Their journey nearly came to a halt while Lucci worked on getting their ship into a state where it would be able to get them anywhere. Unfortunately there was little he could do save for nailing scrap wood to the broken husk of a ship; the damage was extremely extensive. The keel was straight up snapped in several places and most of the rest was little more than pulp. Lucci was not a miracle worker; the fact the ship might, might get them back to Jaya was damn close though. Jaya was on the horizon when they hit the water; it was still doubtful the ship would survive the journey.
Zoro scowled as he pumped obscenely huge weights, glaring at the water that dared seep through the cracks while Usopp (using Galdino's coerced assistance) and Lucci ran about; frantically patching up the horrific damage to the ship.
Kuzan (after being woken by water splashing his face) decided to simply freeze the ship solid. While this did keep it from falling apart and kept the water from pulling it down; it also meant that any slim chance of repairs were simply gone. Not that there really were any to begin with (only Usopp really held onto a phantasmal hope).
Hours later the frozen mockery of a ship beached itself on the ashen shore of what once was Mock Town. Little remained of the lawless town; burnt out husks crumbled in the wind and a pervasive silence filled the once boisterous island.
While the rest of the Red Dogs milled about, doing whatever it is they personally do to pass time (Robin trying (and failing) to subtly stay as far away from Rob Lucci as possible), Lucci moved towards the ruins; expression unchanging as he began to scrounge through the more intact hovels. Usopp raised an eyebrow, "Hey, slate-face; what'cha doin'?"
Lucci glanced over his shoulder at him, "Searching for a transponder snail." he responded, voice as blank as his face. Though whether this was from his conditioning or his exasperation; no one knew.
The liar blinked at the assassin, "But, we have one-" He glanced back at the ship, "On second thought I doubt it survived the fall… or Kuzan freezing everything." The sniper cringed slightly and joined the shipwright in his search.
Soon Usopp gave a victorious cry as he came up out of a pile of ash; sitting in his palm was a sickly but alive baby transponder snail. Its shell was grey (though that may have just been the ashes) and had some small cracks over it, it coughed up ash every few seconds but seemed otherwise unharmed.
Lucci snatched it from his hand and looked it over, wiping off the ashes to see it was indeed gray. The faintest hint of a smile appeared on his face as he set about calling a very specific number. Before he finished Borsalino was looming over him, physically stopping him from dialing. "Ooh, and just who are ya callin', ne?"
Lucci looked up at him, his expression unchanging. "One of Franky's black market contacts managed to get there hands on a significant amount of Adam wood. I was recently on an assignment to stir up unrest and civil war on the island that wood comes from; apparently it's so strong the elder stars are afraid to let it get out. If we're going to replace our ship I would assume the captain would want the best materials available."
Borsalino stared at him for a long moment, his sunglass catching the light and turning opaque… before he released his arm. "Alright then."
Lucci swiftly finished the call, intensely aware of the deceptively jovial eyes of the Yellow Monkey watching his every move. After a moment a gruff voice spoke up, suspiciously asking who was calling.
Lucci cleared his throat and opened his mouth, Franky's voice coming out. "Jacky! Ahh, sorry 'bout the different number but I ran into some trouble back home and lost my old one. Nothing my SUPER self couldn't handle though!" The crew stared at the disconcerting sight of Franky's exuberant voice coming out of Lucci's emotionless face.
"Jacky" was significantly less suspicious now, "I'd recognise that voice anywhere! Whatta ya need, Franky?"
"I recently came into quite a SUPER bit of money! You still have that Adam wood?"
"Yeah, how much you want?" "Jacky" seemed a bit surprised, though not shocked.
Even though Lucci's face didn't change the crew could hear the non-existent smirk in his voice, "How much ya got?"
Usopp started clapping when Lucci hung up, baffling the normally unflappable man. "That was a hell of a performance there Lucci! Can you do any other impressions?" The liar eagerly asked.
Lucci looked around, seeing encouraging looks on the crews face and started doing different impersonations (impressions aren't for people who use them like he does). By the end of the day the stoic man was smiling faintly along side his laughing crewmates.
Three days later a ship arrived carrying the requested wood. As soon as it arrived Lucci was already setting up to build a (significantly larger) ship. Sakazuki turned to the confused sailors and produced a large amount of gold from his jacket (no need for them to know he just made it on the spot) to pay them.
A look of greed came over their apparent leader's face. The scarred man accepted the currency with a grin, puffing on a cigar as he foisted the job of swapping one heavy material for another on his crew. After a moment the Berri signs left his eyes and a frown overtook his face, "'Ey, where's Franky?"
Sakazuki stared at him for a moment. If it was just him he would have murdered the man and just stolen the supplies; fortunately for the man, Lucci had advised him that black market contacts could be useful. "You may not have heard but a significant portion of the Grand Line was recently rendered… uninhabitable. A mad man released a plague that killed a great many and caused irrational anger in the infected. Riots broke out quickly. Unfortunately, Franky, while immune to the disease itself, was slain by the rioters."
"Jacky's" eyes widened, a muttered "Holy shit…" leaving his lips.
Sakazuki nodded commiseratingly along, pretending to give a shit. "Yes, yes. You see, Franky always dreamed of making a ship to rival the Oro Jackson; and upon his death he entrusted this wish to Rob Lucci here." he pointed at the industriously working man dressed in a no longer ragged suit (he got a new one custom made before the siege; Franky hadn't bothered).
The shifty man's eyes widened and then narrowed at Lucci's name. "Ha, you had me going there for a second. Rob Lucci, friends with Franky? Bullshit."
Sakazuki scowled at the perceived insult to his crew member, "I did not say they were friends. All of Franky's friends were already dead by this point; he passed his dream to Lucci because he was the only living person he had even a vague relationship with who could hear his words."
"Jacky" laughed, "Naw, that ain't why I call bullshit!" His eyes hardened, "No, I'm calling you out because Rob Lucci is a murderous psychopath; he doesn't have friends. His handlers beat any affection out of that monster."
Sakazuki sighed, seeing Lucci twitch in the corner of his eyes. "Ah, fuck it." He clasped his suddenly molten hand on the much shorter man's head. "Jacky's" scream was cut off when his mouth was covered by molten gold. Soon a golden statue stood in the man's place, a look of agony and fear permanently carved into his face.
Lucci twitched, old instincts telling him to silence the man for blowing his cover… cover he wasn't under anymore. For an organisation he no longer worked for. He shook off the feeling and went back to work, blinking when a truncated scream filled the air.
Sakazuki picked the man up and fired him at the bewildered workers; turning one into chunky salsa before he could draw his pistol. He was about to move on to the rest when something slammed down on top of three of them and proceeded to crash through the boat.
Akainu blinked, then looked at the ash choked sky, "The hell…?" he muttered, idly executing two remaining mooks with magma bullets to the head. He walked past their smoking corpses to peer down at the hole in the ship. An unnatural darkness filled the ship, making it appear as if an inky black wall had formed were the boards ended.
He turned his hand to lava to try to cast light into the ship; to no avail. Even Borsalino (when he appeared next to him) couldn't illuminate the ship. The brother's glanced at each other, shrugged, and jumped down.
While Akainu and Kizaru explored the unnaturally darkened ship, Usopp was staring listlessly at the remains of the Merry, tears slowly streaming down his face. Memories of their journey flashing through his mind. Robin walked up behind him, "What's wrong, Mr. Sniper?" she queried.
He slowly turned to look at her, "Merry… she's been part of this crew as long as I have… and now were just leaving her to die here?"
Robin raised an eyebrow, "It's just a ship, Mr. Sniper."
He whirled on her with a snarl, "She is NOT JUST A SHIP! I consider her a member of the crew!"
"Weather or not she's a crew member; she's still not human." The archaeologist turned to look at the ragged remains of the former ship of the Red Dogs. "Besides, Lucci said she can't be fixed."
Usopp's fingers kept phasing in an out of pistol form as he glared daggers at her. "Grrrr, Chopper's not human either and we don't just leave him to die when he's hurt; do we!"
Robin frowned, "The difference is Chopper is sentient and alive; Merry's not."
Their conversation was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice, "Nah, the difference is that this "Chopper" isn't fatally injured. Heh, suppose it won't matter soon." Usopp, seeing the fear in Robin's normally unflappable eyes, went to turn around… he didn't make it halfway before he was engulfed in flames. Over his screams the same sardonic voice spoke up, "Seeing as you'll all be dead before the end of the day."
An icy hand clamped down on the screaming sniper, a thin layer of ice covering him and dousing the flames. "Now now, no need for that." Kuzan frowned, his sleepy eyes locking on the much shorter man.
Said man tilted his hat up with a flaming finger, a faintly cruel grin on his face, "Ah, "Blue Pheasant" Kuzan… 1.76 billion beri. Brother to "Yellow Monkey" Borsalino, 2.3 billion beri and "Red Dog" Sakazuki, 3.27 billion beri. Wanted for the genocide and complete destruction of seven islands, the murder of two warlords, and attempting to overthrow a member nation. Heh, you're New World wanted already… amusing."
Kuzan raised an eyebrow, "That's quite a bit of information you have there…?" he trailed off, silently filing away the second warlord the Red Dogs were accredited with killing; likely a victim of the plague.
Robin answered for the man, "Th-thats Marine admiral Portgas D. Ace. This man makes up one tenth of the World Governments second strongest force."
Kuzan lazily smirked at the man, "Oh, a big shot are ya? Doesn't matter; you attacked my friend, now you have to die."
Ace didn't wait for the ice-man to move, launching a blast of fire at him. Kuzan tossed Robin and Usopp away just before the conflagration reached him. The crew (save those currently inside a darkened transport ship) cried out in horror (Lucci's eyes slightly widened) as the co-first mate was engulfed in flame.
Ace laughed as the fire spread to the ruins of the Merry. As he doubled over a figure became visible in the flame, slowly walking out. Ace finally took notice as Kuzan stepped out of the fire covered in frost. Surprise quickly turned to rage as he snarled and fired little balls of fire like dual machine guns. The fireballs impacted the ice-man with small explosions… doing absolutely nothing to the Blue Pheasant as he slowly turned completely to ice. "Graahh! Why won't you just die already!"
Kuzan vanished and reappeared right in front of the admiral, an icy hand coated in haki clasping around his throat. Ace clawed at the massive hand cutting off his air as black ice began to crawl over him. Kuzan chuckled, "Sorry kid, just a bad matchup I guess; your fire's just not hot enough." Ace desperately blasted at his captor's face… to no effect; he couldn't even knock the lazy smile off his face. He tried to turn to fire and flee to no avail; he couldn't escape Kuzan's haki coated hands and the equally empowered ice rapidly consuming him didn't help. Soon his struggles slowed and before long his whole body was completely frozen. "Hmph, World Government second best, huh?" with a wave of his hand he shattered the fire-man, "If this is what they consider strong, the government won't be a problem." He walked over to check up on Usopp, stepping on a chunk of what once was the admiral's head and crushing it further.
Robin stared in numb shock at the crumbled admiral; a man who haunted her nightmares was just murdered with contemptuous ease. Lucci wasn't faring much better; a figure he had always been told was the pinnacle of "Justice" couldn't even scratch the lazy giant of the Red Dogs. "Where did these monsters come from… how could Cipher Pol have never heard of them?"
Kuzan was suddenly behind him, laying a hand on his shoulder. "We came from the East Blue and your Pol never heard of us because we've only been a crew for a few weeks now; though I'm sure you've heard of "Blue Pheasant" Kuzan and "Yellow Monkey" Borsalino. Sakazuki only set out very recently; he spent most of his time training on a fairly isolated island. Mostly because his powers are rather more naturally destructive than ours and he didn't want to accidentally kill his crew." Lucci slowly turned to look at the man, an unconscious shiver passing through him at the cold look in his eyes. Suddenly Aokiji smiled and patted the shorter man's shoulder before walking away. He turned his head with a lazy smirk, "Doesn't matter though; you're one of us now. No matter what they send after you we'll have your back. Whether it's admirals or our own powers; you'll be fine."
Lucci stared at him in silence, Spandam's parting statement to him replaying in his mind before it was replaced by the image of an admiral helpless in the hands of the co-firstmate. Suddenly his attention was drawn to the flames of the Merry when the fires slowly crawled across the ground. Words formed in the flame.
"Never underestimate the WG!" The words weren't there for twenty seconds before the ship exploded; blowing nearby Red Dogs away. A towering pillar of flame formed a second later. Slowly, the tower swirled into the shape of a man. "Heh heh heh heh heh!" His burning eyes locked on Nico Robin and he pointed a flaming finger at her, "Hell awaits, Devil Child!" The burning figure faded into the wind, leaving a sinister laughter echoing after him.
Sanji pulled out a new cigarette to replace the one he nearly swallowed, "Well… that happened."
Lucci slowly nodded in response, joining Sanji in his impression of a chimney, "What I'm wondering is why he didn't press the attack? Why just flee when he could have killed at least a couple of us."
Robin shook of her shock and turned to look at Lucci, "A "couple of us"?" she questioned incredulously.
He turned to her, his conditioning allowing him to regain his cool far quicker than most, "If he launched a surprise attack he could have killed some of us before Kuzan could have stopped him."
At this Chopper looked up from where he was treating Usopp's serious injuries (having already assessed the others as superficial at worst), "A-actually… he may still be here." The crew turned to him with curious (and more than a little concerned) looks. He shuffled nervously, "I-if he can change the composition of his flames a-and control the heat like Sakazuki can; he could be turned to invisible methanol flame, sticky napalm, or poisonous white phosphor- erk!" He was cut off by a hand of flame clamping around his throat.
"Tisk tisk, you just had to open your big mouth; didn't you little raccoon dog." The admiral smirked at the doctor. He whirled, using the doctor to block a spear of ice protruding from Aokiji's palm.
Kuzan twisted his hand… and stabbed right through both doctor and marine. Blood spewed from both their mouths as the haki coated icicle pierced their abdomen.
Ace flared away, reappearing a short distance away and clutching the hole in his gut while Chopper slid off Aokiji's retracting blade. "Wow, you're one ruthless son of a bi- Argh!" A fist of magma pierced the fire-man's back, protruding from his chest.
Akainu pulled his hand from the admiral's chest, allowing his body to fall to the earth. He sneered down at the dying man before turning to assess his doctor's condition. Seeing the frozen wound was not fatal he turned to the crew, "Looks like he'll be going home to Whitebeard in a box… or at least his head will." He picked up the admiral's hat to join Crocodile's hook as a trophy.
Zoro obliged with a smirk, severing the admiral's head in one clean swipe. Robin blinked as she saw something change in the corner of her vision. Turning to look at it she raised an eyebrow, "Do you have a devil fruit, Mr. Psychopath."
Lucci and Sakazuki both turned to look at her, opposite responses on their lips. Robin sighed and pointed at Lucci, who shook his head and spoke up, "No. The Government was going to send me one but this whole… event occurred before I could receive it."
She nodded and turned to point at a colourful fruit that had just dropped off a nearby tree, "Would you like one? I rather imagine you can guess what it is considering it showed up seconds after Mr. Captain killed the admiral."
Lucci walked over to the fruit, kicking it up into his hand and looking it over. "Hmm, you're right, this is definitely the Flame-Flame fruit." He paused, turning to the watching Sakazuki, "Do you want me to eat it, Captain?"
Sakazuki raised an eyebrow, "Do you want to?" he countered.
Lucci was floored, he had never been asked that question before. He slowly looked down at the fruit in his hand; images of his time in the CP-9 and his brief time with the Red Dogs flashing before his eyes. He clenched them shut as his last moments as a Cipher Pol agent repeated. "Yes Captain. Yes I do."
Akainu stared at him for a moment before nodding and waving his hand dismissively, "Then go ahead." Lucci nodded and took a bite; only his extensive conditioning keeping him from vomiting when the horrendous taste hit him.
Borsalino laughed at the sour expression on his face, "Hahahahahah! Forgot to warn ya 'bout the taste!"
Everyone did a double take; standing next to the Yellow Monkey… was a silhouette; or so it seemed. A tall humanoid figure seemingly made of depthless darkness, its only visible features a gigantic glowing cheshire grin and two equally luminous unblinking eyes.
"Kishishishishishi! Aw, what's the problem!" The creature's smile widened, "Are you all gettin' worked up over little ol' me? Kishishishishi!"
Sanji, deeming the situation serious enough (and being already seriously unnerved by previous events) produced two kitchen knives the size (and shape) of short swords, and took up a position in front of his fallen crew members. Sakazuki had rather… poignantly elucidated the possible consequences of intentionally limiting yourself. He (quite literally) pounded it into his head that if any of the crew died because he couldn't set aside his pride and fight to his fullest capabilities he would be blamed.
Borsalino laughed, patting the creature on the shoulder, "Hahahaha! don't worry about Okkeg here." His sunglasses flashed as he turned his head to the so named Okkeg. "Turns out, we've killed two warlords now." Walter pumped his fist in the background before quickly attempting to look dignified again. "See, Gekko Moriah was inside that super giant. He had been building up a pseudo-zombie army for a while until his doctor turned on him and turned them into real zombies." He kicked the admirals corpse a few time before spitting on him. "Psycho-doc decided to keep his boss around; mostly to torture him, but he also kept him around for one particular aspect of his powers." He started to play hacky-sack with the admiral's body. "Gekko had the shadow-shadow fruit; and of its many powers the two that are relevant are the ability to make their shadow form and fight for them and steal other people's shadows and use them to empower himself or others. See, Hogback, the scientist, made him dump all the shadows he had into the titan we fought… including his own."
"Kishishishishi! And that's where I come in! See, when your blue-haired friend blew the fuck up, he vaporised Gekko, Hogback, and Oars! Hundreds of thousand's of shadows poured outta the space where Oars once stood… or they should have. Ya see, Hogback did something strange ta ol' Gekko; something that made it so he could keep the stolen shadows even after their owner died. Then Gekko went and died and all them shadows had nowhere ta go!" Okkeg pointed a thumb at his chest, "So they coalesced inta me! Kishishishishishishishi!" His glowing grin grew even further… Before shrinking slowly. "Which means I was literally born yesterday, given I have only scraps of memories."
Zoro smirked, "Heh, stick with us and you'll make plenty." The rest of the Red Dogs nodded in confirmation.
Sanji, having slipped his knives back to where ever he got them, lit another cigarette. He took a drag and blew a cloud of smoke, "Ha, they may not all be good memories; but there will be memories alright."
Nami promptly smacked him over the head, "Now why'd ya have to go an' say that, moron!"
Lucci walked back to the beginnings of their new ship, lighting a black cigarette with his new powers as he knelled down to keep working.
Sakazuki scowled at the ashes of their former ship while Kuzan headed over to Chopper. A gigantic gold and silver cross formed in his hands before he slammed it into the ground. Borsalino planted jewels of crystallized light in the indents Sakazuki made. "A Red Dog died here… and she shall never be forgotten. Any who tarnish this grave marker will be hunted to the ends of the Earth; and when we catch them their death will not be swift."
Kuzan nodded his head in respect to the Merry's grave marker as he walked over to the shivering form of one Tony Tony Chopper. He knelled down next the the teddy bear sized reindeer man; flinching at the fear in his eyes. "Hey little man, how ya doin?"
Chopper stared up at the iceman, "Y-you… you stabbed me." Fear and accusation laced his words.
Kuzan sighed with a nod, "Yes I did. But if you think for a second I didn't aim specifically so you wouldn't be fatally injured you're mistaken. I could have stabbed you through the head and got him in the heart; but I didn't. I deliberately froze the edge of the wound over to stop the bleeding. You should be able to assist your own recovery quite easily with your medical knowledge and skill."
Chopper stared at him for a moment longer before his head slowly lowered to inspect his wound. "You're right; a few days and I'll be fine after minor surgery." His eyes returned to the tall man's, "You help me cryofreeze new samples from now on and we're even."
Kuzan nodded with a smirk, "Done."
Nami took no notice of the little interactions going on around her; her eyes still locked on the body of the Admiral. "D-did that really happen…? Did we just kill an Admiral?!" her voice took on a hysterical edge at the end. Her panic attack was interrupted by a large hand clasping her shoulder.
"This trash is in no way indicative of the true limits of the world government's power. The things above him are the stuff of nightmares." Borsalino turned her to face him, "We are slightly above admiral level; so this fight easily could have gone either way were it one on one. However, should a Fleet Admiral or the dread High Admiral deicide to personally handle us..." His glasses caught the light and turned opaque. "We would be massacred.' He shrugged, "Maybe my brothers and I could hold off a Fleet Admiral long enough to escape, we might even get lucky and kill him if he doesn't take us seriously right of the bat. There's really no need to worry about the HIgh Admiral for now; he never leaves Marineford."
Nami looked up at him, her terrified expression fading into mild confusion, "So… did we just get lucky?"
Borsalino sighed, "In a way, yes. Had Kuzan not surprised him enough that he didn't see Sakazuki coming he could have danced around us and butchered you. He was an admiral; arrogant as he was he couldn't have been stupid and kept that rank. He would have seen our strength and his own disadvantages and wouldn't have fought us head on. Had he gone for all of you right off the bat and tried to do as much damage as he could, he very well may have butchered the rest of the crew." Nami's wide eyed horror indicated that, perhaps, that wasn't the most comforting thing to say. Borsalino shrugged, "Just being honest; there's a reason we still train."
She blinked up at him, mouth gaping. "You… you are terrible at comforting people!"
He sheepishly scratched the back of his head, "Eh, would ya prefer a comforting lie or a harsh truth?"
She didn't even hesitate, "A lie! This situation is exactly what little white lies are made for!"
The Yellow Monkey shrugged, the stars on his coat seeming to twinkle from the motion, "In that case; me and my brothers could absolutely wreck the High Admiral with our hands tied behind our backs!" He gave her thumbs up and a shining smile.
She threw her hands up with an exasperated groan, "It's too late now! You can't just- Argh!" She dropped her arms with a defeated sigh, turning to walk away, "I give up; you're hopeless."
As she walked off to examine the Merry's gravemarker Borsalino smirked; she hadn't even realised she wasn't afraid anymore as she walked away.