Though seeing Nick's living (and wise-ass) face was a tremendous relief which lifted a titanic weight from her heart, she tried to shrug it off with the same nonchalance he had exhibited, "Oh, well you know... I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop in."
His face was almost hidden behind a mask of bloody cuts and darkness, but his thousand-watt smile illuminated the entire air pocket, "Little sister, I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you right now."
"Me too, Nick."
"But I would be remiss if I didn't ream you out for attempting such a foolhardy rescue dive which is waaaaay beyond your capabilities. Libby, are you nuts?!"
Libby pouted and grumbled, "You're welcome. Anyway, don't worry. Max is right behind me. I figure we can take our time and buddy breathe up to the top. Where are your clients?"
"I don't know, Lib. Things got a bit fuzzy once they destroyed my tank and tried to drown me."
"I'll be damned," she grit her teeth, "they took off?"
Nick shrugged, "They ain't here."
"All right. How bad are you hurt? Can you swim?"
"I'm fine, just a little scratched up, that's all."
"That's fine, that's fine. Just remember that I'm not nearly as good at this as you, so try not to leave me too far behind on the ascent, huh? Now, I'll --"
She froze, her face a mask in the rippling dark of the air pocket.
"What? Libby, what is it? What's the matter?"
"When Reggie and Heloise radioed me from the boat that you hadn't come back, they were frantic. So I busted my ass to get here before you did something stupid, like die."
Nick smiled, but not the thousand-watt smile. This one was of pure relief, "You were right to hurry. Thank you."
"No, but what they said was, 'Nobody had come back,' meaning your clients as well."
"Well, that would kind be a dick thing to do: kill me and then use my boat and crew to get back to the mainland. Of course they took off."
"Okay, but where? We're like, six miles out to sea right now. Did they have enough air to swim back to the island?"
"Uh-uh. We'd already been down for ten minutes and this was just a little introductory dive to get them acclimated. We were gonna head up pretty soon. They were almost out of o2."
Up to this point, Libby had been easily treading water to keep her mouth and nose above the viscous dark fluid which could very easily kill them both. Good thing she was not claustrophobic. A shudder of fear trembled through her body as she asked, "Then where the hell could they have gone?"