A GEM IN THE ROUGH
GEMS WITHOUT MEASURE; A PIRATE'S TREASURE
It is a period of great worry. After stopping the Shishibukai CROCODILE in the Alabasta Kingdom, STEVEN UNIVERSE found himself back in his home dimension. However, he was unexpectedly joined by his newest allies: THE STRAW HAT PIRATES.
After several days in BEACH CITY, Steven and the Straw Hats captured the CRYSTAL GEMS' most hated enemy: PERIDOT. Though it seemed like a great victory, she informed them of a greater threat: THE CLUSTER, a Gem weapon designed to blow up the planet from inside its own core.
With the Straw Hat returned to their home dimension, Steven finds himself forced to rely on his friends and family to stop the Cluster from emerging and to save the planet. Little does Steven know that his quest will be diverted by a most dangerous game taking place at this very moment in the heart of the GRAND LINE...
"The first match of the Davy Back Fight has officially ended!" the voice of an announcer called out through the island. "Now it is time for the moment we all have been waiting for: the highly anticipated selection of a new member of our crew!"
This was the scene of the most deadly of games that can be played on the Grand Line: the Davy Back Fight. It required two crews of pirates to accept a challenge against each other for three games of strength and wits. The stakes of the game? The crew themselves. As such, it is a horrifying game of chance that only the cocky and foolish would dare to risk...
Which is why the Straw Hat pirates inevitably found themselves on the losing end of the first challenge.
After being tricked by the devilish Foxy (also known as 'Foxy: the Silver Pirate'), Monkey D. Luffy was forced to compete, putting his crew of eight on the line. The crew, not counting himself, consisted of Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, and Genevieve, the former Miss Goldenweek. It was a dark time for the Straw Hat crew, especially since they lost the first challenge of the game: the Donut Race. Now they were forced to sit back and wait to see who would be forced to join Foxy's crew lest they be cast to a quick, underwater death.
"The captain of the winning team will choose a new member of the crew from the losing team," Foxy's announcer continued as several drummers helped build up anticipation. "Who is it gonna be, boss?!"
Foxy was an interesting looking pirate. He wore a high collar jacket and ornate pants held up by suspenders. A pistol was held in the front of his pants, showing his lack of fear in any situation. His most notable features, however, were his face and hair. He had a square chin, a toothy grin, and one of the longest noses ever recorded in the world. His hair was parted into two even spikes, giving off an otherworldly appearance.
Each of the Straw Hats held their breath as they waited to see who would be taken from them. The only three that seemed unconcerned were Robin (who was stoic), Genevieve (who was too busy painting), and Zoro (who was drinking a bottle of rum to his face). At last, the dreaded pirate theatrically pointed at one of them and laughed. "The first one that I will take is..." He paused for dramatic effect and cried out his choice triumphantly. "YOU! TONY TONY CHOPPER: THE DOCTOR!"
"What?!" Chopper asked, not fully comprehending the situation.
Two of Foxy's many crewmen grabbed the tiny talking reindeer and forced him away from Nami and straight into Foxy's arms. The pirate started to hug and squeeze him with all of his might. "Aw; ain't you just precious! You are the cuddliest pet I have ever had; yes, you are!"
"Boss, please let me have him! He's so fluffy; I'm gonna die!" a blue-haired woman begged her captain.
"Of course, Porche!"
The sight of their doctor being forced into a black mask was nearly unbearable for the Straw Hats. "They think he's some kind of rare pet!" Nami said. "That's deplorable!"
"As long as they aren't into rare pelts we should be okay," Robin said with a straight face.
"DON'T JOKE LIKE THAT!" Usopp yelled. "CHOPPER! WE ARE SORRY WE FAILED YOU!"
The reindeer was forced to sit down next to his new captain underneath a giant tent in the shape of a fox that had a sign that said "Davy Back Fight." he began to sob nearly uncontrollably before finally cracking. "YOU GUYS! THIS...I DIDN'T WANT THIS WHEN WE SET OUT! I STARTED SAILING WITH YOU GUYS BECAUSE OF LUFFY...AND STEVEN...AND PETREA...AND..."
"Stop right there!" Foxy held his hand up and pointed at Chopper. "'Steven?' 'Petrea?' Who are these people?"
"Shit," Sanji said, taking a large drag of his cigarette. "This could be a problem."
"They...they...I won't say!" Chopper gulped and turned his head away.
"As your captain, I order you to tell me who this 'Steven' is!" Foxy demanded. "Will you disregard an order from your captain?!"
"YOU'RE NOT MY CAPTAIN!" Chopper shouted angrily.
"SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND STOP BEING A DISGRACE, CHOPPER!" Zoro suddenly yelled out, putting down a half-finished bottle of premium rum. "You chose to come out to sea with us on your own accord, not just because of them. Don't blame others for your choices! We chose to do this contest and we lost. You are in a world where tears mean nothing!"
Zoro got up and looked Chopper directly in the eye despite the long distance away from them. "If you are a man, then you will stop crying and do what your captain says! If he wants to know, tell him who they are!"
"Zoro! Stop being so harsh with him!" Nami scolded him from afar. "And I don't think him knowing about Steven is a good idea..."
At once, Chopper sucked his tears back into his face, leaving it neutral and stoic. The reindeer took a big breath and explained just who Steven was. "Steven is...Steven is the musician of the Straw Hat pirates!"
"What?!" Foxy was outraged. "You have another member of your crew...and you withheld him from us?!"
"...uh..." Luffy tried to find the right words to describe the situation. "It's complicated?"
"It's against the rules is what it is! What about this 'Petrea?!' Is she part of your crew too?"
"Not really...she and Damian are more like unofficial Straw Hats than anything..." Luffy answered slowly.
"Sir! We think we know who this 'Steven' is!" a large, ape-like person ran over with two pieces of paper. "These came at the same time the Straw Hat's bounty came through!"
Foxy scanned the two documents and grinned eagerly. "'Tiger Millionaire' Steven Universe and 'Giant Onigiri Magician' Sardonyx, eh? Such high bounties...but no 'Petrea' or 'Damian.' Is Sardonyx one of yours too?"
The pirate captain looked to Luffy, who was whistling innocently. "I don't know what you are talking about!"
"YOU ARE STILL GIVING IT AWAY!" Nami yelled angrily.
"Pet Chopper?" Foxy began. "Spell it out for your captain!"
"Sardonyx...I don't really know!" Chopper fought back more tears and began to stammer as he spoke. "She's back with Steven, but not with Steven because she's actually the Crystal Gems and..."
"I think that's enough!" Foxy announced. "It is clear enough to me that the Straw Hats have deliberately falsified our records of your crew!"
"But you wrote those up yourself!" Usopp protested.
"Lies! The validity of this Davy Back Fight has been compromised! Deliberately hiding a member of the crew is against the rules! As such, you are forced to present this 'Steven Universe' and any other members of your crew in a timely manner or else risk disqualification!" Foxy roared in Luffy's direction. "Fuehfehfeh! Of course, disqualification means instant victory for the opposing crew!"
"What?! So we will lose everyone in the crew if we can't bring Steven here?!" Luffy asked worriedly. "But he's not here right now! He's not anywhere near here!"
"Then do you renounce him as a member of your crew on the honor of your Jolly Roger?!" Foxy asked.
"Then you have one hour to present him lest you abandon your dreams and join my crew," Foxy sneered evilly. "What do you have to say to that, Straw Hat?"
Luffy looked from the emotional form of Chopper to each of the members of his crew. Their eyes revealed what he knew: there was no choice in the matter. This was a time of great need if they were to have any chance of continuing on their quest on the Grand Line. "Fine...I'll get him. Usopp, you're with me."
"Are...are we sure there isn't another way? We are tampering with dimensional rifts and..." Usopp gulped nervously.
"Steven wouldn't want us to abandon our dreams for his sake," Luffy bit his lip. "If we are to keep our honor as pirates, we need to get Steven."
"What if he doesn't want to come?" Usopp asked.
"He'll want to come. I know it," Luffy grinned. "Crew, wait here! We'll be right back!"
Luffy and Usopp ran quickly to their ship: the Going Merry. It was far more beat up than the last time Steven was aboard it, but it still had a little fight left in her. They rushed to the storage deck where they found a small salmon pink badge with a star on it. Usopp examined the badge and motioned for Luffy to press the star.
"I can't believe we are finally going to use the Steven Badge!" Luffy cracked his knuckles in anticipation. "I am so pumped!"
"I'll be pumped when this game is over," Usopp sighed. "Still, it is going to be nice to see everyone again. You ready, captain?"
"I was born ready, Usopp! WE ARE COMING, STEVEN!"
With that, he pressed the button and the two members of the Straw Hat pirates vanished, leaving the Grand Line to embark on an important task.
Petrea was having the time of her life.
Mr. Smiley had rented out a small building in Beach City Funland for her to start her own little chocolate shop: Miss Valentine's Chocolates. Before she had left to join up with the Straw Hats, Genevieve had given her $1,000 that she had made painting portraits on the pier with her newfound friend Vidalia. As the painter had returned to the Grand Line, the money was worthless to her but ended up being the foundation of Petrea's entire business. The chocolatier was indebted to that generosity, as it allowed her to buy the necessary ingredients to get her shop started.
Her living situation, however, had not been as prosperous. Though she was making money, it was not enough to afford her own apartment, let alone a house. The same could be said for Damian, the former Mr. 5. Though Delmarvan firemen were afforded a somewhat decent salary, he was technically doing the work under the table until Mayor Dewey could clear everything up. For now, Mayor Dewey was personally handling his payments.
Damian had been meeting with Bill Dewey regularly to discuss what a full-fledged fireman would require. He was utterly fascinated to learn about a magical tool known as a "firetruck." In the meantime, Damian was working in the construction field, mainly assisting the Fryman family in rebuilding their business. It was almost finished, but still required some patchwork.
Thankfully, the two of them had found refuge in Steven's beach house. On their first night as official Beach City citizens, Steven had the brilliant idea to release the Gem known as Peridot from her bubble. The appearance of a being that Petrea helped bring down had scared the living daylights out of her, especially since she was in a deep sleep at the time. After locking herself in the bathroom all night, Steven managed to convince the Gem to come out and (after a trip to the Kindergarten) explain just what something called the "Cluster" was.
Apparently, this planet was home to some kind of Gem geo-weapon that was incubating in the planet's core. If it was not stopped, the planet would be destroyed. As such, it fell to Steven, the Gems, and (surprisingly) Peridot to figure out how to drill to the core and remove it to save the planet. The five of them had left for a barn that Greg Universe's family owned, leaving Damian and Petrea in charge of the beach house. This gave them a chance to build up their finances while having the benefit of keeping everything tidy while they were away.
But in the shop? That was a different story. Petrea had a very important job she was finishing today; something that meant a lot to her.
"Miss Valentine makes everything she bakes satisfying and delicious! Talk about your childhood wishes! You can even eat the dishes!" she sang to herself as she put the finishing touches on a very important commissioned cake. It was requested to look like a cat called "Cookie Cat."
"You never should have watched that movie," a familiar voice called from behind her. "You've been singing that song for days now."
Petrea stopped what she was doing to embrace her oldest friend. There Damian stood, smiling and ready to give her a hug. He might be a bit sweaty, but at least he was in good spirits. "I have not! I only sing when I work! It's the allure of Beach City...every day, you wake up with a song in your heart and a spring in your step!"
"...right..." Damian rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses.
"Kyahahaha! You're just still mad because I laughed at how afraid of those Oompa Loompas you got," Petrea teased.
"...they freaked me out..." Damian shuddered. "So, what time are we being picked up? I left the site early so I could clean myself up before we left."
The chocolatier gave him the once-over and nodded. "Wise choice."
"Says the girl with chocolate in her hair."
Petrea bent down to look at her reflection in a mixing bowl and frowned. "Every time."
"It suits you, 'Miss Valentine,'" Damian teased. "It goes well with the apron."
"Having a clean apron means that you aren't doing it right!" Petrea looked offended. "And to answer your question, Connie is being dropped off at noon. That means that Greg should be around fifteen minutes before that to make the Maheswarans happy."
"That's in an hour and a half!" Damian said frantically. "How am I supposed to clean myself up in that time?!"
"Figure it out for yourself, pretty boy. I get first dibs on the shower when I get back. Hand me those two candles, will you?" Petrea asked, pointing to a blue candle in the shape of a "four" and a red candle shaped like a "one."
"I still can't believe this is actually the kid's age," Damian shook his head in disbelief. "Why are these two separate colors?"
"Garnet was very insistent on the candle colors for some reason when she commissioned the cake," Petrea shrugged. "Far be it from me to question an alien lady who is actually sentient rock."
"Fair enough," Damian agreed. "What did you get him?"
"Besides the cake?" Petrea asked, boxing up the finished product and sealing it shut. "A G.U.Y. collecting guide. Harold told me that Steven loves those things and said that this would be right up his alley. It's hard to shop for a kid you have only known for two months in a world you have only lived in for one."
"Tell me about it. I just got him cash," Damian said, pulling out a card.
"Damian! How rude are you?!"
The bomb-man threw his hands up defensively. "What?! This was a week's worth of pay! I'd rather him get something he wanted!"
"He is the kind of kid who would rather value a gift you personally picked out for him," Petrea groaned and shook her head. "It's like you don't even know him."
"Again, we've known him for two months...one of which he has been holed up in some farm!"
"What does that even mean?"
"It means...damn it; I miss him, okay? There, I said it!" Damian sighed and went to sit in a chair, which Petrea took from underneath him.
"As cute as that is, there is no point in sitting when we are running behind. Grab the cake while I close up shop." The blonde suddenly got into his face and gave him a serious look. "If you drop this cake, I will drop you. Are we clear?"
"Crystal," Damian gulped.
The speakers in Greg Universe's van were blaring as he prepared himself to get to the beach house as fast as he could. He had just closed up his car wash (It's A Wash) for the weekend, waving goodbye to Yellowtail, one of his best friends in Beach City. This was a time that meant a lot to the man; it was not every day that one's child turned fourteen years old. It was up to him to drive Petrea, Damian, and Connie Maheswaran to his old family barn where the Gems and Steven were held up. Connie was Steven's closest friend and was a young girl whom Greg admired very much. He respected how she treated him and especially how she made Steven feel.
It made an old man proud. Of course, this old man was now running late and he knew it.
"Gah! I know I put my good shirt around here somewhere..." Greg told himself as he ruffled through a large pile of clothing bunched up in the back of the van.
Despite making a decent living with his business and even some residuals from the few songs of his that actually sold, Greg had settled on a life that involved living out of a van that was parked next to the house he helped build for his son. Most of the money he made went to Steven, and Greg was happy with that. Lately, however, Greg had been toying with a way to gain a little bit of extra income doing what he loved the most: making music. It involved just that: the ability to make music.
Greg had recently eaten an otherworldly object known as a Devil Fruit. With only one bite, the eater would gain a brand new ability or power set with the trade-off of losing the ability to swim. After a series of convoluted events involving Yellowtail's son, a reality warping man with a talking fanny pack, and his son's pirate crew; Greg was given the power of the Rhythm-Rhythm Fruit. This allowed him to generate and control all forms of sound, music, and even rhythm itself. For a musician like Greg, it was a dream come true and he was having a blast figuring out his new abilities. It was like playing with a new toy, only on a grander scale. In his case, he was working on remastering and reworking several of his old songs to shop them around to anyone who would listen.
But today was not about his music; it was about his son.
"Hmmm...the white polo it is! Schtoo-ball is just gonna be happy to spend time with his groovy old man," Greg chuckled to himself as he stuffed his balding head out of the aforementioned white polo. "There! Perfect! Now all I have to do is hope that Bonnie and Clyde have their act together for when Priyanka drops off Connie in...oh my goodness! I'm not gonna make it!"
With that, Greg grabbed the Dog Copter III movie that he bought Steven and got the van started. He prayed that Petrea and Damian were not running as late as he was. He liked the two well enough and had tried his best to help them get acclimated to their new home. It struck him a bit strange that two former killers who were ten years older than Steven gave up their old lives to live in Beach City with their friend, but who was Greg to judge when he did the same thing...especially when the difference in age was in the thousands in his case. To be fair, he did it for love and they did it to follow their dreams, but technically they were the same thing on some level.
After a short drive, Greg found himself in front of the beach house. Thankfully, he did not see any sign of Connie or her parents. He got out of the van and ran up the steps, praying that this would all work out smoothly. Connie's parents were a bit strict and it took a lot of convincing to get their permission to let her sleep over for the weekend. This meant a lot to both of them and he wanted to see everything go perfectly.
"Hey, you two! Hope you are ready to go because the van is gassed up and ready to...GAH!" Greg opened up the door to announce his presence and was greeted with a most random sight: the pirates Monkey D. Luffy and Usopp conversing with an equally surprised and shocked Petrea and Damian. "What the heck?! How...why...I...what?!"
"Hey, Mr. Universe!" Luffy waved excitedly. "Is your son home?"
"Luffy?! I...what are you doing here?!" Greg asked anxiously. "Did you two know about this?!"
"Not at all!" Petrea shook her head and waved her arms defensively. She had dressed up in an orange dress with yellow frills while, surprisingly, keeping her hair hidden in her work bandana. "They just warped here mere moments ago! I didn't even have time to do my hair yet!"
"...I'm sensing a feeling of being unwanted here..." Usopp pointed out. "Did...did we interrupt something?"
"And where's Steven?" Luffy looked around the house. "I don't see him anywhere!"
Greg ran his hands over his head and began to pace. Though Priyanka did not have any ill-will toward the pirates, she did have a problem with Connie getting involved in unnecessary fights. If two members of the Straw Hat crew were in the beach house, something serious must have happened. He gulped and took a seat next to Damian, who had a pink button up shirt on with a black bow tie. "I...you guys just have to excuse me. Trust me; I love you guys and I'm thrilled to see you...but Priyanka is about to drop Connie off to spend the weekend and I really don't want her to say that she can't go and..."
"Go where?" Luffy asked curiously. "Where are you guys going...and why are you in a silly shirt, Damian?"
"Don't. Mock. The. Shirt!" Damian growled. "This shirt was expensive, damn it!"
"It's still silly!" Luffy laughed.
"...I'm beginning to remember why I initially set out to kill you..." Damian twitched his eyebrow.
Petrea hit him in the arm and gave him a dirty look. "There will be none of that! This is a very special day and we will keep it special no matter what!"
"Why is it special? What's going on?!" Luffy was practically begging now.
"It's Steven's birthday, Luffy," Greg explained. "We are heading out to the family barn and throwing him a party..."
"IT'S HIS BIRTHDAY?! YOU GUYS ARE THROWING HIM A BIRTHDAY PARTY?!" Luffy started to jump up and down like an excited child. "THAT IS GREAT!"
"Stay focused, Luffy!" Usopp scolded him. "Birthday parties are great, true, but we really need Steven's help!"
"...I feel like I'm going to regret asking this...but with what?" Greg asked, praying that it wouldn't be too life-threatening that he could put a positive spin on it if he had to explain it to Priyanka.
"We got challenged to a Davy Back Fight and..." Usopp began before getting cut off.
"And you ACCEPTED?!" Petrea yelled. "Are you kidding me?!"
"Do you have any idea how stupid you have to be to...?" Damian started to join in before stopping himself. "Never mind. How bad is it?"
"We just lost Chopper in the first round and..."
"YOU LOST CHOPPER?!"
Luffy and Usopp began to speak again but were stopped when the sound of a cymbal crashing filled the room. Greg, who had no idea what was going on, had clapped his hands to get their attention. "In case you forgot, I'm not from the Grand Line or wherever you guys came from! Stop leaving me in the dark! What the heck is a Davy Back Fight and how does this connect to Steven?"
"A Davy Back Fight is essentially a game of physical challenges where, instead of betting money or points, you bet the members of your crew...and it seems our lovable idiot captain has found himself engaged in one," Petrea elaborated.
"Oh...okay. That's not as bad as I thought..." Greg took it all in.
"Yeah...but we may have accidentally revealed that Steven is an official Straw Hat pirate and he may be forced to compete lest we become members of Foxy's crew..." Usopp gulped, not really wanting to let Greg know how desperate of a situation they were really in.
"...what?!" Greg asked. "Are you telling me that Steven is the only thing standing in between you and losing the crew?"
"...yeah. Pretty much. So, can Steven come out to play?" Luffy smiled innocently.
"This...this...I..." Greg stammered uneasily. "This is heavy!"
"To be fair, I think Steven would get a kick out of it..." Damian pointed out. "It would be a pretty awesome birthday surprise."
"But what about my cake?!" Petrea whined. "It'll be ruined! I...IF YOU EVEN THINK OF TOUCHING THAT CAKE, I WILL BURY YOU!"
Luffy had finally noticed the cake and had started to make his way towards the box, eager to sink his teeth into it. He jumped away the second Petrea yelled at him, not wishing to incur her wrath. "Scary chocolate lady!"
"Well we aren't doing anything until we ask Steven. If Steven wants to participate, then who am I to deny the birthday boy?" Greg sighed. "Man, I know the Gems were working really hard on this. They'll be crushed..."
"They'll be crushed? What about me?! All my hard Cookie Cat work was for nothing!" Petrea continued to wail.
"...we could just bring the cake with us..." Usopp offered.
"Still, what do we tell Priyanka and Connie?! There is no way that..." Greg began before a knock on the door made him jump. "GAH! THEY ARE HERE!"
"You guys need to hide!" Damian shouted. "You do not want to piss that lady off!"
"OH NO!" Luffy panicked.
"...you guys are idiots. Don't you remember the one thing that Connie's mom values is honesty?" Petrea shook her head. "If you hide and lie to her, bad things will happen."
The men all opened their mouths to comment before conceding that the chocolatier was correct. The Maheswarans valued two things above all else: safety and honesty. This was turning far more complicated that Greg was expecting but he should have expected that with these pirates. He could never keep up with them, but he had a great time trying. He just didn't want to disappoint his son; be it being unable to see Connie or reuniting with his pirate friends. He knew there was a lot of stressful things going on in his life and he wanted to make sure that he at least had one perfect day.
"She's right. It's time to buck up and face it like a man," Greg gulped. "Wish me luck, fellows."
"Godspeed," they all saluted at once, causing Petrea to roll her eyes.
The elder Universe opened the door to the sight of Connie and her mother. Connie was wearing an adorable red dress and holding a wrapped present for Steven. Her mother, however, was just wearing her doctor's coat and was holding what appeared to be a defibrillator. Greg looked down at the device and discovered he lost the ability to form coherent words. "I...uh...that..."
"Hello to you too, Greg. I see you've found the defibrillator," Priyanka smiled. "It is just a precaution but one can never be sure when you are out in the wilderness."
"Uh...if you say so?" Greg returned it with a weak smile of his own. "Um...you look nice, Connie."
"Thank you, Mr. Universe! Is...is everything okay? You seem like you are going to have a panic attack," Connie asked, clearly concerned for her best friend's father.
"Um...well, you see..." Greg finally took a deep breath and opened the door. "See for yourself."
The Maheswarans looked inside, confused at first, until their eyes landed on Luffy and Usopp. Priyanka jumped back in shock and Connie ran over excitedly. "Captain Luffy! Usopp! What are you guys doing here?!"
"Connie! Connie's mom! Hi!" Luffy waved as he found himself caught in a hug. "We need Steven's help in a game to save our crew! You should totally come too!"
"Are you looking for someone to share in a great adventure, Luffy the Gray?" Connie chuckled.
"'Luffy the what?'" Luffy asked confused.
"It's nothing..." Connie waved it off. "So, what kind of a game are you guys involved in? What..."
"Connie!" Priyanka said sternly. "Let your mother do the talking!"
The Maheswaran matriarch made her way to Luffy and eyed him up. She glanced over to Usopp, who backed away nervously. The other two, Petrea and Damian, looked somewhat frazzled but it was clear that they were waiting to see what would happen next. "While it is good to see you all again, I must admit it is setting off several red flags. What exactly is going on here? You are taking Steven back to that Grand Line place for a game, you say? Does Steven know about this? Did YOU know about this, Greg?"
"Nope! This just kind of happened by itself a couple of hours ago!" Luffy explained. "We have an hour to bring Steven back or else we have to join that split-head's crew!"
"...I'm going to pretend that I know what you are talking about. Are you telling me that instead of a weekend at a barn, you want Steven and my daughter to be in your world playing some weird party game?" Priyanka pried.
"...yes?" Luffy shrugged.
"And is it dangerous?"
"Well there is a combat match, but that's just me and split-head. The other matches are just games...I think. I'm not gonna lie, I don't know," Luffy admitted. "But I don't want to lose my crew or forswear Steven! I'd rather die!"
"As admirable as that might be, you have just asked my daughter to join you in another dimension where I will not be able to come to her aid," Priyanka looked to Connie and then to Luffy. "You do realize that, don't you?"
"Why don't you come too? Didn't you want to watch her sword train or something?"
"In a controlled environment, young man! This is completely different!" Priyanka tapped her foot as she had an internal struggle within herself. "I...I can't believe I'm about to say this but...is there any way that Connie could just WATCH instead of participating in the game if it was even the slightest bit dangerous?"
"What?" Greg, Damian, and Usopp said at once in disbelief.
"Get out," Petrea blinked in surprise.
"Mom...are you serious?!" Connie's jaw dropped. "You would actually consider letting me go with them?!"
"Only if Steven's guardians were there as well!" Priyanka rubbed her temples in anguish. "I...I don't know how comfortable I feel with this, but I promised to trust you more and I promised you time with Steven for his birthday. I can't renege now after that."
"Why don't you just come too?" Luffy asked again innocently. "I can make sure that they know you two aren't part of my crew!"
"Unfortunately, I work this weekend...and Doug is out at a conference and can't be reached for a few days..." Priyanka sighed. "This is hard for me, but I want to be a good mother and being a good mother means letting go from time to time. I'm putting a lot of trust in you, Connie. Promise me that you will take care of yourself!"
"Ye...yes, mom! Of course!" Connie started to tear up. "I'm going on an adventure!"
"ALRIGHT!" Luffy cheered. "WE'VE GOT CONNIE! WE'VE GOT CO..."
"However, there is one other condition, young lady!" Priyanka added sharply. The people in the house held their collective breaths, curious to hear the doctor's stipulation.
"What is it?" Connie gulped.
"You will bring the defibrillator, oxygen inhalator, extrication collar, cervical collar, valve face shield, disposable resuscitator, tri-panel knee immobilizer, arm slings, and the spare medical bag with you! I may not be there, but I am sure that the nice reindeer can figure out the advanced technology without a problem," Priyanka told her flatly. "Are there any objections?"
"Not at all, mom!"
The woman shifted her gaze to the others, who quickly agreed. The only one who didn't was Luffy, but that was mainly because he had no idea what any of that stuff was. "Uh...is that all doctor stuff?"
The elder Maheswaran took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes. Yes, it is. Your doctor will know just what to do with most of the equipment."
"Then let's get Steven here so we can win Chopper back!" Luffy grinned like crazy while Priyanka failed to catch the comment about Chopper. "So, where is this barn?"
"About a half hour drive out," Greg scratched his head. "I don't know if that's enough time to get Steven and come back..."
"Don't they have a warp pad there? Oh, what about Lion? Isn't he with them? Couldn't he teleport them here or something?" Petrea suggested.
"Not a bad idea," Greg nodded and frowned. "You know we still haven't even asked the birthday boy what he wants to do yet, right?"
"Steven doesn't know about this yet?" Connie asked.
"Not at all. Nobody does over there. We aren't going unless he gives the word…" Greg sighed. "I guess there's only one thing to do."
The musician ruffled through his pockets and pulled out his cell phone. He pressed a few numbers and put the phone to his ear. After waiting a minute, Greg began to speak. "Hey, birthday boy...yes, Connie is here...um...sport, I've got a weird question for you...how set are you on having your party at the barn?"