The Dream Prison
AN: I digress. I'm giving Franky and Robin a much larger role than I planned. As unintentionally promised, each of the characters play a leading role in this story. And...there is blood in this chapter, and...
Who the hell knows where Luffy is?
Chapter Two: Chopper's Sadness
"So...it happened three years ago. A Marine ship crashed on the coast here during a storm, and they had a woman prisoner on board with them," Geremy was explaining to a group of half-listening pirates. "She was this nefarious pirate hunter they called Nightmare. She ate the berries from a Yume Yume no Mi which gave her the power to put people to sleep and control their dreams. Anyway, when the Marine ship crashed, she put the whole crew to sleep and ate their souls. Ever since—"
"Hey, brat," Zoro interrupted neutrally. "Story time can be after we rescue our crew. We're only interested in getting back to our ship and getting the hell out of here. Then you can have this shitty island all to yourself."
Sanjii made a disgruntled sound and flicked the butt of his cigarette away. Without the green glow of the Nightmare's prison, it was much darker inside the cave, and since Zoro had been extracted, the tremors in the ground were becoming more and more violent. "It's getting pretty dangerous just standing around."
Still sour from the swordsman's interruption, the blue-haired kid snorted. "You stinking pirates are all the same. Which one of you is the captain, anyway? Not moss-head over there, I hope."
"Moss-head?" Zoro snapped on him.
"Our captain was taken with the others," Robin explained patiently. "He has black hair and wears a straw hat. Did you see him?"
"Oh." Geremy's eyes became serious for a moment under his shaggy locks. "Seriously?"
The swordsman shot a glance at him. "What, you know where he is?"
"No!" barked the kid. "I know where all of your shitty kidnapped friends are, okay? But I just thought of something weird and now and it's not good. There's only five caves on the whole island."
"What's your point?"
"Moron." The blue-haired kid stuck out his hand in front of him and counted his fingers slowly. "One, two, three, four, five. So how many of you went missing from your pirate ship, huh?"
As the silence befell them, the Straw Hats exchanged cautious glances as they each calculated the simple numbers in their heads. There were nine crew members in total. Three had come to the rescue, which meant that six had gone missing, including the newly liberated Zoro. Five nakama left to save...
"The Nightmare picked up a skinny girl with orange hair, a long-nosed idiot with goggles, some kind of weird pet, and a funny-looking skeleton, and moss-head over there. Then she split up and went to the caves all over my island," Geremy said with his arms crossed. "I never saw your stupid captain. Only straw hat I've seen is the one on your ugly flag."
"Oi, no insulting our flag!" Franky butt in, displaying an angry fist. "Last warning, mop top; stop bad-mouting the super Straw Hats!"
"Luffy, you idiot," Zoro muttered out loud. "You're always wandering off and getting lost when you're needed most."
"That's you," remarked Sanjii and Franky in unison. The swordsman scowled at them.
"I thought of something else, too," said Geremy. He sat down on top of his bag and rubbed his nose. "The cave's trembling and all like this because you broke one of her fake Nightmares. The more friends you save, the worse it gets, and you'll probably cause a cave-in."
Zoro crushed a palm to his forehead as his brain threatened to explode with all this new information. "This island is a fucking pain."
"I'm confused. And pissed," Sanji agreed.
"We'll split up," said Robin.
The remaining group turned on her, and Zoro growled, "Eh?"
"If we destroy these caves one by one, it seems the others will collapse before we get to them," the raven-haired archaeologist explained logically, placing a hand on the rough surface of the cavern wall. "The dream creatures don't seem to be very dangerous once they're awake, so if one of us goes to each cave to rescue one of our nakama, then it should turn out fine."
"See? You idiot pirates really are all the same!"
A few hard glances were directed towards the blue-haired 'runt'. "Do you think the Nightmare didn't think of that? Lots of stupid pirates tried doing that before you came along, but she killed every one of them. She splits into five different bodies, but only one of them is real. And her real body's extremely powerful. Even if all four of you attack her at once, you'll all probably end up dead anyway." The kid put a palm over his face and grimaced. "Geez...why do I keep bothering with this anymore?"
"Are we dealing with one of nightmare these things or five?" Franky scratched the top of his head, and looked sullenly confused. "Didn't I just kill one?"
"No one's even listening to me!" shouted the boy. He then began to rant and ramble angrily about how stupid and deaf pirates were, which was quickly transferred to mere background noise as the group continued to formulate their next move.
"Robin-chwan's plan is still perfect," Sanji disagreed. There was more malice and intent in that statement than blind admiration, which was far more normal. The cook was obviously taking this seriously. After all, he had seen inside one of those dreams, and what he saw scared even him, and it wasn't even his nightmare. "No matter how strong she is, any one of us can hold her off until we regroup."
"Except you, pansy," Zoro pointed out bluntly. He put a hand on the hilt of his katana. "Tch. Guess this means we'll have to hope Luffy shows up before this dream-queen rips the island apart."
"In that case, who will be saving whom?" questioned Robin.
"Oh! Nami-swaaan!" Sanji's eyes lit up the moment the idea of rescuing his fair damsel in distress came to mind. The rest of his crew shot him a dirty look.
"Hey, just exactly how do you plan to get inside their caves, huh?" Geremy boasted from further away, as angry as ever. "I never said I'd keep helping out your dirty pirates!"
He was ignored. "There's no knowing which of the Nightmares is the real one," said the swordsman, closing his eyes for a moment in thought. "Robin should help Nami. Franky, you rescue Chopper. Sanji, you take care of Usopp. I'll go get Brooke."
"Wh-what?" Sanji bubbled, deflating.
"I don't like the idea of you going into one of Nami's dreams," said Robin, smirking. "Good thinking, Zoro-san."
"Hello? You're not going anywhere without me!" Geremy tried to get their attention again. He stomped up and down on his bag. "I'm the only one who can get in and out of this place using my Kusho Kusho ability!"
As one, the heads of the Straw Hat pirates tilted to look towards the ceiling, where the only obvious exit was the hole in the ceiling. Again, as one, they slowly turned to look at the kid again. The distant sound of crickets could be heard.
"How the hell did you get in here?" Sanji finally asked.
"Idiot! Like I'd really tell you!" Geremy crossed his arms and faced away from them. He sat on top of his leather bag stubbornly. "You're not the first dumb pirates that tried this, you know. If I told you that, you'd just try to take my bag away!"
"So we don't need you to use this thing?" Franky grinned almost maliciously. He crouched next to the ugly satchel and poked it with a metal finger.
The kid's eyes bulged. "N-N-N-No, I n-n-never said that! Of course you need me to carry it! If it were anyone but me, it'd be way too heavy for any of you to lift! See? I'm the only one who can get you to your friends, s-s-so you can't kill me! I'm important!"
"Tch, calm down." Zoro released the hilt of his sword. "We're not going to hurt you. If you agree to deliver us to our nakama, that is."
"Baboon! Fine!" The blue-haired boy jumped off his bag and stood up to them. He kicked Franky's hand, which was about to poke the leather bag again. "Stop that! If this goes wrong, which it's going to, then it's your fault and not mine! Hurry up and get inside my bag before I stop being so nice. C'mon!"
Zoro blinked at the kid's bag before he gave his nakama a questioning glance. None of them seemed particularly happy about doing what the kid asked. Then again, he didn't have a clue what the runt was talking about. Inside his bag? Why the hell would anyone do that?
A minute later, he found out.
Being 'inside' Geremy's bag was like being nowhere at all. It wasn't Franky's favourite way to travel, having preferred the option to use the Mini Merry to go from point A to point B himself, but like the rest of the crew, he didn't have much of a choice. As soon as he touched the void inside the smelly leather, into the gaping hole, he was falling again—in another direction. He landed on his back on some painful stones and clenched his teeth. When he stood up again, the blue-haired loud-mouthed kid was already pulling the strings shut and doing up the clasps that kept the bag closed.
"Welcome to Cave Number Two," Geremy announced and lifted the bag—with his crew still inside—clear off the ground. "Hey, don't look over here! I said I won't tell you my secret, remember? Go away already. Save your friend!"
Rather than patronizing the kid, Franky made a disgruntled sound and turned around, rubbing his back. The brightly glowing cube in the middle of this brand new cave immediately grabbed his attention. The annoyed twitch in his face went slack.
Another one of the half-horse creatures was on the ground, slumped forward while she—or it—slept, her hands outstretched in front of her. Her glowing palms were on top of Chopper's head, covering his face. The little form of doctor was asleep on his back in front of her.
Franky lifted his fists in front him, and cracked his knuckles. With a short glance over his shoulder, he noticed that Geremy was already missing. Trying to wake up all of their nakama at once might be a lot harder than he thought. If he waited too long, the others would wake up and he could get stuck under a massive cave-in. Or if he went in too quick, the others would be in danger, too.
Deciding to give the short blabber-mouth some time to deliver the rest of his crew to their places, the cyborg sat down on the cave floor and stared at the glimmering blue prison in front of him.
Nightmares weren't his sort of thing. He didn't think of bad dreams as anything but unneeded memories, but that didn't really matter now, did it? Being inside someone else's nightmare sounded better than getting trapped inside one made specifically for you. Like the difference between sailing on someone else's ship and trying to protect one that was made with your own two hands.
The deathly quiet cave didn't help him concentrate. Franky counted the seconds until the moment he'd break down that prison with his fist and get his nakama out of there.
Chopper ran into the cabin, jumped onto the chair in front of his desk and gathered as many of the bottles there that he could find. Luffy sped into the room behind him, grabbing his straw hat before it flew off.
"Luffy, hurry! Take these!" The panicking doctor tossed the bundle of supplies towards his captain and wrapped his arms around some of the bandages stockpiled inside the drawer. He hopped down again and raced to the door.
"Oi, Chopper! What's taking so long?" came a shout from outside. That was Franky, who was holding down the makeshift bandages that were holding together their nakama outside. The others were waiting, too. Usopp was waiting.
"I'm here!" Chopper jumped over the same railing the sniper had fallen over and ran to the patch of grass where the crew was huddled. There was a bloody, shaking, fevered body between them that grew worse every second. But now Chopper had the exact ingredients he needed. His medicine would never fail!
No matter how this started. How did it start? Usopp was dancing around and laughing, so how did this happen? Why was he bleeding so much? Chopper treated Usopp's wounds in the past, but there was always a way to tell what was wrong. Now there was no way to keep track of them all.
Luffy quietly knelt down next to him as the flustered reindeer dropped beside Usopp, pushing away Franky's large hand while he prepared a fresh layer of gauze. The puncture wound between the sniper's two bottom ribs began to pool with warm liquid as soon as the pressure was removed. Even in this form, Chopper could smell the horrible stench of poison in the blood. His arms were shaking uncontrollably as he pressed the padding down on the hole and tried to bandage it closed.
Behind him, the sun was still setting.
"What's happening, Chopper?" asked Nami, her voice stricken with shock. "What's wrong with him?"
He didn't know how to stop the poison! Chopper felt like falling through the deck and sinking into the ocean forever. Where did it come from? What antidote did he give Usopp? Under his hooves, the sniper inhaled suddenly and groaned with pain. The skin that Chopper felt was burning hot—skin that was losing its color fast. A trickle of blood appeared from Usopp's nose.
What? Where did that come from? What kind of poison or sickness was making him bleed on the inside like that? Desperate, Chopper grabbed his stethoscope and pressed it against the sniper's chest to listen, his watery eyes trembling with fear.
"Do something, Chopper!" Luffy sounded earnest, almost like he was begging. "There's medicine you can give him, right? Try this! Or this?" The sound of clinking bottles and the feeling of cold glass against Chopper's tiny arm soon followed. But the doctor didn't react; instead, he leaned back and looked down helplessly at the dying Usopp without an idea as to what to give him.
"Don't just sit there!" barked Franky, grabbing him by the shoulder and giving him a shake—which was a lot, considering Franky was so many times the size of the reindeer. "You're wasting time, aren't you? Give him something! You're the doctor on this ship, aren't you?"
"B-But, but..." How could he explain that he didn't have a cure for something he didn't even know? He could just stare over the next few seconds, feeling nothing but the orange sliver of sunlight on his back. The light was fading fast and the blood that soaked the grass looked darker and darker as time crept by. Tears began to leak from the corners of Choppers eyes...
Franky's hands clenched into fists when he saw the tears seep out from underneath the Nightmare's hands. It had been just ten minutes, but the light from the prison was starting to get brighter, which he guessed was bad. How much longer could Chopper put up with his nightmare?
A tremor shook the floor of the cave and the cyborg felt the bottles of cola in his stomach rattle around. As the light reflected off the surface of his eyes, Franky stared long and hard at the spot where the little doctor was trapped.
Then, like a catapult, he sprang forward with his arms outstretched towards the Nightmare's neck. The instant his fingers hit the glowing barrier, he was sucked into another world.
The eyeless and unmoving, shock-ridden bodies of his nakama stood all around him, enclosing the helpless doctor inside. Chopper clutched one of the straps of Usopp's coveralls and shook him. "Come on, Usopp! You can't be...you can't!"
But the sniper's body had gone limp and wouldn't ever move again. Poisoned and ruined because he couldn't figure out what was wrong! Why couldn't he save his nakama? Didn't he promise he'd take care of them all no matter? Didn't they take him along because he was a doctor? Doctors didn't let their patients die. Nakama didn't let nakama die!
The very last tendril of sunlight sunk below the horizon, and the deck was cast under the shadow of dusk. Chopper sniffled and felt the hot tears streaming down his cheeks, but though he'd tried to stop it from happening, he hadn't been able to do anything at all to save him.
Suddenly, a hand reached down from above and plucked the reindeer up by his wrist. Chopper dangled in front of Franky and the rest of the Straw Hat crew with blurry eyes.
"You let Usopp die," Robin stated monotonously, but there were shadows where he eyes were supposed to be.
"I knew you weren't worth bringing along," said Zoro.
Franky's hand squeezed around Chopper's wrist painfully. "Never should have trusted a reindeer to be good enough to be our doctor."
"He's still good for eating." Sanji.
"You're not our nakama."
Frustrated rage and grief swelled inside Chopper. In a flash, he forced Franky to drop him by transforming into his largest form and burst through them. He ran blindly towards the opposite end of the ship, and instinctively hid behind the cabin, where he could be far away from the nakama he'd failed and Usopp's body. There, beside a stack of barrels and against the wall of the cabin, he transformed back into his usual size and broke down sobbing.
It was dark, so he never noticed the shadow in front of him until he smelled something very familiar. It was much, much stronger than the exact same one he'd smelled just before he'd run away. Hiccupping, Chopper looked up in fear to see that Franky had followed him and was crouching just a meter in front of him.
"G-G-Go away, you b-bastard," he sputtered, with another shaky sob. "I know I'm a failure as a doctor and a human, just leave me alone! Leave me alone, got it?"
He hadn't seen Franky's face clearly through the dark, but now he did once the words were out of his mouth. There were fresh tears streaming from Franky's eyes, too. In fact, he looked like he was ready to burst out crying. The cyborg reached out with one of his huge arms, extending a hand towards his ailing nakama.
With a squeak, Chopper leapt forward and clung to Franky's brightly colored shirt. He buried his face and antlers, his little body trembling with sobs. The shipwright didn't say anything, but put his outstretched arm around the reindeer and stood up. Franky carried him towards the end of the ship, to the railing that overlooked the sea. So swallowed up in his anguish, Chopper never even realized that they were sailing over the edge and towards the churning sea below until the falling sensation hit his belly.
The scream in his throat was stopped when he woke up with his back on the cold, hard ground. He caught a glimpse of a strange lady monster above him flailing around, her claw-like fingers swiping towards his face. His scream returned in full throttle.
Franky's fist struck the creature under the jaw. Hard. With a sickening 'snap', the monster's head went back and her faintly glowing body burst into a million little beads of light. Wailing in fright, the small doctor scrambled away from the spectacle and towards the cyborg, clinging to his ankle as the brightness faded away.
"Wh-wh-wh-wh-what was that? Franky, where did the ship...the ship...?" Chopper was suddenly picked up again, this time with both of the cyborg's hands and tossed into the air. He was caught again under the armpits, utterly bewildered and 'freaking out' by the suddenness of it all.
"Oi, Doctor Chopper! We made it out together!" The way Franky was talking made it overly evident that he was trying to shake the very distressing emotions that the nightmare had given him. Seeing the tear-streaked face of his nakama and the walls of the cave around him, it began to occur to him that he'd been dreaming the entire thing.
Chopper's shocked, blank expression only moved when he blinked at Franky. "Is...is Usopp...?"
"Yeah! He's super!" laughed the cyborg, grinning widely.
Stars all but formed in the reindeer's eyes. Fur standing on end with excitement, Chopper threw all four limbs and began to laugh happily. It hurt to be laughing so much so soon after crying his heart out, but the relief of being rescued from such a terrible ordeal was too overwhelming to stop. It almost felt like the time they were on the ship, having fun and dancing in circles until they were dizzy all over again...
Then the Nightmare dropped down on them from above with a maddening hiss, her claws outstretched.