One last dive, just to make certain. The dig was finished, the equipment returned to the ship along with the find and he figured there wouldn’t be anything more, but needed one more dive just to make sure. The expedition had been so fruitful, and so many intact objects found in the silt at the bottom of the firth, he couldn’t pack up and leave without taking a last look around for a missed filleting knife or clothing buckle. So while his crew began preparations to return to port he slipped over the side and angled gently down into the dimness of the water.
The Firth of Clyde was a wonderfully complex place, wide and fed by many rivers. It connected with the Sound of Bute, off the Kilbrannan Sound, and was guarded by islands all about, leaving it clear in some places and impossible in others. That the boat had been found at all had been a miracle. And thank God they had been the ones to locate it. He smiled to himself as he thought of the many trinkets and artifacts his crew had recovered from the fishing boat sunk here centuries ago, not to mention the intact hull of the boat itself. Silt from the river had covered and preserved the hull from complete destruction. Much study would be made of the boat structure and everyday items found here by the river mouth. It had been an incredible find, and his career could he made by it. Would be made. The bright future before him now was nearly blinding, and a smile formed around his mouthpiece.
At the bottom of the shifting water not far from shore, shallow enough to see without artificial light, he began sifting through the loose bottom at the spot where the boat had been. Carefully and slowly, to minimize the inevitable clouding, he felt his way here and there among the rocks and mud already disturbed by the raising of the ancient boat. His regulator blowing bubbles in steady rhythm, and his heart keeping time with the breathing, he went methodically, left to right, then backward, right to left, his hands obscured beneath the swirling mud.
Then he frowned. There was something under here. Not rock, for it was too smooth and even. Unnatural. And there shouldn’t be rock here in any case; there should be only more silt. He moved a hand slowly over it, and found the thing to be curved. Not curved like a river rock, nor like a stream bed with dips and channels worn away by running water, but perfect. A perfect long, smooth, convex curve. Another boat hull? Excitement surged through him. Another, older boat? It wasn’t unheard of. A spot risky to navigate was likely to claim more than one craft. One hand dug, dislodging hardened silt to widen the exposure of the surface beneath, and amid the clouding he caught a glimpse of writing.
Writing? A dark-on-dark character came into sight for an instant, then was gone. Like a capital L. But it was once again beneath the silt, and he wasn’t certain it had not been his imagination.
He pulled his hand back and looked, but the cloudiness obscured. As he waited for it all to settle and be carried off with the current, he listened to his own breathing and tried to keep from gulping his air while a queer, panicky feeling rose. He backed off, flippers waving lazily and hands spread for balance, and he hovered in the dim, rippled light from the surface. The hole he’d made in the silt cleared, and the L was still there, accompanied by a lowercase t. Slowly the topography of the area before him came into view. He backed off some more, and what he saw made his heart pound in his ears. A line this way, a curve over there, and the thing popped into his vision like an item in a “What’s wrong with this picture?” puzzle. His mind raced, unable to completely grasp what his eyes told him he must be seeing. It was huge. And impossible.
For the shape he saw under the silt here in the Firth of Clyde, directly beneath the spot where a Scottish fishing boat had lain undisturbed and mostly intact for more than five centuries, was, unless he missed his guess, that of a modern military fighter jet, and he was hovering over the cockpit.
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