"Last night was great--really great, but I'm late. Or, at least I'm going to be late if I don't get to the briefing in ten minutes.", Nick said while grabbing a pair of pants and a standard blue Naval uniform shirt from a hanger. He quickly slipped on his pants and buttoned up the shirt with his back to his confused guest.

"I know.", the woman said with a proud and knowing smile. "Today's your big, top secret test dive."

"That's right.", he said turning back toward the bed.

"And I can't be late. Understand? Please don't take it personally. And remember,", his voice taking on an overly dramatic tone, "it's top secret, don't say anything to anyone."

"Of course.", she answered with a playfully-serious nod and running her finger over her lips in a zipper-like motion.

"I'm serious.", he said leaning in for another kiss.

Then the young woman smiled seductively and asked, "Nick, when will you be...", before stopping mid-statement upon noticing something on his uniform.

"Hey,", she began, her voice losing all of its playfulness, "those aren't Captains bars."

Her tone took a sudden step toward skeptical. If there's one thing women who hang out on military base bars know, it's the rank insignia of each and every officer in the Navy.

"You're a Lieutenant Commander?!", she asked, pulling the covers higher around herself, as if somehow insulted.

"Hey.", Nick said in a reassuring tone. "I pilot my own ship.", he said with a sheepish grin as he basically hopped into his socks while still standing. "So, I'm basically the Captain."

"Oh my God.", the woman voiced in disgust. "A Lieutenant Commander. You're probably not even a test pilot."

That statement froze Nick in his tracks as he slipped on his shoes.

"Hey now.", he said seriously, opening the front door. "I'm the best damn test pilot you'll ever meet."

"Uh huh.", the woman replied sarcastically, clearly not convinced.

"Listen,", Nick began, slightly changing the subject, "I should be back in three or so days. Did you want to..."

"Goodbye, Lieutenant Commander.", the young woman said dryly, cutting him off.

Nick nodded his understanding, "Right."

Clearly this relationship had hit an impasse.

"Goodbye Maggie."

"It's Mary you jerk!", the woman said angrily as she grabbed a glass from the nightstand and threw it at Nick who managed to get the door closed just before impact.

The sound of shattered glass hadn't even come to rest before Nick was at his car, a classic '26 Mustang Diablo; Midnight blue with black leather seats. The car was older than Nick himself, but it was the only vehicle he'd found that met his two mandatory requirements; It didn't include a built in computer controlled auto-drive feature, and it had a standard transmission. It was one of the last classic, true muscle cars that hadn't been built to rely completely on computers and micro chips.

Nick didn't mind computers in a global sense, he appreciated their processing and computing power. He just had a problem whenever computers were put in control of something. He never engaged an 'auto-pilot' feature while piloting. It made him extremely uncomfortable to ride in any automobile that didn't have a human sitting behind the wheel. He simply didn't trust them. It didn't matter that dozens of tests had 'proven' that the computers had a faster reaction time, in his mind they were missing one thing -- gut instinct. That was something you just couldn't program into a chip.

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