Kane sat next to him, leaning against his knee.
“I know where she can get it,” Jack said. “Close by. I’ve got a state-of-the-art facility aboard the Deep Fathom. We can be steaming out of these waters within the hour and get her somewhere safe.”
Tucker sank into his seat, grateful and relieved.
Jack lowered the Ghost back under the water and piloted them away. “What the hell did they do to her?”
“I don’t know,” Tucker said numbly.
And I hope I never do.
“What about your other friends?”
Tucker looked up through the glass roof and admitted the same.
“I don’t know.”
“We’re on fumes,” Gray shouted.
At least, I hope I have even that.
Seichan sat next to him with her two SIGs on her lap. She glanced over at him. A glimmer of fear shone in her eyes—she wasn’t stupid—but it seemed only to ignite the larger excitement found there. She smiled, her hair whipped by the wind, the collar of her blouse snapping, showing the length of her neck.
“Let’s do this.”
Ever a woman of few words.
He grinned back, which only made her smile deepen—still hard-edged and purposeful, but now shining with something darker and softer, something he wanted to explore.
When they had the time.
He spun the jet boat back toward the blockade. They’d given the trio of pursuers a wild ride, weaving in and out of the line. The carbon-fiber hull had a few new holes in it, but Seichan had shot the same number of men.
She had proved her marksmanship had not dulled since he first met her. Of course, back then she’d been an assassin for the Guild, shooting at him.
Gray aimed their jet boat for the larger patrol cutter, a hundred-footer, plainly the command center for the fleet. He was confident that no eyes were looking toward where he’d hidden the others. He had planned on coming out here alone, expected to be captured, maybe killed.
And that hadn’t changed.
Only Seichan had offered another plan—to gain something from their sacrifice. This entire mission had started from an act of piracy; perhaps another act of piracy could end it.
Half of piracy involved bloodshed and destruction.
From the sinking of the island, from the trail of bodies, they’d already accomplished that well enough.
The other half of piracy was the theft of treasures.
That is what they’d come here to do.
Gray raced toward the patrol cutter, heading dead-on, a maneuver the smaller ships had not expected. Caught off guard by the sudden suicidal move, the smaller boats were slow in closing the gap. Seichan further discouraged them. She stood, one knee on her seat for balance, her two arms raised out to either side, black SIGs in each hand. She laid down a deadly barrage of fire to hold that gap open long enough for Gray to slip past their line of defense.
Nothing stood between them and the lead ship of the fleet.
It was a fast-response-class cutter, typically holding a crew of twenty, painted stark white. And, like most modern patrol vessels, it featured a stern launch-and-recovery ramp, made for deploying pursuit boats, even while under way.
That was their target.
The ramp was currently empty, as the entire fleet had been called to duty to build the blockade around the island.
Gray aimed for that ramp with the last of his fuel and opened the throttle.
Crew members ran to the stern of the ship, flanking the ramp. Automatic weapons pointed. On deck, a 25 mm stabilized caliber gun mount swung toward them. Additionally, a patrol guard manned the round black disk of an LRAD—long-range acoustic device, used as a sonic nonlethal shield against pirates, a useful tool in these waters.
There was no way to assault that ship.
They had only one choice.
“Ready?” he asked.
“I’m out of bullets anyway,” Seichan said.
Gray throttled down, killing the engines—then stood up, joining her. He laced his fingers atop his head. She made a broad display of tossing her pistols overboard, then took the same position, hands on head.
“We surrender!” he called out.
The jet boat’s momentum carried them to the stern ramp and nosed them halfway up. Weapons tracked them on both sides.
A commotion followed.
The captain of the boat appeared at the top of the ramp. His dark features and heavy shadow of beard marked his Arab heritage. He was flanked by a thin, mustached man and a hard-muscled woman with a stern blond bob.
“On your knees!” the captain said, pointing a pistol.
The captain barked an order in Arabic. Four men came racing down the ramp and dragged the boat the rest of the way up, then tied the craft in place, ensuring they didn’t try to flee. Another two boarded and pulled their arms down, cuffing them behind them.
Only then did the captain and the others come forward.
The thin man approached on Seichan’s side of the vessel, commenting in a stiff British accent. “She would be a perfect research subject, don’t you think, Petra?”
The blonde crossed over to Gray. “Careful, Dr. Blake. That one’s not for you. At least not yet.”
Petra leaned toward Gray. “Or this one. We thought hunting you or one of your colleagues would be harder. That makes me suspicious.”
She lunged a hand at his neck, fast enough to catch his throat. He reflexively tried to pull away. A ghost of a smile appeared, amused by the surprise in his expression. Her other hand moved equally swift. A needle jabbed into his throat. A burn, like acid, spread as she pushed the plunger.
He coughed at the intense pain.
Petra straightened. “No, we have special plans for this one.”
“What plans?” Blake asked, but his question had a faltering note, as if he didn’t want to know the answer.
“He’s a skilled sniper,” Petra began.
Gray fought to listen, but the acid burned through his consciousness. The world constricted, her voice drifted back down a long tunnel.
“Forty hours from now—”
Her final words trailed to a whisper as he slumped to his side, sprawling next to Seichan. His vision narrowed to a pinpoint. Through that tiny hole, he watched Seichan shift her knee, switching off the camera attached to Kane’s abandoned vest, hiding the fact that she had been recording the conversation before the others grew any wiser.
He prayed someone was listening—someone had to be listening.
This was the pirate bounty they’d risked so much to steal.
The most valuable treasure in the world.
As Gray faded to black, those last disturbing words followed him into oblivion: