GlenMac had the students early Saturday before school started; Alistair couldn't make it, but Will, James, and Priya were present. As they helped him load equipment, he reminded them of the history of the "Lantern of the Deep", and how it came to be located - as far as he knew - in Martin Creek Lake. He described the artifact as a simple bulls-eye lantern made from blue-tinted glass. Feeling bad for bringing them back to school early, he offered some "directed study" credit - worth a +1 Academics on the next exam.
The January air was cool, but the lake was quite warm, almost bathtub temperature, due to the nearby power station. As they arrived in GlennMac's car (pulling a small boat behind it), the park ranger on duty gave a word of caution - a gator or two had been spotted in the lake, and he hadn't gotten a chance to haul the beasties off. "Just keep your eyes peeled."
Once the boat was launched, GlenMac steered it near the power station and began dropping buoys in a grid. Maybe it was the fog, maybe it was the threat of gators, maybe it was the harshly-lit power station, or maybe it was the overcast skies and the strangely calm lake, but something puts everyone on edge. After a few tips on underwater safety and how to do a grid search, the students drop into the water. Priya and Will make it look easy, but James got a bit of water in his mask. No big deal, just annoying...
The water was dark and murky; visibility is barely a yard. Near the bottom, very little light filters down. Slowly, the trio searched the silty lake. After several minutes of searching, Will caught sight of something - an alligator! He fended off its first attack, but the next bite ripped up his arm! Priya, hearing the disturbance through the water, quickly surfaced, located the fight, and swam quickly to assist. James eventually heard the commotion and joined as well. Together, the three managed to spear the gator to death.
That threat dealt with, the three returned to searching for the lantern. Priya received a vision of a slimy, silt-covered creature, locked in watery combat, the lantern in its grasp, and something silvery around its neck. Not long afterward, James saw a feeble blue glow, hidden in silt; reaching for it, he was startled by a hand reaching up out of the mud! A creature, man-shaped, its clothes and features covered in silt and mud. James immediately grappled the creature's arm, pulling on the lantern and keeping his foot in the thing's face. The two battled back and forth, the creature trying to shake him off, and James hanging on with dogged determination, trying to whack the creature hard enough to make it let go of the lantern. Will and Priya found the two, and joined in, slashing at the creature with their spears. Every blow they landed seemed to heal itself almost immediately, until Priya managed to land a blow on the creature's arm. Its grip weakened on the lantern, and James pulled free. Priya, remembering her vision, grabbed for the locket as the creature fell back to the lake floor, nothing but silt and sludge.
The lantern suddenly freed, James felt a sudden gust of wind, and found himself staring out across the lake, a young man sitting in a boat nearby. He recognized the man from the photo the group found - Rodya, the third man in the photo!
Rodya was holding a lantern - The lantern, in fact. Another man stands on the shore, holding a gun. He called out; for some reason, James knew it was Russian, yet could understand it: "Rodya! What are you doing? You are throwing away your life for these... Americanski! These capitalist idiots! Don't you understand, the Motherland needs power like what you are holding!"
Over the deadly calm, Rodya calls back, "Maksim, the power you chase ends only in death! USSR, Communism, me, you... everyone. This I have seen! And so, I will protect the Lantern - from you, and anyone else who wishes to use it for power!"
With that, he spread his arms; the Lantern began glowing brightly, and Rodya leaned back, falling off the boat and sinking beneath the waves. Maksim tried to run forward, but was stopped by an invisible barrier. Cursing, he slammed his hands against it, causing it to flash blue momentarily, then with a scream of anger, spun on his heel and fled. Rodya, protected and enhanced by the Lantern, sank into the lake, deep into the dark silt at the bottom.
A heartbeat later, James watched the revenant turn to muddy silt and slip back into the water. Even its tattered clothes faded to mud and vanished. Together, the three swam back to the boat, handing the lantern to GlenMac, who placed it in a padded case.
The locket Priya found contained a single photograph - somehow protected from the water - of Rodya kneeling beside a young, smiling Monica Dragic.
Though GlenMac asked a few questions on the way back, he saw the students were rather pensive, and the conversation eventually died out. Just as they were nearing town, everyone's phones suddenly began beeping, buzzing, and vibrating - an Amber alert. Glancing down to turn it off, the intrepid heroes realized it was actually in Longview, TX! A 10-year-old girl named Dawn Ramirez had gone missing from a nearby school...
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