Contributor: Ali Banner

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Daggitt cursed the Company protocol that tethered him to his partner. They swam into an underwater cave, separated by only ten feet of cord that attached to each of their suits through a special harness. Eleven dives and the Company decided he still needed a guide.

“Keep your eyes peeled, Daggitt.” Roberts’s voice infiltrated his helmet. “Don’t wanna miss the tunnel.”

He swam faster and harder than the rest of the crew and his knowledge of ancient artifacts was essential to the Company’s success, but Daggitt was better known for getting lost between the pub and the motel next door. “Just do your job so I can get the hell out of here.”

Roberts smirked. Daggitt imagined the cord around his neck. Soon.

The walls closed in, jutting masses of rock that threatened to crush them as they headed for an even narrower channel. In the past, Daggitt ignored his surroundings; the formations blended in the background and made for a pretty scene but meant nothing. Now they were waypoints to guide his return. He memorized each smooth contour, each jagged edge. Even the plant life sprouting through the cave floor highlighted his escape route.

“Here we are,” said Roberts. The tunnel opened into a small grotto with a marble statue erected in the center and rough nooks carved into the surrounding walls. “The Shrine of Amondeen.”

Amondeen watched as they swam over to the hollowed spaces, the two divers peering inside each tiny cave. Most of them stood bare, no doubt looted by plunderers who had visited in the centuries since the fall of Amondeen’s palace, yet some offerings to the ancient god still remained. Daggitt turned over a bronze chalice inlaid with smooth rubies and estimated its value; years of experience hadn’t tamed his greed.

“Remember what we’re here for,” Roberts warned.

“Of course. The Company sent me to find Amondeen’s Scepter, and that’s what I’ll do.”

“It will be an invaluable addition to the Museum.”

Not if I can help it. Eleven dives with the Company and Daggitt hadn’t seen a single penny. He set the chalice back in the shelf. He would return for it later, now that he knew the way.

Roberts motioned and Daggitt followed him to a dark corner of the grotto. A flat boulder leaned against the wall, and Daggitt pressed his fingers along a ridge where the two masses collided. He pulled back, testing for motion; the boulder gave way but fell back into position as Daggitt lost his grip.

“And word in the Company is you’re the strong one.”

Idiot. “Shut up and help.”

Together they rolled the rock aside and uncovered a narrow cavern with a deep trench in the floor of the grotto. Daggitt knelt to the ground and aimed his flashlight at the bottom. “Bingo.”

Amondeen’s Scepter lay in the trench, centuries of dirt and grime encrusting the solid gold staff. Hundreds of small sapphires, amethysts, and emeralds spiraled around the rod from end to end, and a large eagle sat on top clutching a pearl. Even covered in soil its worth was immeasurable. Daggitt’s heart pounded in his ears.

“That it?”



Daggitt examined his guide. “You’re smaller. You should jump down and pass it up to me.”

“Afraid of getting lost, are ya?” He snickered and lowered himself into the trench. His feet scuffed the walls and landed on either side of the scepter.

As Roberts crouched down to dislodge the staff, Daggitt pulled a switchblade from his utility belt. He released the catch and flipped out the knife. His garbled reflection stared back at him.

“Man, this mother is heavy! Ya sure you’ll be able to carry it back?”

“Oh, I’m sure.”

Roberts hoisted the scepter to shoulder level and Daggitt used his free hand to drag it along the ground, pulling it out of reach. He pointed his knife at his partner. “I suggest you stay down there.”

Roberts held up his hands. “Whoa, is this because I joked about you getting lost? Lighten up, man!”

Daggitt laughed. “Did you really think I’d let the Company take one of the world’s most valuable artifacts and let it rot in a museum? Eleven times I’ve been down here. Twelve, now. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing! Well, twelve is my lucky number. It’s time for me to collect!”

“So what are you gonna do? Leave me in this ditch? You can’t find your way back.”

“Ha! I paid attention this time. I don’t need you, or the Company, or this damned tether!” He lowered the knife to the cord between them.

“Ya sure you want to do that?”

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to choke you with this.”

“Suit yourself.”

Daggitt sawed at the tether until it snapped in two, finally freeing himself. He swam toward Roberts to finish the job but halted halfway. He could feel water trickling into his helmet. “What the hell?” He locked eyes with Roberts, who wore a knowing smile.

“Just remember, you’re the one who cut the tether. Company special issue.”

Terror seized him as realization settled in, but he was too frightened to scream. The water kept coming. He searched for the tunnel but its opening evaded him. He fought and struggled until the water filled up his lungs and he could no longer breathe.

After Daggitt’s body stilled, Roberts switched the channel on his communicator. “Do you read me, Home Base? Yeah, Daggitt turned. I told you he would.” He paused for a moment to listen. “You’re welcome, Home Base. I knew my design was flawless.”

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Ali Banner is a former English teacher who spent two years teaching in Handan City, China. She is currently a Creative Writing student at Full Sail University. She lives at home in West Virginia with her roommate, Emily, and her dog, Sparky.
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