12: Damage Report

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As Nick had hoped, the return up was much less eventful than the descent. Granted, it took much longer to get there, but other than some simple course corrections to avoid a few large fish, the trip was almost -- boring. What took only several minutes as an outbound trip took a little over two hours to return without the speed of the Cavitation Drive.

There were a few strange readings from various things that Nick picked up along the way, but if the trip down proved one thing it was that Nick was going to have to change his definition of "strange", at least while he was down here.

As the glow from the lights around Deep Blue came into view, Nick radioed in, "Knock, knock. Anyone home?".

Just as on his original approach, it was Syndi who answered his call, "Welcome back Lieutenant Commander. The moon pool doors are open and we await your arrival."

"Thanks Syndi.", Nick responded with a smile as he pushed several holographic buttons in preparation for docking with the station. "I'll see you guys inside in a moment and doc can get a better look at this rock."

The M.A.N.T.A. flew into the wash of lights that surrounded Deep Blue and glided below the main sphere in the center where the moon pool was located.

A moment later, Nick peered up from below the refracted water surface of the moon pool and could make out Doctor Marshall in his white lab coat standing, with his arms folded, at the railing in front of the pool.

Nick had over two hours to decide whether or not he was going to try to explain the Cavitation Drive to the doctor, or if he was going to use "top security clearance" as an excuse not to. To tell the truth, he still hadn't made up his mind. A part of him was hoping the doctor would be so wrapped up in his new glowing rock that wouldn't have to bring it up.

Judging by the disgruntled look on the doc's face as the cockpit of the M.A.N.T.A. emerged from the water, he wasn't going to be that lucky. Switching to "Plan B", Nick thought a little assistance toward that distraction may help a little.

The crystal, still gripped by the robotic arm on the underside of the ship, was still submerged beneath the surface. Nick thought now might be a good time to get it in front of the doctor.

"Alright Doc, I've got your glowing crystal if you want to take a better look at it.", Nick said, as he enabled the holographic glove once again and prepared to lift the crystal out of the water.

But as the crystal broke the surface of the water, there was a blindingly bright flash of light, and a loud "pop" combined with tiny splashes and the sound of shattered glass originating from the front of the M.A.N.T.A..

The initial flash was followed immediately by the plinking of tiny crystal shards ricocheting off the ceiling, the front glass of the M.A.N.T.A., the walls, and the computer consoles surrounding the moon pool.

A secondary flash erupted from the control console, as sparks jumped from one of the smaller mounted monitors causing the screen to go black. Even Doctor Marshall's coffee cup was knocked off the edge of the desk and sent shattering to the floor.

It took a moment or two for all the flying crystal, glass, and coffee cup pieces to finally come to rest. It took a moment longer for anyone in the room to even begin to process what had just happened.

Doctor Marshall, still standing at the railing with his right arm shielding his face, began cool and calm enough, "What -- in the Hell did you do?". But the more he spoke, the more his volume and intensity increased. "Did you just discharge a weapon--inside my station?!"

Nick was rapidly double checking the weapons systems to make sure he hadn't accidentally done precisely that. That was a negative, in fact, none of the weapons systems were even powered up, much less armed. He was however now getting a red "inoperable" warning light from the extendible arm.

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