The Six Phases Of A Project
"Colonel Smoker! We've caught the famous pirate Roronoa Zoro!"
Smoker looked up from his cigar. "You've what?" he said in tones of disbelief. "And keep your voice down before the lieutenant hears."
The Marine saluted. "He's not carrying any swords, and he's wearing glasses, and he's dyed his hair, and he's disguised as a woman, but we're sure that it's him! He was with Hawk Eye Mihawk!"
Slowly Smoker took the cigar out of his mouth. "And you. Caught. Him," he said, in tones of deep and sincere disbelief.
The Marine banged his hand against his forehead again. "Well, he said he was coming along with us to sort out this entire ridiculous situation, but clearly he was terrified of our overwhelming odds."
Grimly Smoker lit a second cigar. He was going to need it.
"And the name of this beautiful lady is?"
"Lieutenant Tashigi of the Marines, and you are under arrest."
"Might I ask why?"
"Destruction of property, public brawling, assault, battery, and general suspicion."
"Ah. Does this have anything to do with the way that your friends were calling me Hawk Eye something or other?"
"Don't be ridiculous. I can tell that you're not Hawk Eye Mihawk. Your swords are completely different."
"My dear young woman --"
"I'd be delighted to accompany someone who knows their blades so well."
"Oh. Thank you."
"But, sir," the Marine protested as he followed Smoker, "the reports said that he was with someone who was clearly Hawk Eye Mihawk! Bare chest! Beard! Flashing eyes! Huge swords! High alcohol consumption!"
"He was merely unshaven," the young woman sitting in the centre of the room said. She had been festooned with various manacles and restraints, and was wearing them with the air of one who mollifies the little children before spanking their little bottoms. "I was not aware that it was a persecutable offense in this vicinity."
Smoker glared at the Marine until he flinched. It took approximately 0.000435 seconds. "Idiot. First, this is a woman. Secondly, it's not Roronoa Zoro anyhow. Thirdly . . ." He threw up his hands in disbelief.
"But we asked him -- her -- if she was with the notorious maniac causing havoc in the bar, and she -- he -- said he was her Captain!"
Smoker raised an eyebrow and turned back to the prisoner.
"I came along with you," the woman said icily, "strictly so that my Captain could finish his annual rum purchases without being inconvenienced. In fact, your precise words were, 'Er, I'm terribly sorry, sir, would you kindly consider coming along for questioning if we don't get in your way and --'"
"Luring the guilty party in with suitable wiles, sir," the Marine said loudly. "Attempted to confiscate guilty party's blade but desisted due to high number of broken wrists and other injuries."
Smoker looked at the woman.
Smoker lit a third cigar. "Marine. Unchain the prisoner."
The Marine quailed. "Sir -- with all due respect, she might break my wrist."
"Use suitable wiles," Smoker recommended.
Search for the Guilty
Tashigi was aware that the mysterious stranger was only following her because she'd said she'd help him find his "beautiful, lovely, slender as a willow" assistant.
The way that all the Marines were looking at her knowingly wasn't helping the situation. It was the one who finally gave her a meaningful wink that tipped her over the edge.
She grabbed him by the collar and swung him up against the wall, dangling him off his feet. "There are no women in the Marines!" Tashigi shouted in the Marine's ear. "There are no men in the Marines! There are only Marines! There is neither male or female, there is only the pure and undiluted quest for justice!"
Her guest coughed. "I'm sure he would answer you if only he were able to breathe, Lieutenant. And you know, there's someone I really should introduce you to . . ."
Tashigi let the Marine drop and glared down at him. "Do you know anything about a mysterious female prisoner?"
"Gah urk --"
"Slender as a willow," the guest said, demonstrating improbable proportions with his hands, "with flashing eyes behind glasses of purest crystal, skin as white as jade, hair like a crow's wing in winter, the grace of her movements imperilling a man's self-control with their sheer harmony and delightful elegance . . ."
The Marine pointed down the corridor.
"Right," Tashigi said, and led the way.
Punishment of the Innocent
Smoker stood back and watched the prisoner glare at the man in the pink robe whom Tashigi had just brought in.
"Ah!" The man strode forward. "My lovely Nanao-chan, how delighted I am to see you unharmed amid this nest of . . ."
He trailed off at the fixity of her icy stare.
"Had I known that you were in trouble and being arrested . . ."
Silence filled the room.
"If I hadn't been in the middle of comparing brandies with that delightful young fellow with the three swords . . ."
Tashigi grabbed the man by the collar of his pink robe. "Man with the three swords? Where?!?"
"The Gold Cannon Inn," he said helpfully.
With a wild cry of, "Roronoa Zoro, prepare to face justice!" Tashigi ran out of the room.
The prisoner resettled her glasses. "If you have quite finished dallying with the local female population and getting drunk, Captain --"
"Ah, my dear Nanao-chan. Our delightful friend informs me that there is neither male nor female in the Marines."
Praise and Honors for the Nonparticipants
Smoker coughed. "You two are leaving town?"
"Probably," the man said with a disarming smile.
"Absolutely," the woman said flatly.
"Have a nice day," Smoker said.
He went back into his office, lit a new cigar, and locked the door.
After that, the universe owed him five minutes uninterrupted smoking time.