The sun beat down on the decks of the Aegean Star as we sailed northwest through the crystal-blue waters of the Aegean from Skyros toward Gioura. The wind had died to a bare whisper. The sails hung almost as listlessly as the crew members that were on duty moved to accomplish their tasks. Even the off-duty watch was out on the decks to seek out what little breeze worked its wave over the yacht’s railing.
“It’s going to take us until well after dark to reach Gioura at this rate, Mr. Korias,” the captain said, joining me at the mahogany rail. We stood staring out over the almost mirror-like surface of the sea for long moments, before I found the energy to speak.
“I know it’s an uninhabited island these days, Captain, but I have some sentimental attachment to it. Plus, some of my fishing fleet are plying the waters near the island. I thought I’d see if we could catch up with a few of them to see how they’re doing.”
He stiffened as he turned to face me. “I’m the captain of the ship, but you are the commander. We go where you wish, Mr. Korias.” A smile split his weathered face before he spoke again, “Besides, any day out on the water beats the best days on land.”
I smiled back and clapped him on the shoulder. “Spoke like a true sailor. But tell me, do we need the engines, or do you think you can coax some speed out of those sails given this little a breeze, Captain Dellis?”
He bristled at me as if I’d insulted his best girl. . .which in a way, I had. “Sir, we’ll make way if I have to get the entire crew up here to blow on the sails.”
As he moved away, I could almost see the small black cloud full of lightning bolts forming over his head. To make up for my jest on his behalf, I moved astern and began summoning a nice breeze. Keeping my eyes closed and face expressionless, I felt the power of the sea as the water started to ripple at the first hint of the wind rising. Soon, there was the unmistakable dance as the wind and water interacted, and the ship’s sails filled. I could hear the first mate, Leandros, bellowing at the crew to trim the sails and take advantage of this lucky break.
Satisfied the winds would sustain us, I moved toward the main cabin, passing Captain Dellis. “Seems your crew’s lungs will be spared yet again, Captain.”
He gave me a knowing look and merely shook his head. “At least we didn’t get a storm this time.”
“Storms are just showing off. They take too much energy. They’re just sound and fury and don’t produce good sailing winds. No, I suspect we just borrowed a bit of wind from Euros. Looks like you’ll have a nice trailing wind most of the way to our destination, Captain. My joints are pretty good at detecting changes in the weather, you know.”
Kristos made a snarking noise and then smiled. “Euros, eh? I always had an inkling those old stories had a kernel of truth in them. It was strange to find out I was right. However, I suspect your joints had nothing to do with this.”
I clutched my chest in feigned surprise. “Captain, you’re getting cynical in your old age.”
He scoffed at me before turning to return to his duties. Over his shoulder, he called, “I’m forty-two, sir. My father and grandfather are still sailing these waters. I think I’ve got a ways to go until I’m old.”
I patted him on the shoulder and headed toward my cabin. Forty-two? I couldn’t even remember my 42,000th birthday. Not that birthdays mean much when you’re immortal. Honestly, some days I’m happy when I can remember which century we’re in with these newfangled calendars and all. . .and whose calendar to use, anyway? Here in the Mediterranean, there are at least three calendars in use, and that’s not counting the Egyptian purists. Mortals worry about the strangest things.
When the sails were secured and the ship returned to its normal rhythm, I wandered down to my stateroom at the stern of the yacht. My steward had the room looking spotless, but it lacked the little touches that made it home when Doris was sailing with me. While the large king-sized bed was tempting, there were a few things to do before I could consider a nap. I opened a bottle of Barolo Riserva wine and poured myself a glass. A satisfied sip later, I sat down in the leather chair at my desk and opened my laptop. There was a new email from Doris, so I quickly opened it.
Tahiti is absolutely lovely. Galatea, Minippe, and Thaleia are off doing the Tahiti Iti Tour and Surf. Apparently, they’re off to see the whale migration. It’s not like they’ve never seen whales before, but they say they’ve never done it from a boat with other mortals before. Ah, to be young again. I’ve just been enjoying taking in the island life, and the warm waters feel so good on these old bones. Island life here has a lot in common with our own islands, but I wish you were here too. I think you’d enjoy all these new foods, and the entertainment is. . .well, no one’s going to mistake it for Greece. I know it’s hard to get away with business and all. Still, you need a vacation once in a while too. Get someone else to keep an eye on things for a bit.
Miss you lots.
I closed the e-mail and moved over to stretch out on my bed, a smile forming on my face. I imagined her with a big floral necklace and a straw hat to keep the sun out of her eyes. We’d traveled the world, visiting islands both tropic and frozen, enjoying our retirement together. It still felt odd every night I spent without her, but after almost 50,000 years of marriage, the occasional separate vacation was a good thing. Besides, Doris hardly got to spend time with her daughters anymore, with so many of them scattered around the globe. Many of them married with generations of grandchildren to watch over themselves.
My eyes were just starting to shut when there was a frantic pounding on my door. “Mr. Korias, are you asleep, sir?”
Dumbest question in the world. “What is it, Economides?”
The door opened slightly, and a young man stuck his head through the small opening. “Sir, it’s Mr. Poulos. He says he’s getting an urgent radio message, and he needs you there. It’s faint and broken, but it sounds like one of your ships is in trouble.”
I sprang to my feet and was nearly at the door before the poor sailor could get out of my way. With a growl, I slid past him in the gangway and rushed from the staterooms toward the radio room. I arrived to see Poulos frantically working the radio, trying to tune in the weak and fading signal.
“Azure Sea, Azure Sea, this is the Aegean Star. Say again, over.”
There was a burst of static, and I realized my own emotions were generating their own electrical field. I took a deep breath to calm myself, and the signal began to clear. “Aegean Star, this is the Azure Sea. We are under attack. Three small, fast boats approached. When we wouldn’t heave to, they began firing at us. They are boarding the boat. Do you copy?”
“Azure Sea, this is the Aegean Star. We copy. What is your current position?”
“Aegean Star, we are about twenty miles southeast of Gioura. Latitude 39 degrees 36 minutes north, 24 degrees. . .”
There was the sound of gunfire from the speakers, a sound I’d come to know too well seventy-five years earlier in these waters, and then the radio signal went dead. I heard the intake of breath behind me, and I knew this tragedy had played out before an audience. Mr. Poulos tried raising the Azure Sea several times before turning to me. “Signal’s dead, sir.”
I nodded and turned, shooing the sailors hanging around in the gangway back to their stations. I’m afraid that’s not the only thing that’s dead, but we’ll deal with that soon enough. I saw Captain Dellis waiting for me by the doorway. From the grim look on his face, he knew the situation better than I could explain it to him. “We’re already en route to Gioura, sir. It won’t take us but a bit to divert to their location.”
“Think you can find it, Captain?”
The grim look on his face said more than words could have. He straightened and saluted me before moving out, bawling orders to the crew to break out the weaponry and post guards.
I felt a familiar rumbling in the pit of my stomach. I’m really a live-and-let-live kind of person. When I passed the trident to Poseidon all those years ago, I was more than content to spend my days sailing the Aegean and spending time with my fishermen. However, someone was about to find out retired doesn’t mean dead.
Once a protector of the sea, always a protector of the sea.