23: Get Out of the Way

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In the middle of his dive, Nick instinctively banked hard left just missing the massive tentacles of a monstrous jellyfish. Then, in response to the doctor's order he pulled back hard on the controls, pitching the nose of the tiny craft upward into a barrel roll and leaving his stomach somewhere behind him.

"Careful!", the Doctor warned. "One touch from those tentacles and you're..."

"A paper weight.", Nick finished his sentence for him. "I know. I know."

There was still noticeable tension in his voice as he fought the stiffened controls of the M.A.N.T.A. operating under the Cavitation drive.

Nick was more than aware about the dangers of losing all power at his current location. He was simply trying not to think about it.

Nick was inverted in the middle of his roll when the M.A.N.T.A's front lights bounced off several coral spires that towered above the sandy floor.

"Whoa!", Nick exclaimed as he held the ship a moment longer on it's side, squeezing the M.A.N.T.A. through a narrow rocky crevasse. The jagged walls flew past his front window in a blur.

At this speed Nick knew that any impact would bring his trip to a very sudden end. He also knew, as he fought the controls of the M.A.N.T.A., that still handled like a truck in the mud, that he'd survived the last several seconds on luck alone. He wasn't sure how much of that he had left.

Behind Deep Blue's control console the Commander and the doctor watched intently as the tiny blip on the display that represented the M.A.N.T.A. entered the cloud of uncountable dots.

The M.A.N.T.A. leveled out its descent, but it was still precariously close to the ocean floor.

"He needs to shut down the Cavitation Drive.", Jordan said as she quickly moved her hand toward the comm switch.

"No.", Doctor Marshall replied, grabbing her hand with surprising dexterity. "Shutting down in the middle of that school of jellyfish would not improve his odds of getting back here in one piece. We don't know what their top speed is.", referring to the jellyfish.

"He's going to have to pilot his way out of it.", the doctor said, slowly releasing Jordan's hand. "The quicker the better."

The M.A.N.T.A. continued to pick up speed as it darted through countless giant jellyfish. Inside the cockpit, the suit cast a deep shade of purple throughout the interior; at this point much more crimson than blue.

"Current speed 320kn.", Syndi reported. "Cavitation Drive throttle at 10%."

As focused as he was on not dying, Nick couldn't afford any sudden interruptions.

"Does somebody want to shut her up?", Nick requested firmly.

"Syndi, you'd better hold off on any further speed updates.", Doctor Marshall ordered as he watched the blip of the M.A.N.T.A. approach the opposite edge of the sonar cloud.

"Yes, Doctor Marshall.", the A.I. politely replied.

A moment later, Nick and the M.A.N.T.A. shot through the emerging side of the cloud like a bullet from the barrel of a gun. A vision that was accentuated by the continuing trail of bubbles left behind by the Cavitation drive.

The ship leveled off, it's nose was angled slightly upward steering it clear from both the school of jellyfish and the bottom of the ocean.

Nick breathed a sigh of relief as he looked out his front window and once again saw nothing in his path but the deep ocean. Nothing, that is, except that same faint blue glow emanating from the ocean floor in the distance that he had seen before.

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