Title: Faded Memories
Author: Rhyssa Fireheart
Pairing: None at this time
Fandom: One Piece
Disclaimer: Donâ€™t own it, never will. Just like to play around with it in my mind.
Also posted here over on Fanfiction.net, which is where I archive my stories.
The sea train pulled into the station at St. Poplar on a stormy day. The passengers grumbled as they got out, fumbling to find umbrellas or coats to protect them from the rain. One woman didnâ€™t bother though; she simply limped her way up the street, pausing to notice the houses covered in, where those soap bubbles? Shaking her head, she continued on to the hotel, not wishing to spend more time getting wet than she had to.
When he finally woke up, Rob Lucci was relieved to find himself alive and alone. Hattori fluttered to the window sill of what appeared to be a hotel room and let out a happy chirp before flying off again. He closed his eyes again, falling asleep this time.
The next time he woke up, the room was filled with the other members of Cipher Pol 9 perched on stools, chairs, the window ledge (next to a returned Hattori) and even crammed into the corner, filling the room. Theyâ€™d been talking quietly amongst themselves, waiting to see that their leader was truly going to survive after all. The doctor squeezed into the room to give Lucci a quick exam and then left, saying the patient needed to rest in bed for at least another four days and warning the others not to tire him out too much.
Lucci as the first to notice her standing next to the door but one-by-one, the other members eventually realized that a stranger was in the room, waiting quietly. Their chatter died away until everyone was staring at her. She leaned against the wall as the members of CP9 studied her, trying to determine what kind of threat she presented. At first glance, she was unremarkable â€“ maybe average height, average features with dark reddish-brown hair clipped short. She wouldnâ€™t stand out in a crowd normally, except for the cane in her left hand. Finally, Jabra broke the uncomfortable silence.
â€œAngelina! What are you doing here?â€
â€œYes, what is the Directorâ€™s pet assistant doing here?â€ Lucciâ€™s voice cut in. His flat stare did nothing to make her slight smile waver.
â€œIâ€™m looking for some little lost sheep. Rumour has it theyâ€™ve been seen around here, so I thought to check things out,â€ she replied with a faint hint of sarcasm. â€œAfter hearing Chief Spandamâ€™s report about what happened at Enies Lobby, I thought the hospital would be a good place to start. Especially when these poor sheep didnâ€™t return to Headquarters on any of the Marine ships available.â€
â€œWhat do you mean, didnâ€™t return?â€ Jabra burst out. â€œWe were injured and needed doctors. What did you expect us to do?â€
â€œAll Marine ships have doctors and medical assistance would have easily been available, so why did you not return with the Marines and Chief Spandam?â€
â€œThere was a lot of confusion due to the Buster Call and we were concerned with making sure we were all alive,â€ Blueno said calmly as he took over responding. â€œWe felt it best to seek out medical assistance together, especially for Rob Lucci as he was the most seriously injured. That was highest priority at the time, Angelina. You know we need to take care of our own firstâ€
â€œOnce again though, all Marine ships have medical facilities on board; there is no reason to assume your injuries couldnâ€™t have been treated far more quickly on one of the ships or back at HQ if necessary. Nothing youâ€™ve said so far explains how you ended up here in St. Poplar instead of back at HQ.â€ Angelina sounded remorseless. Once again, Jabra jumped into the discussion.
â€œThere was no way we couldâ€™ve headed back with the convoy. How would it have looked if all those Marineâ€™s had seen an elite CP team beaten up and half-dead? They knew who we were! What kind of damage would it have done to the organization if it were known that we got our asses kicked by some punk pirates? How could we have gotten anything done after this if weâ€™d been ferried back to HQ like defeated brats? We had no choice but to go off on our own to heal up.â€
â€œThat does make sense.â€
â€œOf course it does! For all we know, the Vice Admirals had orders to take out everyone on the island. And who knows what Chief Spandam was saying. Which is probably why youâ€™re out looking for us, isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œAh, I see now,â€ she replied thoughtfully. â€œVery well, Iâ€™ll consider that when making up my report for the Director.â€ At those words, Lucci moved to get out of the hospital bed, struggling a bit with the sheets wrapped around his legs. Angelina pivoted smoothly on her right foot, switching her cane to her right hand and placing her left on his shoulder. â€œYou have orders from the doctor to remain in bed for several days yet. Iâ€™d suggest you follow his advice and recover fully before trying anything.â€
â€œWhen are you sending your report?â€ he asked harshly. Angelina smiled before answering.
â€œWhen my investigation is complete. Iâ€™m sure it will take several days still, considering how much confusion and chaos surrounds what happened. And it makes conducting a search so difficult.â€ With that vague declaration, she turned back towards the door, leaning heavily on the cane as she started to leave. As she reached for the handle, his voice stopped her.
â€œLina, why are you doing this?â€
She paused but didnâ€™t turn around. â€œYou really donâ€™t understand, do you, Rob? You never did.â€ The sound of the door closing seemed to echo in the room. No one said anything for a long moment before Kaku finally broke the silence?
â€œWell, now what? If sheâ€™s sending a report in about finding us, what do we do now? We canâ€™t leave until Lucciâ€™s released from the hospital but that gives the Marines time to get here and take us into custody.â€
â€œWe have time,â€ Blueno said. â€œShe said her investigation would take several days; sheâ€™s giving us that time. Iâ€™m sure sheâ€™ll wait until after Robâ€™s out of the hospital before doing anything, so we have at least four days to figure out what we want to do.â€
â€œIt sounds like you know her pretty well,â€ Kaku replied.
â€œWe did once,â€ Lucci said.
Finding out where Angelina was staying wasnâ€™t very difficult at all. St. Poplar really only had one decent hotel (out of approximately 5 hotels total, if you were being generous) and when she wasnâ€™t registered there, Kalifa and Kaku moved on to the second best hotel. Their simple inquiry resulted in the manager informing them that the lady in question was waiting for her guests on the outside patio, if they cared to join her for breakfast.
â€œGood morning! Iâ€™ve already ordered breakfast so please feel free to help yourselves. Itâ€™s occasionally nice to splurge when out on assignment.â€ Angelina smiled at them both. â€œIâ€™m sure you have some questions for me.â€
â€œYou knew weâ€™d show up here this morning?â€ Kalifa was put off by the other womanâ€™s attitude, unsure of how to deal with someone whoâ€™d clearly anticipated their actions.
â€œOf course, especially after yesterdayâ€™s meeting. Iâ€™m guessing you are worried that despite what I said, and what Rob or Blueno confirmed, you think Iâ€™m going to send a message to HQ to let them know Iâ€™ve found you all here. You donâ€™t want that to happen until youâ€™re ready so you decided to come find me and determine if Iâ€™ll do what I said I would. Which would be to give you several days before I send in any reports.â€ She paused to take a sip of juice before continuing. â€œSo my guess is that the two of you set out this morning to find me and ended up here. Thatâ€™s why I left word at the main desk that I was expecting an unknown number of guests for breakfast; I wasnâ€™t sure who would show up.â€
Neither Kalifa nor Kaku said anything for a moment, consider the information theyâ€™d been given. Each came to the same conclusion, â€œYouâ€™re a CP9 agent, arenâ€™t you?â€ Kalifa said first.
â€œI was but now Iâ€™m the Directorâ€™s assistant. Usually I donâ€™t need to interact with the various CP groups but the situation at Enies Lobby was unusual enough that the Director felt an independent review was needed. Thatâ€™s why he allowed me to go out searching when I requested it.â€
Kalifa was familiar with being the assistant to a powerful and busy man, and unless this Director was far more organized than most, there was more to this other woman than she was saying. If Angelinaâ€™s identity hadnâ€™t already been confirmed by Lucci, Jabra and Blueno, she would have wondered if CP9 was being played for fools. Considering that Lucci and Blueno had just completed five years undercover, that meant she was someone theyâ€™d known prior to her joining the group seven years ago.
Kaku could see that Kalifa was thinking about something so he broke the silence. â€œYou requested the assignment? Iâ€™m going to assume itâ€™s because you know three of our members already; thatâ€™s fairly obvious. And judging by how quickly you found us, along with your actions so far since youâ€™ve gotten here, Iâ€™m guessing you arenâ€™t a personal assistant by choice. Still, anyone with the power to have a personal assistant isnâ€™t likely to just allow them to go off on wild goose chases, so thereâ€™s got to be another reason why you were allowed to conduct this search, which leads me back to your connection with three of us. That still seems like a weak reason to allow a personal assistant to try to find a CP elite group. So what is the real reason?â€
Angelinaâ€™s smile faded away slowly as Kaku spoke and by the end, she merely looked thoughtful. Instead of answering him immediately though, she stared off into the distance and tapped her cane against the ground.
â€œThat really is the reason why Iâ€™m here.â€ She raised her hand as he started to protest. â€œThere is another reason, but itâ€™s personal and not relevant to this discussion. No, it really isnâ€™t. The truth is I do know Rob and Jabra and Blueno from way back. I was with them when we were kids training to be part of CP9, but when I was nineteen, my path was changed and I became the assistant to the Director.Â Â I wasnâ€™t able to continue as an elite assassin, but considering the other teams are more information gatherers, I was able to help with coordinating the information going in and out of the organization along with working with the undercover propaganda agents. Again, I canâ€™t work effectively undercover because of this cane, but that did nothing to stop my brain from working. And Iâ€™ve turned out to be very, very good at information manipulation.â€
â€œWhich is why youâ€™re the directorâ€™s assistant,â€ Kalifa said.
â€œExactly.â€ She stood up carefully before continuing, â€œThe next train heading towards HQ leaves here in seven days. I plan to be on it; whether or not the members of CP9 are with me is entirely up to all of you. I donâ€™t plan to watch over you but I would like to speak to each of you to get your account of what happened at Enies Lobby. Right now, all we have is what Chief Spandam has submitted and itâ€™s always best to have the most thorough information possible. Please feel free to stay as long as you like, itâ€™s on my tab.â€ With that, she limped back inside the building, leaving the two to their own thoughts.
Four days later, Lucci was released from the hospital; the doctor saying heâ€™d done all he could and Lucciâ€™s own healing powers would have to finish the rest of the work. By then, Angelina had met with the other members to record their accounts of the incident, asking them questions to clarify their descriptions of the fights and the pirates they were up against. That evening, Angelina went to the large room downstairs set aside for their use. The previous evenings, dinner had been served there to give them some privacy to talk and also a place where she could interview the agents; she expected to do the same tonight to get Robâ€™s account of what had happened. Unfortunately, it didnâ€™t go as smoothly as sheâ€™d hoped.
â€œWhat is the problem with giving me an account of the fight? If this crew as strong enough to cause this kind of damage, the World Government needs to know everything they can find out. Plus, it will offset Spandamâ€™s account of what happened, which doesnâ€™t show any of you in a good light.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want to talk about it. Youâ€™ll just have to use what the others have given to you so far.â€
â€œLook, Rob, itâ€™s obvious Spandam is a raging idiot; give me something to use here!â€
â€œNo, now go away.â€
â€œOr is it because you canâ€™t stand to talk to me? I mean, heavens forbid that you have to deal to someone who is so weak, according to your standards.â€
â€œThat is not relevant.â€
â€œAnd yet, you didnâ€™t deny it, did you?â€ She stood up abruptly, clutching her cane to maintain balance. â€œFine. If you change your mind, hereâ€™s the recorder. Iâ€™ll pick it up from the main desk later.â€ No one said a word as she left the room. After a few moments, Lucci stood with a muffled curse, grabbed the recorder off the table and left the room as well.
â€œDammit. Why do those two always have to piss each other off?â€ Jabra asked drunkenly.
â€œTheyâ€™re used to it. It was no different when we were younger,â€ Blueno said.
â€œSo she really did train to be part of CP9 as a child?â€ Kaku asked? â€œI mean, she said that but she doesnâ€™t really seem the type.â€
â€œOh, she was the type. Probably still is,â€ Jabra said. â€œShe was fast too, until that last fight with Lucci.â€
â€œThey were sparring, â€œ Blueno explained when it became apparent that Jabra wasnâ€™t going to continue. â€œAnd it got out of hand. Rob had recently eaten his fruit and during the fight, he changed. She wasnâ€™t expecting it since the fight was just supposed to be hand-to-hand combat and before anyone knew what was happening, he did a lot of damage to her leg, mostly the knee. It took her several months to recover and when she did, she withdrew from the team because of it. About three years after that, we started the assignment in Water 7.â€ When Blueno finished speaking, Jabra growled and stood up, stalking to the door.
â€œJabra, leave her alone. She wonâ€™t appreciate it.â€
â€œHow do you know? You guys were off on assignment and havenâ€™t seen her for over five years. I at least saw her around sometimes when she had to come to the Halls of Justice. You guys werenâ€™t here when her sister suddenly retired and then went missing. Here she is trying to help us out and now this crap between them again?â€ He slammed the door behind him.
Blueno sighed and looked at the other agents. â€œJabra was always closer to Angel than Rob or I was. Mostly because of her older sister Alura. That was part of the reason for Angel and Lucci fighting all the time. He thought her sister had infected her with a sense of moral justice instead and he didnâ€™t like that, or her sister for that matter. Nothing new, really.â€
The next two days passed slowly. Angelina didnâ€™t return to the meeting room again nor did she try to speak to any of the agents other than Jabra, whoâ€™d showed up even more drunk at her door later that evening. Theyâ€™d spoken for a while before she made him leave for his own room.
The morning of the seventh day, Angelina headed downstairs to check out and head down to the train station. The members of CP9 were all waiting for her and after a quiet breakfast, they escorted her to the station. Outside the entrance, she stopped off to the side and turned to the others.
â€œItâ€™s such a shame that the rumours Iâ€™d heard werenâ€™t true, but with everything going on, Iâ€™m not too surprised. Iâ€™ll be sure to put that in my report when I get back to HQ.â€
â€œYouâ€™re not going to tell them you found us?â€ Kaku said.
â€œYouâ€™ve given me your reports, I will take them and decide what to do from there, but no, at this time I will not say that I found any of you here.â€
â€œYou know the director ainâ€™t gonna believe you didnâ€™t find us here, Angel,â€™ Jabra said. â€œWhat then?â€
â€œIâ€™ll speak to the Director if that becomes necessary. In the meantime, heâ€™ll have to be satisfied with what I intend to report. I should be back at HQ in three days using this route, so that gives me some leeway for now.â€ With a smile, she gave Blueno a hug good-bye. â€œBe careful, will you?â€
Jabra grabbed her into a more vigorous hug, bending down to whisper in her ear â€œWeâ€™ll take care of him for you, Angel. You be careful as well.â€ Angelina grinned and gave him a kiss on the cheek, saying â€œThank you.â€
She smiled at the other agents and reached out to take her bag from Blueno, but Lucci took it from him first, turning away without a word to head to the station platform. Shaking her head, Angelina gave a final wave and followed after him. They quickly arrived at the conductorâ€™s podium and she handed over her tickets and showed her government identification. The conductor snapped to attention and lead her over to the doors of the train car himself, giving the trainman her ticket and making sure he knew which car she was going to use. Lucci let the conductor take her bag and hand it up to the be loaded.
â€œThank you,â€ she said, already starting to turn away to board.
â€œLina, wait.â€ He was holding out her recorder when she turned back. â€œI recorded my report for you, for whatever good it will do.â€
â€œYou know, you are the only person to ever call me that.â€ A sigh. â€œThank you again. Iâ€™ll make sure it does some good, if only to make sure Spandam never gets assigned another team again.â€ She took the recorder but he didnâ€™t let go immediately.
â€œYou were wrong the day you arrived. I do understand why youâ€™re doing this. I always did. Soâ€¦thank you.â€
â€œBe well, Rob.â€ She put the recorder in her pocket and boarded the train. He watched through the windows as she took the seat and leaned her arm on the window ledge and covered her eyes. He told himself that he hadnâ€™t seen tears on her cheek just now. And he refused to admit that heâ€™d made her cry, once again.
As the train whistle sounded and the cars began to move, she didnâ€™t look back. He waited until her car had pulled away before he returned to where the others were waiting for him, talking about going out that afternoon to do something fun, like bowling.