Title: Theme and Variations: Castaways
Premise, or Lack Thereof: In the “Canon” universe, Nataku and Vegeta have a quiet moment between missions
Reason for Banishment: Weak characterization, not well thought out alternate universe.
Theme and Variation: Castaways
an Altiverse story by Dot
Vegeta leaned against the hatch. “You’re only going to make things worse, you know.”
“You’re no help,” Nataku shot back from below. “Besides, I’d rather do this than listen to you grumble about being stuck on some ‘God-forsaken wasteland’, as you so lovingly put it.”
Vegeta crossed his arms. “Hmph. I still say we just wait for Frieza to find us and pick us up.”
“And when’s that gonna happen?” Nataku pushed aside a large tangled mass of wiring. “I’d be willing to bet that I can give this thing enough juice and make it to the nearest base without a mechanic.”
Vegeta scowled. “Do you always have to disagree with everything I say?”
Nataku smiled. “Of course. It’s my job. Besides, we’ve already reported our situation through our Scouters, and this gives me something to do other than pace while we wait for them to get here.”
Neither said a thing for several moments. Then, Vegeta sat down against one of the panels. “I’m turning 18 two weeks from now and I’m still a Prince,” he muttered.
“Will you give it up already?” Nataku asked, a bit annoyed. “Your father’s obviously not interested in retiring yet.”
“And I’m out on missions too much to raise any kind of support,” Vegeta added. He clenched his fists. “Damn it! The old geezer must be behind all of this!”
“You think your father’s behind anything that even remotely resembles a conspiracy,” Nataku mumbled to herself. Shining her flashlight around and finding nothing wrong, she let out a sigh of exasperation. “One down and ten more to go.” Holding onto her tools, she inched herself back out. When she was clear of the panel, she noticed Vegeta watching her with amusement. Frowning, she put her hands on her hips. “You know, this could go a lot faster if you’d just get your lazy-assed butt off the ground and give me a hand.”
“Oh, but you’re doing such a good job, I’d only get in your way.”
Nataku glared at him for a while, but then turned away and began replacing the hatch cover.
“What’s this?” Vegeta asked, faking horror. “No snappish comeback?”
Nataku ignored him and continued to screw in the hatch cover. Damn it! Why does he have to be such a jerk? And just when I was starting to like the whole fiancée idea, too!
Upon reaching Vegeta’s sixteenth birthday, his status as the Crown Prince of the Saiyan was made formal in an elaborate ceremony, and Nataku was named his future mate at the same time. She later found out, much to her consternation, that the entire thing had already been arranged at birth.
Good thing I didn’t grow up knowing that I’d have to marry Vegeta, Nataku thought. I don’t think I would have been able to stand it.
The last two years had been a roller coaster ride of high and low points. On one hand, Vegeta and Nataku made a spectacular team, their strengths and weaknesses complementing each other, and the bond they established through growing up together was so strong that they could almost read each others’ minds. On the other hand, their personalities clashed every day. Nataku tended to be one who got in the last word, Vegeta having been goaded to the point of being unable to speak.
On this particular day, though, Nataku’s attention was being diverted by several other thoughts. First and foremost, of course, was the problem concerning their spaceship. Nataku always ran a full diagnostic on the ship before and after a mission, but this time they had left in a hurry. However, the last time she checked all systems had been working just fine. But not only did the fuel cell not perform at its peak, the power supply of the ship had been drained by such a severe amount that she had been forced to land it well away from their destination.
Second was the Saiyan’s alliance with Frieza. Being a female, Nataku could slip through the palace unnoticed, and in doing so she tended to overhear quite a bit of ‘private’ conversation, most of which pertained to said alliance. Many Royal Families, including her own parents, thought that the alliance was not to the Saiyan’s advantage, but the King would hear none of their doubts. This put a severe strain in the already tense relationship between the King and the lesser Houses, since it had only been a generation ago since the King’s House became the ascendant one in a bloody coup.
Vegeta doesn’t seem to realize that if it wasn’t for his grandfather, I would be the Heir and he just another soldier, Nataku thought, sneaking sidelong glances at Vegeta as she worked. Then again, I probably would have been engaged to some jerk like him as soon as I was old enough to have kids.
Off came the second panel. Nataku poked her head in, and her nose wrinkled the moment she did. “Phew. Something reeks in here.” Her eyes widened as she realized what it was. “Fuel!” Shining her flashlight into the opening, she confirmed what her nose already knew. “Damn it, this heap of junk’s leaking fuel!”
This got Vegeta on his feet in a hurry. Nataku moved over to let him look, and he came to the same conclusion, although he went a step further by dipping his finger into the gooey mess that was pooling at the bottom of the unit. He scowled when he saw the discolored result. “This isn’t just fuel, the backup generator’s cell fluid is leaking, too.” He took off his glove and tossed it into the waste bin with an angry snap.
Nataku gave the side of the open panel a frustrated punch. “Well, I guess we are stuck here with nothing to do until help arrives.” She lay back and stared at the ceiling.
Vegeta walked over to the refrigeration unit and took out a large block of food. “You hungry?”
Nataku caught the half Vegeta tossed at her. “Might as well eat something, I guess.”
Neither one said a word as they ate, Vegeta in huge, voracious bites, Nataku in small, reluctant nibbles. The absolute silence unnerved Vegeta a bit, as Nataku was otherwise quite the chatterbox. Unable to stand the suffocating atmosphere any longer, Vegeta spoke. “What’s wrong?”
Nataku swallowed the piece she was chewing. “Haven’t figured it out yet. Something about this whole trip has been really bothering me, even before we left Vegetasei.” She pulled one leg to her chest. “But I can’t quite wrap my tail around it.”
Vegeta took another massive chunk out of his meal. “Well, here’s a start: don’t you think it’s just a bit suspicious that such a major leak wasn’t caught on the launchpad?”
Nataku shook her head. “Not just that; I’ve got a feeling that something terrible’s gonna happen.”
The next thing Vegeta knew, Nataku was doubled over on the ground whimpering and he himself felt an uncomfortable─but not quite yet unbearable─tightening in his chest. Before he could make any sense of this, thought, Nappa’s irritating voice filled his scouter.
Vegeta wondered what could be so important that Nappa would override the Scouter’s screening system before tapping his ear-piece to give clearance for the rest of the message. “What?”
“Intelligence just reported that a large meteor struck Vegetasei and destroyed it. I just saw what’s left of the place myself.” Nappa paused, letting the news sink in. “It’s gone, every bit of it, as well as everyone on it.”
Too bad Nappa wasn’t one of them, Vegeta thought. “My father?”
Nappa didn’t answer for several seconds. “I’m sorry.”
Vegeta felt more annoyed than anything else; how like the old coward to die before a proper father-son confrontation could occur. “Never mind me; where are you, and with how many of your men?”
“Planet Frieza 79, and only Raditz was with me.”
Vegeta felt his eyebrow quirk. “What do you mean, ‘was’?”
“He left for the planet that his brother Kakarrot was sent to about,” Nappa paused, and there were sounds of him inquiring the current time, “three hours ago.”
Not that Vegeta cared. But he wouldn’t say so, not out loud. “I see. Is that all?”
“Yes, Majesty.” There was some more indistinct speaking. “Oh, and a ship will pick you up in about five minutes.”
“Wonderful,” Vegeta muttered to himself, but Nappa had already ended the transmission and didn’t hear him. He turned to Nataku and was about to relay the message when once again almost lost conscious thought.
Nataku was trembling on the floor, her arms clutched to her chest. Her eyes were wild and unfocused, as if she had just taken in one too many of the so-called “happy pills” many Elite soldiers popped like candy when they were off duty. But Vegeta knew Nataku was clean; in fact, she had a distinct distaste and disdain for things of that sort.
“I felt them die,” Nataku gasped out, as if it was painful to speak. Her breaths came in ragged fits and starts. “I felt them die,” she said again, but it came out more as an agonized whisper of a scream.
Vegeta felt the sudden tightening in his chest again. All Saiyans could bond with one another in various ways, sharing to some extent their inner thoughts, emotions, and physical pains. This was useful in battle every once in a while but rather annoying elsewhere. Nataku had been close to her parents, and being Vegeta’s partner in arms for the last ten or so years meant that he got a dose of whatever was turning the cheerful, sardonic Nataku into the whimpering creature that he was watching.
Nataku stayed down for a few moments longer, then drew in a long, unsteady breath and stood. Vegeta blinked as he felt the tightness in his chest release, and realized that Nataku had closed herself off, not that he couldn’t tell by her blank, icy expression. Vegeta had only seen her pull that face once before, when their engagement to one another had been announced, and he didn’t like it one bit.
Nataku pulled on her gloves and clicked her Scouter into her ears. “When I get back to Planet Frieza 79, I’m have a little talk with His Royal Highness about the quality of his technicians.”
“Well, don’t do anything stupid,” Vegeta answered, half-guessing what Nataku meant by the word ‘talk’. “He can kick your ass from here to the other side of the universe within a heartbeat.”
Nataku looked at him without changing expression. “And you would care because?”
Vegeta smirked, not believing the perfect opportunity Nataku had thrown at him. “We have to repopulate the Saiyan empire somehow, and I find cloning rather dull.”
Nataku didn’t even give Vegeta the satisfaction of seeing her blink. “Then go fuck some native species of a planet we’re supposed to destroy if you’re so damn desperate.”
Damn. Even in this inexplicable bad mood, she was still better than him. But with nobody other the dull Nappa to practice his barbs on, Vegeta supposed that he was at least making some improvement. He shrugged, indicating to her that he wasn’t going to go into a howling rage and attack her the way he tended to when they insulted each other, and then smirked again as something else came to him. “Maybe I just might.”
Nataku slammed Vegeta into the wall so hard he would think he was seeing spots several hours later.
“You know, I think I’ll forget Frieza,” she informed him in a calm tone, but the glowing brightness that was gathering about her belied her mood. “I’ll just take everything out on you instead.”
Vegeta’s Scouter leapt to life again, and he was never so grateful for its technology. “Prince Vegeta, Princess Nataku, this is Gold Leader. Please respond.”
Nataku let him go, her aura fading and her demeanor once again detached, and tapped the side of her Scouter. “This is Nataku.”
Vegeta followed suit, but he just grunted.
Gold Leader chuckled. “Glad to hear that you two haven’t killed each other yet. You’ve won me a handsome bet, Your Highnesses.”
“I’ll take that as a joke and not an insult to my dignity,” Vegeta informed Gold Leader, letting the slightest edge of danger creep into his voice. “You live for today.” Because if I killed you, Frieza might decide to make the Sayajin race extinct entirely.
“Thank you, sir,” Gold Leader said, chastised. “We’ll be landing in a few minutes.”
“A few minutes, huh,” Nataku repeated, disappointed. She opened one of the compartments in the wall and pulled out a small duffel bag. “Not enough time to get in a good beating.”
Vegeta, since he never took any personal belongings with him on a mission─he neither owned nor needed any─just watched. He considered tossing at her another sentence that popped into him mind, but decided against it, knowing that she already had plenty of reason to give him a good workout once they got to Planet Frieza 79.
Wonder what’s got her so irritable this time, he mused as he led the way out into the open. He hated it when she was so unpredictable; it threw his usual thinking patterns out of whack, and he had to improvise. He shrugged. Must be a female thing.
Hover In this universe, not only are Nataku’s parents very much alive─at least until Frieza makes asteroid bits out of Planet Vegeta, anyway─they have such considerable political influence that the King agreed to engage her to Vegeta. ‘Bout time I wrote a Vegeta/Nataku match-up, right? Of course, like any good “reluctantly” engaged couple, it’ll take a long time for either one of them to accept the fact that they like the idea. As far as how far they will go─that’s more stories for me to write..