Sure, the dome was vibrant blue, the grass was a healthy green, the leaves on the trees rustled softly in the gentle breeze, and birds chirped in the branches. A babbling stream accompanied the birdsong, and off in the distance the rhythmic sound of hooves striking the ground added percussion to the melody of nature.
He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't see what all the fuss is about."
His companion stared at him, his pale green eyes wide with astonishment. "You've got to be kidding."
He shook his head, his lips tight in an expression of brutal honesty. "Sorry, Leo. I'm serious."
Leo Corbett's brow wrinkled, as he pushed the young mechanic into the Forest Dome. The doors finally were able to close, and together they walked through the park-like environment.
"It must take a lot to impress you, Damon," Leo stated, shaking his head slowly.
"Look, it's not that big a deal," Damon stated, pointing his finger above, "You see that gorgeous blue sky? Well, you know it's not really there! It's a projection of a summer sky onto a glass dome. With a push of a button, I can disturb the hologram, and we can stare out into space, which is really above us."
"Okay, okay," Leo conceded, "the sky's fake. But the rest of it is real! That's a real stream, real animals, real grass, real trees!"
Damon frowned slightly. "The plants and animals are real, but the entire place was constructed by human hands." He then thrust out his own hands, which were, as always, slightly blackened with dirt and motor oil. "Hands just like these." He grinned at his friend as the pair crossed the bridge of the stream. "Now, if you really want to see what beauty human hands can create, you should see inside the Megaship's Hyper Rush engines. Their precision is mind-boggling!"
Leo chuckled under his breath. "You are a weird man, Damon!"
"That I am," Damon agreed proudly, "and this weird man has to get back to work..."
"Damon, you have five hours before your shift in Engineering!"
Damon shook his head. "But I've got some more repairs to finish up on the Megaship."
The Red Ranger frowned in confusion. "What're you talking about? She flies great!"
"Yeah, but the Megaship is actually a Megazord!" Damon revealed.
A surprised expression crossed Leo's face. "Really?"
Damon nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, Alpha showed me the Megazord profile! It's not as powerful as the Galactabeasts or anything, but it might come in handy to have a second Megazord. The only problem is, the ship was so damaged during Astronema's invasion that it was practically unsalvageable. Now, I got the baby to fly again! Maybe... I can get the transform sequence online."
"That's not really that urgent, Damon," Leo pointed out.
"But wow... what an accomplishment!" Damon sighed, his grin deepening. He had an almost dreamy expression on his face... as if reconstructing the Megazord were his ultimate goal. "That's the mark of a true engineer!"
Leo chuckled slightly at Damon's star-struck expression. His laughter slowly faded as the sound of hooves pounding against dirt grew louder. He peered into the distance, and saw a form dressed mostly in yellow, riding bareback on a pure ebony horse. "Hey Damon," he said, turning his friend to that direction, "check it out."
Damon followed Leo's gaze, and watched as the horse galloped in circles around the corral, kicking up clouds of dust as it bounded along the dirt. A small smile perked his lips as they drew closer, and he could identify the rider as Maya.
Maya... the mysterious Yellow Ranger from Miranoi. A graceful warrior with a soul so pure and open that she almost seemed childlike. Not that she was ignorant or naive, for she had a spectacular understanding of the universe. True, she didn't seem interested in the world of mechanics and technology, but it was so clear that she had some natural bond with seemingly all forms of life.
For a man like Damon, who so enjoyed the challenge of coming to an understanding of how objects work, her viewpoint on nature was oddly captivating.
"C'mon," Leo said, continuing toward the stables, "let's go say hi."
As they drew nearer, they saw Maya step off the horse. It neighed fondly, and she rubbed its nose in reply. Incredibly, the horse followed her back to the stables, without need for a harness and reigns.
"Maya's amazing!" Damon said suddenly, shaking his head in awed disbelief. After she had insured the horse was securely in its stall, she moved to another stall, and lead out a chocolate mare and ivory stallion simultaneously. Once they were standing on the cool grass just outside the corral, she pulled a long brush from her shoulder bag, and began grooming the mare's dark mane.
"Yeah," Leo agreed, "she sure has a way with animals."
That was certainly an understatement.
"Hey!" she called, glancing over her shoulder at the pair, "Perfect timing! I need another person to exercise that horse."
Damon's bewildered gaze fell upon the mighty white stallion, which seemed to glare at him with disdain. "Be my guest," he said, pushing Leo forward.
"Um, actually, uh..." Leo muttered, backing away slowly, "I've got a lot of stuff to do."
Damon's eyes widened with panic, and he quickly glanced towards his watch. "Oh Man," he moaned dramatically, "look at the time!"
Simultaneously, the Green and Red Galaxy Rangers turned to leave.
"Hold it!" Maya called, her authoritative tone stopping both young men in their tracks, "Do I detect... fear?"
Silence set in as the young men gazed at each other in defeat. Damon turned slowly, and met eyes with Maya, who was now standing with her arms crossed, and her eyebrow arched challengingly.
"No, not me," he said, shaking his head in uneasy denial.
"Fear?" Leo repeated incredulously, waving his hand as if to swat the idea out of the air, "No way!"
Maya grinned victoriously. "Good," she said, walking past them. She threw them a small metal disc. "Then toss a coin."
Damon watched with a sigh as she walked back to the white horse, and began saddling him. His hand gripped the silver coin tightly, and he grabbed Leo's shoulder, pulling him closer. After one quick look at Maya to insure she was out of earshot, he leaned close to Leo's ear.
"Leo, you have to do this!" Through the corner of his eye, he glanced timidly at the foreboding beast. "There's no way I'm getting on that thing!"
Leo gazed at him harshly.
"Look... I'll cook dinner tonight."
Leo's stern face then cracked into a smile. "You? Cook? That sounds more like a punishment than a deal!"
Damon frowned. "C'mon, Man! I can't ride that horse! And... I think my allergies are kicking in! And... and... the Megaship's waiting..."
Leo shook his head. "That's not doing it for me, Damon. Besides, you need to spend some time in the Forest Dome. You're starting to scare me with your Dr. Frankenstein routine- spending all your time with machines."
Damon's frown deepened. "I'm not a scientist. I'm a mechanic! I don't create things... I fix them!"
Leo was clearly unconvinced. "I call heads."
Damon deflated, his gaze falling back to the coin. He swallowed hard, balancing the coin on his thumb.
"Well, fifty-fifty odds..." he muttered, thrusting the coin in the air. He then caught it, and placed it on the back of his left hand. His right hand remained over the coin, and he took a deep breath.
"Well?" Maya asked, gazing at them expectantly.
Damon's fingers crept away from the coin, and his eyes widened in panic.
"Tails!" Leo shouted, his face lighting up, "I guess the Powers that Be want you to get acquainted with nature."
"Wait... that means I get to choose who goes," Damon stated desperately.
Leo chuckled. "Nice try, Buddy."
Damon muttered under his breath, glowering at Leo through the corner of his eye.
Leo grinned innocently, spinning Damon around and pushing him towards Maya. "Damon here is your boy. I mean... your cowboy!"
Damon rolled his eyes at the lame jibe.
"Okay, Damon, let's go," Maya said, taking his hand. She guided him to the ivory stallion, and watched amusedly as he slowly crawled onto the animal's back. Once he was secure, she walked over to the mare, and leapt onto her fluidly.
"Ready?" she inquired.
"No problem," Damon said, biting his lip. He then glanced at Leo, who was stifling a chuckle. "I'm gonna get you for this!" he growled.
"Trust me... you'll thank me for this!" Leo said, slapping the horse's side. The mighty stallion instantly responded, bounding into the corral at full gallop.
"Whoa!" the terrified Green Ranger screamed, relinquishing the reins. He wrapped his arms around the animal's neck, and held on for dear life.
"Damon!" Maya cried, urging the mare to follow. Leo released the laugh he'd been struggling against, and moved toward the exit of the Forest Dome.
It didn't take long for the horse to shake off its rider. With one powerful hind kick, Damon completely lost his grip, and toppled onto the dusty ground, rolling away from the horse to make sure he wasn't trampled.
He moaned quietly, his head spinning as he tried to sit up. Nausea grasped a hold of his stomach, and he clutched his midsection tenderly, his eyes drifting closed.
"Damon!" a voice called. He turned his blurred gaze to see Maya leaping off the chocolate mare, and rushing to his side. She knelt on the dirt, slowly lifting his head and shoulders off the ground and onto her lap. "Are you okay?"
He shook his head to shake off the dizziness, and smiled weakly. "Nothing's broken. But... I think I left my stomach back at the stable."
Maya giggled, and helped him rise to his feet. She kept her arm around his waist, and guided him back towards the white horse. Damon's eyes widened in panic as the horse stared at him again.
"Are you nuts?!" he groaned, fighting against her. Still, Maya continued leading him.
"Relax, Damon!" she insisted, "Thunder's a really mild-tempered horse. Trust me, he won't throw you again. I promise."
Damon's brow furrowed, but for some reason Maya's assurance was enough to quell his terror. He gingerly took the reins, and watched as Maya walked in front of the animal, stroking between its eyes.
"Now listen, Thunder," she urged, locking eyes with the animal, "Damon here is my friend, and I want you to treat him nicely. Be on your best behavior, and maybe you'll find an extra sugar cube once we're finished. Deal?"
To Damon's amazement, the horse's head jerked in a gesture that looked impossibly similar to a nod.
Maya beamed happily. "Terrific! Thanks, Thunder."
She hugged the horse's neck briefly, before walking back towards the mare. "I'll get back on Hershey," she called to Damon, smiling brightly, "Thunder will be on his best behavior."
"Best behavior," Damon repeated under his breath. He then gazed back at the horse, pursing his lips as he pulled himself back onto the saddle, "People don't name mild-tempered horses 'Thunder'..."
His knuckles were white as he gripped the reins. However, the horse barely moved, shifting its weight slightly as it craned its neck. Moments later, Maya was beside them, sitting on Hershey's back.
"All set?" she inquired.
Damon nodded, turning his attention forward.
"Now, all you have to do is nudge him slightly with your heel," Maya instructed, trotting in front of them, "We'll start out slowly, and do a few circles around the corral. If you feel up to it, we might take the riding trail over to the stream."
"Whatever you say," he answered, watching as Maya and Hershey pulled ahead. He then gingerly tapped Thunder with his shoe. He released a long breath as the horse trotted after them at a slow, steady pace.
"Thanks, Thunder," he whispered, his grip loosening to a more comfortable hold. He smiled slightly as he watched the trees and grassy meadow pass them by at the speed of a crawl.
"Damon! Slow down!"
He continued to laugh excitedly, leaning forward on the galloping animal as they ascended the hill at a maddening pace. Once they reached the top, he could finally see the cool stream he'd heard babbling in the distance for the past three miles.
"Slow down, Thunder!" he called, pulling back on the reins steadily. The horse obeyed, slowing to a fast trot as they approached the water. The horse then whuffled quietly, making its way to the bank and bending down to drink the crystal clear water.
Damon's heart still raced with excitement as he jumped off Thunder like a professional jockey. He stroked the horse's neck affectionately, a lively smile carved into his face.
"Great race!" he congratulated his partner.
"It wasn't a race, Damon!" Maya called, as she and Hershey bounded towards them from the top of the hill, "You shouldn't be galloping out here. You could get hurt..."
"Nah," he interrupted, waving his hand dismissively, "Thunder and I have an understanding." He crossed his fingers. "We're like this!"
"Oh yeah?" Maya asked, a smirk rising on coral lips, "Thunder, let's bring Show-Off here down to size!"
The horse grunted, quickly lifting his head. He then shoved Damon with his snout, sending the Green Ranger into the shallow river.
"Ack!" Damon grunted, leaping out of the calm water as soon as he recovered his bearings. His jaw chattered as he stared at the streams of water pouring from his drenched green overalls.
Maya laughed hard as she approached the brook, offering her his hand. "Need help?"
A mischievous grin appeared on his dripping lips as he grasped her hand. "About as much as you do!"
Maya squealed in alarm as Damon pulled her into the water. She fell into his arms, and together they crashed back into the rolling river, gasping for air and struggling to calm their laughter. After a few moments, they managed to compose themselves enough to wade to the water's edge.
"So how do you like it?" he inquired, pulling her onto the bank.
"That water's freezing!" she forced through chattering teeth.
Damon took a moment, and gazed at the Yellow Ranger studiously. She trembled with cold, her arms hugging her body tightly. Her thick auburn mane clung to her skin and clothing, crystal drops falling onto the grass. His smile melted into a concerned frown as he escorted her back to the waiting horses.
"Wait here a sec," he advised, hurrying over to a small shed about fifty yards in the distance. She twisted her long hair tightly, wringing out the excess water as she watched Damon disappear into the shed. After about ten minutes, he emerged from the small construct, his arms filled with gray blankets.
"What's all this?" she asked, approaching him as he drew near.
Damon unfolded one blanket, and tossed it onto the grass like a picnic blanket. He then draped the other over Maya's quivering shoulders. She gazed at him in astonishment as he took her arm, his winning smile appearing once again as he rubbed her delicate forearm with both hands. "You've got goose bumps!" he realized.
She huffed. "That's what happens to cold skin." She gathered the edges of the blanket into her lap as she sat down on the other blanket, and watched as Damon sat down beside her. "Where did you get these?"
"From that emergency booth," he answered, jerking his thumb toward the shed he had emerged from.
"Emergency booth?" she repeated with interest.
"Yeah. Each Dome on Terra Venture has emergency supplies on hand, just in case something happens. In the Forest Dome, there're emergency booths every half a mile along the stream, in case someone falls in." He grinned at her. "Like us!"
She pressed her lips together to stifle a smile, and looked away from his amused gaze. "Sorry I had Thunder push you in," she said quietly, "I didn't realize the water was so cold."
"It's sixty degrees," he said, stretching his limbs and lying flat on his back. He propped his arms beneath his head, and stared up at the sky dome above them. "The atmosphere's set at seventy, but I bumped it up to eighty."
Maya frowned in bewilderment. "How? Why?"
"I patched into the environmental controls while inside the supply booth. There's an interface there, and I know how to access the main program. And as for why..." He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "Well, you were cold."
A rosy blush crept onto her pale cheek, and she smiled bashfully. "You didn't have to do that!" she reproached, "I would've been fine."
"It'll also help us dry off faster," Damon pointed out, closing his eyes, to block the glare of the holographic afternoon sun, "We can't very well ride Hershey and Thunder while sopping wet, can we?"
"Good point," she conceded, "So what do we do in the meantime?"
"I don't know," Damon confessed, glancing at her questioningly.
She smiled. "Well, tell me a little bit about yourself."
"... and when Pop-Pop found me all covered in motor oil, he was practically rolling on the floor!"
Maya was giggling fiercely at the story, lying propped on her elbow beside Damon. "Twelve year old Damon, always getting into trouble!"
He shrugged innocently. "Being a mechanic is in my blood. Three generations before me, starting with Pop-Pop, who worked for Ford Motors during the Twenties."
"So... you and your great-grandfather seem rather close."
He nodded, a wistful smile conquering his countenance. "Yeah, we were."
"Oh, I'm sorry... I didn't know he passed..."
"He didn't," Damon interrupted, "He's ninety-seven, and still going strong."
Maya frowned in confusion. "So, why did you say you were close?"
Damon sat up, and began toying with the blades of grass hanging over the edge of the blanket. "Well, I'm never gonna see him again, so we don't really have a relationship anymore," he revealed in a low voice.
Maya gazed at him sympathetically. She had never perceived the sorrow he felt for leaving behind his friends and family. He always seemed so carefree... but in reality he felt the same alienation she did, for losing her entire world to Furio's petrifying spell.
She sighed quietly, sitting up and lying her hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry I brought it up."
He smiled weakly. "It's fine. Sometimes, it helps when you talk about loneliness, you know?" He paused, locking his eyes with her tender gray-brown gaze. "I never even told them goodbye," he confessed, "I have no idea what they think happened to me!"
Maya blinked in astonishment at the revelation. "They didn't know you left with Terra Venture?"
He shook his head. "I'm not technically part of the crew. I worked at the Megaship Museum, keeping the basic systems operational, when Kai came aboard and practically begged me to help him get to the moon. We wound up following Leo, Kendrix, you, and Mike through that weird wormhole, and became Power Rangers." He exhaled slowly, shaking his head. "There was no going back after that."
Maya's eyebrows arched compassionately. "If you really want to go home, why don't you?" she asked quietly, "You could take the Megaship back... or we could even fly with you. It would only take a few days round trip."
He continued shaking his head from side to side, almost painfully. "I'm the Green Ranger. Obviously, I was destined to be here." He smiled. "I've been Chosen."
He then shrugged, absently glancing at his watch. His eyes widened in panic as reality set in. "Oh my God!" he groaned, leaping to his feet, "My shift starts in half an hour!"
Maya quickly stood up as well, and began gathering the blankets. "If you need to go ahead, I understand," she said, "I can bring both horses back myself."
Damon responded by leaping onto Thunder's back, a challenging grin lighting up his countenance. "Don't be ridiculous. I'll race ya!"
She wrung her hands nervously as she passed through the quiet hall in the crew quarters dome on Terra Venture. As she walked, she absently counted her measured, purposefully casual steps.
Sixty-six paces, from his apartment to hers. Not a terribly large distance between them... physically, at least.
As she paused outside the door, she realized that she didn't really know what she was going to say. She didn't have a reason to visit him, other than the fact that she missed him.
She missed him. It was so bizarre to admit it, but that was the truth. After spending the afternoon with him, riding horses, laughing, and talking, she realized just how isolated she felt on Terra Venture. That was the primary reason why she volunteered to care for the animals in the Forest Dome. She just wanted somebody to talk to.
Of course, Kendrix had quickly become a very close friend and confidant. However, she was a high-ranking science officer, and had to serve shifts as long as twelve hours each day. Add service as the Pink Ranger, and Kendrix's day was pretty much absorbed in duties. Obviously, she didn't have lots of time to share with her roommate.
Maya had settled with the harsh reality of isolation on Terra Venture. Her only option was to lounge around in the Forest Dome, talking to the animals and Galactabeasts, and dreaming about the splendor of Miranoi that she looked forward to seeing again with all her heart and soul. She knew it was her duty to serve as the Yellow Ranger, and deal with the struggle of living in a sterile, foreign environment until her quest was complete. She resigned herself to her fate, accepting all that came with it.
But she never dreamed that out of the blue, she'd see the Green Ranger in such a different, radiant light.
She found herself regretting that she hadn't spent some time with Damon Henderson earlier.
They were as different as oil and water. His entire life focused on machinery, and on analyzing the function of objects he encountered in an effort to understand how they work, and what purpose they served. She, on the other hand, didn't care so much about how things worked. She much preferred experiencing nature than trying to understand it, and her adoration for what was unseen, such as the spirit of nature, made it possible for her to speak to animals, and hear their calls of distress.
Oil and water didn't mix. But for some reason, it felt right when they were together. Somehow, they shared a deeper understanding, and that set them apart from the other Rangers.
Of course, she couldn't just knock on his door and say that. It sounded silly... even to herself. So naturally she'd be far too embarrassed to talk about these newfound feelings to Damon.
So she was counting on him wanting to go back to the Forest Dome, or some other leisurely activity. Earthlings called it "hanging out." She frankly didn't care what the activity was, so long as she could spend more time with him.
After a long deliberation, she finally pressed the bell, and waited as the door slid open.
"Maya!" Kai greeted, a smile of surprise forming on his face, "How are you?"
"I'm well," she answered, "and you?"
He exhaled sharply, leaning against the door. "A bit tired. It's been a long day. So, what can I do for you?"
"Is Damon around?"
"He's not here," he answered, walking inside the room. Maya followed him, and together they moved to the small kitchenette, where Leo was busy washing dishes. "Hey Leo, where's Damon? His shift was over at 2200."
Leo turned off the faucet, and dried his hands on a towel. "I think he may have gone straight to the Megaship. He's been working on something there."
Kai's eyes widened in surprise. "This late? Is he crazy?"
"Maybe," Leo proposed with a grin.
Maya looked thoughtfully at the sink full of dishes Leo was cleaning. "Did he come home for dinner?"
Leo shook his head. "I haven't seen him since he fell off that horse," he answered, a chuckle instantly escaping. "Man, that was funny..."
"Maybe I should bring him some leftovers?" Maya recommended, "He really ought to eat."
"Good idea," Kai answered, walking to the refrigerator. He pulled out two plastic containers covered with saran wrap. "I'll fix him a quick meatloaf sandwich," he decided.
While Kai busied himself in the kitchenette, Leo walked over to the visitor, tossing the dishtowel over his shoulder. "So Maya, why are you looking for Damon?"
She shifted under Leo's inquiring gaze. "I... just wanted to know how his shift had gone. I know he was a bit late in leaving the Forest Dome this afternoon."
Leo blinked in surprise. "You mean he was with you the whole time? That explains it!"
"He had wanted to work on the Megaship this afternoon," Leo explained, "Something about turning it into a Megazord. But if he was with you, that explains why he's on the Megaship now. He wanted to make up for lost time."
"Oh," she muttered thoughtfully, "Do you think he'd need help? That would make his work go by faster, right?"
Leo chuckled slightly. "Well, I don't know the first thing about that Megaship, so I can't be much help. Kai and Kendrix have those crazy shifts, and we obviously can't get any outside help. That would compromise our secret identities." He then gazed at her again. "You thinking of volunteering?"
She shrugged casually. "Maybe I can hand him tools or something," she thought aloud, glancing at Kai. The Blue Ranger walked towards her, and handed her a paper bag.
"That should tide him over," he said to her, "Please tell him not to stay out too late? He always makes a lot of noise, and I need to get some sleep tonight."
"You got it," she said, waving her farewell to them as she walked out the exit. As the door slid closed behind her, a knowing smile crossed Leo's face.
"She likes him," he realized.
"Of course she does," Kai sighed, glancing at the waiting dishes, "We're all friends here. Now, are you planning on finishing these tonight?"
"I mean she likes him," Leo clarified, walking back to the sink. "And he likes her too."
Kai's eyebrow rose as he watched Leo scrub another pan. "You're kidding."
Leo shook his head.
"No way!" Kai stated, rolling his eyes, "Damon and Maya? That would never work!"
"What makes you say that?" Leo countered.
"They're too different. Jeez... Damon's never even been to the Forest Dome until today, and she's never stepped foot in Engineering. They've spent a total of ten minutes together since they met!"
"But they spent all day together today, and she even came looking for him." He shrugged his eyebrows slyly. "She didn't get enough of his company for one day."
"Impossible," Kai maintained, "Opposites don't attract. That's nonsense. Relationships built on curiosity never work!"
Leo shook his head dismissively. "You don't have a single romantic bone in your body, Kai."
The Blue Ranger frowned at that comment. "I'm just being realistic here."
"Realistic, eh?" Leo said, turning off the faucet. He dried his hands with the dishtowel, and locked eyes with Kai. "Want to put your money where your mouth is?"
Kai frowned suspiciously. "What's the bet?"
"Maya and Damon will start dating within a week. Real, official dating. Within seven days."
Kai's lips flattened thoughtfully. "No interference, from you or Kendrix?"
"And what's at stake?"
"Loser cooks dinner for two weeks straight."
Kai chuckled. "That sounds more like a punishment! But... you're on!"
A deep yawn escaped his lungs, forcing his weary eyes to slide closed for a moment. He leaned his heavy head against his fist, and slowly parted his eyelids to look at the computer screen.
He had to blink several times to clear his vision.
He frowned when a flashing red comment appeared across the screen: Error.
"Not again," he moaned, clutching his forehead in defeat. He then pressed the escape key, and leaned back in his chair, staring at the entire data board from a slight distance. He folded his fingers, and frowned pensively at the wire-frame construction of the Astro Megazord.
It didn't make sense. There wasn't any damage to the structure of the Megazord. All the turbines and axles were in perfect order, meaning the machine should be able to reshape into its battle mode.
Alpha had given him the sequence, but to no avail. So something wasn't working. All he had to do was figure out what it was.
Of course, the fact that practically all he could ruminate on was that afternoon's horseback riding adventure with Maya certainly hindered his analytic processing. Every time his eyes drifted closed, he saw Maya lying next to him on the blanket, smiling with attentive interest at every word that fell from his lips.
Casually talking to her was like talking to a psychologist... only far more relaxing. She had a way to reach the heart of a being, whether human or animal, and make a connection. He absently wondered if she could read minds, too.
The weary Green Ranger awakened instantly, and sat up in his seat before swiveling to meet the source of the gentle voice. A warm smile appeared as he laid eyes on Maya, standing awkwardly behind him.
"Hi," he said, after a brief pause, "what're you doing here?"
"I thought I'd bring you dinner," she answered, handing him the packed meal, "I've heard you've been in here all evening."
Damon smirked, accepting the offering gratefully. "Thanks a lot, Maya. Have a seat?"
The Yellow Ranger grinned at the invitation, and pulled a chair from another station on the bridge towards him. As Damon laid out his dinner on the console, Maya peeked at the data board with the wire frame image of a Megazord.
"So, this is what you've been trying to fix?" she questioned.
Damon nodded, swallowing a mouthful of sandwich. "Yeah. I've been examining every inch of the Megazord, and matched the specifications to a T. But for some reason, I can't initiate the Megazord sequence. It just doesn't... do anything."
He smiled to himself as he watched a puzzled expression furrow Maya's brow. He realized that she probably had no idea what he was talking about.
"You see, this Megazord isn't like our Galactabeasts," he explained, pushing his seat closer to her. He pressed a button on the computer, causing the wire frame image to be replaced by a computer rendition of the Megaship transforming. "When we want to form our Megazord, all we need to do is ask the Galactabeasts to Zord transform. They're intelligent... and alive. But we can't communicate with the Megaship in the same way. It doesn't understand human speech. Instead, we communicate through electronic code, which we create through this keyboard, and other interface panels."
Maya nodded thoughtfully. "So, you speak to the machine through the keyboard. That makes sense."
"Good. So my problem is, for some reason the Megaship is not responding to the command I gave it."
Maya then rose from her seat, and began pensively pacing along the deck. Damon watched her curiously while he continued eating.
"It... sounds like you are assuming the Megaship is just like all other machines," she ventured, gazing at him questioningly.
Damon took a quick sip of water. "Yeah...?"
"Could that be part of the problem? Is the Megaship merely a machine?"
Slowly, an idea dawned on the Green Ranger. His eyes widened, and he laid down his meal on the console, rising to his feet.
"Maya... you're absolutely brilliant!" he exclaimed, excitement lighting up his features.
Maya stared at him in confusion. "What?"
In response, he reached out and clasped her hand in his. "I'll show you."
"This... this is incredible!"
Maya's eyes were wide with wonder, and she turned around full circle as she absorbed the awe-inspiring expanse. They walked upon a raised bridge, hanging several yards above the actual ground. Surrounding them were large geometric shapes, each with panels flashing with different colored lights. Every piece seemed to breathe with a life of its own, churning and pulsing as it fulfilled its purpose.
This was the heart of the Megaship, making all its systems operate.
Maya had never seen a machine from the inside... and it was beyond description how beautiful it was in its efficiency and regularity.
The spellbound Yellow Ranger turned at the sound of her name, and followed Damon's beckon. She slowly continued her trek along the raised bridge, and met him at a ladder reaching down to the ground.
"You're not scared of heights... right?" Damon asked, puzzled by her slow motion.
His inquiry was met with a wry smile as Maya stepped passed him, and leapt off the bridge like a diver. Damon was struck silent as he watched her descend, only to land perfectly on her feet some five yards below.
She turned towards him, and smiled at his befuddled expression.
"Okay... never mind," Damon muttered to himself on his way down the ladder. Once he reached the ground, he met her confident smile with a challenging one.
"You're gonna have to teach me that," he stated.
"Sure... once you teach me what all these machines do."
Damon's eyes widened in surprise as he saw another look of sheer awe cloud Maya's vision. He was entirely stunned to see her take an interest in his world... the world of the artificial and lifeless.
"I... I didn't think you cared for engineering," he observed.
"I didn't know it was anything like this! It's so... amazing! This ship really feels alive! You can even hear her heart beat!"
Damon frowned. "Maya, what are you..."
She silenced him by placing her finger at his lips. Damon remained quiet, and listened to the sound of the Megaship with new awareness.
There was a cacophony of sounds permeating the air, but for the first time there was method to the madness. In its own way, the constant hum of the life support systems brought union to the grinding of the generators. That grinding was exactly twice as fast as the flashing light from the Hyper Rush engines, adding a visual experience to the music.
And finally, he could make out a methodic, gentle thumping, which he discerned to be the generators releasing electricity throughout the ship. The generators were the heart, pumping blood into the veins of the Megaship, bringing it to life.
It was incredible.
Maya felt Damon's lips stretch against her touch, and glanced at his expression. He smiled in wonder at the revelation she had given him... just by forcing him to sit back and listen for a change.
"Wow..." was all that Damon could muster. He gazed back at Maya, an awed expression on his face. "You're amazing..."
Maya's cheek flushed at the compliment, forcing her to look away shyly. "So, what are we looking for?" she asked.
Damon snapped back to reality. "The Core."
Maya walked close behind the mechanic as he strode along the thin walkway between large integral systems. After a trek, they paused at a large steel object, somewhat reminiscent of a top, sitting motionless in the ground.
"This is the Core?" she questioned, her hands touching the metal cautiously.
"Yep. This is the part that should respond to the Megazord sequence, kicking the entire ship into gear and causing the transformation. But it's not responding."
Maya nodded pensively, her eyes shuttering closed. She then leaned closer, lying her ear against the cold steel.
Damon watched in mute appreciation as Maya examined her patient. After several minutes, her hand reached out to his, and pulled him close.
"What?" he inquired, allowing her to bring his hand to the Core's steely surface.
"Can you feel it?" she asked him in a whisper.
Damon rested his hand on the Core, and closed his eyes. For few minutes, all he could see was darkness, and all he could feel was the coldness of metal. But suddenly, in a rush like a breaking wave at the shore, warmth built at his hands, and energy flashed into his consciousness.
That energy was Green.
Startled, Damon pulled back with some urgency. He stumbled over some piping, and fell to the floor gracelessly.
Maya was quick to pull him to his feet, her warm smile automatically urging one on his own face.
"You reached the true Core of the Megazord," Maya said proudly, her arm still entwined in his, "The soul."
Coming from anyone else, the idea of a machine having a soul would be ludicrous... but Maya was unique.
"A soul," he repeated thoughtfully.
Maya nodded excitedly. "There is a Power that permeates the universe... a power grid of life and light. All Power Rangers tap into that Power, and they all have a unique connection to that Nexus. We use the Quasar Sabers to tap into that Power."
"How do you know so much?" Damon asked absently.
Maya smiled timidly. "My guardian Jera was the Keeper... in charge of protecting the Quasar Sabers. He knew everything about the legend of the Power. And he taught it to me."
Damon grinned. "All Power Rangers tap into the same source. And that source also powers the Megazords?"
"Exactly! That energy brings a Megazord to life. But this Core has lost its connection, because it has been separated from the Power Rangers it was designed for."
"So, is there anything we can do about it?" Damon inquired.
Maya bit her lip as she pondered the question. "Maybe, if all of us were here, we can try and recreate that connection. But it would definitely require an entire team of Power Rangers."
Damon fell into reverential silence, his dark gaze staring at the core with a sudden insight. He pursed his lips, releasing a deep breath as he shook his head gently.
Maya gazed at him in confused concern, unsure whether she should say something to break the creepy silence that had fallen. Had she said something... wrong?
"I don't believe it," he uttered under his breath, his gaze still raised to the Core, "After all this work... the answer is so simple..."
He cocked his head to Maya, a wide grin suddenly forming on his lips. "We did it!"
Maya gasped in surprise as Damon stepped beside her, and lifted her into the air in a rush of triumph. Soon, she giggled with mutual joy, her gaze locked with his.
Damon was breathing heavily with overwhelming excitement as he lowered Maya onto her own feet. His hands remained on her waist.
"Thanks for all your help, Maya," he said sincerely, once he had calmed slightly, "You're really one of a kind."
She smiled softly at him, her hands resting at his elbows. "So are you."
Their hypnotic gaze never wavered. Instead, it only intensified, as two bodies leaned slightly closer together. Two necks craned forward, and just before two pairs of lips met... two soulful gazes shuttered closed.
Kendrix glanced up from her novel to the nearby door, reacting to the faint sound of footsteps just outside. She watched attentively as the footsteps grew louder, and then faded away.
She frowned slightly in annoyance, and turned back to her book.
Maya had left over an hour ago, and she still hadn't returned. Also, the Yellow Ranger mysteriously failed to give Kendrix any details about where she was going.
The sudden secretiveness was jarring to the Pink Ranger.
So, her gaze returned to the latest adventures of Captain Kirk and his trusted crew.
"...and then we can bring the others to the Core," came a barely audible voice. Kendrix's attention quickly turned to the door before her.
That was certainly Maya's voice.
"But first, how 'bout breakfast at 0800? And maybe we can check up on Thunder and Hershey?"
"Sounds like a plan."
Kendrix's eyes widened in surprise at the accidentally overheard conversation. Apparently, the walls of the quarters weren't as thick as they ought to be.
She rose from her seat, and cautiously moved closer when the voices inexplicably vanished. She shuddered in surprise as the door slid open, revealing Maya... and Damon?
"Kendrix!" Maya gasped, a bewildered smile on her face, "What are you doing up? Doesn't your shift start in seven hours?"
Kendrix bit her lip with slight embarrassment, tugging on a curling tendril of flaxen hair with forced casualness. "I was just waiting for you," she admitted hesitantly.
Maya smiled. "Damon and I were just fixing the Megazord."
A look of alarm shot across the Pink Ranger's countenance. "What was wrong with it?"
"Not the Galactabeasts," Damon corrected, stepping into the apartment, "The Astro Megazord. We figured out how to get the Megaship to Zord transform."
"Really? That's incredible!"
Maya and Damon shared a knowing smile that only heightened Kendrix's building curiosity.
"Well... good night, ladies," Damon said, dipping his head in a gallant bow as he backpedaled out of the apartment.
"G'night," Maya called softly.
Once the door slid closed, Kendrix snapped her fingers, forcing Maya's lingering gaze back towards her.
"Okay, Maya," Kendrix practically commanded, "you've got a lot of filling in to do!"
The Yellow Ranger flashed a mysterious smile, before raising her hand to catch a yawn that escaped. "G'night, Kendrix."
Kendrix stared open-mouthed at her friend, her anxiety building at the mischievous Cheshire grin that planted itself on Maya's face.
"Oh no... you're not clamming up on me!" Kendrix pleaded, following the Yellow Ranger with her eyes, "Maya!"
Damon hummed calmly as he stepped into his apartment, dropping his tool belt on the kitchen counter. He paused when he saw both Kai and Leo sitting at the table, watching him carefully.
"Hey, guys," he uttered cautiously, "what's up?"
"Not much," Leo answered, folding his arms over his chest, "What's up with you?"
Damon stared at the knowing smile on Leo's face, and then noticed the undivided attention Kai was paying him. "Okay... what's going on here?" he sighed.
"How did the work on the Megaship turn out?" Kai asked innocently, "You've been gone for a while."
"Actually, I think we figured it out," Damon responded casually, pouring a glass of water from the faucet.
"We, huh?" Leo repeated with obvious interest, "So Maya was helpful after all?"
Damon stifled a chuckle, and then turned back to his friends. He remained silent as he took a long sip of the water.
"Yeah," he confessed after a long moment, "What can I say? She's absolutely amazing..."
Leo smirked, rising to his feet. "So... when's the wedding?"
Damon raised his eyebrow at the comment.
"Leo!" Kai growled, elbowing the Red Ranger, "No interference, remember!"
An interested smirk appeared on Damon's lips as he finished off the water. "You guys didn't... oh I don't know... place a bet on me and Maya?"
Kai chuckled forcedly. "What gave you that idea?"
"But since you brought it up," Leo interjected, "What's going on with you and Maya?"
Damon smiled mysteriously, setting the empty glass beside the sink. "Night, boys," he sighed, pulling off his work boots and tossing them into his closet.
"Oh, come on!" Leo pressed, rising to his feet, "You're not going to sleep now!"
"Actually, I am." His smirk returned. "I've got to get up early tomorrow. I've got a breakfast date."
Leo opened his mouth to question further, but the meaning of the statement then dawned on him. He then cocked his head to the Blue Ranger, a triumphant smile spreading onto his lips.
"So, Kai," he said, slapping his hand on Kai's slouching shoulder, "What's for dinner tomorrow? And the day after? And the day after that...?!"
Kai groaned inwardly, a frown creasing his face. "We're better off
eating my cooking anyway," he grumbled under his breath.