Alrighty then, new chapter! Excitement!

This is where the plot acually begins (I know finally, right? :D). I'd love some feedback especially on the characterization. I can usually do characterization quite well, if I do say so myself, but I think things might have gotten a bit squiffy at the end.

So, read, review, enjoy, and realise that I really don't own anything.


Chapter II: A Meeting of the Masterminds

According to the charts, the fountain would be a good trek from the beach. No matter, it hadn't stopped Jack before. Jack beached his dingy on the Florida sand, retrieved the map, and looked around. Trees swayed lazily in the breeze, and the sky was calm. Jack peered through the thicket of trees and vines that stretched across the sand. It was so dense that shafts of the early morning sunlight barely came through the leaves. Beyond that, Jack knew there were swamps all around the area. He turned around to scan the sky and sea, but something out of place caught his eye.

Along the other side of the beach was a line of longboats. Jack peered in the direction of the boats and wondered if they were really there. The Locker had warped his already strange reality, and sometimes, he had a strange feeling that he was still trapped in Davy Jones' Locker, except now he supposed it would be Will Turner's Locker. Yet, the boats did not seem to be a hallucination. The clear water lapped across their wooden sides, staining the wood a deeper brown. Suddenly, a little ball of black and white fur jumped out from one of the boats and scampered across the sand. Jack made a face while he pulled his pistol from his belt. The monkey squealed as Jack aimed the barrel at him. Jack evaded Sparrow's intentions by scrambling up the back of a man standing on the beach not far from the human Jack, who lowered his pistol at the sight of the man and made the same unhappy face as he made for the monkey.

"You'd think ye'd go off and leave us with nothing, Jack?"

Jack smiled carelessly at Barbossa and his group of pirates. Barbossa did not return the gesture; instead, he narrowed his yellowed eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. After doing his usual bout of quick thinking, Jack swaggered up to Barbossa and his band.

"But I left you the Pearl or rather you borrowed it without asking, but I'm sure you had every intention of bringing it back. And look," Jack gestured to where the Pearl was anchored off-shore, "you've done right by yourself. I am right proud of you mate."

"I fail to realize how I could have stolen my ship."

"Yes, that would be rather difficult. However, you left me all by me onesie in Tortuga. I'd thought we were past all that."

"Aye. I did leave ya in Tortuga, but at least I didn't leave you on that same god-forsaken spit of land this time." Jack conceded with a nod of his head as Barbossa went on. "I left ya with Gibbs. I couldn't be more generous than that."

Jack finally noticed his shorter friend standing alongside the group looking more than a bit uncomfortable.

"Mr. Gibbs!" The man jumped to attention. "Sea turtles, then?"

"Aye, Captain. Sea turtles."

As Jack grinned, pleased with his first mate's explanation, Barbossa rolled his eyes and butted in.

"I can't help noticin' what ye have there, Jack."

Jack looked down at the rolled up chart in his hands. How was he to explain this one? A myriad of explanations flew through his head, each one more unbelievable than the last. Sea turtles were too overdone, but perhaps he could get away with something about cannibals or that mutt that always seemed to turn up. With a thoughtful and winning look upon his face, Jack sauntered up to Barbossa and threw an arm around him. Barbossa looked down at the arm as if it were leprous.

"Well, Hector," he began. "You don't mind if I call you Hector do you?"

"I'd rather ye didn't."

Jack removed his unwanted arm with an apologetic glance.

"You like your space. And I respect that; however…"

"The charts, Jack."

"Right, the charts. Can I just say that it seems highly unfair that you can call me Jack, yet you go only by your surname. Why, may I ask, might that be?"

"Ye can't talk your way out of this one, Jack."

"There you go again…"

"Seein' as you didn't know we were to be leavin', why would ye take the charts? I thought being co-captains would entitle us to an equal share."

"D'you remember the last time that happened? You and your crew of miscreants became cursed. Perhaps I was being proactive and trying to save your hides."

"Or you were trying to cut us out of the deal." Jack made a face. "You took the charts before making port."

A ripple of agreement flowed through the uneasy group of men standing behind Barbossa, who smirked at Jack.

"That's true, that is," called out a tall, lanky pirate. Jack recognized him as the one-eyed Ragetti. He was even more dissatisfied to see that his uncle still stood by his side. Those two may be good in a fight; even so, they gave Jack the creeps.

This was like déjà vu. The last time he'd felt this desperate, Barbossa had been leading a mutiny against him. Jack knew he needed to keep the status quo, but calmness rapidly flowed out of him like sand through an hourglass. Time was running out and death was not something that he wanted to contemplate again. He gulped nervously as Barbossa spoke again.

"You were plannin' to double-cross us the whole time, says I."

His charisma fueled the others' growing dislike for Jack. There was no doubt in Jack's mind that another mutiny could very well take place now. The crew, except Gibbs, was itching to get their hands on Sparrow, yet this time they had no island to desert him on. Jack figured that this would probably lead to him becoming mincemeat. He swallowed nervously as Barbossa addressed the men again with an almost evil glint in his eyes.

"However I think we should let bygones be bygones."

"Really? Well that is so very…"

As he searched for the word, the crew simmered down (Pintel looked extremely put out), and Barbossa clamped Jack on his shoulder, hard.

"Don't bother thankin' me now, Jack. If you…try anything, there will be no island or pistol with one shot. I'll not be makin' that mistake again."

He released Jack, who winced and rubbed his shoulder, and walked away to instruct the crew. His monkey turned and screeched at Jack, making Sparrow jump. God, he hated that monkey.

-X-

Per Jack's prediction, the jungle was dense and difficult to navigate through. Some men made a path through the undergrowth using machetes, yet roots and vines on the forest floor still hindered their progress. The jungle was lit more than Jack had expected although shadows held secrets and blinking animal eyes. Jack and Barbossa followed the machete-wielding crew members. They kept eyeing each other suspiciously. It was obvious that the two men were unhappy with the outcome of the situations. Besides glaring at Jack, Barbossa's eyes wandered to the rolled up charts. Jack noticed this and clutched the map tighter to himself.

Barbossa would not freely admit it, but he was amused by Jack's reaction. Obviously, Jack thought he was a threat and had some seniority or power over him. Jack's arrival and survival threw the position of captain out of balance. There could only be one victor, for the Pearl could not have tow captains. Barbossa aimed to be that captain.

The group trudged on through the jungle for hours. Sunlight was fading and they would have to stop for the night soon. As the light diminished, Jack grew more uneasy. To find immortality, all they needed were the charts and possibly Jack's compass. He remembered something that Barbossa had said.

"People are easier to search when they're dead."

Barbossa was a hard man to read, and that did not make Jack feel any better. His hop was that Barbossa would calm down about the stolen charts and not have him killed; however, Jack did not know when the other captain was calm or agitated. The man was so hard to read.

Suddenly, Barbossa held up a hand and called for the men to stop. In front of them was a stone tablet with what looked an ancient Native American language. Spanish moss hung down clinging to the weathered stone. Barbossa knelt and studied the writing. No one dared to speak as he attempted to interpret the glyphs; however, some, including Jack, tried to peer around him to view the tablet themselves. Finally, Barbossa stood and turned back to the men, who all looked eagerly at him.

"Gents, we be here," he announced grandly.

The men looked around, thoroughly confused as they were stationed in a dense grove of trees. Dirt covered the ground, and the amount of sunlight was waning. Green leaves hung from the trees and divided the jungle and the pirates' self-made path. There was no fountain to be found nor was there any water. A few wondered if Barbossa had completely lost his mind. Others did not think; instead, they waited for instructions and prepared for action. Jack was the only one to speak up.

"Here?"

Barbossa grinned. "Aye."

"Where's the water, then?"

Instead of replying, Barbossa's smirk widened, and he brushed the moss away from the top of the stone. The crew had expected something grand; perhaps an opening or the fountain to be revealed, but when the moss was removed, only more stone was revealed. On this section, there were five glyphs each surrounded by a thin square line. Barbossa carefully studied the glyphs; then, he reached out and pushed on the squares in a particular order. The symbols sunk into the stone with a grating noise. Barbossa stood back with his men and waited. After a few seconds nothing had happened. Barbossa's men, although Barbossa himself looked confident enough, nervously looked around. Jack, however, looked on with interest and hoped that if this did not work that some of the men's loyalties would swing over to him. Minutes passed.

"Is something supposed to happen?"

Just as Jack finished, a low rumbling sound filled the jungle. The stone sunk into the jungle floor. Barbossa smirked as his crew stared awestruck. A stone tunnel stood behind the vanishing stone. Torches lit the walkway, which disappeared behind a bend.

"Oh," was all a stunned Jack could manage to get out. Barbossa chuckled quietly and lead the men into the passage.