“Vinci,” I say flatly as the door to the lab- the door made of six inches of solid steel- visibly shudders. “What the fuck is in there?”
The captain opens his mouth. Closes it. “I...may have started running out of material to sample from Eustass Kid’s arm and injected it with a regenerative compound so it would grow back more,” he says smoothly. “Well, at least the countermeasures worked. Wonder what it grew?”
“If it’s a perfect clone of Kid or some other bullshit, I’m punting you off this ship,” I warn. “One tail, two tail, three tail-”
“- four. ” I pull my mask on, and crack my neck as the door shudders again.
There’s a moment of silence, and I practically feel the Oni behind me tense, the smell of sweat and adrenaline rank in the close confines of the ship.
“One week,” I mutter. “Can we have one week on this ocean where things are normal?”
“Judging from the weather we went through on day one, no,” Vinci replies calmly.
“I! HATE! THIS! OCEAN!” I scream through the massive hailstorm that had just replaced the near-boiling temperatures from earlier, using my tails to shield myself from the worst of it as I heaved on a line that normally would take a dozen of the crew to haul.
“ Icebergs to port!” Herman shouts.
“On it!” Lauren answers. “Gunnery Special: Detonations!”
Ends Justified groans as Herman throws it through another wild swerve, the waves starting to grow even more horrendously huge. I spare one of my tails to grab a crewman who apparently didn’t get the fucking message about safety lines and keep him from tumbling overboard.
“HOLY SHIT THAT’S A VERY BIG WAVE!” one of the crew yells. I spare a moment to glance forward as the hail turns into ice-cold rain, and feel the bottom drop out of my stomach at the sight of a wall of water heading right for us.
“We’re gonna diiiiieeee,” someone else sobs.
“STOW THAT TALK MAGGOT, WE DON’T PAY YOU TO WHINE!” Jack shouts. “KANEKI, HERMAN, DEAL WITH THAT OVERGROWN RIPPLE!”
I plunk the crewman I’ve been holding onto the deck and yank the rope into his hands. “You. Hold this.” Then I run across the deck to the foredeck, joining Herman. “Shouldn’t you be holding onto the ship’s wheel?” I ask.
“Shut the fuck up and do the thing,” Herman grunts, drawing Amakatta.
“Right. One tail, two tail, three tail, four...BREATH OF THE DRAGON!”
“Shepherd’s Style...WHITE FANG!”
It is impressive what you can do with knowledge of Tempest Kick and the strength to apply it to your own slashing techniques.
Unfortunately, that bitch Mother Nature doesn’t give a damn about impressive, and our combined slashes are more a slight denting of the sea than a parting of it.
“This ocean can bite my-”
We all take a moment to shudder at the shared memories. It was a wonder nobody died. As it was a fifth of the crew were still nursing injuries, and we’d had to rig up a new mizzen mast after one of the larger waves had snapped it clean off.
Then another thoom grabs our attention again as the door visibly deforms.
Is that...a face?
“It’s headbutting the door, isn’t it,” Eka mutters, lowering his dao slightly.
“Well, at least by the time it breaks free it’ll probably be concussed,” Percy adds, tapping his brass knuckles against each other.
“Maybe if we’re lucky, it’ll be unconscious,” Tina adds cheerily, shouldering her spear.
“Probably not,” I say with a shrug. “You honestly think our luck is that-”
I’m yanked forward at the waist as the door crumples inwards, and the rest of the Oni are dragged after me!
“Of fucking course he has Kid’s magnetic powers,” I grumble as my tails snatch them out of the air, letting their weapons continue to hurl themselves towards the hole where the door used to be. I yank my trench spike out of my belt and let it join them, and the pull on me decreases sharply.
Vinci isn’t affected at all, the prick.
Finally I get a glimpse of the fucker as the metal slams into the ground, revealing an emaciated and far too naked humanoid form. It leaps forwards- and immediately one of my tails smashes it into the deck, pinning it there.
“Don’t kill it!” Vinci shouts.
“Don’t- captain, are you nuts?” Dui asks, picking himself up off the floor.
The cloned thing keeps struggling, trying to break free of my tail, but doesn’t seem to have the presence of mind to use its magnetic abilities again. Most of it is thankfully obscured by the tail wrapped around it, only its bald head visible. It snarls at me- and I see its eyes.
Black sclerae. Red irises. Just like mine.
“Vinci what the fuck .”
Our captain walks up behind me and peers at the clone. “Well, that is surprising. I suppose, given the relative concentration of regenerative components as compared to the Oni gas or other derivatives...it may have rebuilt itself using ghoulish nature as a base rather than human. I’ll have to compare it to the original arm to make sure.” He grins. “Congratulations, we made another human. We’re-”
“No,” I say flatly. “Do not go there.”
“Grrruh,” the clone supplies.
“And you,” I say, wrapping the thing in my tail and pulling it closer. “How smart are you?” I growl, staring it in the eyes. It glares back, and I feel it tense...and then it looks away and goes limp.
It smells afraid.
I drop it to the floor. “Smart enough,” I say simply, before looking at Vinci. “I’m going to blame you for this,” I say simply. “But fine, I won’t kill it. So what do we do with it?”
“Well, clearly it’d be a waste to kill it. And we could always use more heavy hitters.”
I stare at him. The clone reaches up and starts trying to gnaw on one of my tails. I pull the appendage out of reach quickly. “You’re joking.”
“Feed him, see if he acts less like a feral cat, and we’ll see.”
I take a deep breath. “Captain, this is clearly a terrible idea.”
Vinci shrugs. “If he doesn’t learn, we can find out if Devil Fruit characteristics transfer via cannibalism. But it’s more pragmatic to not waste resources. You can control him, right?”
I glare at the clone, who shuffles back, back hitting the exterior wall of the lab. I sniff the air. It’s...strange. A more clear emotional factor than I’ve gotten from anyone else, even the Oni. Fear, respect...submission? Hmm. “He’ll follow me, I think,” I say slowly. “Not control. More a pack mentality.”
“Close enough. We’ll see how it goes. Think he’ll take a bite out of me if I approach?”
I shrug, and take a step back. The Oni do so as well. The clone doesn’t move, but flinches as Vinci crouches in front of it.
“Easy now,” the captain says soothingly. “Not sure what’s going on in that head of yours, but we’re not going to hurt you unless you hurt us.”
It bares its teeth at him, but stops the moment I glare at it. Vinci watches the clone for several seconds, then nods. “We’re keeping him.”
“You do realize we’re going to have to teach him how to actually understand human speech? And clothes? And basic functions in general?” I ask flatly.
Vinci nods. “It will be an interesting case study in learning methods,” he says brightly. “Besides, smile! Being a parent is a beautiful thi-”
Jack looked up briefly as Vinci burst out of and through the deck, ascribed a short arc, and fell into the ocean.
Shit. He’d have to fix that.