Peter’s neck hurt. He opened his eyes and tried to sit up.
He looked up to see what he’d hit his head on. All around him was dull silver. He knew instantly where he was: inside one of the reliquaries.
He banged his fist against the lid, but the cramped box simply didn’t give him enough leverage. He was stuck. The air was hot and close.
A muted silver light illuminated the space outside the box, casting an eerie glow into his small aluminum casket. Though he couldn’t be certain, he guessed the light was from the moon. If so, that meant it was nighttime and he was probably outside.
The foggy feeling in his mind slowly waned, giving way to another sensation. Motion sickness? He was drifting, moving. He turned his head so that he was facing the Plexiglas side of the box.
He was floating.
The reliquary he was in was floating in dark water. He heard it now, slapping gently against the box, sloshing as he moved around.
His neck still ached where the dart had struck him. His muscles were tight, partially from the impossible position he was in but also from the paralyzing chemicals that were still draining from his system. He shook his head and shut his eyes tight. He remembered diving for the tattooed guy and then being struck by the dart, but after that he didn’t know. The men must have put him in this box and left him to die.
As if he needed yet another reason to kill the White Shaman—or Michael Khang or whoever he was—once he got out of here. The list was growing. Bogart, Skins, and now this.
What about the others? Are they alive?
He looked out the window again and tried to make some sense of where he was. Outside, water lapped against the Plexiglas. He lifted himself on his elbow and looked out at the dim gray world around him. As his eyes focused, he saw that he was six inches away from a natural limestone wall, like the wall of a cave. Leaning over, he tried to see how far up the wall went, but it was no use. Just above him the stones seemed to arch inward. Nothing but rock.
It was almost impossible to move. He tried to shift onto his side, careful not to flip the box over, but a loud crack and jolt sent his forehead smashing against the window. His box had floated into the rock wall.
Peter found that he could jostle his body around to make the reliquary move in the water. The box bobbed and splashed, but he was able to edge only a short distance away from the wall.
Foul-smelling water splashed against his face. Water inside the box. Was he taking on water?
His feet were wet. He strained in the dark to see down the length of the box to the end where his feet were. Filmy, gray water formed a pool at his feet, halfway up his boot.
The air he had to breathe was thin and rank and had a dank septic quality. Then a thought hit him. How much air did he have left? He breathed shallower, careful to conserve as much as he could.
His box hit something again. This time it sounded like metal against metal. He looked out his window.
It bobbed gently in the moonlit water. Through the half-submerged Plexiglas panel of the other box, he could see Linc’s face. He wasn’t moving. Either he was already dead or he was still unconscious from the drugs. Putrid water lapped up and down the inside of Linc’s box, splashing against his face.
Peter shouted and pounded the glass with his fist. His voice sounded hollow. Linc didn’t move. Peter worked to calm down. Going nuts would be useless. He knew there was no way Linc would be able to hear him through the Plexiglas. But at least he was accounted for. More than he could say for Gator or Skins.
Where was Alex? He hated being stuck in a stupid box when she could be floating somewhere nearby, freaked out of her mind. The last time he’d seen her, the tattooed guy had been trying to take her away. Maybe they’d spared her life. His mind flashed to several unpleasant scenarios. Maybe she was dead.
Another metallic thud jolted his box. He turned his head. A face was staring back at him. It caught him by surprise, like turning a corner to find someone you don’t expect.
It was Gator, alive and awake.
Gator looked nervous. He kept shaking his head and pointing up.
“We’re trapped,” Peter said, knowing he couldn’t hear him. “The electronic locks, remember?”
Gator pointed toward Peter’s feet. Peter looked down. The water inside his box had pooled and was now up to the top of his boot. He glanced back at Gator, who mouthed the words, telling Peter what he already knew but couldn’t see: “You’re sinking.”
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