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Time To GO

A Captain Jarvis Story

By Kenneth LawsonPublished about a month ago 10 min read

“You'll find it. Look for the shoes." Whoever sent the note scribbled that cryptic line underneath an address and a “Please Come” typed on a note delivered to me at the dock by a courier.

“Okay,” I muttered to myself. The address written on the paper was in a seedy section of Miami. That area of town was a maze of old derelict buildings and run-down tenement houses where a once upscale neighborhood existed. The underbelly of the city where people barely survived, subsisting on whatever meager handout they could get.

As I approached the building, a cool, early spring wind blew down the streets. My contact said the apartment was on the right and to look for the shoes. I exited the van, looked around, and finally spotted several pairs of shoes hung over a power line. Looking directly across the street from the shoe, I noticed one window cleaner than the rest, all encrusted with grime and pollution. That would be her apartment. As I entered, the front door creaked and moaned when it opened. I knew the trek up the stairs would not be pleasant in this dilapidated building, so I steeled myself.

A dim bulb hung from the ceiling to light the hallway and the landing to the stairs. The smell was as oppressive as the dinginess and darkness of the stairs leading to the next floor.

Eventually, I made it to her floor. Every so often, I could see a hint of the former glory of the building poking through the grime and grit that had accumulated over the decades. It was as if to say, “Hey, remember me, I used to be grand and glorious and something to behold.” It knew it had a history but had succumbed to its present fate.

Arriving at her door, I knocked lightly to avoid disturbing any critters sleeping nearby, be they two or four-legged. The door opened on the first light tap, and she waved me in. The walls of the apartment showed their age. The paint peeled, and mold grew in the corners. “This place is going to kill you.”

"No worries, I neutralized it decades ago. I’m Margo.” She waved a hand in the general direction of the mold on the walls.

Neutralized or not, I still didn’t dare touch the walls. ‘You have a report for me?”

“We have visitors coming. I noticed a faint trail a while back but didn’t want to say anything until I had a visual of them. This is the data I have collected.” She handed me a thumb drive, which would appear empty to anyone else, but I knew how to access its information.

“And Captain, I’d like to get out of here.”

I nodded. “You have more than enough years in to retire.”

“No, not just retire, go with you.”

“But I’m not going anywhere. I’m retired.”

“You’re here picking up a delivery anyone else could have.” She put her hands on her hips and looked at me defiantly. Looking closer at her, I could tell she was struggling to hold her human form. The tells were there if you knew what you were looking at. I also knew she had sent the note because she wanted me to come.

“How long have you been here, Margo?”

“Sixty years since I set up the telescope and radio on top of the building.”

I had once stayed human for five hundred years in one stretch. I don’t recommend it. These days, being human for only a few days at a time was more than I could do regularly.

Margo had been on Earth far too long, and the physical stress started showing. The last thing the Space Council needed was a shapeshifter losing control in the middle of the city, not to mention increasing the chances of someone discovering our equipment.

“Margo, I’ll talk to them, but for now, you must try to stay in form and out of sight.”

She leaned against the nearest wall, let her arms fall to her side, and uttered a resigned sigh.

Sometimes, the Space Council did stupid things, like letting an agent stay in one place too long/ They should have recalled Margo twenty years ago, and someone new sent in to monitor the equipment on the building’s roof.

I could feel myself starting to need to return to my natural state already, and it had only been a few hours since I became Captain Jacob Jarvis, retired spaceship Counciler and traveler of Earth’s waters. I told her I would be in touch and left.

I hurried to the van and drove as quickly as I could in the horrid city traffic. I relaxed but couldn’t return to my normal state because I still had to get from the van to the schooner on a dock filled with humans. I felt better reaching the docks and holding my shape long enough to get to our boat.

We left the dock and anchored the schooner in the bay outside of Key Largo. The Caribbean Club wasn’t far from where we moored, and we could hear the nightly rebel rousing drift across the water. I had been here once before, in 1948, when they filmed the exterior shots for my friend, Humphry Bogart, and his movie Key Largo. While the building was still pretty much the same, the surrounding land had become an overpopulated tourist mecca.

Deidre relayed the information on the thumb drive to the Space Council who would decide what to do with it, but I still had to deal with Margo. She needed to get out of her assignment. However, what she said about coming with me was a problem.

I understood her wanting to retire and stay on Earth. But it hadn’t been as easy. Space Council's reluctance to allow me to remain on Earth was understandable. I was a liability, but I had also been here longer than all other

shapeshifters combined, and I understood humans as much as any creature can. Older now, I couldn’t hold my human form for long, so I adjusted. Adjustments wouldn’t be possible without Dedrie and my daughter Lynn, both shapeshifters. One can be in human form while the others rest. Getting the Space Council to agree to let me retire here was difficult. I found I couldn’t maintain my body or shape for long.

So, I spent more time below deck in the special cabin outfitted so we could return to our natural forms. We took turns below deck in the cabin, but lately, I spent the most time there, followed by Deidre, who was as old as I am and couldn’t hold her form as she used to. The idea of adding Margo to an already crowded schooner and her needing the special cabin was not good. But I knew she couldn’t stay on Earth independently as she became unstable.

I rested after returning to the boat and thought about Margon. Something bothered me. She was tired and scared about losing her ability to maintain shapeshifting. But something else scared her. I could feel it. I remembered the shoes hanging outside and could see them from her window. I researched hanging shoes and found they often meant drugs and gang activities. More digging told me that at least two gangs were active in the neighborhood.

That's what was scaring her. She knew they were watching the building and saw me come and go. She was afraid they’d track me. I rushed out of the resting room and quickly changed into human form. Dedrie and Lynn were reading on the deck. When Dedrie saw me, she shook her head. She knew the look.

“What’s wrong?”

“We’re going back. Margos in trouble.”

Dedrie looked at me questioningly but rose. “Then we go back.”

Lynn untied us from the mooring buoy as Dedrie put books and drinks away. Under engine power, I drove us to the dock.

On the road, I told her about my theories and what I’d found on the computer, topping it off with the official police files I’d just read about the local gang activity and that building.

It took about an hour to get to the once lovely area of Miami. Dedrie and Lynn refused to allow me to see Margo alone. Leaving Lynn in the van, we climbed the stairs and, in the hallway, outside her door, we heard voices—Margo’s and a young man’s. I caught bits and pieces of what he said, but enough to know he was threatening her with a gun.

We couldn’t go barging in from this side. He was probably pointing the gun at her. So that left the bathroom, which I’d noticed was on the outside wall to the right of the living room. I told Deidre we needed to shapeshift into the bathroom, and I would distract him.

Space Council has rules against shapeshifting on non-native planets. They don’t like it. At the moment, the only way I could get to Margo safely was to get into the bathroom, and the only way to accomplish that was to shift. So, we shifted through the wall. I hadn’t done anything like that in a long time, and I’d forgotten how much energy it used—pulling ourselves back together into the bathroom. I tried to compose myself, but Deidre stayed invisible. I could see her, but no one else could.

“Ready?” I got a nod from her in reply.

I opened the bathroom door, walked into the living room, and stood beside Margo. “So, are you ready to go to dinner?” The man looked startled, but Deidre rushed and knocked him to the ground before he could react. I retrieved the gun that went flying.

We tied up the kid, and Margo called the police, who, after questioning us, took the kid away on a home invasion charge. We had to get Margo out and decided to take her to the boat. Margo drove because neither of us was in any condition to drive from the shapeshifting, which used much of our energy reserve to stay in human form. We would need to use the cabin when we returned to the boat.

We exchanged formal introductions once we were on the schooner. After we’d rested, we had dinner at a local restaurant. The subject of Margo and what to do with her was back up again.

While she had managed to stay in human form the entire day, we could both tell it was too much for her. There was no way she could stay here. I reviewed her service record and found she’d served as long as I had on Earth. She was one of the first groups sent to Earth over 500 years ago and had held her shape for the entire time, through a dozen lifetimes and periods. No wonder she was tired. Even I hadn’t stayed in form that long at a time for a continuous stretch.

I started making arrangements for her to return home. But there was another problem. The apartment building where the radio and telescope were housed was still a derelict and all but deserted tomb of a building, but more importantly, the next shifter assigned to the equipment and building would have to deal with the drugs and gangs. That was a problem I couldn’t turn away from as I’ve seen more than I want to recall about what happens when gangs and drugs are allowed to run amuck.

The Space Consuel wasn’t happy with our report about rescuing Margo or our proposed course of action. The array on that building was integral to the entire network, so they had to go along.

First, an anonymous tip gave the local police the information they needed to break up the gangs. Meanwhile, we started investigating the building, which had been sold to the city for back taxes and then to a shady landlord. I realized that restoring the building would help gentrify the neighborhood, bring in business, and drive out the gangs.

Space Council didn’t want any part of my plan at first. It was too much interference with the local ecosystem and population for them. However, I prevailed and convinced them to fund venture capital to revitalize the old building and the neighborhood. It turned out that a shapeshifter, assigned to monitor the planet’s financial systems, agreed to become the project developer and secured the funds. Aware of the telescope and communications array on the building, he would maintain its secrecy. Lynn joined the project as general manager.

Margo stayed with us on the schooner for several weeks until she was well enough for space travel, and arranged to return her to our planet. Deidre and I enjoyed a quiet summer off the Keys, going from one island to another and fishing in the many bays and harbors that dotted the Keys.

With the project underway and Lynn happy in her new role, I told Dedrie it was time to sail the oceans we both loved. A sail to Down Under was in order so I could visit a dear, old friend, Kathy, from another life. We headed off to follow the summer sun to Australia. I love this planet called Earth.

Short StorySci FiFantasyAdventure

About the Creator

Kenneth Lawson

Baby Boomer,Writer, Connoisseur of all things Classic: Movies, Television, Music, Vinyl, Cars, techonolgy

I write stories that bend genres and cross the boundries of time and space.

New Story every Month

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  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    I liked it!!!

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