Ten: Name Calling

I looked cross-eyed at the trellis, thinking something along the lines of 'why me' coupled with 'am I really this stupid'. Actually, I think Zoro was on that thread too. It's pretty fair to say that, at this particular moment, he and I were rather whipped.

Nami began to fuss about how neither one of us was climbing. I made the first move, grabbing hold of the rotted wood and testing it. It seemed sturdy enough. I wedged my right foot into one of the gaps and lifted myself up successfully. With a burst of pride, I reached up again, kicking off firmly with my right foot.

And falling, quite suddenly, back to earth, cross eyed once more. I was glad right then that Zoro was to my blind side and I couldn't see his expression. I'm rather afraid that if I had, I would have chased him off into the quicksand. I heard Nami's strained titter behind me.

"It gave." I said stiffly, rising to my feet. I picked at the place in the trellis that had been ripped away. Zoro tapped the wall tentatively before pulling back his fist and sending it straight through. His hand came back with the dusting of plaster. He secured his foot in the hole, pulled himself up and, using the foot with the boot, he kicked open another foothold. I scowled at him as he crept along vertically.

Upon reaching the top, he became stuck. Now caught on the jagged trim, his struggling rear was the only part of him visible; my white and red sneaker flailing around in his black pants and solitary boot.

Nami and Usopp turned their respective gazes to me. I swallowed hard and rubbed my eyes before scrambling up the wall myself.

"That you pretty boy?"

"Want someone else to save your ass, moron?"

"Yes. Make sure she's topless. And has a huuuuuuge gun and -- "

My hand managed to collide with Zoro's rear. I felt upwards as he began to cuss, straining to grab a hold his belt and keep my footing. I pulled him down roughly, his hands catching on the ledge at the last second. I coiled myself together, launching myself the extra two feet that Zoro had not. I crashed rudely into a varnished floor, sliding across it on the back until the friction of my sweaty hands brought me to a stop.

I tried to stand, slipping on the slick flooring, and -- wait, varnish? I peered down at the floor and my own reflection peered right back at me. I blinked, it did likewise. I saw Zoro running a finger across a board, looking for dust.

"'S fuckin' weird." He muttered, shaking his shoulders. "This place is insane."

"Is there anything up there?" Nami's voice reached us. I moved quickly to lounge over the trim, smiling lazily.

"Princess, there's a whole palace for you up here."

She scowled at me. "Then haul me up."

Zoro shoved me aside roughly, his tether now had a complex looking knot spun into a foothold on the bottom. I heard him laugh something about my being a poofter (he's rather lucky that I didn't hear the whole of that) and then ordered me to haul up our rather cowardly companion. The poor boy was trembling in his boots, his hand holding firmly to his belt. I noticed for the first time that the belt was loaded with different munitions; I made note to watch my back around him.

As our trek mounted this treacherous slope, we sat down and began to plan again. Obviously the second floor was stucturally safe; so, naturally, the first must still have supports holding it up, but this said nothing about the flooring. There was a staircase located to our immediate left and it appeared solid. Usopp began to dig through his bag.

"What the hell is that?" I blurted out. He glanced warily at us three.

"It's a modified Colt pistol. I figured it was fitting."

"What kind of idiot are you?" Nami spat. "That's not safe."

Usopp rankled his nose. "I know. That's why it's modified; it shoots bee-bees." He took a twist of brown paper from his belt and shook it; the little metal balls sounded dully.

"Why modify a Colt?" Zoro asked. "That's like...killing Jesus."

Usopp shrugged. "It was broken anyways. Besides, I get better shot close range with a munition that really doesn't do anything but bruise. I got a collapsible air rifle in there too." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder to his bag. "Don't touch it."

"Now that we have weaponry out of the way," Nami ploughed on ahead, "The staircase to the left should lead to bedrooms, parlors, whatever, meant for the residents. To the right, there should be a trap door." She shifted the map and pointed out the barely there illustration. "There are two tunnels within the walls of the northern wing that would lead from the kitchens to the ballroom. The trapdoor, obviously, intended to run food to parties more efficiently. Seems like it was added as a last minute thing, though." She unfurled a secondary floor plan. "See, here, there's not even a mention of the north wing existing. That's six months before the foundation is laid.

"And here," she motioned at the other floor plan, "When the house is successfully rebuilt and the land surveyed, there's a northern area that is prominent and continues to expand until the house is painted in..." Her eyebrows knit together as she smoothed out. "Eighteen fifty seven, there's no more plans after that."

"Didn't they uprise in forty nine?" Zoro was fishing in her bag. "I know I stuck your timeline in here somewhere."

Nami narrowed her eyes and gave him the full on ice princess glare. He slowed down. "What?"

"Yes, forty nine. Put down the bag."

He shrugged. "So, forty nine, last uprising that's pre-Civil War. Fifty seven is the last time the image of the manor is put down on paper. Then sixty one to sixty five you've got the war raging and all they know what's going on is that the slaves trash the property and then are rewarded the lots in Sherman's what-ever-it-is. Obviously, no one's keeping track of them."

Usopp raised his hand before taking off in an nervous tone. "That's 'cos on one's gonna give a damn 'bout anyone with a different color skin 'til the civil rights movements. All I've ever been told is that this place is cursed worse than you can imagine -- being that it's a place where God's law was so violated by shacklin' men to the chattel and workin' them to their deaths. As well as goin' back on what's said t'be an honest word."

I saw Zoro draw in his breath, ready to refute this, being a Yank as he was. I flicked his shoulder.

"This isn't your ground." I said slowly. "Here's it's real. Not like your northern cities."

"If you think I'm ill-informed about slavery," Zoro said through his teeth, "Then you can go fuck off."

"Please, like you're in any position to tell me what to do."

"I think I am, seeing as I'm the one with the sharp objects and, well, you're not."



"Where the hell did you learn that?"

"...I think at school."

"Oh, that's great."

"Isn't it? You're so damn red."

"Fuck you, want to know how stupid you look with two different shoes?"

"Well, -- "

"Well, I'm going down. Coming Usopp?"

The boy shifted his gaze between myself and Zoro to Nami. He chose Nami, holstering his odd weapon and shouldering his bag. We blinked stupidly before scrambling to our feet and hustling down the hatch after them.

It was cold and it was dark. I felt the mold creeping up my nose as I descended last. I fell to my knees, the spongy, rotten floor boards leaking water through the knees of my pants. After a quick search, I lit up one of our remaining flashlights. The light barely penatrating the thick, soupy veil of darkness on the tunnel. I rose slowly. I was able to stand up fully, being only in slight shorther than Zoro.

I tested the wood warly, feeling rather foolish for letting everyone plunge in headfirst tether free. It seemed to hold, and we pressed forth to the kitchens. I checked my dimly glowing Timex; we had four hours left.

Note: I'm not sure, but I think that a Colt was one of the choice pistols of the era (Wikipedia is giving me hell and we didn't go into depth on arms and munitions, so my notes don't cover it), the Winchester being the rifle of the Civil War. I don't if you can modify a Colt, but I should think that Usopp could do it.