20: The Perfect Plan

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With the news that Nick's next trip out was scheduled for the following morning, the Lieutenant Commander spent the majority of the day double and triple checking the M.A.N.T.A.'s systems. He also performed a very thorough visual inspection of the outside of the ship. He inspected every inch of the surface of the M.A.N.T.A. at least four times, and hoped for the best.

Truth be told, he knew the Commander already ran through the exact same checks, and probably more, and would most likely go through them all once again before the ship left the moon pool. Nick was mainly just trying to stay busy. It helped keep his mind focused so it didn't wander onto other, less desirable things, such as suddenly finding a hairline crack in the hull of the M.A.N.T.A. at 35,000 ft. when the ship instantly implodes on itself ending up the size of a basketball. Then, of course, there was still the very real possibility of the Cavitation Drive not shutting down properly, forcing another full system shutdown and cold restart which was always a gamble. Being stranded at the bottom of the ocean wasn't really on Nick's bucket list of things to do.

It was dark corridors like these that Nick was trying to keep his mind from wandering down, and most of the time only marginally succeeding.

Nick found that there is a huge public misconception about test pilots. Whenever he introduced himself as a military test pilot the person seems to instantly label of him in one of two ways; he's either not afraid of anything, or he's crazy.

Test pilots are afraid, in their line of work there's plenty to be afraid of. But fear isn't necessarily a bad thing. Fear heightens the senses, pumps you full of adrenaline, and enables you to do things you would never be able to do without it.

Fear, can be good if you control it, and don't let it control you. Fear, he had plenty of.

As far as the "crazy" label goes; Well, yeah, he had to admit, there may be a little bit of crazy mixed in somewhere.

Nick's theory on being a great test pilot was having a good "plan B", "plan C", "plan M", "X", and "Z", and if necessary a "plan A1", and so on. It meant never considering any situation "unwinnable" or any problem "unsolvable". You just simply had to learn to look for a solution elsewhere.

While Nick spent the day inspecting the M.A.N.T.A., Doctor Marshal stayed busy in the lab devising some way to collect a crystal and transport it back to Deep Blue, while at the same time preventing it from exploding once it got there. It was a challenge since he had no real way of testing any of his prototypes. That led to a bunch of hypothetical analysis and simulations that kept Syndi occupied.

That night Nick sat in his quarters on the edge of his bed in shorts and his standard military gray tank top. He had a plan. He'd spent at least an hour of the day working it out. He'd thought through all the possible mishaps and all the things he'd learned in the past. He had them all covered. The plan -- was foolproof, it was perfect. He would not fail. Not this time.

"Syndi.", Nick called out calmly to his ever present observer. He knew she was listening.

"Yes, Lieutenant Commander Sheppard.", the A.I. responded in her always friendly tone as her image blinked to life on the nearby monitor.

"Let's try this one more time.", he said.

"What are we trying?"

"I'd like to set an alarm for tomorrow morning."

"That's fine Lieutenant Commander.", the A.I. responded cheerfully. "What time would you like to wake up."

"Oh no.", Nick said shaking his head. "We're going to do this my way."

In regards to waking up in the morning, in Nick's mind, Syndi had become something like a genie in a lamp. Not one of those helpful genie's where everyone gets a happy ending. No, she was one of those genie's who always found some way to turn and twist the wish around until it became some mangled mess and the person making the wish ends up with three heads.

He was not going to end up with three heads. Not this time.

"Syndi,", Nick began in a very slow and methodical manner. "I want to to repeat everything I say exactly as I say it. Are we clear?"

To which the holographic projection answered with an actual recording of Nick's voice, "Are we clear?"

"See. I knew it.", Nick said hanging his head. "This is exactly why I..."

But Syndi cut him off, "Relax Lieutenant Commander,", she said with a grin. "I was kidding. I was just practicing my sarcasm."

"Great. Sarcasm.", Nick thought to himself. He still didn't understand why the doctor felt it important to give her "sarcasm" in the first place.

Taking a breath to regain his composure Nick requested, "Could we just, maybe turn off the sarcasm for the moment?"

"Yes. The sarcasm is now off.", Syndi responded with a smile.

"Which in itself could be construed as a sarcastic line.", she contemplated aloud more seriously. "And it wasn't meant to be."

Syndi continued sounding somewhat concerned, "Oh my. I apologize Lieutenant Commander, what if I can't turn off..."

Nick interrupted her, "Syndi."

At which point Syndi's image snapped to attention, "Yes, Lieutenant Commander."

"Just repeat after me."

Speaking in a very deliberate tone, Nick tried again, "I want you to set an alarm for 0700 hours tomorrow morning."

Syndi then echoed back the request in a similar tone, "You want me to set an alarm for 0700 hours tomorrow morning."

Nick nodded, "That's right."

Then he continued, "Do you have any buzzing or beeping sounds in your database? Something like that warning siren that played during last night's earthquake would be fine -- just without the flare of 'impending doom'."

"I'm afraid I don't understand the 'impending doom' reference.", the hologram replied.

Nick simplified his request, "Do you have any computer beep sounds?"

He felt incredibly strange asking that question -- of a computer.

"Yes.", Syndi answered. "I'm capable of producing over twenty thousand beeping sounds that a human of your age could hear."

"Super.", Nick said with a smile.

He continued, "Can you pick one somewhere in the middle and play it at 65 decibels."

65 decibels was the average volume of a normal conversation between two people. Nick knew that because Nick looked it up earlier in the day.

"Yes. I can do that.", Syndi confirmed. "Is that all?"

Nick shook his head, "Oh no. We're not done."

Nick wanted to be crystal clear, leaving no room for error. So his instructions continued.

"Play the sound for one second, repeating in one second intervals until -- well, until I get up."

Syndi then repeated the request, "Play the sound for one second, repeating in one second intervals until you get up."

"Do you have it? Are we clear?", Nick asked.

"Yes.", Syndi nodded. "I can do that Lieutenant Commander."

"Thank you.", Nick said with a sigh of relief.

Tomorrow was a big day and he wasn't going to be late because of some computer, especially not one with an attitude.

"Good night Lieutenant Commander Sheppard.", Syndi said.

"Good night Syndi.", Nick replied as he stretched out in his bed and the lights of the room slowly faded to black.

"I can't believe I just told a computer good night.", Nick thought to himself. 

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