THE INFLATABLE DINGHY BOBBED restlessly beside Ariadne as she floated face down on the cool sea. She was grateful for the warmth of the short wetsuit. Below, through wavering blue shadows, Peter was looping the anchor line around a boulder. A trail of air bubbles rose to the surface. She tightened her lips around the rubber grips and took in a slow, deep breath as he’d instructed her. The echoing sound was strange, but the steady, calming rhythm was something she didn’t need to practice.
A school of fish darted in a synchronized cloud below, filtered sun shimmering over silver scales. They scattered in a burst of bubbles as Peter surfaced through them.
He activated her vest inflator, floating her shoulders and head out of the water. Pulling out his mouthpiece, he asked, “Okay?”
She started to nod, then remembered the signals he’d shown her and raised her hand, index finger joined to thumb in a circle.
He grinned. “Good.” Reaching into the dinghy, he pulled down a coil of thin line, knotting one end to the anchor tether. “We’ll pull this line along, in case there’s an undertow inside. Keep a hand on it and stick close to me. I’ll adjust your vest for you, just remember to clear your ears, and keep breathing out, especially on the way back up or you could rupture your lungs. Got it?”
She nodded, shivering as the sea foamed out from under the ledge behind him, swirling around her legs with the charged ripples of agitated energy she’d felt above on the ridge. It was stronger here, somehow threatening.
He touched her shoulder. She jerked her face to his, blinking through mist inside her mask.
“Sure you want to do this?”
She nodded, clearing her throat. “Yes. You have the tools? You will be very careful making an extraction?”
“You just point out the spot. Better clear your mask again, then we’ll head down.” He waited while she removed the mask, spat in it, and rinsed the glass. “Here we go.” He handed her back the mouthpiece on its hose, then winked and sank below the surface, pulling the cord to release air from her vest.
A moment of disorientation as the water closed over her and she rolled, weightless. He touched her shoulder from behind and guided her slowly down. He turned her to face him and they hovered near the anchor line, surge tugging them toward the rocks and then pushing them away. She looked toward the gleaming, restless ceiling above and glimpsed a sleek shape darting. She made the OK sign. He reached over to snap on the light he’d strapped to her wrist, then gestured her after him.
His fins moved him slowly toward the submerged contours of rocky cliff. She followed closely, fighting the urge to flail against the surge tugging her off-balance. She clutched tighter to the line he pulled. He moved in close to the wall, his light sweeping back and forth. He gestured her closer, jabbing his thumb quickly up and then sideways, pointing at the boil of agitated water in the cave entrance. Before she could respond, he shot ahead, dragging her along on the line.
Hiss of air in her ears. Black rocks. Shadowed water pulling and tossing her back. Her leg slammed against a boulder, sea tumbling her, and she lost any sense of up or down in the maelstrom. Her breath caught in her throat, the suit and vest choking her, squeezing her lungs. She flailed, fighting the frightening force of the water, her fingers loosening on the line.
It suddenly jerked. Her hand tightened on it just in time to be tugged in the split-second pause between crashing surges through a narrow rushing gap and into a dark, open place. The water boiled, sucking back at her, but the line yanked her forward until she was free of the current. She remembered to let out the air trapped in her lungs, and a spill of bubbles escaped.
A light flashed over her face, then flicked away to highlight his hand in the OK? query. She took a careful breath, easing the tightness in her chest, and answered him. He squeezed her shoulder and adjusted her flotation valve, then his light was gesturing, the line pulling her deeper into blackness.
She was still off-balance, disoriented in the buoyant dark, but she flashed her light to catch her air bubbles as he’d told her. Their rising established up and down. She followed the glow of his light, shining her own through the inky water.
She saw only sweeping glimpses out of the darkness: His fins. A low, jagged rock ceiling overhead. A wall of featureless gray stone. She bobbed closer beside Peter and flattened her hand on the wall, closing her eyes. The air feed hissed to the restless energy jittering through her. She could no longer deny her link with the energy fields. The source was close, strong here.
Peter touched her shoulder. She opened her eyes to a diffused glow off the rock, his shrugged question.
She held up her hand, gesturing him back. She moved slowly down the wall, probing with the light, the back of her neck prickling with tension swirled by the trapped water. As she pulled herself across the rock wall, her light caught something that sparkled and gleamed.
She jerked back, throwing herself off-balance. Peter caught her arm and steadied her. She barely noticed. Her heart was pounding furiously, air hissing, skin crawling with the lapping waves of charge. She fought to keep her breaths deep and steady.
The quartz seam was exposed to the sea here, shining white in the dimness, glinting with metallic veins and crystalline flecks. She touched her flattened palm to it, an electric shock running up her arm.
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