5: The M.A.N.T.A.

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If the steady, constant, rhythmic, beeping of the heart monitor attached to Nick's fingertip wasn't enough to try his patience, the pair of technicians silently poking and prodding him would have done the job nicely.

Nick sat atop the cold metal surgical table waiting for the medical techs to finish their preflight physical. He was suited up, from his waist down, in a custom designed, black and navy blue wet suit. The top of the suit was unzipped from the back, and hung forward around his midsection exposing his bare chest and arms. The lower section actually looked a little baggy for his legs, which dangled freely off the front of the table.

Nick hated the preflight suit up. As a test pilot, you'd think he would have the ability to get dressed by himself. Apparently, others disagreed.

The techs worked in silence without saying a word to Nick or each other, which made the scene all that much more unnerving. One recorded his vitals, and other medical information, while the other ran diagnostics on the suit itself.

Before long, the beeping and the telepathic silence became too much for Nick to handle.

He'd been poked and prodded by these two for the past twenty or so minutes and his patience was beginning to wear thin.

"How are we doin' guys?", he asked as graciously as possible.

The older of the two technicians, the medical tech, responded with a question, "How do you feel Lieutenant Commander?"

"I'm fine.", Nick answered, which was an incredibly positive answer given his current comfort level. "Thanks. How are you?"

The technician recorded Nicks answer, but did not give one of his own. Instead he responded with a new question.

"What did you eat for breakfast this morning?"

Nick had been so busy, and late, that morning that it wasn't until that very moment that he realized he never actually ate breakfast; By now he should have had lunch.

"Skipped it.", Nick replied. "I know -- most important meal of the day and all, but I was running behind."

The technician tapped his pad once, and continued without missing a beat, "What did you eat for lunch?"

"Skipped that one too."

The tech tapped the screen once more then continued to the next question, "When was the last time you urina..."

Nick had had enough. "You know what...", Nick said politely snatching the pad from the tech's hands. "I got this."

But before Nick had a chance to answer the previous question, the second tech grabbed the upper half of the M.A.N.T.A. suit, which had been hanging forward around Nick's midsection, and lifted it up in front, so Nick could insert his arms into the sleeves.

As Nick extended his arms, it was clear he was going to have to surrender the pad if his hand and arm were to have any chance at entering the sleeve.

Nick reluctantly returned the pad to the medical tech, then slipped his arms into the black sleeves of the micro-neoprene suit. He hopped off the table, and positioned himself so the tech could zip up the suit from behind.

The medical tech cradled the pad in his arm and returned to his previous question, "What time did you last...".

"Last night.", Nick snapped, cutting him off. "At a bar."

The tech behind Nick zipped up the suit, then pulled and secured the collar closed with a small magnetic latch. It snapped shut with a click and the suit jumped to life with the illumination of a small green LED on Nick's collar.

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