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Alternate Futures

caused by Trunks' time machine...

Story #1 (Main Story)

763 - Cell arrives on Earth as an egg. (Cell arrives from the year 788 in Story #3 with Trunks time machine)

764 - Trunks (Future Trunks) kills Frieza and King Cold. Goku arrives on Earth.

766 - Birth of Trunks (Chibi Trunks)

767 - Arrival of the cyborgs. Oppening of the Cell game. (After the Cell game, Future Trunks returns to his time, Story #2, in 785 and destroys Androids 17 and 18)

774 - Resurrection of Buu

784 - 28th Budokai tournament. Goku departs with Ubuu.

Story #2 (The era Future Trunks is from)

764 - Goku arrives on Earth and kills Frieza and King Cold. He later dies of a contagious heart disease.

766 - Birth of Trunks (Future Trunks)

767 - Arrival of the androids. The Z Warriors are killed.

780 - Death of Gohan

784 - Trunks (Future Trunks) uses the time machine to voyage into the past. (Future Trunks arrives in Story #1 in 764)

785 - After his voyage into the past, Trunks (future Trunks) is now strong enough to defeat Androids 17 and 18.

788 - Trunks (Future Trunks) defeats Cell.

Story #3 (The era Cell came from)

785 - Trunks (future Trunks) destroys Androids 17 and 18.

788 - Cell uses Trunks time machine to voyage back in time. (Cell arrives in Story #1 in 763 as an egg)

Story #4 (Unknown Story)

767 - Oppening of the Cell game.

Seems complicated doesn't it? Here's a simpler explanation. Story #1 is the DragonBall story the way it unfolded and the way you saw it. Story #2 is the one where Trunks comes from the future. It is in this story where Future Trunks defeats Androids 17 and 18 and Cell. If Cell dies in Story #2 though, what future did he come from to appear in the main story? It is because there exists an alternate future where Cell uses Trunks time machine to go back in time. That happens in Story #3. When Cell is born in that story, Android 17 and 18 no longer exist which is why he must go back in time to become perfect. So what happened to the two androids? Trunks brought their plans and their emergengy self destruct instructions with him to use against them in his era. This is why, in another story, Trunks is absent during the Cell game. That story is Story #4. All these alternate futures may leave some unanswered questions like why didn't Buu resurrect in Story #2 or #3? The answer is actually simple. The people who had enough energy to free him (either Goku, Vegeta or Gohan) were dead and nobody else on Earth had the kind of power needed to free Buu.
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