37: One Theory

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In Deep Blue's moon pool, Commander Jordan finished the final docking procedures for the M.A.N.T.A. then shut down the systems one-by-one until the ship's control console fell dark.

"Nicely done Commander.", Nick said with complete sincerity. He was impressed if he had to admit it. Not only had she successfully piloted the M.A.N.T.A. on her first mission out, completing all mission parameters, she'd also piloted it with the Cavitation drive engaged.

"Thank you.", Jordan answered after a brief pause. The realization that her one mission in the M.A.N.T.A. was over began to sink in. She'd spent ten years designing and building this ship and this was, most likely, the only time she would find herself behind the controls.

"Hey, you earned it.", Nick said with a smirk. "Not only testing the weapons system but throwing in the Cav drive as an added bonus. Not bad commander, I'm not sure I could have done it better myself."

Jordan rose from the pilot's seat, unclipped the primary buckle in the neck of the M.A.N.T.A. suit causing the lights on the suit to go dark, then turned to Nick. Her eyes met his as she reached out her hand.

"No.", she then repeated slowly, "Thank you."

Nick knew what she meant the first time she said it. If he had any doubt as to where her heart was before the mission, her skillful control of the M.A.N.T.A. and the look in her eyes told him everything he needed to know. She was a pilot, plain and simple. She may spend her days locked in a lab chained to the title of "Senior Engineer", but there was no mistake of what she'd rather be doing.

Nick smiled and nodded. "Happy birthday Jordan.", he said as he took her hand.

"Thanks.", Jordan said as she gave his hand a slight pull to help him out of the seat.

The slight tug sent sharp pains shooting through the right side of Nick's torso. He grimaced slightly as his left hand grabbed his side.

"Are you alright?", Jordan asked, noticing his reaction.

Nick, still attempting to portray the brave, strong test pilot, simply smiled and shrugged off the concern as he rose slower than normal from the pilot's seat, "Yeah, I'm fine."

Hydraulics hissed as the door of the M.A.N.T.A. opened, revealing the doctor leaning forward on the railing at the rear of the moon pool.

"So, it appears our alien friend can talk.", Doctor Marshal announced.

"He can talk?", Jordan repeated in disbelief.

The doc nodded, "Yeah. Not in any language, you'd be able to understand, but he's definitely been talking."

"To who?", Nick asked as he exited the M.A.N.T.A. behind Jordan.

"That -- is a great question.", the doctor said as he raised a single brow.

Jordan and Nick made their way around the lower platform of the moon pool and up to the main deck where they joined the doctor.

"So what happened to this other ship that made an appearance?", Nick inquired.

"Aw, it took off and headed down.", the doc replied sounding a touch disappointed. "Sent the stooges to pursue, but they never had a chance of keeping up with it."

"What do you think it was?", Nick asked.

"Hell, I don't know. Probably some kind of a drone.", the doctor said as he tapped several buttons on the control console bringing a prerecorded video of the encounter to the main display screen. The image showed the small craft as blur of light as it circled the station.

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