Dead, beaten to death, gone lay her one true love. The previous week had to be the worse week of her whole 18 years of existence when she had witnessed the death. He hadn't even had a chance. Darkonda, the murderer, hadn't even warned him when the Red Ranger's back had been turned. A sword through the gut, followed by massive slams to the head.
After several moments of hits, the helmet had shattered to the ground, in the process of cutting his face with fallen shards. Once down, Darkonda began his massive murder by repetitive slams to the body and head in several places.
"It's all my fault." Ashley murmured to herself as she approached a locker in the hallway. The High School was ever so quiet as she began to quickly gather her books. "If I had gotten there on time, none of that would have happened."
A voice in the back of her mind disagreed, but she dismissed the nagging voice, claiming it was just a mere hallucination. Stuffing the bags into her black duffel bag, she turned to leave then stopped short.
"Hello Ashley," Astronema's hard cruel voice echoed throughout the hallway.
"Astronema," Ashley replied coolly. "Was there something you needed? Or did you come to gloat in front of me?"
Astronema smiled, her face breaking into a cruel soft look. "Oh no, I didn't come to gloat. I have a proposition for you."
"Proposition?" Astronema nodded. "No thanks. I don't think I want to work with you. You killed my lover and you will pay for this!"
Astronema took an involuntary step backwards at the fierceness of her voice. "But I know I can change your mind if you listen to me."
Ashley just shook her head and took a step around the princess of darkness and continued down the hallway, a look of utter hatred etched in the natural beauty which that day, like all the others from the last week and weeks to come, was missing.
"But...I can bring him back."
The words stopped Ashley cold and she spun to face her dangerous foe. "What did you say?"
Astronema smiled to herself, entranced that she had gotten the yellow ranger's complete attention at last. "I, like you, had been deceived accountless times by Darkonda. He, who killed your lover, killed my brother and--"
"Brother?" Ashley echoed. "But I thought--"
"I've known all along," Astronema laughed, her eyes crinkling up in Ashley's obvious ignorance. "Why else do you think I have gone against him many times, now and for the past three years?"
"But why would you act like--"
"Like I hate him?" Ashley nodded, her gaze fixed on the evil beauty in front of her. "Because I do, and I always will. I am evil now, not good or innocent nor will I ever be again. This is what I was born to do--Rid the universe of all good and purity!"
Ashley lowered her bag to the ground, where it tumbled open as it fell onto the cold tiled floor. "Then what do you want from me? I'm everything you hate!"
Astronema seemed to pause, searching for her words. "I've been watching you, Ashley, for a long time now. Like your pink ranger, you are the exact opposite of me, but you have that unique fire that sets you apart. Other humans would call it 'being a brat,' but in truth, it's everything that makes you work."
"'Makes me work?'"
Astronema nodded. "It's what makes you tick, how you get along with other people."
"I guess that's what Darkonda saw in me, when I was five or six; when he kidnapped me from the park I had been in with Andros. Now, back to business," Astronema began but then stopped at the blinding light which filled the hallway.
"Ashley, I'm here to help," Pink Ranger said, carefully walking over to the duo. "Get out of here Astronema!"
Astronema's lip turned to a light sneer as she gave the Pink Ranger a once over. "Whatever you say, Pinky." she turned to Ashley. "Remember my proposition. We'll continue to discuss it another time."
Before Ashley could open her mouth to agree, the Princess of Darkness was gone in a purple and black flash of light.
"Why the hell did you come here, Cassie?" Ashley demanded, whirling to face the Pink Ranger. "I didn't ask for any help. I was doing fine by myself!"
Cassie took a step backwards, shocked by the audacity of the yellow ranger's tone. "Ashley, I thought you needed help..."
"If I needed your help, or anyone's I would have let you know." Ashley glared, then spun away. "I don't need you, or anyone! Now leave me the fuck alone!"
The yellow ranger grabbed her bag and ran quickly from the hallway, leaving a stunned pink ranger behind.
"I'm really worried about her," Cassie Chan paced the bridge in the MegaShip, her face pale and hands trembling. "I've never seen her as angry as she is."
"Well, what do you expect?" TJ Johnson asked, voice as reasonable as he could muster. "Her boyfriend was viciously killed, her friends back home abandoned her when she needed them the most, and were all too busy with our own lives and mourning to be much help to her at all. I really don't blame her for actually listening to Astronema."
"But, but it's just wrong!" Cassie gasped out. "She acted like she was taking her seriously!"
"I was," a cold voice said from behind. The pink and blue rangers spun, spying Ashley leaning against the door frame. She wore black jeans and a black leather bikini type top. "And I wanted to let you know, I wont be returning here."
"What?!" Cassie demanded as she fell back into a fighting stance as Astronema appeared beside her friend.
"I'm sick of being good," Ashley's voice stated levelly. "I'm sick of fighting for the good side when it only causes me pain. I'm sick of trying to help the good when they only turn on me when I need them. I'm sick of feeling sorry for myself for over Andros's death. I deserve more then this and where I'm going, I'll get it!"
"Ash, don't do this," Cassie pleaded. "we're you're friends and we never turned on you."
Ashley turned her gaze on Cassie then snarled. "Yeah, you'd be one to talk. When Andros was killed, who was it that just elected TJ as new leader? You sure seemed happy about a new leader so quickly."
"I had to do that," Cassie said defensively. "we need someone to lead us in battle and TJ was our old leader so it made sense."
"Oh yeah, it made a lot of sense. Kill off Andros, elect TJ, make Ashley go crazy...What, was this all planned out before hand?" she asked bitterly.
"Ashley, no, it's not like that!" Cassie exclaimed. "I love you like a sister; I wouldn't do anything to hurt you!"
Ashley laughed, long and clear. "You actually expect me to believe that?"
"Now, come Ashley." Astronema put an arm around the Yellow Ranger's shoulders. "He's awaiting for you."
True to her words, when Ashley turned, 'Andros' stood in the entrance way.
"Andros!" Ashley cried, she sprang herself into his arms. "I can't believe you're back..."
"Get away from him, Ashley. That's not Andros!" Zhane's steady voice, which punctuated an almost accent, yelled fiercely.
"It's me," Andros's voice said calmly. "Zhane just doesn't want to buy the fact that I'm back and on the opposite side!"
"No." Zhane growled and approached the two rangers. "For one thing, I know Andros. No matter what, he wouldn't turn on his friends because he loves them like his own family."
Ashley seemed to pause, then grasped Andros's hand tighter. "I don't believe you!"
"Fine, don't believe me, believe your own eyes."
"When Andros had fallen, we had him put in the cryogenic suspension. He'll be okay, Ashley, as soon as his body heals."
"I don't believe you!" her voice wavered. "He's right here with me now!" she held up Andros's hand in example. "See, look!"
"That's not Andros," Zhane said simply. "I wouldn't lie to you, you know me well enough!"
"Ashley, he's right." Carlos's form appeared beside their blonde haired friend. "We did put Andros in the cryogenic suspension. We all know you love him, and he loves you. We wouldn't just let him give up without a fight."
"Astronema is lying to you Ashley. Once you agree to go with her, she'll turn on you too." Cassie promised. "If you had trusted us at all, please come home."
"Andros will want you to wait for him," Zhane remarked. "I can feel his love for you. You two shared something strong and special and nothing, not even death, can break that."
Ashley took one last look at 'Andros,' and dropped the hand she had held tightly and took a step to Zhane and Cassie's direction.
"Ashley, stop. If you come with me, I can give you everything you have ever wished for."
Ashley seemed to pause, as if being ripped apart with her indecision. "No you can't,"
"I can give you power. Jewels. Even your own planet! Anything your heart desires."
Ashley shook her head, her gaze darkening as she looked at Astronema. "You feed me lies. I can't believe you. And you can't give me my one wish, which is to have my one love back."
Astronema looked away sadly, clicking her tongue as if showing her pity. "As you wish, Yellow Ranger. But this is far from being over." with a flash of purple electricity, she was gone.
Ashley fell to her knees and began to cry.
"Shh...It'll be okay, Ash," Cassie whispered calmly, wrapping her arms around the shaking yellow ranger and rocking lightly.
Much later that night, Ashley silently slipped into the secret chamber, which held the cryogenic suspension. She looked around slowly, her gaze finally locating Andros.
"Hey...I just wanted to see you for myself," she whispered. "Now that I know you are still alive, sort of, I'll wait for you. I love you."
With one last look at him, she left, and prepared for a restless night of sleep.