Finally Kincaid stepped out of the ballroom and faced Andros. "I know where Ashley is.", he said.
"You do? Where? When do we leave?", Andros said with eagerness.
"We don't. We wait for her to return.", Kincaid said. Andros couldn't believe what he had heard.
Kincaid tried to explain. "One of the spirits took it upon herself to transport Ashley and Chad away from Lucifer 6. That spirit sent them to a planet that's home to one of the most dangerous fights of all.--The iron circle.
"The rules to this match is simple. Two enter, one leaves.", Kincaid said with finality. Andros was shocked.
"We gotta find her. We gotta save her.", Andros said. Kincaid tried to hold him back. "No Andros this is Ashley's fight not yours."
"WHO SAYS? THIS SPIRIT THAT YOU TALK TO? WHO IS IT ANYWAY?", Andros said in hysterics.
"It's time to hear this story.", Kincaid said.
Figures stepped out from behind the shadows and pounded on the beat up vehicles in a drum like motion establishing a rhythm to get the blood boiling. Then Chad threw the first punch which Ashley dodged. Then she delivered a side kick to Chad's stomach.
She then brought her elbow down onto Chad's neck which sent him sprawling to the ground. Ashley was ready to stomp on his back hard until he rolled out of the way.
Chad found a weapon nearby, A metal pole. He kept it concealed until Ashley got closer. Thinking that she smelled blood Ashley got close to Chad ready to deliver the final blow until Chad swung the pole stricking Ashley in the stomach.
Ashley sprawled on the ground. Then Chad dragged out his power whip and wrapped it around Ashley's throat strangling her.
"You're mine Ashy. You're mine!", Chad gloated. Ashley flailed blindly for something to grab, she finally grabbed some of his hair and pulled it.
Ashley's grip was like a death grip. She would not let go. But the pain from the hair pulling allowed Chad the chance to relax his grip on the whip. Ashley removed the whip and kicked Chad in the sensitive spot and he sang soprano for five seconds.
"I am nobody's", Ashley said as she resumed her assault.
"She was a girl at Angel Grove High school.", Kincaid continued. "A sophmore. She was beautiful, second captain of the cheerleader squad. Pretty much Miss Popularity. She was also the girlfriend to a certain Chadwick Daniel Morgan."
Andros was surprised. Then Kincaid resumed his story. "When they started out they were the happy couple, much like Ashley and Chad were when they started out. Then she started to change. The light in her eyes started to go out bit by bit. Some of the cheerleaders saw bruises in the locker room but she gave excuses for them. There was also a belief that Chad raped her on occasion, but Jo never stepped forward, so police had no case.
"Then one day Jo said that she was going to a cheerleader camp. She left home on friday with the other cheerleaders. She was glad to be away for a while, and for the first time the light in her eyes shone back. Then one day she decided to go on a hike into the woods. She never returned."
"What happened to her?", Andros asked.
"Officially, no one knows. She has been listed as missing on police records. Unofficially, she is buried in an unmarked grave ten miles from the hikers path. Provided for her by her murderer..Chadwick Daniel Morgan."
Andros was shocked. He couldn't believe that Chad had killed before, much less got away with it. "Why wasn't he arrested?"
"The SOB had a damn alibi. You know that gang Ashley said Chad belonged to? Well they told the police that they were at a party house on the outskirts of Angel Grove. Every member backed up the story. So the police had no case."
Andros felt sick to his stomach. "So Chad got away with murder."
Kincaid nodded yes. "But Jo's story didn't end there. Her spirit was sent wandering aroud the mortal realm. She was something people called a 'wayward' observing the affairs of mortal men but never interfering. She took special interest in the affairs of Chad Morgan and Ashley Hammond, and it disgusted her that Chad was beating Ashley the same way Chad beat her.
"She had to do something. She needed a way to influence the affairs of mortals and do something about Chad. In her spiritual wanderings, she came across the ranger spirits who guide the Night Rangers. She made a plea to join them. Even though Jo wasn't a ranger, she said that she wanted to protect one from the wrath of one who killed her. She eventually became one of the spirits but by that time you had saved her from Chad already."
"The day he shot me.", Andros said.
"Exactly.", Kincaid said. "And now that Chad had escaped he resumed his search for Ashley. When they crossed paths again, Jo took the opportunity to intervene. She transported them both to an unamed planet where one of the most gruling fight takes place. It's called the iron circle. Two combatants enter an arena surrounded by automobiles or whatever transportation vehicles there are. They fight until the one can't get back up, and the other walks away."
"Where is this planet?", Andros asked. "I've got to get there."
"Don't interfere.", Kincaid said holding Andros back.
"DON'T INTERFERE HE'S GONNA KILL HER!!!", Andros shouted.
"This is Ashley's fight. She needs to be able to face her demons and Jo needs to stop Chad. They can't do that if you come to the rescue. I know it sucks but this is the way it has to be.
Andros sighed and went to sit down. "Don't worry Andros. She'll be back before you know it."
Ashley found a broken bottle nearby and jammed the sharp contents into Chad. The ranger healing would allow his injuries to heal, but he would still lose a lot of blood before it was complete.
Chad however would not give up. He resumed the fight as if some evil force was motivating him.
None of the combatants knew that night was ready to fall.
"How're you doing little buddy?", asked T.J. mussing up his hair.
"Well the detox program in the Astro morphers is running. You should be able to bond them to the new zords before long. And I'm almost finished with my other project too.", said Justin.
"Whiz kid's kept busy.", said Carlos as he pat Justin's back. Cassie had other things on her mind though and went to Andros's side. "Is there anything about Ashley?", Cassie asked.
Andros raised her his head and said. "She's in the fight of her life and we can't interfere."
"It's over now Ashy. All over.", he said stroking her hair. "There's nothing else to do but die."
Ashley's head then turned to face Chad. A glow eminated from her eyes as she spoke in two voices. One that was long dead. "Wanna bet?"
Ashley then wewnt back on the offensive with a power like a Night Ranger. She gave punches that were ten times a normal ranger's strength. Kicks that could have gone through cinder blocks. Until finally Chad could not stand anymore and he landed on the ground.
""Talon Claw!", Ashley said ready to deliver the killing blow. Both women wanted to, one alive one not, yet both were wronged by the man at their feet. Ashley could not bring herself to kill Chad. If she did, she would be no better than he. In Ashley's mind Jo saw the same predicament and agreed with Ashley.
"No Chad. We'll let you live.", Ashley and Jo said in unison. "We'll let you live with the knowledge that you have been beaten by two women that you have wronged. And if you come after us again, you'll get more of the same."
With that Ashley turned to walk away. Chad let his fury build and ran after Ashley. Ashley turned and with one swipe of her arm raked the face of Chad Morgan with the Talon Claw. With his hands buiried in his face Ashley reached over to Chad's arm and ripped off the yellow Astro morpher. "Mine I believe.", Ashley said using her own voice,
Then in a flash of light Ashley Hammond left the Iron Circle.
Mackenzie then rushed to her side and helped get Ashley up onto the bed. Mackenzie demorphed her and called for Kincaid and Andros to come down.
"Hammond just arrived and she's been hurt bad.", Mackenzie said. It wasn't long before every Nightfighter or ranger showed up to see how Ashley was doing.
"Ohh by the way, she had this on her. You may want to debugg this Justin.", Mackenzie said handing Justin the yellow Astro morpher.
"Will she be all right?", Andros asked.
"We'll know in a bit.", Mackenzie said as the ranger healing took effect on Ashley's battered body.
"Hey Andros.", Ashley said. Her smile lighting up the mood. Andros hugged his girlfriend tightly and wept. "I wanted to come help you but Kincaid said that none of us could interfere.", Andros said.
"It was a good thing you didn't, Jo and me needed to do this on our own.", Ashley said.
"Jo? As in Jo reynolds?", Andros asked.
Ashley confirmed it with a nod. "I found out about Jo a month after I broke off with Chad. No one knew what happened to her but it didn't take too much to figure it out after dating Chad for two months. Of course I couldn't prove it. But when Jo brought me to the iron circle, and helped me beat Chad for the win, it seemed like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn't have to have him haunt me anymore. I realized that as I stood above him and looked down. He can't hurt me anymore."
Andros then had to ask "Did you kill him?"
"No.", Ashley said. "Jo and I both wanted to, but we decided to let Chad live with the knowledge that the women he beat had beaten him. Of course he didn't take it very well so I scratched him across the face with the talon claw. Now he's got scars of his own. But he is alive."
"Do you know where he is now?", Andros asked.
"Jo took care of that.", Ashley said.
And the scarred form of Chad Morgan sat in the cell trying to deal with the loss of everything that he was. Destroyed by the hand of Ashley Hammond.
"Well, I think it's time for me to move on to see what else is out there. This afterlife is not for me. I only took it to stop Chad. I think there's a different light waiting for me., the ghost of Jo said.
"Maybe I'll catch up to you.", Ashley said. "Thanks for everything you've done."
"We both did what we had to do. And Chad will not hurt you again.", and with that Jo took towards the starry sky of space. Ashley watched as she flew away.
Ashley then headed back to her hospital bed. She couldn't be out for too long since she was still healing. Then Kincaid walked in. "How are you holding up?", he asked.
"Fine, I just went outside to say goodbye to Jo. Anything new?"
"Yeah.", Kincaid said. "I just spoke to Justin. The betox program in the Yellow Astro morpher is working. It should be ready to connect with the yellow Explorer Zord before long." Ashley smiled and nodded but she had a feeling that she knew what was coming next.
"At some point you're going to have to choose which power you're going to use.", Kincaid said. "I know you have ties and loyalties to the Astro team, but we've also been through hell and highwater as well. You don't have to decide right away. We can wait until you've healed and the morpher has been debugged."
"Thanks.", Ashley said. Then Kincaid left allowing Ashley time to rest and time to think.