I do not own either One Piece or Justice League Unlimited.
Beta read by the wonderful rose7anne101 and MasterQwertster. Make sure to check out their stories!
Chapter 2: The Pirates
Several months ago
Sluggishly the ocean lapped against the dock, while the rain drenched everything it could reach. Drips leaked through the grimy warehouse, within which were huddled the Straw Hat Pirates.
That morning they had been wild and free in the New World, now they were here. . . .Wherever this was.
As far as Robin could figure out, this was an entirely different planet, and they had no idea how to get home.
"We're gonna need some more food supplies," their chef, 'Black Foot' Sanji, said for lack of anything else. "I'll stay here and watch over the ladies while the rest of you go. Take the Little Lost Swordsman so you can lose him for a year or so."
"Aw shut it, nosebleed," 'Pirate Hunter' Zoro muttered, unable to muster the energy to even properly snap at his rival. For his part, Sanji did not act as if he had even heard Zoro, failing to fire off an insult of his own, or throw a kick at the swordsman.
Luffy glanced around at his crew. He knew he was not the brightest man alive –that was why he had such smart crewmembers— but he knew his crew. His friends. His nakama.
He could tell that they were all just robotically going through the motions, struggling to deal with the despair that was threatening to consume them. Any other group in these circumstances would already have had half of them at each other's throats, except none of them could fathom tearing themselves apart like that. No, not even Sanji or Zoro, when it was serious at least.
Still, it was clearly time to start acting like the Captain.
"There's no One Piece here, right?" his voice rang out, drawing the eyes of his crew. "No Hawkeye to beat, no All Blue, no Laboon, none of our important things. Just this lame world with its wimpy seas."
His tone was deceptively casual, his Hat cast his eyes into shadows, and all of his friends felt the shift in the air as something familiar stirred within them as they recognized this Moment. Each and every one of them had sworn to follow their Captain, to follow their dreams, ready to die in the pursuit of them if necessary. As time had passed and they had become a family, each of them now willing to die so that the others could accomplish their own dreams.
More importantly, they had all learnt how to live to see each other achieve this.
The malaise that had swiftly overcome them however, was from the knowledge that such dreams were impossible here. Or in Zoro's case, irrelevant, since there were no real swordsmen here, automatically making him the greatest of them all, without any challenge. Something called 'satellites' had even already mapped this world for Nami.
Their Captain had merely voiced what they were all thinking: this world was hell.
Yet now that depression was burning away before the light of their memories of all of the times when they had known they could entrust everything to him, and why; he would protect them from both their enemies and the darkness that plagued them from within.
The Straw Hat crew found themselves remembering all of the 'hopeless' struggles they had overcome under his leadership. The sheer determination they had felt each time they lived up to the faith that Luffy put in each and every one of them, that in turn they would be able to handle whatever he could not. His unquenchable belief that together, all of them could handle anything. In the name of that trust, they had all followed this unimpressive looking man into hell time and again, defied the wrath of the world itself, and had faced down monsters without reservation.
Captain 'Straw Hat' Monkey D. Luffy raised his head and looked at them all, his eyes now drawing in their very souls and lighting a fire in their hearts. "We're going to get home," he swore. "Now. What do we need to do that?"
Yes, they definitely knew this growing sensation.
It's impossible, we don't even know where we are! 'Cat Burglar' Nami almost said, before stopping herself. Their resident Rubber Man was too stupid to realize what he was attempting to do was impossible, and thus would succeed anyways. A 'smart' man would never have attempted a tenth of what he had done, and been all the poorer for it.
We don't even know how we got here! 'God' Usopp nearly protested, yet knew his words were meaningless. None of them would give up trying to find a way back to their own world.
"Glad to hear it," Sanji said with a smile that everyone else shared, and continued in a neutral voice that conveyed the facts, devoid of pessimism, "but how are we going to do it? We still don't even know how it happened."
"Then we just find the people who can figure it out for us," Luffy replied with a serious expression as everyone paused in thought. "If we know who to ask, then we're halfway there!"
"It's possible that this has happened before, and that there are some records to help us," 'Demon Child' Robin, the archaeologist, mused with a small smile.
"We're going to need some incentive for them to help us," Sanji pointed out. "Can't expect charity work after all."
"We're still pirates," Zoro sneered, holding up a certain white-sheathed sword. "If they don't want to help us, we make them."
"We should start by offering them something first," Robin gently yet firmly corrected.
"Yo ho ho ho! I might have an idea for raising money!" 'Soul King' Brook burst out, while the rest were grinning too, along with 'Iron Man' Franky entering his signature pose.
"And what we can't earn, we'll steal!" Nami declared, clenching her fist, and the others all nodded or cheered in agreement.
All except for their Captain, as Luffy just beamed in happiness, knowing that they were on their way to getting home.
Despite being officially vacant, the inside of the warehouse had been transformed into a warm and comfortable place to live, with delicious aromas already wafting through it.
While it still wasn't home, it was tolerable for now.
Sanji and the others had just reported back, although a few other crewmembers were absent on other jobs, or because they stood out in public too much.
With a sigh of exasperation, still wearing her scientist costume, Nami closed up her laptop and then walked up to her awaiting friends.
"How'd it go?" Luffy asked.
"Good. All of our former employees have received a generous final pay cheque. I left the building in the hands of a worker they all trust," Nami did not bother saying who, since her Captain lacked the attention span to care. "All of Chopper's patents and his remaining notes for what we were planning to do next are now in the public domain, so that's taken care of at least. Cherry Blossom can still produce them, but this way we're sure that LexCorp or Wayne Enterprises won't control them." Nami and her crew hated monopolies on general principle, although in her case it was also because she felt only she should have them. Then she snarled with fangs she suddenly grew, "Except we've still lost one of our best sources of income!"
"Can't be helped." Sanji calmly interjected as he lit a cigarette, elegant in his suit and apron even after their hasty retreat. "We're keeping our distance from the League, which means severing all ties. Better safe than sorry." It physically hurt him to remind her of this, knowing his precious Nami-swan was upset over the loss of money that was her rightful due. Of course, the reminder of how she was also helping other people would soothe the heart of beautiful gold that beat within her chest, and placate her fury.
To the side and sitting on the couch, a forlorn wail burst out. "WAAAAAH! BWAAAAH! GWAAAAAA!" Little Chopper continued to sob into Robin's lap, while she stroked his back soothingly.
"So, the Justice League, huh?" Zoro pondered out-loud. "Took them long enough," he said with a bloodthirsty smile as his thumb flicked up one of his katana an inch from its sheath.
"Yeah, yeah, but at least nothing really happened," Usopp scowled. "Fighting with them ain't worth it, especially since we didn't lose any of our research. Sure we lost a great source of money," everyone pointedly did not look at Nami lest she vent her fury at the reminder, "but who knows what'd happened if we fought them?"
Deciding to tone down the mood, Zoro lowered his sword. Truthfully however, while he agreed with the Idiot Cook's decision –not that he would ever admit it— it was not just the swordsman who was getting itchy for a chance at some serious action. Luffy was also getting antsy without anything to challenge himself against. How else were they supposed to become stronger?
"It was inevitable that we'd run into them," Nami said with a shrug of her shoulders, "they fight for justice, after all."
Zoro just sneered at that, Usopp gave a scoffing noise, only Chopper, despite how he was crying, caught the briefest flicker of tension from Robin's hands before she went back to consoling him.
"At least the Justice League try to actually help people now and then," Sanji calmly noted. He was starting to prepare dinner for them all, before blushing with hearts bursting into his eyes. "And the women do it in such fantastic uniforms too!"
Suppressing the urge to smack the man on the head, Nami addressed the chef's first point. "Yeah, it makes what they're saying more believable, but they're still dictating to everyone what 'Justice' is, living on high above everyone else. Just like the marines."
Of course, the crew all knew that the Justice League was not like the World Government's Navy. Robin's research had been thorough. The key detail was that they were not like the World Government yet.
Sooner or later, while they went on about 'Justice' and doing whatever they wanted while they beat up and arrested people for crimes, they would forget what that word meant. After all, who could stop them?
"If they're real heroes, they might still share some meat with us," Luffy granted the League, finally chipping in. "But if they go too far, they'll eventually have to come after us, and we'll take them down," his words echoing with finality. "That way they won't be able to do to this world what the World Government did to ours."
"Of course, Luffy," Robin answered neutrally, even as everyone else understood the significance of her support given her own history with the ruthless global institution and their military arm.
The extermination of Ohara, the guilty and the innocent. The sole survivor, an eight-year old Robin being hunted for twenty years.
Murdering pregnant women and babies in the search for the Pirate King's heir.
Framing Tom, Franky's mentor and father-figure, and taking him away to the legendary prison and hell, Impel Down, to be tortured and executed.
Discrimination had wrought the fear and pain that had festered within Fishman Island.
The hypocrisy in which the elite flouted the law and kept slaves. Torturing, debasing, and killing their victims at a whim. Meanwhile, the marines dutifully overlooked this, while hunting down those who escaped, since liberation was a crime.
Marine Captain 'Axe-Hand' Morgan ruling over an island like a tyrant. His spoiled son doing whatever he wanted, even ordering Zoro's execution for saving a girl from the Morgan's brat's dogs.
Nami's life of servitude under the very pirates who had killed her mom, made possible by the corruption of the marines. The first naval officer to land on her island in eight years came solely to steal the treasure that Nami had saved to buy back both her freedom and all of the villagers.
Threatening the crew, in order to abduct Robin and take her, and Franky, to be tortured in Impel Down for their knowledge to unlock the ancient superweapons. The sick toady in charge of the World Government's second most elite intelligence agency, betraying and beating them. Making clear that the weapons would be used to advance his career, while abusing those weapons' destructive potential against the world.
The granting of legitimacy that allowed Crocodile, Doflamingo, and the Vinsmokes to carry out their atrocities with near impunity, so long as they paid lip-service to the World Government.
…Killing Luffy's brother Ace, and trying to do the same to their Captain. Not for their crimes, but for their bloodlines. A death sentence even if either young man had lived a life of peace.
Every act of pain and cruelty, rationalized by the World Government by claiming it had been done in the name of 'Justice.'
No, the Straw Hats would take 'Freedom' over 'Justice' any day.
And they were pirates, so they would take what they wanted by force.
Although they were being unusually circumspect in this world. Luffy and Zoro had found this grating at times, but as the others had pointed out, they did not even know what exactly they were looking for to get back home, that they had no clues to start with.
Moreover, the powers that people had here worked differently than they were used to, and the technology the various militaries had were more advanced than most of what was back home. Not to mention what would happen if the fighters here, especially given how diverse their abilities could be, stumbled onto what water, especially seawater, could do to some of the crew, including their Captain…
Individually this was not a problem, and they could even roll over the armies of most of these nations with ease. Unfortunately, all of those people would likely all unite against the pirates if the crew got too big before they were ready. And they had more important things to do in the meantime.
They would play by the rules for now, but only for so long as they felt like it.
Until that inevitable point –it was a miracle they had gone this long without a public declaration of war against anyone— they would stay quiet. Despite how Luffy, Zoro, and some of the others were itching for a serious fight. And undoubtedly it would be with the 'heroes' of this world.
It was only a matter of time after all, until even the 'pure' and 'true-hearted' Justice League would become like the marines; dictating what was allowed or not. Vindicating their actions by saying they fought for 'justice.' That it was to 'protect' people.
Not too long ago, Superman had tried to conquer the Earth, and would have succeeded if not for the military and his cousin opposing him. Afterwards, Superman had claimed he was under mind control, yet the fact remained that he was once again flying around without facing any repercussions. Now he had other powerful beings helping him, operating out of the League's Watchtower. An orbital base of operations that distanced them from the rest of the common people, made them impervious to any resistance, and was securely placed to rain down attacks on any country on Earth.
That said, having them around to stop stuff like that alien invasion that supposedly made them become a team, makes them useful enough to keep around to deal with stuff like that. Still, that almost sounded like a declaration of war from Luffy, Nami wondered, before catching Zoro shaking his head, and then she got it.
They were not like the Revolutionary Army, they would only fight the League if they came for the pirates, or if they did something so awful that the crew could not overlook it and went to hunt them down.
"The League's still a pretty small group, so if we have to it'll be easier to chop off the head than with the World Government," Zoro smiled. Then stretched his lips even further to show his teeth. "It'll probably even be fun!"
"FUN!?" Chopper wailed. "THEY DESTROYED MY MEDICAL LAB! ALL THE CURES AND TREATMENTS I SILL COULD'VE GIVEN PEOPLE! BWAAAAAAA!"
"There, there Chopper," said Robin soothingly as she stroked him. "Much of your knowledge and teachings have already gotten out to the world, and so cheaply too! And now that it's in the public domain, more people will continue your work. You've already made it better for people all over, and I promise we'll find someone else to discreetly continue to take credit for your findings!"
"That probably would've been easier from the start," Nami admitted, "except that we'd have had to pay them to keep quiet too." Then she brightened up. "Besides, don't forget Chopper, you also made a lot of money out of it too," she praised with a warm smile. "I couldn't believe how much you were racking in! Playing scientist to cover you when you were advancing their medicine was actually pretty fun at times!" Especially with all the cash we made, she added to herself with dollar signs in her eyes, while most of the men rolled their eyes.
(Except for Sanji of course. He was busy twirling around her with hearts in his eyes over what was 'obviously' her declaring that the reason it was so much fun was because she Loved him)
It had been a little tricky, but Nami was intelligent enough to memorize any scripts Chopper gave her, and cunning enough to detract attention where necessary. A few times they had needed to use an earpiece, with Chopper feeding her lines while dealing with a particularly inquisitive scientist or interviewer, who Nami could not distract with her charms. By the time the Daily Planet reporters had come by she did not even need it anymore.
They were all shaken out of their happy thoughts as Sanji got back to the stove to continue stirring a pot of rich sauce. "By the way, according to my Observation Haki," jerking his thumb at his head, "that so-called male reporter that dropped by with that enormous presence, is actually Superman. Who'd have thought? I mean, seriously, they look nothing alike."
"Robin and I looked him up after the interview," Nami mused, rubbing her chin, "he's actually a pretty famous investigative reporter, which makes sense really."
"Useful cover," Usopp agreed.
Luffy just shrugged and turned his attention back to what was important: when would their next meal be?
Robin just smiled to herself as she took in her captain's disinterest, fully aware that the idea of going after the hero's personal life had not even occurred to him. It had occurred to her, although Robin just blamed that on her residual cynicism that had somehow survived Luffy's presence. It was irrelevant to her anyways, for the hero had done absolutely nothing to justify such an attack.
And if he did in the future? Then her friends would improvise and deal with the situation as it came. Besides, as had been noted, even with the issue of Chopper's lab, the heroes had not really done anything to seriously provoke the pirates. Money and buildings were replaceable, and none of the crew had been hurt. Oh, sure, if they attacked another of their enterprises in the future, then there would most likely be fighting, but only in defense. There was just no need to actively seek out a confrontation.
For over the last few months, they had been busy. Laboring in the shadows.
Given their inclinations, many of their projects to raise money or gather information were criminal in nature, but some were less so.
From the start, Chopper had wanted to help develop the healing arts of this strange world, and the others had been quick to support him. When they had realized how much money there was in it, Sanji and Nami had volunteered to take up roles from time to time to help the doctor's work go more smoothly. Truthfully, Robin would have wanted to be part of that too, but she was too busy. A former vice-president to one of their world's most far-reaching and powerful crime syndicates, and protégé of the Revolutionary Army, only had so much spare time after all.
Early on she had given some thought to approaching the Justice League, but had ultimately dismissed it. While there was the possibility that they had access to the relevant technology or abilities, there was nothing concrete to support it. If they revealed themselves, then all future operations would be at risk if it turned out the League lacked the means. It had been Luffy who had made the final decision however, displaying one of his great moments of insight that had stopped everyone short
He had pointed out that in that case it would be the League controlling the 'door' home, and that the crew would be vulnerable. Vulnerable not only in terms of whether or not they would actually be sent home, but in terms of where they would be dropped off. Say, Marine Headquarters. And if the 'heroes' chose to later follow, having discovered where the Straw Hats were from, they might ally themselves with the other 'force of Justice' that the pirates knew of.
The thought was too terrifying to contemplate.
(And no, they were not letting that telepathic alien anywhere near their minds. It was not happening. Ever.)
(It was not just Robin or Franky who held secrets that must never see the light of day, for fear they might spread beyond the League)
Funds rolled in, science was assembled, and slowly but surely they begin to map out how they would be able to return home.
Their goal was in sight, so they remained patient. For those who had decided who would rule kingdoms or not, had wrecked nations in defying the whims of monsters, had violated taboo after taboo, and had challenged the world itself to a fight, it was a miracle that they had remained so quiet as long as they had.
Inevitably however, they knew it was only a matter of time before other movers and shakers took notice of them.
After a scrumptious dinner and waiting for Sanji to clean up, they all went to fulfil their little ritual whenever they got together.
It was underneath another warehouse, bought by another one of Robin's numerous shell companies, but deliberately kept separate from any of their other activities. It was used by a small yet legitimate shipping company, and was always busy during work hours. At night and on holidays however, getting in was merely a matter of turning the key, entering the security code and turning on some flashlights. They were the owners after all.
The door was under a recessed panel in the floor, which in turn was always buried under several tons of merchandise; child's play for them to shift aside and back when necessary.
With near reverence, they took in the sight of Franky's private lab.
Computers and strange devices that they could barely describe, all reverently placed around a standing metal ring that was to serve as the portal home.
They had been forced to move his equipment to this artificial cave after an accident had destroyed most of his progress, and nearly many other irreplaceable things.
After all, Franky required a large place to do his job, lots of raw materials, and the most expensive tools money could buy.
Or could be stolen.
That said, they all accepted that large and pricy purchases, along with hush-money and discrete and misleading shipping, was more productive. This raised fewer questions than a string of thefts, so which they tried to keep at a minimum. Or they stole stuff that could be turned into capital for later shopping trips.
Blinking his tired eyes, Franky got up from where he had been napping, having worked himself to exhaustion again. After Sanji had scolded Franky for missing dinner, the chef shoved into the the man's arms a still-warm meal he had packed (including cola), after Robin had reported their friend needed some rest.
"I'm at an impasse again," the massive cyborg admitted, cringing a little at the flicker of weariness he caught in their eyes.
"Is it the theory again?" Usopp asked, playing peacemaker.
"You know it," Franky said, and everyone but Luffy sighed. Their Captain just picked his nose and walked over to a pile of travel brochures.
Despite his own impatience to get home, Luffy had been the first to mandate vacation time. Especially to keep his crew from crumbling under the weight of the task before them.
"Oh well, at least we can have fun while waiting for some scientist to come up with the next part," Nami offered.
"Let's go to somewhere sunny with all the ladies on the beach!" Sanji panted. "I've heard of places where they have to go topless! It's the law!"
"You'll die of a nosebleed," Zoro deadpanned.
"What was that you Idiot Mosshead!?"
"I should put you out of your misery right now!" the swordsman snapped back, blades already clashing against the cook's black shoes.
Luffy chortled at this while the others ignored it with practiced ease, secretly glad to see them both in good spirits.
They had a lot of obligations to maintain still, but they were all looking forward to another vacation.
The fact was that creating a portal across dimensions was ground-breaking work in itself, and was further hampered by the fact that a) they had no idea how to find their home universe, and b) the closest thing they had to a trustworthy scientist was their shipwright.
Albeit one whose lack of formal education had not prevented him from turning himself into a super-advanced cyborg with a ridiculously efficient power system, utilizing nothing but scraps and his own genius. He was also self-taught expert in many other fields, ranging from carpentry to advanced neuro-surgery. Heck, even some of Chopper's medical work was based upon Franky's dabbling in chemistry and biology!
(What, did you think that was natural skin covering his bare chest after being hit by a train, self-surgery, and being at the epicenter of an explosion that burnt away most of his torso?)
Unfortunately, quantum mechanics, or whatever it was he was studying right now, was not on the list of his pre-crossover skillsets.
In the meantime, his research and development was slow, especially since it had to stay secret. So secret, that some ignorant outsiders might accuse of him of being paranoid and needlessly delaying his own progress.
'Iron Man' Franky was not paranoid. He was the former head of a city-state's underworld, while hiding from a worldwide dictatorship and its insidious intelligence agencies. This was just standard procedure.
His materials came in circuitously, yet at times he also had to wait to study the results of his own experiments. During these breaks in activity, he and Robin searched for sources of information. Various scientists were consulted and paid handsomely, or their files were stolen. Some even tutored Franky (via phone or mail), receiving generous payments along with subtle threats. Of course, the blue-haired man had from the very start also asked questions on other subjects to help misleading them from his true intentions.
And these inquiries were not just with the men and women who were publicly recognized as mad scientists, but also those regarded as stable pillars of society and scientific advancement.
In the meantime, the whole crew, including Franky, did what they could to relax, and even went on short vacations from time to time.
(Nami, Usopp, and Robin had worked overtime to prevent Luffy from being seen swinging around on his rubber arms on stuff like that giant stone cat in that desert country).
Movies had been a fantastic discovery, and they had worked their way through so many films, while also making new friends.
Aside from that, they also religiously maintained their training. While lacking any strong opponents to pressure them so far, even sparring against each other had been beneficial.
"Oh, and Zoro," the massive metal and flesh form of Franky boomed, pulling something out of his suitcase, "we're all ready for yah!"
The swordsman only grunted at that, yet turned to join him. When Franky had been twenty-six and hit by that train, he had saved his own life by using nothing more than scrap metal, junk, and his natural genius to turn himself into a crude cyborg. And by 'crude' that meant a little deformed, while still packing a variety of weaponry that could likely overcome the military might of almost any nation within the Blue Seas.
A decade later, he could probably take on most of those armies all at once.
Here on Earth, Franky now had access to far more advanced tools, his trade developed into all but an art form. The speedo-wearing shipbuilder was able to offer the same aid to the bodies of his comrades –if nothing major, because that would be insulting all their hard work and abilities— if they so wished.
Like a certain one-eyed swordsman.
"Ready to operate, Dr. Chopper?" Franky boomed as he struck his SUPER™ pose!
"Ready!" Chopper beamed, all sorrows banished at the thought of being able to heal one of his crew even further.
"SUUUUUUPER" roared Franky before turning to look at grumpy Zoro.
Zoro only gave a slight "tch" at that. He had initially been insulted by their little gift; he had lost that left eye fair and square during training with a fellow swordsman. Moreover, it had been his newest sensei, the man he would surpass. He would die before lowering himself to cheating like that, end of discussion.
It was not like he needed bifocal vision to fight anyways.
Then however Franky had brought up potential features that had sparked Zoro's carefully hidden Man's Romance.
While Zoro refused to let his Observation Haki get dull, having x-ray vision, infrared, a telescope built right into his head, and even being able to use the eye as a flashlight was admittedly pretty awesome. The laser beam function had been what tipped the scales in favor of accepting the artificial eye.
Of course, he had been quite firm with them that closing his eyelid, especially during a fight, would turn it off, allowing him to fight with honor. If he had the slightest sensation the thing was still working, he would cheerfully rip it right out.
Truthfully, Franky and Chopper had been more than fine with this, because giving Zoro binocular vision had always been a secondary objective. Their real mission, which they had declined to mention as being their specific intent, was an attempt to 'cure' their friend of his frankly absurd and outright terrifyingly awful sense of direction.
The little computer that they were planning to bribe/bully/whatever Zoro into carrying would input coordinates and his cybernetic eye would project a computerized arrow across his vision to give him much-needed directions. They had made a point of acting as if it were just one of the various features, and of no particular importance.
Zoro would give a scoff of derision at the slanderous lie that he got lost. The terrain and buildings just kept moving around! Other people got lost!
"But what about when he forgets the computer or breaks it?" Nami had skeptically argued.
"Then we track him with the GPS tracker that we'll be implanting into his eye socket," Chopper bluntly answered. "And then maybe we can get some sleep without worrying about losing him on these oversized islands!" the doctor finished.
"They're called 'continents'," corrected Usopp before giving an exasperated sigh. A rarely used term given how there was only a single one back home. "But yeah, now we can worry about the hundred other things." Luffy just laughed at that, and rattled off other suggestions for Zoro's eye that were ignored.
(How could they fit a missile into an eyeball anyways?)
(Luffy had also sulked for days when he had been informed they had no idea where to start in making a 'meat ray.' They did not even ask how it would work, Franky and Usopp just bluntly told him it was impossible to kill the idea before it took root too deep in their Captain's mind.)
They had also been careful to make sure there would be no internal damage if/when Zoro chose to just yank it out of his eye socket.
"Let's just get it over with," Zoro grumbled half-heartedly. "And remember, no anesthetic!"
"Yeah, yeah, we know," Franky reassured him, while Chopper muttered about how Zoro's recklessness probably meant he had shredded all his nerves already.
The rest of the crew just shook their heads in resignation.
"How long until he can take the eyepatch off?" Nami asked, once the surgery was complete.
"About an hour," Chopper assured them, while the swordsman just went to find the nearest bottle of booze.
"Then he can do it after we see Brook," she decided, looking at her watch. "If we hurry we can get there before he's busy."
Sanji nodded, hefting up another bag full of meals for the skeleton and their resident martial artist who would be waiting for them.
"Alright!" Luffy beamed. "Let's go meet up with everyone else!"
The security guards waved through the blue semi with distinctive red flames painted on, without even asking for identification from behind the tinted black windows. Orders were orders.
Two minutes later they were walking through the deserted hallway to knock on a door, smiling at the sounds of someone singing behind it.
It was nice to hear that familiar voice, without any of the weird accents of this world. It was puzzling, to those of the crew who cared, how they could all somehow speak 'English,' especially for Robin. Here, nearly every single nation seemed to have its own 'Mother Tongue,' or variations of the same language (like 'defence' vs. 'defense'). Back home, in addition to being able to read the Poneglyphs, Robin was familiar with several other forms of speech, but they were all ancient ones. Somehow, the entirety of modern society, across all of the diverse islands and species of the world, all spoke the same language. Every. Single. One.
A concept that Earth proved should have been impossible.
Yet here was a world with so many different ways of speaking, which raised such intriguing historical implications that it made the archaeologist itch all the more to return home to solve the mystery of the Void Century.
Granted, the crew all talked with a 'Japanese accent,' and had 'Japanese style surnames' (and yes, other cultures did it too, but given the accent they found themselves identifying with Japanese more) but that was not an issue for them. They had also enjoyed a vacation to that country.
(Nami had to drag them back to America when all of the men would not stop sulking upon the discovery that no, Japan did not yet have giant, transforming robots)
It even amused them to use Japanese words for some of their aliases, such as for Sanji and Nami.
Luffy barged right into the room without knocking, while everyone else smiled and followed. Before a mirror was the familiar figure of Brook playing on his electric guitar. When the reflection of Luffy appeared over his shoulder, the animated skeleton spun around exclaiming, "Oh my! Don't sneak up on me like that, you'll scare me to death! Oh wait! I'm already dead! Yo ho ho ho!"
Chopper and Usopp chuckled while their Captain laughed, but they all knew that Brook had been aware of their presence before they had even opened the door. They all ignored it in favor of the levity however.
A side door opened, and another pirate came into the room to join them all.
Smiling with his fangs, the blue figure made his way over in his wooden geta with an ease and grace that defied his massive bulk. "Good to see you all!" declared Jinbe.
There were no real demonstrations of joy at seeing each other after being absent for a while, each acting as if they had never been parted from one another. Sliding into place like a well-oiled machine, refusing to acknowledge the times when their family could not share in the presence of each other.
Sanji handed out more still-warm food, and everyone found a place to sit while they got to business, discussing their discovery by the Justice League and the loss of the medical lab. As two veteran warriors, Brook and Jinbe's expertise was well valued.
"Well," Brook said thoughtfully, "I'm glad we haven't lost anything important, even if it's a shame they wouldn't trust us to continue Chopper's work. Frankly, my main concern is that there was nothing else incriminating there! I haven't been able to keep track of all your projects after all, working myself to the bone with my job. Oh wait, I am already all bones! Yo ho ho ho ho!"
"Don't worry," Usopp said reassuringly after his friend's obligatory skull joke. "Robin's been doing a phenomenal job managing everything, and we kept everything related to our other operations away from there."
"Yeeeah! She's SUUUUPER!"
"Speaking of which," Jinbe rumbled, "how goes the rest of the network?"
Due to his distinctive appearance, at this stage Jinbe himself had noted that it was probably best for him to lay low, unless helping them deal with the underworld which he also had some experience with. Thus the fishman had aided Robin where he could, and had served as obvious muscle where intimidation might be needed. The rest of the time he trained, taught the others some tricks, and was presently visiting Brook to keep him company.
"We have the resources," she admitted, "but we're burning through money as fast as we can make it to help Franky's work. Along with other expenses and projects."
One such problem they had encountered was that all of the various brands of pop and cola in this world were slightly yet distinctively different from the universal Cola that Franky relied upon. Fortunately, the man had learned how to manufacture it himself after a few close shaves during their two year Separation. Nonetheless, he had been adamant that it would be preferable if he could also acquire it through commercial means in case of an emergency. Hence their need to create a company to produce it, and pour money into it to ensure the success of Iceberg Cola.
(Franky had sulked at the name until it was pointed out that if he kept guzzling cola while yelling "SUPER," or with the way that Luffy chattered on, then as soon as they –inevitably— went public, it would be impossible for people to not make the connection to 'Pirate Cola,' 'Sunny Cola,' and especially 'SUPER COLA).
(Franky would not be one to boast about 'Iceberg' Cola, and Luffy would not remember how to say the name right)
Other supply issues like vast quantities of food, booze, exotic plants, rare books, etcetera, had been essential to keep everyone else in order.
Then there were the obvious benefits of maintaining multiple secret bases to hide out, given how they traveled so much around the world. If they stayed in one place too long after all, they might snap and lay waste to the local cities.
It has to be said again, Robin's experience as the vice-president of a major crime syndicate, and her time allied with the Revolution, was invaluable.
"I still wish I could take over the meat market," Luffy moaned, a drop of drool leaking out. "We could ship it all to me instead!"
Robin had brought up the fear that the meat in this world would not taste like the food back home, forcing Luffy to revert to eating his own limbs as withdrawal hit him. Fortunately, to their indescribable relief, Luffy had already rebelliously tried the meat and found he enjoyed it before she even had finished talking. He had cheerfully continued to stuff his mouth while laughing as Nami, Usopp, and Chopper begged their 'Big Sis' to please, never ever say stuff like that again.
"Wipe your mouth!" Nami snapped. "And we couldn't ship it all to you without telling everyone where we are!"
"Would they try to take my meat away?" he grimly asked.
"Then I'd just beat them for trying to take my meat, and since I could keep eating more meat I'd keep having the energy to keep hitting them!"
"You—!" Nami cut herself off as she seriously considered Luffy's argument. Robin giggled and the others exchanged wide-eyed stares as they marveled at the possibilities.
"We'll think about it," the navigator finally compromised. "But for now, all of those meat farms and factories we already own will have to do. Not all of them. Yet. Maybe."
Anything further was interrupted as Brook glanced at the clock. "Oh my, I have to get going or I'll be late!"
They cheered him on as he hustled out the door. Moments later he was being escorted by eager staff.
He patiently took his position on stage, and seconds later spotlights framed him as he held up one boney hand. "Are you ready to rock!?" called out the Soul King.
"YEEEAAH!" screamed the horde of hyperactive fans here for the live performance of the world's newest music sensation.
In regarding how the crew of the Thousand Sunny reached this new world, let us be honest, a portal to another universe probably does not even make the Top Ten Strangest Things in the Grand Line. To say the least the New World itself.
Credit for the bit on Franky's fake skin goes to Thisisarealtagwhy, whose own One Piece work I seriously recommend!
Next chapter: 'Aftermath'
Please Review and I will get back to you!