Mark whistled as he tightened the last bolt of the Cessna's engine, pleased to find everything in perfect working order. He expected nothing less from his beloved plane, and as usual she had not let him down. Satisfied with a job well done, he gave the machine a final once over before closing it up and leaping back to the ground.
The whistling continued as he cleaned himself up, the same tune looping around his head. One he knew he'd never heard before, yet sounding so familiar that somehow he found it comforting.
Drying himself off, he ran to the small shack he called home and began rummaging through the reams of papers he had stacked around the room, the invoices for plane parts, grocery receipts and uncompleted mission statements. There were tons of other stuff around too, but it was all disregarded in his search.
Unsuccessful at his desk, he widened the search to the rest of the living area, checking through the stacks of flying magazines, flicking through pages to see if any loose sheets fell out.
Nope, nothing remotely resembling what he was looking for.
He paused, looking around his small dwelling. Scratching his head he wondered where else he could have put them. He knew they wouldn't be at his quarters at Center Neptune. He never took them anywhere, in case they got damaged, or worse, discovered.
No, they had to be here somewhere.
Going through to his bedroom, he sighed at the sight that greeted him. If his living room was messy, then this room was a certain disaster area, there was no organization whatsoever in here. Still, he had his own personal mission to conclude and the tune currently earworming him gave him the motivation to continue.
Going slowly through the garbage currently littering the floor, he decided to dig out a trash bag and start to clean out what he could as he went along. Half an hour later, the bag was half full and he had rediscovered the floor, but still hadn't found what he was hunting for. A mandatory glance in his closet space yielded the same result.
Sighing, he sat on the edge of the bed, wondering where else he could search when he slapped his head in exasperation as the realization hit him. Getting back to his feet, he stared at the rumpled bedcovers bracing himself for what had to come next.
He whistled the tune once again, as if he needed the encouragement to proceed further, then got down on his knees and glanced into the dark aperture that resided under the bedstead.
Inhaling deeply, he held his breath as he rummaged through the dust and rubble that had accumulated over years of neglect, working his way deeper and deeper into the abyss, until his hand finally stumbled across a largish plastic instrument.
"YES," he gasped, letting out the air in his lungs, and regretting it immediately. Crawling back out, he dragged the item with him, along with a mire of old papers, missing socks and, to his ultimate disgust, some remnants of old take out containers, the traces of food left on them already evolving its own species of life. He wasted no time adding them to everything else in the trash bag, quickly tying it up and taking it to the can outside.
He washed his hands before returning to the bedroom, remembering to pick up an old cloth. He gave the old keyboard a wipe before pulling out the power lead from its hiding place and plugging some life into the machine. Mark smiled as it gave out a small hum of satisfaction, pleased that after many years of neglect, it would perform as if it was only used yesterday.
Still, while it was useful for his endeavor, it wasn't what he was looking for and he rooted through the crumpled papers that had been pulled out with everything else. Finally he discovered what he wanted. Some blank leaves of sheet music.
Digging around, he found a pencil with enough of a point on it to mark notes on the bars, and set to work.
Whistling the tune over and over, he pressed the keys to recreate the sounds he wanted, to transfer the music in his head onto the instrument, then commit it to paper. It took some doing, even for such a short piece, many times he went over and over it, wanting it to be as perfect as it was in his imagination, adding chords to enhance the composition. Once he was satisfied, he continued, extending the piece to a full verse and further.
He became so engrossed in his task; he didn't hear the front door open.
"Hey, Mark, are you here?" Princess stuck her head around the door, "We were wondering if…. What are you doing?"
"Wha..?" Mark looked up from his work, instantly going red at the sight of his female teammate, "Oh nothing much, just messing about."
"It doesn't look like nothing." She strode over as Mark attempted to hide his scribbles, "oh c'mon, let's see." Picking up the sheet, she glanced over it, a slow smile crossing her dainty features as she hummed the individual notes, audible only to him. "I didn't know you could compose music, Mark, this is really good."
"Umm, thanks, but it's not that great, really." Mark mumbled, embarrassed that his secret had been uncovered. "My mom used to play piano to me when I was young, and she would teach me some when I went to see her after I came to live with the chief, until she became too sick that is. After that, I got too involved with G-Force training and kinda let it slip…"
"Oh, that's a shame. You could have been really good too." She bit her lower lip as something crossed her mind, "You know, if you bring this to the ready room, we could work on it together, I think you really have something here."
"What did you come around for?"
"Oh we were wondering if you wanted to join us at the ready room now we've all finished our vehicle maintenance for today."
"Not just yet, maybe I'll join you later."
"Oh come on Commander, you can bring all this along too, if you want to continue working on it." She began gathering up his things, folding the pages neatly and slipping them into her pocket. She went to unplug the keyboard as Mark sighed.
"Fine, but I'm not working on this while I'm there."
"Ok then." She smiled.
=x=x=x=x= =x=x=x=x= =x=x=x=x= =x=x=x=x= =x=x=x=x= =x=x=x=x= =x=x=x=x= =x=x=x=x=
Mark and Jason's ping pong game was in full swing, both of them so evenly matched there was hardly a point between them. Princess and Keyop were providing pleasant background sounds on their respective instruments as Tiny lounged in his favorite chair munching on his unending supply of spaceburgers. Things were looking normal, until Jason suddenly stopped playing and turned towards the bandstand in the corner.
"What's that you're playing Princess?" he asked, as Mark smashed the ball over the net. It bounced off the table, flying in Tiny's direction, the force hitting the burger Tiny was just about to bite into, knocking it right out of his hand.
"Hey, watch where you're aiming that thing will ya?" he protested vehemently.
"Sorry," Mark muttered, glowering at his third.
"So, c'mon, what's with the new sounds?" Jason insisted.
"Do you like it?" Princess asked, returning Mark's glare.
"Well, it's not my taste, but yeah, it's pretty good. What do you think, Commander?"
Mark threw his paddle onto the table and headed towards the door, by way of an answer.
"Bit of an overreaction, dontcha think?" Tiny asked, taking another spaceburger.
"Mark… prefers…old tune." Keyop banged out a beat on his drums. "See… classic."
"Come on Mark," Princess pleaded earnestly, "we all like it really, don't we guys?"
"Yeah," Jason agreed. "Play it again, Princess, I think I can come up with something."
Princess resumed the melodic strum of her guitar, following Mark's handwritten score perfectly. Jason listened carefully until the song came to its end.
"Ok, I got something," Jason cleared his throat.
A Boomerang blade to the throat
Two feathers to the neck
Yo-yo and bolas around their legs
Green suits drenched in red
These men in green we don't know
Their hearts we do not hate
But mourn the day they wear their garb
We're conditioned to be their fate.
"That's not bad," Tiny nodded, hurriedly swallowing the piece he was chewing, "it's a bit gruesome though, I think."
"Princess, take me home… now." Mark ordered, walking out of the room.
Princess looked at the others and sadly put down her guitar. Following her commander she caught up with him at the elevator.
"I'm sorry, I didn't intend…"
"Never mind." Mark cut her off sharply.
They covered the rest of the journey in silence, Princess wondering what she could do to show him how sorry she was. She could have killed Jason for hijacking Mark's composition like that, but then, if she hadn't have played it in the first place, the gunner wouldn't have had anything to hijack. Mark had every right to be mad with her.
Pulling up outside his shack, Mark dismounted and went straight inside. Princess paused for a while, then cut the engine and followed him in.
"Mark, I… I… hope you're not too upset…" she stammered nervously.
"Actually, I'm not, not with you anyway," he told her, not unkindly. "It's not like you told them I wrote the piece and I really liked how you played it."
"Then what?" She was puzzled by his attitude.
"I wasn't happy that Jason put lyrics to it," he clarified. "I had something different in mind, but didn't want to say anything in front of the others.
"Oh?" She smiled, but was curious to know what he had planned. "May I listen to them then?"
Mark went into his bedroom, picking up his old keyboard, and then disappeared again for a couple more minutes, returning eventually with a stand for the instrument. It took him a little while to set it all up, but soon enough he was ready. Turning it on, he played a short intro, then began to sing.
Sparkling eyes light up my world
The most precious emerald
To gaze upon them is just a dream
Those depths I've yet beheld
Rosy lips, soft as petals
A tongue both sharp and kind
This heart's longing for their taste
If only I could yield.
My head in the clouds, my mind wonders
So close but yet so far
But dreams of her are all I have
So precious to my heart.
One day I hope this war we win
And return to peace again
Until that time, this love I hold
A secret will remain.
Turning the keyboard off, he looked over at her and smiled. "Well, I guess it's not a secret anymore."
"That… that was for me?" she gasped in disbelief. "Oh, Mark, that was beautiful."
"I'm pleased you like it, I don't care what the others think." He stepped over to her and cupped his hand under her chin, tipping it up slightly to look her in the eyes. She stared up gazing into his cerulean blue eyes, her vision beginning to blur with tears. He softly brushed a strand of hair from her face before leaning in to meet her lips with his own….
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