In the year 2000, I was 13 years old.
Try to remember what you were like when you were 13 years old. Do you like that person?
Is that even a fair question to ask?
When I was 13 years old, I played the saxophone, stayed up until 4am on the weekends, and was heavily invested in Dragonball Z.
Fitting in with my friends was a top priority when I was 13 years old. They were all into Dragonball Z. And so, as is the case today, I relied upon anime to bridge friendships and fill my free time. The birthday money I’d accumulated over the years was spent on VHS fansubs of Dragonball movies, Ani-Mayhem trading cards, and tons of crap.
I was a Dragonball Z-loving nerd.
Listen. I’m not my own biographer. It’s impossible to reach into memories from that hormone-soaked human ritual called Being Thirteen and pull back anything but a rough stump. All I can say with certainty is that I was 13 years old and I was scrambling to define myself like it was some sort of race that I might lose.
I wrote a Dragonball Z fanfic in the year 2000. Or, I should say I started a Dragonball Z fanfic.
I can’t say for certain why I felt pressed to share it— then or now— but evidence from archive.org confirms that I did. I vaguely remember firing an attachment to some 19-year-old, who in turn pushed it up to his college-run web host. And there it was, along with a bunch of other Dragonball Z fanfic written by whoever.
I didn’t share it with folks I knew personally. In all likelihood, I was spamming it on the forums of Planet Namek or the other Dragonball web haunts where I used to lurk. But I didn’t care. I probably enjoyed sharing my words with people much like I do today. I feel like I exist a little harder when people are reading my words. That’s not really changed, I would imagine.
So, fast forward fourteen years. I remembered I wrote this thing, looked for it, and lo, there it was.
I decided to finish it, both as a writing exercise and a mental exercise.
The second chapter started as a much simpler, comedy-driven parody of fan fiction in general. But it grew into a story that is true to now me, past me, and the text (the text the text). You’ll still be entertained, if I know you.
Now, I also mentioned that this was a mental exercise. I’ve not always had the easiest time exploring the hazy, dark, uncomfortable blur of my past. Consider this story a high-power dose of exposure therapy.
No regrets, mind you. And that’s the point: To unabashedly finish the job. My goal is to give 13-year-old me a present. I want to let him know that I think that he was a cool kid.
And if you disagree, well, why are you wasting your time judging a middle-schooler from the past?
The Author’s Note from 2000 and Chapter 1 are presented in their unedited, misspelled entirety. Chapter 2 and the Epilogue are the new stuff.
Here are some faces you might not remember from the show, with links to more information.
If you chose to read this, like many people don’t, you're probably thinking "Why did you write a story on such a minor character in DBZ?" To answer that question, it is because he is a minor character in DB and DBZ, underestimated and overlooked. He deserves a story all his own because he was always ignored! But enough of that, let me explain the epic. The villain is a human (not a Saiyan or dinosaur). A hermit that has trained his whole life to build incredibly strong psychic powers. Does anyone's energy match up to the powers that this man wields? You know who...Read on---
" Hey! Lets take a break, I’m bushed! And anyway it’s getting to dark to spar.", Chaozu shouted to Tien.
"Ok, your right. It’s probably 8:00 now. But let’s start again first thing tomorrow.", Tien replied.
They both started to walk down to the river to get a drink. Chaozu started to recall that afternoon’s training. He had been able to stop Tien in his tracks using his psychic abilities every time he tried. He had also blocked a good amount of punches thrown by Tein. But the ones that connected decked him quickly. I’ll have to work on a better defensive plan, he thought.
When they got back to their "camp", the decided the ought to go on to sleep, because of more vigorous training in the morning. So they unpacked their sleeping bags, and immediately fell on them, to tired to even think straight.
"Hey, Tien," Chaozu messaged telepathically. "Don’t we have to go do something in the afternoon tomorrow?"
"Ya. We had planned to go over to Kamesennin’s house for a while. You know, visit, pig out on food, the usual."
"Who else will be there?"
"We’ll see tomorrow. Now let me get some sleep. It has been a long day, my friend."
Tien then fell asleep, but Chaozu stayed awake. He felt strange, as if there was some kind of danger waiting for them tomorrow. He thought about it a while, but dozed off of complete exhaustion.
"I think I’ll go sort my socks...", Kamesennin said without emotion.
"I think I will help him...", added Kuririn.
"Is something wrong, guys?", questioned Gokou. "You sound so dreary! And you were just about to get a sandwich."
"Were just tired, not enough sleep last night...", Kuririn sputtered out.
" I’m not hungry anymore...", Kamesennin sighed.
Gokou shrugged. He didn’t care what they were really doing up there, but he did think that they sounded, well, almost possessed. He glanced over at Bulma
"Is something wrong, Bulma?", Gokou asked. "You look so tiered!"
"I'm ff-fff-fine..", Bulma replied. She was sitting on the couch, shaking violently. "I just feel out of energy." She suddenly fell to the floor, unconscious and not breathing.
"Oolong! Kuririn! Kamesennin! Get me a hot towel and call an ambulance!", Gokou shouted. Gokou heard something coming down the stairs. He glanced over and saw the bloody bodies of Kuririn and Kamesennin rolling down the stairs, completely lifeless.
Oolong then calmly strided down the steps. He stepped on top of the corpse at the foot of the blood-soaked stairs. Oolong walked over to Bulma and just stood there, looking at her and grinning. He started laughing insanely.
"Oolong!! Have you gone mad?! I said to ge-"
"I know what you said, you fool!", Oolong bellowed. His eyes had a red tint to them, as if a sign that he was defiantly not himself." You warriors of strength are so utterly stupid. You will never stand a chance against me! I persuaded those mortals to go upstairs and destroy each other. If you don’t get medical attention to that girl in 10 minutes she will also die. Now! You will also feel the wrath of Shao-Picro!" Oolong then fell to the floor, and his body unexpectedly burst into flames. Immediately after he hit the ground, knives started swirling around the room, and then, it all flew towards Gokou at great speeds.
"What in the--yaaahhhhhhhh!" Gokou shouted. A fork had just impaled him through his back. He screamed once more before a knife stuck through his throat.
"Hey guys! Where here!", Chaozu and Tien shouted from outside. The door was locked, and no one was answering the it. They peeked through the window and saw Gokou, spread out on the floor with a pool of blood under him.
"My god! What happened?", Tien shouted to Chaozu. Tien kicked the door down and they both rushed in to see what happened. Gokou was still alive, but didn't have much time left.
"Gokou, what happened to you?", Chaozu asked. "I think we're too late..."
"Sh-shao--Pic-ic.." Gokou stuttered. Blood that was gathering in his mouth was making it hard for him to speak.
"He knows who did this!", Chaozu shouted to Tien. Tien was examining the bodies of Kuririn and Kamesennin. "So who did this, Gokou?"
"I-It was Shao--Pic-icro...", Gokou exhaled his last breath the moment after he told Chaozu and Tien the valuable information.
"Chaozu! Come here, quickly!" Tien shouted to his partner. He had found Bulma's unconscious body. "I'll call and ambulance over!"
"No," Chaozu shouted to Tien. "It would take to long to get here. Lets take her ourselves..."
Next Chapter: Will Tien and Chaozu be able to get Bulma medical attention before it is too late? Will Shao-Picro make sure they don’t get there in time? Find out in the next chapter!
Ten minutes passed like fourteen years.
There was the blue-haired girl. Her fair skin was cold and pocked with bruises. There she was, cradled in the three-eyed man’s powerful arms.
And there was Chaozu, the porcelain clown trailing behind them, casting tears the ocean below.
“Tien,” Chaozu signaled with his telepathy, “let’s take her to Dr. Brief.”
“You said she needed medical attention.”
“We’re out of time.”
“Don’t say that!” Tien shouted into the stinging wind. “There is still hope!”
Chaozu’s hope had been drained onto the floor of Kamesennin’s island love shack. Hope had been replaced with bitter humors, all sloshing and boiling inside of him.
“She, she needs her family now,” Chaozu squeaked. “It’s all we can do.”
West City glimmered beyond the horizon.
Dr. Brief loomed over the body of his comatose daughter, studying her. The deafening grind of problem-solving machinations obscured his sadness.
“I believe I have a solution,” he finally said. “Pick her up and follow me.”
The eccentric doctor moved to a vault-like door on the other side of the room. Tien again cradled Bulma’s cold, frail body in his arms and followed the others.
The door slid open slowly to reveal a cavernous chamber. The walls were adorned with gray metal panels of all conceivable sizes and shapes. Gigantic hooks and chains stretched down from the sky-high ceiling.
“What is this place?” Chaozu spoke in awe. A metal causeway stretched into the abyss, suspended over unmeasurable darkness.
The resident genius lit a cigarette and stepped inside.
“Let me ask you,” he began, “what makes you feel safe?”
Chaozu and Tien traded earnest glances.
“What do you mean?” the doll asked.
“Safety. Security. Where does that come from?”
“Strength,” Tien answered, looking down upon the girl. “Being strong, growing stronger. I feel safe as long as I know I’m pushing myself to be the best.”
“Hm. What about you?”
Chaozu focus was pulled into the depths beyond the guardrail. The darkness offered him nothing.
“The unknown is what scares me. So I guess knowledge is what makes me feel safe. Understanding.”
“Then you are like me,” Dr. Brief replied.
They moved in silence along the causeway, then stopped at a junction in the catwalk. The fork in the path was punctuated by a blocky remote control suspended from the ceiling.
“I’ve lived every day of my life hiding beneath a shield of mysticism that I simply do not understand. I am grateful, you see, but I live in fear because I do not understand.”
“Three-eyed men, talking dolls, demons and monkeys who can summon a wish-granting dragon. Frankly,” he paused to fill his lungs with smoke, “it all sounds like childish fantasy to me. So this…”
The doctor reached to grab the gently-swaying remote and moved his fingers purposefully over a few buttons. The entire room vibrated as chains lifted something from the depths below. A room-sized capsule was pulled into the light.
“…this is security. This is safety. This is a weapon I can understand.”
The capsule was wrapped in reddish-orange metal. It held the sparse light and multiplied it unlike anything Chaozu had ever seen.
“The pilot’s chamber,” Dr. Brief boasted. “It’s part of a much bigger machine I’ve been building for years. But this piece houses the most advanced life-support system on Earth.”
“Ahh!” Chaozu and Tien both exclaimed with wide eyes and slack jaws.
“Place her inside.”
A circular door turned and pulled itself into the cockpit. Tien placed Bulma’s lifeless body into the capsule.
“I can’t be certain that it will bring my daughter back to life. But it’s the best chance we have.”
“What sort of weapon is it, Dr. Brief?” Chaozu asked.
A sly, knowing smile grew across the doctor’s face. He once again reached for the dangling remote and the capsule returned to the darkness.
“I cannot say. Unfortunately, it’s too dangerous to talk about it. We don’t know if he’s listening.”
“Shao-Picro…” Tien trailed off angrily.
“Sure, whatever. Listen,” Dr. Brief said, “you two need to fulfill your roles while I finish activating the weapon.”
“Yes, Chaozu. The hero’s role is to fight evil.”
Chaozu could feel his plush body growing firmer with resolve. He was the hero.
The vault door closed behind Chaozu and Tien with a loud thud.
“What do you think he meant about our ‘roles,’ Tien?”
Tien crossed his arms and closed his three eyes in mystic concentration.
“I’m more worried about Shao-Picro,” Tien growled. “We’ve got to alert the others and prepare to battle!”
Chaozu cocked his head to the side and flattened his expression.
“But we don’t even know what we’re up against!” the tiny clown protested from three feet in the air. “Were you even listening to Dr. Brief? Or me?”
“There’s no time for that!” Tien shouted.
“Why? Why are you acting like an idiot at a time like this?”
Tien looked down upon Chaozu with thin, pinched eyes.
“Alright, tough guy. If you’re so tough and smart, why don’t you come up with a plan?”
Chaozu broke the tension with a sigh.
“Well, we need help. And we need to learn more about the demon. We need a friend who knows about demons.”
With that, the two burst through the roof of Capsule Corp headquarters. Chaozu concentrated on the distant beacon of Piccolo’s energy as Tien pushed through the air alongside him.
The scarlet hue of the afternoon sky hung beyond a silhouette of thin branches and sparse leaves.
Piccolo let out an exasperated grunt and released his kai (author’s note: kai means energy). The trees groaned and cracked around him as beams of energy poured forth from his hands. After a few moments, Piccolo was left to the sounds of his exhaustion.
The Namekian warrior let his heavy head slide backward. He could feel two familiar forces moving toward him.
“What are they doing here?” Piccolo asked aloud. “They should know not to disturb me when I’m in the middle of very intense training.”
He rested his eyes and slowed his breathing until Tien and Chaozu touched down a cautious distance away.
“Tien,” Piccolo acknowledged with a nod, “and small thing whose name I forget. What are you doing here?”
“My name is Chaozu, asshole.”
“We’re here because of Shao-Picro.”
“Goku is dead,” Chaozu added. “Stabbed to death with knives.”
Piccolo’s face tightened with an unfamiliar fear.
“His power is unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed.”
Tien watched the wind move over the dead leaves and sprigs of grass at his feet.
“I cannot help you,” Piccolo stated flatly. “No one can help you.”
The Namekian turned his back to Tien and Chaozu. Each slow, catatonic step sank into the wet decay.
“No!” Chaozu exclaimed. “Tell us about Shao-Picro!”
Piccolo turned his angry face back to face Chaozu and shouted, “it won’t make any difference!”
“Tell us why!”
“Because there are gods unlike the ones you know,” Piccolo warned as he turned to face the pair. He raised a clenched fist. “Gods with machines that move the universe according to their own strange design.”
Piccolo let out a chuckle behind a defeated, cynical smirk. He loosened his fist and moved toward to the curious porcelain doll.
“Fate isn’t the right word. Fate is an agnostic design— a structure whose cruelty is a matter of perspective.”
“We control our fate!” Tien protested. Neither Chaozu or Piccolo paid him any mind.
“We’re what, then? Puppets?” Chaozu raised his small, soft arms and stubby fingers. “We’re just dolls?”
“That’s right, and Shao-Picro is—”
The smiling, familiar face of an anthropomorphic pig face burst from the center of Piccolo’s chest. Piccolo’s winced with his hands shaking in place as the face turned to look up at him. They locked eyes for a moment, before Shao-Picro fled back out the way he came. The Namekian fell onto his knees for a moment then toppled to one side.
Chaozu and Tien watched on in horror as Oolong’s possessed form lifted his leg and set it triumphantly upon the body of their fallen friend.
“You know what this reminds me of?” Shao-Picro asked. “The way Piccolo and Goku defeated Radditz, with the gaping hole in the chest and everything.”
“You’re gonna pay for that!”
Shao-Picro turned to face Tien.
“Tien, it’s 2014. Knock off the one-dimensional shonen shit and grow a personality.”
“Piccolo told us what you are,” Chaozu shouted back.
“Yeah, I heard him,” the demon gloated. “Something about fate and gods or whatever. A very Dragonball way of mystifying what I am.”
Shao-Picro stepped off of Piccolo’s corpse and gave the forest a suspicious glance.
“You can’t sneak up on me,” he shouted to the splintered trees and stale air. “I’m too genre savvy!”
The forest replied with a rumbling. The air jerked and ebbed in a rising crescendo. The two grounded characters dug their feet into the earth, while Chaozu extended his arms to balance himself in place.
“But how well do you know mecha?” a woman’s voice boomed from above.
The scarlet hues of the sky began to darken around the edges. The redness retreated inward, coalescing into a humongous form against the starry night. The sky was actually a giant battle robot pointing a megaphone down toward the forest.
Chaozu remembered Dr. Brief’s robot. The woman’s voice must be Bulma’s voice, he thought. His esper mind was aligned like a magnet to the ferocity and anger emanating from the heart of the mech.
Shao-Picro dashed into the sky to face Dr. Brief’s creation, with Chaozu and Tien instinctively taking chase behind him.
“Just who the hell do you think you are?” the pig-faced demon shouted with his small fist cocked.
“Bulma Brief,” the megaphone roared defiantly. “And I am the spirit of a past that won’t be forgotten!”
The words sent Shao-Picro tumbling backward, past Tien and Chaozu and into the dark forest. The companions continued upward to join the massive robot in the sky.
“Bulma, what’s going on?” Tien asked.
“Shao-Picro is an unhealthy coping mechanism. He was created to destroy our universe.”
Against the soft intensity of an enormous full moon, the shadow of a pig-person wearing jeans and suspenders cackled at Chaozu’s question.
“Because this universe is juvenile and shallow,” he answered. “It is a fantasy embraced by children who can’t deal with the real world!”
The robot turned its microphone up toward the demon and shot back, “that fantasy is a part of who you are today!”
“I’ll show you who I am today!”
The shadow faced the heroes as they cautiously watched his movements. One arm extended to trace the circumference of the moon, then collapsed down into a fist. Shao-Picro spun in a pirouette, faster and faster until a cyclone of rose petals and star-shaped energy erupted to obscure his form. The cyclone then bounced away from the moon and hurtled to them at a dazzling speed.
The cyclone exploded to reveal Oolong, wearing a schoolgirl’s sailor uniform and feathered mask. He brandished a long golden staff in his gloved hands. The tip of the staff was adorned with a large, pink jewel, aimed at Tien.
“Kawaii finale!” the demon exclaimed as he turned to Chaozu and winked.
An adorable rainbow of energy shot from the jeweled tip, wrapping itself around Tien. Chaozu lifted an arm toward his friend.
But Tien was now a chocolate cupcake— complete with with three eye-shaped jewels of butter cream frosting— tumbling down to the ground.
Shao-Picro struck a pose mid-air, placed his gloved palm over his mouth and let out a giggle. The ruffles of his skirt danced loudly in the wind.
“You cannot win against third-generation mahou shoujo,” he taunted. “I carry the weight of mass appeal! My storylines are darker and more mature than you could ever comprehend! They connect with a broader audience!”
“You were in middle school! You were thirteen years old!”
Mahou Shoujo Shao-Picro grimaced under his mask.
“Bulma, keep going!” Chaozu encouraged.
“You didn’t have to destroy this world to grow up! And you don’t have to destroy it now!”
The mask broke in half. Chaozu watched Shao-Picro’s face buckling under the weight of Bulma’s accusations. The demon was weaker and pained by the words— how they were significant he did not know. But the porcelain clown understood that words alone would not be enough to finish the fight.
He had to help. He had to think of a way to help.
But how? He didn’t know anything about magical girls or giant, fighting robots. Chaozu was an underdog with abilities that didn’t quite fit in this world of raw strength and power levels. He knew this about himself.
And yet, he was still alive.
“You… you liked me, didn’t you?” Chaozu asked softly as Bulma rattled on about the dangers of disconnecting one’s past from one’s present. “That’s why you haven’t killed me.”
Chaozu focused his psychic energy on the demon. The pale doll’s psychic powers had been useless without some landmark— some deep, personal feeling— to fix upon. And now, Chaozu was riding his hunch like a tank through the barriers of denial erected around Shao-Picro’s psyche.
Then, they were connected.
He saw a boy. The boy wanted to grow up; he judged himself to be too juvenile. He thought that growing up would give him the confidence to be himself.
The boy had it all backwards.
Chaozu watched the boy retreat behind sharp-edged cynicism. The boy began discarding the things he genuinely liked to build for himself a new, seemingly adult persona. And one day, the boy decided to warp his favorite fantasy world into a darker place.
The boy wrote a story. He killed off the so-called main characters and moved the spotlight onto his favorite character— a minor sidekick who seemed as out-of-place and disconnected as the boy felt.
“Hey!” Chaozu shouted to the boy.
The boy looked up at him from the family computer. At the top of the screen read the words Chaozu’s Fight in big, bold letters.
“You know, you’re tearing my world apart. You should stop that.”
“Sorry,” the boy replied half-heartedly, “but I think you’re really cool and I think you deserve your own story!”
“I have my own story.”
The boy was visibly puzzled, though not by the fact that he was being visited by his favorite fictional side character.
“My story is better with my friends in it,” Chaozu continued. “With Goku and Krillin and everyone. I wouldn’t give them up just to be a main character in someone else’s story.”
“But… I’m done with them. I’m tired of that repetitive, battle-of-the-week bullshit.”
“So move on. You can start enjoying new stories, with adult language and real character development.”
The boy appeared frustrated. Chaozu could sense his resentment growing. He was, after all, just a child.
“Look, you don’t have to hate your past. People grow up. They move on to new things. But that doesn’t mean you have to discard the things you used to enjoy.”
“Seriously. Find a copy of Neon Genesis Evangelion. I think you’ll like the whole coming-to-terms-with-yourself theme.”
“Uh, okay. I’ll give it a go.”
“Thanks, kid.” Chaozu put his small hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Chaozu gave him a deep nod and a solemn look, then retreated from the demon’s mind to a more familiar world.
“Dinner is served!”
Oolong lifted the first basket of deep-red, boiled crawfish over his head and spilled them onto the patio table. Clouds of steam danced and flared with the ocean breeze.
“Oh, oh! Hot! Hot!”
Before anyone could warn him, Goku was juggling a piece of corn between his palms.
“Goku,” Bulma sighed. “You’re always thinking with your stomach!”
The friends all laughed as they picked out the biggest morsels from the bountiful boil.
“Man, thith ith deliciouth,” Krilin mumbled from between his stuffed cheeks. “A real Cajun-style meal.”
“Yeah, great idea, Chaozu!”
Chaozu didn’t know anything about Cajun food, but he smiled and took the compliments all the same.