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The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:19

“No,” she said. “Just wanted to make sure our target hadn’t left the building before we went to all the trouble of breaking in.”

“I assume the phone is still off the grid?” Kurt asked.

“Then what are we waiting for?” Kurt said. “Let’s go.”

He pulled his mask into place, bit down on the regulator and pushed away from the boat.

In the liquid darkness, Kurt used only his legs, kicking slowly and smoothly, while keeping his arms at his sides. He pegged their speed, combined with the current, at three knots. At that rate, it would be ten minutes to the entry point of the hydro channel.

Kurt allowed himself to descend until the water around him was as black as tar and only a slight shimmer could be seen on the surface. At this depth, he would be invisible to anyone on land, but the small amount of light would keep his senses oriented correctly.

He adjusted course to the left and looked back. In the dark he could see two glowing LEDs on the flashlights that Joe and Renata had strapped to their wrists. The two of them had linked up and were swimming in formation. His own light was pointed their way so they could follow it.

A dim glow became visible up ahead. It was the floodlights of the construction project washing over the surface of the river.

With the light filtering through the water, Kurt went a little deeper.

He passed into the channel without any problem. The current remained steady, but the surroundings were altogether different. A second wave of lights dappled the water and in the soft glow he could see the wall to his right and the concrete-lined bottom of the channel.

Up ahead were diamond-shaped obstructions on the channel bottom designed to add some turbulence to the water flow. He crossed above them, swam closer to the inner wall and slowed himself until he was mostly just drifting with the current. He held his breath, stopping a stream of bubbles that might be seen on the surface, until he was in the shadow of the wall.

The first-stage turbines appeared, looming out of the darkness like a ship emerging from a fog. Dull gray and initially indistinct, they reminded Kurt of the engines of a 747. Each of them had a fifty-foot diameter and dozens of closely spaced blades sprouting from a central hub like a fan. He could hear a clicking noise as the blades rotated lazily in the current.

Kurt kept to the inside wall and slipped through the gap between the nearest turbine and the wall. Glancing back, he saw Joe and Renata following.

As they passed into the central section of the channel, the second stage began. Kurt slowed even further, drifting now and kicking only to keep himself near the wall. He didn’t want to fly past the maintenance ladder that was their only method of escape.

Another sound became audible. This vibration was deeper and more ominous, like the thrum of a distant ship’s propeller.

The main turbine was up ahead. It had nearly twice the diameter of the first and took up most of the channel. He heard the sound long before he spotted the blades, as the front edge of the deflector gate came into view.

Just as they’d hoped, it was in the retracted position, flat against the wall. Its heavy steel face was painted bright yellow to prevent corrosion. And though the color looked faded in the water, it stood out in sharp contrast to the dull concrete wall.

Drifting along beside the gate, Kurt watched for the maintenance ladder, reaching for it and latching on with both hands as soon as it came into view. The rungs were made of curved rebar welded to the steel gates—sturdy and easy to grip.

Kurt reached down, loosened his fins and allowed them to be pulled off by the current. He watched as they disappeared downstream.

The flow of water in the channel was no faster than the river current, but water is denser than air and holding his position against the current was like holding on against a strong wind.

He watched as Joe and Renata approached. Renata hit first, grabbing onto the same section of ladder as Kurt. Joe took hold of the rungs beneath them. Like Kurt, they quickly got rid of their fins and hooked their feet onto the ladder for added stability.

Joe offered a thumbs-up. Kurt looked into Renata’s mask, only inches from his. She was beaming. She made the OK signal with her fingers.

A quick check of his orange-faced Doxa watch told him they’d made good time. Now they’d have to wait. They had three full minutes before Edo would activate the laser and blind the camera on the catwalk above.

Edo had already beached the boat, unpacked the laser and set it up on its tripod. It was a