Disclaimer: I do not own Dragonball Z or any of the characters contained within. I am merely playing around in Akira Toriyama's world for a while.
This story began for me in late 2003, while watching the Namek saga again. I saw two little Namek boys clinging to a village elder. One was Dende, who became quite important later on in the series. The other was his brother, Cargo, who is never heard from again. I made the decision to write him into the timeline, but my hard drive died and the story was put on hold.
So let me present to you an AU story, of what might have happened had Cargo been around to change things…
"I wish back to life all those slain by Frieza and his men!"
Slowly one eye opens, and then the other. Dark eyes take in the ruined landscape, and their owner gasps. The sky is dark, though the faint outline of triplet suns is visible through the threatening black clouds. He pushes himself to his feet and stands straight. It is difficult to do. The ground is intermittently shaking, and the sky is frequently pierced by lightning. In the distance hot jets of magma spray into the sky. Columned rocks crumble. "What…what's happening?" he asks the nearest villager.
"The planet is shaking apart! We've been resurrected just to die again when our home explodes!"
Muuri turned his back on the other Namek. If others heard him panicking, they would begin to as well. A pity the Elder did not teach his younger children to be more stoic, more steadfast. They would do well to calm down. Panicking never helped anyone. He immediately began a head count of his villagers by tracking down each ki in turn and noting their location. At the edge of his awareness he could hear his people's soft exclamations of fear and wonder both, at having been returned to life.
It almost seems like the storms that nearly destroyed our race have returned to finish off its survivors, the Namek mused darkly, interrupting his own activity. Then he frowned up at the sky, squinting to see the vortexes forming in the clouds. Wait…those are no ordinary storm clouds, most of them. There is – ah! The Dragon must have been summoned! His attention was drawn elsewhere by the sound of someone trying to smother a sob.
The village elder caught a flash of yellow-and-red as a small figure flung itself at his leg. He staggered back, caught off-balance, and dropped his chin to his chest to squint at the child that had attached himself to his clothes. "Cargo!" he exclaimed, causing the boy to raise his head and lock his tear-filled eyes onto the clear gaze of his elder.
"I can't find my brother, Muuri!" the young Namek whimpered. "Dende's not here! I can't find him!"
"He must be alive, Cargo," Muuri said softly, detaching the boy from his robes. "We have been resurrected by Porunga. Our village is here. Everyone is here. He either…" and here the older Namek swallowed hard, "…died here, or ran far enough away from the village, before he was caught."
"But I can't sense him near the village!"
"Have you tried farther out?"
The child alternated between clenching and unclenching his fists. "I can't reach that far! I tried, Muuri! I tried! But I still can't feel him!" Tears freely ran down the boy's cheeks with his words, and he spoke in anger. Anger, and…desperation?
And as his emotion held sway over his thoughts, the air around him seemed to ripple.
Muuri blinked. The boy had received no ki training, and yet he was beginning to create an aura about himself. One not yet visible, save to one who knew what tattered beginnings to look for. How curious. "Sprout, be strong," he gently told the boy, scooping him up into his arms. "You will feel him soon enough. He cannot hide himself from us forever."
It was a horrible explanation, but the boy needed some kind of comfort. Muuri bit down on the insides of his cheeks to keep from rambling and betraying his own fears. Instead of speaking he tried reaching out to the missing child himself, searching nearby for Dende's small ki in case Cargo's senses had somehow passed over him. He did not think that event likely, but he wanted to believe in a less morbid reason for the lapse.
Right now, he wanted so badly to contact Nail and ask him to speak with Cargo, for the boy showed obvious potential. At such a tender age, it was almost unheard of to show a ki aura. Nail himself was the last youngster to do such a thing, and he would be of great help to the child he held now… if they all somehow survived the death of the planet, that is. But this was not the time to think of such things. A catastrophe was nigh, and the child in his arms needed comfort.
To all appearances satisfied with the elder's flimsy explanation, Cargo fell silent, hiccupping through his sobs and burying his face in his tiny arms. Muuri hugged the child close and wondered why the sky was still dark, even though the Dragon's summoning must surely be finished by now. Perhaps the planet was about to be destroyed. Perhaps that Frieza monster was preparing, even now, to launch his ship from the planet and laugh his fool head off when it exploded. He sighed.
Another quake shook the earth, and Muuri fell to his knees, steadying himself with one hand while clutching the boy to himself with the other. If this went on much longer, they'd –
He blinked. Did those two warriors just disappear?
Soft cries of bewilderment came from the other villagers as they, too, began to vanish in ones and twos. First they shimmered, and then they blurred out of sight, like a mistake made on an artist's canvas. Is that the wish? Muuri wondered, cradling the boy to his chest. Are we being sent to another…
Two things happened at once.
Cargo squeaked with surprise.
Then Muuri's vision distorted. All the colors of the land swirled and blended before his eyes, dark clouds and green waters together. This is unnatural! his mind roared to him. This is no Dragon-wish, but one of Frieza's tricks! A scream welled up in the back of his throat as vertigo pressed down heavily upon him, and only for the sake of the child did he bite it back. I cannot take much more of this! He clutched the boy all the more tightly to him.
And then it was over, as abruptly as it had begun.
The village elder was surprised to find himself standing upon firm ground once more, with a sky bright enough to hurt his eyes when he dared glance up. There was only one sun here. "…planet?" His voice continued the thought he had started on Namek. And why not? he wondered. Surely we will be safe from Frieza here, for a time. Wherever 'here' is.
While he was contemplating the clearing he stood in and listening to the other Nameks tentatively exploring their new surroundings, Cargo perked up in his arms. Then his head jerked to one side. "Dende!" he suddenly screamed, and he twisted around violently, causing Muuri to release him. The boy landed on his feet and took off running. The elder watched him sprint toward a group of trees, where a flurry of motion had just erupted. He frowned and reached out to the area with his ki. A downed Namek, it told him, and a powerful healer. He is strong to be able to bring someone back from the brink of death. The healer's ki felt familiar, too, and strong in its own right.
His eyes widened as he put the pieces together. Is that Dende? Is that healer our little Dende?
Apparently so, he decided when he heard Cargo's shriek of joy. He began to make his own way over to the small group. Whatever was occurring was sure to be a joyous occasion, and he knew that their people could use all the happiness they could find.
The young healer heard a familiar voice shriek his name, but he could not allow himself to be distracted. Nail – er, Piccolo – was nearly healed. He had taken a wound to his shoulder, through his chest. It had come close to piercing his heart. The wound was serious, especially given how much blood had been leaking from it when he first felt the waning ki of a fellow Namek. But now he was in no danger, and all that remained were finishing touches, to be certain no traces of the injury remained.
No sooner than he had lifted his hands away from Piccolo's shoulder, someone hit him hard in the side, and he was sent sprawling on the grass. His attacker clung tightly to him. He struggled violently to free himself before he heard weeping, and he suddenly realized who it was that clung to him.
"Cargo," he said softly. "Cargo, it's going to be all right." His brother's response was a sob and a tightened grip. Dende stroked the back of his brother's head and held the other boy to him.
"Dende, I tried! I tried to find you, but I couldn't! Where were you?" Cargo cried, fisting his hands in Dende's tunic. "And then I tried to find Nail, but the only one I could sense was Muuri!"
"I didn't die near the village," Dende replied. "Two humans saved me there. I died later, at the hands of Frieza himself."
Piccolo chose that moment (or perhaps it was a coincidence) to sit up, and Cargo's jaw dropped. His tears dried up immediately. "Nail!" he squeaked. "Brother! Where were you?"
Piccolo ignored him, instead running his fingers over the discolored skin on his shoulder. The healed wound had left behind a scar, barely noticeable but still present. He frowned slightly. He would have a permanent reminder of his foolishness now.
"Nail?" Cargo asked cautiously, sitting up. His gaze was curious. Dende sat up as well and then knelt back. He saw the scar Piccolo was examining and frowned. He should have had enough energy to heal him completely. Perhaps he had been mistaken.
Piccolo glanced down at Dende and nodded his thanks, then turned his attention to Cargo. He regarded him coolly. "Nail is gone," he told the boy.
Cargo smiled nervously. "N-Nail, why is your voice so low?"
"I am not Nail. Your brother can explain it to you." With those words, the older Namek stood up and swiftly walked away. Dende watched him approach Gohan, the half-Saiyan boy who had saved him from Frieza. Gohan's face lit up as the Namek stopped before him and reached out a hand to tousle his hair.
"What is he talking about?" Cargo asked.
Dende tore his gaze away from the small reunion and wished Piccolo had not demanded this task of him. He sighed. "Nail isn't with us anymore." He winced at his brother's sharp cry of denial and continued. "Nail sacrificed himself to save the Elder. He was dying. That man, there," and he nodded toward Piccolo, "fused with him to fight Frieza."
"No!" Cargo gasped.
"He's gone," Dende replied quietly.
To his surprise, his brother did not cry out again. Instead, he balled his hands into fists and dug them into his thighs. Tears dripped down his cheeks and dampened his sleeves, but he made no sound.
"Cargo?" he asked.
The young boy began to tremble.
In his concern, Dende reached out a hand to his brother, but Cargo slapped it away. Dende reeled back in surprise. "Don't touch me," the boy hissed. "Don't touch me."
"But – "
"Leave me be!"
Dende frowned. Had his brother lost his mind? Where was the sweet little brother that helped him pick Adjissa for their village elder? He sat in silence and watched Cargo's body shake. It seemed the boy had aged centuries in a moment. A rapid mental maturation (or degradation) was the only explanation for Cargo's sudden change in attitude. His heart ached for him, his healer's senses wanting to ease his pain but not knowing what to do. He could not heal wounds of the heart. He felt so helpless…
Around them, their brothers congregated and exchanged stories of their experiences. The clearing soon filled with laughter and exclamations of surprise. The two youngsters were left in relative peace. Neither noticed that they had attracted three observers. Muuri, the closest, was in a position to hear their exchange. He did not like what he was hearing. Gohan, though further away, could see how the younger Namek was reacting to whatever news Dende had given him, and he was worried about the child. Piccolo was able to not only hear the conversation, but he could also divine the thoughts Cargo was having. He would never admit to it, but the boy who had irritated him moments before was beginning to intrigue him.
Cargo spoke again after a few minutes. "You are right, Dende," he said quietly. "Nail is gone. Our greatest warrior is dead. There will be no one left to protect us."
"But Piccolo – "
Cargo laughed. "Piccolo who? Only another Namek could understand us, and there are none more powerful than Nail. And he is gone. Someone has to take his place. Someone has to avenge him."
Dende's eyebrows shot straight up. "You?" he exclaimed incredulously. When Cargo did not move, he exhaled slowly. "Cargo, you have no training."
"I can fix that. There are other warriors that can teach me the basics."
"You're too young!"
"So are you," Cargo retorted, "but that did not stop you from becoming a healer!"
Dende opened his mouth to argue against him, but he stopped himself. Cargo had a point. He would not have had the ability to heal without the Elder's awakening of his latent ki. The Elder had known of his potential and had thought the situation dire enough to risk awakening a powerful ability in a child. He had handled himself well. Might Cargo be able to do the same?
Then he mentally shook himself. What was he thinking? Cargo was too immature to handle such responsibility. Listen to him! He was going on about revenge! That was not the way of their people. Nameks were a peaceful race, not one bent on destroying any species that came across them, good or evil! What had happened to his little brother?
"Trust me, Dende. I will become strong enough to protect us all. Nothing like this will ever happen again."
Dende let Cargo's words slide past him. He was preoccupied with the notion of smacking his brother upside the head with a large stick, to clear his mind of such wild thoughts. In doing so, he missed the bitter smile that graced Cargo's young face, missed the glance from eyes that had aged years in a day. He missed the words Cargo mouthed silently.
Nail, I will make you proud.
Before I get blasted for the rapid shift from anxious child to determined youth, I would like to point out that in cases of emotional trauma, it is entirely possible for someone's attitude to change rapidly in a matter of moments. Go look up the five stages of grief if you doubt this.
I've got a lot going on in my life right now, so updates will probably be slow. I will finish this story, though. My muse would never forgive me if I didn't.
Thanks for reading.