[ Contents | XXIX. Converging Paths | XXX. Reunion | XXXI. Cacodemon Rising ]


By Dragoness Eclectic



The floor rushed up to meet Sean very, very fast. Oh God, this is going to hurt--

He stopped. Suddenly. Six feet above the stone-paved floor. Someone's hand was locked around his ankle. Sean looked up along the length of his body.

Commander Kale smirked down at him. There was nothing ghostly about him now; he was fully visible and quite substantial. He stood on nothing but air, holding Sean without any sign of strain.


Kale's smirk deepened into a cruel smile. "You're not getting away from me that quickly! Once you're dead, I can't touch you--you haven't been judged yet. I will pay you back for the trouble you've caused me before you die!"

"KILL THAT THING!" Kale and Sean both turned to look; the King of the Saiyajin rose from this throne pointing toward them. Kale's eyes narrowed, and he flung himself and Sean to one side--

Black wings spread wide, Deputy-Voron alighted on the floor below the rift and laughed. "FOOLS! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU FACE!"

Turles and three other white-cloaked guardsmen landed between the king and the demon. There was an evil glint in Turles's eye as power gathered in his hand; the other three extended their hands, palms toward the black-winged demon.

Deputy-Voron smirked and crossed his arms in front of him. "SHIELD!" he cried, just as the blasts from the three Saiyajin hit him.

Dust settled; the horned demon was still there, smirking over crossed arms. "Is that all?"

Turles smirked; he'd held back, expecting this result. "Try this, demon!" He hurled the ball of energy, steering it into the waiting demon. A huge cloud of dust and smoke expanded out from where the demon had been...

..And slowly cleared, revealing the demon sneering contemptously. "Pathetic." Deputy-Voron lowered his arms. "Is it my turn yet?"

King Vegeta leaped forward with an inarticulate scream of rage, power gathering in each hand. "ALL OF YOU--ATTACK!"

White fire screamed down toward the demon as all the Saiyajin hurled power at the demonic corpse.

*      *      *      *

In the room above, Sinhika grabbed futilely for Sean's foot as he fell through the rift; Prince Khara grabbed his sister by both ankles as she tried to dive after him. "NO! YOU MUST NOT!" he yelled.


"SILENCE, BOTH OF YOU!" snarled Piccolo, who looked past Sinhika to the scene unfolding in Hell. "GOHAN, GET NEZUMI OUT OF HERE, NOW! THIS WHOLE PLACE IS ABOUT TO GO!" The powerful Namek simply grabbed one Rakshasa under each arm and hurtled back out the window he'd come in.

Gohan saw Piccolo fleeing as his words registered; the young Saiyajin grabbed Nezumi around the waist and fled out the window close on Piccolo's heels.

White fire exploded out of the rift behind him--and burst outward, blowing the building apart. The old building seemed to hang in mid-air for a second, and then collapsed--only to disappear in a tremendous ball of flame as a second, larger explosion spread from the rift.

"What was that??" Gohan's eyes were huge.

"The Saiyan king tried to fight Deputy," Piccolo said shortly.

*      *      *      *

As the Saiyajin hurled their attacks at Deputy-Voron, Kale punched a hole in the nearest wall and tossed Sean through it. "Stay out of trouble!" Kale hissed, and turned to join the fray.

Deputy-Voron crossed his arms again, this time holding his palms outward. "REFLECTION!"

The barrage of white fire struck--and rebounded, each attack returning to its originator.

BOOOM! The entire back wall of the throne room exploded as the combined power of King Vegeta, Sullion and Turles smashed back into them. Dust and stone came crashing down all around.

The smoke cleared to reveal a shimmering translucent hemisphere of energy protecting the Saiyan king and the two warriors. King Vegeta glared with hate at the mocking demon, and, with a gesture, dispelled the shield he had raised. "TAKE HIM!" The king himself charged the winged thing, Sullion and Turles at his side. Kale plunged in from one side, sword drawn.

Deputy-Voron flexed his wings and snarled, baring his long fangs. "My turn."

A snap of his wings and the demon was airborne, slamming down on Commander Kale from above. He dodged Kale's awkward thrust upward and smashed his heel into the Saiyajin's throat. Kale flipped backwards and crashed to the floor, neck broken. He would be the least injured of them, and would soon heal.

Energy gathered in Deputy-Voron's hand as King Vegeta, his shieldman Sullion, and Turles closed in. Black, red and yellow sparks crawled over the demon's clawed hand. Suddenly, he drew his arm back and pitched the ball of dark lightnings straight toward King Vegeta--

"EVISCERATOR!" The thing churned through the air; Turles was the first to try and fend it off, only to stagger back with half his hand torn away. Sullion's eyes widened in horror, and he shoved King Vegeta violently away, then jumped between his King and the churning ball of dark energy as it turned to follow.

"AAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHhhhhhhhhhh!!!" A scream of utter agony came from Sullion as the ball of dark lightnings struck him and exploded, each spark piercing his spirit, tearing through him and shredding him into a bloody mist of broken power and shattered spirit. His scream slowly faded away into an infinite distance as the mist dispersed.

"Sullion!" King Vegeta stared in horror at the place where his faithful shieldman had been destroyed.

Deputy-Voron howled his laughter. "Prepare to join him, for the few short days your next incarnation shall have to live before Chaos devours the universe!" He raised his hand, dark power gathering once again.

Turles grabbed the king with his uninjured arm and bolted for the nearest opening. He turned as the wicked crackle of an eviscerator sphere reached his ears--it was right behind them! In desperation, he blasted the sphere itself--

KRAK-BOOM! It exploded with an ugly harsh noise--bringing down what remained of the righthand wall.. on top of them.

*      *      *      *

On the burning plains of Hell, armies clashed. Chaos monsters had been flung far and wide by the catastrophic implosion of the vortex in the Pit of Worms--even in Hell, what goes up generally must come down. Broo and less describeable things crashed down into the ranks of Rakshasa demons that followed Prince Indrajit--and battle was joined.

The invisible demons fought the exotic, twisted powers of Chaos as the broo battled desperately to survive. The blood of the dead flowed freely, and broken spirits turned to mist, fading away until they regained power, or were reborn in the Wheel of Life.

Prince Indrajit cut a swath through the broo legions as he rode them down and smote them with his great steel sword, or picked them off with a storm of enchanted arrows. Beside him, the Saiyan Captain Zorn fought with a joyous fury he'd nearly forgotten, breaking monsters with his bare hands when they got close enough, obliterating them from a distance with raw power if they did not. He grinned like a madman; it was the best fight he'd seen in decades--and only the second good fight since his death so many years ago.

A momentary lull in the battle--and another Rakshasa, garbed in silver armor like Indrajit, suddenly appeared in the chariot beside Zorn.

"What the--? Have a care, demon! I nearly destroyed you!" Zorn exclaimed, angry at being startled.

The newcomer looked him over cooly with deep sapphire-blue eyes. "No danger of that," the Rakshasa noble stated, and then turned to Prince Indrajit.

"Though this be an ill time for thee, I have great need of thy chariot, my nephew. As it was before, will you give it to me?"

Prince Indrajit bowed. "As I promised, you need only ask. I know thy purpose; may Lord Narayana ride with you and defend you!" The Rakshasa Prince looked over at Captain Zorn. "Come with me; the god's gift is given to King Vibishana." Indrajit stepped down from the chariot, taking his sword and bow with him.

Zorn scowled--but his orders were to follow Indrajit, not Indrajit's chariot or the mysterious Rakshasa King, so he, too, got down.

King Vibishana signed that Indrajit's charioteer should also dismount.

"Who will drive for thee, uncle?" asked Prince Indrajit.

"I will be the charioteer.. for a mightier warrior than I." King Vibishana shook the reins, and the demon tigers spread their wings.

*      *      *      *

Bardock and half his team looked down on the burning plain, watching the battle below. Toma carried Trunks now, and Celipa carried Goten. Down below, Panboukin and Totepo fought monsters; Bardock watched as the two ouzaru squashed unnameable things and broo.

"We can't fly through that with the boys," he finally concluded. "The battle is too unpredictable; it would be too easy to get blindsided and lose them."

Toma looked at Bardock. "You're going to jaunt?"

"We are going to jaunt--but I'll carry the boys. If something goes wrong, the three of us will at least be in the same place." Bardock looked slightly worried.

"You're still against it, aren't you?" Toma noted.

"We still don't know if living mortals can be 'jaunted'--and my grandson is the last person I want to experiment with!"

"We don't have much choice," Celipa pointed out. "They can't stay here much longer--it's not exactly healthy--and we can't get past that battle any time soon. I don't like trying a jaunt out on them any more than you do, but..." She shrugged.

"Bardock..." Toma looked expectantly at his leader.

The scar-faced Saiyajin straightened visibly. "Here," he held his arms out for Trunks and Goten. "You know what has to be done, do it. I'll see you at the palace, on the balcony outside my chambers."

"Bye-bye," Goten waved to Celipa and Toma. Trunks waved to Celipa, too--then Bardock and the children vanished in a burst of sulfurous smoke.

Celipa looked at Toma. "What are you waiting for? Let's go." The two of them vanished as one, leaving only a puff of sulfurous smoke behind.

*      *      *      *

Raditz stopped abruptly in mid-air with a flash of released energy. "Goku!"

Goku overshot, circled back and halted beside him. Bulma looked from one brother to the other. "What's going on, guys?"

"Something has happened. Goten isn't ahead of us anymore," Raditz said abruptly. He looked expectantly at his brother.

"I can still sense Trunks.. and Goten.. but I can't tell the direction," Goku said, brow furrowed. "I still can't use Shukken Idou." Beads of sweat ran down his face; the awareness of so much evil bore down on him like a vast weight on his back.

After a moment, Raditz spoke. "They're behind us; back the way we came." His eyes widened. "Something is going on; someone's tossing power around in a big way--can you not feel it, little brother?"

"I feel it." Power flared around Goku, and the two brothers (plus Bulma) hurtled back the way they had come.

*      *      *      *

"What the HELL?" Bardock stared, shocked, at the ruin before him. Where his chambers had been was nothing but shattered stone and tumbled ruin. Something had blown apart the back third of the palace.

Trunks and Goten clung tightly to his neck, wide-eyed and trembling, though Trunks tried hard to hide it. Goten was not trembling from fear, however.

"Woooo! That was fun, Grandpa! Can I learn to do that?"

BAMF-BAMF! Celipa and Toma appeared, and nearly fell out of the sky; there was no balcony to support them as expected. Fortunately, it only took Toma an instant to recover his equilibrium and his dignity. He snapped a hand out and caught Celipa.

She was not amused. "I can fly, you moron!"

Toma was amused. "Of course you can, that's why you're wobbling like Sarada after a three-day drunk!"

Celipa glared at Toma, and then surged up past him, forcing him to let go or be dragged along like a fish hooked by a speedboat.

"What happened here?" she asked Bardock as he handed Trunks back to Celipa. The violet-haired boy seemed relieved to see Celipa again.

"I don't know. It looks like it spread from the rift." Still holding his grandson Goten, Bardock flew down to investigate.

Something winged stalked over the tumbled ruins of the throneroom, casually flipping multi-ton slabs of rock this way and that. Bardock could see several white-cloaked forms tumbled and broken amid the rubble--but no red cloak besides his own. Where was the king?

The winged thing looked up, revealing a human-like face--human, excepting the black backward-curving horns and the lurid crimson eyes. Long black hair framed the pale cold face; narrow lips curved up in a cruel smile.

"So the children live yet, in this realm! My mistake; when they left the living world, I thought them dead." The demon spoke in a soft, yet carrying voice. "A mistake soon remedied!" Dark power gathered in Deputy-Voron's hand.

Goten whimpered almost involuntarily. "Bad thing!"

"TOMA! TAKE GOTEN--YOU AND CELIPA GET OUT OF HERE!" Bardock yelled, thrusting a suddenly terrified Goten into his sub-leader's arms.

"EVISCERATOR!" Another deadly ball of black, red and yellow lightnings hurtled from Deputy-Voron's claws, straight towards the three of them.

Bardock darted forward, interposing himself between the oncoming attack and his grandson. He raised his arms, preparing to block the dark ball lightning.

"Nooooo! You can't stop it that way!" A high-pitched yell from behind him--not Celipa. Who? "Let go of me!"

"OOF! Hey, get back here!" That was Celipa!

ZACK! A ki blast flashed down, striking the oncoming ball, exploding it-- KRAK-BOOM!

What the--? Bardock risked a glance behind him; Trunks! The king's grandson hovered slightly above and behind Bardock.

"Youcan'tstopitthatway--Gohan nearly got killed when the Opawang threw one at him!" Trunks yelled, the words running together in his desperate hurry. "You have to blow them up--they can't be blocked!"

"Wretched child! Now I know why the Opawang included YOU in his death-curse!" Deputy-Voron snarled. "Die, bastard brat of a dead prince!" The demon flung his hand out and a beam of pure white power blasted out, straight for Trunks.

Trunks froze, paralyzed with fear at the tremendous power of the oncoming attack--

BOOOMMMM! Another third of the palace vanished as the blast hit and detonated; a tremendous cloud of smoke and dust billowed outward.

"DAMN YOU INTERFERING SAIYAJIN!" Deputy-Voron cursed as the smoke cleared to reveal Bardock standing on air between the demon and Trunks, his singed arms crossed in a ki-block. Celipa and Toma, still holding Goten, hovered nearby.

Bardock smirked. "We already are."

"If pure power will not destroy you, I will rip you apart with my bare hands!" The demon snarled and sped toward them with a snap of its black wings, moving with deceptive speed.

Bardock darted through the air to meet it; they met in a flurry of blows. Both figures whirled and struck too fast for even Toma's experienced eye to follow--

--and sprang apart, facing each other in midair. Bardock wiped a trickle of blood from his forehead; the others could see long slashes where the demon's claws had marked him. His determination was unshaken, but there was a tension not present before; the demon was fast--very fast.

Voron's leather coat was tattered and torn; pale dead flesh gleamed through the many rents in his clothes. Deputy-Voron's body was unmarked by Bardock--but not unscathed. Dead skin drew tight over the bones; his flesh seemed sunken and withered.

Bardock's eyes narrowed as he marked the changes; he gave a low laugh. "Just finding out your limitations, demon? That's the problem with undead corpses--they're so fragile. The strain of containing your own power is destroying you." He smirked. "I can keep this up all day--or all year."

"Can you?" sneered Deputy-Voron. "You did not touch me--and I marked you, stole your power. Every drop you bleed makes me stronger!" The undead demon-sorceror grinned.

Bardock did not answer, but watched the demon silently as a ball of energy formed in his right hand. Without a word, he hurled the ki sphere straight at Deputy-Voron.

"ABSORPTION!" The demon held up his hands cupped together, facing toward Bardock; a black aura glimmered around him. Bardock's attack struck the demon square on--

--and vanished as if it were never there. The demon laughed.

"Hey! That's what the Opawang did to Gohan!" Trunks exclaimed from somewhere behind Bardock.

Bardock smirked again, noting the further changes in Deputy-Voron's corpse-form. The demon's face was even more corpse-like than before, and his hands were nearly skeletal, mummified skin pulled tight over bones.

Deputy-Voron snarled, "It amuses you to keep feeding me your power? Do you think to overload me, burn me out? FOOL! You still have no idea what you face! This body is but a temporary shell I do not need anymore! What I NEED is your power and those brats' lives!"

With a savage scream the demon dove toward Bardock--only to swerve abruptly in mid-air, as a katana chopped halfway through its shoulder. Deputy-Voron spiralled down, one wing nearly chopped away, dried severed bones protruding from rotten skin.

A white-cloaked Saiyajin hovered above it, grinning evilly--Commander Kale! "Taste the power of the Saiyajin, monster!" Katana at guard, the Saiyan noble dove in pursuit of the demon.

"Watch out! He's faster than he looks--" Bardock tried to warn Kale.

Deputy-Voron howled in rage and ripped away the broken wing as he dropped to the floor. As Commander Kale closed in, katana raised for a decapitating blow, the Chaos demon whipped around and, faster than Kale could move, plunged one clawed hand through armor and bone to grab the dead warrior's heart. A look of bewildered surprise crossed Kale's face, as if he could not believe what was happening--

"I do not 'taste' the power of the Saiyajin, fool--I drink it down to the dregs!" snarled the demon--just before he crushed Kale's heart.

A brief cry, abruptly stilled, and Kale was no more; only the faint mist of a broken, powerless spirit lingered for a few moments before it, too, was gone.

Bardock Defiant

Deputy-Voron turned to face the three remaining Saiyajin and the children. "Now his power is mine, along with that of those other fools who got in my way. Leave the children behind, Saiyajin, and you might be able to run fast enough to get away while I'm.. busy with them."

"I died protecting my world from a monster like you, demon! What makes you think I've changed?" Bardock said with cold contempt. Behind him, Toma shifted Goten to his back, putting his body between the demon and the boy. Likewise, Celipa put herself in front of Trunks. No fear, only determination could be seen in Saiyan eyes.

"If the three of you are so noble, why, then, are you in Hell??" Energy gathered in both of the demon's clawed hands. "Please command them to run again. I am far faster than they are and they are so much weaker than I..." Deputy-Voron laughed nastily; one bare cheekbone jutted through his disintegrating skin. "You are their only hope. Let me put an end to hope."

The demon raised his skeletal hands, cradling a brilliant ball of energy in each one. Bardock could feel the power seething in them, power many times his own. Deputy-Voron laughed mockingly.

"Time to despair!" He hurled the ki spheres at Bardock.

NO! Not again! Not like Frieza--

Paft! Paft! ... BOOOMMM! BOOMMM! Both spheres deflected away, to explode harmlessly high above in the non-sky of Hell.

Bardock suddenly found himself staring at a terribly familiar, broad, orange-clad back. His dead heart leaped; Bardock knew this form so like his own, he had seen it in so many visions, in life and afterwards...


His son--his son!--turned his head just enough to see Bardock. "Yes." The corners of his mouth quirked up in a hint of a smile. "You're my father, aren't you? I saw you on Namek."

"DADDY! NUNK RATS!" Goten's shout rang off the stones.

"Little brother, Father, can we postpone the reunion for just a few more minutes?" Raditz's familiar, slightly sarcastic voice cut in. "We have a slight problem to deal with."

Bardock glanced up; his long-haired eldest son hovered slightly above and to the right of his brother, wearing strange new black and white armor. Kakarott and Raditz were both alive and here, together! Fighting together--as they should have been from the beginning. Raditz grinned back at him. This is impossible, thought Bardock. I am in Hell.. How can I feel such joy??

"YIIIPE! Get your hands off my tail!" Celipa could be heard exclaiming indignantly from somewhere behind them.

"Sorry! It was an accident; Gohan is the only person as small as you to carry me in a long time, and he doesn't have a tail," came the voice of a woman Bardock did not know.

"RADITZ! SON GOKU!" Deputy-Voron snarled, less than pleased. "YOU CANNOT BE HERE!"

Raditz's eyes widened in surprise, and then narrowed; he recognized the startling non-power and glowing crimson eyes. "Deputy. You just don't know when to quit, do you?" He slowly drew his hands back. "LET ME TEACH YOU!"

"MAN--" Raditz summoned power in each hand--

"KI--" He brought his hands together--

"BATSU!" The stupendous, violet-edged beam of white power slashed down, straight into Deputy-Voron. The demon's form seared, withered and blew away, disintegrated in the blast of Raditz's power. Only a black mist remained.

The black mist coiled, twisted and grew, swelling into a huge, familiar demonic form. Horned, bat-eared dog head, long sinewy arms and shoulders covered with fur, narrow leathery wings, scaly dinosaurian legs and tail--the dark spirit of Deputy, Child of Cacodemon arose like a demonic phoenix.

"FOOL!" It flexed its great leathery wings. "DAMNED FOOLS ALL! You've set me free of that rotten shell--set me free in this realm of evil spirits and dark despair. DO YOU KNOW HOW POWERFUL I HAVE BECOME?" Deputy giggled. "LEARN--AND DIE!"

The great chaos demon crouched on its dinosaurian hindlegs and vomited fire at Goku and Raditz--and the children behind them.

"Oh, crud." Raditz crossed his arms to block the attack, knowing he didn't stand a chance, but trying anyway.

Bardock stared in silent horror at the monstrosity revealed by Raditz's attack. Joy turned to ashes; both his sons and his grandson and the king's grandson would surely die here--but not because he, Bardock, surrendered! As long as he had will and soul left...

Bardock darted up and back, sweeping Trunks and Toma, who carried Goten, out of harm's way--for the moment. Celipa, who carried a strange blue-haired woman, followed after Toma.

Deputy's firebolt struck, rebounded, and exploded, filling the shattered palace with sheets and darts of flame. A maelstrom of smoke and fire howled where Bardock and the others had been before he pulled them out of the way. Bardock took his wide-eyed, trembling grandson from Toma's arms and held him close, shielding the boy with his body.

The smoke finally cleared to reveal Goku standing between Deputy and the rest of them, one hand extended, smoking palm facing the huge demon.

Goku glanced up at Raditz and smiled fiercely. "My turn, big brother."

Muscles flexed and bulged as golden fire gathered around him, permeated his hair, charged it so that it stood on end and glowed with a blazing golden light, a light that surrounded him, seething with power. Turquoise eyes stared coldly at the monstrous chaos demon.

"Super-Saiyajin!" Bardock's awed exclamation seemed to echo around the broken palace.

"You don't get a fair chance to fight me--you've done too much evil," said the Super-Saiyajin Goku to Deputy.

"KA-" Hands cupped,

"ME-" drawn back,

"HA-" filled with power,

"ME-HA!" Goku hurled his magnificent ki attack straight into Deputy's jaws!

Deputy opened his eyes wide with shock, them something like fear contorted his bestial face. The great demon flung himself back and to side with a snap of his wings--

The Kamehameha turned to follow, and struck--

The demon exploded!

As the ball of seething energy expanded outward, consuming what little was left of the palace, Raditz fled the expanding fireball as it licked at his heels, while Goku retreated at a leisurely pace from his own attack.

At last the fire and smoke subsided, revealing a vast crater where half the palace had been. Deputy was gone--no. A barely visible wisp of black mist drifted at the bottom of the crater and slowly sleeped away.

Bardock watched with a cold smile. "You belong to Lord Enma, now." His voice was startlingly loud in the blasted palace, where nothing moved. Goku, Raditz and the others looked on in silence; a hot wind blew across ashes and dust...

CRASH! Everyone jumped as a stone trapdoor crashed open near the back of the ruined palace, pushed up from below.

Sean stuck his head up. "Is it safe to come out now?"

*      *      *      *

Bardock alighted, holding Goten; the little boy stared wonderingly at the golden-haired figure of his father. Bardock looked silently over Goten's head at his son Kakarott; what would he say to him? What could he say to the son he had rejected as a weakling, the son he had abandoned to find his own way on an alien world--the son who had become the greatest of all Saiyajin, in strength and in heart both?

Raditz told you what it meant to be sent to Earth as a mere infant--no one knows that I kept silent, condemned you to the ignominy of being sent away as a useless, expendable weakling, though I knew better. I knew better. I remember that last fleeting glance at you as I ran for my pod, when you had stopped crying and gotten angry at being ignored...

Goku touched gently down, facing Bardock silently. For once, Goku's heart could not guide him--it was the source of his hesitation. He didn't know how he felt about this golden-skinned Saiyajin. All his life, Goku had wondered where he came from and who his parents were; eight years ago, Raditz arrived and gave him horrifying answers to the mystery. After that, he'd wanted to know nothing more of his ancestors.. until Frieza.

Vegeta's pride, his courage in facing Frieza, and Frieza's cold malice and fear of the Saiyajin woke something in Goku--pride in and understanding of his heritage. Frieza had contemptuously boasted of killing this man before him, a boast that was meant to bring grief and despair--but Goku had never known his father, and did not care.. then.

Later, when he fell to his knees before Frieza, the last of his strength spent, then Vegeta, King Vegeta, and his father Bardock came from Hell and gave their strength to Goku, the strength and pride that made them defy Frieza to death and beyond. Goku sometimes wondered, when he was alone with his thoughts, what his father had been like, and what he thought of his Earth-raised son. What had brought Bardock from Hell to help his youngest son? Goku thought--hoped--that it was something stronger than hatred of Frieza, something nobler than vengeance.

"Where did my daddy go?" Goten asked, confused by the golden-haired angel before him. "Who's that?"

"Goten, it's just me!" Goku said cheerily as his hair shifted back to its normal black.

"DADDY!" Goten yelled happily, reaching out for Goku. "How did you do that? Gohan can do that, too! Can I learn how to turn my hair all funny yellow?" Goku gently lifted his youngest son from Bardock's arms. Goten promptly turned around to look at his silent grandfather.

"Grandpa, can you turn your hair yellow and get real strong, too?"

Bardock shook his head slowly. "No, little one, I never learned how to become a Super-Saiyajin." He looked beyond Goten at his son Kakarott. "I did not forsee that."

Goku held up Goten and looked at him, smiling. "Well, you've certainly come through this well, little man. Chi-chi will be so happy; there's not a scratch on you! Someone took good care of you!" He looked significantly at Bardock as Goten perched on his shoulder.

"He is Saiyajin..." Bardock then smiled very slightly at Goku. "..and he is my grandson--the son of my son..." He trailed off into a long silence that Goku feared to break, knowing something precious would be lost. "A son I am very proud of."

It was Goku's turn for silence; he was uncharacteristically hesitant when he finally spoke--and his face said far more than his words. "Thank you for saving my son, and Trunks. I.. You are not what I expected."

Bardock's faint smile deepened. I am not what you feared, am I? "The Prince is the only other Saiyajin you've really known, isn't he? We low-class warriors were.. different from the elites."

One thing is the same, Bardock reflected. One thing is the same between low-class and elite, Earth Saiyajin and the lost souls of Vegetasai--we are proud of our sons. Kakarott is proud of his son Goten, I am proud of Kakarott, King Vegeta is proud of Prince Vegeta, and I think the Prince is proud of his son Trunks.

What is this 'pride'? I did not raise Kakarott, he has nothing of me save my blood--but I am proud of him--for what he is, not for what I did. I begin to understand what this 'pride' is we feel for our sons, and it has nothing to do with that arrogance in our own power that we also call 'pride'.

How can I feel this way when I am in Hell? Bardock looked at his other son Raditz, at his old friends Toma and Celipa, and suddenly understood. It's in my heart, even in this place of sorrow.

"Take them home, Kakarott." Bardock nodded at the yawning black rift far above. "Go, quickly. This is no place for any of you!"

*      *      *      *

Even as Goku descended to talk to Bardock, the rest of them settled to ground near Sean. Raditz stared incredulously at the young artist.

"Sean?? How in HELL did you get here? How did you survive?"

"Funny you should phrase it that way." Sean smirked. "Kale didn't like me."

"TRUNKS!" Bulma embraced her son. "Are you okay? Oh my goodness, you've been hurt!"

"I'm okay, Mom!" The violet-haired boy squirmed in embarassment. "I just got a few bruises from that big demon hitting me. That's all. Really!"

"The boy will survive; he was not much injured, and he fights well for one of his youth," Celipa interrupted. From the slightly annoyed expression on her face, the Saiyan woman sympathized with Trunks' embarassment.

Toma glanced over at Sean, a bit puzzled himself. "What have you to do with Commander Kale? Were you on the other side of that rift?"

"I created it--not that I meant to," Sean hasted to add as Toma scowled. "Kale's the one who pushed me and that demon through--that's how I got here," Sean nodded to Raditz, answering his earlier question. "I'm alive because Kale wanted to kill me personally, one small piece at a time--so he stashed me out of harm's way when things started going wild with the demon. Then I looked for an even deeper hole to dive into, and found it. Where's Kale, anyway?"

"Deputy came through the rift from your dwelling?" Raditz asked, his blood running cold. He did not wait for an answer, but growled angrily. "What happened to Gohan?? And 'Zumi?"

Sean took a step back; Raditz's anger and fear were palpable things, promising someone's death for the wrong answer. Sean hoped it wasn't his own. He desperately wanted a cigarette, but dared not make Persephone's mistake. His mouth felt as dry as the ash-covered floor of this place. "I don't know--I couldn't see them from where I was standing after the darkness demons attacked, but I could hear her voice and Gohan's both, so they're alive, at least."

"Commander Kale sent that demon here--and it destroyed him," Toma answered Sean's question as Raditz scowled silently at Sean.

"Destroyed?" Sean looked sharply at Toma. "You mean he's not coming back for me? How can a ghost be destroyed?"

Toma frowned; he didn't like being reminded of what he really was. "Souls cannot be truly 'destroyed', but we can lose all power, will, and memory and pass on to our next incarnation." He fell silent.

"And this is worse than being dead in Hell?" Sean still wished he had a cigarette, even if it made his bronchitis flare up again.

"You could not possibly understand!" Toma snarled angrily; pain touched his eyes as he glanced at Celipa. Gravel shifted and rattled not far away.

"He doesn't, but I do." Bulma interjected. "It's because Vegetasai is gone, isn't it? All the Saiyajin except two are dead--you can't be reborn as Saiyajin--not anymore. Whatever comes next, you won't be Saiyajin ever again."

"Never again shall any walk the shores of Umiy Moor'asaakye, nor look up at the Winged Rings, nor behold the hot white sun we called Kajaio, 'King Fire', setting red in the evening." The hard, strong voice of King Vegeta rang in Bulma's ears; she turned to see the Saiyan King, battered and bloody, leaning on the equally battered and bloody Turles.

"Nevermore shall fathers teach their sons the Traditions of the Saiyajin, never again shall brave Saiyan warriors vow their loyalty to their king and world; nevermore shall they go forth to fight and die with courage. Never again shall their souls return to Vegetasai, nevermore shall we be Saiyajin." The auburn-haired king was stern, but his words and eyes belied his stoic face. "And when the last of us who wait in Hell have departed, who will remember these things? The glory of Vegetasai is gone forever, never to return; the memory of the Saiyajin is a fading twilight, soon to vanish into darkness forever."

The King drew himself up to his full height, and stared down at Bulma. "You could never have seen the truth, save that you are truly my son's mate." He looked at Trunks, who stared back at his grandfather in unabashed curiousity. The faintest hint of a smile graced King Vegeta's lips. "He has a Saiyan soul--even if his hair is the most absurd thing I have ever seen."

Bulma looked at her son. "I guess he would." She looked sharply at the King. "And Gohan and Goten? Are their souls Saiyan, too?"

"Kakarott's sons? Of course."

"Bulma?" Goku was there, holding Goten. "We have to leave now." He looked beyond her at the Saiyan King, a question on his face.

"Go!" commanded the King. "It is forbidden--yet equally forbidden was sending the children here in the beginning--and I have not the power to stop you." Nor have I the desire, his eyes said silently.

*      *      *      *

The living and the dead gathered around the rift. Trunks hung over Raditz's shoulder and waved goodbye to Celipa and Toma; Bulma thought that she saw Celipa wipe away a tear--but perhaps it was her imagination. Goten was quiet, and buried his face in Goku's gi whenever Bardock drifted near; Goku's gi was getting quite soggy.

"Kakarott." Bardock looked at his son, ancient sorrow in his eyes. "I regret that I was never a father to you.. but if I had been, you would not be what you are, and I.. do not regret what you are."

Goku drifted close to his father. "But you do regret that you didn't see me grow up, and that I never knew you."

Bardock nodded almost imperceptibly. "I did see you grow up, in my visions.. I wish you could know--"

"But I can." Goku reached out, touching his fingers to the side of Bardock's head, drawing directly from his mind all that Bardock wanted him to know, as Goku had done with Kulilin on Namek. Images and memories--the curse of foresight, his friend Toma's dying revelation of Frieza's plan to destroy Vegetasai, the frantic race to Vegetasai, his desperate lonely battle against all of Frieza's minions, and finally, that last, terrible duel against Frieza.

A grimness shadowed Goku as he remembered his own deaths and his own terrible fight against Frieza. There were other memories, too--Bardock's long-ago pride in his young son Raditz, his terrible grief when Kinoko died, his initial disappointment in his weak second son, his hope and pride in Kakarott as his visions revealed his son growing to manhood, facing Frieza, his final farewell to his infant son...

"Father!" Goku finally pulled back, shaken. He bowed his head. "Now I understand--thank you for letting me have this much of you."

"Farewell, Kakarott.. my son." They drifted slowly apart, and Goku turned reluctantly towards the rift, taking Bulma from Raditz so that Raditz could take Sean from Toma. "Farewell, Raditz--see that you do not return." There was a hint of a wry smile, then he was all business. "Go; I will close this rift behind you; you will not be able to return, and nothing will come through from this realm again."

"Goodbye, father." Both his sons and those they protected vanished into the black rift, leaving Hell forever.

My sons and grandsons live, and their lives are good indeed. At long last, my youngest knows me, and I him. I am content.

"Get clear," he ordered Toma and Celipa. "It's time to close this rift!" They took one look at the energies gathering around Bardock and dove for the far end of the blasted palace. Bardock reached out and touched the rift.

In that instant, Bardock realized the power that had opened the rift was even further beyond him than he was beyond an ant. In that instant, everything that he was and had been was stripped away by the power that held the rift open.

The rift exploded. Soundless, invisible, intangible, the frightful energies fed back into themselves; a kink in the universe straightened itself out. Yggdrasil groaned as a cracked root healed and shifted back into position. Chaos howled as an abomination that never should have been was undone; the universe reclaimed a piece of itself from oblivion.

*      *      *      *

Back on Earth, Kulilin started from a sound sleep. What was going on? He looked around the darkened bedroom; Eighteen was sound asleep. He got up and padded silently into his daughter's room. No, Marron was also asleep; it wasn't her crying that disturbed him.

No, the disturbance ran deeper than that. It was a horrid feeling in the air, a sense of some monstrously evil ki of nightmarish power--and not all that far away. Kulilin's throat tightened; it reminded him of Frieza, though it was not Frieza, or even Cell's counterfeit of Frieza's ki. This was far more powerful--but like Frieza, it was utterly inimical, and carried the stench of death--his death, everyone's death--with it.

"I'll bet Goku's awake, too," Kulilin said to himself as he reached for the telephone.

*      *      *      *


[ Contents | XXIX. Converging Paths | XXX. Reunion | XXXI. Cacodemon Rising ]

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Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic