hands—and still plenty of strength in the kid’s grip, too.
Tomlinson found his own flashlight and spoke three gurgled words— Cover your eyes —before pointing the light at his fins and turning it on.
Visibility was zero. All Tomlinson could see was a universe of swirling silt, the granules colliding against his face mask. Plus, his eyeballs were still throbbing from the recent light explosion.
He closed his eyes, giving himself time to recover, as he traced a hose to his console, then held the console close to his mask. Its two small instruments—a dive computer with depth gauge and a pressure gauge—were luminous green, but he still had trouble seeing the numbers because the silt was so thick.
Finally, though, he read:
Now he was sure of what had happened. The limestone floor had collapsed beneath them, but not far. The good news was, he had more than half a bottle of air remaining. For Tomlinson, that meant more than thirty minutes of bottom time. And only eighteen feet beneath the surface! He felt the irrational urge to launch his body upward, through the rock. He yearned for sunlight. The sky was so damn close!
Stay cool! Pin your damn butterfly brain to the track.
Visibility seemed to be improving, but too slowly for his mood, so he switched off the light and used his hands to explore the rock chamber. His fingers touched plates of limestone and oversized oyster shells that he knew were fossilized—he’d seen a bunch of prehistoric oyster remnants earlier on the bottom of the lake.
A massive rock seemed to cover the chamber, which explained why they hadn’t been crushed by rubble. The walls were composed of rock and loose sand, which wasn’t a comforting thing to discover. The whole damn place could come crashing down at any moment. Overall, the space wasn’t much larger than a shipping crate, but it was an improvement over where they’d been.
Tomlinson squeezed the boy’s shoulder to reassure him, then sat back, resting one shoulder against the rocks. They weren’t free, but they were in a better position to dig themselves out—as long as they didn’t disturb some weight-bearing slab and get themselves killed when the ceiling collapsed.
Tomlinson calmed himself by reviewing the facts. He and Will both had miniature emergency canisters holstered next to their primary tanks. Redundancy air systems—or “bailout bottles,” as they were called. Tomlinson’s canister, which had SPARE AIR stenciled on the side, was good for only a couple of minutes. But Will’s pony bottle was twice as big—thirteen cubic feet of additional air. That was Ford’s idea, of course, the obsessive safety freak.
Tomlinson remembered rolling his eyes at the man as he had listened, impatiently, to the predive checklist. Later, if Ford gave him a ration of crap about the way he had behaved, no problem. Well-deserved—if they survived.
Tomlinson guessed that Will’s spare bottle was probably good for ten minutes of additional bottom time. Question was, how much air did Will have remaining in his primary tank?
Tomlinson reached until he found the boy’s shoulder. He felt around until he located the hoses, then the dual gauges on Will’s BC. He pulled the gauges close to his face. The numbers were encouraging.
Most novice divers were air gluttons. Not Will. The kid had steel woven into his heart—not surprising, after what he had survived only a few weeks before.
Tomlinson decided to try his flashlight again, so he turned it on, and shined it toward his feet.
Visibility had improved. He could see his own toes, long and thin, and he could discern the vague shape of Will’s legs next to him. A slow current was siphoning the silt downward, clearing the water.
An underground river, Tomlinson guessed, flowed beneath them. It was pulling water toward the sea.
It was still too murky to use his dive slate to communicate with the boy, but it would soon be an option. He patted Will’s