Beyond the boat, the world was as dark as the deepest cavern. He had watched the flashes of blue lightning along the length of the central pylon as they made their escape, the explosive charges shattering the steel inside the concrete walls, weakening the entire structure. The immense mass of the tower above would continue that destruction, pulverizing and crushing all beneath it.
And it wasn’t just this one pylon.
Out in the darkness, blue lightning bloomed and burst across the forest of stone out there, corrupting the entire understory of the island. Thunder echoed and shook their boat. For a moment, the world beyond appeared like an electric forest in the night, wondrous to behold, breathtaking in its devastation.
He remembered another proverb as he stared, pining for the simpler times of his youth.
All good things must come to an end.
“Run!” Gray yelled and pointed to the elevator.
Together, the team slogged through calf-deep icy water.
Kowalski hauled Amanda, high-stepping his way, wary of any straggling steel spiders in the lobby. But the last of the automatons had succumbed to the icy flood.
They made it to the elevators, which still had power—but for how long? Gray hit the call button to open the doors.
Another violent quake shook the facility, accompanied by a muffled boom as something gave way. A surge of water rolled down the hallway, funneling toward them, building power.
The doors opened, too slowly.
The wave of water hit them, driving them into the cage. They were waist-deep in seconds. The cold cut to the bone. Already shivering, Seichan hurried and pressed the lobby button. Gray held his breath. They all stared up, silently praying the motors still had power.
He pictured the turbines he’d seen above—the key word being above. The main power generators should still be high and dry.
This proved to be the case, as the elevator began to rise. The water level steadily drained as the cage lifted out of the rising flood. They all let out a loud sigh of relief.
A soft groan rose from Amanda as the effects of the anesthetic began to wear off. A promising sign, despite the piece of surgical drill still lodged in her skull. Once safe, they could attempt—
A mighty shake threw them all to one side of the cage.
Again, Gray’s ears popped.
A low rumble rose beneath them, growing louder, sounding like a freight train hurling straight at them. He pictured a column of water chasing up the elevator shaft as the pylon’s caisson finally imploded beneath them.
“We’re passing the service levels,” Seichan said, reaching a hand to his forearm, squeezing all her hope into that rock-hard grip.
They should be safe once the elevator climbed above sea level and reached the dry lobby above.
Then the lights went out.
Their ascent came to a shaky stop.
Kowalski swore brightly in the darkness.
“The generators,” Seichan whispered.
The floodwaters must have swamped that level—and continued to rise. The roar of the freight train grew to a howl beneath them.
“Hold on!” Gray shouted.
A force struck the underside of the carriage, driving the cage up the shaft in a bone-jarring, rattling ascent.
At least they were headed in the right direction—but for how long?
“Tucker, help me get the doors open!”
Gray knew they would have only one chance. Once the powerful surge receded, the cage would go crashing back down with it.
With urgency firing their efforts, the two forced the elevator open. The walls of the shaft blurred past them—then the outer-lobby doors sprang into view. The cage settled to a bobbling, shaking stop there, balanced on the tip of a powerful fountain.
But only for a moment.
Water flooded into the open cage, swamping the space and causing it to slowly sink.
Gray and Tucker hauled on the outer-lobby doors, cracking them wide enough for the others to evacuate. Seichan helped Kowalski with Amanda’s limp form. All the while, the cage continued to flood and submerge deeper.
Tucker used a free arm to push Kane through the shrinking doorway—then nodded to Gray. They were both chest-deep in water. Only half the cage was still at the lobby level.
“Go!” Tucker said.
“Together,” Gray argued.
They didn’t have the luxury of counting to three—both simply dove through the opening, their feet pulling free of the cage just as it sank away down the shaft behind them.
Gray helped Tucker stand.
They sloshed a few steps, relieved to be alive.
Seichan crouched by Kowalski, examining Amanda, checking her condition. When she stood, she wore a worried look.
“What?” Gray asked.
“She’s had her baby.”
Tucker splashed closer. “But her belly’s still big.”
“Was bigger, I guess.” Kowalski carried her to the steps to get her out of the water.
“She’s early,” Seichan said. “Either stress caused her to deliver prematurely or they induced her to get the baby.”
Tucker stared toward the flooded elevator, his face crushed with guilt. “I didn’t know. If I had, I could’ve searched longer. Tried to find the baby.”
Gray placed a hand on his shoulder. “We barely made it out as it was. If you’d delayed even another minute, Amanda could have died. We all could have died. And there’s no saying the baby was born alive. Or maybe he was already evacuated out.”
Tucker looked little comforted by this logic, and stared at the door. His dog came up and nudged his hand with his nose. Tucker rubbed the side of Kane’s face, finding solace there instead of words.
Gray turned away, splashing across—splashing?
He stared down at his feet, still ankle-deep in water. “Why is it still flooded up here?”
“It’s not just here,” Seichan said from a few yards away. She pointed across the lobby to the glass entrance of the Burj Abaadi.
Gray stared out, shocked.
The starlit park beyond the tower was flooded. Black waves washed through the trees and crashed against the steps of the tower.
He understood immediately. The Guild never took half-measures when it came to covering their tracks. They hadn’t just shattered the one support pylon as a fail-safe.
They had shattered all of them.
He knew what that meant, a dreadful and frightening truth.
The whole island is sinking.
July 2, 8:01 P.M. EST
Orangeburg, South Carolina
They’d been on the road for an hour, heading west out of Charleston. Kat noted a sign that read ORANGEBURG. Her captors—the head of the fertility clinic, Dr. Paul Cranston, and his three men—kept mostly to the back roads, racing at speeds too fast for the rural areas.