I was vaguely aware of being jostled, of hands lifting and carrying me, voices distant and garbled. My head hurt and I couldn’t open my eyes or move any part of my body.
I felt the sensation of movement, heard the sound of tires rolling over a rough surface and the whine of the electric motor, the shifting of weight, the momentum as it turned. We stopped and again the hands lifting, a door opening and closing, the repetitive jolt, jolt, jolt of being carried down stairs, a cold metal bar against my side, falling through the air, then impact.
I hit the water and it closed over me, swallowing me up. The cold seemed to revive me a little but I couldn’t breathe, could barely move. I dropped through the depths, coming to rest against the bottom. I tried to move my arms and legs but they seemed to be apart from me and were slow to respond. I felt strangely peaceful and I wondered if it might be easier to stop struggling and just let go, to drift off and go to sleep and not worry about anything ever again.
But I needed air and I forced myself to make the effort to go after some. I willed my leaden limbs to respond, got my sluggish legs under me and pushed against the bottom, lifted my heavy arms to pull myself against the water toward the surface and the light, and managed a feeble kick to propel me upward.
My face broke the surface and I gulped in a lungful of air. I squinted against the brightness, trying to see where I was, trying with all my remaining strength to keep my face above the water.
“Ah, Larkin.” Marburg’s voice came from somewhere above me, echoing in the chamber. “You’re awake. Good.”
As my vision cleared I could see I was in concrete cylinder about forty feet across. It seemed to be about half full, too deep for me to stand on the bottom, too far from the top to climb out. The walls were completely smooth and featureless, with nothing to grab or climb onto or rest on. All I could do was tread water with arms and legs that were slow to respond.
Marburg and a couple of his men stood on a walkway that circled the tank about ten feet above the water. He was leaning against the metal railing. A network of metal pipes ran along just below the railing, with the occasional valve here and there, all well beyond my reach.
“This is what we call the tank. It’s a cistern that’s part of the base’s water supply,” he said. “When they find you, if they find you, they’ll simply assume you fell in and drowned. A tragic accident.” He motioned to his men to leave. “Goodbye, Larkin.” They turned and walked up a set of steps to a door and left.
The feeling and strength were slowly returning to my legs and arms, but the effort to keep my face above water was rapidly tiring me. I knew I could tread water for only so long before I became exhausted and drowned. I could see no way to reach the pipes or the railing. Even if I swam to the bottom and pushed off hard enough to leap out of the water, they were just too far away.
I ducked under the water, searching the bottom for anything that I could use to get out—a piece of wood, a length of pipe, maybe some rope or chain. There was nothing.
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