Silence dominated the early morning. Few disturbances were heard. The soft padding of late night security officers on patrol was rhythmic and hypnotic. The high-powered flashlights carried in hand warped the darkness with powerful beams of light. This was a typical night within the Power Chamber. Still. Uneventful. Peaceful.
A new set of disruptions joined in. Clinkings and sparks, gentle as they were, were the most propionate of all the late night's interuptions. The officers threw a quick glance from the catwalks of the Academy's main chamber down onto the floor, only to confirm their guesses as to the possible occurrence.
With an already grease-soaked hand, Willis Drozdov, known to the public as "Droz", wiped at his forehead. The stain marked a good portion of his face as he brought his hand down his cheek, and even a few strands of his unbound Mohawk of long blonde hair became tarnished. With a great sigh, Droz continued his endless work.
He slipped a pair of protective lenses held in one heavily gloved hand onto his face, and reached for the blowtorch exactly where he had left it the previous shift. With one quick strike, he brought a flame to life, and pressed it to his current project.
Droz knew of his reputation. Many, including his closest friends and his subordinate mechanics dubbed "the boys" all saw the grungy young man as just that. He was viewed as a man of questionable tastes and freakish behavior, stereotypes drawn from his hairstyle, tattoos, piercings and deformed sense of humor. In secret, Willis Drozdov was a mathematical genius, a master in aeronautics and a successful business owner. But he was comfortable with the way others saw him, and found no need to praise his past.
He let the torch die, and placed it aside. Placing his palms together, Droz took a moment to himself, a rarity that he learned to cherish and savor whenever he could. With a seat upon an old component from the salvaged Mega Winger, he reflected on his accomplishments as the Power Chamber's chief mechanic.
Since his appointment he had, with assistance from his boys, created two full sets of Zords in record time. Unlike any other mechanic that might have stepped through the doors of the Power Chamber in hopes of achieving the same position as he, Droz took his profession very seriously knowing that the lives of others were dependant on his craftsmanship. Never would he admit it, but every day he wondered if there was something that he missed that would cause his machines to fail, a flaw he overlooked that would cost a Ranger his or her life.
Droz whipped his head about quickly, pushing his thoughts away as he forced himself to stay conscious. Tossing his protective glasses to the ground, he reached for a thermos that he brought out with him at the beginning of every shift. He unscrewed the cap, and downed nearly half of the container of black coffee, some of which dribbled down onto his stained tanktop.
His eyes bulged, and he let whatever of the unswallowed dark beverage fall back into its container. It only took Droz a few swallows to realize that he had not refilled his thermos since the prior shift's start, and somehow he didn't believe he could pull his trademark eighteen-hour shifts without any outside propulsion. He sluggishly got to his feet, and crawled his way out of the surrounding wall of mechanical components designated 'the pit', so he might head for the Academy's commissary.
He stumbled across the field of devices, his balance wavering due to lack of caffeine. Once the souls of his boots had hit sturdy ground however, he was able to drag himself to the automatic doors of the complex's cafeteria to take part in his daily ritual of fueling himself for a hard day's work.
Droz shuffled into the dark table-filled room and made his way behind the service counter. The Synthetron food replicators were still online after a request from the late night crewmen, a decision Droz strongly supported on mornings such as these. After reaching into his pocket, the mechanic sliced his Academy identification card through the wall-mounted computer, and scanned through his preselected recipes.
He chose the first item on his list, simple black coffee. A moment later, a cup's worth of the steaming liquid was produced from thin air, ready for consumption. He took a firm grasp of the plastic mug, dumping the contents into his thermos, and swearing softly as he remembered he had not emptied the previous day's waste.
He held the thermos open over the sink, letting the thick dark brown liquid flow into the drain while mentally commenting on its resemblance to paint. Droz set the container aside and took a seat upon an empty section of counter as he let his second order fill itself. Once his precious cargo was prepared, Droz returned to the Mechanics Floor, ready to begin his day yet again.
"Are you sure about this?" Zhane asked as he followed the Academy's headmaster onto the Mechanics Floor. "I mean, you just got in about an hour ago. The reason you took the vacation was because you were about to suffer a nervous breakdown. Maybe you shouldn't take so much on again so soon."
"I'm okay," Andros assured, glad to be back in his wine red uniform. "Besides, with you guys helping out I won't have that much to get wrapped up in. But this is something I've needed to take care of, so I might as well do it while I remember."
The Kerovan and his friend journeyed to the edge of the pit, not exactly wishing to travel inward on a fear they may never be able to climb back out. Zhane released a small joke about sending the recruits through the Mechanics Floor in place of their final exam, as to navigate it successfully would be near impossible. Andros tossed his friend a thin smile, and turned his attention back to the business at hand.
"Droz." Andros called over the powerful screeching of the chief mechanics heavy-duty power drill. The response, as should have been expected, was less than minimal. After a frustrated sigh, Andros cried out again. "Droz!"
The mechanic stopped his work immediately. "Yo," he acknowledged. "Hey, Big Red. When did you get back?"
"Earlier today," Andros replied in a manner indicating that he did not wish to dwell on the subject of his vacation at just that time. "Listen, Droz, about how much stuff do you guys bring in here? On the average, that is."
The mechanic scratched at a bald section of his head. "Hmm. I'd have to say that we probably lug in about five hundred pounds a week. Of course now that we've used most of the good stuff up, we'll have to head back to dump to salvage those old Thunderzords that Adam told us about. So I think we'll be pulling in about five to seven hundred pounds in here every week."
"I'd rather you not." Andros countered, drawing a confused stare from the mechanic. "Drag it in here, I mean. See, the United Nations gives us permission as well as grants to keep our school here, and they're not exactly comfortable with the fact that four of the administrators are minors, even if they did save the world. The UN wants to hold regular inspections, and I'm afraid that if they walk into a steel mill with some training mats, we'll lose everything."
Droz seemed to understand to some degree. And he certainly did not want to lose his favorite job because of the Academy's inward appearance. "Go on," he invited.
"We've got a construction crew coming in a few days." Andros continued. "We'll be building some new additions to the Chamber. In about a month you should have a dedicated workshop for all this stuff. The only problem would be moving it all."
"Teleport it." Droz suggested.
Andros blinked. "What?"
Droz placed the drill on the floor, and began to display his remarkably high intellect. "Look, we draw the power for all the special functions like the Simudeck and the Synthetron from the Megaship, right?" Andros nodded. "Right, well because of that we can't risk teleporting people. Unless we want to chance an overload and spread people's molecules throughout the universe. Which I've noticed we've attempted on occasions--" he drifted. "Weird. Anyway, when the workshop is set up we just have to set up some receivers and teleport everything in the old pit, to the new pit. Simple, yet effective."
"Wow!" Zhane remarked. "That sounded a lot like sane logic. From Droz, no less."
The Silver Ranger realized the possible harshness of his words, and apologized. "Sorry Droz, but normally you're either making jokes or quoting Motorhead." He defended himself from Andros' questioning gaze. "I borrowed a CD, sue me."
"Tell you what, Andros." Droz began a proposal. "You've got what, at least another five months before we see another graduating team? I'll try to hold off on the importing of any materials until absolutely necessary. Most of the stuff just sits around until I have a design worked up anyway. By then the workshop should be finished and we shouldn't have a problem."
"Deal." Andros agreed.
"But," Droz added, "You have to make sure that when we need 'em, those old Thunderzords are still available. I know the dump is pretty much public domain, but we don't want someone running off with one of those old power converters. Try to establish some sort of contract with the guy at the junkyard, one where he can't sell anything that can be classified privileged material."
"A contract?" Zhane questioned, not able to draw himself from the position as acting headmaster regardless of Andros' return. "Can we do that? I mean you said the dump was public domain--"
"But the dump is still city property," Droz noted. "And some people are sneaky enough to swipe some of the more *valuable* stuff. I still can't find a good quarter of the Winger's parts, and I know they were all there after the invasion."
"You sound a little paranoid," Andros grumbled. "But okay. I'll talk to the city council and see what I can do about reserving anything from the dump. Just remember, no hauling anything else in here until you absolutely need it."
"Cool," Droz submitted in a lazy fashion. "So, the vacation went well?" Andros nodded. "Did Sunshine find out that you're twenty-five?" The mechanic asked the question with a subdued curiosity, no humor or hidden motive behind it. "Or what?"
"What?" Andros' mouth hung low. "How did you know about that?"
The mechanic smiled, holding his arms out wide. "I am Droz!" He declared. "I see all, know all, and manage to draw any required nutrients from abnormally harmful by-products." His alibi dissolved once the two Kerovans folded their arms. "Okay, so I read up on your race. This is a school, after all."
Andros finally gave in and stepped into the pit, giving his lungs a rest. "Yes, Ashley found out. Her parents took it better than she did, though. But she's adjusted. I guess she's accepted that there's bound to be some differences when you date someone from another planet."
Zhane began to pull Andros away, leading into a new matter. "Speaking of interplanetary dating -- If you plan on giving Cassie any work to do for the next day or so..."
Droz shook his head and smiled broadly as his employers left to attend to other business. There was no doubt in his mind that even if he was the busiest man within the Chamber, he had the easiest job compared to anyone else. He didn't have to look over a science lab, or maintain security, or make regular reports regarding the status of the Academy. All he had to do was build and fix, build and fix.
All he did was build and fix. He let the words roll about in his mind, knowing that occasionally even the easiest of careers can prove stressful. Everyone knew that all Droz was assigned to do was to build and fix whatever fell into his area of expertise, and possibly outside if Justin or Cestro claimed one of their infamous experiments took priority over some other accessory's malfunction.
He reached into his pocket and withdrew the folded blueprints provided by the fourteen-year-old scientist and still-powered Turbo Ranger, Justin Stewart. Droz had to admit, without "Little Boy Blue's" help, the recently completed Cyclezords referred to as "Rotwilers" would never have been a success.
The paper was stolen from his hands by a short barbed spear that missed his own flesh by mere milimeters. He looked from the blueprint now tacked against an old engine mount to the frightened crossbow wielding "boy" known as Geoff.
Droz stomped up the edge of the pit, screaming with rage as he did so at one of his subordinate mechanics. "What in the world do you think you're doing, Geoff?" The shaking man attempted a stuttered apology, but could not verbalize how sorry he felt for nearly injuring his boss. "We're not allowed to build solid projectiles!" Droz reminded, dismissing the obvious accidental triggering of the crossbow. He took the device and began to remove piece after piece of the unfinished weapon.
"You know the rules," Droz continued. "We use the standard energy-manipulation formula that Blue whipped up for us, and apply it to the energy signature of the morphers to encode the weapon. If we start producing stuff that can be used outside of the standard mission, we could get in some serious trouble."
He returned the empty frame of the bow to Geoff's hands. "It was too bulky anyway," the chief mechanic informed. "Compact it, and convert it over to an energy weapon and we'll use it. And see if you can't put double-barrels on it, the thing might work better. And for heaven's sake," he added. "Put some safeties on this thing. You could hurt someone."
"Right," Geoff uneasily accepted. "I'll do that." The younger man returned to his work, and Droz sank back into the center of the pit. "Sorry 'bout that." "I swear," Droz grumbled. "If he wasn't my brother-in-law..."
Confused that someone within the Academy walls would actually use formalities towards the grungy man, Willis Drozdov turned his eyes to the outside edge of the pit, where a young man dressed in a black and yellow-trimmed uniform stood at semi-attention with his hands clasped behind his back.
"Droz," the mechanic corrected. "And yes, I am. So can I help you?"
"My name is Trey," the young man announced. He could see that Droz was able to recall the name that the mechanic had most likely overheard in conversation. "Andros has suggested that I might be able to enlist in your services."
"You need a Zord, don't you?" Droz asked. "Okay, let me see your morpher." He caught the Battelizer has it was tossed to him, double-taking at the mechanism. "This is Andros'. Where'd you get your hands on it?"
"Now that Andros is no longer an active Ranger, and he no longer possesses the Delta Megazord, he has found no use for it. My friend Jenfi, who is still in suspended animation in your Academy's medical facilities, has absorbed my power crystal's energy. If I try to morph using my Power Staff, I run the risk of ending her life."
"So Andros lets you use the Battelizer so you can help defend the station," Droz finished. "Well, as admirable as that might be, I'm afraid I can't help you." He tossed the device back to its new owner. "That thing is a lot different from any other morpher I've seen. Most of the Zords I've been able to apply in some way to the energy signature of it's owner's powers. That thing--" He shook his head.
"So, you can't help me?" Trey sadly asked.
"Best I could do is whip up an independent fighter or something, maybe along the lines of the Valkyries. But if you want something like that -- Pyramidas -- or whatever it was in your Zeo days, I'm of no service." Suddenly, Droz's eyes brightened. "Hold on a second."
Droz dropped back into the center of the pit, and arose once more, this time with a rolled blueprint in one hand. He skidded down to Trey's level, unrolling the large paper. "This is a design that I was about to get started on."
"It's a little big," Trey commented as he visualized the large aircraft. "Isn't it?"
"Says the man who used to drive a pyramid," Droz quipped. "If I can get the parts together, I'll be able get this ready for you in about two weeks. I just have to clear it with Andros so he lets me lug some junk in here. It'll take me a little bit longer since this is a modular vehicle."
"Yeah, it's an inverted Zord. Two standard transforming components that when combined create a larger vessel. It should really confuse anyone who comes across it, which is a prime factor in the design. Well, that and an all-night anime marathon that I had a few days ago."
Trey lifted his eyebrow. The Triforian had been told several rumors regarding the Mechanics behavior, but had not paid much attention to them. This experience had introduced him to the questionable sources of Droz inspiration. While he trusted the Mechanic as the other Rangers did, he couldn't help but voice his opinion.
"That's -- what's the word I'm looking for?"
"Odd?" Droz suggested. "Weird? Demented? Sick? Twisted? Out there? Gone? Loony---?"
"Unusual," Trey said holding up his hand, "Will do fine." He eyed the design once more before Droz inserted the plans into his back pocket. "It is an intriguing concept, Droz. And I do appreciate you helping me. There is very little in terms of defense on the station save a few salvaged Velocifighters."
The Mechanic shuddered. "Yeah, I've still got a couple of those big ugly lawn darts sticking in my front yard from the invasion. That's actually when I got into researching all this stuff. I guess the war did just even more in terms of good stuff than bad."
"Indeed. It did seem to finally get Earth noticed in the eyes of many Intergalactic Senators." The Triforian checked the chronometer on his wrist. "I'm afraid I have to cut this discussion short. I must return to my duties on the station. It has been nice meeting you, Droz."
Trey stepped away in attempt to board his transport before it left Earth's terrain, and was replaced by another face not a moment later. "...No rest for the weary..." Droz mumbled before greeting the Yellow Ninjetti. "Hiya, Chipmunk. What can I do for you?" he smiled.
Liz whined. "I'm a Squirrel. Why must everyone mock my spirit animal?"
"Take no offense," Droz insisted. "I mock everyone. Now, what brings you by the illustrious Pit?" He smiled again, knowing full well that his upbringing had beaten the notion into him that he was never to cop an attitude with any female without extreme due cause. "Don't tell me the Valkyries broke down only after a test run?"
"No," Liz promptly responded. "The Zords work fine. Although I wish I didn't have to fly around in a giant yellow jet plane, but I guess it just comes with the territory." She placed a hand to the holster attached to her black slacks, and displayed a yellow and black version of an Astro Blaster. "This is what's giving me trouble."
Liz pulled back on the black notch atop the Blaster, revealing it to be yet another, although smaller firearm. "Whenever these two are separate," she reported as she activated the weapons' power systems, "They work fine. But when you combine them into the standard form--" Once she slipped the black Blaster back into its place, both items were drained of power. "--It dies."
"Hmm." Droz took the weapon, feeling the weight in his hands for a moment before speaking again. "Is this a specialty item, or the standard issue Blasters that Jerome hands out to everyone?" Liz answered that the weapon was a modified standard issue that would become part of her Ninjetti uniform once morphed instead of being buried under the armor.
"Can you fix it?" Liz asked hopefully.
"Yeah, as long as Tek hasn't touched it first," Droz said, making reference to the blue-haired Ranger who had no knowledge of, but incredible success in, fixing equipment of any kind. "I found out he fixed one of the communications terminals with pennies and gum."
"It worked?" Liz asked skeptically.
"The thing runs like a dream now," Droz credited. "No interference, great response time." The man felt his stomach rumble, and excused himself. "I'm headed into the commissary for some lunch. I'll take this with me since it's kind of an emergency. I'm sure Andros doesn't want the active team of Rangers running around without a Blaster."
"Thanks, Droz. I'd take this to Justin, but he and Cestro are showing that new Morgan girl around the labs and stuff." Liz giggled lightly. "And to think, people criticize you for all the time you spend here. I don't think I've seen Justin outside of the lab for a month."
"Yeah," Droz agreed with a laugh of his own. "Wait a minute. Which people?"
The sandwich dropped down onto the plate, which spun slightly on the fluorescent orange lunch tray from the impact. The Postrami on Rye was pushed to one side of the table, as Droz pulled the faulty Astro Blaster closer to him.
"Okay pal," Droz addressed the weapon. "Let's crack you open and see what the problem is, okay?" He began to unscrew the casing using a driver that he brought into the commissary with him, and began to remove the casing when a shadow crept over the table. "I'm on my break," He said without looking up.
"You could use a longer break if you're starting to talk to the weaponry."
"Well, if you worked the hours I did without any sort of rest, you'd--" Droz looked upwards to one of his employers, the Senior Silver Ranger and counterpart to the Headmaster. "Oh, hiya Boss. How may I help you?" He asked with forced pleasantry.
"Andros is back," Zhane reminded. "And I was never big on titles, so cut the formalities, okay?" The Silver Ranger took a seat at the table across from Droz. "Hey!" He leaned over the table to examine the Blaster. "It looks like the Ninjetti have experienced their first equipment failure. Wow."
"Yes," Droz mumbled. "Truly a momentous occasion. Unfortunately, repairing said equipment is nothing new to me." He cut off Zhane's words before the first syllable escaped the Kerovan's lips. "Don't even ask. The rest of the boys don't have a clue as to how this stuff works."
"Just put in a requisition to hire someone who does." Zhane solved. "But we can talk about that later. What I wanted to tell you is that Andros just got the designs from the contractors for the new Pit. He wants you to look them over before he gives the final okay."
"Yeah yeah," Droz grumped. "I'll take care of that after my break." He allowed Zhane to excuse himself from the table, just as the Mechanic reassembled the casing of the Blaster. "Yes! Finished!" He placed the weapon in the center of the table, and reclaimed his sandwich. "Maybe I can actually get a moment to eat, for a change."
The man heard a low-level argument from halfway across the room. The participants continued to speak softly, but with raised octaves and increased speed. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the two standing conversationalists unsuccessfully herd the other to Droz's table. Finally, it became too much for the Mechanic to bear.
"Whatever it is," he said slightly annoyed, "Just ask. I do have this thing working," he waved the Blaster in the air, "And ticking me off will not necessarily benefit either of you. And the sooner you spit it out, the sooner I'll get back to my lunch, and we'll all be happy."
Fearing a shooting spree, one of Chief Stone's newest security officers, in full dark blue Academy attire, stepped cautiously but promptly to the table. In one hand he shyly displayed his communication badge. "I can't seem to get this thing to work right," he admitted. "I was hoping--"
The badge was snatched from the young man's hand by Droz, who quickly turned it over, made a few adjustments, and a test transmission to the Communications Officer, all in a matter of seconds before he turned the device back over to its owner.
"Works now." Droz immediately returned to his meal, barely acknowledging the young man's issue of thanks. He had only digested one full bite from the sandwich before he was summoned yet again, this time from one of the cooks.
"WHAT?!" His furious cry ripped through the commissary, silencing everyone. His eyes ticked like those of a madman, or someone who had not had a decent amount of sleep in days. His teeth were grinding against each other as his fist strangled his sandwich. "What--" he asked with an icy tone, "--do you want?"
The cook held up a small metal ring, with several loose metal objects attached to it. "I-- I just wanted to know if these were your keys."
"Y'know," One of Droz's boys commented as he gazed down at the Chief Mechanic, "You'd probably be a lot more comfortable in the lunch room."
Droz huffed as he inhaled the last portion of his sandwich. Leaning against one of the inner walls of the Pit, he explained, "Yeah, but at least here I get some peace and quiet. Seven people came up to me with those little things that can never seem to wait."
"But I thought you loved your work," the young black man responded.
"I do," Droz affirmed. "But not when I'm taken for granted. I swear, Damon, you have no idea how lucky you are just doing the maintenance on the Zords. You have a specific job description. I do everything else." He regarded his own words for a moment. "No offense, but you know what I mean."
"Yeah," Damon smiled, slumping next to his superior. "But then again I only do this because I didn't make the Academy as a student. And I wouldn't even be here if it weren't for you. I'd still be working for the city repairing old school buses."
"All you needed was a break, kid. And you can't beat the one you were given." Droz lifted his head to the catwalks in time to see Andros flagging him up to the third level office. "Looks like Big Red's ready for me to look over those plans." Droz grunted as he climbed to his feet. "Watch the Pit while I'm gone, Damon, would ya?"
"Thanks." Droz literally crawled out of the pit, making a note to either increase his sugar intake or his hours of sleep as he did so. "One of these days I'm going to walk into that thing and never come out again."
The mechanic slushed up the metal framed stair wells, too tired to acknowledge any informal repair orders that came his way as he did so. When he had disregarded request number twenty-two, he had finally reached his destination.
The transparent doors slid open before him, and he slowly crept into Andros' office. The Kerovan Headmaster, who was currently standing behind his desk and staring down onto a three-dimensional hologram, immediately greeted him.
"Hello, Droz. I didn't mean to pull you away from your break---"
"--I don't take breaks." Droz reminded.
Andros blinked. "Right. Anyway, we've got the designs for the new Pit right here. I'd like your input on it before we give the contractors the final okay." He stepped back as the mechanic leaned over the hologram.
"Hmph. Four times the size we have now. About three times the height. We can make a pretty nice hanger for the Valkyries." He pointed to several mechanical items along the walls. "What're all these things."
"Oh, those are built in tools. Blowtorches, wrench sets, the usual things. The architects thought it would keep you and your boys more organized."
"That's nice," Droz smiled genuinely before his lips curled under. "Take 'em out."
"What?" Andros asked. "Why?"
Droz held up his hand, and began to count items off on his fingers. "Does this thing have walls? Yes. Does it have windows? Yes. Air conditioning? Looks like it with the all the exhaust pipes in there." He reached for the datapad that controlled the design, and set the device to show only the foundation and support posts of the building. "That's what me and the boys are comfortable with, and that's all we need," he explained.
"But--" Andros half-protested.
"No." Droz put his foot down regarding the manner. "We don't need that fancy stuff. We're happy crawling over our tools and machines. And let's not mention all the money you'd save in the process. There's no need to spend every penny the UN gives us, Andros."
"If that's what you want," Andros deactivated the display. "That's fine with me. I'll just take the extra funding and put it into the cadet wings. Maybe we'll be able to make some improvements on the living conditions." He nodded to the Mechanic. "Thank you, Droz. That'll be all."
Droz stepped out of the office, and as expected, he heard his name called. This time he did respond, as the voice belonged to one of his employers, the senior Blue Ranger. He saw TJ approach him, a datapad in hand. "Lemme guess," Droz sighed. "It's broken."
"Actually, no." TJ handed over the pad. "I was going over the personnel records when I noticed something strange. Droz, it says you haven't taken any sort of leave from your duties, personal or illness-related."
"That's right," Droz confirmed.
"But," TJ took the datapad in mid-sentence, and brought up the file containing Droz's contract and showed it to the man. "Do you know that you were only hired to work six days a week? You have two weeks of vacation time, with two days added on for every sixty days you work." He switched to yet another file, a constantly updated record of Droz's employment.
Droz eyed the file carefully. "I get days off?" He asked. "Cool!"
"...Yes..." TJ informed, not sure if Droz had even read his contract when he signed it. "I just felt I should make you aware of this. And I think you should start abiding by the contract and taking a day off once a week. We can't pay you for days you're not supposed to be here."
"That's why my check is always a few dollars short..." Droz realized. "Oh well. I'll consider it," he said while searching for the nearest stairwell. "Thanks." Slightly empowered by mirth, Droz returned to the Pit. He could see Damon a bit relieved at his return. No doubt it was an impressive task for the young man to suddenly oversee all of the areas operations, even if only for a few moments.
"You look happy. Kinda." Damon critiqued.
"'Eh." Droz replied casually. "But if one more person asks me to fix something I'm going to take this monkey-wrench," He paused to reach for the indicated item, "And hit myself over the head."
"Hey, Droz!" A voice called.
Frowning, but sticking to his word, Droz swung the wrench above his head, and brought it down onto his cranium. It took a moment for the blood to leave his brain, but after a second or two of wobbling, he fell to the oil-soaked floors of the Pit.
"You had to ask," Damon said to Greg, the Purple Ninjetti. "Now look what happened."
"I just wanted to know if I could get back the copy of Macross that I lent him." The tanned lanky young man replied. "So, do we just leave him here, or what?"
Carlos, the senior Black Ranger, took that moment to pass the Pit. "Aw, he did it again? What's with this guy?" He nodded to Damon. "Okay, let's take him up to the medical lab." He knelt down and lifted Droz by the shoulders, as the young black man supported the mechanic's feet. "What'd he use this time? Hammer?"
"Wrench." Damon corrected as the two headed for the lifts.
"Monkey or Torque?"
Droz gripped his head as the world slowly faded into view. The darkness gave way to a blinding light, which in turn evaporated into the walls of the medical lab's recovery room. A bandage was wrapped around his head, which he promptly removed. He knew the bands were just a precaution should the accelerated healing serum malfunction.
He looked to the corner of his eyes to the young brunette woman in a pale blue Academy uniform standing at his bedside. "Hey, Amy. How long was I out this time?" He asked.
"Oh, are you up?" The woman checked her watch. "About forty-five minutes. You took a nasty one this time, Droz. Maybe you should stop whacking yourself on the head like that."
"Yeah," Droz agreed, "But then you wouldn't be able to run all of those excessive and pointless tests on me, like blood samples and brain wave patterns."
"No," Amy said, "We just paint your toe nails."
"You what?" Droz sat upright on the bed, swinging his legs over. "That'd better be a joke." Taking a moment to regain his balance and sense of awareness. "Well, lucky for you I don't have time. I've probably got a bunch of people looking for me to fix stuff." A smile crossed his lips, as he placed his hand to his head. "You know, on second thought, I'm feeling just a bit woozy. I think I'll stay here just a bit longer."
"Suit yourself." Amy smiled, walking off. "I'll bring you the nail polish remover."
An hour or so passed, and when Droz finally awoke once more, he found himself en route to the Pit once more. Occasionally he found his mind drifting to the comments made about his toenails, but thought it best to examine the matter in private, with a bucket of turpentine by his side.
Damon had seemed to do an excellent job keeping things together, which made Droz believe that he may actually be able to begin using his days off once a week. *Maybe now I'll get to see what that whole 'recreation' thing is all about,* he mused with a grin.
"Hey!" Droz increased his pace, closing the distance between himself and the pit. The four blue motorcycles currently being worked on were not even supposed to be where they were. "Damon, what's going on? I thought the Rotweilers were sent to Syrix on the last transport. Why are they here? More importantly--" He grimaced when he noticed what the young black man was doing to the machines. "--why are you stripping the armor off of them?"
Damon sighed, and entered into an explanation. "They were too heavy," he said easily.
"And just how did you reach that conclusion, Mister Henderson?" Droz folded his arms across his chest. "Tek was practically doing jumping jacks in these things when he tested them out. He had nothing to complain about."
"But there's another reason." Damon turned his hand to the pieces of armor he had removed from the vehicles. It was a collection that consisted of a fairly thick chest plate, a pair of featureless wrist gauntlets, and two knee high heavily armored boots. "I talked with Justin. He said he can add these as a second setting to the Blue Team's morphers. For the normal stuff, they can use the old unstable-molecule fabric. If they get into a heavy situation, then the team can upgrade into a basic armor."
"I get it." Droz stroked his chin. "The team may not always need the heavy artillery, but they may need something more than the usual stuff." Damon nodded excitedly at Droz's understanding. "Good work, Damon."
"Oh, but I'm not done yet," Damon smiled. He held up a heavy black canister. "The Rotweilers are solar powered, but what we didn't know was the amount of time they need to charge up. They require fourteen hours of sunlight on a planet that only provides twelve. That's why I spoke with Justin, and borrowed this."
Damon unscrewed the lid to the canister, and withdrew a glass jar containing a blinding light. After displaying it to Droz for a few seconds, he replaced it. "Liquid Sun," the young man explained. "A few weeks ago, Justin and Cestro stumbled across this. It doesn't do anything but emit powerful UV rays. When it dies out, the stuff evaporates when exposed to air."
"Are you saying that stuff is going to power a Zord?"
Damon nodded in a 'sort-of' method. "Yes and no. It will power smaller ones, at least this dose will. And it has an incredible shelf-life, or so Justin predicts."
Droz closed his mouth once he realized it was open. "Do you have a brain you haven't been sharing with us? Anything else I should know?"
"I overhauled the Valkyries, and retouched the paint jobs on one of 'em. Liz kept insisting that the Squirrel on the fin looked a little too much like a Chipmunk. I'll tell you, that girl has some pretty weird issues, man."
"When did you do all this?" Droz asked.
"I've just learned how to budget my time," Damon modestly stated. "An hour or so here, half-an-hour there, it really helps me get through the day and keep a good grip on my sanity."
Droz let his arms fall at his sides. "That's it." He said defiantly.
"W--What's it?" Damon cautiously asked.
"If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it's Droz's new assistant. From now on you're going to have a lot more responsibility around here." The mechanic clapped the boy on the shoulder. "Welcome to the majors, kid."
"All right!" Damon nearly jumped. "Thank you! What else do I get? A raise?"
"Yes," Droz said somewhat evilly. "But you also get to deal with that." He pointed a greasy finger out towards the oncoming line of people, all with broken items in their hands waiting to be fixed. "Enjoy yourself, son. I'm outta here."
"Wait," Damon called after the departing mechanic. "Where are you going?"
"You can take care of those guys," Droz smiled. "I'm taking the rest of the day off." The mechanic stepped away from the Pit, and towards the cargo doors at the front of the Academy. "Have fun, kid!"
"You're not serious!" Damon protested.
"I'm cruel, but I'm fair." Droz happily responded, stepping into the leaking sunlight for the first time in days. He absorbed it, welcomed it, and for a few moments was oblivious to anything but the world outside the walls.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Bulk announced over the public announcement system, "Droz, has left the building!" The corpulent young man flipped a second activation switch, this one flooding the Academy with the song 'One Moment in Time'. It drew applause from the amazed crowd, and a smile from Droz, which diluted his threat.
"I'll hurt you," the mechanic warned. He was about to step foot through the doors, when the music blasting over numerous speakers in the Power Chamber screeched to a halt. "Guess it just wasn't meant to be," Droz breathed. He sought out the communications console, and was about to remove one panel when Bulk stopped him.
"You were going somewhere," the Communications Officer reminded. "This isn't." Bulk looked into Droz's eyes, almost sensing relief in them. For a moment, the wear, the fatigue, all of it was absent. And for that same moment, Bulk could feel those same traits within himself, as if they had transferred over into his own body. In a moment of clarity, Bulk uttered the words that would mean more to Droz than any 'thank you'.
"It can wait."