Damn it’s hot in here. With a thought, my armor shifted across my skin, scraping what felt like gallons of water away from my skin.
RegretMistake. Chloe moved up next to me. “Sorry, when I suggested this job, I never thought to consider how uncomfortable you’d be. You’re the only one whose powers don’t help with heat, and you have to wear more than us.”
True, and I can’t even lie to make her feel better. “Not like it’s magically any less hell back home.” To say nothing of the constant nightmare of hiding Cecelia from Nanna and Beatrice. “Besides, it’s easier work and better pay than some construction job I’d be lucky to get without powers, right?” If she’s even half right about what we’ve earned, I can pay my own senior year, and have enough left over to get my costumed life far away from my family. With Nanna free from taking care of me, she can cover Bea’s costs without having to swallow her pride. Everyone wins.
ReliefRespectLove. “If you say so.”
I smiled beneath my armor; she’d know the intent, if not the gesture. For us, the saying that it was the thought which counted was literal. I kept my gaze on the horizon, glad the weird functions of my vision made me immune to glare of the setting sun on the ocean. Deep beneath the waters, a profile of metal, strewn in a now familiar pattern emerged. More than usual, though.
“Got another one!” Cecelia turned her head away from the water to shout at the Captain Cline’s control room.
The captain opened his door. “So late?” He shook his head. “What’s the tags?”
Cecelia looked back toward the water, but what she was searching for lay in my emotions. I focused on the simple codes we’d worked out, built more on concept than pattern. “Wood ship, scattered, looks like it was taken down by a storm.” The storm was an embellishment on her part. CleverApproval AcceptanceReady.
“So, a big find at the worst time. Well, it’s a good problem to have go, but by the time the crew gets set it’ll be dark.” Captain Cline looked back into his office. “Do you think you can do your part in the dark? Then you can get a bit of extra shut-eye while we do our thing in the morning. I’ll get the paperwork for this find ready in the meantime.”
SurpriseAcceptanceEager. I put effort into not looking at Chloe. “Not a problem.”
With that, I took control of my metal and formed the canoe-like shape. Chloe had her arms around be before I’d finished, and with me holding the boat she lowered us into the water below.
I took the opportunity to get a good look at Chloe’s figure as she hovered above me to ferry Cecelia down. She spared a glance back at me. AmusedPleasedLove.
Chloe set Cecelia down, took position at the front of the boat, then pushed us forward until we reached the spot just above the largest pile of sunken ship. Out here, almost a mile from our vessel, we could speak freely. Funny thing was, we no longer needed to. I reached a hand over the side of the boat, and Cecelia put hers on top to add power.
I dropped a string of metal as thin as a fishing line into the water, ignoring waves and weight in stark defiance of physics. Not quite as logic-defying as how Cecelia’s lightning didn’t ground itself into the water, but still absurd.
AmusementTeasing. “Still trying to figure out how powers work?”
“I know I should stop,” I said. Meanwhile, I guided the string to the ocean floor, over a mile beneath the waters while Chloe held the boat still against the ocean waves. We’d stopped above one of the more promising chunks of metal, thought it was hard to identify from this far above. My metal made contact, then coiled around the object several times before fusing back into itself. “Knowing my luck, it’ll be like Hitchhiker’s.”
ConfusedCurious. “Like what?” Chloe gripped the string, and began hefting the object to the surface. She went slow to avoid breaking something fragile, which was anything and everything under the circumstances. Turns out spending centuries in salt water was as corrosive as you’d expect it to be.
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? One of the best scifi book series ever? Funniest, too?” Oh god, she doesn’t know what that is. Neither of them do. “Well, to focus on the part that matters here… the books say that if you find both the answer to the meaning of the universe, and the question, the universe will reset itself into something even more inscrutable.”
IncredulityRejection. “You think powers would change themselves if someone figures out how they work?” Chloe pulled harder on the string I’d created. “Jeez, are you sure I’m not pulling up the whole ship?”
FocusEmpower. Orange lightning danced across the boat until the found their way into Chloe. GratitudeConfidence.
“Well, not in a serious way, but it would be a convenient excuse to stop asking questions if I knew the answers would change if I got them right. Also, when we get home, I’m giving you my books. My friends would revoke all my geek cred if I didn’t.”
“You have powers, why do you care a-” FrustrationConcern “seriously, Dom, what did you grab?”
I looked over the edge, into an abyss of white with iron showing as black as if a photo-negative of the night’s sky. Chloe had pulled the object over halfway up. “It’s… a cannon? Yeah, looks like a cannon.”
“You’re just lucky I recharge faster out here than on land, or I’d have to drop it to keep us all from sinking.”
ConcernReinforce. Right. I shifted the metal of the boat, making it wider and the walls higher. I knew from experience that while my metal was weightless to me, it still obeyed all other laws of physics, including buoyancy. If we went under, I’d have to shed everything or sink to the ocean floor like any other block of steel. Lightning danced across the inside of the boat while I used every bit of my armor I could to enlarge the boat.
It was tense as Chloe worked the cannon up to the surface. In the end, she brought the weapon to the surface with little fanfare save gallons of water pouring out of the barrel and back into the ocean. The weapon was huge, only barely able to fit in the boat. Our raft leaned to the left and sank low into the water, but as long as it wasn’t taking on water we were safe. WeakConcerned AssistTime.
“We can afford a bit of a breather, we’ll just say it took time to balance our boat or something.” While my partners were busy recharging, I made even more adjustments to keep us from capsizing. I looked back at our ship, where Paul, Jaz and Davin stood at the rail watching us. Paul had his hand on Jaz’s shoulder.
ProtectiveConcern. “What do you think about, well, them?” Chloe asked.
DismissiveMeaningless. On some level, I agreed with Cecelia, though I found a more diplomatic way of saying it. “Jasmine’s an adult, it’s her business.”
ResponsibilityWorry. “But if he does anything to her, it’s our fault for inviting her. I mean, he’s using her so he has access to Davin’s power, and she has to know it.”
“Oh, he’s using her all right, but for something a little more recreational,” Cecelia said. ShockDisgust. “It’s okay, she’s using him right back. The six bagged herself a nine, as it were.”
DiscomfortUnease. “Okay, but then why’s he with her?” Chloe took position at the other end of the ship, then began to push with her power. She had to go slow, to keep from tipping the boat or ripping it in half with her strength. “I know it’s mean, but as nice as Jaz is, she’s not exactly… well… he’d have no trouble finding someone better looking who doesn’t have her baggage.”
“Just how some guys are.” More lightning danced off of Cecelia, dimmer now that we were headed back. She was doing her best to get Chloe near full power before we reached the ship, to sell the illusion that she didn’t have her battery weakness. “They pretend they’re strong, but in the end all they want is for mommy to tell them they’re good boys after a spanking.”
AwkwardDisquiet. Hearing Cecelia talk like that wasn’t fun for me, either. “Okay, point made.” And let us never speak of it again. “Far as I’m concerned, if they’re happy then it’s none of my business.” And if they’re not happy, it’s still not my business.
“I guess you’re right.” Chloe put more speed into pushing the boat. DeterminedProtective. “But he’d better not hurt her.”
“I’d say he’s not that stupid,” Cecelia said. “But jumping in the sack with friends of business partners isn’t smart.”
Chloe stopped our makeshift boat-raft next to the ship. “Guess I’ll just have to remind him who her friends are.” Chloe put her hand in the barrel of the gun, lifted the nose, then slid her other arm beneath it. Without apparent effort, she hefted the whole monster up to rest on her shoulder, then brought the several thousand pound weapon up to the ship. She set it down so gently that I couldn’t hear the metal clang against the deck. She ate so much of her power in the process that even I could feel her battery plummet, but she made it look effortless.
She descended back into the boat, her aura depleted to the deep blue color which indicated she was seconds from falling out of the sky. “Sorry, guess I got a little carried away.”
TiredUnfocused. Correction, Chloe just ate both of their batteries. “Give me a moment, and you can bring us both back up at the same time.” I drew the metal back to me and wrapped a fair amount of it around Chloe’s feet. I took more time than needed, though my control was sluggish anyway now that almost all Cecelia’s power within my metal went to recharging the girls. “I guess it’s better to learn where our limits are now instead of in a fight where it matters.”
AcceptanceApproval ReliefLove. Cecelia looked up at the railing of the Last Horizon. “You lifted seven tons in flight for twenty seconds. When Wiki puts that online, no one’s ever going to believe it.”
Teal light radiated from Chloe as the platform lifted out of the water. “There is something to be said for being underestimated.” I bit down on my fear of both heights and Chloe running out of power until we touched down on the deck of the ship.
“Quite the find,” Paul spoke even as I drew my metal back to me. “Davin says it’s a forty-two pound long gun, Spanish origins mid eighteenth century. Could be pirate hunter, or maybe it was blown off course, or it could be a British ship with captured weapons. It’s military, whatever the story.”
I stepped forward, to give the girls a chance to recover from their exertion; of the three of us, mine was the only power that didn’t deplete the user. “There’s a lot more down there. It was either armed to the teeth, or transporting weapons.”
Paul handed over his clipboard, with our now familiar paperwork. “In that case, it could be more than one ship. Davin says he couldn’t find any records which fit, but if they met a hurricane on their way north, there may not be proper records.”
Pity I’m not a history buff, or this would be fascinating. I clicked the pen, then got to reading the details of this mission. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the latitude and longitude, though I understood ‘six miles ESE from Wilmington, NC’. I signed as Damascus, confirming the listed recovery of a long gun cannon as our sample. “You’ll have to tell me what your guys find in the morning.”
Paul took the signed paperwork. “Of course. I’ll have my men tarp this for the night, handle it when the sun’s up.” He’d already started moving back toward the largest thing we’d pulled out of the ocean thus far. Whatever else, some museum was in for some interesting new exhibits.
I turned back to the girls and followed them into the cabin, where I did what I could with the tepid shower water and went into the back where a sheet served as a privacy screen. While Paul no doubt expected us to split between boys and girls down here, Davin and Jaz needed one room, which left me and the girls with the other. In the end, none of us minded too much. I was glad to not have Davin in my bedroom, and we were glad to keep Cecelia as far away from others as possible.
The sheet which partitioned off my area opened and Chloe stepped in, still wet from her own shower. “Are you awake?”
She gets more beautiful every time I see her. ExpectantPleased. “Yeah, just thinking. Cecelia’s asleep?”
“Yeah, she was out before I got out of the shower.” Chloe drifted over to me, rather than walk on the floor in her bare feet. We were fortunate it was so warm, because near as I could tell Paul wasn’t interested in heating his ship.
“Good.” I moved my blanket off my chest. LoveDesire. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
EmbarrassedAnticipation. A bit of red came to Chloe’s face, but she smiled all the same. “Oh, just something I’ve been thinking about all day.” Her night shirt fell off her shoulders as she slid into my bunk and kissed me.