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Authors: Lee,Molly E.
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Depths of Salvation
Copyright © 2016 by Molly E. Lee
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This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you’d like to share it with. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.
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THE WEIGHT OF
the scuba gear settled over my shoulders with a comforting familiarity, much like a pro-football player would feel with his pads. I moved through the water with fluid, arching motions, using the flippers on my feet to propel me toward the seafloor.
I could swim this route with my eyes closed, and against a current if I had to. The cold temperature of the water threatened to puncture my suit, but my body adjusted quickly. The effort it took to push through the water at such a depth—one-hundred and twenty-feet—helped heat up my muscles, not to mention it was the best and most fun workout ever. I never understood people who ran marathons or did CrossFit, but drop me in the ocean and I could outlast even the best divers.
I glanced over my shoulder, toward the surface where the sun’s rays broke through in columns, illuminating the sandy, ocean floor below.
“You coming, Nemo? Or do you need me to hold your hand? Again.” I released the push-to-talk button on my Neptune Space G Diver Mask and eyed the lanky boy about fifteen feet behind me. He tried his hardest to keep pace with me, cutting his thin muscles through the water at a rapid speed. It wasn’t an easy feat, and I’d slowed my momentum, so he didn’t feel his diving skills were lacking. I enjoyed giving him a hard time. He was the youngest on my crew at only eighteen, but he was a hard worker, dedicated to the cause with as much passion, or more, than some of the most experienced marine preservationists I’d worked with before.
time, boss. And it was only because I thought I had a shot with you.”
I chuckled and returned my focus forward. “If I was ten years younger, honey, I’d be all over you.” The boy struggled with his confidence as it was, so I wouldn’t shut him down any harder than that. It had taken him weeks to speak more than three words to me—and months to call me by my first name instead of Ms. Jenkins.
“I’m totally into the cougar thing.” His joking voice filled up my headpiece.
I scoffed. “I’m only twenty-eight! Give me a few more years before you label me like that. Damn.” I swallowed hard.
I may as well be a geriatric with how thriving my sex life had been since taking this job. I wasn’t exactly the catch of the island—a workaholic who spent more than fifty percent of her time underwater—but I’d had a few dates. They weren’t memorable and definitely weren’t bedroom material. I would’ve settled for a decent romp just to scratch the deep urge that had grown more powerful the longer I’d gone since my last decent encounter. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a relationship with someone, it’s just the men I’d met had always resented how much time I spent working, and they couldn’t handle the fact that they weren’t my number one priority. Someday I’d be able to put someone first, but not now. Not when my job was so crucial.
My breath caught in my throat, the image of the sunken WWII cargo ship never ceasing to shock my senses. I’d seen it a thousand times since I was brought on by the island’s Head of Government to oversee the preservation of the ecosystem clinging to the giant ship’s rusting steel walls and crevices. Still, the sheer magnitude in size, let alone importance to the island above me, continued to punch me in the chest every time I reached the depths where it rested against the sandy ocean floor.
“Which sector are we collecting from today, boss?”
“I’ve told you a hundred times—“
“You can call me Nemo, but I can’t call you boss? What the hell?”
I laughed again. “Touché. Quadrant four. You stay on the perimeter, though. I lose connection with command central when I swim interior and will need you to stay within range to keep them updated on our progress.”
The muscles in my abs flexed as I continued to push, using my core to slice through the water and dive deeper toward the SS
What once was most certainly a beautiful steel-gray body, was now tinted green, with a variety of coral covering the exterior. Purple fans of algae swayed gently back and forth along the ship’s base as if welcoming me back.
The new strain of algae—closely related to it’s red cousin, which grew at deeper depths than its green brothers—was one of the most exciting finds I’d had on a site in years, probably the most important one I ever would discover. Packed with antioxidant-like nutrients, the plant had cancer-fighting properties, among other disease-battling benefits. The massive purple plants grew around the ship, feeding off the delicate eco-system that had thrived there for the better part of fifty years.
The ship was more than four-hundred-feet long
with over sixty interior rooms, not including the larger-scale areas like the kitchen, cafeteria, and cargo hold. Once a World War II carrier, this ship had met its cold death ten days after the war started, having suffered a hit to the bow from a torpedo. There were causalities, but not every passenger was lost.
As the circle of life persevered, with death came rebirth. The ship now housed over four hundred different species of marine plant and animal life. My team was hired to preserve the ecosystem that had thrived here for decades, as well as remove some plant samples to test for medicinal value. So far, the most significant discovery in the plant section had been the purple algae, but there was another plant that had shown just as much potential—a type of seagrass that appeared to be a new hybrid of moss and algae combined.
The problem was the only place we’d found it growing was deep in the ship’s center, in a former dorm room whose floor had split upon hitting the seafloor. It had since merged to the sand, the roots threatening to claim it fully, and it was an absolute bitch to reach. Going full penetration inside the ship was always a risk, with a number of obstacles all equally equipped to end my life. That’s why I had Nemo, incase I had a short in my light system or got disoriented from being fully enclosed with no visible exits. He could alert command and find me in an emergency situation.
The trek would be a breeze if I could breathe underwater without any gear.
That would make you a mermaid.
I rolled my eyes and glanced down at my watch displaying my readings. I had to check to make sure I hadn’t lost track of time and was drunk on the combo of oxygen and Nitrox I had to breathe in order to stay submerged at these depths.
The gear hindered passage through small corridors and was wicked dangerous to the inexperienced. Even for someone like me, who was a certified and veteran diver, I understood the risks every time I ventured into the ship’s center. I’d known, read about, and heard about too many divers to count who had died exploring the interior of a ship, and perhaps this risk was one reason I was the fifth marine preservationist approached when the Head of Government started hunting for one to study the site.
A shoal of shimmering yellow striped fish fluttered past me as I grabbed the sides of a large door which had long lost its swing. The entire ship was on its side, as if when it had finally succumbed to its demise, it had simply turned over to take a long sleep on the bottom of the ocean floor. I gave Nemo a thumbs-up and plunged inside.
Didn’t matter how often I’d been here, every time I lost sight of the natural light from above, my body had a mini panic attack. An ice-cold fist squeezed my chest, the adrenaline in my veins screaming at me to turn and swim as fast as I could toward the surface, toward anywhere but here—a dark enclosure deep beneath the ocean.
I slowly breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth, my brain telling my body to calm the fuck down. The sensation never entirely went away. My survival instincts were primal, and they called me batshit crazy for taking risks like this.