"They can't hear us, Goku. Nobody can."
The voice was quiet but in the darkness it seemed profound. In that void world it was the only sound other than Goku's own voice and as he whipped around, expecting to see the speaker instantly, instead he was met by yet more darkness.
Goku gazed out at it, attempting to find something different or new in its landscape, a light, a person, anything. Instead more darkness greeted him and trailed off into infinite.
On an urge Goku found himself staring down at his body, and he saw the familiar orange gi encasing him, each and every limb intact. Despite the mild reassurance and comfort this gave him, he found his gaze slipping off the clothes to the ground beneath him, or to be more exact the lack of ground beneath him.
Up. Down. Left. Right. Behind. In front. Again and again, he saw the darkness and he had an eerie feeling, which sent a chill down the back off his neck. It felt like the darkness saw him too.
His stomach lurched and his gut felt like it was twisting into knots. The disorientation spread through every crack and crevice. This wasn't like flying. He was standing on absolutely nothing. He wasn't in control in the slightest. It was more like... something.
It was a disturbing place, this empty universe.
Steeling himself, Goku let his memories flow through him. He recalled when he had first came to after hitting his head, he had been merely walking down the hall, and then the sudden strike of fear and helpless as he saw his body moving against his will, and later being forced to watch the confusion and pain of his family and friends when they thought he was betraying them. Every moment of that had been the ultimate nightmare and now this.
Was this going to be even worse or better?
Whatever happened, at least he knew the name of the thing that had done this to him: Kakarot. It had taken him a while to figure out, but he had and maybe, somehow, he could stop the monster.
There was no need to think who the voice was. That knowledge was easy enough to grasp and Goku felt something build inside himself that he had never experienced before. He had been angry before, it was not a foreign feeling, but never in all those times had he been so utterly helpless. The new sensation, hate, burned inside and yet at the same time it was cold and hard.
The voice, he thought. That has to be him.
"Kakarot, I know you're here. Come out!" Goku shouted and after a moment the darkness shivered.
"Why can't you leave me alone?" whispered the voice, the same one as before. It wavered over word each with its own hate all too evident. "Whatever happens you come along to torment me. It's not enough that you ruin my life but now you have to make this place even worse." It seemed to sneer. "And I thought nothing could make this place worse."
Goku inwardly glowered. "Tell me how to go and I'll happily leave."
"I don't know how to.... Sometimes, when I wanted to give up, I came here, but I don't want be here. It scares me." The confusion quickly turned to disgust. "This is your fault! It's always your fault!"
Goku stepped forward as if advancing on his invisible enemy.
"What have I done to you? You think I'm evil. You think I've done something wrong. So tell me what have I done?" he demanded. Goku's hands shook at his sides with barely suppressed rage. After all that seen, this creature still taunted him as if this was his fault.
"You don't get it yet, Goku? Of course you were never the bright one. I suppose that went to me." A bitter laugh rang through the void, making the hairs on the back of Goku's neck rise.
"I never said I was smart, but I work for what I want. I don't steal people's lives. - No more games, Kakarot. After playing them with everyone else you're not going to play them with me."
"There's been no games in my life. I've never had the chance to play. Perhaps I've enjoyed the moment a time or two, but where never really, never truly," said the voice without a trace of amusement.
"Then answer my question."
There was a long pause and then Goku got his answer. "You took it."
"My life. My heritage. My future. My potential. You took it all that and more. Some of it you did beautifully with and other parts you ruined, but either was it is and was mine. Mine. MINE!"
The darkness pulsated stronger than before, but Goku stood unscathed. Normally such words would have touched him, but a memory flared up.
Goku watched helplessly as the beast controlling him tightened the bone-crushing grip on Trunks' hand.
Please, no! Don't do this! he begged silently. No matter how he fought his own body's actions, the grip kept on tightening and he watched as the lavender-haired youth cried out in pain
"Tousan!!!!?" Goten shouted. "You're hurting him, Tousan! You're hurting Trunks!"
Then the fateful moment came and as Goten prepared to attack, Goku felt his body move against his will and his gut he knew what was going to happen. Frantically, he tried to restrain himself, tried to stop the horror that was starting to begin.
No, no, no...
His arm raised itself then came down sharply and his son collapsed.
"What sort of sick thing hurts a child?" Goku growled.
True, he had seen people hurt his children before. This time had been different; he had been forced to feel his own body doing. and Respite all excuses, it cut at him like none of those other times could have. He wanted to throw up.
It's not my fault, he told himself. It's his. I did what I could.
Another hair-raising laugh echoed in the void and Goku tightened his fists until they ached. No games? Kakarot seemed to thrive on them like a leech.
"You want to know, Goku? You really want to know what I am? I'll show you if you really want. After all we've shared maybe you deserve to see the monster that I am."
"Then stop with the talk and show me!"
"Okay then," whispered the voice and this time Goku noticed a tremble of something that resembled fear... of what Goku could do to him? Or something else?
He pushed the thoughts aside. They were useless now.
The darkness convulsed and then a figure's outline could be made out. Slowly it seemed to fill in as light and dark and pale colours made the form clearer, more distinct. Goku could already see the man's merciless eyes and mocking smile and hands that would do so much evil with hesitation in his mind.
And when he looked for them, he instead saw a boy. A mere child, naked except for a brown tail wrapped around his waist and dark hair spiking off his head.
His hands were frail and boney, hanging loosely at his sides. No smile touched his pale lips, and he had eyes that reflected both insanity and innocence. They were locked on Goku.
"Am I what you want? Something disgusting and evil? A monster you can point at and say, "He's the bad guy!" and get away with it? - Of course you do. I know you well enough to know that. Hell, you gave Frieza a billion chances and Vegeta too, but not Cell and not me," Kakarot spat.
Goku found himself staring at the boy; he must have been five at the oldest. "How.... How old.."
"How old was I when you stole my life?" said the child. "I was four of your years. I could speak fairly well in my native tongue and knew the basics of saiyan culture and like our gods, the Festival of the Oozaru, and, of course, the Right of Blood. I actually was considered very bright for my age, on my way to a great future and then you took it.
"When I hit my head and later found you controlling my body, I told myself it was a nightmare, but for what seemed like years I cried and cried and prayed to the gods to help me. They never did, until today when they gave me this gift, which you once again spoiled." Anger radiated off the boy.
He's just pretending to be a child. In this strange place that must be possible, Goku told himself. He is trying to get my guard and then he is going to attack. Despite these words, he knew them to be a false, a desperate hope to ignore the truth. Goku had learned to see when people tried to do that. He would not do the same.
"There is no sorry. You should be the only one suffering. Not me! NOT ME!" screamed Kakarot. "It's not fair! It's not fair! It's not fair! IT'S NOT FAIR!" At that moment, the boy curled up into a little ball and started crying. Sobs racked his thin body.
A dull realisation spread through Goku: He's still a child. For all the things he had seen and words he had learned, Kakarot had never fully grow up. He still had much of a young child's selfish and lack of empathy. He had never a chance to do anything else. I'm sorry, Kakarot.
"I wish there was something I could do."
"I want my life back."
"I can't do that," Goku said. "There are people who need me. My friends deserve an explanation. Goten and Gohan deserve a father, something neither of us had." Everything said was true and without exaggeration. Still, Goku felt like a tyrant.
"I could give the explanation! I could be the father!" shouted Kakarot but there was no force behind the statement.
"You know that won't work," Goku replied calmly.
The boy nodded this time and buried his face in his knees.
"Then I want it to be over. No more watching or hiding in the dark. Free."
Goku sighed and stepped towards the child and put his hand on the other's shoulder.
"I'm so sorry, Kakarot. I wish I give you your life back."
A ripple pierced the darkness. Goku closed his eyes for a second and opening them, he saw a clean, white room with Gohan, Krillin, Trunks, Vegeta and Goten. He closed his eyes again and when opening them he was back in the void with Kakarot.
He stared at the boy and saw the youth's image was fading.
Kakarot grinned at him with a tired sort of happiness. His pale skin had a little more colour. "Can't you tell. It's going to be over for me and then you'll go home."
Goku could say nothing.
"Goodbye Goku. I still hate you. You still took my life, but at least you did an okay job with it."
"Goku, answer me one thing and please be honest." Longing and hope filled the boy's tone.
"Am I evil?"
It was a simple question. Many would have answered yes without a thought, others would not be sure. Goku felt unsure and it bothered him.
"I don't know, Kakarot."
The image of the boy was translucent now, many parts gone entirely, but his dark eyes were as alive as ever. The insanity in them disappeared as Goku replied and it seemed as if it had never been there.
"Thank you," said the boy, accepting it without complaint.
Then he was gone and so was Goku.
Goten leaned against the wall away from the others, his gaze glued onto his father whom was lying on the floor was tied tightly with so many makeshift ropes he looked like he had been placed in a cocoon.
It had been three hours since he had been healed in the rejuvenation tanks and informed of everything that had happened and he still could not believe it, would not believe it. Gohan had tried to convince him, so had Vegeta and Krillin after he had come out of the tank. Each time Goten had held fast.
True he had memories of what had happened, but no matter what he remembered and what everyone said, his father would not do that. To the bottom of his soul he knew this and no one was going to convince him otherwise.
Suddenly Goku open his eyes and standing straight, Goten watched carefully and he sensed the others had noticed too. They got into position, getting prepared to fight if need be.
As Goten looked at Goku, he watched as his father opened his eyes once more and managed to get into a sitting position.
Using his senses, he stretched out mentally and touched Goku's ki. It feels right again, he thought remembering the strange feeling he had got before he had been attacked.
He gazed at his father and saw him looking back. "Tousan, is that you, the real you?" he asked, his throat choking up.
Goku smiled slowly and nodded. "It's me."
Goten threw himself at his otousan, grabbing him around his neck, while tears burst forth unhindered.
At that moment everything was right in the universe.