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Conditioned

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Marco cracked open an eye as he felt his brothers make their move. It looked to be a little past dawn, a good time for an attack, despite it being the most obvious time for one. There wasn't much of a defense here, anyway. Most of the guards here would offer a token defense at best, trained as they were in the subduing of slaves.

 

Standing his full height the pirate casually leaned against the bars, listening to the faint sounds of the battle already beginning, a grin on his face as those around him dozed fitfully, unaware of what was coming. Except the boy across from him. Dull eyes met Marco’s before turning towards the direction of the fight. The boy shivered, huddling closer to the bars.

 

“Don't worry, kid. My Nakama won't hurt you.” As usual there wasn't a reply from the kid.

 

His noisy neighbor, on the other hand… “You going on about that again? Keep telling you, only way out of here is--”

 

“If you'd wanted a birdcage you should have just asked, Marco.” A much more welcome voice cut him off.

 

“Jozu!” Marco laughed, excited enough to see his brother he'd let the bird joke slide. “Took you bastards long enough.”

 

“What, planning on flying the coupe without us?” The diamond man chuckled as he handily ripped the door off the tiny pen Marco had been confined to all this time.

 

“Really now, what was the point of me swiping the keys if you were just going to do that?” Marco narrowed his eyes at the stranger standing with his brother. “Marco, I presume? I'm Sabo,” the dapper looking blond said, flourishing a key.

 

“The revolutionary brat?” Marco asked, taking the offered key and unlocking the bomb collar around his neck as the other smiled brightly at the recognition.

 

“Ignore him; he's an annoying bastard,” Jozu suggested.

 

“He's just sore this was too big for just your crew to pull off,” the younger man quipped back, swinging more keys around his fingers. “Now if you two are done, we have places to go and people to free.”

 

At his words many in the pens around them threw themselves bodily at the bars, desperate to reach the keys and their perceived freedom. Spotting the kid get shoved onto the ground Marco felt his fraying temper finally snap. “Enough!” He snapped, a thin trickle of Haki bringing instant silence as those who had just been struggling to get out now pressed as far away as possible. He turned to the revolutionary, nodding to the pen across, “Open that one first.” His eyes landed on those within, “You lot will wait until he finishes and leave in an orderly fashion. Or you won't leave at all.”

 

“Marco,” Jozu muttered, “Oyaji's going to sink this place. You wouldn't really--”

 

“I would.” He whispered back as the pen was unlocked and those within filed out one at at a time, cutting him fearful looks.

 

“Get down to the docks. There will be someone there to take off those collars. The bombs have been deactivated, so go!” The revolutionary encouraged, moving to the next cage.

 

“Well…” Jozu trailed off, seeming unsure of what to do with himself as the pens were quickly emptied, “Guess I should get you to Oyaji, then. Come on, Marco.”

 

Glancing around at the empty cages around them Marco let out a sigh. “Wait.” He said, walking into the one he'd been staring into for the last few days. Despite the door being open and no one else around the boy had made no move to leave. Instead he huddled where he had fallen, eyes on the open door as he shook.

 

“A kid?” Jozu let out a string of curses, stomping off to break something.

 

“Hey, kid.” Marco spoke softly, crouching next to the boy. “Told ya I'd get you out, yoi.” He held out his hand, “Let's go.”

 

His heart broke a little when the boy slightly flinched back from him, shivering violently. Marco almost didn't notice Sabo crouching right behind him. “Poor bastard.” The younger blond sighed, “Look; not to be heartless, but we've got to go.”

 

“I'm not leaving him to die.” Ice blue eyes met sky blue.

 

“Not saying you should. But…. You're not going to like how to get him out.” The revolutionary replied. Marco narrowed his eyes at him. “You’re going to have to order him out.”

 

“He's not--!”

 

“Look, I've seen this before.” Sabo cut him off, former smile gone and replaced with a deadly serious expression. “It's not pretty and it's not nice , but it'll work.”

 

“Damnit!” Marco spat, not doubting his words. He'd expected as much after watching the kid a few days. Sighing, he held his hand out, “Give me your hand.”

 

Brown eyes stared at him mutely as the boy shivered in either fear or nerves. Slowly a delicate, calloused hand was raised to rest in Marco's. The boy was unresisting as Marco tugged him to his feet, but hesitated at the cage door.

 

Marco offered what he hoped was a friendly smile, “Follow me, yoi. I won't let anything happen to you.” With a smile that seemed more reflex than genuine the kid allowed himself to be tugged along as the sounds of chaos grew louder. Marco almost regretted giving up the chance to let loose and vent a bit. But glancing back at the kid, Jozu guarding their rear, he knew he'd made the right choice. He was sure many lives would be lost today, and a good number of those would undoubtedly be slaves, but this kid wasn't going to be one of them.