Alright so I switched it up completely and am shooting without strobes. I'm using a LOT of incandecent light. See pic below (lights off in pic)...
Here's a shot at 1/4000 sec @ f/2.8
I think the cartridge is still a bit out of focus but that could be due to the low f stop and me dropping it either a hair too close or too far from the focal point. (or the damn thing is being dropped in the right spot but once it hits the water, it moves on it's own out of the focal point). Either way, the shot was pretty dark @ f/2.8 but if I move either the f stop up or increase the shutter speed, it really goes into dark/black territory.
Starting to get better. Much better than the strobes anyway. I will continue to work on it until I have it perfected.