, “All I want is the truth.”
“The truth, in this circle of destiny… shut your eyes, so that you may see for yourselves.” Shenron waved his claw, surrounding them with clouds of mist so thick they couldn’t see their hands before their faces.
“What?” Vegeta demanded in confusion.
“Just do it,” Goten mumbled, doing the same.
They found themselves, accompanied by the dragon in their mind’s eyes, back in time and at the stadium, invisible as air. Seated at the very top row were two unmistakable little girls with magenta red and pink hair respectively, each beside an adult woman with the same hair color. With them were two men with brown hair, presumably their fathers, and two other couples with a slight ressemblance, decidedly their aunts and uncles. The adults watched impatiently with binoculars while the girls played, hearing the announcer’s voice drone for the crowd’s patience.
The scene flashed to Babidi with Dabura, who pointed at Vegeta. “That one… his heart is as black as mine.”
Vegeta’s apparent struggle, a calligraphic ’M’ appearing on his forehead. An unnatural Super Saiyan glow. Echoes. From the past, “I will never be controlled again!” to the scene’s present time, “Fool. Think what you will.”
A wave of Babidi’s hand, projecting Vegeta and Goku to the center ring.“Vegeta, no!” But Goku’s voice was too late to stop a large ball of ki from his gloved hand, demolishing a whole sector of the stadium.
Not many on the smoking stadium had survived the blast, but two women who were clearly the girls’ mothers clung to a last crumbling precipice. Their uncles struggled to grab their hands while steadying their own wives.
“Dad! Mom!” both girls screamed endlessly, held back from the ledge by their aunts. By some fast moves, their fathers managed to surface, grasping their wives’ arms. They would have made it, but the ledge was crumbling fast.
“Run! Run, and don’t look back!”
Then their parents were gone. The girls were scooped up, screaming, by an aunt and and uncle who brought them to safety, which was the end of the small girls’ memories until the somber funerals.
They looked on at the next scene, Piccolo holding the unconscient forms of Goten and Trunks, seeing Vegeta’s resolute look.
– “It’s my obligation now, Piccolo. Do you think I have a chance of joining Kakarot on the other side?”
– “I doubt that, Vegeta. You’ve killed too many people to finish elsewhere than hell.”
– “If that is my destiny, then so be it.”
He’d been sure of his final sacrifice, which had come to naught.
“I knew I kept him around for good reason,” Yama’s voice echoed.
“There is one alternate reality that you should witness,” Shenron continued, and the scene changed.
Again much before Goku and Majin!Vegeta were projected to the tournament, the same scene played out as before, save one decisive turn of events.
Ashley’s uncle lowered his binoculars, at the end of his patience. “I say we leave,” he said to his family, “This is crap.” All the adults agreed, so he told the girls, “Go get my son. We’re leaving.”
“Can we go to the park instead?” Jordan asked hopefully.
“Sure,” her mother agreed, “We can watch the grass grow.” The rest of them laughed, and when the girls returned with Ashley’s disappointed cousin, they left in their shared suburban minivan.
Due to the number of spectators who’d decided the same, they were caught in a traffic jam.
“Great. Our only day off, and we missed the game for this,” Jordan’s father complained, annoyed by the uselessly blaring horns. “Ah, finally,” he exclaimed at finding an opening.
Majin Buu appeared, hovering above the highway, and blasted a hole in the middle of it.
“Shit!” he swerved to avoid a wrecked car, only to collide into a jack-knifed semi truck, sending the van down the yawning chasm in the road. The van exploded on impact, instantly killing all of its occupants.
Beyond time and space, Vegeta and Goten watched, horrified at endless replays of similar outcomes.
“Surely there was another way!” Goten exclaimed, able to see none.
“What happened was the only way,” Shenron told them, “The young women have an important destiny, and I can only assure you that you acted correctly.”
“Because of that plant?” Vegeta asked, confounded.
“Perhaps that, or where it leads them, but they’re in the right place,” Shenron concluded, “These visions are almost never shown, but it was what you must see, and only you. I trust you require nothing else before I take my leave?”
“No,” Vegeta replied simply.
“No, thank you,” Goten agreed.
“Very well. Follow my instructions to the letter. Keep your eyes shut, and don’t open them, whatever happens, until all is still again. Understood?” They both nodded. “Good. Farewell, Saiyans; now, go visit your mother.”
“What? My m–” Vegeta’s voice was cut off, and the next thing they knew, he and Goten felt themselves to be hurtling downward fast, in a brutal freefall without their instinctive ability to fly. It would seem ridiculous, as their feet should be firmly on the ground, yet somehow it was so. They did not particularly care to look anyway, unable to make a sound, each only clutching tightly onto the other for what seemed a huge, rugged distance.
Finally, there was an almost physical yet painless thud, and they felt solid ground beneath them again. Still, they remained clung to each other as they had been, their eyes screwed firmly shut, until they were sure they were no longer moving, aware of the afternoon sunlight around them.
Warily they opened their eyes, awkwardly loosening their mutual grip, and sat on the ground, partially disoriented.
“You okay?” Goten ventured.
Vegeta nodded. “You?”
“Yeah.” Goten found his water bottle near his backpack, and took a drink. Vegeta still saw the need to prove himself, he thought. Because… well, he was Vegeta, he decided amusedly.
The latter picked up his thought, casting him a sharp look. “What?”
Goten grinned. “Nothing.” He gave him a quick kiss and stood up. “Come on, before we face the wrath of Majin!Mom.”
Vegeta followed him and shook his head. “‘Majin!Mom,’” he muttered, but squeezed his shoulder with a smile because he was wearing his name T-shirt. It was getting worn out and should probably be replaced. But he knew he wouldn’t, as it was his favorite, too.
The duo arrived at the Sons’ dome house, hanging their alibi on the fishing line, and Goten knocked five times in his unique rhythm. “Mom, we’re home,” he announced cheerfully before they entered. “Mom?” The house was small, and there was no sign of ChiChi.
“She must have gone out,” Vegeta guessed. Goten nodded, figuring they could wait for her, when they heard a noise from outside.
They followed the sounds to the back yard, in time to see ChiChi move from a Tai Chi form to a punch and double roundhouse kick with coordinated kiai, splintering three stacks of sturdy boards.
Vegeta looked on in astonishment, but Goten only said, “Oh. Sorry to bother you.”
ChiChi turned around, her face lighting up. “There you are!” She rushed over and took their arms happily.
“You still train?” Vegeta asked as they went inside, looking questioningly at Goten.
“I thought you knew,” Goten shrugged off.
“Of course,” ChiChi replied, as though it should be obvious, then scolded, “Where in the hell have you been? Gohan said you were away, but something sounded fishy. And your phone was off the hook, by the noise it made.”
“Yeah… it must’ve fell,” Goten improvised, “And we were on a fishing trip. Why the worry?”
“Well. Congratulations if you dragged him out for that long.” She cuffed Vegeta’s head, making him grin. “I hope you brought me a lot, since I’ll be cooking for an army today.”
“Ma’am, outside and cleaned, ma’am,” Goten replied with a salute.
“Good. Now, sit down and tell me about your trip.” She set out two cups of tea as they sat down. “But first, promise you’ll tell me if you leave for so long again.”
“Okay, promise,” Goten conceded, whispering to Vegeta, “And I promise not to traumatize you with another nightclub.”
Vegeta glanced sidelong at him with a raised eyebrow. “Really?” Goten nodded with a discrete smile. “Very good,” he replied in a way that made Goten blush.
“Vegeta, sit up straight,” ChiChi corrected automatically as she brought her own tea cup.
“Yes, Mother,” Vegeta replied dryly, smiling at the amount of food already cooking in the oven.
“Much better.” ChiChi sat down, satisfied, “So, about your trip.”