Warp Riders – Chapter 21

Both headlamps swept to the far end of the cave, where an enormous fountain of water was pushing up from the floor.


“RIGHT NOW, get off the floor!”

Faster than the captain had expected, the Navigatrix leapt over to the nearest stack of ruins, and started climbing up.

The water had coalesced into a roiling wave, growing taller as it pushed down the cave towards them. The Captain bit her lip as she watched her crewmate drag herself and a significant weight of equipment up steeper and steeper slopes of bricks. The noise was filling the air – and then the water was right beneath her, rising much too fast, and the Captain could only yell as it snagged her legs and started pulling her away from the tower – and then there was a POP! – somehow audible over the rush of the waves – and the liferaft had inflated.

The Captain couldn’t watch any further, though, as the pillar of blocks she was sitting on was hit by the torrent and the shock nearly knocked her off again; she was out flat on her side, arms akimbo, breathing with relief, when the water bubbled up to touch her dangling feet, and then some further thrust of the tide pushed a wave right over the top and knocked her back in the drink.

It was worse this time – her knee was screaming as she tried to kick to the surface, and there was a brutally strong undertow dragging her deeper into the black water, clogged with silt and bubbles – and then she was pushed up to the surface again and knocked against stone.

It took out her headlamp, but mercifully not her skull, and she had the wherewithal to find an edge to hold on to as the water swept her up and down, back and forth, in a now very dark cave. Where was the Navigatrix? Where was the raft? Was the Captain getting them both killed?

She thought she saw a flicker of a yellow headlamp beam, as the water started to calm and the roar of the tide in the cave started to quiet.


And, oh, what a relief, to hear in return,

“Captain! My light’s out, keep shouting and I’ll find you.”

So the Captain called “Marco!” and the Navigatrix called back “Polo!” and made a symphony of splashing noises, and the water finally calmed down, and then the squeaky rubber of the life raft bumped against the Captain’s outstretched arm, and an invisible Navigatrix pulled her up.

And for a second, or a minute, or ten, they lay on the bottom of the life raft gasping and breathing and then laughing. It wasn’t the first or the last time they were going to pull a stunt like that, and they both knew it.

“You fucking daredevil idiot,” the Captain wheezed, and the Navigatrix punched her in the arm, or near the arm,

“At least this idiot brought basic equipment with them into the cave!”

– and then they both dissolved into laughter and snorts and gasps until finally, the mania passed, and the Captain felt the Navigatrix sit up again.

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