“You can’t make it up on your own from this depth,” Theo calls through the thick glass. “Don’t kill yourself trying to get away from me, all right? I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I’m getting out of here and going home,” I repeat, stepping closer to the door where he stands. “And I’m taking my dad with me.”
Then I slam my hand against the glass and watch Theo’s eyes widen as he sees what I’ve been holding in my palm—his Firebird.
The one I snatched from his neck during our fight. The one he was counting on to get him out of this—and the one that’s going to bring my father back where he belongs.
“Come on. Don’t do this.” Theo’s face is white. Good.
“You thought this dimension was good enough to strand Dad in,” I say as I go to the escape pod’s opening. “Hope you like being stranded here too.”
Then I slide into the pod, and Theo’s words are muffled so that I can’t exactly hear him any longer.
Right now, I’m in a lot more danger than he is. This submarine seems to be intact; even if it can’t move right now, it’s watertight and pressurized. Sure, Theo is stuck, but a crew from the Salacia will be down as soon as possible. As angry as Dad’s going to be when he realizes the truth about Theo, he’d never leave anyone to die.
Me? I’m launching myself into the hostile world beyond the sub—into the cold, crushing dark.
But if I stay here, eventually Theo’s going to get through that door. He’ll get the Firebird back from me, and then Dad and I will once again be at the mercy of Wyatt Conley’s schemes.
That’s not going to happen.
Shaking, I hit the yellow panel that says Launch Prep.
Metal discs pinwheel out from the sides of the door to seal me in completely. There’s a distant pounding, probably Theo throwing himself against the doors in a last, desperate bid to get my attention, but I refuse to look.
No expansive large windows here—just a slim transparent sliver that lets me see just how forbidding it is outside. Nothing is near us, nothing at all except the depth of the crevasse. But this is my only chance. I suck in a deep breath, put my hand to the red panel that says Final Launch—and hit it.
Instantly metal clamps click and thud, and then the pod falls into the ocean.
At first I’m terrified. I’m falling! I’m going to fall all the way down—but then some sort of motor kicks in and propels me upward. Then it feels like liberation. As unbelievably dark and cramped as it is in here, I’m free.
Down this far, it’s too dark to see the surface of the water. Maybe I could on a brighter day, but the storm overhead is blocking what little light might penetrate this deep. The only illumination comes from the glow-in-the-dark paint within the pod . . . but that’s not much, just a few lines within the panels. Probably I was supposed to bring some kind of flashlight in here with me. I’ll have to remember that next time, I think, but it’s not funny.
Surely there’s some sort of heat, or insulating safety blankets I haven’t found. All I know is this chill can’t be safe. I’m surrounded by metal, and by water that’s only a few degrees above freezing, which means it’s already so cold in here I’m shaking. Every moment I get clumsier as my limbs start to go numb.
Another factor I hadn’t counted on was my exhaustion. Theo and I just took turns beating the crap out of each other—and that’s after a morning that began with me climbing weather stations in storm-force gales. It’s important to stay awake, to figure out how to contact help once I get to the surface, but the cold and the weariness are dragging me down. Adrenaline can only take me so far, but I’m determined that it’s going to take me far enough.
You can make it, I think, but it sounds desperate and unrealistic, even to me. I bet it’s safe. You’ll be to the surface soon; it can’t be much farther.
Oh, God, how much farther is it? How far?
And then, brilliant as a sunrise, light breaks underwater, streaming through the one slim window I have to the ocean beyond.
The spotlights bathe me in their glow, so bright I have to turn my head away and squint. As they come closer, the form behind them takes shape—it’s a sub, but not one of the ones from Salacia.
Which means there’s only one person it could be.
Slowly my murky view of the world above takes the shape of the sub’s white belly as it lowers itself over the escape pod; it’s like looking up into the sky. A crescent-shaped opening waxes above me like a moon the color of night. The pod bobs up through that opening, into the diving bay of the sub. The door shuts again, and water begins to be pumped out, the levels falling moment by moment as the pod settles onto the diving bay’s floor.
I feel so heavy. So tired. But I manage to stay awake, even to stay mostly calm, despite the dizziness and nausea I recognize as potential signs of pressure sickness.
Water ebbs from the escape pod; only trickles remain on the floor. From where I sit curled within the pod, I watch the pressure indicator on the wall glow red—still red—and then green.
I hit the green panel that says Door Release; the metal spirals open again, and I’m able to push open the pod’s door. I flop onto the wet metal mesh of the floor like a hooked fish, weak and shaking. As I gulp in a deep breath, I hear the doors near me slide open. I turn to see Paul running toward me, something silvery in his hands.