Summary: When King Kold meets a grizzly end, the notorious Ginyu Force(™) are unwittingly drawn into a sinister plot involving the rapacious Lord Frieza, the beautiful Saiyan Ambassador, Bra Briefs, and even the capital's Supreme Governor/Monarcher of Monocles, Queen Dodoria.
In a desperate race against time, the Ginyus embark on a steam-powered adventure that will take them from the grass plains of Namek to the foggy streets of UnLundun, and a quest that will lead Captain Ginyu to answer some soul-searching questions, namely: does he really suit a handle-bar moustache, or should he opt for a more modest "Regent" style?
A steampunk parody of DBZ, replete with airships, automatons, locomotives, crackpot detectives in deer-stalkers, and so many Victorian stereotypes you'll think you're in an opium den.
(Recoome wanted to tell the story of the time he dressed up as a sexy Frenchman and seduced a mermaid, but we keep telling him that wasn't a mermaid - it was a manatee in a pair of Captain's best bloomers, and he was right pissed off.)
The Black Flag
Gas lamps flared in the city of Scrum. They illuminated alleyways, pushed back the shadows, spurned the thieves and murderers, all of whom had been happily minding their own business before the thrum of a dirigible's steam engine rippled down the street. In Scrum, to be a thief or a murderer was as much a respectable profession as any other, like a doctor or a lawyer – although lawyers were somewhat further down the ladder of respectability and doctors are hard to come by (most end up stabbed).
King Kold was dying.
Or that's what they said.
Mind you, they said a lot of things. Jeice never knew which things to believe. Or who they were. This required the ability to think outside the box a bit, or at the very least an attention span that was not continuously thwarted by reflective surfaces. But truth be told, Jeice was a few dragon balls short of a wish. The only subjects he had ever come close to excelling at were Thievery, Rumbuggery and Cow-tipping, all of which required little attention, a strong arm for stabbing, and the ability to sneak up on dormant bovine.
Scrum Elementary had a very diverse curriculum that extended to Piracy, Horn-Swoggling and even for the adventurous few, Haute Couture (he was no Burter, but Jeice did pride himself on his braid trims). When he'd been of age, Jeice had landed a nice apprenticeship in the Pirates Guild and sailed the world, gaining crewmanship aboard the notorious Captain Ginyu's airship, The Merry Milk-Dud. On his adventures, he had learned three very important lessons: never piss over the side of a ship during a squall, never trust a whore with a mono-brow, and never, ever get caught. The Kold Imperial Family wasn't kindly disposed to criminals. The Kold Imperial Family wasn't kindly disposed to anyone, least of all themselves if the news of King Kold's poisoning and imminent death was anything to go by. Criminals, especially those who worked outside of the Guilds, put the gentry's nose right out of joint. They did not like the competition. And if the Kold Family did not like you, frankly you were sodded.
As far as he was concerned, he'd be better off interrupting the Captain's private time than winding up in an Ice-jin oubliette. (...okay, so he'd learned four important lessons.)
A throng of onlookers milled around the edges of the airfield as the royal airship drew closer, the carriage of its underbelly now hovering mere inches above Scrum's uneven, higgledy-piggledy mess of rooftops and cobbled streets. The ship looked like some kind of massive primordial beast bathed in shadow. The customary royal Ice-jin colours of purple, white and gold were now mostly replaced with black banners flapping ominously in the wind. All but one banner flying the royal colours remained at the stern of the ship, from which King Kold's profile gazed solemnly out. The canvas fluttered in the wind like a feeble heartbeat.
The airfield was essentially a large grassy square situated in front of a stately manor rumoured to house the youngest of the Imperial Kold family, Lord Frieza. What a gentleman of Lord Frieza's rank was doing on an island like Scrum in the heart of pirate-invested waters was anyone's guess. Official proclamations stated that he had been selected as part of a special committee sent by Queen Dodoria of Un-Lundun to "clean up" the southern islands, though all Frieza had really done was introduce capitol punishment via the introduction of institutionalised marriage.
Jeice stared at the banners of the not-yet-dead King. His noble chin was tilted high and his shrewd, black eyes squinted out at the on-looking crowds while the royal dirigible made its final descent.
"Blimey," Jeice whistled over the whirr of the propellers. "There's a chin you don't see every day. You could stick a whole doubloon in that cleft of Kold's. S'like a dwarf's buttocks, that is. Why's it noblemen get that cleft in their chin, anyhow? Is it somethin' to do with them being royalty, like how princes are born with blue blood and stuff?"
"Shut up, you dolt," Captain Ginyu snapped, which was the only way he ever replied to one of his rigger's idle curiosities. For an idiot, the boy thought too much, and a thinking idiot irked Ginyu more than anything. Any normal idiot would just point and grunt, but Jeice – he had a mouth on him. More than once, Ginyu had been tempted to sew it shut before it did some real damage, for thinking, he knew, was contagious.
There was a sound like rumbling thunder as Recoome pointed and grunted at the procession, which had come to a halt on the steps of the Royal Palace.
"Here, look. It's landed, innit," said the hulking man, with a second grunt for good measure. Recoome looked like the sort of person who swallowed ten ostrich eggs before breakfast and brushed his teeth with a wire scrubber.
"Very astute, Recoome," the Captain muttered, rolling himself a cigarette.
"Who in the Kais' names do you think managed to pull one over old Kold's eyes?" asked Burter, a tall lean Saurian who had the sort of physique that you could excuse him for walking about the place topless all the time. "Kold's a cunning old codger and make no mistake. Remember Captain Chicken? Queen Dodoria's peelers never could pin his murder on Kold. I wonder who got close enough to do him in…"
"Bet you anything it was Salza who got contracted," said the shortest of their party, a round, green-skinned Bas-jin who rather resembled a sprout with four eyes. "Slickest assassin in the seven kingdoms – everyone wants his number."
"Can't be that slick if everyone knows him," Burter observed lightly.
Jeice gave an exaggerated shudder. "I don't like that guy. He's mental."
Guldo sniffed. "Eccentric."
"Eccentric in a mental way."
"How many times do I have to tell you to keep that mouth shut?" Ginyu growled. "It doesn't matter who's poisoned him. What matters is who's up for the job after Kold's pushing up the daisies."
The Saurian nodded solemnly. "I sure wouldn't like to see Frieza on dear old daddy's throne. You hear the rumours about what happened to his brother last year? Nasty way to go, the acid swamps."
Recoome nodded. "Yep. Lemme tell you one thing, kiddies - with the King of the ring dead, swing time's over."
"Well he ain't dead yet, is he?" said Jeice.
Recoome looked at him, puzzled, then hummed thoughtfully (Ginyu glared at Jeice). "Well. Maybe he's just dead punctual?" He paused, snorted, then chuckled at his own pun and punched Guldo's shoulder. "Heh, dead. Geddit? Geddit?"
Guldo rubbed his shoulder and glared all four eyes at the giant, while Jeice retorted, "It's not punctual, mate. It's pre-punctual. It's flippin' morbid, is what!" It didn't cross his mind to think that morbid was a funny word for him to use, considering the line of work he was in often left his unfortunate clients whimpering, 'I-I'll give you all my money, just don't explode me!' "Seriously, what next? We all gonna camp out here an' have a countdown? Hold hands an' cheer 'hip hip hoorah, the bastard's finally dead'?"
There was a short pause while Burter, Guldo and Recoome exchanged looks.
"Well I'd be down for that."
"Can we get snacks?"
"I call marshmallows!"
Jeice paused, then shrugged with a grin. "Actually yeah, a'right. I'll get the crackers."
The alabaster walls of Lord Frieza's manor house glittered silver and gold under the light of the twin moons and torch-lit procession following on the heel of the airship. A purple flag was hung from the western-most tower at the same time a palanquin was carried from the airship into the stately building.
"It'll turn black when he's dead, right?" said Guldo, staring up at the flag hanging from the high window. "How long do you think he'll take, Captain?"
The Captain was silent as he stroked his comically large handle-bar moustache, his stern gaze fixed on the manor house. He liked to imagine he cut a rather solemn and enigmatic figure, caught as he was between the deep shadows and the flickering lights from the funeral procession. The moustache was working a treat.
The Ginyus exchanged another glance. Their Captain was always trying on new looks. He'd been so furious with his last five Wanted posters that he'd tracked down the artist and fed him to a shoal of cantankerous and improbably large blobfish. Horrid way to go. Finally, Jeice coughed awkwardly and tried to fill the silence.
"I reckon an hour or so. Might place a bet down the bookies later, eh Burt-" Jeice squinted at the window. "Here, who's that then?"
A shimmersilk drape had been pushed aside for a pale, heart-shaped face to peer out the window at the on-looking crowd. She was beautiful, despite the grimace on her face. Her hair was long and aqua blue, and her eyes held a regal quality about them - the kind of haughtiness Guldo always aimed for, but just made him look like he'd sat on something unpleasant.
For a moment, Jeice thought the girl's eyes had met his for the briefest of seconds, before realising they were looking beyond him. The Captain? He frowned and cast a quick look at the Captain behind him, but Ginyu's hard eyes were still on the King's premature funeral procession meandering down the street in a thing, sluggish line. Probably looking to see if anyone had noticed his new moustache yet.
Burter frowned, raising an eye-ridge at his friend, half tempted to wave a hand in front of the smaller man's eyes as they flicked back and forth between the window and their Captain, like a spectator at a tennis match. "Hey, Jeice? You okay? I told you not to eat that thing at the back of the ship earlier…"
Jeice snapped towards him. "As if. Guldo barfed that up."
"I did not barf that up - that was dinner, you heathen." Guldo sniffed portentously. "De-constructed Poached eggs and organic potatoes with savoury choux pastry." He gave Jeice a sidelong sneer with all four eyes. "That's Pommes Dauphines, to you."
Jeice blinked. "What the hell does that even mean? You nicked some eggs, then couldn't be arsed to assemble them into something edible?" He shoved a finger into Guldo's face and snarled. "And who're you callin' a Pom, yeh four-eyed creep?"
"Quiet!" Captain Ginyu threw the stub of his cigarette on the road and motioned to his crew. "Let's go. I'm not hanging around until that son of a bitch croaks his last."
"How about heading over to The Tilted Wig?" Recoome proposed, eagerly. "I have a thing for that little Launch girlie. She kept making eyes at him last time, right Cap?"
The Captain gave him a sidelong glance. "That's because you were chewing on a table-leg."
"And then she brought out that musketoon," Guldo added, miserably.
Recoome grinned at the memory. "Aw yeah. I love it when they shoot at me."
They left the bustling crowds, Jeice trailing slowly after them in order to catch one last glance at the girl in the window, but the drape had fallen back into place and she was gone.
He was so caught up in the empty window and the memory of the girl's shrewd eyes on the Captain that he failed to notice the changing of the flag from purple to black.
King Kold lay stony and silent in his bed. His last breath seemed to echo throughout the halls of the manor house. Ambassador Bra, Princess of Vegeta, was kneeling by the king's bedside, her jaw set in a grim line. She was accompanied by her usual two handmaidens, but had refused the offer of a chaperone or guard.
It would be so easy to reach out and snap her neck.
Instead, Lord Frieza laid a hand on her shoulder. "A great loss to the seven kingdoms, my dear, but an even greater loss of the heart, I think." He paused for dramatic effect. "I can only hope to serve my land as faithfully as my father did."
He smiled, but it was not an endearing smile by any means; rather, it was the smile of a Scrum mugger, having just spotted a lonely merchant taking a short-cut through a dark alleyway that he knew came to a dead end.
The grip on her shoulder tightened.
Ambassador Bra pulled away, stepping angrily to her feet. "You might be able to charm everyone else in your self-serving cabinet, Lord Frieza – but don't think you can pull the wool over my eyes." She strode towards the door, her shrouded handmaidens hastily skittering after her, then paused, adding firmly, "If you think the throne is yours, you are sorely mistaken. I will personally see to it that Queen Dodoria puts an end to you if it's the last thing I do."
Then she turned and left the dead King's chambers.
Frieza's fixed smile slithered off his face and his red eyes narrowed at the now empty doorway. "It is a great pity when beauty is wasted on common women such as our dearly beloved Lady Bra. Perhaps she'll burn at the stake with a little more dignity."
"Indeed, Sire." The Prince's Right Hand inclined his head, then asked tentatively, "What do you think she could have meant by-"
"Isn't it obvious, Zarbon?" Frieza laughed bitterly, leaning down to clasp his father's icy chin between two fingers. "My dear father has managed to deceive me one final time before travelling on the long road down. He has planted a seed of suspicion in that girl's head which has led her to doubt my good reputation. No doubt she will gather intel and send a report to Un-Lundun imminently. And without Queen Dodoria's trust and formal concession," his expression contorted bitterly and he sneered at Kold's empty black eyes, "I will not be King."
Zarbon's delicate mouth opened in surprise. "But…Surely, my Lord is next in line for the throne? There are no other competitors, save for your son, and I am led to believe Kuriza is... no longer an issue. Ambassador Bra is merely attempting to corner you into a-"
Frieza raised a hand. "It will be dealt with."
Zarbon shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "But Sire, after your brother's disappearance and your father's death- if anything were to happen to Ambassador Bra, the people are sure to suspect a hand other than King Vegeta's…"
"Naturally." Frieza smiled. "Then we shall name one. Perhaps this will work in my favour, Zarbon. Ambassador Bra is a rising star in Queen Dodoria's court these days. Imagine how angry they'll be when they find her murdered by mysterious agents."
He bent down and laid a kiss on the King's brow.
"Perhaps even angry enough to start a war."
Cannon fire split the night to mark King Kold's passing, mixing with Scrum's soundtrack of musket ki-arms and pirates along the docks singing rude shanties out of tune.
When Frieza stood again, his countenance had changed entirely. He smiled brightly at his manservant and clapped his hands together. "Now be a dear and fetch me a glass of warm milk and an éclair. I know I shouldn't ruin my diet, but after all the drama of inter-family murder and intrigue, I'm feeling rather saucy!"
Zarbon bowed. "Yes, my Lord. But at least let me use skimmed milk."
"Oh, alright." A small pout formed on Frieza's lips, which was really unsettling to see on a man who'd just murdered his father. "Really, Zarbon. You're such a bore."
"True, my Lord."
"You need to lighten up a bit."
"Indeed, my Lord."
"Do you have any family members you need disembowelled? We never do anything social together outside of work."