How could it be? he thought, How could Astronema, an ally of the dark being that destroyed KL 35, actually be Kerone? How can I trust her? Although, she never did claim to be Kerone. But... how? How could she be evil? My sister... a villainess? There is so much I don't understand. But no matter how unbelievable it seems, even if there is the slightest chance that Astronema is truly Kerone, I must consider the possibility. And all the signs tell me that she is...
The sound of the door chime broke Andros' thoughts. He leaned back in his chair, and straightened his gray jacket slightly. "Enter."
Ashley Hammond, the Yellow Astro Ranger, slowly entered the room, her hands clasped behind her back. "Are you okay, Andros?" she asked.
"I'm fine," he replied, turning back to the medallion floating in front of him, "You... recall the recording you saw earlier?"
"Yes," Ashley admitted, sitting down at the table opposite Andros, "I remember the recording. And what you told me about your sister, and the medallion."
Andros nodded, his lips pursed in a tight line. "I thought that when I would see this medallion whole again, all my questions would be answered. And yet, instead I am bombarded with still more questions. Did I find Kerone, after over ten years?"
"I... I don't know," Ashley answered, "Astronema has the medallion, but that isn't enough to prove she's Kerone. She could have found it, or perhaps its a replica or something."
"No, it is the second medallion half," Andros replied, "I know it is. And you're right, Astronema could have found the medallion. But even if she did, how would she have known what it meant to me? How could she have known what Kerone looked like, or what she said when she was abducted. There is only one copy of the recording, and I have it. Only the creature that kidnapped Kerone, myself, or my sister could know what happened that day. And Astronema repeated exactly what Kerone cried out all those years ago."
"Isn't there some kind of conclusive scan you can conduct, to determine whether Astronema is Kerolian? Some kind of DNA test, maybe?"
"I have thought of that. Tomorrow, I will try to conduct some tests, both psychological and physical, to determine if Astronema is Kerone. But still, the scans are never one-hundred percent accurate. What will I do if I find Astronema is Kerone? And what will I do if I find she isn't? I counted on the medallion being the key to finding my sister, and if Astronema isn't Kerone, I may never be able to identify her."
Ashley shook her head, and rose to leave. "Get some rest, Andros. Its been a rough day for you. We'll all figure it out in the morning."
Ashley squeezed Andros' shoulder, and stepped out of the room. Her shoulders slumped, and she glanced back at the door that closed behind her.
I... I don't want to tell Andros this, but I just don't trust Astronema, she reflected, slowly walking down the corridor, I don't have an especially good reason, other than the simplistic one that she's evil. All the evidence so far points to her being Kerone, but I just can't believe it. Something in the back of my mind is screaming for me to keep my eyes on Astronema...
Ashley paused outside her quarters. The doors parted for her, and Ashley was startled to see Carlos standing by the window, looking at the Earth floating below.
"What's up, Carlos?" she asked, gaining the young man's attention. Carlos turned around, and approached his friend.
"What's going on here?" Carlos asked, "Cassie, TJ, and I are totally lost, and it certainly looks like you know something we don't. What is that medallion? Why is Andros acting so strangely?"
"I... its not really my business. I think you should ask Andros about it."
Carlos frowned slightly. "I figured it'd be easier not to bury Andros with questions now. He's obviously shaken up about what happened today. I thought that if he entrusted this information with you, its not so secret that it can't be shared with the rest of us."
Ashley shook her head, a small grin crossing her lips. "Believe me, Carlos, Andros doesn't trust me any more than he does the rest of you. I just happened to have seen something that I shouldn't have. That's why I know what's going on. And believe me, Andros will explain everything to you, and clarify things for me. Just give him a chance."
Carlos nodded. "Fine. I'll ask him in the morning. Good night, Ashe."
Carlos moved to leave, but stopped when he noticed the stressed expression on Ashley's face.
"Are you okay?" he questioned.
Ashley nodded. "Its just been one of those days. G'night, Carlos."
Early the following morning, Andros stepped onto the bridge of the Megaship. It was obvious to the four rangers waiting for him that their leader hadn't gotten much sleep the previous night.
"Good morning," Andros said quietly, "Thanks for waiting for me."
"No problem, Chief," TJ said, "So, are you going to fill us in, or leave us in the dark?"
Andros sighed. "You deserve and explanation. No doubt you're all bewildered as to what happened last night."
"You could say that again," Cassie muttered under her breath.
"Well, the best way to explain it is to show you," Andros said, walking to the projector. He slid the small CD into the machine, and played the program of Kerone's abduction. Cassie, TJ, and Carlos watched the film in quiet shock, while Ashley watched her friends, studying the reactions on their faces. After the scene faded, Andros turned off the monitor, and waited. Silence reigned for a few moments.
"So," said Cassie quietly, "who's Kerone?"
"My sister," Andros answered, "I never saw her again after that incident."
"What she said," TJ said, "its exactly what Astronema said yesterday, out on the cliff."
"...and Astronema does kinda look like her," Carlos added.
Andros nodded. "So, you see my predicament. For years, I've been searching for my missing sister. I relied on the medallion to guide me to her, because each of us have a half of it. Now, I learn that Astronema is the one in possession of that second half. And she knew what happened the day when Kerone was kidnapped. I... I don't know what to do. I need your help."
"You need our help?" Cassie repeated, her eyes wide with surprise. Andros always chose to work alone, and seldom even informed the rangers about his personal life-- much less ask for their opinions regarding it.
"Yes. I want your help. I... don't know just how to approach this situation rationally. I can't conclude Astronema isn't my sister, simply because she is our enemy. And I can't conclude that she is based on the evidence we've seen so far."
Andros turned his back to his friends, and lowered his head. After taking a deep breath, and turned back to his team. "Will you help me find my sister?"
The four other Astro Rangers remained silent for a few moments, absorbing the weight of the situation that faced them. Finally, TJ stepped forward.
"We're a team, Andros," he said firmly, "to the end. You know you can count on us for backup, no matter what the situation."
"We'll do what we can," Cassie added, "So, what's the plan?"
"I plan on running every exam, test, and study that DECA has in her program, to determine first if Astronema could be Kerolian, and then, if she could be my sister. But, like I told Ashley, there is no such thing as a fool-proof test. Readings could be thrown off. Alot of factors could interfere with the accuracy of the scans. Somewhere along the line, judgement will have to make the final decision."
"Well, let's start from the beginning, and run the tests," said Carlos, walking to the door, "Let's go."
Astronema lay on the small cot inside her small cell. Her eyes were closed, and she consciously slowed her breathing, to make it appear that she was asleep. In fact, she had maintained this state of feigned sleep through most of the night. Alpha V stood vigil by her cell, and Astronema knew for a fact that human beings required sleep. Even though her species didn't.
After all, I need to keep up appearances, she thought, So far, so good. Andros really is starting to believe I'm Kerone! That's the only reason why he acted so upset last night. Now, all I have to do is maintain that I don't recall anything beyond ten years ago. No matter how suspicious he'll be, he won't be able to deny the fact that I could very well be Kerone. And as soon as he lets down his defenses for his 'sister', the Power Rangers will be mine...
Astronema's train of thought was broken by the sounds of the entrance sliding open. She continued to "sleep", even thought she heard five pairs of feet walk into the room. She felt their scrutinous eyes on her, but she continued the masquerade nonetheless.
"Alpha," Andros said, turning his attention from the prisoner to the overnight sentry, "how's our guest?"
"She's been asleep almost all night," Alpha said, "She hasn't been giving me any trouble."
"Good," Andros said, glancing back at Astronema. He frowned slightly, and took a deep breath. "Time to wake up, Astronema. You've got a long day ahead of you."
"So you say," Astronema muttered, her eyes fluttering. She then let a yawn escape her lips. "I won't be cooperating with you. Like I said, you won't get anything from me!"
"Really?" TJ said, a grin on his face, "Well, then you won't be seeing this again."
With that, he glanced at the Red Ranger. Andros nodded, and held up the medallion half he had gotten from the villainess the previous day. Astronema's brown eyes widened, and a scowl crossed her face.
"We thought you'd be more cooperative," TJ said, crossing his arms, "So, I guess we'll start with some questions."
TJ then glanced at Alpha. In response, Alpha nodded, and activated a few computers. Astronema didn't notice the robot, her entire attention focused on her pendant. After a few seconds of silence, Astronema's gaze rose from the pendant to the Red Ranger's face.
"I won't tell you about Zordon, or Dark Spectre's whereabouts," she maintained, "Like I said, you won't get anything from me."
"Then let's not ask questions about Zordon and Dark Spectre," Carlos said, stepping forward, "Let's start with something less threatening. Where did you get this necklace from?"
"What do you mean?" Astronema asked, seemingly perplexed by the question.
"I mean just what I said. Is it some valuable crown jewel from some planet you destroyed? Is it the magical center of your powers? A good luck charm, maybe?"
Astronema frowned. She remained silent for a few moments, as if she were deciding whether or not to be honest with her questioners. Finally, she nodded.
"Fine, I'll play your little game," she said, "I've always had this medallion, since the beginning. Its mine, and that's why I want it back."
Her voice lowered, and she seemed hesitant to continue. "Its all I have that's really mine."
Astronema's last few words were nearly a whisper, but the ranger's heard it. Carlos raised an eyebrow, and glanced at Andros. Andros kept his gaze on Astronema carefully, but still kept his distance. He didn't want to ask anything that would give too much away. He was waiting for his friends to milk information from the villainess.
"What do you mean by that?" Cassie asked as gently as possible.
"What do you think it means?!" Astronema yelled suddenly, "Its none of your business anyway!"
"Humor us," TJ said.
"Why should I?" Astronema demanded, "You're just trying to get into my head or something. I have nothing to gain from this little interview."
With that, Astronema rose from her cot, and turned her back to the rangers, walking towards the back wall.
"Or, maybe you have everything to gain," Andros said quietly, "How about we make a deal, Astronema?"
Astronema turned around, and regarded the Red Ranger curiously. "Such as?"
"You give us the information we desire, that will have absolutely nothing to do with Zordon, Dark Spectre, or anything of that nature. Once we have what we need, we set you free."
"What?!" Ashley said in surprise, "You're not serious, Andros!"
Andros held up his hand, signalling silence. Astronema tapped her chin in thought, and then a smile crept onto her face.
"Deal," she answered, making herself comfortable on her cot, "So, shall we begin?"
"Not yet," Andros said, walking towards the brig exit, "Alpha, give Astronema some breakfast."
"You got it," said Alpha, watching as the rangers left the brig. After TJ, the door sealed behind them, completely cutting the rangers' off from Astronema and Alpha.
"What are you doing?!" Ashley demanded, "You're actually gonna let her go?!"
"Yes," Andros affirmed, "We have to get Astronema to open up about her past. Its obviously a touchy subject. If she really is Kerone, all we have to do is jog her memory. Then, she'll be willing to help us find Zordon, and end Dark Spectre's reign of tyranny. She's our key to victory."
"And what if she's not Kerone?" Ashley pressed, "What then?"
"Then we let her go. Like she said, Dark Spectre won't trade Zordon for her life. Villains don't grow close when they work together, and Dark Spectre is as cold-hearted as they come. He'd kill his own mother if it suited him. So what would we do with her as a prisoner?"
Ashley remained quiet, even though her eyes still gave testimony to her feelings.
"She could be lying to us, Andros," Carlos said, "There's really no way we would know. She could have been lying the whole time, playing on your emotions."
"What would she have to gain from that?" Andros asked.
"Our trust," Ashley spat, contempt evident in her voice.
"Look, Andros, all we're saying is that we should've discussed this before you made the offer," Cassie said, "You did ask for our help."
"I... I wasn't planning on it," Andros said, "It just came to me after she put up her defenses. You saw it-- she opened up for a second, and actually spoke from her heart. Then, she closed off again. I had to give her a reason to open up, so we can reach her. How else will we know the truth?"
Ashley, Carlos, Cassie, and TJ didn't answer. In fact, they had no answer. Andros' reasoning seemed sound, so they really couldn't object. However, the thought of letting a known villainess go free left a bad tast in their mouths.
Ashley was particularly indignant. Her distrust of Astronema only increased by the show she carried on. Its all an act! Ashley maintained, Why would she have opened up about the medallion? It was a window, to give Andros the idea that she really does have the answers! But I know deep down that she doesn't! This whole thing is gonna hurt Andros. If it doesn't get us all killed, that is...
"So, what do we do now?" Cassie asked.
"Let's get some breakfast, and plan out our questions," Andros said, "We want her to open up, so we have to appear as non-threatening as possible. Also, we should change clothes."
"Why?" TJ inquired, glancing down at his gray and blue uniform.
"We look too intimidating. The more casual we appear, the more relaxed Astronema will be."
"If you think it'll make a difference," Carlos said with a shrug, "Let's say we change our clothes, and then meet in the mess hall for breakfast?"
Andros felt uncomfortable. He continued to finger the collar of his chosen attire. While the other rangers no doubt would select typical human clothing, Andros had chosen to wear something more representative of KL 35, hoping that perhaps it would impress upon Astronema. He stood in front of the mirror, shaking his head at his reflection. The loose black pants, red sash, and maroon sleeveless turtleneck all fit him perfectly, along with the gold headband with his family's shield. Despite the fact that he fit in his old clothing, it felt wrong to him. He hadn't worn anything other than his uniform in years, other than the few hours he'd spent on Earth. But to wear something from KL 35 made him feel cold inside. After his failure to rescue Kerone all those years ago, added to the fact that he couldn't save the rest of the planet as the Red Ranger, made the young man ashamed. Too ashamed to ever wear his family's shield proudly.
If it will bring my sister back to me, then I'll do it... he reflected, straightening his headband. He turned away from his reflection when the door chime sounded.
"Enter," he called. Ashley stepped in, her hands clasped behind her back. She had selected a simple pair of black denim shorts and a yellow tank top, just as Andros had predicted.
"You... you look nice," Ashley said, looking at Andros' clothing with interest, "I've never seen you wear something like that. Its Kerolian, right?"
"Yes," Andros said, "Its one of the very few pieces of home I still have."
"And your family's shield," Ashley said, approaching the Red Ranger to see his headband more closely, "A sword and a paintbrush, crossed over a book. A family of fighters, scholars, and artists. Impressive. Why don't you ever wear this?"
"Because I don't want to be constantly reminded of the loved ones I lost, and the hero I should have been when they all needed me."
Ashley remained silent, casting her eyes to the ground. Andros took a step back, to make some room between them. "So why did you come here?"
"Andros," said Ashley, looking up from the ground at her leader, "I... I really think I should be honest."
"Well, you asked for our help regarding this matter, and so its only right that I give you my opinion. I think you have to be really careful about Astronema. I understand that she may be Kerone, but we can't forget what we do know about her. Astronema is a lying, cheating, evil henchwoman of Dark Spectre. You know her better than anyone here! You must know what she's capable of!"
"Can you judge her better than I?" Andros asked calmly, locking eyes with the Yellow Ranger, "Do you know what she's capable of?"
"All I know is what you told me," Ashley responded matter-of-factly, "and from what you've told me, I wouldn't trust Astronema further than I could throw her. That's what I know."
With that, Ashley turned to leave. "Don't forget, you asked us to help you. That's what I'm trying to do. I know you want to find your sister again, but don't let that get in the way. You're a Power Ranger. You know how to tell good from evil. That's your job."
Andros watched as Ashley left the room, the door sliding closed behind her. He kept his gaze fixed on the door for a few moments, reflecting over what Ashley had said. He knew he could have handled the situation better, instead of allowing his frustration over the Astronema incident to bubble to the surface and lash out at his friend. He also knew that Ashley did have a point.
"I have to stop thinking with my heart, and start thinking with my head," he muttered to himself, walking out of his room to meet the others, "But its my heart-- not my head-- that will lead me to my sister. If I can't bring myself to trust that what Astronema tells me is true, then I will never know the truth about her."
Astronema was still picking at her selection of sliced Kerolian fruits when the five rangers walked into the brig. Her eyebrow arched when she realized the teens had traded their formal attire for something more casual.
"Well," she commented, "is it Dress-Down Day or something? Shouldn't you look more professional when you skewer villains for answers?"
"Don't forget, we made a deal," Andros said, "So, whenever you're ready, we'll begin."
"Considering that the sooner we begin, the sooner I can blow this popsicle stand, there's no time like the present," Astronema said, placing her tray on the floor beside the small bench she was sitting on. "So, what's the first question?"
"I want to know more about the medallion," Andros said, "Earlier, you said you had it from 'the beginning' and that it was 'the only thing truly yours'. Would you care to elaborate?"
Astronema's smug grin fell instantly. "I... I'd really rather not talk about that."
"Suit yourself," Cassie commented with a shrug, "Would you like a book to read or something? Those jail cell walls are kinda boring to look at, and that's all you'll be seeing for a while."
Astronema frowned at Cassie's wit, and folded her arms. "The medallion is the only thing that's mine, and that's because everything else was given to me, or I had to steal it. Ecliptor taught me how to fight, and how to use my mental abilities in battle. Dark Spectre gave me the armies I needed, when I demonstrated my fighting prowess and leadership capabilities. The magic I gained was from a planet my armies razed to the ground. But the medallion, I've always had, and I feel like its truly mine. Like its a part of me. That's why its mine, and I want it back!"
"You'll get it back, so long as you keep cooperating," Carlos said, "So, what did you mean from 'the beginning'? You got the medallion half when you were born?"
"I... I don't know when I actually received it," Astronema answered, "but I can't remember a time when I didn't have it. So, I've always had it."
Carlos glanced up at Andros for his opinion. Andros' face remained stoic, and his green eyes stared deeply into Astronema's brown ones. Finally, a scowl crossed her face.
"And what are you staring at?!" she demanded. Andros chose not to answer her.
"What was your childhood like?" he asked. All the rangers looked at the Red Ranger in surprise. And apparently, so did Astronema.
"Your childhood," Andros repeated, "Where did you grow up? What are your parents like? What species are you?"
"I didn't have a childhood," Astronema answered indignantly, "Unlike you inferior Humans, I was already somewhat physically mature when I was created. I am Lucian."
"What's that?" TJ asked, turning to Andros.
"Lucians are beings who were created by an ancient race known as the Nanaku. The Nanaku were brilliant scientists, who had the technology to create living beings and incubate them in machines, rather than through natural means. The Lucians aren't born. They are simply released from the incubators, fully grown. That would be something like the late teens in human terms."
"But, if they were an ancient race, how old would Astronema be?" Ashley asked.
"The Nanaku were destroyed almost a decade ago," Andros answered, "Nanak was the planet Dark Spectre crushed right before he leveled KL 35. He traveled nearly a quarter across the galaxy to get to my homeworld, and lay it to waste."
"How old are you, Astronema?" Ashley asked, turning to the villainess with a suspicious gaze, "One hundred? One thousand?"
"I'm practically an infant relative to most species, including yours," Astronema said, "I have been alive for eleven Standard years, and I was the physical maturity of a human seven year old."
"That doesn't make sense," TJ said, "Lucians are bred to be mature."
"I was an exception," Astronema barked, "Deal with it."
"Do you remember the Nanaku laboratory?" Andros asked, "Lucians are famous for perfect memories."
Astronema glared at Andros. "No, I don't. Maybe its because I was released from incubation early, due to Dark Spectre's invasion. Maybe he saved me, when he let everyone else on the planet die."
"If you don't remember, then where did you get all this from?" Carlos inquired.
"Because my first memory was opening my eyes on Dark Spectre's flagship," Astronema muttered, "That's what he told me-- that my world had to be destroyed for the greater good. I owed my existence to Dark Spectre. If he hadn't let me live, I never would have lived. I would have been like an aborted child."
"And you believed him?" Andros asked.
"Why shouldn't I have?" Astronema asked, "He is the reason I exist, and so I serve him forever."
"And what about the medallion?" Andros pressed, "Did he give you an explanation for it?"
"He said it was mine, from before I awoke," Astronema answered, "Its mine, since the beginning."
"How convenient," Ashley muttered. Andros turned around, and looked at Ashley in suprise. But her frown remained intact as she returned Andros' gaze.
"I... I think that's enough for now," Andros said finally, releasing a long breath, "Alpha, did you get the results of those scans?"
"Yes," Alpha responded, stepping out of the corner he had taken refuge in, "DECA has all the results ready for your perusal."
"Good," Andros said, leaving the brig abruptly, "Let's take a break."
"Incredible!!" Darkonda roared, his words mixed into his uproarious laughter. His laughter nearly caused him to fall off Astronema's throne, where he had made himself comfortable. "Simply incredible! Ecliptor! You have to see this!"
"See what?" Ecliptor answered, entering the throne room. He gazed at Ecliptor, and pulled his sword from its hilt. "I thought I told you not to insult my mistress by sitting on her throne."
"Fine, fine, whatever," Darkonda mumbled, stepping away from the throne, "Take a look at the screen!"
Through the magical mind-link Astronema created herself and the monitor in the throne room, both Ecliptor and Darkonda could witness everything Astronema saw and heard. Ecliptor gazed at the screen, and listened to the conversation between his mistress and the Astro Rangers. He frowned.
"I wonder when Astronema decided to be Lucian?" Darkonda wondered aloud.
"Perhaps during all those hours she pretended to sleep," Ecliptor scoffed, "Seeing the inside of her eyelids for hours was enough to make me lose my interest in this little display."
"Pure brilliance. It explains away her lack of memories, and its perfectly timed. The planet Nanak was destroyed a few months before Kerone's abduction. It works perfectly!!"
"Wonderful," Ecliptor muttered sarcastically.
"Why aren't you a bit more enthusiastic?" Darkonda questioned, "Your mistress is only a few steps away from being the Queen of Evil! She's got them hook, line, and sinker!"
"In case you didn't notice, we have a very clear view of the Power Rangers," Ecliptor said, pointing to the small screen, "and I for one see an extremely suspicious Yellow Ranger."
"So?" Darkonda asked, "All Astronema needs to do is convince Andros. Actually, that isn't even necessary! She just has to make him wonder enough about her real identity to let her out of the brig. Then, she can sabotage the ship, and we're in! The rangers'll be history!"
"And what if Andros isn't convinced at all? I don't know if you've noticed, but the Yellow Ranger's opinion matters a great deal to him."
"Then Andros'll let Astronema go, just like he promised. Power Rangers don't go back on their word. In either case, Astronema comes home safe and sound. So anyway, what've you been up to?"
"I've been organizing the next phase in this plan," Ecliptor answered, "The way I see it, our prime opportunity to strike will be once Astronema gets out of the brig, to a lower security area. We shall use the Velocifighters to create the diversion that will give her the chance to sabotage the ship's shields. Once the shields are down, we can teleport Astronema to safety, and teleport the Quantrons on board. Also, if I feel it necessary, the two of us can also teleport to the ship, and do some more specific damage. Of course, this is all assuming Astronema manages to trick Andros."
Darkonda laughed deeply. "Are you kidding?! She's already got 'im eating out of her hand!" Ecliptor frowned. "You underestimate the Red Ranger."
"No, I think I've measured the boy up pretty well," Darkonda chuckled, "He's a failure when it counts most-- when his planet was destroyed, and when his sister was kidnapped. He'll fail again. After all, why break a perfect record?"
"Nothing," Andros muttered, his fists clenched tightly, "Absolutely nothing..."
"This is unbelievable," Carlos said, staring at the computer screen again, "Every single one of the readings has proved inconclusive! Every one!"
"Like I said, pretty convenient," Ashley said, folding her arms, "Astronema has managed to obscure the data from the scans we've conducted. That way, we can't have any hard proof she's not Kerone."
"Or, maybe she just naturally has so much energy in her system, that she automatically threw the scans off," TJ suggested, "We need to consider every possibility."
"Fine," said Andros, turning his back on the data screen of the medical lab, the location of the most highly advanced biological computers. He sat down on the bench along the wall, and touched his forehead, "Where do we go from here?"
"Well, are there any aliens you're familiar with that can't be scanned?" Cassie asked.
"No. But that doesn't mean there aren't any. I haven't travelled the entire universe."
"Then you're saying Lucians can be scanned," Ashley said.
"They can. They do have abilities, but nothing so powerful as to throw off all those different bio-scans," Andros said, "That is nearly impossible."
"How would someone throw off a bio-scan?"asked TJ, "What are the circumstances?"
Andros sighed deeply. "All the scans are different, so different energy sources within the individual would do the trick. But since every single one of the scans came up inconclusive, that would mean Astronema is a center for powerful magical energy."
"If she is so powerful, then why didn't she break out of prison yet?" Ashley questioned.
"Just because Astronema is a center for magical energy, doesn't mean she can control it," Andros answered, "She lost her scepter back on Earth, remember? That may have been the focus, to concentrate the magic in her body into an attack spell. Also, if the energy in Astronema is foreign, then she wouldn't be able to control it, yet she still would possess it in her system."
"How would the energy be 'foreign'?" Cassie inquired.
"As in, maybe the energy was placed into her by someone else," TJ said, rubbing his chin, "Like... Dark Spectre! She could be under some kind of empowering spell!"
"Then it could be like us," Carlos said, "We don't have magical power, but the Astro Morphers are a focus for the energies given to us."
"Close," said Andros, "The Astro powers are as much techological as magical. But the Great Power, which was the energy pool for a different team of Power Rangers, would follow those lines. And so would the Zeo Crystal. Still, I don't think the Great Power itself could infuse a being with that much power!"
"But nothing we've said is a fact," Ashley said, "We could be running down the completely wrong path here!"
"Wait," said Andros, rising to his feet, "maybe not..."
Andros walked back to the main computer screen, and stood beside his fellow Power Rangers. "DECA, what bio-structure class are the Lucians?"
After almost a minute, DECA located the answer. ^Bio-structure 8.^
"Then that's it," said Andros, nodding.
"That's what?" asked Cassie, "What's that mean?"
"The bio-structure is a measure of the basic magical immunity of a species. Species with low bio-structure classes are vulnerable to magic, which means they are easily influenced by foreign magic. Humans would be pretty low on the spectrum, at class 2. But species with high bio-structures are far more difficult to manipulate, or even injure with magical assaults. Eltarians are at class 9, for example. Lower bio-structure class organisms tend to also have very little magical power, and the opposite for the higher classes... but that isn't always the case. However, lower class species can be empowered by the magic of others, giving them magical abilities, but filling that one with foreign magic."
"Then that would mean Astronema has a low class bio-structure," Carlos said, "if we're right in assuming the magic that's exuding from her body is foreign in origin. If its natural, then she's a high class."
"But, there's still nothing conclusive," TJ said, "We don't know which case she is."
"What we can be sure of is that she's not Lucian," Andros said, "Like I told you, Lucians don't have so much magical energy so as to throw off such sophisticated scans as the ones we tried on Astronema."
"...and Lucians have high immunity to magic cast on them, so no magic in the cosmos can infuse a Lucian with as much raw magical power as Astronema has," Cassie added, "So she can't be Lucian."
"Then she lied," Ashley said.
"Or maybe she was lied to," Andros remarked, stepping towards the exit, "I'm taking a break. I need to think about all this."
The four other rangers watched Andros leave the medical lab. Ashley glared furiously at the point where Andros left the room. TJ shook his head.
"This is terrible. Having no answers is far worse than having the answers you weren't looking for."
"This is all too convenient," Ashley said, "Don't you see? She's made sure there is absolutely no way we can prove she isn't Kerone! All we have are clues-- not evidence-- that she could be Kerone. But nothing solid! I've had enough of this."
With that, Ashley marched toward the exit. Carlos traded glances with TJ and Cassie, and then hurried out into the corridor to follow the Yellow Ranger.
"Wait up!" he called. Ashley stopped, but didn't turn around to face her friend. Carlos caught up with her, and touched her shoulder gently.
"Are you following Andros?" Carlos asked. Ashley frowned.
"I give up on him," she muttered. Carlos walked in front of her, in an attempt to see her face. But Ashley's eyes were focused on the floor, and her arms where folded tightly.
"Are you okay?" he questioned.
"I... I will be," she sighed, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have blown up like that."
"Its okay. We're all under stress."
"Carlos," Ashley said, looking up to face the Black Ranger, "Do you honestly believe Astronema could be Kerone?"
Carlos remained quiet for a moment. "Well, I'm one to believe there's two sides to every story. Sure, Astronema's our enemy. But the question is why? And could things be different? I like to consider all possibilities."
Ashley nodded, "I guess I should too. But... I can't shake the feeling that Astronema is lying to us. Sure, I guess its feasible that she's telling the truth. But I just can't accept that. I don't know why."
"I think I do," Carlos said, "I've known you longer than anyone else here, Ashe. I know what kind of friend you are. You're very protective of those you care about. You know what this whole Kerone thing means to Andros, and you know how much it'll hurt him if it does turn out Astronema's faking it. And better than anyone else here, you know what Andros has gone through. You're probably the only person here who I can say understands him."
"He's so... pig-headed!" Ashley complained, "He asked for my help, but he totally disregarded my opinion."
"I don't think he did," Carlos said quietly, "Its in the back of his mind, and it carries weight. But in the end, its Andros who'll have to decide whether or not Astronema is being honest with us. Its his problem. We can only help him out."
"I... I'm just so worried that this whole thing will blow up in all our faces," Ashley sighed, "I usually try to be open-minded, but this time, my instincts won't let me."
"Instincts are often right, Ashe. But, they're not always right. We'll figure this whole thing out. C'mon."
"Where are we going?" Ashley asked, as Carlos led her back to the medical lab.
"We're going to look over those tests again," Carlos answered, "Maybe there's something we overlooked. If this is just a big hoax, and Astronema did somehow screw up the readings, then there may be something she missed. All we need to do is find it."
"Sounds like a plan,"Ashley said with a grin, as the Yellow and Black Rangers hurried through the corridor to join their friends.