She was as dangerous as she was beautiful. Theirs had been a love that had blossomed in the torment of the seas. Her ship was one of few of his equals, but time and the sea had not been kind to either of them. The sea took her away from him.
He’d memorized the exact location where her ship had gone down. As he muttered the coordinates to himself, special memories returned. Easing back in his worn leather chair, Captain Jacob Jarvis folded his hands together and let his mind wander back over the centuries to 1638. He had just boarded the Spanish ship as the early morning sun streaked across the water and greeted the ship’s captain.
The Spanish ship had fought bravely against his much bigger galleon but inevitably surrendered her crew and cargo. The swords now hanging in his cabin had been taken from that captain.
That had been many centuries ago. He relaxed in his quarters, staring at the twinkly stars through the large porthole as he recalled more recent events. The year was 1939, and the ships he once sailed had evolved into steamships and ocean liners that now crossed his path. He remembered as a young lad crossing the wake of the Titanic on April 12, 1911, and marveling at how big and beautiful she was. Her lines seemed to glide across the water. To be the captain of such a ship would be the perfect ending to a sea-faring career. He sighed. History recorded the fate of the Titanic only a few days later. The Titanic holds a mysticism that few other ships have today.
Jacob let his eyes roam his quarters. Pictures and trinkets he had collected over several lifetimes covered the walls and shelves. A small black and white photo hung not far from a news clipping about the Titanic sinking. In it, a face framed in short curly hair smiled at the photographer. The leather jacket and headgear she wore were recognizable now. Amelia Earhart. He’d meet her briefly on a small island in the Pacific not long before her final attempt to fly around the world. He smiled at the brief encounter. Even as busy as she was and under pressure, she was warm and funny. He had followed her route by sea and discovered her fate, but he would never reveal it. He and his crew were never supposed to be there, and he swore them to secrecy which they never broke.
Each life Jacob lived had changed him ever so slightly. With each reincarnation, he’d sensed himself becoming older faster. At first, he hadn’t noticed. He had been so busy living each life, throwing himself into the throes of his adventures. Another picture caught his eye. His old friend Humphry Bogart and his lovely wife Betty, as he called her, but the rest of the world knew her as Lauren as they stood on the deck of his sailing yacht, Santana. Jacob had sailed his schooner into the harbor and joined the Bogarts for the evening. Soon afterward, Bogart sent him a copy of the photo with the caption, To my sailing friend, fair winds, and calm seas.
More than two hundred years later, that photo and many photos of redheads hung in his cabin. It seemed he always had a thing for redheads since the beautiful Deidre. Redheads always captured him in some way. They were strong, independent, willing, and able to meet any man head-on and win most of the time.
His eyes caught Helen’s photo taken in the early nineteen forties, during World War II. He’d met that beautiful redhead on a dock in New York City as she disembarked a transatlantic ship bringing refugees from war-torn Europe. He’d been working with the merchant marines and escorting allied ships. His ship had docked to resupply before returning to duty, and he was standing on the dock when she appeared.
He remembered the war years fondly. In some way, it had been the most exciting life he’d had. The danger and possibility of being killed had given him a rush he hadn’t had since he’d boarded a Spanish Galleon three hundred years before. And Helen? Coming home to Helen had also been a thrill of a different kind. But like every other woman he loved in his lifetimes, she wasn’t to be with him long. She passed before he renewed again. Aching from losing Helen, he vowed never to let a woman get that close again. But then, he knew his history. Ladies liked him, and frankly, he needed them.
Jacob pulled a couple of old logbooks from the shelves and began to read the details of all his lives that he had recorded. The evolution of his handwriting over the centuries amused him. It had been large and flowery at one time, the words filling more pages than they should have but easy to read. A logbook from a hundred years later showed how he’d developed into writing smaller and cramming more onto a page—most of the time making it harder to read. He laughed to himself. No one read these things, but Jacob knew someone would eventually read them. He never understood his reason for being, yet he had a strong need to write about his life and his lust for adventure and danger. Both of which he’d chased many times over.
He laid the logbooks on his desk as a feeling of déjà vu swept over him. He always sensed the time for his renewal was close. His life was always different, but his passion for sailing and exploring never waned. But alas, Captain Jacob Jarvis knew his time as a sea-faring captain and pirate was winding down. He could feel the age in his bones and a new age dawning on the sea-covered planet he loved so much.
As he had many times before, he would be reborn and become a new Jacob Jarvis with the memories and experience of the Jarvis of old. And history would record his new adventures. As he slipped off to sleep one last time, the ship swayed as it altered course, heading for port to be re-outfitted. A port he never reached.
Captain Jacob Jarvis leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers behind his head. Memories tugged at him as he reflected on the early days when he had begged and stolen enough money to finance a small rocket-powered ship. He started running freight for the early space stations and soon returned to his old pirate ways. Battling and boarding space freighters had differed from his sea-faring days, but the adventure and challenge kept him alive.
Now, in his current life, he was more than a pirate. After several centuries on Earth as a sea captain, he had learned all there was to know about the Earth’s water, the creatures that lived below it, and the ones that sailed it. That experience had become essential.
“Captain Jarvis, nice to have you back with us.”
Jacob Jarvis grinned at the image on his viewscreen. “Nice to be back, Commandant. It was quite the experience.”
What seemed like centuries and several lifetimes had been a very short time in his native timeline. The crisis facing his people was severe, and they had devised a plan to send him back in time to Earth to learn all he could about the oceans and the ecosystem. The time jumps took him across the ages until they had gathered information.
“Captain Jarvis, what is your final report on Earth’s water supply? Can we mine enough to save the planets in need in our system?”
“Sir, no, I don’t think so. Not now, anyway. When I first arrived, the waters were free and clear, but now so polluted, and with the severe drought they have suffered for decades, the humans, as they call themselves, monitor every drop of water taken from the oceans. There’s no way to mine the water without them finding out. The sad thing is that soon it won’t matter for them either. They’ve ruined their seas and waterways, and the damage to their ecosystem is unrepairable. We condemn them to their fate even sooner if we take water from them. We need to look somewhere else.”
The commandant nodded. “Let’s hope some of your colleagues in the search program in other systems have had better luck. Perhaps with enough luck, we can save Earth as well. Good work, Captain.” The screen went dark.
A sharp pain tugged at Jacob’s heart as he reported his findings. He had enjoyed being Jacob Jarvis, Earth sea captain, but it was time to return to being Jacob Jarvis, spaceship captain. Before leaving his quarters to return to the bridge, he looked at the memories hanging on his walls.
He was going to remember those redheads.