A/N: Had a week of vacation. Found time to write.

Chapter 43

"As a fellow ancient history lover, do you think the purpose of Uranus might be to destroy the Red Line, creating the fabled All Blue and finally making the world 'One Piece'?"

The archaeologist's mouth falls slightly open, her arms mildly relaxing as her brain tries to process the combination forbidden knowledge and complete nonsense I just spoke at her."What?"

"I'm serious. Well, not so much on the 'One Piece' part, that's just some amusing wordplay, but for the rest of it, why not?" I take two steps towards the woman, causing her to flinch as she's still mentally caught between retreat or attack. "It's named after an ancient god of the sky, or rather a god of the 'heavens' if you want to get super technical about it. It's likely the most powerful of the three. Pluton and Poseidon are impressive for sure but-"

A disembodied hand clasps down tightly over my mouth.

"Stop." She looks around to the nearest sailors, as though any one of them could be a spy who's listening in. "Just. Stop."

With the gentlest, slowest of movements, I use two fingers to peel the arm away from my face -getting another wide eyed look at the casual use of strength- and gesture to the aft of the ship with a head tilt. "Would you prefer to discuss things over there? Because, and I don't want to come off as pushy or anything, but now that I've found another history buff whom I can theory craft with, there's some things I'm just dying to run by you."

She swallows. Audible breaths exhaling through her nose. Eventually though, she does step a little to the side, indicating that I'm the one who needs to go first.

I close my eyes and nod minutely in acquiescence. 'Not going to let me leave your eye line even for a moment eh? Very well. I suppose given the circumstance I wouldn't want 'me' at your back either.'

Sticking my hands in my pockets, I begin leading the way to the less populous area of the boat but find I have so many things to say that they just start slipping out. "You know, what with real Cipher Pol agents going after you these days,you might want to consider trying to pick up one or two of the 'Six Powers' yourself. I'm not sure you have the right physical conditioning for half of them but your Fruit mixed with [Shigan] would be terrifying." I take a brief glance backwards. "I could offer you some tips on getting that started if you like?"

She responds with a curt "I'll keep that in mind" though based on the distrust in her eye it's obvious she's not even considering it. Oh well. Guess we'll have to come back to that one.

There's a convenient triplet of barrels roped up along the back railing and I make use of one to casually hop up and take a seat. "So," I ask, leaning forward eagerly with my fingers laced together. "I'm sure I can't be the only one between the two of us who wants to spitball some ideas around. What should we talk first? The Ancient Weapons? The Will of 'D'? The global war that probably definitely maybe happened during the Void Century? The dead civilization on the moon? That's a good one."

"Civilization on the-?" the woman shakes her head, dismissing the nonsense. "You're trying to throw me off balance. Testing to see if I'll slip and reveal something." she accuses. "It won't work." her eyes harden. "Others have tried this trick before. Government agents and criminals both. It doesn't matter how you approach it or what you threaten me with. I'll go to my grave before I reveal the locations of-"

"Pluton is beneath Wano and Poseidon is at Fishman Isle." I nonchalantly interrupt, getting her breath to sharply hitch. "I don't need you to tell me the locations. Unless you know anything about Uranus that is. That's the only one I'm mostly still in the dark on. Though if I'm being candid, a dark feeling in my gut tells me the 'Five Elders' probably already have it. So it's a moot point anyhow."

If before she was nervous, now she's straight up terrified. "How-? Where did you learn-?"

"Speaking of which," my arm rifles through the [Inventory], withdrawing a moment later with a simple sketch notebook. "What can you make out of this?" I ask, tossing the booklet her way, it's pages opened to the symbols I copied off the Briss Poneglyph. "I'm pretty sure it's weapon related, though as you can see from my scribbles and scratched out guesses on the following page, I'm only halfway taught on translating this damn language." 'Which is a small bluff on my part, but I think we can sell it.'

The archaeologist catches the book with a deft hand, her expression remaining wide-eyed at seeing the writing only she is supposed to know how to read. Her pupils turn to me, glance back down to the bits I've decoded -'Thank you boosts in INT'-, up to me again, and then -perhaps as a leap of faith- that maybe, just maybe, this all isn't meant to trick her, she begins to read.

"We leave this as a record to those who follow." she begins, sounding out every syllable. "The battle of 681, also known as Florian's massacre, is what finally tipped the balance of the war away from our great benefactor." A soft hum from me gets her to pause.

"Sorry. Just wondering if there's some correlation to the Florian Triangle there." I gesture lightly with a hand. "Please continue."

Her eyes dip down again. "Although numerically it was a crushing defeat for our enemies, tactically it was we who were the losers. The shameful and suicidal tactics of the Alliance saw their army routed, but their goal successful. Posei-" Her mouth thins into a line, as though sucking on a lemon, when she reaches the end. "Poseidon was now lost. And with it came the beginning of our end."

"Hm." I mull over the finality in the ancient words. "Well that's not terribly helpful. Some neat tidbits in there but overall I'd label this one a bit of of a dud. At least until we can find the rest of the history Poneglyph's it's paired with."

"A dud..?!" The woman asserts with a raised voice. "What if this message was carved after the Poneglyph which detailed Poseidon's location! It's still unclear the dates these steles were created! They could have been made with years or even decades in between! If the words here are genuine then Poseidon might not be at Fishman island at all! If it was 'lost' then it's possible the World Government has already recovered it!"

I shake my head in the negative. "Poseidon isn't a physical weapon. You can't lose it in that sense. The words here more likely mean that she was simply killed. Felled in battle. Assassinated. Something like that." 'Although..I could've sworn the Poneglyph in the ocean forest was Joyboy's apology letter to the original Mermaid Princess. Maybe she was still alive but neutralized in some other way. A 'loss' of her voice maybe? A 'loss' of her power?'

That seems to throw the historian for a loop. "She..?"

"The name 'Poseidon' refers to a lineage ability passed along in the female members of the royal bloodline in Ryugu Kingdom. It's known that a normal fish-man can command small or even medium-sized creatures of the sea to do their bidding, but 'Poseidon' goes far beyond that. It lets you rule over Sea Kings. The big ones. The one's bigger than anything you've ever seen or imagined. Its use as a weapon represents complete and absolute control of an ocean battlefield."

"Then..right now, at Fishman Island, there's a.."

I nod. "Potentially. This next bit's speculative but I'm pretty sure the power lies dormant for several generations before it awakens in a new wielder. Rumors say that the current 'Mermaid Princess' is of a rather 'soft' nature. If she's got the ability in her blood, which is a sizable 'IF', she may not have the temperament to ever wield it."

"How-" Robin starts. "How can you possibly know all this? Where could you have learned-?"

A sad -almost rueful- chuckle comes from my throat. "Well the thing about that is...you literally would not believe me if I told you. I don't want to make up a lie. Or spin some tall tale. Something plausible that could pass the 'suspicion of doubt' test. It's.." I pause for a moment, taking a breath or two, and then simply sigh. "I don't think I quite have the right words. But of all the truths about this world I know, that one just might be the most certain. You would not believe me. What I can say is that I didn't earn this knowledge. I had it given to me."

A rushing of footsteps sounds from the side as three Revolutionaries -Bunny Joe being the lead among them- sprint up the short stairs that separates our talking area from the main deck of the ship. At first his eyebrows are at his hairline, disbelieving that the news is true and I'm actually here...only for them to furrow tightly right after as he no doubt imagines his own reasons to explain it.

"Well it seems like we'll have to put the rest of this chat on hold for a minute." I hop off the barrel I was sitting on. "Don't run off now, ya'hear?" I begin walking towards Bunny and the others. "We've barely scratched the surface on the things I want to get into."

It's a trip of relative silence towards the captain's quarters of the ship. Being led through the door I'm greeted by a setup similar to the one I previously spoke to Lindbergh through back in South Blue. A rudimentary television screen with a rare projector-type Den-Den-Mushi that accompanies it. The only major difference being everything is already put together this time, and an image of a green-haired cat mink drums his fingers at his desk just waiting for my entrance.

I can't get a proper read on his expression.

The stateroom door clicks shut with a small 'clack' and I take a seat at the simple wooden chair that's been posted up front. The three Revolutionaries who had been escorting me take up positions along the back wall and for a moment silence reigns.

"Joel, I need the room." Lindbergh eventually calls out, his voice missing that playful persona that defined him in our last conversation.

With a double snap of his fingers and a head tilt, Bunny has the two other men exit without so much as a word of fuss. Once their gone though, Lindbergh pointedly looks at his subordinate and seems to work at something uncomfortable in his jawline. "Joel, that means you too. Keep people away from the door."

I feel more than see Bunny Joe stiffen at the words, not used to being told that not even he can listen in, though eventually he does relent with a simple nod.

Once it's just the two of us remaining I open my mouth to-

"I have your data by the way." Lindbergh announces first, beating me to the punch with a seeming non-sequitur.

My head tilts only slightly. "My data?"

Lindbergh turns leftward, typing at a few keys on his terminal from the workshop he's broadcasting from. "One of my flaws is that I can get a bit scatterbrained." he speaks matter-of-factly. "So I tend to keep to keep an audio log running most days to catch any eureka moments that I don't immediately have time to follow up on. As an unintended bonus, it also catches any calls that I happen to make from this workstation."

The commander taps on one final key and suddenly I hear a -somewhat grainy- recording of my own voice projecting back at me.

"..fund civilian militia's. But when it comes to your success stories...what do those Kingdoms look like 5, 10, 15 years down the line? Does the WG try to reclaim countries once your main forces have pulled out? Even if they don't, what are the specifics of the alternative you offer? How many revolutions have you tried to jump start only to get civilians brutally crushed by the retaliation? My final answer… I don't know what I think of you all."

The recording cuts out and the mink leans back in his chair, folding his gloves together. "I put together some numbers for you. Thought there might be a chance to go over them next time we had an opportunity to talk. Though it seems you've managed to.." he gestures at me, indicating my new status. "..go your own way. Haven't you Mr. Sparrow?"

"If it makes you feel better," I say with a tiny chuckle in my throat. "I rejected the Marine's offer to join them about five times. You shouldn't feel bad about missing a third chance at a recruitment pitch."

"Well, clearly the sixth time must be the charm." The mink says back dryly. "Or are you going to sit there and pretend being One of the Seven isn't just joining the Government but with a few extra steps?"

I tilt my head and give the general a bit of side eye. "Did you all give Kuma this much hassle when he joined the Warlords as well? Or does that one not count?"

The conversation drops into a dead silence.

I was expecting a stuttering denial. Or perhaps a frantic 'Where did you learn-?' much like the ones I heard from Robin a few minutes ago.
What I wasn't quite expecting was the cold fury radiating through the Den-Den-Mushi's connection.

"If you knew.." Lindbergh speaks lowly. "If you had any idea of Bartholomew's history...of what the Government.." The mink pauses to loose a few breaths. "Of what they took from him...you would never have said those words." The commander stops again to gather himself. "Alright. I'm not in the mood to chat anymore. Why did you come back here Jack? What do you want?"

My brow furrows as I take in his words. The vitriol behind them. 'Damn Kuma. Just what kind of fucked up backstory do you have? For just me name dropping you to get this level of response..' "Believe it or not..I actually came with the intentions of clearing the air a bit. It didn't sit right with me the way I took off before." I lean forward a little. "I never actually thanked Hack for pulling me out of Yateron. I was upset...depressed..some other things..it doesn't really matter. But I never actually said 'thank you' to the ones who could've just cut me lose after the incident with Rosenwald. Please pass that along for me. And if I overstepped with the little I know about Kuma, I apologize for that as well."

I retake my normal position. "On the subject of him though...do you know where he is right now?"

Lindbergh regards me oddly. "Why?"

"Because I know where he is right now. Sabaody Archipelago, Grove 44. Robotically guarding a ship until any of its crew can return. Something which I can personally guarantee you isn't going to be happening any time soon. If you and the rest of the R.A. leadership are looking for a chance to bring him in, to try and undo all the fucked up shit that's been done to his head, I doubt you'll get a better opportunity than this one."

"Kuma.." the general seems puzzled at the news. "..why would you be.." he mumbles under his breath. "Who's ship is it?" he asks, no longer whispering.

"Does it matter? Wouldn't you try to rescue him even if it meant attacking Mariejois itself?"

Lindbergh absently taps a finger as he considers the info. "...you'll understand that we'll need to get our own people to check on all of this first. More to the point, why are you sharing this? What's your stake here?"

"You know," I let my head dip down as a genuine smile sneaks up on my lips. "I've met him briefly twice before. Once in Sorbet and then again in the Grand Line." A single chuckle sounds in my throat as I remember the specifics of those days. "Let's just say I made a promise to someone important to him and leave it at that."

For the first time since I've entered the room, I can actually see a bit of the 'real' Lindbergh as he smiles at my answer. The one who would rather be laughing and swiveling around in his chair rather than maintaining such a serious talk.

"By the way commander," I begin shifting gears. "I don't suppose that just because I'm a 'dirty government dog' now that I can't still call on that favor you owe me?"

"Ah ha! Well that really depends on what it is don't you think?" Lindbergh grins back, having finally returned to a good mood. "I'm a mink of my word. Though understand my powers are limited."

"I need a White Den-Den-Mushi."

The cat's smile, which had been returning, immediately falls off. "Jack...do you have any idea how rare those are?"

"Do you not have any?"

"No, it's not- I mean, we have a few but that's-" the mink trails off. "They're all in use in pretty critical places. We'd love to have thirty of 'em lying around but last I checked we don't even have five. Heck Morley and I have to share one."

A thumb and forefinger goes to my chin. 'Hmm. Well I guess that idea turned out to be a bust. I knew they were rare but I didn't know they were 'that' rare. If they're all being used then it'll be pretty hard to-'

"Mah mah," a third voice drunkenly slurs from off screen. "If the lad's looking for a White Snail I can get him one." Lindbergh's chair swivels around in a panic at the same time that my gaze snaps up! On screen, just behind the inventor's workstation, a lanky inebriated man in a blue suit shambles into view.

"Giber-! Sir! This is a restricted area! You can't be-" The mink is in classic anime damage control mode, comedically flailing his arms about to try and 'shoo' the new guest away, but meanwhile I just can't believe my eyes.

Long red nose, a mustache nearly as impressive as old man Whitebeard's, and he's sucking down alcohol like it's water on a hot day.

"You've got to be kidding me.." I breathe out with a disbelieving laugh. "You're working with the Revolutionaries?"

Giberson, 'Warehouse Kingpin', and one of the 'Emperors of the Underworld' looks at me from past Lindbergh's hat and looses a boozy laugh himself. "Oh, the young man knows me. I must not be doing my job carefully enough if I'm so easily recognized."

My grin turns wide. "What's that you were saying about a White Snail old timer?"

"Ah ah ah." the common party guest for Big Mom wags his finger at the screen. "Not so fast young blood. Not so fast. Nothing in this life for free." the man glugs down a few more swallows from his bottle. "Come to Baltigo. These delicate matters are always better to negotiate in pers-."

"Jackwe'llcontinuethistalklaterbye!" Lindbergh spits out in a single word, smashing down on a key of his terminal and causing the entire screen to go black.




"Hm." I snort to myself. 'Well I suppose 'that' just happened. Wasn't planning on sticking around for the whole boat ride but I suppose I can spare a few extra days.' A fluttering in the periphery catches my eye and I turn just in time to watch a scattering of flower petals disappear from the corner. "Heh. Clever girl."

The Next Day

You know I think I may have found the right balance when it comes to talking with Robin. See, for every two or three truth bombs you drop, whether it's over the poorly understood phenomena of 'Awakened' Devil Fruit, a discussion on the mystery of the 'Rainbow Mist', or postulating that immortals walk the world thanks to the powers of the Op-Op Fruit -currently in the hands of one Trafalgar Law- you then need to follow it up with something that's very obviously not true.

A joking, kind of half conspiracy theory type of idea just to lighten the mood a little.

"Well why not?" I playfully insist, chewing through a bite from an apple. "Why can't the Grand Line be artificial? It would help explain a lot of the wonky magnetism. The prehistoric islands, a lot of the insane climate shit," I count off items on my fingers. "You and your crew defeated Moria at Thriller Bark did you not? The man made no secret that he'd obtained a corpse of an ancient super-giant. 'Continent-Pullers' they were called. Now how do you think they got that name? Hmm? Tell me, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Or do you not want to admit it's because they might've been rearranging the very landscape of the planet?"

The woman chuffs, folding her arms across each other and glancing away. "This might just be the most farcical notion you've put forward yet. It's ridiculous." her words are chiding...though her face does have a tiny upturned smile. "What would even be the purpose? Hypothetically. Why would a race of people create something like that?"

"Obstacle course. Duh."

She hits me with her blankest deadpan."An obstacle course? Really? That's what you're going with. Next I suppose you'll be rambling off about the moon people again."

"Hey!" I snap back. "Now just because I can't present any evidence, or primary sources, or secondary sources -'or Oda drawn cover pages showing I'm right'- it doesn't mean that they weren't real. The truth is out there. I think the sky people are somehow involved."

I can almost physically feel her eye roll. "Right. The 'sky people'. You mean the Skypieans?"

"Mmhm." I nodded sagely. "Birkans too. And the Shandorians." I punctuate my point with another crispy bite from the fruit. "Though oddly enough not Lunarians I don't think. There's some other sort of story there."

A dismissive scoff tells me the woman is about done with my nonsense for the moment and she turns to begin walking off.

"Have you ever heard the rumor that Sir Crocodile used to be a woman?"

The woman pauses in her footsteps, before twisting on her heel and going right back to the chair she was just sitting in. One leg crosses over the other and her palm comes up to rest under her chin. "Well now, this one I just have to hear."

Meanwhile, Somewhere in The Grand Line

"Gugigigigugi!" the flesh peddler known as Drug Peclo 'The Undertaker' laughed to himself, observing his newest charge rattle about in their seastone cuffs. "Better to just lay down and accept it little marine. In fact you should consider yourself quite fortunate. It's quite a rare thing for me to do business with bodies that are still living. Gugigigigugi!"

"Y-you fat godsdamned-!" Petty Officer Finnegan cursed, his face drenched in sweat as he struggled against the chains. Gritting his teeth he tried his absolute hardest to summon his new Devil Fruit powers. Despite the vein nearly popping in his head though, the gelatin would not come. The green foodstuff that he had been steadily growing more and more proficient at wielding would simply not answer. "Fuck you!"

"GUGIGIGIGUGI!" the 'Emperor of the Underworld' cackled at the lads spirit. "Oh the Charlotte's are going to pay handsomely for you! Just think, Linlin might even have you married into the family! Gugigigigugi! Gugigigigugi!"

A/N 2: Next time on Dragon Ball Z!

Giberson: "I need you to go save my dumbass grandson."

Jack: "You need me to go save your what?"