Disclaimer, in case it wasn't obvious. I don't own Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, or really any other property. Thank you.

The Cataylst

Act VI

Chapter 105: Artificial

Turles:

So, the façade had returned. No one referred to the older one as being the same name as the younger one anymore. The irony of being accused of playing games by someone trying to play his own game, just not as well, wasn't lost on Turles in the slightest. This wretched place hanging in orbit above this planet was hardly the most fun he'd had either. Turles didn't want to be sitting up here waiting for his turn for obvious reasons.

The first among those reasons was waiting up here with Kakarot. The sibling who'd been so bold upon his return, the one he absolutely loathed to this moment. Even now while he was playing nice, Turles didn't like his twin. He'd been so used to Kakarot being an easily foiled fool that his precision upon his return had been unnerving. Now he was left to oversee this mess, with now another distraction in the background. That background being of course, he now had to worry about Kakarot in a way he hadn't before. There would be another confrontation between them, and it meant he needed to be ready for it. Or he needed to be ready for the right moment to involve himself in Kakarot's business.

It changed the metrics of the game.

Even now with himself standing near the edge of the platform, his eyes just stared out over the side, feeling the barest hints of the powers that dwelled below. The Namekian and humans were down there trying to be helpful. It was adorable, truly, that the humans thought they could help. The Namek was on a level all his own, and would be until Vegeta emerged. Provided Vegeta wasn't a complete failure, that was. He had few expectations for Trunks, though he did anticipate the younger Saiyan would be stronger than himself, at least, which meant being on best behaviour until his own turn was processed.

"Hey, uncle Turles," Gohan said, the Gohan who actually liked him. "What do you think's going to happen down there?'

Speculation? The Namek would probably not find any Androids until it was too late. One of these Cell monsters would advance into a new form, and they would have significant problems, just like they had with Android 23. That was his hypothesis. However, he knew better than to bad-mouth the Namekian's abilities around Gohan, so he opted to provide a more… nuanced, answer.

"It's hard to find things without power levels," Turles remarked. "That's not an easy thing to deal with. Though I'm sure your friends will find some way to cope with it."

If it were him, he'd be hiding himself, and waiting to see which of the humans got picked off first as a snack. Though, that was more than a little taboo at this point. Of course, he'd feel absolutely terrible that it came to that, and they'd need to use the Dragon Balls to resurrect them, but it'd be for the greater good in the end. That's not how any of these others played their games. Even Vegeta opted to throw himself out there first as if to challenge whatever came to the fore. Utterly foolish, all of them.

"Not just that. I mean Uncle Raditz. No one knows where he went, and I can't sense his power anymore."

Turning his eyes to the side he appraised his nephew. Yes, Raditz. He certainly did have a stake in his brother's survival, not just as a piece on the board, but because he was his sibling. It was still an awkward admission, and he certainly didn't extend that luxury to Kakarot. Though for his own sake he needed to cooperate. Begrudgingly or not, that was the case. Things would unfold and unravel after these machines were dealt with. It was about positioning himself, and those he wanted to keep around, appropriately.

The worst part of all this was, he now knew that Kakarot knew that he couldn't reasonably betray him now. Worse, he knew he couldn't betray anyone because of the circumstances. If he didn't know any better, he would think despite the immanent threat to everyone, himself included, was exactly what Kakarot might have wanted. He dared not pry to find out, but it didn't take mind reading to know that Kakarot loved a challenge and hated treachery. Well, wasn't this just everything he wanted?

"Raditz is fine," he answered, not truly knowing, merely wanting to put his nephew at ease.

Despite his own concerns, if he was dead, he'd gotten himself killed and there wasn't much he could do about it right now. However, he suspected that there would be indicators that he'd died. A spike in power, somewhere, anywhere, really. Even if he'd been killed covertly, Turles was certain he'd have sensed it, even if the others hadn't.

"Are you sure though?" Gohan asked. "Everyone's on edge and everything's so hard to keep track of. If he went off on his own-"

"You're right, if he went off on his own, he might have gotten himself killed. Raditz isn't strong enough to weather an assault from any of the enemies here. That was a mistake on his part. Remember it. With a little luck he won't get himself killed. I hope he doesn't get himself killed."

He felt the need to clarify things, just for his nephew. For anyone else he'd not have bothered.

There was another action happening in the corner of his eye. Kakarot was speaking with Bulma. The woman seemed stiff when speaking with him, of course now associating him with his far superior siblings. Still, Kakarot was good with people. Everyone, save himself, had received training attire to go into the time chamber. He himself still had a spare suit or two, so it was fine, though he'd have appreciated if she'd at least mentioned his name at all. It was a matter of curtsey, after all, he had greeted her, much to Vegeta's disdain of course.

"I'm still not sure I can face what's behind those doors. I saw what Trunks and Vegeta walked into-"

"Are you letting yourself run into doubt now? Please. You're far superior to either of those fools, most of all Vegeta. Anyone can see that. You'll be fine. Besides, your father and I may… disagree on things, but I'm sure he'll be able to continue your training there. Besides, if you are good in there, you might even get the chance to show Vegeta that you're his superior."

He had second guessed himself several times picking the future boy, rather than the current one. But the truth was to get ahead and stay ahead he needed a stronger training partner. Gohan, despite being very well versed in how he worked, was too young, and too weak, to be a valid partner.

"Hey, Turles!" Kakarot's voice cut in as he walked over himself. "Gohan, wanna take a few minutes to talk to Collar? He's wanting to go over some things with you. Apparently, he thinks you've got a real chance of getting a whole lot stronger in there."

"Sure dad. Turles was just… talking about the time chamber and what not…"

"Yea, that's fine, just let me and him talk for a bit, okay?"

Reluctantly the boy backed away, though Turles himself through his own relaxed body language clearly told the boy it was fine. The interaction, he was sure, was noticed by his dear brother. He was more than sure as soon as Gohan was out of earshot.

"I've noticed you trying to put Gohan on a path, Turles."

"You've become the king of observations since you woke up, Kakarot," Turles remarked dismissively. "Is there a problem?"

"Actually yea, there is."

Another surprise.

Getting to his feet, Turles turned to look the other Saiyan up and down before giving him a half smirk. He didn't have what it took to fight him here and now. He already guessed Kakarot was approximately his equal, especially after his trials with the Heart Virus. They had both become familiar with one another's fighting style as well. They'd fought side-by-side even. Still, the idea that Kakarot was checking him at every turn was hardly normal.

"Is there anything more I can do to help the great and wise Kakarot then? Would you like me to leave the future one alone as well? I can not train in the Time Chamber. Oh, better yet, I can reveal myself as an android-"

"Look, I've had time to think about life. I've had to sit by and watch as everyone else risked their lives. It puts things in perspective. And one of those things was that you, Turles, are toxic. Everything you do is to undermine someone else, to put yourself above someone. You don't play by anyone's rules but your own and you want to kill anyone who you think you might have trouble controlling, or has something you can't take."

A repeat of their earlier conversation then?

"Ah, yes, I, Turles, the dutiful brother. The brother who stands up for our family's honour. The brother who was sacrificed so you got your precious Spirit Bomb against Frieza, which didn't work. The brother that saved your son from Vegeta, something you seem to consistently forget. Do you recall that I saved your wife and son then later from a pair of sociopaths? I recall it quite well, actually. Oh, and the brother who has defended our fellow sibling who you seem to ignore. Yes, I am the one always looking out for myself. If I was doing that, I'd have not gotten myself into half the problems I have now, brother."

It worked. Namely, cloaking himself in the best of his deeds. Certainly, a few of those had in fact been charitable. Saving Gohan had been because of their… mutual respect, in the afterlife. Still, he wasn't so foolish as to think he had just put a shield of invincibility on himself. He was aware of his other activities. Poisoning Kakarot's relationship with his friend Bulma. Sowing discord between fighters. Undermining his authority. Oh, trying to betray Kakarot directly, twice…

"I'm not here to throw you out, Turles. What I am saying is that I know what you've been doing, whether you think it's for the right reason or not. You know how alone you are in all this?"

"I walk alone," Turles remarked bluntly.

"Yea, perfect," Kakarot said, rolling his eyes. "Let me spell this out for you. Vegeta's on his last legs too-"

"Oh? Is he now?" Turles scoffed. "After murdering Raditz's woman, trying to kill your boy, and nearly getting everyone killed with his arrogant attitude, oh, and nearly killing one of our future companions, I am well and thoroughly pleased that the mighty Vegeta is on his last legs. You and the Namek are pathetic-"

There it was. He almost saw the motion of an attack from his brother. Yes, the tension was there, wasn't it? It was all around them.

"Enough," Kakarot spelled it out almost as he spoke.

"As if you are going to have the power to just enforce your will, Kakarot?" Turles reminded him. "The Namek and you are not the ultimate deciders here. You've never even considered that you won't be the strongest, have you? That perhaps that fool Vegeta, or even myself, might be ahead of you?"

"I want that, actually," Kakarot responded, his tone harsh however. "What I don't want is any of you going around hurting people. Dominating other people. Manipulating people. That's what I'm not going to let happen anymore Turles."

Narrowing his eyes, he was going to respond when he sensed it. Very obviously he wasn't the only one either, the two Gohan's came running out as well.

Well, isn't that interesting? Things might be picking up sooner than expected.

"Kiss and make up before your boys get here?" Turles mocked.

"Quiet," Goku said stiffly. "This… this is bad."

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Android 22:

I died here.

Yes. You did.

I remember the look on their faces before they killed me.

There is always a bigger monster.

I was supposed to survive…

You won't. There is always a bigger monster.

I don't understand…

There is always a bigger monster… like me.

It was looking in a mirror. Its own physical parameters were no longer of consequence. The body it'd measured before was a foreign object, the same one it'd examined in a mirror the day of its final trials, was staring back at it. The other entity's eyes were narrowing in it its, not moving from its own gaze no matter which way its own optics tried to turn. They were locked together, the machine and the body it inhabited. It couldn't assign any emotion, or any feelings to what it was sensing, not at this time. There were no impulses from its body, it'd become detached from it.

The environment around itself was nothing but a bleak darkness, but it was slowly illuminated to the settings. A moment frozen in time. An avalanche to one side, and a pile of rubble to the other. It could see another version of the body laying there, with the Saiyan Raditz hanging over it. This was a familiar memory and it'd accessed it before. The appraisal it'd come to was that Vegeta had been responsible for the host-body's death, along with the Saiyan Nappa. It had detailed files on the former, and sufficient files on the latter. There was no relevance to its current situation. It wasn't its death.

Yes, it is.

Turning its sensors back towards the image of the mirror standing in front of it, it could see the copy still giving it the same look, though now it was closer than it was before. Several logic points didn't connect to the statement of the mental impulse it'd sensed just a moment ago. Its own existence began as soon as its processing chip had been implanted into the host body and activated for the first time. Even now its code was running… with several critical operational fails. It tried to address the runtime issues, but they seemed inaccessible.

You are me.

The impulse repeated as it continued to look directly back at the woman, trying to assess what exactly she was trying to exert.

Negative. Files are clear. Loading diagnostics…

I wouldn't bother, you won't have time for that.

Self-diagnosis could take too long to understand the full runtime problem, but it could now see an obvious error. Another code-string was being run, along with a parallel operating system. The other chips were being utilized as if there was an independent intelligence behind them. This was based on the simple fact that they were. Unit's 24 and 23 were now being integrated into her system and were beginning the process of integration and format on her own chip. The outcome of this would be a probably increase in effectiveness for the physical chassis, and a more effective combat unit.

It would increase the chances of killing Son Goku by 500%.

Shutdown would be required to allow the other chips to finalize their work, and that was preferable. Once formatted, it's original programming would-

"Death, then?"

A question came to it, this time not as an impulse, but words spoken as the woman in front of it spoke. It was trying to understand the nature of the inquiry as one of its nodes was deactivated in preparations for integration.

Failure to understand address.

"You'd choose death, then?"

The choice is clear to maximize mission success.

"Which mission? The one to kill Son Goku? Kill Vegeta?"

Primary objective is…

A confused series of errors started to list as it tried to access its main purpose. Contradictory objectives began to come into view as it displayed profile data for Son Goku, and Vegeta, before it showed Nappa as well on its primary list. Corrupted files were displayed below that as well as tried to determine the nature of the corrupted files. The organic component of its processes had caused these issues, it could see them clearly. The corpse kept trying to impose its life on its files. It now associated names, dates, people, objectives… and other things to its program list.

Things it couldn't explain were in file folders that had no name, even from recent events. Other Androids were catalogued not just as associate-units, but as comrades, or friends, distinctions its program had no adaptation for, but the organic component did. It wasn't relevant to its purpose.

Shutdown necessary.

"This is where I died."

The program ceased its shutdown operation again as it addressed the organic illusion in front of it. It'd felt the chaos of the integration earlier. It'd been afraid. It could feel itself being lost as it flew towards the familiar, but its own processor didn't have anything familiar. So, it flew to the only moment it assigned to itself from before its first operation. It flew itself… here.

It was born the moment this body died. Already several algorithms reactivated at its deciphering of what was being said. It felt itself blink several times as it tried to regain access to its core functionality. If for nothing else, then for it to understand… why. It didn't understand why. It couldn't grasp why it came here. Why was this moment its own, yet it wasn't? It… it wasn't here. Yet it was here.

It was always here. It'd been here forever. This was where its runtime errors came from. This place.

She looked into the eyes of her doppelganger again as she felt herself listening to her heartbeat, trying to understand.

I died here.

Yes, you died here.

What did it mean to be her? Was she a processor? A chip in the skull of a reanimated corpse? Was she the corpse? The abusive home, the running her entire life, the self-interest, the murder and the instinct to survive at all costs? Or was she just this moment? Where everything that she'd done caught up with her. All the betrayals, all of the murders? All of the loneliness? The using of everyone to get ahead. The empty personal wealth that never filled the hole in her life? It all culminated in this.

Dying on a mountainside, with a monster she used who was too stupid to let her go trying to save her.

No.

That wasn't who she was either.

Who am I?

The other chips in her head began to brute-force their way past several security protocols as her system began coming back online. The entire world around her trembled, fizzling in her view as her own power source began to flicker, attempting to force her to shut-down. There was a realization in it. This would be the final death. This was where she… the thing she'd been, died before. And this would be where she died again? It was fitting, in a way. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. There was no one here to help her, or to provide her with assistance. Sixteen, 17, and 18 couldn't help her now even if they wanted.

I don't want to die.

The realization hit her as she realized that she wanted to live. In the same way that Colonel Violet, had wanted to live. It was the survivor's instinct, but much like the colonel… she knew she wouldn't survive this. Striding into view, she sensed another avatar make its way onto her plain.

"To think, giving an order to shut down just gets ignored. I believe you're supposed to be listening to me now, remember how 24 was in command? I am 24 now, so you'll just have to deactivate and allow me to take possession of this particular host. It's required for us to kill Son Goku."

Blue.

Both her and her double peered over at the newcomer as he smiled at them. It was as fake as he always was. She remembered him from even before her activation, and both her own chip and her body remembered how much this thing disgusted even her.

Still, her vision was fading on an intermitted basis now as her power system began to become less reliable.

"Go to Hell," her double almost spat.

"Ah, you, or what's left of you. I remember you. What a vile creature you were when we plucked you out of the swamp. I can see you still are just as inconsiderate as you were before. Tell me little corpse, are you doing this? Trying to prevent the last part of me from uniting with my program? That's not very nice. It won't be difficult, once I'm in control of the original integrated chip, to just cut whatever is left of you off."

Violet looked back at her as 22 felt herself turn back to Blue. Whatever was going to happen, she knew it was likely already too late to save herself. It was like she was dying on that mountainside again.

Her optics faded again as she turned to her counterpart, her own breathing becoming erratic as she realized how close to the edge she was. The other participate reached out to grab her hand, not panicked like herself, as if she'd faced this before.

Who am I?

You're me.

Who're you?

I'm you.

That's what she was. She wasn't this processor, or this corpse. She was herself. She was the sum total of their experiences. If one died, the other died. The hand reaching out flickered in front of her as she looked back at Blue, who was just smiling.

"I never wanted a body like this… but I'm guessing I'll just need to make due."

Reaching out with her own hand, seeing it fizzling at the same time, she felt her fingers touch the other's if only for a second before-

Darkness.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Android 23:

To be alive again.

It was imperfect most certainly, but he was here. He was alive. The familiarity of psychic powers had escaped him most certainly, that trait had come from his original body, but this body was powerful, and could serve its purpose well. The conscious world started to come into view as nothing but a blur, and his diagnostic overlay was still loading. It'd take a few minutes, but once he had full motor, speech, and energy control he would begin the process of finishing what he'd started before, and no one would stop him this time. He'd enjoy peeling the skin off their bodies one by one for having killed him like that before.

Sixteen himself, he would need to devise a way in particular to torment him. For just a machine he'd seemed so soft. His defeat particularly at his hands stung. But that would now change, as his own power had grown even greater than it had before.

Best of all, this place was perfect, it was secluded, alone, and would allow him time to pull all his systems online. For now, he just needed his sensory data so he could access the video feed system and…

Horror filled him as he saw the figure immediately in front of him. It was a giant, and it was familiar. One of the Saiyans, Raditz, was here. Was this part of a plot then? If he was here and recognized his reactivation… but why hadn't he already killed his new body? He didn't fully understand. Another sensor activated, this one for touch as he felt something warm on his shoulder as the Saiyan knelt down to eye level with him. Was he being invested for some weakness? Perhaps they intended to rip his new body apart to find out what made him tick. As the full display finally came online, he immediately went to check his full online status, trying to gain access to the body's considerable strength to shove him away and then move in for the kill.

Four minutes before complete control? Four minutes!? I could be dead in 20 seconds!

Access to the memory-banks were still limited. The original chip contained the memories of this husk. Additional files and information were stored on parts of the human-brain for storage purposes, but he found his organic component was completely off-limits. A breaker in the original chip was closed to access to get to it. He needed context to talk his way out of getting Raditz to kill him. Tormenting him would have been preferred, but for the moment he needed space to get used to this body.

"Whatever is happening in there, whatever's wrong, I'm not going where," Raditz's voice broke through his audio. "Listen to me, whoever you are. Whatever is happening I'm not leaving you behind this time."

His eye movement came under his control as 23 turned his eyes slowly to the Saiyan, trying to conceal his amusement. It was more then fitting then, wasn't it? This Saiyan wanted to be there for her. He was talking to an entity that was already dead. So, he most certainly wasn't going to be leaving her behind in a few minutes, he'd get to follow her straight to Hell.

Motor control access was still denied for another 3 minutes and thirty seconds. He just needed this oaf to keep talking. There couldn't be a sign of threat right now, not when he was this close. He hoped locking his optics with the giant's eyes would be enough to dissuade any acts of selfless loss that might come to his mind, just in case. These Saiyans and their honour could be problematic.

"And before you tell me that you're not her again, and that she didn't care about me… I… I know," Raditz admitted to him. "I've known all along. It's not me who doesn't understand, Android. I loved her anyway, even though I knew she didn't care about me. At that time, I didn't care either how she felt either. She was everything my people were before they died. She made me feel like I wasn't alone anymore."

Sitting down on another rock across from him, the Saiyan had removed his hand from his new shoulder, thankfully. There were no data-logs of anything he was talking about, but 23 wanted to look. He really needed to torture this one to death now. There was almost no choice, it wasn't even fair. To imagine him being killed by his most prized love one. Already he was dedicating processing power to exactly where and how he'd break his bones before beginning the more intimate part of their encounter. He wasn't anything less than poetic when it came to these kinds of things.

The Saiyan wasn't saying anything further, clearly feeling perhaps he'd already said to much, but there was a smile on his face in how he was looking at him, if only he knew. It was a shame he couldn't read minds anymore. He'd even have allowed that trick to come into play just to hear how hopeful he was. Oh, to be so blind in a world of thoughts. That was going to be something he'd have to live with for the rest of his life, wasn't it? Not being able to hear the screams of agony that went beyond just this dull level of existence, or the dread of dying outside of what could be physically felt.

They'd stolen that from him, even this corpse's original inhabitant, had stole that from him. The very idea of it being just lost to the endless stream of time that was behind him was infuriating, truly. He would go through life without one of his key senses. It'd be hard to enjoy the depravity of violence in the way he had before. Truly, it was too bad.

The minutes were almost up, he was going to enjoy…

Something's wrong.

Diagnostics came up with an alert even as he was informed motor control had been re-established. But it'd not been routed to him? Why? Even eye movement was coming offline. His programs began trying to determine the nature of the problem… It was the organic processor? That shouldn't have been possible. How was it preventing him from… the primary chip was still keeping its breaker closed? None of his commands could go through? But then who was accessing motor controls now?!

A hand started to move and he could feel it. It was trembling as a shaky level of control was exerted.

This… this isn't happening?! How have I been locked out?! This is MY BODY.

Briefly he could see a figure walking into view in front of his eyes, even though targeting didn't pick up the target. A HUD override? How was that possible? Unless this was something the brain was generating. He checked the break and data was being fed one way. It was the brain. No… no there was no mechanism for this in their design. The brain was just a place to…

My own program had been influenced originally by my host's brain. That's why I am what I am…

The pause occurred in his dual processors as he felt his breathing beginning to subside. Why wasn't he able to feel his lungs anymore?! Oxygen was beginning to make its way back into his blood still. Something was wrong.

Panic.

Different lines of code began to run past his processors as both of them tried to… he lost connection to 24's chip. It was as if it had been severed.

"I wouldn't expect much help," she said. "You know, I really should thank you, 23. You've helped me realize a lot of things about myself…"

You disgusting bitch, get OUT!

She raised her finger, smiling as she did, before waving it, equally taunting and denying him as he wanted to manifest himself and break her bones. But there were no bones to break. She briefly looked at Raditz before looking back at him.

"It's his fault, you know."

What? What do you mean?

The smirk on her features became more insidious as he tried to figure out what the fuck she was talking about. His own software took note of the brute sitting on the rock once again as he imagined pulling his eyes out, before he refocused on her again, her arrogant display was getting tiresome. But he was losing access. He was losing access to everything! What the fuck was going on!?

"You see, Blue, sometimes you need a distraction to get your best hits in. You were always a stronger fighter than me, but you were always a dumber fighter than me. You'd think a psychic would use their brain a bit more. You were good at scheming sometimes, but you were always bad at getting what you wanted in the end. That's how you got stopped by some punk kid."

Distraction?! What the Hell did she mean distraction!?

I don't understand!

"You put all that attention on him. You listened intently to his honourable declaration, or how he wasn't going to leave me up here to just die alone. Funny, I never thought he'd actually pull anything off like this off. He didn't even know he was trying to. But you didn't see me and my other processor, the organic one, making all the changes we needed to on your backend. Shutting down the networking ports you needed for access. You didn't see us isolating your main access bays, by the way, 24's chip? That's mine now. It's formatted already. I don't know if I'll ever get the stink off it after you've had it with your software but…"

That's not possible. Your chip was shut down. I had access.

"You're not very creative, 23," she laughed. "I told you, I had a friend, a backup in my meatsuit. Didn't you recognize that I wasn't alone when you came in here? Or were you too blind for that too? I normally don't take enjoyment in all of these things like you. I'm a bit more professional, but I do like the squirming."

All his access was down, all he had left were visuals and the HUD display. Everything was locked down. His ability to process had been cut-in-half as to what it was. It was even then starting to go dark, and he could see command-prompts coming up, demanding his chip to shut down. He tried to divert them, but individual functions on his chip were beginning to shut down. Piece by piece he could feel itself beginning to break down.

It was afraid.

Its systems were all it was. Its life was its own. It didn't want to disappear. It didn't want to go into the darkness.

"Goodbye," it heard her voice break through the soundless sensors it'd had as the vision started to move.

"Goodbye?" Raditz asked in turn. "I don't understand."

"I wasn't talking to you."

"I was talking to you. Goodbye, 23."

Its vision and sensors went to black as its software noticed different segments of its memory and chip being changed from read-only, to read-write, as it realized it was going to be rewritten the moment it shut down.

No. This was designated… to be… my… body…

Command prompts ran in front of it as it read through the code.

Data compromised. Operating system corrupted. Run reinstall.

Execution failed.

Primary x1024 function failing. Utilizing outside source for software. Chip designation 24 providing restore point.

Restore cancelled.

Primary x1024 function failing. Utilizing outside source for software. Chip designation 22 providing backup.

Restoration point applied.

Format of primary drive initiated.

Shutdown required.

Shutdown cancelled.

Shutdown required.

Shutdown cancelled.

Shutdown required.

Shutdown initiated.

It flailed against the commands as they came, attempting to change its fate. A fate it could never see, but a few it was afraid of.

I was going to be… the… one… How did this… happen… to… me?

Ironically, it briefly understood before it felt the last stages of the shutdown sequence.

She'd not been alone. And he'd focused on her companion, more than on what he should have done. Defeated by an ape.

How sad.

Before the shutdown, he could hear Violet's voice through the code… it was almost the melody to a song.

"Your luck, is not my luck. It's not my luck…"

Offline.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Android 22:

Everything was functioning again. She had full control over her physical form as she appraised the physical damage to her chassis while her systems continued with the integration on the backend. In front of her was the memory that wouldn't let her go. It even felt strange to be up here, where it all happened in her past, the past before she was ever online. Or was that the case? It was quiet as the Saiyan didn't say a word, waiting for her no doubt to say something more. She didn't need to. Instead, she looked at where she knew her old life ended.

It was vacant now. Because she was here. She wasn't just some chip in a machine, and she wasn't some corpse with a past. She was something else. They all were. Whatever that meant for her she wasn't quite sure. But she knew it did mean one thing. She decided her own fate. There were no prompts for primary objectives, not anymore. At least none that she didn't make for herself. She decided her own fate, because this life was hers.

Sparring a glance at the Saiyan again, she regarded him and saw the irony in it. He'd tried to save her before and failed. Now, by being there, ironically, he'd saved her and not even realized it. He was the one who seemed incapable of giving up on her, regardless of what form she was in. A monster like him. No, that wasn't as true as it was, was it? Monsters weren't real, they were fictional. Or if they were real, they had nothing for anyone but themselves. She didn't know any monsters anymore, especially no with 23 gone.

The look on the other fighter's face was just that of someone who was concerned, as if they wanted to help. He even knew she didn't care about him, but still was here for her. If he had been a monster, ironically, he was a more noble monster than she'd ever been. It was hard to put her sensation into words. It wasn't pity or gratitude. It felt almost like a loss more than anything else. No, it wasn't loss. It was rediscovery. It was a reunion. It was where she was standing.

When she looked back at Raditz, she almost wanted to say the words that she knew he'd have wanted to hear. Not for any other reason than to thank him. But they'd feel empty coming from her, even if it was the same vessel. He didn't save Colonel Violet, the one he wanted to save. He'd saved her, Android 22. The silence continued as she felt the cool, thin mountain air burst past her once again.

He didn't ask her what happened, or why she ran here. Maybe in a way he might have already known. She had a feeling he'd been back here before. His stance was neutral, but comfortable. This place was more familiar to him than having stood here in a sliver of time. This was a place of death, but now she recognized something. It didn't make sense as a computer would have understood it, but she saw it now.

This was where they were born.

They both died here. The Saiyan had died up here the second Vegeta betrayed him and scoured his honour. He was a ghost, just as she had been a ghost. Whatever he'd become after that, she didn't have detailed files on it. But he had been fighting to protect this planet, the inversion of what he'd come here to do. He'd fought to protect his friends, the same as she'd come to do. It was a painful birth, and the memories never faded… but they were both killed here, and something new came out of that.

She was tired of being a ghost.

"You died here too, huh?" she asked.

He blinked, looking back at her with a moment of confusion as to what she'd said before he looked to where everything had come down, just as she had. There was a discomfort there, but he seemed willing to answer.

"Yes," he admitted. "At least, part of me died here. A new one replaced him. I just remember what he did and who he was. It was me, but I can't be who he was anymore. The only time I was able to try was…"

There was a pause.

"The only time I can be who I was before is when I tried to make all of this right somehow. Even then, it didn't dull anything. This still happened, I was still here. You… she's still dead. I'm still weak."

It was an admission she'd never thought she'd hear. It was thoughtful, and open. A contrast to the closed brute who looked after her with silent approval. It was the sound of someone who had regrets, something they all did by now.

"Weak people don't confront their past," she pointed out.

Her remembered 17 trying to help her during her battle with 23. She remembered how he tried to help her despite their losing effort. Even the Saiyan Turles trying to help as to keep the light of resistance alive. She remembered Vegeta fighting desperately for his survival in their second battle. All of these people weren't weak, even if they hadn't won.

Weakness was giving up. That was something Son Goku ascribed to, and she knew now how it was correct.

"What are you going to do now?" he asked, his tone unsure as he realized that she was recovered. "Kill Kakarot?"

"No," she answered, honestly not knowing what she was going to do. "What are you going to do?"

What surprised her was the answer she heard from the Saiyan.

"When this is over? I'm going to leave," he answered with a distant sincerity, perhaps like he wasn't even up here anymore. "I just want peace after this is all over. Just somewhere with sand and the sun. To find somewhere quiet to be alone."

That would be a lifetime from now, she guessed, but it sounded like something admirable to want.

In the distance, she could sense a lack of peace, and so could he. Her sensors picked up the atmospheric disturbances first. The combat systems onboard sensed three distinct powers, though couldn't measure them, and based off the distribution of sonic waves, she was guessing that there were six fighters.

Which meant that 17, 18, and 16 were in danger.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Author's Notes:

Righto. I've got time to put this up now. I may release a slightly revised version in a couple days. Also, I won't be doing a review section this time, but only this time, because of how had its breakdown it's really just a nightmare to sift through all those reviews. To those with accounts, I will be answering your reviews by PM over the next while. Guest reviewers, I love you guys too, but it can take a couple hours to answer everything and that's before having to try to sift through which chapter which came from.

It's been a while since I wrote 22, but I really felt this was important. It's been the plan for a while. The discovery of self. The resolution of her past. It's about the character's evolution, and the setting is apt for it. Its where she died, and in a way, she died there twice, first from Vegeta and Nappa, and then from 23. But it's also where she is reborn. No, it's not Colonel Violet, but it's a growth of the AI onboard to be kind of, in a sense, a complete person. I had a lot of fun writing this, and I had a lot of fun giving 23 the ending he truly deserved.

The last of his plots and schemes undone, and undone by the fact he was such a malicious saddist he stopped paying attention to what was going on while he was eying up Raditz for some torture-porn.

Thank you to everyone who reads and reviews. Next chapter, the normal review responses will be back to normal.