“You know, I thought you’d be angrier about this,” Vinci says absent-mindedly as the clone tugs experimentally at the shirt and pants we’ve given it. Honestly, I’m slightly surprised it could even put them on properly, but it only took a few seconds to figure it out. “Given the whole ‘the world doesn’t need more of me’ thing you had going when I created the Oni compound.”
“Were you intending to make a ghoul?” I ask flatly.
Vinci shrugs. “I intended to grow some additional samples...honestly, the amount of your cell cultures I added shouldn’t have caused a full-on regeneration. It’s intriguing. So, no.”
“And that’s why I haven’t done anything.”
“You threw me off the ship. I’m still pulling splinters out of my clothes!”
“Were you actually hurt?”
“There you have it, Captain.” I look at the clone as it starts gnawing on some of the long salt pork we’ve laid out for it. “You have a name in mind or are we just going to call him ‘the clone’?”
“Well, he’s Subject C...figured just calling him C for now would work.”
“You’re A, since you’re the first I’ve worked on. I’m B, because of the King’s Heart. So he’s C.”
“The Oni don’t count?”
“A-1 through A-6.”
“Hmph. Fine, keep your weird classification system. Oi, you!”
The clone looks up.
“You’re C now.”
The clone nods. Wait.
“Can you...understand me?”
A shrug. The clone- C- goes back to eating. He already looks less emaciated, which is tremendously creepy, but not all that unexpected. Regeneration and all that…
“No seriously how the fuck do you know English already?” I ask C. “It’s been…”
“Two hours,” Vinci supplies. “Interesting. Subconscious knowledge? Another point to the theory that you’re a super-soldier experiment,” he muses. “You’d want your cloned soldiers to learn quickly…”
I shiver. “Please stop trying to give me an existential crisis, Captain.”
“Dahahaha...alright. But hey, C, you understand what I’m saying?”
C looks up from the hunk of preserved meat and nods again.
“How about talking?”
There’s a long moment of silence as C frowns intently. Then he opens his mouth.
“I am the very model of a modern cruel experiment,
I’ve a bent of personality, an evil temperament
I’m a fighter through and through, and it’s right down to my firmament,
From cranium to phalanxes, a hunting establishment
I'm very well acquainted too with matters of concealment,
I understand disguises, both innate and from enhancement
About my cannibalism I'm teeming with a lot o' news---
With many cheerful facts about the taste of human thews.”
He grins as Vinci’s jaw drops. “I...learn a great deal from listening.” He taps his ear. “And hear entire ship.”
I cock my head. “Huh. Well, that simplifies things. Not sure how that works, but okay.”
“Neuroplasticity, probably. Also explains why you haven’t memorized everything you’ve overheard as well, if it’s only present early on,” Vinci muses. He looks at C. “Now I have to wonder, what about your powers-”
Someone hammers on the door to the cabin, and we both look up.
“What?” Vinci asks.
“There’s a ship approaching, captain,” Pravilno calls out. “They’re armed, they’re flying a black flag, and they aren’t stopping.”
Vinci grins, and looks at C. “Well, it appears we’re going to get some combat experience for you early.”
The clone matches him grin for grin.
“There’s at least a hundred men there,” Vinci mused, spyglass to his eye. “Don’t recognize the symbol on their flag...aaaaand they’re rolling out a large deck gun. Lauren, educate them?”
She nodded, and pulled her heavy rifle from her back, extending the stock out to its full length as she went prone on the quarterdeck. The scope brought things into sharp clarity, the distant bulk of the ship and the long-ranged deck guns being run out seemingly close enough to touch. That was a very large set of guns...and a great deal of gunpowder barrels sitting open next to them.
“Conditions: mild surf, north-north-east wind eight point five knots, range, two thousand, three hundred, seventy-eight feet. Targets: six men, heavy cannon.” She raised the crosshairs, centering the distance mark on the man holding the gunner’s match, and grinned.
“Gunnery Special: Silent Requiem.”
The rifle bucked against her shoulder, the smell of sulfur wiping out everything else, and she watched through the scope.
And a one and-
The man with the match’s head exploded, and his body fell backwards- dumping the burning match into one of the barrels of gunpowder.
The explosion made Ends Justified shudder, and as she stood back up she saw the much larger vessel’s front mast slowly collapse, pulling rigging with it and causing the enemy ship to practically grind to a halt as pandemonium reigned on the half-destroyed deck.
“So much for pirates being better on the Grand Line,” the captain mused. “Herman! Take us in. We could use whatever we can plunder from their holds.”
There was a familiar ripping noise as Kaneki’s tails burst free, the ghoul crouching slightly as he grinned. Beside him, his pack of Oni readied their weapons- and that bald-ass clone Vinci had apparently made (word travelled fast, more so when one had to haul their captain out of the ocean) cracked his knuckles, matching Kaneki’s smile tooth for tooth. She huffed, slung her rifle on her back again, and pulled her carbines out of their holsters. Combat. Actual, no-holds-barred, combat. Her palms itched, and she took a deep breath as Ends tacked against the wind and drew closer and closer to the crippled vessel.
It wasn't quite the prospect of the fight ahead that worried her. It was that the thought of it felt...comforting. That a battle of kill or be killed was a soothing thought wasn't what she'd expected to ever think.
The crew began to crowd against the rails, clutching weapons and grappling hooks. She saw Herman and Jack prowl off of the quarterdeck, sword and hammer in hand.
Ends Justified ’s guns crashed, a fast boom-boom-boom as the broadside approximated a ragged volley, one that blew more holes into the front of the enemy vessel, tearing open gunports and the men behind them.
They roared again, far faster than a muzzle-loader could accomplish, and she smiled. Her work was paying off.
This time the shots were chain shot, and flew into the sails and rigging, ripping through the cloth and rope. One of the chain-linked cannonballs tore through the mainsail and continued on, snapping the mizzen mast in half.
The smoke from the fires stung her eyes as they pulled up across the crippled ship’s bows, like a wolf approaching a dying bison. The Sirins began to fire, pouring bullets across the deck, and though she couldn’t see through the still-burning fires and the smoke, the screams of pain were perfectly audible.
Some of the crew tossed fenders over the sides, and grappling hooks and planks latched onto the bow of the much larger ship as they drew themselves in.
Lauren swallowed her doubts.
It was time to go to work.
Well, Gin was certainly earning his keep, Vinci thought as he strolled onto the splintered and body-strewn deck. The ‘Devil-Man’ had led the charge onto this overgrown galleon, and the trail of crushed and battered pirates was clear as day. Completely different wounds compared to what the Sirins and cannon had done, for one.
“Over here, captain.”
Vinci followed Kaneki’s voice through the smoke. The crew’s officers and the Oni- plus Gin- were assembled, the few survivors of the enemy crew forced to kneel in front of them. Most of the prisoners were wounded to some degree or another.
The back of his eyes itched- probably the smoke- and his vision wavered for a minute. He blinked, and the itching faded as his sight returned to normal.
He looked over the prisoners again. One stood out- a man with a long, sea-green coat, one now marred with blood and soot. He looked up at Vinci with bleary eyes. “How?” he croaked. “We had you dead to rights. How the hell did you destroy our guns?”
“I have someone who’s a very good shot,” Vinci said simply. He looked around. “You fought well,” he said.
“Feh. Four fifths of my boys dead and not a scratch on most of you. Fuck ‘well’.”
“Hm. So you are the captain.”
The green-coated man narrowed his eyes, then coughed again. “Not captain of anything anymore, looks like. But...yes. Captain Calico Harkness, of the Sparrow Pirates.”
“Do you fear death, Captain Harkness?”
“Stand up.” He looked to Kaneki. “Was he armed?”
The ghoul nodded, and hefted a katana with an ornate hilt. “Damn near took off one of my arms before I got it away from him.”
“Give it to him.”
The ghoul frowned, but did as ordered, tossing the weapon at the other captain’s feet.
“What is this?” Harkness asked. “You’re letting me go?”
“Hardly. Call it an experiment, Mister Harkness. I want to see what a captain on the Grand Line does. Your choices are simple. You can leave that blade on the deck, and come with us. We’ll drop you off on the next island, even give you a bit of cash so you aren’t completely destitute. Your crew, of course, will be slaughtered and quite possibly eaten by some of the less human of my own crewmates. Or you can pick that blade up, and die in their place.”
Harkness gaped. The twenty or so surviving Sparrows started panicking. Vinci ignored them, watching the opposing captain intently.
The man grit his teeth, bent, and picked up his sword. “Come and get me, patchface,” he said flatly.
“Shave. Neurotomic Cascade.”
His extended index finger flashed out. Base of throat. Forehead. Sternum. Precise offsets with millimeter tolerances.
Vinci Shaved back to where he’d been standing, turned, and walked away.
“Hey! You bastard! Fight me!”
Vinci smiled, and looked back over his shoulder. “You are already dead.”
The captain looked confused. Then he fell to the deck, not breathing.
As they walked back to the ship, leaving the few survivors behind on their vessel, Vinci swore he heard Kaneki mutter something about ‘pulling a Kenshiro’.