A gang of pirate hunters try to get their hands on the Straw Hat bounty by taking the 'weaker' members of the crew hostage. They are about to learn that weakness is a very relative concept, and tha...
AN: My first OP fic. I do love One Piece, it's fun, glorious and wonderfully innocent. That makes it fiendishly hard to write for, I find. Hopefully I didn't muck up too badly, and kept some of the spirit.
One thing I particularly love in One Piece is the bad guys and nameless background characters. The way all of Buggy's pirates danced and screamed 'Mohji!' won my heart over months ago. It's all so fun and exaggerated, just like the rest of it. Read this in the same spirit ^_^
The Red Coast
The Brotherhood of the Red Coast were a feared band of smugglers and shipwreckers, and if one of the sailors they'd stranded turned out to be a pirate with a price on his head, they'd dabble in bounty collection as well. The Red Coast was notorious for its hidden shoals and traitorous straits; there were always plenty of dead pirates washing up on its shores. It was a good business to be in.
When the pirates were not conveniently dead on arrival, the Brotherhood occasionally took to pirate hunting too, when the money was right. It wasn't as easy as smuggling or hitting a half-drowned corsair over the noggin, but pirates captured alive brought back a bigger and much more tempting bounty.
Those were the thoughts going through Papa's head like complex mathematics as he watched the Going Merry sail into the harbour, bright and early on a crisp autumn morning. Their damned navigator had been clever enough to avoid the trap of rocks and tide, getting them safely past the breakers. That removed the easy way of collecting on the astronomical sum of their bounty, and left the hard way.
Corsairs, smugglers, pawnbrokers, scruffy dealers and women of scant virtue lined the wharf to stare at the docked ship and swap rumours and tall tales. The town of Red Haven - renamed Bloody Bay decades ago - was the relic of a time when the Marines still controlled the area. It had long since descended into lawlessness. For pirates, it was now a safe harbour in which to buy smuggled supplies and unwind in a variety of violent and vice-ridden ways, while the town's inhabitants did their best to fleece them.
Half the town was there to watch the ship disembark. Papa listened to all the hearsay as he wandered through the crowd, which parted prudently before him. The Straw Hat crew was a bit of a puzzle on the Grand Line. By now, even the Red Coast had heard of Straw Hat Luffy, Roronoa Zoro and Nico Robin. The rumours of their deeds were probably insanely exaggerated, but the bounty on their heads meant that they'd done something to piss off the world government at any rate. It was just hard to believe, though, that these seven kids could be all that much trouble, and four of them with no bounty or reputation to speak of.
Though the names and reputations of those that did have a bounty were enough to make Papa quail a bit and almost forget all the things he could buy with 239 million berries, starting with his own island.
Papa watched the Straw Hats wander down to the wharf and go about their duties and leisure. Like any crew that had been cloistered on a small ship for weeks, they immediately split up in all directions. Papa had sailed as a pirate in his youth, so he knew the crew would visit the town and hang out in the harbour, readying their ship for the next leg of their journey and doing their very best to not see each other for at least twenty four hours. It took that long to recover from cabin fever. Then they would all hit the bars together and paint the town red, or possibly try to burn it down, it depended on what kind of pirates they were.
Papa turned on his heels and headed home, deep in thought. By the time he reached it, the old smuggler was grinning and fingering the hilt of his cutlass in a way that sent the mangy dogs in the courtyard yelping for cover.
"Listen up, you horrible wastes of skin! We're about to make a lot of money!"
The numerous brothers of the Brotherhood rousted themselves from various drunken stupors or sundry chores and gathered around.
Nobody on the Red Coast knew if Papa really was the father of the entire Brotherhood. If he was, he certainly had been busy in his youth (and not very discerning either, as a glance at his ugly brood would suggest.) On the balance of probability, they couldn't all be the fruit of his loins; in fact, there were plenty of nephews and cousins amongst his sons - including a few who were both his nephews and his sons, because it wasn't a very big or a very civilized region of the Grand Line. Nobody in the Brotherhood really cared, not even those who could read and write and spell the word inbreeding (there were a couple who could manage it, if they had their grammar and spelling primers handy): all that mattered was that they were The Brotherhood, feared up and down the Red Coast, and Papa was their leader.
"The Straw Hats?" Chrisso said. He was the third eldest son - or perhaps the fourth - and one of those who could spell inbreeding, not that he particularly cared to. Right now, he seemed more worried about impending death and destruction than a spelling feat. "You sure, Papa? They're...tough."
"They have a rep," Papa granted. "But they also have a weakness. I hear they're all friends, that they'll go to any lengths to save a nakama."
The Brotherhood, who stayed together for the same reason a pack of hyena does, looked startled and then scornful at the notion.
"So...we kidnap the weaker crew members, and force the three with the bounty to surrender?" Chrisso asked, a light of understanding dawning in his sunken eyes. This was why he was known as The Brain amongst his peers, and why Papa charged him with writing letters and counting smuggled goods - but not with counting money; Papa did that himself, his dearth of formal education had never left him lacking in that area. "That might work..."
Bilgewater Benny, one of the somewhat brighter brothers who was also following the developing plan, grinned like a leprous jackal. "Especially if we kill them all as soon as we've got them in chains. Poison them or something. Starting with the Captain."
"And the demon, Zoro," one of the others ground out through his beard.
"And the Devil Fruit woman," said a third (one of the rare sisters amongst the Brotherhood, though the faint moustache and beefy frame made it hard to tell the difference).
"We'll kill them all," Papa declared democratically. The bounty would be much less, but it would still be more money than the Brotherhood had ever even imagined, and the risks would be more manageable.
"What if they figure us out?" Chrisso asked, eyeing Papa's cutlass prudently; the head of the family had a nasty temper and hated to have his orders questioned. "What if they attack us here, try to free their crewmembers-"
"Nobody can take this place. Not if we all man the defences." Papa's eyes scoured the walls, three feet thick at places, a relic of an old Marine fort that had once protected the Red Coast and the town, now the Brotherhood's home base. "We'll send out small parties to pick off the weaklings and bring them back here; everybody else will defend the walls and entrances. We can hold them off long enough for the squealing of their shipmates to slow them down. They'll all be ours by evening. Baby Brother!"
Baby Brother came forward. The Brotherhood broke ranks hastily to let him through, even as they cheered Papa's choice of enforcer. Baby Brother was the last of Papa's offspring; he had a long face twisted around a thin, sharp nose, and his hooded eyes twitched constantly in his skull. He'd been in his early teens when he'd realized that he'd be Baby Brother until he died of old age; he was now in his mid twenties and as psychotic as a mongoose.
Chrisso and Papa exchanged glances. Baby Brother was deadly with that bolo knife of his, and he was as persistent and vicious as a bear trap; the perfect candidate to bring back a helpless victim, and to make said hostage scream and beg for mercy in a way that would insure the immediate surrender of any friends or nakama in the vicinity.
"Baby Brother, go and bring back the chick. The one that doesn't have a bounty. Little Tim and Mangy Benjy are on lookout at the market, they'll point her out to you. She's shopping. For clothes." Baby Brother smiled gruesomely at Papa's words. "Grab the bird when she's alone and bring her back, okay? And don't cut her too badly yet."
While Baby Brother went about his appointed task, the Brotherhood prepared for their guests. The fortress was manned, ugly traps prepared, muskets loaded, weapons honed. They were done within the hour, yet Baby Brother still hadn't come back. Which was strange; the town center was only fifteen minutes away, and the skirt couldn't have been that hard to find. After another hour, Papa sent out a couple of his anonymous sons-or-nephews-or-possibly-both to go see what the hell had happened.
Baby Brother was a sight to behold when his brothers returned with him. His hair was scorched and standing on end, the bits of skin that weren't covered in mild frostbite were mercilessly burned and bruised, and the Brotherhood's sawbones said it would be days before the kid would be able to walk again, and did anyone know if Baby Brother had ever planned on having children?
"What the hell happened?" Chrisso muttered, scratching his tattooed chin. "The lookouts say all the rest of the Straw Hats are still wandering around solo. Do you think some of the other townspeople helped her?"
"Those lily-livered apes? They're all rogues, but they wouldn't dare take prey away from your baby brother." Papa glared out the window at the town spread below the fortressed hill. The whole Red Coast was a smuggler and wreckers paradise, and the Brotherhood was at the top of the pecking order.
"Hmmm. Maybe the chick got lucky. What do we do now, Papa?"
A tall, long-legged man detached himself from the pack. Chrisso slowly nodded in understanding. Logi was a fierce brawler, and with that wicked club of his, he could take out the eye of a flea or the brains of a pirate with similar ease.
"Go and get their cannoneer," Papa ordered. "He'll be easy. He's the length and shape of a wet noodle. Safe to say he's a distance fighter. He'll be useless once he's away from his artillery. Just run up to him and cosh him - but make sure you bring him back alive, or I'll rip off yer hide and turn it into boots, got it?"
"Huh-uh." Logi shambled out.
He limped back in again almost two hours later. He was covered in pimento powder, ketchup and rotten eggs, and peppered with gunpowder and shrapnel. He also had splashes of red liquid on his cotton top and bandana that were eating into the cloth. His eyes were bloodshot, streaming with tears and swelling shut. All he could gasp out before collapsing was "He ran too fast- couldn't keep up-"
Papa glared at his son in a way that sent the weaker-hearted amongst the Brotherhood diving for cover. He kicked Logi in the ribs and then stomped over to a small knot of able-bodied brothers of the 'thug' variety, the ones he sent out to punish uppity new smuggling gangs with terminal prejudice. The group of four siblings presumably had names, but even the rest of their brothers and cousins couldn't tell them apart, so they were known collectively as The Mashers and sent out to kill things on a regular basis.
"You two - yeah, you and you. Go and bring back the ship's sawbones. Think you can do that? It's round, it's fluffy, it's about as dangerous as a teddy bear. Bring it back here."
Hopefully the Straw Hats would want the freakish thing. It wasn't Papa's first choice of hostage, but surely it had its uses and its crewmates wouldn't want to see it cut up on a butcher's stall.
Another two hours passed...
They never found the first man; the second one was discovered in an alley, pasty white, unblinking, and all he seemed able to say was "The antlers! The antlers!"
Papa could feel a vein throb in his forehead and he swore like the thunder of a tropical storm. Fine. Fine! That was the way they wanted it, was it?!
The Brotherhood stirred nervously, like a bunch of frightened and butt-ugly colts.
"Yar," said someone very large from another part of the fortress. Shadows stirred in the dormitory. Big shadows.
He had to tilt his shoulders and duck under the lintel to get through the doorway. When he straightened up, the large fortress felt a whole lot smaller. Murmurs of 'Big Brother!', 'Damn, 'e's gotten even bigger' and 'Them Straw Hats are goners for sure now' rustled around the room.
Nobody could remember if Big Brother was the oldest of Papa's children or not, but in the end, it didn't really matter. He hadn't gotten the 'Big' in his name because of his seniority, and nobody seemed keen to take it away from him either. He didn't move very fast, but he wasn't as dumb as he looked, his fighting abilities were carefully honed to make the most of his frightening strength, and anything punched by Big Brother stayed down for the count. Even buildings. He was never in a very pleasant mood when woken up, and since he spent most of his time sleeping, that meant that his brothers left him well enough alone as a rule.
"Big Brother," said Papa, craning his neck to look up at his son. "Did you have a look at the pirates that came in today? I know you went down to the market to eat your daily roast pig for lunch."
"Hur," Big Brother said.
"Saw the whole crew?"
"Hur. You want me to fight the swordsman?" A glimmer of enthusiasm lit Big Brother's porky eyes, high up in the shadows of the rafters, and he fingered the strap holding the huge harpoon on his back, his favoured weapon.
Papa hesitated, but the voice of weasely caution won out. They'd had a hard enough time with the crew that didn't have bounties on their heads. "No. Look, follow my orders, 'cause this is our last chance. I can't believe they've not all closed ranks already, but our lookouts swear the bloody cook is still fooling around near the boat, all by his lonesome, cutting up and salting market fish for the trip out. Bring him the fuck back and no foul-ups. Think you can do that?"
Big Brother's menacing air became suddenly lethal. "Do I think I can bring back a lanky pansy who spends his whole day swishin' around in an apron?" he asked in a voice that could crack stone. Several of the Brotherhood started a castanet choir of knees.
Papa was actually starting to wonder about the whole plan's feasibility, but watching the solid wall of muscle, ugly intent and brute strength that was his ace in the hole, he buried his doubt and pointed at the door. "Go to it, then."
And finally it worked! Big Brother was back in less than an hour, and when his looming shape darkened the door and blocked out the afternoon sunlight, he had a big beefy hand fastened on the cook's slim shoulder. The hostage didn't even look all that roughed up; he must have done the smart thing and surrendered immediately.
"Good work, Big Brother," Papa said with a gloat covering relief.
"So, are you the guys after us?" the cook asked around his cigarette, remarkably poised considering his position. He had his hands in his pockets and he was glancing around with the air of one not terribly impressed.
Chrisso lurched forward, dragging heavy ship chains with him. Papa nodded in approval. No point in taking any risks.
"Tako, Al, help Chrisso bung him in the brig. You," Papa added, levelling his large, evilly notched cutlass at the cook, "don't put up any resistance, do as you're told, and you'll see the sun rise tomorrow." Several of the less clever cousins/brothers chuckled greasily, somewhat ruining the effects of the promise Papa had no intention of keeping, but after being dragged back by Big Brother, the cook would be too cowed to cut up rough anyway.
Talking of Big Brother, why hadn't he said anything yet...?
The cook shrugged. Big Brother's hand, which had been resting heavily on his victim's shoulder, slid off, and the large man toppled forward, like a main mast scythed by a cannon ball.
"Too...strong...mommy..." whimpered Big Brother from his stretch on the floor, porcine eyes glazed over.
General alarm, while the cook took a deep drag on his cigarette. He looked bored with the ring of trembling blades and muskets that eventually materialized around him.
"I've got a message for you boys, from my Captain and Roronoa Zoro. Robin-chan chimed in too, but just to say she's got nothing to say to you guys, and she'll thank you for leaving her out of this."
"They thought it was real fun, the way you sent one or two opponents per person, but none of us were all that impressed with the quality of the opposition. So the guys wondered, now that it's their turn, if you could go ahead and send all your best men together. Zoro won the game of rock-paper-scissors, because Luffy always plays rock and hasn't figured out yet why he loses all the time, so Zoro will be taking you all on first, and assuming...there's...any...say, is this really all of you guys?"
The cook's words had been getting progressively slower as he tallied his surroundings.
"Please tell me there's some really strong swordsman hiding out back - sleeping, since that's what they seem to do best - and you're gonna send him? Tell me it's not just you sorry shitheads?"
The Brotherhood glanced at each other nervously. Did they have a really great swordsman hiding out back? Because this would be a good time to fetch him if they did.
The cook dropped his cigarette and ground it out. He was staring at the Brotherhood with an air of disgust. The Brotherhood was staring back with an air of utter horror, as they noticed to a man the way the concrete of the floor splintered beneath the bad-tempered gesture of the cook's heel.
"Fuck it all. Marimo-head won't even break a sweat on you lot. That means I'm going to have to kick his shitty head through the floor just to calm him down - not that I have a problem with that, but I do have to get dinner ready too, Luffy's going to be crawling up the masthead as it is. I don't have the time for this..."
The cook turned away with a sigh. He walked right past the muskets and headed towards the door, idly lifting a packet of cigarettes from his jacket with two fingers. He flicked one of the sticks out with practiced ease, his other hand still in his pocket.
He stood like that for a few seconds, suddenly very still, and then he turned around again. A long finger tapped the cigarette back into the pack in a gesture that had no right to be that menacing. Half the Brotherhood swore off smoking on the spot.
"I nearly forgot. Is there a piece of shit in here with a face like a weasel? The one who tried to hurt our navigator?"
There was a thick silence. Then all hands present pointed at Baby Brother, miserably crouched in one of the hammocks cluttering up the main room.
After the cook had left, and while the Brotherhood gathered around the hole in the wall left by Baby Brother's lesson in chivalry and good manners, Papa decided that now was a good time to take that early retirement he'd been contemplating. He grabbed his emergency bag - food, water, fresh underwear and three hundred thousand berries in jewels - and shot out the back door.
He didn't get far.
A voice that blended cold amusement and violent intent echoed in his ear. "I got tired of waiting. Did that stupid cook tell you to send out your best, like I told him to? Well, you'll have to do."
From the fortress came the sounds of a Captain who'd gotten equally bored with waiting and was having fun taking down the rest of the Brotherhood, and a few walls as well.
The lookouts found Papa on their way back to the half-destroyed fortress. Once their sawbones had recovered from his own beating, he plied their leader with copious amounts of grog, the Brotherhood's known and trusted remedy for massive blood loss. The Going Merry had left port by the time Papa could articulate again. And he was saying some mighty strange things...But at this point in time, the Brotherhood were contemplating a change in careers anyway. Shipwrecking, smuggling and bounty-hunting just didn't hold the same appeal any more. They listened avidly to Papa's new idea.
Thus was born the Charitable Order of the Red Coast, dedicated to helping others, especially women, children, small furry creatures and - for some reason historians would puzzle over for decades to come - anyone involved in the restaurant trade. And pirates. They eventually became the nucleus of a thriving Red Coast community dedicated to freedom; a haven from the increasingly oppressive world government. The order grew, acquired new members, and they continue to this day, spread across many of the Grand Line islands where they are much respected by the inhabitants, their past history as ship wreckers yet one more colourful thread of the rich tapestry woven from myths of pirate adventures, magnificent treasure and grand stories such as the Tale of the Straw Hats and the One Piece.