Nick slammed the car in reverse, screeching the tires as he pulled out of his parking spot. He had 7 minutes to get to Naval HQ which was a good 12 minutes away -- on a good day.

He hadn't lied to Mary, at least not about him being a test pilot and today being launch day for a new top secret submarine. About the "Captain" thing -- well, he never actually said he was a Captain, just that he had his own ship. And that, was entirely true. Of course, he also failed to correct her misinterpretation.

He drove the car like he was in a street race, racing through the gears and weaving back and forth through traffic. The other cars, in auto-drive mode, kicked into their defensive driving subroutines, changing lanes when they could, in an effort to get out of the way.

While Nick didn't like riding in an auto-drive car, he didn't mind being on the road with them. They were incredibly easy to predict.

Speeding, and breaking numerous other traffic laws, it did appear, for a moment, that Nick was going to make it to the briefing just in time. That was, until traffic came to a complete standstill. Nick slammed on his breaks, rocking the car forward ahead of a pair of black skid marks.

Guam is a tiny island in the Pacific, approximately 5 miles wide by 25 miles long. It's home to just over 150,000 people, one Air Force base and one Navy base. Traffic typically isn't a primary concern when trying to get to work. But today, of all days, some ox had managed to tip over the cart it was towing, scattering dozens of chickens all over the road and everywhere else in the immediate vicinity. All lanes were blocked and weren't going to be moving anytime soon, as the chicken farmer and a handful of officers were running around trying to wrangle the chickens. The ox, was standing on the side of the road, casually grazing on the nearby foliage.

A quick glance at his watch told Nick he had four minutes left to reach his destination. Sitting behind a pile of cars and chickens was not going to get the job done. At that point, Nick took advantage of another feature that auto-drive cars were unable to do -- improvise.

Nick steered his car left down a side street. The street then doubled back toward his quarters, which wouldn't have helped his situation, except for the fact that the road ran parallel to the Navy golf course. The golf course's entrance just happened to be by the Officers Club which was only two blocks from HQ, and that --was a straight enough line for Nick.

As the side street bent left, Nick veered right, off the road and onto the pristine green of the golf course. The car bucked like a wide horse as it left the smoothness of the pavement. It was clear the Mustang wasn't built for off-road terrain, but then, as a test pilot, Nick's job often relied on him to get vehicles to perform in a way they were not designed.

Nick swerved right to avoid a cluster of palm trees then flew past several sand traps. He tore a pair of tracks through the perfectly manicured fairway and past a foursome of golfers that looked both shocked and angry to watch the blue Mustang tear past in a blur of blue and flying mud and grass. They yelled a few choice words at him as he passed.

The Mustang leapt over a hill blindly and Nick prayed that the other side was clear. He landed safe, but hard, on the other side, leaving a huge gouge in the terrain just off to the side of one of the greens. Ironically, it was at this time that Nick recalled the Navy Admiral was a fairly avid golfer. He just hoped that today the Admiral had someplace better to be. Nick was well aware that his car wouldn't be hard to identify on the island.

There were just two minutes left as Nick and the Mustang exited the opposite side of the course near the main entrance passing a line of occupied golf carts on the way out.

Back on the road again, Nick sped past the Officers Club taking a sharp left toward Naval HQ, still speeding excessively. ~He pulled up to the guardhouse with a minute to spare and tried to look as casual as possible. Mud, grass and dirt covered the lower sides of the Mustang.

"Lieutenant Commander Sheppard. Here for the M.A.N.T.A. Project.", he said with a smile.

The guard at the front gate approached the driver's side door with his pad and ran a quick facial identification check.

"Mmm hmm.", the guard nodded as the identification came back positive. "Today must be a big day. There's a lot of brass inside."

"Yeah.", Nick nodded. "It's a big day."

The officer nodded, tapping the pad and opening the front gate. As the gate slowly opened the officer added, "Slow it down in there Lieutenant Commander -- and stay safe."

"Always.", Nick smiled a mischievous grin.


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Hello all, it's Todd. There have been some BIG changes to this chapter. Based on feedback from readers I wanted to give Nick a better 'introduction' that what he was currently being given. Something that helps define his character a little more straight out of the gate. I think this chapter now does a good job of that. 

If you liked this chapter, please consider giving it a 'vote'. I really appreciate it.

Visit the official Deep Blue website: http://deepblue.toddworld.com for more information on the science and inspiration behind the story.

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