Chapter 5: Submerged
The water enveloped her like a very, very cold hug. She could feel it in her ears and pulling at her boots. And on that subject, she probably should have left her boots with her sweater.
She noticed grimly that she hadn’t exactly planned that trip very well.
Makoto forced herself to keep her eyes open as she sank, shining her flashlight around searchingly. She didn’t know what exactly she was looking for, but she was pretty sure she would know it when she found it.
About a minute later, she returned to the surface for a breath of air. Taking a minute, she shined her light around the cave, inspecting the walls and ceiling. It was cold, dark, and wet. There were no visible markings, and no visible wreckage.
Which meant more underwater inspection.
Makoto sucked in a deep breath and dove beneath the surface once again. Wishing she had tied her hair back, she lifted her hand to move it back and dropped her flashlight.
The heavy metal object began to sink rapidly.
Makoto panicked, suddenly afraid of being left in the dark water. Not that a light could protect her, but it was comforting to have.
Fortunately, the flashlight was a beacon and she wasn’t concerned about not being able to find it.
Makoto swam after it, feeling her lungs tighten. Determined to collect the light before returning for air, she found herself nearing the bottom, but still the light continued to sink.
She reached out and grasped the slick surface of a rock and pulled herself down, her other arm outstretched for her flashlight.
It struck bottom right as her fingers wrapped around the handle. It was cold and heavy in her palm. Or maybe she was just running out of air. With more strength than was actually necessary, Makoto pulled it closer to her chest and turned around.
Lurking before her in the water was a strange creature with the head and torso of a man but the body of a shark from the waist down.
She lurched backwards with a cry, air expelling from her lungs and water rushing into her mouth.
The weird man-thing glared at her with a horrible anger in his eyes and he reached for her silently. She shoved herself up off the bottom and knifed through the water towards the surface.
His hand wrapped around her ankle and jerked her back down. Choking on water, Makoto found his arm around her neck. The next thing she knew, he was dragging her through the depths, toward the back of the cave.
She struggled in vain, but her oxygen was depleted and she lost her hold on her flashlight once again.
Blackness struck her like a blow to the head.
The first time her expectations were blown away was when she woke up. She’d thought she were a dead diver for sure. There was no way she would have lasted after blacking out, right?
She wasn’t in control anymore and her body’s natural need for oxygen would take over. Wouldn’t she inhale water and die?
Yeah, she should definitely be dead.
So why wasn’t she?
And that was the second time she found that her expectations had been exceeded tremendously.
She was still in the water. She was floating listlessly, not moving to the surface, not sinking. Just lying there. Alive. Breathing.
There was something in her mouth—what was in her mouth?
Oh, please don’t be seaweed. Please, please don’t be something disgusting. She thought to herself, dreading finding out what it was. It didn’t taste like seaweed.
She brought her hands to her mouth and found a bar across her lips and a rubber piece in her mouth. It was tied around behind her head to keep it from falling out. What cruel torture is this?
She wasn’t dead, she was breathing—it had to have something to do with the thing in her mouth, right? Or maybe she was dead.
She took a chance and sucked in deeply. Water surged through the device and into her lungs, but instead of choking and dying as she had expected, the water drifted in and out of her lungs like air.
It was a ventilator in her mouth, she realized. She had read about breathable liquid. It was possible to develop a type of liquid that was sustaining like air, but it wasn’t very long-term and it required circulation and a ventilator.
It was also very painful to go back and forth from water to air. She had been unconscious for the going from air to water part, but if she survived long enough to get back to the surface, she’d still have to suffer through coughing water out of her lungs and sucking in the cold, thin bite of air.
She wasn’t looking forward to it.
But first she had to focus on getting back on land. And she was determined to never go swimming again after she found earth.
Makoto righted herself, looking around blearily. Her head ached and her stomach churned, but she managed to concentrate hard enough to see bars set into the mouth of a smaller cave. She was in a prison underwater. It looked relatively new, too.
Who needed a prison underwater? Who had they built it for?
She swam to the bars and stuck her hand through them, her knuckles rapping against a glass barrier.
Of course, she realized. They had to separate the breathable liquid from the seawater, otherwise it would disperse and be of no use to anyone.
She was in a prison.
Imprisoned by whom? Who had her?
With a shock, an image of the man-shark-thing came back to her and she flinched violently. Her eyes shot around the water, searching fearfully for the strange creatures.
There was one—about twenty feet away, watching her like a guard. She drifted further away from him, terrified. What was he?
There were two more farther off, communicating through some form other than actually talking. They were everywhere, doing their own thing, unable to be bothered as though capturing a diver was an everyday occurrence.
Stories of people going swimming and never returning coming to mind, Makoto felt her heart clench with hopelessness. Well, she might be very close to meeting her end.
Sorry, Chester—you’ll have to finish the case without me. She thought glumly, clutching her temples in distress.
She couldn’t believe what was happening. Was she dreaming? This couldn’t be real, could it? And if it was, no one would believe her. She had no proof.
Or, maybe, she did.
Praying fervently that it hadn’t fallen out of her pocket, Makoto fished around in her boot. Her fingers knocked against a lump of metal, and she rejoiced.
Pulling out her camera, she clicked it on and hid it slightly behind her arm.
A picture would be no good if she were dreaming.
But if she weren’t dreaming, she at least had something.
But how could this be real?
Makoto could have kicked herself. Hybrid could go from cat-to-human at will. This was highly possible.
She found it somewhat less believable that, with all of the divers in Coral Cove, no one had come across the weird species before. Or if they had, what had stopped them from talking about it?
She lifted the camera and began snapping pictures, capturing everything she saw. The cavern was strangely well-lit, adding to the many questions that plagued her numbed brain.
Before she could catch someone’s attention and get herself in trouble, she shut the camera off and stuffed it back into her boot.
Watching her surroundings, Makoto waited until there were none of the shark things in sight before pulling her map from the opposite boot. Using light that originated from who knows where, she studied it carefully.
It was a map of the area, and it wasn’t very detailed, but it might have a few well-hidden clues.
For what seemed like hours, she stared at it until she grew dizzy and her vision waned. She shook her head and blinked at it, and then blinked again. The little gray blur that ‘Shipwreck Shore’ was written over had two arrows sticking out from either end.
With a start, Makoto realized that the gray blur was the cave that she was imprisoned in. Which meant that the arrows...two exits. When Captain Heilner had drawn the map, she had clearly intended for someone to come after her and find safe passage to whatever she was leading them to.
Makoto turned around, a new mission in mind. She was being held by a strange fantastical race of people for who-knows-what reason for who-knows-how-long. There was no way she’d be waiting around to find out what they wanted.
And besides, she was already starting to feel a paralyzing chill seep into her bones, the evening Pacific turning seemingly colder by the minute. Her eyes scoured every inch of the rock wall behind her cell, until she found a small opening, like the mouth of another cave.
Of course, she couldn’t get there because of the glass panel, but she wasn’t too concerned. After a quick glance to ensure that no one was watching, she retrieved her hot knife and switched it on. Anticipation of the warmth intensified the shaking in her hands as she waited for it to heat up.
The water around her hand began to boil as the knife glowed cherry-red. Despite her eagerness of the change of temperature, it scalded her hand far worse than she had realized it would. Makoto whimpered at the hot water, but she had to work past it. She couldn’t be stopped by a single obstacle—not like that.
She swam toward the back of her cell as quickly as she could and thrust the blade into the glass panel. The scorching blade slid through the wall like a knife through warm butter.
When hot water reached her face, she relished in it for a few short seconds before it was dispersed by the overwhelming cold.
Makoto angled back and shoved her boot at the weak spot that she had just created. Her legs were numb. She could feel her muscles locking up like stiff leather.
The glass cracked and shattered after a multitude of kicks, and then she was free.
Of course, as soon as she freed herself, she also released all of her breathable liquid. Good going, Makoto. She grumbled to herself. She sucked in a quick, deep breath right as the water swept her out of the cell.
If possible, the fresh ocean water that merged with the breathable liquid was even colder. A violent shiver shook her entire body, sending her muscles into a series of short spasms.
That wasn’t good. Especially since she still had to swim out from however deep she’d been dragged.
She turned off her hot knife and swam as quickly as she possibly could through the opening. Her legs burned and her shoulders clenched. A cramp began to knot painfully at the base of her neck.
She left the knife out, ready to defend herself, but there was no one ahead of her. Her surroundings were suspiciously void of even the small fish that were usually swimming in and out of the rock shelves.
She could see the opening that led to open water and moonlight. It was so close she could practically feel the air washing over her. Don’t breathe. Don’t breathe. Do. Not. Breathe.
Heart pounding and lungs burning, Makoto surged toward it. But then a glint of red caught her attention in the corner of her eye. She stopped and turned, her original mission coming back to mind.
There was a red glow emanating from behind a rock in the wall. She reached for it, wary of tripping some kind of underwater security system. What kind of security systems worked underwater?
She didn’t know if they had that, but at that point she wasn’t really sure what to expect.
But when she pulled the rock back, she found a beautiful, blood-red coin, glowing brilliantly behind a pane of glass. It was a piece of the Quarter Piece. Chester had been right.
She’d have to remember to tell him that if she survived.
Makoto hit the button on her knife, but a flash of color made her pause. She turned her head just in time to see a shark-man-thing catch sight of her and his face exploded with fury.
Not waiting for the knife to heat up, she slammed the handle into the glass. It shattered on impact and she reached in and grabbed the coin, stuffing it into her boot before pushing herself off the wall. It was amazing that her fingers cooperated at that temperature.
It was the second coin. Two parts of the quarter piece that she already had.
Makoto would have been more proud of herself had she not been too busy swimming fearfully away from a weird guy with a shark tail.
She felt her lungs clenching and she itched to open her mouth and suck in air, but there was none at her disposal. She had to keep swimming.
Don’t breathe, she told herself. Don’t breathe, don’t breathe, don’t breathe.
She was so close to the surface. She was so close to freedom. Her head bobbed forward involuntarily, and she choked.
Hands gripped her shoulders from behind just as a dark form darted past her. A second later, the hands were forced off of Makoto and a dark shape sank to her level in front of her. She didn’t have the strength or air to swim away or panic or otherwise react, so she just stared blearily and tried to figure out what was going on.
The dark shape in front of her was a diver. Completely human—as far as she could tell—and female. She had an oxygen tank strapped onto her back and a mask on over her face.
The woman lifted her hands to Makoto’s arms and began to pull her back, away from the shark-men. Makoto glanced over her shoulder to see another diver, male, battling the shark-guy who had grabbed her.
That was the last thing she saw before she blacked out.
“I know you’re awake.” A woman’s voice said quietly, prompting Makoto to open her eyes. She didn’t like being interrupted in the middle of a closed-eye observation.
“Who are you?” She demanded, finding herself on a couch in a small apartment. She smelled like algae and fish.
“Oh, no problem, by the way, for dragging you out of there and fighting your warden for you. Not a problem.” A man said from across the room, drawing Makoto’s attention to him.
He was sitting at a table, stitching up his own arm.
She winced. He’d probably injured himself getting her out. “Thank you.” She responded. “And I’m sorry you got hurt. You wouldn’t have had to, of course, but you went after me anyway, so thank you for that. Not that I’m grateful that you got hurt—” Makoto cut herself off.
Way to go, Makoto.
He shrugged it off half-heartedly. They were both looking at her like they were afraid she’d crack in half or start crying or something. Just because she babbled like a child didn’t mean she was as fragile as one. They were treading too lightly around her.
She didn’t like it. It was weird.
“Are you alright?” The woman asked, watching Makoto’s eyes dart around, assessing her surroundings. “It’s alright if you’re scared. You’re—”
There was a hillside covered in trees and dotted with houses outside the window. There was a takeout menu on the fridge for Esther’s Soup and Salad, which wasn’t a chain restaurant, but a diner on Royal Boulevard.
There was a bread box from a bakery down on Military Road. When she listened very closely, she could hear boats on the harbor and clanging in the streets.
That put the apartment building on Oakview Road on the East Side, overlooking the bay and standing beside the Welding Center.
She had walked past this apartment almost every day the whole time she had been in high school, as it had been on her route.
“I know where I am.” Makoto argued, meeting her eyes forcefully. “I’m not scared, and I’m fine.” She twisted her face into a smile. “Where are my things?”
The woman looked mildly surprised. “Over there, on the table.” She pointed back to the front of the room, where Makoto’s diver suit and boots sat, folded, on the table. She was curious to see that her jacket was also there, which they must have collected from the base of the cliff.
And...and her flashlight was there, too. They would have had to search the first cave for that one.
“You got a lot of stuff in your boots.” The man said with amusement, raising an eyebrow at her.
“I’m a collector.” Makoto responded simply, hoping they hadn’t removed anything.
“That knife,” The woman said slowly, nodding back at the boots. “Where did you get it?”
Makoto considered her knife carefully. Savannah had given it to her for her birthday two years ago. She’d told her the story around it—where it had come from, who had owned it, the things it had seen. “Why?”
“I knew the man who owned it a long time ago.” The woman said reminiscently, sadness in her eyes.
Makoto studied the woman more carefully. Tall, thin, blonde hair, wise eyes, young in appearance but old in manners. And the man that was with her, tall and brunette but otherwise exactly the same.
She smiled lightly, sitting upright. “Savannah Anderson gave it to me. She told me about you, Anneka.” Makoto glanced over at the man. “I don’t know a lot about Damian, but I’ve heard a good portion of your story.”
Anneka looked surprised, but she recovered quickly. “You’re quick, Makoto. I’ll give you that.”
Makoto stretched her legs over the side of the couch. “You know who I am and what I’m doing then, don’t you?” She asked, running her hands through her hair and finding it completely dry.
She had been laying there for a while.
“Why would you say that?” Damian asked, standing up and coming to stand with Anneka.
“Because based on the stories I’ve heard about you, there’s no way you would let anyone crash on your couch unless you knew who they were and what they wanted.” She responded simply.
“We know about your case.” Anneka said, before Damian could say something he might regret. “Which is why we let you keep the coin.”
“Thank you.” Makoto stood. “Thank you for getting me out and bringing my stuff. I’ll get out of your hair now.” She reached for her things, but paused. “How long have I been gone?”
Anneka checked her watch. “Twelve hours—based on the last time Chester Strapps has seen you.”
Makoto raised an eyebrow. “Why did you talk to Chester?”
“He thinks I’m a waitress. He mentioned ‘going to look for Makoto’ to someone on the phone. Said he’d ‘been worried about her ever since she left an hour ago.’” Anneka responded with a shrug.
Makoto tugged her boots on. “And that was incentive for you to come looking for me because...?”
“Because we didn’t have to do our research, Makoto, we already know you.” Damian said simply, helping her into her jacket.
“Yeah, I know.” Makoto said, zipping it up over the cotton shirt that Anneka had presumably let her borrow. “I’ll bring these things back after I get home.” She said in reference to the clothes.
“Don’t worry about it—” Anneka started.
“You know?” Damian repeated, handing her one item at a time as she outfitted herself. Her camera went in her boot, her knife went beneath her waist band, the coin went in her opposite boot.
“Yeah,” Makoto said, sliding her flashlight through her belt loops. “The way you guys look at me. I don’t know what it’s about or why it’s so, but you guys know me.” She tucked the map into her pocket and her diving suit under her arm.
Then she turned to her rescuers. “Wanna tell me how?”
Anneka glanced at Damian and shook her head. Damian gave her a scolding look in return.
Makoto’s eyebrows slowly joined with her hairline as they communicated silently.
And then, finally, at exactly the same time, Anneka and Damian said, “Scott Winchester.”
“What?” Makoto thought she might recognize the name, but she couldn’t place it, no matter how hard she tried. “Who’s that?”
“He’s a time traveler. Among other things. He told us about you. We’ve known about you for a long time, but we used to know you personally. When you were younger.” Anneka said.
Makoto frowned. “I don’t remember that.”
Damian shrugged. “You were pretty young.” He shook her hand when she offered it to him.
“Thank you for everything.” She said, shaking Anneka’s as well. And then, without any further words, she walked out of their apartment and headed home.
/ - + - \
“Where is she?” The voice of Akari Hiroshida boomed through Tadashi’s phone, causing the younger man to stop mid-step and focus entirely on his conversation.
“Who? Makoto? You mean she’s gone?” Tadashi demanded, reaching for his jacket.
“Yes, Makoto. She sent me a text message eleven hours ago that said she was working on a case. She said she shouldn’t be home late, but here she is, at almost twelve hours, still gone. Why aren’t you with her?” Hiroshida snapped.
Tadashi contained his irritation and held his tongue. It’s not like Makoto wanted him with her—not since Hiroshida had him treating her like dirt.
As far as Tadashi was concerned, this whole game of trying to encourage Makoto to lose hope in herself was serving exactly the opposite. Maybe if they actually acted like they, you know, cared about her as a human being, she would be more likely to trust and accept their advice to sit out on a dangerous case.
“She was with Strapps this afternoon and then she took off. I thought she was going home.” Tadashi responded, grabbing his keys and leaving his apartment.
“Don’t assume, Tadashi. Never assume. That child never does what’s expected of her.” The Japanese man sighed in annoyance.
Tadashi slammed his car door behind him angrily. Maybe because nobody deserves to have to behave the way she’s expected to. He did, however, have to admit, that Makoto had an annoyingly unhealthy addiction to jumping into the fire with open arms.
He wasn’t sure if she was didn’t care or was just stupid.
“I’m sorry, sir. I’m headed after her right now. Where are you? Should we meet?” Tadashi asked, pulling out of his driveway and rolling down his window.
“No, I can’t. I’m in a meeting. Political business, unfortunately, I can’t get out of it. She’d better be home when I get back, Tadashi, or I’ll have her under house arrest with you as her warden.” Hiroshida grumbled darkly and promptly hung up.
Tadashi threw his phone at the undeserving passenger seat. If he had any credible say in the matter, Makoto would receive far better treatment from the people who call themselves her family.
As it was, though, all he could do was follow her like a creepy stalker and kick her around like an abusive master.
/ - + - \
Makoto found her way back to the parking lot where she had left her car in just under an hour. She unlocked the vehicle and reached inside for her phone, quickly typing out a message to Chester.
Shipwreck Shore was a success. How’s it going with the lizard? - AM
She left it at that and then opened up her messages from her father. She found five waiting texts, and grudgingly scrolled through them.
I’m sorry, Makoto, I have a meeting that will go late into the night, I need you to be home to make dinner for Sakuza and make sure his laundry gets done for tomorrow. - AH
You’d better be on your way home, Makoto. -AH
Sakuza says he hasn’t heard from you. It’s been three hours, Makoto, where are you? - AH
Six hours, Makoto, this is unacceptable. - AH
Oh, yeah? Most parents would call the police or something.
Twelve hours now, where are you? - AH
Makoto tossed her phone aside and leaned back against her seat tiredly. She was in so much trouble. What was she thinking, becoming a detective at such a young age? She should have waited until she was out of the house.
How was she supposed to deal with the occupational hazards and overbearing family members at the same time?
Suddenly, she got a whiff of a mixture of leather, metal, and bad attitude. What a joy. Tadashi had found her.
“You’d think after almost dying last time, you wouldn’t come back here.” He said, right after she determined who he was.
Makoto didn’t even look at him. “If you hate me so much, do yourself a favor and leave me alone.” She shut her door and started her car.
Tadashi knocked on the window and she resentfully rolled it down. “What do you want, Tadashi? Really—I am so tired of you popping up every time I’m out.”
He blinked really slowly, a lazy smirk stretching across his face.
She hated it.
“You’ve been gone for thirteen hours, Makoto. Where’ve you been?” He leaned on her door and peered into her car curiously. Her backpack was in the back seat and her laptop was in the passenger seat, but other than that, there were no clues as to her whereabouts.
“Swimming.” She responded flatly. “With shark people.”
He raised an eyebrow and reached over to tug on the tassel that hung off her rearview mirror.
She frowned as his arm crossed in front of her face. He was intentionally being the most annoying person on the face of the planet, but there was no way she was taking the bait.
His face suddenly scrunched up in disgust. “I can tell. You smell like salt water. And—” He paused, giving her a curious look. “And rubber? What were you doing?”
Makoto stared at him. The only thing that she had touched in the past 48 hours that was rubber was the ventilator that had been in her mouth. Who had that kind of sense of smell?
How could anyone smell something that keenly?
Everyone at Anderson’s School of Deduction had been taught in the first year to use sight as your last sense for information gathering. Everyone had honed their senses of smell, hearing, touch, and taste to phenomenal levels, but who could smell a tiny bit of rubber that had been inside her mouth, diluted by salt water and hours of separation?
“Freak.” She put her car into reverse and backed away from him. She expected to look in the mirror and see him staring after her with an arrogant smug look on his face, but when she glanced back, he was halfway to his own car, as though he’d been on the move before she’d even left.
Using the one-hour drive to review what she had accomplished on her case, Makoto became acutely aware of the coin in her boot.
That was two coins. There were two more and then the malachite piece. But what she didn’t understand was what exactly their purpose was.
They were supposed to grant the bearer supernatural knowledge and wisdom, but what had that power? They both glowed from the core, which she found significant of some type of supernatural power.
Where had they come from? What wisdom did they possess? And, more importantly, why had Angelika Heilner lost them?
She had disappeared and left at least two of the coins behind. Where had she gone and where were the remaining two?