Chapter 1

UPDATE- Xomniac AN: For the sake of all readers who don't seem to quite get it, the part below is meant to be an IM chat between me and my sole beta at the time, CV12Hornet. THIS is how Cross concluded that he was in One Piece, he did not pull it out of his hat!

Patient AN: Yeah, I didn't come aboard until after Chapter 17.

-Xomniac- Alright, let's see... can you think of any better words than 'smirk'?

-Xomniac- It's the general sentiment I want, but I've used it way too much...

-CV12Hornet- 'Smug grin'? 'Vulpine grin'? 'Shit-eating grin'?

-Xomniac- No, no... gugh!

-Xomniac- *Headdesk* Screw it, we've been at this too long. Want to brainstorm something else?

-CV12Hornet- Well… I could use someone to bounce ideas off of for this Dragon Ball Z fic I'm thinking of…

-Xomniac- Pass, DBZ's not my thing :S

-CV12Hornet- Ow, my childhood :P

-Xomniac- Heh... hey, you read 'Walk on the Moon'?

-CV12Hornet- Can't say that I have.

-CV12Hornet- In fact, it's the first time I've heard about it.

-Xomniac- It's a Naruto SI. Really brilliant, truly a sight to behold.

-CV12Hornet- Oh boy… I've not had good experiences with SI in general. And Naruto? Double whammy there.

-CV12Hornet- I mean, there's only one SI I can think of that I can honestly say I liked.

-CV12Hornet- And I suspect half the reason is nostalgia.

-Xomniac- Heh, I suppose that's fair enough. They are a little overdone... but still, you gotta understand why they do it, right?

-Xomniac- I mean, can you imagine? Going to those worlds, standing side by side with those people... scary as hell, to be sure... but what the hell are we accomplishing in front of our computer screens?

-CV12Hornet- Well, we're entertaining people. That's something, right?

-CV12Hornet- Besides, inserting into a fictional universe sounds like a great way to die a horrible death.

-Xomniac- Yeees, 'entertaining'... with fics that barely get a second glance... and yeah, it'd be bad, if you were shit outta luck

-Xomniac- I mean, so long as you wound up in the right verse, your odds can be pretty good.

-Xomniac- Example: One Piece. Get on the Straw Hats and you'd be set for life! In for the wildest ride of your life, but still, pretty damn set.

-CV12Hornet- Really? Of all the verses, you picked One Piece?

-CV12Hornet- I think I'll stick to the verses where the baseline for durability *isn't* superhuman.

-Xomniac- *shrug* Your opinion. Me, though... man, to get to sail on the Blue seas... I'd give anything for that. Least I'd get outta writing papers! XD

* Really Outstanding Biotch has joined the conversation!*

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Your wish is my command!

-CV12Hornet- I was gonna make a joke about nice men in white jackets, but I can't argue with that logic.

-Xomniac- Wait wh

-Xomniac- Awww shit

-CV12Hornet- Wait, who's this jackass?

-Xomniac- Read the initials.

-CV12Hornet- Oh shit. Oh shit fuck fucking fuckdonkeys.

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Oh calm down. I need one of you to stay behind and keep writing, and he's the one who offered.


-CV12Hornet- Yay?

-CV12Hornet- I'm... just gonna go talk to Admiral Tigerclaw for you, okay?

-Xomniac- Don't.

-Xomniac- You.

-Xomniac- Fucking.

*CV12Hornet has left the conversation!*


-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Honor among thieves, huh?

-Xomniac- *Headdesk* Tell me about it.

-Xomniac- So... no chance of getting out of this?

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- None!

-Xomniac- Time to prepare?

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Absolutely zero!

-Xomniac-... can I grab a change of clothes?

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- What you wear is what you get!

-Xomniac- Grrggrgrrrrggh...

-Xomniac- You're a real bastard, you know that?

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- But at least my tone is pleasant!

-Xomniac- *Sigh...* Can I at least send an email to my parents? They're gonna flip...

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Now this is where I'm a little bit more pleasant!

-Xomniac- ?

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Time dilation! So long as you manage to survive to the end, you'll come back here to this exact point in spacetime with the option of going back to visit whenever you want!

-Xomniac- ...that's... oddly generous...

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Weeeell, considering how your chances of survival are slim to none, not rea~lly! Honestly? I just want to make sure you don't angst over your 'precious lost family' like a little bitch! Do you have any idea how annoying that gets!?

-Xomniac- *HEADDESK!*

-Xomniac- … fuck it. Headfirst into hell.

-Xomniac- So, how are we doiFUCKSHIT!

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Mind the drop!

*Xomniac has left the conversation!*

*CV12Hornet has joined the conversation!*

-CV12Hornet- Hello? Xomniac? You still here, buddy?

-CV12Hornet- Crap.

-CV12Hornet- Okay, step number one: don't panic!

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Sorry, nobody here but us chickens!

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Now... seeing how you're apparently missing a co-writer...

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- Care for some... divine intervention? 8D

*CV12Hornet has left the conversation!*

*CV12Hornet has blocked Really Outstanding Biotch!*

-Bitchingly Ridiculous Outstanding Biotch- *pouts* Now that was just rude!


Warm… soft… scratchy… I sighed as I shifted around a little bit, trying to get comfortable. I just needed a little more sleep, then I'd be ready to go for the day. Just… a little… more…



"GAH! SON OF A FUCKING BITCH!" I howled, springing upright and staggering away from the waves. I panted and doubled over as my head spun from getting up so fast, idly wiping sand from my—


I froze as I started to process the facts.

Waves and sand. Neither of those were in my dorm room.

I slowly worked the crust out of my eyes and blinked as I tried to take the scenery in.

A nice, wide stretch of beach, bordering on an endless expanse of beautiful pure blue ocean.

The first thing that ran through my head was 'This isn't my room.'

The second was almost 'How did I get here?', but that train was violently derailed by the rapid recollection of the latest memories I could recall.

The third thing that ran through my mind was a mishmash that could be loosely labeled as 'SHITFUCKFUCKDEADFUCKWHATDOIDOWHATDOIDO!?'

I promptly slammed the brakes on that line of thought, slapping my hands to my forehead and inhaling deeply through my nose. "Don't panic don't panic don't panic, fear is the mindkiller, don't panic, think!" I ground out, if only for the sake of hearing my own voice.

After a few seconds of standing there and borderline hyperventilating, I managed to calm myself down and actually think about facts.

Fact one: ROBs are fucking fuckers who deserve to have railroad spikes shoved through every inch of their being.

Fact two: I was calming down a bit if I could manage to swear like a sailor.

Fact three: I was in One Piece. I had to be. Or at least, I had to believe that I was. If I was in some other, less relatively friendly world, or heavens forbid one I knew nothing about…

I shivered violently. No, no, don't think about that, keep going.

Fact three: Chances were high that I was in One Piece. This meant that my proposed course of action was still the best: find my way onto the Straw Hat Pirates. Sure, logically, I could live the life of a civilian, especially if I was somewhere in the East Blue... but that plan has thorns in and of itself. For one, my skillset is firmly zip-to-none on account of me becoming a literal college dropout, and for another the Blue Seas are teeming with blood-thirsty pirates and Marines with potential to be worse than the pirates!

Was living the life of a Straw Hat terrifying? Yes. Was it dangerous, life-threatening even? Oh, hell, yeah! Did it guarantee that I'd have some of the potentially strongest people in the world watching my ass so long as I managed to become their friend? You better damn well believe it.

I nodded firmly, my decision reinforced: It looked like it would be a Straw Hat Pirate's life for me.

Moving on, I focused on fact four: I had abso-fucking-lutely no clue where the hell I was.

Well, at least that was one problem I could fix!

I spun on my heel… and stared at the tropical jungle laid out before me.

My guts ran ice cold. 'OhGod nonono, not Little Garden, for fuck's sakes NOT LITTLE GODDAMN DEAD END GARDEN!'

However, a hasty glance at the horizon and a moment of listening was enough to soothe my panicked mind. No mountainous skeletons, no roars of prehistoric monstrosities, no pillars of smoke from periodically erupting active volcanoes. I was safe… for a certain value of the word.

I winced as I tugged at the collar of my jacket. I was also pretty damn hot, and not in the good way!

'Wait…' I blinked as a thought struck me. 'Jacket?'

I made a hasty review of my apparel: my favorite large, black and pocket-lined shell jacket/hoodie, check. A t-shirt with urban camo on the chest, check. My black cargo slacks, check. Beaten leather loafers, check. Aaand finally the dark gray pair of industrial-grade heavy-duty bluetooth headphones I'd shelled out almost five hundred dollars for that were hanging around my neck. Check, for whatever that was worth.

I let out a weary sigh as I zipped my jacket open. As one could expect from a tropical climate such as this, it was rather humid. Thankfully, being a headstrong Floridian with an aversion to showing more skin than I needed to appeared to be paying off for once, as I was used to the heat.

I winced as my head throbbed painfully, promptly whipping my jacket off and tying its arms around my waist.

Alright, relatively used to it. Sue me, it must have been a hundred degrees out here!

Anyways, without any other options available to me—especially after a final glance back at the ocean confirmed that there wasn't a ship in sight—I started to march forwards into the depths of the muggy green hell.

To be honest, I normally liked taking nice and long walks. However, there were two primary factors missing that made this little venture hell: first, I didn't have any music to listen to, so I was bored straight the hell out of my mind. And second, there wasn't any beaten path to speak of, so I was forcing my way through a dense barrier of wild foliage that was doing everything naturally possible to get in my way.

After what felt like forever of displaying my vast vocabulary to mother nature in a… shall we say, creative manner due to catching my jacket on branches, tripping over roots and ducking under vines and whatnot, I caught sight of and dashed into a clearing of grass. I almost immediately doubled over as I tried to catch my breath and started to think once anew.

First and foremost, as far as I could tell, the island I was on was most likely deserted, devoid of all forms of sapient life apart from me. Which was… unfortunate. I had absolutely zero idea where I was. I didn't know which Blue I was in, even which hemisphere I was located on! As it stood, I had about a one in three chance of being somewhere I could run into the Straw Hats. East Blue or Paradise? Good! Any other Blue or, God forbid, the New World? Things would become a lot more… interesting was one word. Complicated was more appropriate, though.


My stomach let out a vicious rumble, prompting me to blush in embarrassment. Right, food. Food was definitely my second priority. Which was complicated on account of how I had no experience with nature, but I'd have to at least try. Hopefully I could get my hands on some kind of—

My train of thought ground to a sudden and vicious halt. "I've been marching through this jungle for ages…" I mused aloud. "Why the hell haven't I heard so much as a single animal!?"


"YEARGH!" I yelped, leaping almost a foot off the ground in shock. The he—!? I snapped my head around and scanned the treeline in shock. Where the hell did those birds come from!?


I spun around as another cacophony of noise erupted behind me. Now monkeys!? How the hell did they stay hidden!?


I went stock still as a pair of all-too-feral snarls simultaneously erupted from the foliage of my sides. They sounded like my cat… if she were on steroids.


And that sounded like my dog straight ahead of me, only a lot bigger and a lot less willing to play.

Forcing myself to keep my breathing slow and my panic out of my thought process, I started to inch myself backwards. Just a bit more, just a little bit closer to the foliage…


I am not ashamed to say that I shrieked like a little bitch and fell flat on my face as I scrambled away from the jungle. I stand by the firm belief that it was a very appropriate reaction to having a lion roar ten inches behind me.

I gasped and panted heavily as I lay on the grass, my mind reeling with fear. I'd never had a panic attack before, but something told me that I was right on the edge of getting one.

However, before I could go over that edge, a new noise managed to catch my attention.

Laughter. A lot of laughter, from a variety of different people, men and women and young and old alike, like a badly edited together laugh track.

I realized two things from that laugher: First, the fact that a lot of the laughs were unique really helped cement the idea that I was in One Piece. After all, where else would someone have a laugh like "Chyokokoko"?

The second thing, I realized with a furious snarl, was that someone was mocking me. Hastily scrambling to my feet, I charged towards the foliage in the direction the laugher was originating from.

However, just before I hit the plant life, the laughter changed direction, suddenly coming from behind me. I glanced at the opposite side of the clearing for a second, but I ignored it and pressed ahead. Fooling me once was bad enough, and I wasn't willing to go two for two.

And with that, I delved into the jungle, shoving my way through the plants and scouring the jungle for whoever the hell was fucking with my head. After a few minutes, I managed to catch sight of another clearing. I charged out of the jungle…

And promptly slid to a halt, staring in disbelief. "What the hell…?"

The clearing I was in was only half as big as the last one I'd been in, but it had a table of rock in the center of it.

Stationed upon the rock… was a snail, or at least something that looked very similar to a snail. Its shell was a little larger than a baseball, and its body was about the same size to match. Its skin was a darkish gray, and its shell was emblazoned with a black and white checkerboard pattern.

The snail also had eyes on the tips of its stalks and a mouth full of teeth in the middle of its body.

It was also whipping its head back and forth and cackling uproariously, tears of laughter pouring from its eyes.

I blinked as I processed this turn of events. That… was a Transponder Snail. It was a bit weird to see a snail that big in real life, but the form was unmistakable. I withheld a sigh as I felt a weight lift off my heart. No doubt about it: I was one hundred percent in One Piece!

Then I felt a dark rage flood me. Whoever was mocking me was on the other end of that snail!

"HEY!" I yelled angrily, putting all my frustration into my voice. "ARE YOU ALL THROUGH ENJOYING THE SHOW OR WHAT!?"

The snail jumped in shock, blinking at me in surprise… before leaping back and screaming in terror. And not just any scream either, a high-pitched woman's scream.

I jumped at the noise, my breath catching in my throat. "What the fuck!?" I blurted.

Then I froze as I noticed something. Its shell… it was unblemished! There wasn't a speaker in the side of its shell!

My mind flew as I to connect what I was seeing. This was a Transponder Snail, no doubt about it, but without an actual transponder attached to it, then it was a wild snail. And as far as I knew, it was impossible for people to communicate through wild transponder snails…

My mind froze as I ran the last sentence through my head. Impossible… like, say… a person of rubber?

I smiled uneasily as I made the connection. "You've got to be kidding me…" I muttered in disbelief.

It was at that point that I started as I realized that the sound I'd been listening to had changed. Instead of screaming, the snail had curled in on itself and was crying its head off, sobs coming out of it in a loop.

I flinched as I took in the reaction. Now I remembered a rather pertinent fact: snails this small were known as Baby Transponder Snails. Sure, I liked kids as much as I liked writing essays, but this…

A stab of guilt ran through me as a particularly miserable sob rang out from the snail. I hastily fell to my knees and inched my way towards the snail, my hands raised placatingly. "Hey hey hey, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" I cooed softly. "I didn't mean to yell, I was just frustrated, please don't cry!"

The snail's cries subsided as it slowly looked up at me, tears still streaming down from its eyes. "S-sowwy?" it croaked in a voice that wouldn't be out of place coming from a toddler.

I hesitated for a moment before smiling shakily and slowly nodding. "Yeah, s-sowwy. By the way…" I slowly made my expression eager as I leaned forwards, looking at the snail with interest. "That's a really neat trick you've got there. Did you get them after eating a fruit with swirls that tasted yucky?"

The snail blinked at me before nodding its head slowly. "C-coconut," it said, the word pasted together with syllables from several other voices. It then scrunched its face up and stuck its tongue out in disgust. "Blech!" It spat in the voice of an old man.

I chuckled lightly at the face it made. "Heh, yeah. I hear that those kinds of fruits usually taste like ass." I slowly looked him over in curiosity. "So… unless I miss my guess, you can make all kinds of sounds and noises, right?"

Almost instantly, the snail smiled and nodded. It opened its mouth…


And I promptly jumped in shock as the forest around me erupted with noise. Screeches, roars, snarls, buzzing, everything one would expect from a jungle. Like someone had just up and flipped a switch!

However, as swiftly as the noise started, it came to an abrupt end and was replaced with the laugh track from before as the snail returned to laughing itself senseless.

I panted as I processed the change in demeanor before slowly starting to snicker. "That… that was pretty funny…" I admitted with a shaky smile before closing my eyes in thought. "Alright… seeing how Apoo can apparently use his powers to make music, I'm guessing he's got something akin to the Music-Music Fruit. So…" I looked at the snail contemplatively. "I guess that means you ate the… what, Noise-Noise Fruit?"

The snail stopped laughing and considered my words for a second before smiling and bobbing its head from side to side. "Noise-Noise Fruit, Noise-Noise Fruit!" it crowed in my voice.

My eye twitched slightly. "Alright, that's a little creepy…" I admitted before hastily plastering a smile on my face. "But cool!" I slowly extended my hand towards the snail. "It's really nice to meet you. My name is Cross. Jeremiah Cross."

The snail blinked and sniffed at my hand contemplatively before smiling. I smiled in turn as well.

It then opened its mouth…



And brought its teeth down on my index finger, causing me to howl in pain as I shot to my feet and whipped my hand back and forth. "GETOFFGETOFFGETOFF!" I shouted, trying to get the gastropod to release my digit.

Finally, the toothy snail had the decency to let go of my finger, flying off me and bouncing off the stone it'd been resting on before righting itself. Its eyes spun madly for a second… until it refocused itself and grinned madly, cackling once anew.

I huffed and shook my finger frantically as I tried to work out the pain. God damn, that had hurt like a bitch! I cast a vehement glare at the snickering snail as I started to wipe the mucus and saliva off on my pants. "I take back all the nice things I said about you! You're nothing more than a little—!"

I froze as my hand bumped into my pocket. Specifically, against something inside my pocket.

Slowly, ponderously, I dug my hand into my pocket and withdrew what was within in disbelief.

"I can't freaking believe it…" I breathed.

In the palm of my hand was the last thing I'd ever expected to see: My iPhone 6S, completely intact and, with any luck, fully functional.

Suddenly, the device pinged and its screen lit up, displaying a text message.

-B.R.O.B.- Ain't I generous? Check out the upgrades!

It didn't take long to understand what my 'beneficiary' was talking about: a quick once-over of the screen showed that there were infinity signs next to both the battery and wifi symbols, guaranteeing that my phone would be working for a nice long while.

"Huh…" A grin slowly played across my face. "Well… thanks, I guess!" I slowly tilted my grin to make it a bit more hopeful. "I don't suppose you could get me something to eat, too, while you're at it?"

Another text popped up.

-B.R.O.B.- Greedy greedy! Buuut sure, why not? Wouldn't do for you to starve, would it?

Without warning, something fell and landed on my head. I hastily snapped my hand out and caught whatever it was before it could fall to the ground. I smiled immediately once I caught sight of the golden arches emblazoned on the paper.

Most people would bitch and moan about McDonalds being unhealthy shit. Then again, those same people hadn't spent who-knows-how-long tramping through a jungle.

"Thanks a lot!" I crowed, opening the bag and digging into the food within, enjoying it… right up until I actually noticed one of the tastes in my mouth and froze in horror.

I swallowed heavily, slowly turning a horrified look towards my phone. "Did… I just eat a biscuit?"

-B.R.O.B.- I guess this'll teach you to watch what you put in your mouth, huh?

The blood promptly drained from my face. "Oh you son of a—!"

As if on cue, my stomach let out a far too familiar gurgle of distress.

A roll of toilet paper promptly bounced off my skull.

-B.R.O.B.- Run run run, as fast as you can! Better hurry, lest you soil your pants, little man!

"FUCK!" I howled, scooping up the toilet paper and darting off in search of a suitable hole.

After about a half hour of what felt like liquid napalm tearing through my intestinal tract, I finally managed to stumble my way back into the clearing. "I need to stop laughing at those Haribo Gummy Bear reviews. I know their pain far too well…" I glanced down at my palm with a scowl. "And as for you—!"

I froze and stared at my empty hand in shock. Where the hell had I—!? I promptly slapped a hand to my forehead. Right, dropped it when I grabbed the toilet paper. I started scanning the ground. It should still be somewhere on the…

I caught sight of the bottom of my iPhone… just as it disappeared into the maw of the Transponder Snail, followed by it swallowing heavily and grinning at me with a shit-eating smile.


My eye twitched furiously. "Ah… I… you…" I mumbled out. My mouth promptly twisted into a dark scowl as I started to march towards it, my fingers twitching murderously. "You… little… shit…"

The snail's smile dropped in favor of a fearful expression as it started to inch away from me, glancing left and right in search of an escape route.

Then it suddenly froze, blinking as its gaze became slightly unfocused, staring at something I couldn't see.

I hesitated slightly as I stared at it. "Uh… hey, are you alright? I'm pissed, I don't really want to hurt you, I'm just a little—!"

"!" the snail suddenly blared, it's head snapping up in wide-eyed shock.

"GAH!" I leapt back from the snail in shock at the sound it had made. It was loud and frantic and—!

I blinked as I caught up with my train of thought. Wasn't that sound—?

"Was… was that the Metal Gear Solid alert sound?" I asked in disbelief.

The snail blinked at me in confusion before smiling exuberantly, opening its mouth…


And belting out lyrics from a very familiar song.

I gaped at the snail in disbelief. "You've… got to be kidding me…" Suddenly, as I shifted my shoulders, I became intensely aware of the weight around my necks. Thinking fast, I snapped my headphones up and over my ears and clicked them on, praying that my 'patron'— a word I was very hesitant to use—had upgraded these as well.

Almost instantly, I was forced to wince as my ears came under an auditory assault.


"Grk!" I hastily whipped the headphones back down around my neck in an effort to save my eardrums. I gave the snail a bemused look as it continued to smile and bob its head to some unheard beat. "Oh, yeah, you definitely have access to my world's Internet..."

The snail finally looked up and smiled at me with a snarky smirk. "Thank you!" he crowed.

I blinked at in disbelief for a second before freezing as a thought struck me. I looked over the snail contemplatively. This snail, his power wasn't much, but… well, on the surface, rubber and silence and springs didn't seem like a lot either, right? And quite honestly, I liked being able to swim, so… well, nothing for it, right?

"Hey… you can understand me, right?" I started slowly.

The snail looked up at me before nodding slowly.

"Right… well…" I looked away uncomfortably. Man, why did this have to be so hard. "Look, let me ask you something… do you like being here on this island? I mean…" I gestured at the silent forest around us. "The reason there aren't any animals nearby… I'm guessing it's because you scare them away with that noise you make, right?"

The snail started and stared at me in shock before nodding again, only this time its expression was saddened.

"If you could… what would you say about leaving this island? With me, I mean."

The snail snapped its head up in shock.

"See..." I scratched the back of my head with an uneasy smile. "I've… got a bit of a plan. You know what pirates are, right?"

The snail nodded with a grimace.

"Well, I know about a pirate crew that's not like other pirates. They're strong and amazing and… well, I want to join them! I want to join their crew and follow them out to sea and… well, hopefully have a lot of fun doing it. But…" I hung my head with a sigh. "The fact is, a pirate's life is a dangerous one, and I'm just a plain old normal human being. A nobody, really. I don't have the edge needed to survive on the high seas."

I then slowly raised my eyes and looked at the snail hopefully. "So… I was wondering… if you'd be willing to come with me and be that edge?"

The gastropod tilted its head in confusion. "Say whaaa?" it imitated.

I shrugged helplessly. "Well, the fact is, all Devil Fruits have the potential to be incredibly powerful, none are inherently weak. All that's needed to make them work is their user's ingenuity. But, well…" I gestured at the snail with a grimace. "As you already know, you're a bit… physically challenged."

"DON'T CHU DIS ME, BOY!" the snail barked irately.

"Hey hey, that's neither your fault, nor is it anything to be ashamed of, it's just a fact!" I waved my hands defensively. "But, well… look, I'm trying to make you a proposition, alright? Come with me: You be the power, the brawn, and I'll be your arms and legs, the person to tell you how to direct your powers, how to use them to their fullest! The brains!" I spread my arms wide. "Together, we'd be able to join those pirates and sail the Blue Seas! We'd see sights we never imagined, do things that have never been done! Basically… we'd have an adventure. And let's be honest…"

I cast a baleful look at the jungle. "It's not like you or I would ever have one here, now, would we?" I looked back down at the snail. "So… what do you say, kid? Are you in or are you out?"

The snail bit its lip as it glanced back and forth contemplatively, gears grinding in its head. Finally, it smiled from eyestalk to eyestalk and extended an eye. "Put 'er there, partner!" it drawled.

I smiled eagerly. "Well, alright then!" I extended my hand—



And winced in pain when the snail chomped down onto my fingers, grinding its teeth into my digits.

I half-grimaced, half-smirked at the snail as I brought it up to my eye-level. "I think I just got a good name for you…" I ground out. "How do you feel about being called Soundbite?"

The snail—Soundbite—glanced up at me before smirking and redoubling the strength of his bite.

"YEOWCH!" I cried out, flinging my hand up.

Thankfully, Soundbite let go. Unfortunately, he let go!

"Oh crap crap crap!" I scanned the air. "Hey, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, are you alri—!?"


I went stiff as a sharp pressure clamped down on a very… delicate part of my body.

At that instant, I became acutely aware of just how tired I was. Seeing no point in staying upright, I slumped forwards and fell face first into the grass.

"It's official…" I groaned miserably. "This bites…"

Soundbite snickered malevolently from where he was gnawing on my ass in agreement.