Chapter Two: Snooping
There was nothing quite like standing up in the crow's nest of a ship, feeling the vessel leap over the waves beneath you towards the harbor while the wind dramatically blew back every loose garment and strand of hair.
The effect was generally ruined when you looked down only to discover that said boat was leaking.
Leaking... quite seriously.
Leaping down from his perch on the mast of the little dinghy, Jack splashed into water that was already well over his ankles and snatched up a bucket.
"No, no, no," he muttered to himself as he bailed. He loved the ocean. He just didn't love having it in his boat. Oceans in boats were generally a bad thing. They tended to make boats sink and that was a profoundly embarrassing thing to happen while sailing into port. He couldn't have that happen- he had a reputation to maintain. 'Sinking boat' and 'notorious pirate' were not two images that really went well together.
Movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He glanced up. Dangling from an arch of sea-worn stone were three figures: skeletons all, hung by the neck and left to sway in the breeze like macabre wind chimes of bone and tattered clothing. A sign hung next to them.
PIRATES: YE BE WARNED.
Jack studied the pathetic remains for a long moment, then swept off his hat in silent salute to his deceased comrades in piracy. That was all the attention he paid them. If a pirate wasn't good enough, wasn't clever enough, to avoid capture, then they deserved what they got. Only the best survived long in this business of blackguards and thieves.
Besides, he still had the small problem of his boat sinking.
He scowled at the rapidly-rising water. Despite his earlier pains, it was now halfway to his knees and rising.
"Oh, bugger," he muttered.
Well, if the blasted thing was going to sink, he might as well handle the situation with style. As the saying went, if you couldn't beat them, outdo them.
Swarming back up the mast, Jack stood up at the very top with all the pride and dignity of a captain on a first-of-the-line warship coming to dock with the acclaim of hundreds of cheering onlookers, all the while with his little boat sinking lower... and lower... until he finally stepped right off his perch and onto the grey boards of the dock and sauntered towards shore.
Now that, Jack thought, is style.
"Hold up there, you!" cried an indignant male voice.
Jack turned and was met by an older gentleman in a crisp cream-colored coat, trailed by a young slave boy with wide dark eyes. "It's a shilling to tie up your boat at the dock!" The man, a port official of some kind, scowled at first Jack, then the mast of his boat, the only part that was still poking above the surface. "And I shall need to know your name."
Well, what upstanding port official wouldn't? Still, couldn't have it being too widely known that Captain Jack Sparrow had come to Port Royal. There was a fort here, after all, and soldiers in forts were all too often so bored that they'd go hunting any entertainment- such as ship-hunting pirate captains.
Digging in a pocket, Jack came up with a small handful of coins and placed them on the official's ledger. "What do you say to three shillings," he said in his most reasonable tone, "And we forget the name?"
He had to hide a smirk as the man pondered this offer for a moment. The boy at his side looked impressed and a little eager at the sight and size of the bribe.
"Welcome to Port Royal, Mr. Smith," the official said with a little smile, then turned and headed off down the dock. Jack gave a little bow in farewell and let in the opposite direction, towards shore. On the way, he passed a portable writing desk set on a stand, with a fat purse sitting on top. Docking fees, he thought, and casually plucked it from where it lay.
Excellent. Now he had coin in his pocket. It was time to do some snooping. Oberon wanted him- well, wanted Puck, but Puck was him and he was Puck so the matter was irrelevant- to deal with the cursed crew of the Black Pearl. A quick stop in Shipwreck Cove and a visit with dear old Dad had given him enough word on the Pearl to tell that she was coming to Port Royal to raid and plunder, and so Jack had followed.
He smiled wryly as he ambled down towards the docks where naval vessels were tied up. Teague hadn't been thrilled to hear that he was planning to chase down the Pearl. On the other hand, Teague was never happy to hear when Jack was planning on getting into piratical mischief. Having lost one son, the real Jack Sparrow, he was always afraid of losing the Jack-persona Puck had created- and interestingly enough, Puck herself.
"Yer like my own daughter, lass," he'd told her after she'd asked about the Pearl and its undead captain. "Ye'd best be careful on this crazy jaunt- I don't think I can bear losin' Jack again and ye too."
Puck had brushed away the old man's fears with her usual smirk and jaunty air, but inside, she was quite touched that he held so much affection for her. Never had any mortal viewed her as their daughter, not since her own parents had. Not even Oberon truly treated her that way, though his air with his subjects did tend towards the paternal. It just wasn't quite the same.
Jack shook himself clear of his thoughts and studied a sleek ship tied up at one of the far docks, listening to the distant sound of celebratory trumpets coming from the fort. He liked the lines of her, lean and graceful. The name Interceptor was painted proudly on her hull. If he knew ships- and by now, he certainly did- she'd probably be nearly as fast as the Pearl, and hardly a lobsterback in sight.
He sauntered his way down towards the dock and had nearly reached it when a pair of redcoated marines scrambled over from their dicing game in the shade and planted themselves firmly in his path.
"This dock is off-limits to civilians," one said, trying to sound more official than he actually was.
So much for hardly a lobsterback in sight.
"Terribly sorry," Jack told them. "I didn't know. If I see one, I shall inform you immediately." He stepped aside, intending to go around them, but they only sidestepped into his path again.
Alright then. Clearly, subtle wasn't going to work with these two. He considered a moment, and decided that audacity would probably be the best tool here.
Jack Sparrow- and Puck- had managed quite a lot of fantastic things through the application of sheer audacity.
"Apparently there's some sort of high-toned and fancy to-do up at the fort, eh?" he said, looking between the two guards as if genuinely confused at the discovery of an omission that should, in all honesty, have not been overlooked. "How could it be that two upstanding gentlemen such as yourselves did not merit an invitation?"
They blinked at him, startled by the abrupt turn of conversation. Finally, the slightly bolder of the pair ventured, "S-someone has to make sure this dock stays off-limits to civilians."
"It's a fine goal, to be sure, but it seems to me that a ship like that-" Jack stepped back the way he'd come, trying not to laugh as the two marines scrambled to get back in front of him, and gestured towards a larger, bulkier vessel that floated near the mouth of the harbor, "makes this one here a bit superfluous, really..."
They glanced at the larger ship before the bolder guard spoke up again, this time with a smirk of his own. "Oh, the Dauntless is the power in these waters, true enough," he said. "But there's no ship as can match the Interceptor for speed."
Jack looked at them thoughtfully. Well, what would it hurt to ask? There was always a chance that they knew something- and even if they didn't, they were rather amusing to watch. "I've heard of one," he said, with the air of one divulging a great secret. "It's supposed to be very fast, nigh uncatchable: the Black Pearl."
The quieter of the guards burst out laughing. "Well, there's no real ship as can match the Interceptor!"
Jack hid a flicker of annoyance and was just about to protest that his Pearl was indeed a real ship when the bold guard did just that for him.
"No, no it's not."
"Yes it is!" the bold guard protested. "I've seen it."
His partner rounded on him. "You've seen it?"
"You haven't seen it."
"Yes, I have!"
"You've seen a ship, with black sails, that's crewed by the damned, and captained by a man so evil that Hell itself spat him back out?"
The bold guard frowned. "No..."
"No." His partner smirked.
"But I have seen a ship with black sails!"
Jack didn't wait to hear the rest. Smirking at the ease in which he'd managed to get the pair arguing between themselves, he strolled right past them, down the dock, and onto the deck of the pretty Interceptor. He liked her more and more as he wandered up to the wheel and ran callused hands over it. Oh yes- a very nice ship indeed. Pity she was too large to sail with just one person.
"Hey!" shouted a pair of indignant voices. "You!"
Oh, charming. His adoring fans had realized he'd left. Ah well, back to the business of bedazzling the silly mortals.
"Get away from there!" one guard shouted, the one who'd been arguing that the Pearl wasn't a real ship. He aimed his musket at Jack, his companion doing the same. "You don't have permission to be there, mate!"
While lead bullets were of little concern to Jack- a quick shapechange and mindwipe and Bob was yer uncle and Franny yer aunt, thank you very much- the steel bayonets affixed to the end of the muskets were another matter entirely. Jack eyed these with a hint of discomfort. "I'm sorry," he said, all sweet innocence. "It's just, it's such a pretty boat- ship!" he corrected himself.
The act didn't appear to fool his new friends. "What's your name?" demanded one.
"Smith!" Jack replied. "Or Smithy, if you like." Leave it to mortals to make their anonymous everyman name being a term used for a person who worked iron...
He supposed that was what you could call irony...
"What's your purpose in Port Royal, Mr. Smith?" snapped the other guard, sneering.
"Yeah!" cried his companion, shoving his bayonet a little closer to Jack. "And no lies!"
Oh, if there were ever an opening, this was it. Jack rounded the wheel, making the guards back up a pace or two. "Well then, I confess. It is my intention to commandeer one of these ships, pick up a crew in Tortuga, raid, pillage, plunder, and otherwise pilfer my weaselly black guts out."
He was very hard-pressed not to laugh at the looks on their faces. He could see the little gears in their heads turning as they each went through a mental debate over whether or not such an audacious claim could be true.
"I said no lies!"
The guard's partner glanced at him. "I think he's telling the truth."
"If he were telling the truth, he wouldn't have told us."
"Unless he believed you wouldn't believe the truth even if he told you," Jack pointed out, smirking a little. "Now, gents, why don't you just put those rifles down..." He gently pushed the points of the bayonets away from him, nodding a bit as he met no resistance, "And we'll just have a nice friendly chat, like. There, that's better, isn't it? A nice chat, a cup of tea, that's what you high-brow types like isn't it? Now, let me tell you a few tales about the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow- all, of course, completely and unequivocally the truth.. "