I scuba dived for the first time on a summer vacation when I was fifteen. It wasn’t anything special. Two weeks in Hawaii with a cute boy with a tan for which I’d have died, as a tour guide. My heart fluttered every time he looked my way but truth be told he barely knew I existed at the time. That didn’t stop me from fantasizing though nor did it hinder my thereafter interest in the activity. I’d enjoyed the experience so much I enrolled in a class the next summer and skipped the family vacation in favor of diving lessons.
Gearing up to dive in search of Magellan’s medallion reminded me of all the excitement I used to feel when I dived, only this time it was real. Danger or not, I couldn’t help grinning like the teenager I remembered being. With Kyra’s new computer model and the safety precautions we’d put in place I was certain we were going to succeed even though Jack was being less optimistic. There was enough of a twinkle in his eyes to assure me he felt much the same as I did.
Tom cut the engines but didn’t drop the anchor. The plan was for Jack and I to dive and then Tom would keep the boat moving within our search grid. Hopefully anyone watching would think we were just cruising the grid and trying to map the seafloor. If it worked, no one should take any interest in us, if not, well, Jack and I might have to swim a long way.
Kyra handed Jack a forearm band she had specially outfitted with a waterproof display and keypad. He fitted it on his left arm proceeded to peck a quick message into it as a test. The frown on his face told me he wasn’t exactly pleased with it, but the message system was at least working.
“We should keep messages to a minimum. I’ve encrypted the signal but if someone is out there monitoring us they’ll notice it and it won’t take long to trace it into the ocean.” Kyra said.
“Next time trying something with larger keys. I’ll be lucky to type anything meaningful between the water distortion and my big fingers.” Jack said.
Kyra seemed to be ignoring him as she fiddled with some other equipment before handing it to Jack.
“I’ve set this locator with the coordinates the computer came up with for the medallion. It’ll give you a triangle to point in the direction you need to go and when you are within a yard it will turn to a circle. Proceed until the circle is center display and you’ll be at the proper location.” Kyra explained.
“Got it.” He said.
“If you have to surface early or the boat is not in sight when you surface you can push the green button on the side and it will transmit your gps coordinates to my console. You can shut it down by pressing the red button but don’t do that unless you think someone else is using it to track you.” Kyra continued.
“Understood.” Jack said. “Anything else?”
Kyra looked at us both and swept her red hair behind her shoulders and out of the way as she stood up.
“Good luck.” She said.
“Thanks.” I said.
Jack climbed down into the water and I followed right behind him. I would have liked a moment to adjust to the water, but Jack wasn’t waiting. He dived straight away, so with a last look to Kyra I fixed my mouthpiece in place and followed him down.
We spent a half hour before reaching the coordinates but as soon as they were in sight I knew where we were headed. It was a strange coral formation rising up from ocean floor. What made it so special was it appeared like spikes coming up at various angles. The account of Magellan’s death indicated his body had been pierced by multiple spears. It could have been a coincidence, but I wasn’t betting on it.
We were cautious approaching the formation and with good reason. There were eels all around it. They’d obviously made the coral formations there home and getting in close enough to investigate whether it was indeed the remains of Ferdinand Magellan was going to be difficult. Our only possibility was to take our time and avoid startling them or making the feel threatened. Fortunately eels are fairly docile unless provoked.
We held position about a yard out and assessed our options. The formation had clearly developed over a frame and it seemed obvious enough that the strands were indeed spears. The odds were significantly in favor of it being a body which certainly indicated Magellan as a possibility but I wasn’t so foolish as to believe Magellan was the only man to have ever been killed by spears and swept away by the tide in the Philippines. Still it was in the right place, but if it was Magellan then the recent quake activity had done nothing to uncover him. He’d been right there for the finding all along.
The eels didn’t like our lights shining on them and they retreated into the recesses of their coral homes. Jack pointed at my light and then pointed at the formation, indicating he wanted me to keep the light on it. I nodded understanding his plan. He figured if I kept the light shining right, he could get in close enough to investigate.
It took a few minutes but it worked. Jack was able to break off some of the lower coral to reveal what was clearly a human skull. A little more digging with his knife and a reflection from my light nearly blinded us both as it caught a jewel. I had to force myself to remain calm as Jack worked the medallion free.
A quick glance at chronometer revealed we were right on schedule. Jack placed the medallion inside a sealed bag so we didn’t risk any damage to it when we surfaced. A last look at the remains of Magellan and Jack and I pushed our way off the ocean floor heading back to the surface. I wondered if anyone would return to collect Magellan’s remains or if with the medallion collected, anyone would care.
Without warning Jack grabbed my arm, stopping our ascent. I gave him a questioning look and he pointed at his flashing message band. The display was a bright yellow and the letters were all capitals. Although the message was a single word it was clear enough; PIRATES.
We both looked up toward the surface. The shadow of two vessels flickered above us. The smaller shadow undoubtedly belonged to our boat. How they’d been taken over or surprised was a mystery for another time. The situation required us to take action without answers.
I pointed to the space between the ships, but Jack shook his head and held up the gps to me. To say I was surprised he would run instead of fight is an understatement. Our tanks had less than a half hour of oxygen left, reaching shore in that amount time Was frankly impossible, but so was arguing with charades as our only means of communicating. I followed Jack, swimming away from our colleagues.
After ten minutes of swimming, we finally surfaced. The ships were little more than specs in the distance. Wading at the surface I’ve never felt more isolated in my life. Jack shut off his tank and I followed suit, hoping he had more of a plan than swimming away from our troubles.
“There was nothing we could have done.” Jack said.
“We could have tried to help them.” I said.
“The odds were against success and I don’t fancy being a prisoner and losing the medallion to a bunch of thugs.”
“We could hide the medallion and go back.”
“There is too much risk in that. We need to get back to shore.” Jack said.
“We can’t just leave them.” I said.
Jack’s way of handling the situation was beginning to make the hackles on the back of my neck stand to attention. All the circumstances were starting to add up to me in a way that was very unfavorable for Jack Barker. If he was the man he was supposed to be, he’d be more worried about his friends back on that ship than the medallion he was holding. Then there was the fact in our last excursion he’d managed to come out unharmed while Dr. Michaels and Tom hadn’t. Not to mention it was practically a miracle that Kyra and I had survived. Then there was Italy where he was doing everything he could to keep me in the dark.
“I’m not going to abandon them but I’m not going to lead us on a hopeless rescue effort either. Our best course of action is to make it to shore and call in reinforcements.” Jack said.
I wondered if he knew the thoughts running through my head, would I make it to shore? His arguments made a certain amount of sense and he’d done nothing to threaten me. Still, the whole situation felt too much like a betrayal. Without any evidence to prove anything I suspected, I felt I had no choice but to go along with Jack’s plan, albeit cautiously.
“Alright. I don’t like it, but if you really think it’s best, I’m with you.” I said.
Jack attempted a tired smile.
“Thank you.” He said.
I nodded and gestured for him to lead the way. Maybe it was a touch of paranoia but I felt better following him than being followed under the circumstances.
The sun had set and the moon risen before we reached the beach. My arms and legs felt like lead weighted down by cement, but somehow we’d made it. If Jack had wanted me dead he’d certainly had his chance, but instead he kept me going. We crawled out of the tide onto the wet sand and collapsed.
The stars were bright and the sky was clear and black as if an artist had painted the scene above us. Lying flat on my back with arms stretched out to the sides I could still feel the waves of the ocean coursing through my body and it was almost like I was floating above the beach. Jack’s fingers brushed my own fingertips. I looked over to him to find his eyes smiling back at me.
“We made it.” I said.
My voice was hoarse from all the salty water I’d accidentally swallowed.
“You could be a fallen angel.” He said.
His eyes glanced up to the heavens and back down to me as he spoke. I smiled knowing I was anything but a picture of beauty. My hair was tangled in knots I might never undo and the sand was clumping on my wetsuit like mud. If my eyes were any less red than his it would be a miracle. No, truthfully I had to look more like a devil than an angel.
“You can try all the flattery you like but I’m still not going to bed with you.” I said.
Jack chuckled at my reference to the previous evening in his room. Of course his suggestion had been innocent enough, but my thoughts were far from innocent, then and now. I couldn’t tell if Jack had any clue what I was thinking or that there might be a chance for the two of us to be more than colleagues. Maybe it was all in my head and he wasn’t even interested, maybe there was even someone else for him. I told myself I was too tired to ask, but the reality of it had more to do fear of rejection and embarrassment.
I turned away from Jack’s prying eyes and stared once more at the twinkling stars above. My thoughts drifted away from the fantasy of love or lust I was feeling and refocused on our colleagues and their situation somewhere out on the water. A sinister voice in my head insisted on telling me they could already be dead. I didn’t want to hear it though and refused to believe it until there was no other choice. We had to help them, it was as simple as that.
“What now?” I asked.
Jack sat up, cross-legged next to me. He twisted my way and looked down at me with a serious expression and cold eyes. I braced myself to hear bad news.
“We go back to the hotel, get some gear and get you and the medallion on a plane to LA.” Jack said.
I sat up and met his gaze, eye to eye.
“I’m not leaving.” I said.
“Not while the others are still out there.” I said.
“You’re going and that’s final.”
“You can’t make me.”
“Like hell I can’t.” Jack said.
Abruptly he reached and grabbed me. A moment later I was lying face down over his lap. Jack raised his tired arm in the air and slapped it down on my neoprene covered bottom. The noise was horrific which just made the fact I didn’t feel a thing all the more amusing. I laughed.
Jack swung again and again the clap of his hand against my suit made a thunderous clap without producing any of the sting I’ve come to expect from such events.
“You may think this is funny now but you won’t be laughing by the time I’m done.” Jack said.
“Can’t we talk about this?” I asked, between giggles and spanks.
Jack kept increasing his efforts, determined to make an impression and seemingly oblivious to the fact I couldn’t feel a thing.
SMACK! SMACK! SMACK!
“Still think it’s funny?” Jack asked.
The fact I was still giggling should have been sufficient answer to his question but apparently he expected something more. His hand raised again.
SMACK! SMACK! SMACK!
“Okay. Okay. Okay.” I said.
It was obviously too late though. Jack was clearly annoyed with me and kept spanking away until he was too exhausted to lift his arm any more. He pushed me off his lap and I smiled up at him, laying on my side on the sand. I was still laughing a little but not quite as hard. Jack shook his head for a moment and then joined me in the laughter.
His spanking hadn’t managed to do more than raise a very slow heat in my posterior, but it had cut through our tension and relaxed us both. Imagine, spanking for tension therapy. Who’d have thought of that?
“God you’re stubborn.” Jack said.
“Look who’s talking.” I replied.
Jack sighed in exaggerated frustration.
“Okay, maybe I can’t make you right now, but I swear when we both get back to LA, I’m going to repeat this exercise on your bare bottom and I’ll be using a paddle.”
I sighed at his predictable threat.
“Promises, promises.” I said, fluttering my eyelashes.
“You’re incorrigible.” Jack said. “I pity your poor parents. You must have put them through hell.”
“Jack, I don’t mean to buck your authority or make any of this harder than it already is, but it seems to me if we want to survive this, we need to stick together, not split up.” I said.
“Think for a moment. This medallion is important enough to someone that they’d kill to prevent it from being found. Getting it safely away from here might be the only way to guarantee the lives of our friends.” Jack said.
It was right then that I heard Kyra asking me to give Jack a break. Whether or not she agreed with his choice, she’d do what he asked without making a fuss because all things aside, she trusted him. The realization made me wonder when it was that I stopped trusting people entirely.
“Alright. We’ll do it your way.” I said.
Jack stood up and held his hand out to me. I took it and allowed him to help me up.
“Thank you.” He said.
Suddenly I noticed my backside was more than a little hot, it was practically on fire and getting hotter by the second. I reached back to rub and found the wetsuit was just as good at preventing me from easing the burn as it had been in preventing me from feeling the spanks. Apparently the wetsuit had only insulated my bottom from sting of Jack’s hand. The resulting burn was still clearly present although apparently a little delayed in it’s build up.
Noticing my attempt to rub and probably the minor involuntary dance my legs were doing, Jack smiled and laughed.
“Feeling the burn now are we?” Jack asked.
“That’s an understatement.” I replied.
It was difficult to resist the urge to peel my wetsuit off and moon the beach, but I managed to suck it up and not complain. It’s not like it would do me any good anyway. Still, I couldn’t help doing a little bit of a dance as we walked up the path from the beach to the street. Jack walked behind me, no doubt enjoying the view.
Flagging down a taxi was a relatively easy process once we reached the main road. Although we got a raised eyebrow from the driver no doubt for our attire or possibly the way I squirmed on the seat. Take your pick, but you know which way I’m voting. Jack was enjoying his handiwork, evidenced by the twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face. Sadly, for some godforsaken reason, it only made me more attracted to him.