RumBuggery!
Deliberations

When you wanted something done, it was proper protocol to start a quest. This applied to both heroes and pirates. After all, there was nothing in the rule book that stated a quest taken had to be a gallant or chivalrous one. A quest was a quest by the very nature of its undertaking. There was, for example, the infamous Quest for a Shanty undertaken by the crew of the self-proclaimed King of the Pirates, Captain Broly, who had grown so bored with their usual rowdy tunes that quite a lot of blood had been spilled during the arguments over which pirate shanty was the best, thus they determined to find an entirely new one.

Most of these dangerous quests left Captain Ginyu irritable, hungry and often in need of a new crew. Indeed he had been on so many quests during his pirating years that he had sworn them off for the foreseeable future. But Fate, who Ginyu decreed could be an interfering bastard, had other plans for him. From the moment he had been handed the summons from Lord Frieza, Ginyu had sniffed a quest on the horizon.

Frustrated and thirsty, the Captain stepped over the threshold of The Tilted Wig. It was quite empty. Most of the tavern's usual customers had either passed-out, passed away, or were banged up in the dungeons by mid-afternoon. In the corner a dusty old man was playing a dusty old fiddle. By the bar a pretty waitress, with deep blue hair the colour of the sea, was drumming her fingers on the bar, evidently waiting for a quest to find her.

Krillen, the bald-headed, bald-minded barman and proprietor of The Tilted Wig, was busy mopping up blood and bits of leftover customers from last night's nightly brawl (scheduled Mon-Fri eight to nine on weekends). He looked up at the sound of heavy footfalls and promptly let out a high-pitched shriek as the Captain's shadow fell over him like a black cloud.

"Ginyu! W-What are you doing here?" the small man stammered. "I told you, you're barred!"

Ginyu smiled like a lion and plonked his large hands on the small man's shoulders, turning him around. "Come, come now, we're both gentlemen here and gentlemen do not squabble over petty matters. Gentlemen discuss their differences over a nice whiff of port," he said, guiding Krillen non-too-gently and sitting him down at a wobbly table, then took a seat opposite. "After all, we can't all run around like hooligans, damn it all. Some of us must be civilised! Imagine the world if all of us was knocking each other around, eh?" He bellowed with laughter, a sound like a horn blown to raise the dead.

"Not much different to how it is now, I expect," Krillen muttered sullenly. "What're you after this time, Ginyu?"

"Captain," Ginyu corrected congenially, "if you please."

"Fine. What're you up to,Captain?" Krillen spat acidly. "'Cause whatever it is, I want no part of it."

He sighed dramatically. "Whatever did I do to earn such a bitter opinion, I wonder."

Krillen bent to pointedly remove one of Recoome's teeth embedded in one of the table legs. Ignoring the silent accusation, Ginyu leaned back into his chair and tapped his nose conspiratorially.

"I'm after information. Worry not, my small bald-headed chum. It's nothing that will get your neck in a noose."

"Yeah, right."

Ginyu waved an airy hand. "Naturally, I'll make it worth your while."

"I'm not interested in money."

"Ah,Women," the Captain said sagely, as though recalling some rare species he had once glimpsed while sailing past a tropical island.

"Like you'd know any decent ones," Krillen snorted. "And besides, I'm married," he said, then added, "Happily."

It was Ginyu's turn to look indignant. "Preposterous. No such thing." He fixed a very serious stare on Krillen's small black eyes and lowered his booming voice so that the barmaid and the fiddle player who had been eavesdropping almost had to strain their ears to hear him. "Then… perhaps a deal."

Krillen narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "What kind of a deal?"

"A contract. A gentlemen's agreement. I believe the vulgar common term is 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'," said Ginyu with an odd quirk of his lips. He may have been a pirate, but he liked to think of himself as a well-read, fine-bred gentleman of the sea and quite above such common language. It quite escaped his notice that he was a complete idiot. "There must be something you find yourself in need of."

Krillen scoffed at that. "Come off it, Captain. Why would I ever trust you? You're a pirate!"

"How very astute." Ginyu leaned into his chair with a thoughtful expression, twiddling his moustache and tapping one foot against the floorboards. "All right, I am a fair man and I can see we have reached an impasse of sorts. Therefore I am left with but one option." Ginyu leaned back across the table, a dark and solemn expression on his face. "We shall take The Oath. Will that warrant your trust?"

Krillen did sit straighter at that, his small eyes growing wide. He studied the Captain's face, evaluating his words and the truth behind them. He knew no pirate went against the Oath, nor made one lightly, especially not one so traditional as Ginyu. Wary, but now too curious for his own good, he nodded his agreement.

"All right, you got a deal."

"Splendid!"

In one motion, they linked pinkie fingers across the table and chanted together:

'Pinkie promise,
Cross my heart,
Lest I sniff
A dead man's fart.'

"This had better be worth it," said Krillen, cheeks tinged pink. He turned to the pretty waitress at the bar. "Launch – bottle of port over here, please!" The blue haired nodded smartly and brought over a bottle and two glasses thick with salty grime. When she left them, Krillen hunched over the table and asked, "Word has it you and your men are up at Frieza's big house. That true?"

Ginyu snorted. "News travels fast."

At first Krillen only nodded thoughtfully to himself. His small black eyes darted quickly and carefully around gloomy contours of the tavern. Then he signalled again to the waitress at the bar, who immediately perked up with a tight nod and went to the door, barring and locking it. After she closed the rickety wooden shutters and slipped quietly into a back room, Krillen reached into his waistcoat to procure a small device resembling two tuning forks embedded in some kind of complicated apparatus.

Curious, Ginyu leaned over the table to peer closer. "Great Scott, man, what on earth is that?"

The other man smirked. "This little beauty is an auditory resonance disruptor, shipped all the way from UnLundun," he preened.

"An odditory what?"

Krillen flicked one of the tuning forks and instantly the little device whirred to life and the tavern was filled with a low, buzzing noise like a swarm of bees. "It'll stop anyone overhearing anything we don't want them to overhear," he explained, tapping his non-existent nose.

Ginyu relaxed back into his chair and whistled, extremely impressed. He liked to pride himself on keeping up with modern steam-engineering and scientific advancement out of UnLundun, but this device had to be the very latest in snoop technology in order to have escaped his attention.

"And just how did an ex-monk come by such a thing? I mean to say, I'm sure an establishment as modern as this fine place brings good business," he said, gesturing sarcastically with a broad wave of his hand at the molluscs decorating the tavern's walls, "but let us be honest: such a gadget is a rare and expensive treat indeed. May I ask how you came by it?"

There was a long, heavy silence between them while Krillen fixed Ginyu with a steady, serious look. The tension was somewhat undercut by the old fiddle player in the corner who had begun plucking la Danse Macabre out of his instrument.

When Krillen spoke again, his voice was heavy with meaning, "My daughter is one of Ambassador Bra's handmaidens."

There was a pregnant pause; the music intensified.

"Ahh, I see." He didn't, but it wouldn't do to let the pub landlord know that. When you have no cards, hide your hands under the table.

Krillen continued, unaware of the Captain's complete ignorance. "Y'see, my wife and daughter are - were scientists working under the chairman of Queen Dodoria's scientific advisory committee, Dr Briefs. A lot of the stuff they were working on was top secret, but I was working as a head peeler in central UnLundun at the time and there was a lot of weird talk on the streets: word was Dr Briefs was working on a clockwork man: an automaton. My daughter was just an assistant engineer at the time, but I think my wife was more involved with Brief's work." He slumped in his seat, suddenly looking as if the weight of the world was boring down on his shoulders. "I never got the chance to ask her though. Around the time rumours began three years ago... she just disappeared."

Ginyu nodded sympathetically. "Ah well, women tend to do that." He topped up their drinks, making sure to pour himself an exceedingly more generous refill. "Can't let them get us down, what!"

"No, you don't understand, Ginyu - there was a break-in at Dr Brief's laboratory. The place was ransacked – documents, projects, and a whole team of scientists, including Brief and my wife, just vanished. Every investigation has come to a dead end, but the signs all point to one guy."

This time Ginyu followed perfectly well. "Frieza."

"But there's no proof," Krillen cried, hanging his head in his hands with frustration.

No wonder he was balder than a baby's arse. Ginyu wondered idly if this was an inappropriate time to ask for a coaster.

Krillen continued. "That's why Ambassador Bra and my daughter took up post here. Dr Brief's is Ambassador Bra's grandfather and, well, Marron just couldn't sit around waiting for news of another dead end investigation." He gave a wry laugh. "I didn't want her to. I mean I'm a proud coward, but my daughter's pretty single-minded like her mother. So I bought this place and the rest is history."

"Well this is all terribly interesting, but what do you expect me to do?" He picked up his goblet and swished the contents around. "You have my sympathies, dear fellow, but I have no interest in getting any more acquainted with Lord Frieza than I already am."

Krillen reached forward to grab his wrist. "I'm not asking you to investigate. I'm asking you to get my daughter out of there! Frieza's planning something big in Scrum. We've had more soldiers coming through the Wig's doors than ever, and not the usual dimwits either. Real tough, scary-lookin' guys." He swallowed thickly. "Look, if the Ambassador's in danger, so's my daughter and I can't lose Marron too. I-I won't." Fear trembled across his pallid face, but his expression was resolute. "Make sure she's safe, alright? Those are my terms, Ginyu. Get my daughter out of there and I'll get you anything you want."

Ginyu looked down at the grimy hand squeezing his own arm with distaste. "Now, now, no need for the dramatics, man," he said, extracting a pocket-handkerchief from his jacket and delicately removed Krillen's hand from his person. "I hear you loud and clear, and upon the Oath I shall take pains to keep an eye on your daughter and secure her well-being. You have my word as both a pirate and a gentleman."

Krillen rolled his eyes. "Ha, a gentleman.Right." He swallowed a mouthful of port, gagging at the sea water after-taste. "Let's face it pal, we're both the last option of desperate men. So what is it you want, Ginyu?"

The pirate Captain put down his goblet and clasped his hands together neatly on the table.

"My ship."

"Your ship?"

"That's what I said."

"Hold on, hold on." Krillen blinked at him rather stupidly, then bit his lip to hold a laugh back. "You're saying someone's stolen your ship? Your ship?"

Ginyu sniffed and blithely ignored the irritating smirk tugging at the corners of the other man's mouth. "If you want to be vulgar about it, in a manner of speaking, yes. And I spent far too much time and effort procuring that ship from the Earl de Buu-"

"Stealing it," Krillen cut in.

"- to have some chap come along and claim it for his own, damn it all! Pass the port."

"Well if that ain't poetic irony... Wait, hold on - I saw your ship in the harbour just a half-hour ago," said Krillen, dutifully topping their drinks up. "No one could've sailed off with it in that time, not even the King of Thieves."

"Ah!" Ginyu shouted, grinning. "And here we come to my point. How might one go about contacting the King of Thieves? I was led to believe you were an acquaintance of his. You know. Fellow who lives in the Deadly Deserts. Long hair. No ball in his canon, if you get my meaning. Thinks a flying cat follows him round. Nice port, by the by. Good age."

"Yamcha? Well, yeah sure. I know him." Krillen shrugged. "Crazy as a fruitbat, but good at what he does. He's been doing business around the Crooked Nook lately. Usually comes in here for a pint round six."

Ginyu stroked his chin musingly. "That so…that so…"

"I can arrange a meeting with him then, but man…I dunno if Yamcha will even chance anything round Scrum this week."

The ridges above Ginyu's red-tinged eyes rose. "Oh? Why might that be?"

It was the landlord's turn to look surprised. "Well isn't it obvious? There's a ball on in a couple nights - some big charity event at the manor house. If Frieza's going to make a move on Ambassador Bra, it'll be then. Hell, it's too perfect an op not to. Nice big public event, lots of distractions," Krillen gestured towards Ginyu without thinking, "and a bunch of gormless blockheads positioned to take the fall-" He squawked as Ginyu cut him off by covering his face with one large hand.

"That's quite enough of that, thank you."

It was one thing when he called his men a bunch of halfwitted, clownish, sycophantic cheese-mongerers, but it rather riled him up when someone else insulted his crew. He drummed the fingers of his free hand on the table, ignoring Krillen's muffled protests.

This was no good, no good at all. He was feeling increasingly more agitated. The mouthy ex-monk was right; Frieza would not pass up the golden opportunity of the very public alibi that tomorrow evening's ball would present him. But one other thing bothered him: if Krillen was correct in his belief that Frieza was behind the list of mounting disappearances, he was up to more than simply covering his hide for re-arranging messy family politics. There was a bigger plan in motion.

Still, the important question was where did this scenario leave he and his crew?

'Strung up like sardines, most likely,' he thought grimly, and downed another mouthful of port.

oOo

Saku Ookami was widely recognised as the worst adventurer who ever travelled the Seven Kingdoms. Merely bad adventurers had perhaps one or two near-death experiences along their travels. She scorned such amateurs. In the past year alone she had been hired seventeen times to guard various high ranking officials – five of them had been maimed in various bloody and imaginatively gruesome ways under her watch, four had been inspired to take up piracy, and the few who had survived working with her had turned to drink. She was now banned from six of the Seven Kingdoms, had caused several thousand doubloons worth of property damage, blew up a castle, worried a dragon, and had a bounty put on her head for stealing candy from the Earl de Buu. Truly, there was no beginning to her talents.

So the fact that she was well acquainted with Jeice of the notorious Ginyu Force surprised no one ever. Stupidity herds together.

They wound their way through the shadowy streets of Scrum, doubling back and around more than once until Saku was almost positive they had left their stalker long behind. It was easy enough to lose someone in the dank, creeping terraces around the riverbanks. The city was small, but its architects had been quite drunk when they designed it.

A light drizzle began to fall as they swung into the pawnbroker's section of the city. Saku tore a soggy Wanted poster featuring a very unflattering mug shot of her from the window of an antiques shop, while her companion complained bitterly about frizzy hair and some bloke called Zarbon who was apparently Frieza's right hand man, or lover, or sexy scullerymaid, who the hell cared? Plainly ignoring him, Saku reached into a pouch on her belt and pulled out a handful of tiny dark crystals that twinkled in the sunlight. Then, glancing surreptitiously around, she dropped them into an empty barrel on a street corner.

People always focused on her unconventional methods, she thought with a satisfied smirk, tuning out Jeice's heavily-accented whinging. Take the dashing Prince Trunks, for example. No faith in her at all! But when it came right down to it she got the job done. So she may have inspired a few starry-eyed royals to turn to piracy. In some places, like Scrum for instance, piracy was considered an aspiration. Property damage? Well, sacrifices had to be made. The castle had been an eyesore too and frankly the Earl de Buu needed to lose some weight. Nobody had died, not completely. And it was hardly her fault that some stupid dragon had underlying abandonment issues.

"But yeh know what really drives me mad about that little prick?" Jeice's voice cut into her thoughts.

"No, please, tell me again," she muttered dryly, scattering another handful of black crystals in a another barrel. The little pouch on her belt that she had acquired from old Baba was much lighter now. She checked the time on her pocket watch, then peered cautiously down the road leading back to town. The streets were oddly empty.

"The way how Zarbon's bloody hair blows in the wind every time he turns around like he's waiting for the Paparazzi to jump out at him," Jeice spat. "And then there's Princess Bra, Royal Bitch of Eternal Bitchery, who always looks like she just sat on a pinecone. Bet she's never even wiped her own arse. She probably has a handmaiden for that. And another handmaiden to flush the loo."

"Look, Jeice," Saku began, clapping a hand on his shoulder, "I like you, mate. If I didn't, I would have eaten you by now. But here's the thing: I don't care.And if you mention Princess Whats-her-tits or Zarbon's luscious locks one more time, I will literally dropkick you on your head."

Jeice's attention span was shorter than her temper, however, and her threats were going largely ignored when he spotted a bulging pouch on her belt. "Here, what is that stuff you got anyway?" he asked.

Saku avoided his gaze to study her cuticles. "What's what?

Jeice narrowed his green eyes at her. For an information dealer, she was a terrible liar. Even he wasn't gullible enough to fall for that.

"Right, Right... Ooo, blimey, look at that!" He pointed quickly to a spot on the far side of the street. "Free fried octopus samples!"

The werewolf spun around with a greedy look and Jeice instantly took the chance to lunge for the little pouch on her belt, snatching it up and dancing away gleefully.

"Hey, give it back!"

He shot her a smirk, twirling the little pouch around by its string tie. "Give what back?"

Saku growled, showing her pointed incisors. "The only thing that will stop me from wearing your insides like a hat."

Jeice cackled. "No chance, pet. You still haven't told me what you're doin' in Scrum, or why you were spyin' on us last night." He shook the bag in her face. "OR what's in this bag the old witch, Baba, gave you."

"Don't shake that, you idiot!" she yelped, scampering back to plaster herself against the far wall.

"Why?" Jeice eyed the bag curiously, shaking the contents again. When nothing happened, he looked at her oddly. "Seriously, what is this stuff? You've been dumping this crap in barrels all over town."

Saku gave a little embarrassed cough and replied innocently, "What barrels?" with the worst lying face since Guldo attempted to convince everyone he'd once been engaged to Princess Snake.

"THEM barrels." He pointed back down the street. "And the ones back down the street. You've been dumping that black stuff all about town since we left Baba's place."

She lowered her furry ears like a chastised mutt and gave a slight pout. "Man, you're unusually perceptive for a whiny idiot."

He snorted. "Yeah, well this whiny idiot promises if you don't tell me in the next ten seconds what this is all about, I will do whatever it is you don't want me to do with this bag of anonymous doo-doo." He shook the little pouch again to emphasise his threat.

Her eyes turned sharp and dark. "Trust me, pal. You reallydon't want to do that."

Jeice met her steady glare with his own. "I don't even know what I just said," he retorted sinisterly. "So try me."

Saku held his gaze for a while, judging the pirate's strength of character and will, sniffing the air to identify any scent of deception from his chemo-signals, and contemplating her own Divine Move. "Well then," she whispered darkly, "I guess we'll just have to settle this the old pirate way."

His gaze faltered a little, but he shot her a shaky smile. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess we will."

They took a cautious step towards each other, hands outstretched.

Ten seconds later, Saku was staring mournfully down at his fist clenched over her own two outstretched fingers. There was an infuriatingly victorious smile plastered across his handsome red mug.

"Sorry luv!" he cackled again. "Pirate canon beats pirate scissors."

"Whatever," Saku snapped grumpily. She considered calling for a best out of three, but the ancient maritime laws of Canon, Paper, Scissors had to be respected. So instead, she pointed behind him him and gasped dramatically. "Hey, isn't that your captain?"

"What? Where?!"

As Jeice spun around in a panic, she took the opportunity to step lithely forth and knee him in the belly.

It's a universal truth that no matter how skilled two fighters are, when you bring a pair of idiots together any skill set requiring their interaction looks no more coordinated or dignified than two drunk squirrels slapping each other around with a fish would. And so the street was treated to a rendition of personal insults so poetic in their structure and delivery, their dulcet tones would have made grown men weep.

"Gimme that back you smeg pot!"

"Back off you flat-chested dog!"

"You're such a baby."

"OW- don't punch those, they're fragile!"

"Trust me, I'm doing the world a favour."

They scuffled across the ground, a big tangle of messy limbs, hands grabbing unmentionables, and pulling at hair in an embarrassing display of idiocy. It would probably have gone on in this fashion for some time if Saku hadn't suddenly stopped. With Jeice's fist in her jaw and her own elbow buried in the side of his skull, she cocked her head to the side and listened with nervous twitching ears to the tiny, mechanical beats increasing in rapidity.

"Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"That ominous ticking bomb sound?"

Which was when the street exploded.

oOo

Pirates and their seedier ilk had many skill sets, ranging from a colourful repertoire of sea shanties, to the canny application of a knee to the groin in a fist fight. But if there was one skill pirates lacked in abundance it was stealth. They simply didn't have the stomach for it. Pirates were bold and lawless creatures who swept aboard rich cargo ships with a gleaming cutlass between their teeth and no mind for health and safety protocol. The idea of slinking about in the shadows like a rat went against everything a pirate believed in.

This all came in very handy for Agent Z as he shrugged the two unconscious bodies in a hessian sack over his shoulder. He was picking his way through the dockside towards a cluster of ramshackle warehouses on the west side of Scrum, having managed the short journey from town without a single inquisitive glance from passers-by. The only attention he drew was a polite nod from a fellow human trafficker, whose own sack was full of kicking and squawking inmates. Agent Z politely returned the nod. It was good to share a heavy burden through pleasantries with a stranger.

When he arrived at his destination - a particularly shabby looking warehouse long abandoned by the docksiders - Agent Z dropped the sack in a corner and impatiently waited for his captives to regain consciousness.

It happened all too quickly.

They were both gagged, but that didn't stop them from making a noise like a pair of rowdy fishwives. The werewolf was the first to emerge, with eyes burning like hot coals as they swivelled towards him. Agent Z wasn't concerned. Werewolves weren't to be trifled with, but he had come prepared; his disguise would fool even his own mother. He wore goggles with thick dark lenses as well as an ornate gold and teal embossed Plague Doctor mask to conceal his facial features. A little string bag of strong-smelling herbs hung around his neck (pomegranate seed and lilac bush with just a hint of lavender). That would put the werewolf's keen nose out of joint.

When the orange-skinned Ginyu pirate emerged from the sack, Agent Z drew a ki-pistol (a beautiful long wheel-lock pistol with ivory stock and gold inlays) from a concealed silk thigh holster. This he levelled calmly at the young man's head.

"Good evening, Ms Ookami, Mr... Jeice, was it?" he greeted them politely. His voice was soft and mild-mannered. Even when one was pointing a gun at a foe's head, there was no excuse for rudeness. "Before I blow your heads off, perhaps you'll do me the favour of explaining your little rendezvous in the market square this morning?"

They gave him a bit of a collective blank look. Agent Z sighed and removed their gags.

The werewolf took deep, greedy gulps of air before glaring at him. "Do you have anyidea what it was like in that sack? He farted twice, you know."

The pirate scowled at her. "Oi, you can't prove that!"

Agent Z calmly took a seat atop an overturned barrel in front of them, and issued a very tight smile. "I'm sorry the mode of transport wasn't to your liking, but if you don't lower your voices I'll be forced to project you violently into the sea. Now if you'd be so kind." He waved the pistol at the Ginyu's head. "Explain yourself."

Jeice trembled. "What d'you want to know?"

The agent narrowed his eyes darkly, golden eyes glittering like hard jewels. "Everything."

"Everythin'?"

"Everything."

"Ok, I'll talk! Just don't explode me again!" Jeice wailed. "I'm a Leo, I like bacon sarnies without the crusts and when I was four my best mate was a pet worm called Goober. In fifth grade I cheated on my swashbuckling exam– ok, ok, I'm lying, I didn't make it to fifth grade! The worst thing I ever did was feed my aunt's pet emule a bag of dried rice and it started to blow up like a dirigible until it exploded, it was bloody horrible. And sometimes I go out on Fridays an' hang with the crew, and we do really stupid crazy shit like steal stuff and riding our bikes on the pavement, and drinking five litres of coloured milk in a oner so that when you puke it comes up like a rainbow. Oh an' this one time I dared Recoome to ride his bike under a triceratops to see if dinosaurs had pubes, and he did! Ride the bike, I mean, the triceratops didn't have pubes and I lost, like, fifty zeni, but I think it was worth it-"

Agent Z pressed the cold barrel of the pistol to his forehead and cocked the hammer. "My apologies, my trigger finger is allergic to verbal diarrhoea."

"In fairness," the werewolf drawled, "you did ask him. And he was more eloquent than usual."

"Yeah!" Jeice nodded fiercely. "Wait-what?"

Agent Z waved a hand, airily. "Yes, well, I'm an Aries. I'm sure you've heard about our famously short tempers." He pushed the barrel of the gun hard against the pirate's forehead. "Perhaps, Ookami, you will oblige me for the sake of your friend."

She sniffed. "I never oblige anyone." Nevertheless, she got to her feet smoothly and shook off the hessian sack from around her ankles. "Look, 'Agent Z', don't get your frillies in a twist. This one hasn't a clue what he's got himself mixed up in." She fixed the spy with a stony stare. "If anyone should be doing the interrogating round here, it's me. You was supposed to meet up with Trunks last night. What's yourexcuse?" Suddenly she paused, cocked her head to the side, looking thoughtful. "Wait, does the Prince have a codename too? Is Trunks his codename? It's gotta be, I mean who the hell would name their kid Trunks?"

Jeice goggled at her. "Someone named their kid 'Trunks'? Kami's pants, and I thought Bra was a bloody stupid name."

"Bra's his sister."

"Piss off, you're pulling my leg?"

Agent Z pinched the bridge of his nose and emitted a long suffering sigh. Everything on Scrum was caked in a layer of salt and grime. The damp sea air did nothing for his hair or his complexion, and spending any more time in this particular hole than was absolutely necessary put him in a very foul mood. Would it really put make any difference to his mission if he bumped these two goons off? Probably not, but there might be use for them yet. Honestly, what he didn't do for Queen and country.

"If you're quite done," he cut them short. "Regrettably I was unable to make my appointment with the crown Prince last night. It might have escaped your notice, Ookami, but King Kold has been murdered, Ambassador Bra has been targeted next, and should her death come to pass the Dodorian Empire will erupt into civil war."

Jeice whistled. "That was some nice exposition."

"Thank you," Agent Z inclined his head politely, then raised his pistol once more. "Ookami, you were hired as an information broker for the Saiyan family." He narrowed his eyes at Jeice. "But there seems to be an issue with whom you are brokering information to."

Jeice raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Saks, you're working for royals now? Movin' up in the world, girl!"

She flashed a grin. "I know, right?"

There was an awkward shuffling as the pair attempted a fist-bump with their bound hands. This was about the last straw Agent Z had in a barn of increasingly pissed off farm animals. He fired the pistol into the floorboards between them.

"Hey! Don't you know how to treat a delicate lady?!" Saku barked furiously, leaping away from the smoking hole by her feet. "I've been doing my job, it's youwe've been waiting around for." She tilted her chin towards Jeice. "He's on the Ginyu Force and, as you no doubt know, he'll be swinging by the end of the week if Frieza makes his move on Bra."

"Wait, what?" Jeice blinked. "Pardonne moi?"

Saku ignored him and continued. "You need to get the Princess out of the archipelago and back to UnLundun. And I suggest you do it sooner rather than later, cause I'm telling you now her brother's on the verge of crashing through the window swinging that flashy sword of his at Frieza's head."

Agent Z turned to pace the warehouse; these days he was in possession of a near constant frown and not for the first time he worried if the damage done to his complexion would be permanent. But some matters – very few, admittedly – came before personal maintenance. Still, it wouldn't do to let Frieza notice any change in his perfectly manicured, urbane appearance. Lord Frieza might have been a narcissist, but he was watchful and cunning. He never missed a trick. In his many years as a spy in Frieza's court, Agent Z knew how perilous and potentially temporary his situation was.

Frieza did have one glaring weak-point, however. It was one that Agent Z shared in abundance: the man was an outrageous snob.

He turned towards the werewolf and the pirate briskly. "Fine. If we're to outsmart Frieza we must come at him from the only angle he won't expect."

"A 180 degree angle?"

"What's an angle?"

Agent Z took a deep breath and bit his tongue. He motioned towards Jeice with his pistol once more, swallowed his bubbling temper, and continued. "Frieza's aim was to hire the Ginyus to act as bodyguards for Ambassador Bra, and later pin her death on your heads. He will target her two nights from now on the night of the Richégeetz Ball, but that is where you must turn the tables. After all, Frieza has little regard for the lower classes-"

"Oh, you did notjust call us lower classes, pal-"

"-Frieza will expect resistance from Trunks and his allies, not from a group of pirates he himself hired for his own means," the agent explained irritably. "On that night, you and your crew are to alight from the archipelago with the Ambassador." He holstered his pistol and walked purposefully towards the smaller man. "In the name of Queen Dodoria and the Dodorian Empire, I hereby charge you with the protection of Lady Bra, royal Princess and Ambassador for the Saiyan kingdom."

Both Jeice and Saku's eyes went wide and they spluttered together, "You what?"

A small, snide smile split the spy's face. "Perhaps it would sweeten the deal to know Queen Dodoria would no doubt offer a pardon to you, your Captain and his crew, for your services to the crown. Do we have a deal?"

Jeice stuck his red chin out, petulantly. "An' what if we don't?"

"Frieza will have you hanged, drawn and quartered." His honeyed voice was disconcertingly unperturbed by the idea.

"Right..." Jeice made a sour face. "So what you're saying is either we risk our lives goin' against Frieza or we don't and die horribly anyway?"

He shrugged. "Pretty much."

"...Yaaaay."

A mockingly polite clearing of the throat turned their attention to Saku, who, Agent Z noted quite disconcertingly, had managed to slip out of her wrist bindings. She raised a hand in a wave. "Hi, yeah, my common sense is tingling. You'll never be able to sneak Bra away from Frieza's big prom night without one of his jocks noticing," she pointed out. "I can provide a distraction that'll help the Ginyus on their way, but you need to get Bra out of the manor well before then."

Agent Z hated to admit it, but she was right. Frieza's armada was the fastest in the world. The Ginyus would need time to put some distance between their ship and the Crooked Nook well before Bra's disappearance was discovered.

"How about a decoy?" Jeice ventured, then snickered. "Zarbon would probably do."

"I'm positive he would not," Agent Z snapped, peevishly. "It's a little too late in the day to be looking about for a handy decoy. We're a little short on blue-haired Saiyan princesses in the archipelago."

"Actually," Saku began, eyes dancing, "that's not necessarily true. I might have just the person for the job."

oOo