You thought it was an Emerald Phoenix update, but it was I, Supernova!

Seriously though, getting the motivation to write for this story has just been awful. Not only is the One Piece fandom… basically dead on fanfiction . net (Seriously, WHY?! The series just keeps getting better!) but I can totally see why Alabasta is fic death. I SERIOUSLY don't like writing this arc. I can hardly imagine how annoying Skypiea is going to be, because that was one arc I didn't actually like even in canon. I really just felt like it dragged forever.

Oh, by the way…

While I was re-planning Alabasta (I screwed myself last chapter. I had a set of plans but it was in a different folder and I accidentally made them irrelevant) I made an abrupt realization that had me cackling like an idiot.

I wrote the previous TWO CHAPTERS (a whole ass 48 thousand words) without Carue. I legit mentioned that damn duck ONCE and barely at that. I totally forgot he existed.

-]|[-

Chapter XI: Pragmatic Villainy

-]|[-

Weeks prior

Normally when pirates decided to get uppity in Alabasta, Sir Crocodile would casually defeat them with the greatest of ease. He would play up his role of Alabasta's great hero, their guardian deity. He would appear in the midst of the pirates, cocky smirk on his face, collected confidence not merely bordering on arrogance suffusing his voice. He would even playfully chide the populace, letting their adulation wash over him.

Today he did not smirk. He did not banter. He did not play. He didn't even enjoy the misplaced adulation of the people. As he flowed into the air above Nanohana, he took the barest of seconds to locate the Captain before he allowed himself to fall from the sky. The obese and smelly man didn't know what hit him. Crocodile hit him from above with the force of a small meteor, crushing him utterly into the sands below. The impact even blew the closest of the pirate's men over.

Screams from the civilians rang out in fright, before the dust cleared, revealing a desiccated husk of a man underneath Crocodile's hand. As the civilians cheered his arrival, he did not grandstand. He merely looked up, revealing a face visibly trying to hold in sheer bloody rage. His eyes were wider than normal and engulfed with red veins. His jaw was clenched holding in his cigar. Even a vein was lightly pulsing on his forehead. The cheering died in shock as the pirates tried to get a hold of themselves.

Crocodile didn't let them. Didn't give them a moment to breathe. Didn't even let them finish a single word. Sand whipped out, grabbing every single one of the pirates in violent chokeholds. He ripped them away from the civilians they were threatening, grinding their steel into metal dust, and engulfing them in billowing clouds of sand. Their screams of agony were silenced as they all compacted into a ball of sand above his head, accompanied by the loud sounds of snapping bones and tearing skin. But despite stripping the flesh from their bones, not a drop of blood leaked down on the heads of the people he'd saved.

With nary a thought, the ball crushed in on itself and compacted before it was flung far outside the outskirts of Nanohana. It impacted the desert and spewed sand everywhere, revealing the utterly annihilated pirate crew; dead, broken, and mummified.

Sir Crocodile took another deep drag of his cigar, turning half of it into ash immediately. His 12th of the day, and it was barely past noon. He huffed the smoke through his nose like a dragon, allowing the burn to take a tiny bit of the edge off. It did barely more than this distraction had to calm him.

"C-Crocodile-sama?" He looked down at the tiny girl looking up at him, "I-Is everything okay? You seem angry."

This wouldn't do. He couldn't afford to have the people lose trust in him. He forced a smile onto his face as he reached down to pat her head, "I'm sorry for scaring you, young one." He was quite good at faking a sincere tone, wasn't he? "I'm afraid I've lost contact with one of my…friends." There had been the barest hint of a delay on the word. Like he had to force it out of his mouth, "She was quite important to me, so I've been very worried."

And just like that, the tension was diffused, "Don't worry. If she was friends with you, I'm sure she's strong too! She'll turn up!" The girl beamed at him, and he laughed.

"Yes, you're right, young one." As he rose into the air and waved his goodbye, his smile vanished, "Or you damn well better be."

-]|[-

But the girl had not been right. Days had turned to weeks and now more than a month had passed since the last time Nico Robin had contacted him. Last he'd heard from her, she had been taking a leisurely pit stop on an island on her way to Whiskey Peak. He didn't know why he ever put up with her whims. Especially when she was so. Damn. VITAL. To his plans.

No, forget vital. Nico Robin was the most important cog in his entire organization! No matter what he did, he could not FIND Pluton if he couldn't read that fucking Poneglyph! He reached up and started to rub the bridge of his nose in stress. He knew there were other options, but Nico Robin had oh so conveniently fallen into his lap. Three-Eye tribe members were rare enough that even that fucking fat hag in the New World had only managed to find a single one with all her resources. AND she had failed to get more than a single child from them.

He slapped a hand on his desk with a growl, and cursed as part of it turned to sand beneath his hand. His rage was growing out of control, and all because of that fucking crew of newbies from the East fucking Blue. That damn crew that had picked up Princess Vivi was much more dangerous than he had ever expected. Not only did they kill Mr. 5, but they killed the Unluckies as well. Miss Valentine was also gone, and probably dead. Mr. 3 had also gone dark, and he assumed that meant he was dead too, along with the pint-sized artist brat. Six reliable agents with good track records, all taken out by rookies.

And he feared what had become of Miss All Sunday, because he knew one of three things had happened: The best-case scenario was that she had been captured. Perhaps the Princess had convinced them to torture information about Baroque Works out of her? It would be an irritation and would require him to change plans to keep ahead of them, but it would still work out in his favor. It was admittedly wishful thinking, if not for the fact that she was objectively a beautiful woman. Once they had gotten whatever info they needed out of her, there would be no reason to keep her around unless they were particularly beholden to their baser instincts. Perhaps the Captain had decided to keep her as his plaything? It was certainly the scenario he was hoping for. He cared not for her mental state when he recovered her, only her ability to read.

The worst-case scenario was that they had killed her. The Captain had shown no mercy to Mr. 5. His bloodied corpse had been recovered by the Millions, with every bone in his body shattered. The Unluckies had washed up on shore with chunks missing from their bones due to the surrounding sea life, and whatever portraits they had created were waterlogged and useless. All he had were the bounties. Valentine had gone missing entirely, and Mr. 3 and Miss Goldenweek had simply fallen off the face of the earth. He didn't know what that damned Princess had offered the Straw Hats to be her protectors, but clearly, it must have been an offer they couldn't refuse.

He didn't even bother contemplating the idea of betrayal. Such a scenario was so hilariously unlikely as to be a complete non-starter. Nico Robin was obsessed with the Poneglyphs and would never betray that goal. Not to mention she damn well knew exactly what fate awaited her if she even considered betrayal.

But whatever scenario was the real one, the fact remained that she was gone and there were zero signs of her. Clearly, it was time to face the facts. He was going to have to alter several plans and take up some grunt work of his own. Finishing his cigar, he flicked it into a bin and pulled out a fresh one. He clipped the end off and lit it up and took another deep drag. This situation had him so stressed out he was going to burn through his entire damned supply. He'd have to make sure to order more immediately.

'After all,' He mused as he pulled out his very-afraid-looking Den Den Mushi, 'Once Alubarna is ashes, I'll have to find a new brand.'

-]|[-

"Stop joking aroooooound!" Mr. 2 predictably couldn't keep still even if you paid him to. "How long are they going to make us wait?!" To be fair, he had a point. They'd been waiting for quite a while already. "They could at least bring out some octo-pars!" The ballerina stood and started to spin, "I'm going to spin! When I spin, I look like a swan!"

"Quiet, fool! Your jabber makes my back hurt!" Miss Merry Christmas snarked as she rapidly tapped on the table.

Miss Doublefinger let out a sigh, "Calm down, Mr. 2 Bon Clay. You too, Miss Merry Christmas."

Mr. 1 had been silent thus far, but after a few more minutes even he had reached the end of his patience. He had slowly grown more and more irritated by the inane babble and yelling, and finally he spoke, "Silence." His voice cracked like a whip, even jarring Mr. 2 of his excitement. "Mr. 2 has a point. How long do they intend to keep us waiting? Even Miss All Sunday isn't here. She's normally quite punctual with meetings."

"Miss All Sunday didn't set this up." Miss Doublefinger said, drawing their attention.

"Whaaaat?!" Mr. 2 yelled, "Not Miss All Sunday?! But she handles all deployments!"

Miss Doublefinger nodded, "That's right… it was the boss himself who set up this meeting."

"Interesting." Mr. 1 said, closing his eyes once more, "Why the change?"

"Because Miss All Sunday is not here." Their eyes all popped open in shock as they snapped their gazes to the chair at the head of the table. It was turned away from them, but they had paid it no mind, assuming it was a symbolic gesture based on no one knowing the boss's identity. "Miss All Sunday has gone missing, and so we will have to proceed without her."

"Missing?!" Miss Doublefinger gasped, "How is that possible?! She was one of the strongest!"

"Stop joking arooooooound!" Mr. 2 yelled, "Who are you?!"

"And where are we, for that matter?!" Miss Merry Christmas yelled as well.

'This is why I don't deal with them. At least 1 and Doublefinger aren't annoying.' Crocodile thought to himself, "As to where you are? You've all heard of this place. Perhaps even tried to get rich quick at the gaming tables. We're in Rainbase. The City of Dreams, and specifically underneath Rain Dinners, the biggest casino in the country." He smirked, "And as to who I am…" He swung his chair around, somehow not making a sound, "I suppose my face will suffice?"

"!" Even Mr. 1 couldn't keep the shock off his face, "SIR CROCODILE?!" Most of them yelled out.

"Hoooweee, that's some VIP that just showed up!" Miss Merry Christmas dapped at her face with a napkin.

"Don't tell me we're a pirate's henchmen!" Mr. 2 had a look that was half shock, half disappointment on his face. Maybe some anger thrown in too.

"Forget just a regular pirate! He's one of the Shichibukai!" Miss Doublefinger swallowed her shock.

"So, you're our boss, huh?" The calm and collected look returned to Mr. 1's face.

"Disappointed?" Crocodile gave them a flat look.

A feeling of doom spread through them quickly, and Miss Doublefinger raced to dispel it, "Not the word I'd use." She crossed her arms, "Confused would be better. Why would one of the Government's allies create an organization like this?"

"I will inform you of that in a little while." Crocodile scowled, "First, we must deal with the elephant in the room." His glare sharpened, "Or rather, the elephant not in the room. Miss All Sunday." He lit yet another cigar, "Weeks ago, a rather unusual crew entered the Grand Line from the East Blue. What we know of as the weakest of the seas, somehow birthed a crew where three members collectively earned a hundred million Beli bounty, with the Captain taking half of it on his own." That got eyebrow raises from the more collected members of the crew, and outright jaw drops from the more… excitable members. Crocodile reached into his fur coat and drew the three bounties in question, throwing them on the desk. "The crew picked up Miss Wednesday, who ended up being a disguised Princess Nefertari Vivi. I do not know what that brat offered them, but they have been her protectors since." He slightly crushed his cigar with his teeth, "Since picking her up, they have defeated the Mr. 5 pair, the Mr. 3 pair, the Unluckies, and to the best of my knowledge, even Miss All Sunday herself."

"Holy hell, that's impossible!" Miss Doublefinger couldn't contain her shock.

Mr. 2 didn't even try, "Stop joking arooooound! A bunch of rookies have taken out six of our most important members?!"

"Indeed." Crocodile glared at them so they would shut up, "And the worst part is, only Mr. 5 and the Unluckies are confirmed dead. I don't doubt that fate befell most of them, but if they were smart, they would have taken prisoners too. As such, we are going to have to push up our timetable and alter several missions. Despite these setbacks, we will not let ourselves be distracted from our ultimate goal. It is time that you learn of the ultimate goal of Baroque Works."

Mr. 2 was sparkling, "Such a thing actually exists in this kingdom?! And we're going to take it away, kingdom and all?! This is so exciting!"

"Hmph. So that's why you focused our efforts on this backwater." Mr. 1 smirked, "A worthy goal."

"That's right. Since Baroque Works' inception, everything we've done has been in preparation for this." He handed a set of stacked papers to Miss Doublefinger, who took the top one and passed the stack to her partner, and so on. "Those are my final instructions to you." A confident smirk rose on his face, "The time has come for Alabasta to disappear."

All of them took a few minutes to read through the details and memorize them. Once finished, all of them reached for the candles on the table and burned them, "When your individual missions have been carried out, the Kingdom of Alabasta will self-destruct. With nowhere to go, the rebels and citizens will inevitably fall under the control of Baroque Works! In a single night, this kingdom will become our utopia. Failure is not an option."

"RIGHT!"

"Then I pray for your success." Crocodile looked each of them in the eye, and that feeling of doom returned, "No more mistakes."

All of them, seasoned assassins, and saboteurs alike, couldn't help but swallow nervously.

-]|[-

The Going Merry sailed with purpose, heading away from Nanohana towards Erumalu. Formerly the City of Green. Nami had just sewn up Ace's Vivre Card into Luffy's hat, so now they were going through other preparations. "Here Luffy, wear this." Vivi handed him a set of clothes.

"What for?" Luffy asked cluelessly, accepting them anyway.

"All of us have to cover up." Vivi explained, "Yes, Sanji, that means us too." She rolled her eyes as Sanji predictably freaked out over it, before Robin took over.

"In the desert, it can hit over 120 degrees during the day." The dark-haired woman said, "Why, in the right conditions, you can even spontaneously combust out here. Like an ant under a magnifying glass." She even giggled as she said so. Several of the other crew members turned slightly blue at the sound.

"Oh!" Luffy said, before handing the clothes back to Vivi, "Don't need 'em. Save 'em for someone who does."

"Ehh?" They all blinked at his reaction.

"I'm the sun, remember?" Luffy laughed at their reactions.

"…I feel dumb now." Vivi groused, "If you could wear shorts in a blizzard, why couldn't you wear them in a desert?" She rubbed her chin, "Although, now that I think about it, if we run into any sandstorms you'll still want to be covered up." She smirked up at him, "Unless you want to try eating sand, of course."

Luffy wrinkled his nose, "Fine. Just a cloak then." He blinked, "Huh, maybe I should get a Captain's cloak?"

"Hey, did we hit the edge of the island?" Usopp called out, "I thought we were going inland?"

"We did not." Valerie giggled, "This is actually just the edge of the Sandora River. If you look farther you can see the other bank."

"Wow, it's such a big river!" Chopper had stars in his eyes. Nothing like this existed back on Drum Island. And now that his nose wasn't being murdered by perfumes, he could actually take it in.

"It's been years since I've seen it." Vivi said quietly, a small smile on her face, "But that's beside the point." She unfurled the map they had acquired, "We were just here." She pointed to the port city they'd landed in, "And our targets are here," She pointed to Rainbase, "-and here." She pointed to the capital city, "And that means we're going to sail up the river to avoid having to travel through the desert the entire time."

Nami remembered their planning sessions and discussions prior to even sniffing Alabasta's shores, "So first, we stop at Erumalu, correct?"

"That's right." Robin confirmed, "Frankly, I wanted to hit the Spider Café before anything else, but if our guess is right, then that area is empty now. Sir Crocodile is, unfortunately, a rather paranoid and intelligent individual, so if there's even a slight chance that he believes I betrayed him, then he would act upon it. It's what I would do." She admitted, "Or at least the first of many things I would do in his place."

"Right, and we can't assume he doesn't know who we are, even if he doesn't know who all of us are." Valerie picked up from where Robin dropped off. "We don't even know whether or not any of us were recognized over in Nanohana. If Robin was recognized by one of the Millions or Billions, then we might be in trouble."

"Which is why we're going to disguise Merry." Sanji rolled his cigarette between his lips, "They'll be expecting a rather memorable little Caravel, not an average one."

"Well, that and we're going to need to leave her unattended." Usopp spun a hammer, "So let's get to it."

They made speedy progress towards Erumalu, with Robin scouting using her powers. Luckily, it seemed that the ruined city wasn't being watched at all. They managed to weigh anchor easily enough and immediately set out on their tasks. Luffy hopped on Merry's figurehead and patted her head, "Sorry Merry, it'll only be for a short while, okay?" The figurehead had a sad but understanding look on her face. The had never quite gotten over how their ship could he so expressive, but it just made them love her even more. Using Robin's Devil Fruit, they quickly took down the sails and the pirate flag, replacing them with fresh canvas. The red and white striped lateen sail was also exchanged for a more toned-down version. Merry's figurehead was also covered up, with them making it look like a natural log was there. It was just a façade though. Anyone that looked closely would figure out that it was a fake. By the end of their work, Merry had been transformed into what looked like a simple merchant ship.

Robin kept a weather eye in all directions, but nothing came near. She did relay that the marines had sailed upriver after a couple hours, drawing groans from even Luffy. It was going to be so annoying if they got in the way while they were busy saving Vivi's country.

Of course, it wasn't all smooth work. Near the time they had arrived, animals called Kung-Fu Dugongs had risen from the banks of the river. They were dugongs with turtle shells. Quite interesting little mammals. "Wait, kung-fu? Like this?"

Vivi stiffened and whirled around, "No Usopp! They take that as a-" She watched as the dugong attacked, and Usopp used Soru to get behind it, "challenge." She trailed off lamely.

"Omae wa mo, shinderu." Usopp's face was shadowed, and the dugong let out a strange noise of shock. He whirled around to punch it… but the dugong smirked and flipped over him and tried to tail slap him away with an animalistic cry. They two faced each other, and began exchanging fists with serious looks on their faces.

"Kyahahaha!" Valerie was cackling, "Ooh, oh! My ribs!"

"I'm not the only one who heard, "I know you are, but what am I?" right?" Robin was giggling into her hand as well as she watched their sniper go hand to hand with a dugong.

Nami's eye twitched, before she vanished. Twin punches crashed into the heads of both fighters, sending them to the ground with grunts of pain, "Cool your heads!" She yelled, having to shake her fist off from the impact with the shell, before pointing at Usopp, "We're on a time crunch here!" She turned to the dugong, "And yo…u?" She looked at the dugong bowing to her, "…What?"

Vivi slapped herself in the face, "Damn it…"

Robin was grinning, "What our little, forgetful Princess-" Vivi sagged even further, "forgot to mention is that it is the code of the Kung-Fu Dugong to become the disciple of anyone who defeats it."

Nami stared at it, and then jumped a little as more and more dugongs flipped out of the river and communicated with the one she hit, before they all started bowing to her. "…You gotta be shitting me." She glared at Robin and Valerie, "Vivi's one thing."

"Hey!"

She snorted at the Princess' indignant yelp, "Crocodile."

Vivi raised a finger and opened her mouth, before curling the finger down, "Withdrawn."

"That's what I thought." Nami smirked before turning back to Robin, "But why exactly did you not warn us?"

"Ufufufu…" Robin continued to laugh, "And rob myself of this fun?" Nami's facepalm was loud and audible. She tilted her head and tapped her chin with a finger, "Plus, they could be useful in defending the ship." She mentioned, almost as an afterthought.

"Huh, this played out nicely." Zoro snarked, looking almost disappointed that none of them seemed to carry weapons.

Nami counted to ten, and turned to her new disciples, "Alright, listen up!" She barked at them.

"Arf!" The dugongs saluted her, drawing a smirk.

"Yes, this could work nicely." She mused, "First, we're going to sail upriver in a few hours and are going to need to leave our ship unattended. Someone is going to need to defend her. That'll be your job, got it?"

"ARF!" The dugongs all barked back, raising fists.

"And second…" Nami grinned, before pointing at Luffy, "I'm his disciple, so go train with him."

"Ehh?" Luffy blinked, "Don't you need me to help with the ship?"

"Nah, have fun. We've got this." Nami waved at him as she walked back.

Luffy grinned, before vanishing and reappearing in front of the dugongs. All of the little mammals were starry-eyed as they stared at him and his sheer speed, "Alright guys! By the time we leave Alabasta, I want at least one of you to be able to do this!" He raised his leg, and sliced it down. A wind blade erupted and carved the ocean right down to the other bank a few hundred feet away. He didn't go farther than that because that would be a bit too attention grabbing. The dugongs started barking hysterically in sheer awe.

"That's impossible." Vivi and Valerie deadpanned. "They don't have legs."

"Zoro uses his sword." Usopp looked a little grouchy from the lump on his head.

Chopper nodded, "They could use a flipper. Or maybe a blunt version with their tails."

"No, still impossible!" Valerie crossed her arms in an 'x' in front of her chest, "It took Nami weeks before she even got a whisper of it! None of the rest of us have it yet!"

"I think that's the point." Robin commented, "He's giving them an impossible task to reach for. Possibly so they don't try to follow us when we leave." She stretched, "Regardless, we have work to do. Let's get to it."

"Right!"

In just a few short hours, they had finished disguising Merry and had set sail from Erumalu upriver. The dugongs were following beneath them and keeping a close eye on things from underwater. Of course, it was rather poor luck that they hadn't taken another hour or so to finish the work, and perhaps even poorer luck that they hadn't simply arrived around half a day later than they did. If they had, there was a very good chance that Vivi might actually have been able to catch Baroque Works directly in the act and proven her father's innocence.

As it was?

They were just too far away when about an hour after their departure, black smoke started to rise in the horizon aft of the ship.

-]|[-

Hours later, the ship was nearing the point where they planned on splitting up. While they would love to stay together as a unit, with so many unknowns and with the threat of Mr. 2, the smarter play was to try to attack on two fronts. Vivi finished tying the bandage on her arm with a smile, "Are we all ready?" She asked, before thrusting her fist out and showing her arm.

The rest of them all smiled, "You know it!" They all matched her, forming a circle of arms, each covered in a bandage. "With this, we'll be able to tell if this Mr. 2 is trying to mess with us." Usopp said.

"It was a good plan." Robin nodded approvingly, glad she hadn't needed to mention it herself.

"We're here." Nami said, pointing at the bank to port. "We'll see you all when this is over, yeah?"

"Right. Stay safe." Zoro commanded, before leaping off the ship and using Geppō to cross the distance to the bank.

Nami grabbed Luffy and gave him a kiss, much to Sanji's anguish. "Kick his ass." She breathed in his ear with a hug.

And then Vivi shocked them all when she did the same.

"WHAAAAAAT?!" Sanji turned into glass and shattered into a million pieces.

"Ufufufu…" Robin could only giggle while the rest of the crew picked up their jaws, "Ara ara, it appears our little navigator wasn't kidding back before we landed on Little Garden."

Vivi's face was red, "Give him hell." She commanded, at her most 'queenly.'

Luffy cracked his knuckles with a confident smirk, "I'm planning on it."

"Shall we, then?" Robin asked, sidling up to him with a smile. She laughed as Sanji practically combusted when Luffy picked her up in a bridal carry. Unfortunately, she didn't get to see more of that reaction, because then the world blurred as they vanished from the Merry's deck.

Said reaction was Sanji gnawing on a piece of cloth, "Shitty… stupid… straw hat!"

Nami walked by and dope slapped him in the back of the head, "Head in the game, Sanji-kun." She smirked, "You can whine about Luffy having better game than you when this is over."

"WHAAAAT?!" Sanji whirled into action, helping them maneuver the ship easily as he ranted, "I have more game in my little toe than that shitty straw hat has in his body!"

"Kyahahahaha!" Valentine laughed as she soared to the crow's nest, "Evidence to the contrary notwithstanding."

Usopp cackled, "Yeah, it's not like he's up two to zero or anything."

Now Sanji did actually combust, and the words he said sounded like no human tongue ever could.

Vivi rolled her eyes, "Come on. We need to leave the ship somewhere safe. We need to meet with Carue."

"Won't the poor thing be exhausted?" Nami frowned, "I know he agreed to do it, but to run all the way to Alubarna and then meet with us…"

"He can do it." Vivi confirmed, a hard, set smile on her face, "Carue belongs here in the desert. After we left, I was constantly having to take care of him, and had to watch helplessly as he lost his strength. He had only barely stopped getting sick a few months before we met you." She sighed, "His species was born, raised, and evolved here in the desert. The humidity and cooler climate in the outside world wreaked havoc on him." Her smile definitely had a bit of a bitter edge, "I should never have taken him with me. Just a few minutes in Nanohana had him looking healthier than I've seen him in years."

"Wow, the poor duck." Chopper gasped, "Why didn't you say anything? I could have looked him over!"

Vivi winced, "Like I said, he had at least stopped getting sick recently. It had been several months actually, so he seemed to be a lot better. Plus, we were already on our way back here. I was hoping he'd be like a regular duck to water."

Chopper shook his head, "Okay. I'll need to examine him anyway. At least for long term issues."

Vivi flinched, "You don't think there will be, do you?"

"Can't say." Chopper responded, "But at least he showed an improvement. An improvement is better than any further illness. I can only think of a few diseases he could catch, and thankfully all of them should be mitigatable at worst." He gave her a hoof up, "I'll make sure he's as strong as an ox!"

"Thank you, Tony-kun!" Vivi gave the Zoan a hug.

"Baka! That doesn't make me happy!" He wiggled in her arms.

They had sailed up one of the smaller tributaries. It looked like it was drying up, so Nami had to use every ounce of her skills to get Merry to a safe location. The dugongs had already posted up, and now they were ready to head to Alubarna. "Look!" Valerie called out from the air, pointing to an approaching dust cloud.

Vivi smiled in relief, "He did it!" The dust cloud approached, revealing the Super Spot-Billed Duck Troops! Each of the giant ducks slowed to a halt in front of them, before saluting Vivi. "Carue!" She launched herself at her pet and hugged him, "Oh, you must be exhausted!" Carue looked dirty, but was putting on a brave face. "Would you like to rest on the Merry?"

"Quack!" Carue shook his head roughly. He was exhausted, but he would see Vivi safe!

"Well, you definitely need some water and a few minutes to rest before we get moving again." Vivi said, waving all of the ducks over to the Merry, "Did anyone see you?" She asked Carue.

"Quack, quack!" Carue had followed instructions perfectly. He'd snuck in via a path Robin had informed them of. A secret entrance created by Miss Merry Christmas for Baroque Works' purposes. After doing so, he'd gone directly to the Super Spot-Billed Duck Troops' barracks and gotten some much-needed water and a few minutes of rest before they all blazed out of the city. No one had realized he was there, and hopefully, no one paid attention to the missing ducks.

After the ducks had some much-needed water and a light snack, they were finally ready to go. "Okay!" Nami declared, "Onto Alubarna! First priority is disabling that damned bomb, and that means we need to find it!" She clenched her fist, "We also need to try to either get to Vivi's father or have Vivi herself take control of the army so we can start rooting out Baroque Works. This won't end if any of those jackasses just start shooting!"

Sanji's eye gleamed, "And if any of the officer agents are there, leave them to us." He looked forward to letting loose some of his frustration over their shitty Captain now dating two of the wonderful ladies on their crew.

"I call Grandma Bitch!" Valerie said enthusiastically, "Insult my chocolate, will she?" The blonde burned in eagerness.

"We all know our roles!" Vivi yelled as she mounted Carue, "Let's go!"

-]|[-

"And how," Robin's eyebrow twitched lightly, "Did you get here?" She asked Zoro.

"Eh?" He turned around, "Oh, there you guys are. What did you go and get lost for?"

Luffy snickered into his fist as four arms grew out of Zoro's shoulders and dope-slapped him in sequence.

"Ow damn it!" Zoro cursed, "What the hell was that for?"

Robin's tone was rather incensed, "We were traveling." She said like she was talking to a pet, "In a straight line." She said with as much patience as she could muster, "So how did you utterly vanish less than a mile from the coast and still somehow beat us here?"

"Hrmph, the dunes were confusing." He did not actually answer the question, "Stupid moving landscape."

Robin shook her head and let out a sigh, "Well, let's get a move on then. At least try to not get lost this time, Zoro."

"Who the hell would get lost here?" Zoro asked… before walking to the right. Robin's eye twitched as she grew an arm from the wall to dope slap him again and point to her and Luffy. "Grk." Zoro walked over to them.

"Who indeed?" Robin asked dryly, already exasperated. The sun had just set, and the light was dimming, so it was quite easy to sneak into the prosperous city. "Honestly, color me impressed. I expected this to be a lot louder." Robin chuckled to herself.

"This sure brings memories back." Luffy grinned, doing almost a better job of sneaking than Robin herself was doing. "Ace and I did this all the time in the Goa Kingdom when we wanted to rob that jackass noble blind."

"Ah. Several things make much more sense now." Robin said lightly, before her face locked up and she held an arm out, stopping Luffy and Zoro. "Marines." She said, whispering now.

Luffy and Zoro looked, "Smokey." He groaned, "He couldn't find a clue if it was in front of him, could he?"

"She's here too." Zoro grumbled, looking at Tashigi.

"Smoker-san isn't the only problem." Robin said, "The pink-haired one. That's Black Cage Hina. Why is she here too?"

"Looks like they're pulling out all the stops for us." Zoro commented, "Can we avoid them?"

"Easily. Follow me." Robin replied, and before they knew it, they were far away from the marine patrols. She took her eyes off Luffy and Zoro for just a second, but when she looked again, Luffy was happily munching on a bunch of snacks, and Zoro was sipping at some sake. She blinked in shock… and then made eyes to follow them at all times.

"I thought we needed to head for the casino. Aren't we moving away from that shit croc?" Zoro pointed to the giant golden figurehead in the distance.

Robin smirked, and poked a brick in the wall she had led them to. The brick depressed and swung like it was on a hinge. There was a slight click, and then the entire wall swung open, revealing a hidden door, "Are we?"

"Woah! So cool!" Luffy had stars in his eyes, and Zoro himself was looking impressed.

"Not bad." He smirked as they walked inside. The tunnel continued for several hundred feet through various hallways and forks in the road. Robin had eyes scouting ahead for traps, but found nothing.

"We're here." She said quietly, "Remember, the casino is above us, and it's bound to be full at this hour. Let's try not to blow the place up."

"Gotcha." Luffy said, "Let's end this!"

Robin nodded as Zoro fingered his blade. She pushed the door open silently as she drew a blade that was already wet with water, and they rushed inside. Only the room was empty. Plus, there was a giant screen in the middle of the room she didn't remember being there. "What?" Robin asked the empty air, "It wasn't ti-" She seemed to realize something, "Leave!" She said urgently, "Now!" She turned back to the way they came, but it was too late. With loud clangs, the hidden door swung shut and bars came down over it, along with every single other entrance into the room.

Luffy reached the door and tried to wrench the bars away, but was immediately overcome by a sense of exhaustion and almost slumped to the floor, "What the?!"

"Seastone." Robin hissed, whirling towards the screen as a pedestal rose from the floor, revealing a Den Den Mushi with large eyes and eyelashes. It started projecting, and Crocodile was revealed to the crew at last.

He glared at Robin with pure fury hidden in his eyes, "Congratulations." He said thinly, "It's not often that I'm caught by surprise. I calculated many different possibilities for your absence, Miss All Sunday." He bit through his cigar, "But not once did I consider betrayal." He spat the butt of his cigar out. "So, tell me… what did they offer?" If someone could die from being glared at, Robin would be ashes at the moment, "What convinced you to betray me?"

Robin stared at him, before snorting, "Betray? I've done no such thing." She leered at him, "Our partnership was always one of convenience, Sir Crocodile. And we both know you planned on killing me the moment you got what you wanted. Could hardly have me getting cold feet and telling anyone else about where Pluton was, could we?" She smirked as the barb hit home, as evidenced by his clenching jaw.

"So… I suppose this means you never planned on telling me where it was in the first place." He managed to hiss out.

"The only thing I planned to tell you was 'goodbye.'" She said, spinning her knife in her hand, "After I plunged this into your heart, of course."

Luffy could contain himself no longer, "Oi." He stepped forward, "Stop hiding behind your dumb screen and come out and fight me!"

Crocodile's gaze turned to Luffy's, and for the first time during their conversation, he smirked, "So, you're Straw Hat Luffy, huh? You don't look like much, but you did well getting this far. I'd love to kill you personally, but unfortunately, that will be rather difficult. After all…" His smirk widened as he stuck another cigar between his teeth, "I'm not in Rainbase right now."

"What?!" All three pirates gasped with varying degrees of volume.

Crocodile's grin was so smug and massive that his cheeks were almost tearing, "As if I would compromise my three-year-long plan to have a slugfest with some no-name pirate Captain from East Blue." Luffy and Zoro started to gnash their teeth as Crocodile looked at Robin, "And as for you… You were a useful tool. It would have taken much longer to get here without your help. Unfortunately, your time is at an end. And as for the Poneglyph? Well, seeing as your information would have been useless, I'll just have to acquire… alternative means of reading it."

With the word, several geysers seemed to open up through the room, and several vents on the ceiling blew out. Water started spewing with all the fury of the oceans themselves, despite just coming from the lake up above, "Goodbye, Miss All Sunday. And goodbye, you pirate morons. Don't you worry. I'll take good care of your little Princess." And before the Straw Hats could say a word, the screen went dark.

-]|[-

They had made good time, even if their approach was rather obvious. The Super Spot-Billed Duck Troops may have been the fastest in Alabasta, but the huge sand cloud they were kicking up was certainly attention-grabbing. Carue by himself had been able to sneak in, but he had always been the softest of the runners. The others weren't nearly so nimble. The guards posted at the great stairs immediately called for backup, thinking that this was a surprise attack by the Rebel Army. Soon though, it became clear it was too small and obvious to be an attack, but the call was not canceled.

"Halt!" The leader of the guards called out as they approached, gripping his spear tightly. "Who goes there!"

Sanji was the one who stepped forward, "We're just weary travelers, my good man, looking to escape this cold inside the city."

"Ha!" The guard sneered at him, "Weary travelers don't have access to Spot-Billed Ducks, and especially not Super ones like that."

Nami stepped forward next, "Please sir, we are-" She put on a friendly smile as she tried to approach, and stopped short when the guards on the stairs themselves raised their guns threateningly.

"And furthermore…" The second of the guards at the foot of the steps declared, "Access into and out of the city is currently forbidden!"

"Enough of this." Vivi ground her teeth. They had tried to be stealthy and avoid confrontation, but clearly, the world had other plans. They really should have tried to continue on foot so they could use that hidden entrance. She whipped the hood off her head and revealed herself, "I am Princess Nefertari Vivi! Take me to my father!" She was prepared for anything, including Baroque Works plants trying to fire at them.

She was not prepared for what actually happened, "IT'S THE IMPOSTER! CAPTURE HER! KILL THE REST!"

The second the third word had been spoken, Usopp had already made his move. His slingshot had whipped out of his cloak. Before the men could even finish raising their guns, Usopp had drawn his weapon and fired. Five of the guards went down instantly, and Nami, Vivi, and Sanji all vanished in bursts of Soru. Sanji's foot broke through one of the guard's spears and plowed straight into his armor, driving the man into the stone walls surrounding the steps. Vivi had been slower, but she had her peacock slashers out. The shaft of the spear he tried to thrust at her in a cross-check to knock her out got cut straight in half. She stopped the spin and grabbed his wrist, dragging him forward and into her elbow, knocking the wind out of him. She then turned and judo flipped him down the steps, where Valerie stomped on him, knocking him out.

"Kyahahaha! Well, this went about as I expected." She vanished, appearing before a guard at the top of the steps, moving even faster than Sanji had due to her extremely low mass. She was also brandishing her new umbrella. It was a much sturdier-looking thing compared to her old one. The shaft was much thicker and appeared reinforced, while the tip seemed to be plated in some sort of metal. The actual fabric looked much sturdier too, and obviously was embossed with her favorite lemons. And most importantly, despite the fact that it currently weighed a thousand pounds, it was being held like a rapier. With a bit of a slasher smile on her face, she jabbed a guard in the chestplate, and the man vanished from the impact with an agonized hack. He careened into a set of approaching guards and knocked all of them down and out like a set of bowling pins. "Kyahahaha! How did you like my new umbrella? I weighed it down just for you~!"

Vivi flashed by her side with a sigh, "Please don't kill them, Val."

"No promises." She replied silkily.

"Save it for Baroque Works. Damn that Mr. 2." Nami said, somewhat irritably. She would have continued, but one of the guards hadn't quite been knocked out, and he managed to get his hand on a rope, and immediately slumped. His weight rang the warning bell, making them jerk in shock as they turned and looked at him. A clamor rose up, and Nami cursed, "We're going to have the whole damn army on our heads! Sanji-kun! Launch me and Vivi away towards the rooftops, and then all of you make nuisances of yourselves! Get their attention!"

"You got it!" Sanji called, leaping into the air.

"Stay safe!" Nami and Vivi called out together as they hugged each other tight and Nami leapt. They reached Sanji and grabbed his shoes before they were launched halfway across the entire city. Guards below them were racing to the entrance, and both Nami and Vivi utilized Geppō to steer themselves. Vivi much more weakly than Nami. She could only make very minor corrections or flip them so Nami could change their direction. They landed on a roof, and started to lay low, "Come on, take the bait!" Nami hissed.

Back down near the stairs, Sanji landed and breathed out a puff of smoke. "Well, you heard the lady. Sorry Vivi-chwan, but I'd say it's time to wreck some shit." He grinned, before jumping and landing on Chopper, who was in his full deer form and running away. The ducks all scattered as well.

"Looks like it's you and me again, longnose! Kyahahaha!" Valerie was never going to get tired of this crew!

Usopp grinned and fired off a gunpowder star. The explosive blew back some of the guards, "Cheese it!" The two of them ran, drawing more and more guards away and causing loud explosions every time they ran into guards.

"What are they doing to my city?!" Vivi hissed in outrage as she saw the explosions.

"What they need to!" Nami said, watching as the guards started thinning out. "Let's go!"

The two of them vanished in bursts of Soru and ran straight for the palace. "We're too late, aren't we?" Vivi asked her. "They must have already replaced my father. Damn that Mr. 2!"

"It was the smart move." Nami grumbled, before pausing and then smirking, "Actually… this works in our favor. All we have to do is beat that okama's ass in public and when he falls unconscious, he should lose his transformation too."

"Revealing the deception!" Vivi also put on her best slasher smile, "Let's go!"

They made their way to the palace, which seemed to be on high alert. Vivi carefully followed Nami's lead as they made their way up the side of the plateau rather than taking the steps. Geppō was loud but thankfully they went unnoticed. They managed to sneak their way in, dodging guards where they could and choking them unconscious where they couldn't. Silently, they made their way to the throne room, before abandoning stealth and throwing the large, heavy doors open.

Unfortunately, her father wasn't there. The throne of Alabasta sat empty. But that didn't mean the room was empty. Chaka and Pell stood before them. Her protectors when she was younger, and two people she really didn't want to fight. "Pell! Chaka!" She called out, hoping that she would be able to get them on her side. "Please! I need to see my father!"

But their faces hardened as they drew their weapons, "So, the king was right." Chaka glared at her, making her falter.

"He warned us that an imposter wearing his daughter's face would come." Pell stared menacingly at them, "You were a fool to come here, imposter! We are well aware of your deception!"

"Damn it. Well played, Baroque Works." Nami begrudgingly mumbled out.

Vivi clenched her fists, "There is an imposter, but it's not me!" She tried to say, but Pell cut her off.

"Enough words! You can speak during your interrogation!" Pell rushed forward, aiming to knock her out with a solid punch.

Vivi vanished in a burst of Soru, appearing behind him. His eyes widened in shock, as he whirled around and sprang away from her. It was a wasted effort, as she had made no motion to attack him. "I don't want to fight, Pell! It's ME!"

"We don't have time for this." Chaka growled, and then the growling became a bit more literal as he grew in size and was engulfed in fur. "Capture both of them! We'll deal with them later!" He leapt at them, much faster than Pell had.

"Cyclone Tempo!" Nami called out, swinging her Clima-Tact like a bat. Chaka grunted as the wind picked him up and flung him away from them. "Vivi, we're not going to get anywhere like this! Take them down and let's go find Mr. 2!" She vanished after Chaka.

"Mr. 2?" Pell asked, "What kind of a name is that?" He transformed into his hybrid form as well. Vivi had always thought it was a weird one when she was younger. His arms turned into talons rather than his legs.

"Urk… those talons would hurt much more than when he slapped me when I was younger…" Vivi mumbled…

And then Pell stumbled, "What?" He stared at her in befuddlement, "How could you possibly know that, imposter?" He shook his head, "Enough!" He sprang forward much faster than before and tried to capture her.

Vivi dodged, but had a wide grin on her face. That was it! That was how she could get them on their side! She opened her mouth, but was forced to shut it again when he lashed out with a kick. "Grrr, darn it, Pell! Just give me a MINUTE!" She squealed the last word as Pell blazed into the air. "Oh come on!"

"Tobizume!" Pell roared, vanishing from sight as he sped towards her. First, he'd knock her out, and then he'd head towards the orange-haired woman and get her from behind. Chaka appeared to be struggling with her.

"Oh no you don't!" Vivi saw in her mind's eye the massive bruise he was planning on leaving on her stomach, and wanted no part of it. She vanished even faster than he did and planted her foot in his gut, knocking him back and out of the sky.

"Ghack!" Pell had some spittle come out of his mouth as he crashed into the shining tiles of the throne room. He grunted and clenched his stomach with his talon, before glaring at her, "Now you've really given yourself away, imposter! Princess Vivi was never such a violent ruffian!"

"Pfft!" Vivi sputtered, "Clearly you and I aren't remembering things the same way, Pell! I became the Second-in-command of the Suna Suna clan with Kōza after we beat each other up, remember?!"

"Grk!" Pell's beak clenched, as for the first time, doubt started to creep in.

On the other side of the throne room, Nami glared at Chaka, "I really don't want to hurt you." She growled, "Vivi told me you were a loyal soldier. You and Pell both. Hurting you would make her sad."

Chaka barked out a laugh, "You're quite impudent, aren't you? Your words hold no meaning to me." He drew his sword, getting Nami to take a ready stance, "The King himself informed us of the threat of imposters coming to take his life. I will not allow you to harm him, fool!"

He sprang forward, no longer aiming to just capture but to kill if needed. Nami's gaze hardened, "You're the one getting fooled!" A loud clang echoed through the throne room as she parried his attack with her assembled staff and then spun it, clocking him in the head with the butt. "The King is the one who's already been replaced! You're protecting the very one tricking you!"

The attack would have maybe even knocked out a normal man, but Chaka was a Zoan. A Carnivorous Zoan at that. He was made of much stronger stuff. All it did was anger him, "YOUR LIES WILL NOT FOOL ME!" He thundered, swiping at her first with his sword, which was dodged, and then with his claws.

Nami grunted as she caught his swing, and was almost forced to her knees from his sheer strength, "Fucking Devil Fruits!" She cursed, barely managing to fling him off and getting herself ready again.

Chaka placed his sword in his mouth and then braced his claws, "Gatsūga!" he growled out, before turning into a whirling tornado of sharp claws and sharper blade.

"Kami-E!" Nami closed her eyes and let her body flow. Each attack pushed her exactly where she needed to be from the light breeze alone. Every attack, she simply dodged with what looked like no effort at all. Chaka couldn't even dice off any of her hair.

"What sorcery is this?!" Chaka growled out, his fury ratcheting higher and higher. He spat his sword into his hand and swiped at her legs, "Die!" Nami jumped over the blade, "Fool! There's no escape now!" He immediately changed the direction of his swing, aiming to cut her in half now that she couldn't possibly dodge!

"Geppō!" Nami called out as she jumped even higher.

Chaka's eyes bulged at the sight, "This isn't possible!" He'd even overbalanced on the swing due to the target he'd fully expected to hit being missing and couldn't possibly recover.

Nami had enough of talking, "Rankyaku!" She'd finally managed the attack on Drum Island, and had trained even harder upon their return to Merry. She still wasn't anywhere near as good as Sanji, but could get it consistently now. She'd done a front kick rather than a swipe. She didn't want to kill the guy, after all. A rocket of air impacted Chaka's face and sent him sprawling to the ground. He growled as he tried to get up, spitting up some blood. "Sorry Vivi," Nami said as she spun the sections of her Clima-Tact, "Thunderbolt Tempo!" She assembled the staff and swung it down. Lightning screamed and Chaka spasmed as he was hit by it.

When it was over, he was still spasming and had reverted to his full human form, slightly smoldering, and burnt looking. "D-Damn… you…" he couldn't get up. His body was betraying him! He had to protect the King!

"Chaka!" Pell glared at Nami. He was panting too, though Vivi had only been hitting him moderately hard. He was still going to be bruised even despite his extra bulk.

"Stop it Pell!" Vivi cried out, "Damn it, what do I have to say to get you to trust us?! Don't you remember when you slapped me after I disobeyed everyone and snuck inside the armory to try to make fireworks? It was the anniversary of your enlistment and I wanted to surprise you, but I just blew myself up!" She asked him, getting him to tremble at the mental assault. "Don't you remember all the times you snuck me into the sky on your back even when father forbade it! I've missed doing it so much!"

Pell started to cry as he finally understood that she was real. "Princess…" He turned back into his human form, "I attacked you!" He looked like he wanted to hurt himself for his deeds.

"Pell!" Vivi crashed into him with a massive hug, "It's alright! I'm not hurt!"

She was strong enough to make his neck creak, and he didn't mind a second of it. He hugged her back, before pushing her away, "What is going on, Vivi?"

"Well, isn't this precious." A new voice rang through the air, making them all gasp and whirl to the no-longer-empty throne of Alabasta.

Chaka (Zoan healing was bullshit, wasn't it?) and Pell gasped out, "SIR CROCODILE?!"

Vivi hissed hatefully, "YOU! GET OFF MY FATHER'S THRONE, YOU BASTARD!"

Crocodile laughed, puffing out some smoke, "Now, now, is that any way to speak to your boss, Miss Wednesday?"

"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!" Chaka bellowed, trying to get to his feet unsteadily.

Vivi answered, "Sir Crocodile is the leader of Baroque Works! The criminal syndicate I infiltrated with Igaram to try to figure out what was causing the unrest here in Alabasta!" She spat out furiously, "HE'S been behind EVERYTHING! His minions were the ones who stirred up unrest! They're the ones who created the fake shipments of Dance Powder to the palace in my father's name! He's the one that's been causing all of the sandstorms that have been burying all of our cities and inciting our people to violence! He's been playing us for fools ever since he stepped foot on our island!" She screamed furiously, fingers clenched around her slashers.

"And?" Crocodile smirked at them lazily, "What of it?" he couldn't be any smugger if he tried, "It's been quite entertaining, I'll admit, watching all of you praise the 'Guardian Deity of Alabasta' so much."

"You… bastard!" Pell clenched his teeth as he started to transform. Vivi grabbed his arm and held him back.

Nami spoke for the first time, glaring at him, "What happened to my crewmates?" Her fingers were also clenched around the Clima-Tact's shaft, itching to knock that look off his face.

"Ah yes, your Captain, the swordsman, and that traitorous bitch Nico Robin." Crocodile tilted his head, "Well, I'm afraid I wasn't in Rain Dinners when they arrived, but I could hardly be a poor host. They're enjoying a long drink below the casino, as we speak." His smirk widened as Nami and Vivi went red with rage. "But none of you have to worry about that." He waved a hand negligently, "You'll all be too dead to do anything about it after all."

Pell roared and shrugged Vivi's hand off, charging at him with his blade, "PELL NO!" Vivi screamed at his back.

Crocodile turned into sand as he dodged the attack, and casually stabbed Pell in the thigh with his hook, "Idiot." He snorted, before a wave of sand sent him crashing into Chaka, crushing them both into the floor of the throne room and even ripping up some of the rich carpets. The two groaned in their heap, shaking from the pain. "Now, it's time for you to join your Captain in death, Storm Empress." He told Nami mockingly, "You shouldn't worry though, Princess." He stood up from the throne and started to all but strut towards them, "After all, your father has information I want, and he wouldn't cough it up even under torture." He grinned wickedly as Vivi drew her slashers, baring her teeth at him in rage, "I wonder how quickly he'll sing when it's your voice he hears screaming?"

"The only one that's going to scream is you!" Nami shot back, before she and Vivi vanished.

-]|[-

Welp, I hope you guys enjoyed! Again, do apologize for how long this took. The One Piece muse has just not cooperated with me recently. A combination of the lack of fics and just… not wanting to write this arc, as I said. I have a lot of things I WANT to write for this story, but they're so far in the future it's just kinda daunting instead. It's like… Alabasta and Skypiea in particular are the veggies and I don't WANT my veggies god damn it!

Also, yes, haha, Sun God funny. I was ten parallel universes ahead of Oda all along! LOL

I can't get over THAT being what Oda went with. I LOVE Gear 5th and it legitimately revitalized my love of the canon fruit, but seriously? The Sun God?

ANYWAY

I'll TRY not to let another year go by without an update. I'm going to ride this bitch until she cannae give any more. If ya'll want more supernova (or crossed lines!)… THEN GIVE ME MORE ONE PIECE FICS I'M DYING HERE.

Later!