"Back again?" Astronema asked, looking up at Andros, "I suppose you now want to know about my early years in Dark Spectre's army. What is it with you? Are you planning on writing my biography?"
"No," Andros said, standing still right outside the energy bars separating him from the famed villainess, "I... I'm looking for answers. I just thought that you might have them."
Astronema chuckled. "Trust me, I'm not helping you. Whatever answers you're looking for, your asking the wrong girl."
Andros' face remained stone. "DECA, lower the bars."
"Aye yi yi!" Alpha shrieked in surprise, looking at the Red Ranger from his position by the computers.
^That is inadvisable,^ DECA sounded, ^Astronema is a known felon. Any reduction in security measures is prohibited by protocol 321-89973...^
"Enough, DECA," Andros said, "Verbal command, voice scan Andros Wiengart, commander of Megaship."
^Voice scan confirmed.^
"Security override AW1-RR85."
"Now, lower the energy bars."
Astronema's eyes widened in shock as the green bars of energy lowered from the ceiling down. The only partition between herself and the rest of the Megaship down, Astronema slowly rose to her feet, and kept a watchful eye on Andros. "What exactly do you think you're doing?"
"Tell me, Astronema, you joined Dark Spectre's army right before his invasion of KO 35. Were you part of his attack force?"
Astronema shook her head. "He wouldn't let me set foot on that planet."
"Then I'm going to show it to you. Interior teleport-- two to Simudeck."
^Affirmative,^ said DECA, as the two vanished in bright flashes of red and lavender light. Milliseconds later, they reappeared inside a large black room with high ceilings. The walls, ceiling, and floor were covered in small, pitch black tiles.
"So now what are you gonna do?" Astronema inquired.
"Well, first I'm going to let you know that there's no way you can escape," Andros said sternly, "DECA has a security field around the Simudeck, so you can't leave here without the password. And the passwords must all match my voiceprint. So, no trying to escape. It won't get you anywhere."
"Fine," Astronema mumbled, "Just get to the point."
Andros looked up to the small red light flashing on the ceiling.
"DECA, run Simudeck program A-1."
^Program A-1 is a restricted file. Password.^
"Kerone," Andros said quietly.
^Password verified. Initiating program A-1^
Before Astronema's eyes, the blackness of the holographic chamber melted, and in its stead stood a lush garden, with flowers larger than people blossoming near a marble fountain. The fountain stood in a ring of green grass, in the center of a cobblestone walkway. The path led to a gate in one direction, and beyond the gate was a blooming metropolis. In the other direction was a large two story residence, with outer walls of white stone. Above, the bright sun warmed the countryside, and a few clouds passed slowly through the azure sky.
"Does any of this look familiar?" Andros asked, glancing at Astronema. The villainess shook her head, causing her brown locks to tumble over her shoulders.
"Never been here."
"Why?" Andros questioned, "You were part of Dark Spectre's forces for a few years before he launched his invasion of KO 35. Surely by then, you would have been skilled enough to best a good many of his warriors. Lucians are amazing fighters."
Astronema shrugged. "He didn't want me to come here. I did help with the invasion plans, but I wasn't part of the ground forces. So what?"
"So, maybe its more than that. Maybe there's more to your past than you know."
Astronema looked at Andros, and shook her head. "I don't know what you're trying to pull here, but it won't work! I won't betray Dark Spectre!"
"Maybe Dark Spectre betrayed you," Andros suggested calmly. Astronema glared at the Red Ranger furiously.
"You can't manipulate me, Red Ranger. Trust me, you don't know how its done."
Andros met Astronema's gaze without flinching or displaying anger. Astronema then turned away, and began walking through the garden.
"Let me outta here!" she yelled.
"Why does this scene bother you?"
"Maybe you're the one bothering me!" Astronema snapped.
"Keep our deal in mind, Astronema," Andros said, "I told you before that I wanted answers. Once I have them, you're free to go. We'll teleport you back to Earth, so you can contact your fortress. You know Ecliptor didn't go far without you."
Astronema continued walking through the lush yard. Andros followed her. "What are you so afraid of?"
Astronema stopped dead in her tracks. "I fear nothing and no one."
"Then go over there," Andros said, pointing to the large mansion. Astronema looked at the building, and proceeded to walk in the other directon on the path. She passed Andros and the fountain, and continued into the open front door. Inside the room she entered, the walls were lined with portraits of all the former leaders of KO 35. At the end of the long hall was a new portrait, with the special place of being at the top of the door leading out of the hall. Astronema looked at that particular portrait for a longer while, and squinted at it.
"That is Arethusa Wiengart, Prime Minister of the entire planet," Andros said, walking behind her. He stopped at a safe distance from Astronema. "This is the mansion of the Prime Minister, and the scores of noble men and women who held that position are forever remembered in this Hall of Faces. Each Prime Minister is elected for life term, unless he is found unable to accomplish his task. Arethusa was the last Prime Minister to serve. The real mansion is still on KO 35, you know. Its a cold grave, dark and vacant."
"That's what the Kerolians get for standing in Dark Spectre's way," Astronema said nonchalantly, "They deserved it."
Andros stopped himself from responding to Astronema's brazen comment. He then past Astronema, and continued into the reception hall, located right after the Hall of Faces. He climbed the stairs, and soon found himself in the hallway that housed all the bedrooms. He stopped at the first bedroom to the left, and opened the door. He then turned to Astronema. "Go ahead."
Astronema stepped into the room, and surveyed her surroundings. It was obviously a young girl's room, with toys neatly placed on shelves, a stuffed toy atop the cream colored lace bedsheet, and yellow drapes. On the dresser was a photograph, of a middle aged couple and their two children. Astronema scoffed.
"So this is your little family," she smirked, "How sweet."
"Take a closer look at Arethusa," Andros asked, "Notice his medallion, on his neck."
Sure enough, there was a gold medallion, that shimmered with a magical light. Astronema's eyes narrowed.
"Big deal. This whole place is a big illusion. You can't convince me of anything."
"Maybe seeing truly is believing," Andros said, pulling two halves of the medallion from beneath his shirt. He held them before Astronema.
"This one is yours," he said, holding up the half he had taken from her earlier, "and this half has been mine for over ten years. Father gave each of us half of his trusted medallion, to remind us that we drew strength from one another."
To punctuate the statement, Andros held the two medallion halves together. "See the inscription? 'Two halves of a whole, a rope of two strands. Weak is the one, unless with the other he stands.' Kerone was far more than just my sister. She was my best friend, my strongest ally. Mother and Father both told us that we would be unbeatable so long as we stood together. And I'm sure we would have been, if only she weren't kidnapped years ago."
"What does that have to do with me?" Astronema asked casually.
"Its simple. My sister had the other half of this medallion, and now, you are in possession of it. You have no recollection of a life before ten years ago, when my sister was taken from us ten years ago."
"Stop right there," Astronema barked, "Don't even suggest it."
"You can't deny the possibility," Andros said, handing Astronema the two halves of the medallion, "See? How could I make this up? This is your medallion, right?"
Astronema remained silent, her eyes nearly burning with anger. Finally, Astronema threw the two halves to the ground, and turned her back to Andros.
"Get me out of here," she said quietly, "I've seen enough."
"DECA," Andros called, "End program."
In a wash of light, Astronema and Andros materialized inside the brig. Without saying a single word, Astronema lay down on the cot in the corner of the small cell. She turned her back to Andros, as the energy bars emerged once again from the floor, separating her from freedom. She lay perfectly still, her face hidden from view. Andros watched her silently for a few moments, pondering on what his next move should be. Finally, he decided to leave her alone. He slowly left the brig, tightly grasping the two halves of the medallion in his hand. As soon as the door irised closed behind him, Andros noticed that the other Astro Rangers were standing there, waiting for him.
"What happened?" Cassie asked, "Where did you go?"
"I took Astronema to the Simudeck, to show her KO 35," he answered, "I was hoping the images would spark a forgotten memory."
"WHAT?!" Ashley shrieked, "Are you nuts? Astronema's Dark Spectre's most powerful henchman, and you let her out of her cell?!"
"Calm down, Ashe," Carlos advised, "I'm sure Andros took every precaution." He then glanced at the Red Ranger. "Right?"
"Of course I did," Andros sighed, "DECA's security field was on maximum. There was no way for her to overpower me and make a getaway! Besides, there's nowhere for her to go. As long as she cooperates, I've given her my word that she'll be delivered safe and sound."
"Don't remind me," Ashley muttered. Andros frowned at the Yellow Ranger.
"Why are you doing this?" he demanded, "Why don't you accept that Astronema's story could be true? How can you be so sure she's lying to me? Do you have any indisputable evidence that confirms that she couldn't possibly be Kerone?!"
Ashley bit her lower lip. "I..."
"I didn't think so," Andros said, turning away from her and walking down the hall, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do on the bridge."
Ashley glared at Andros angrily, and then turned on her heel, walking into the brig. TJ, Cassie, and Carlos followed her inside.
"What're you doing, Ashley?" Carlos asked gently. Ashley paid the Black Ranger no heed, and stood right in front of Astronema's cell.
"What kind of fools do you take us for?" Ashley demanded, "Do you really think we're going to fall for this?!"
Ashley's frown deepened when Astronema didn't respond. She remained lying on her cot, her back toward the Yellow Ranger.
"Answer me!!" Ashley shouted, "Or else, the deal Andros made with you is shot! You can spend the rest of your life in that cell."
"Just leave me alone," Astronema said, her voice barely audible, "Please."
TJ's eyes widened when he heard how shaky and unsure Astronema's voice sounded. He stared at her more closely, and saw her shoulders quiver slightly.
"Ashe," TJ said, taking hold of her shoulder, "we should get going."
"Why?" Ashley asked, "She's not gonna weasel her way outta this."
"Later," TJ said, pulling the Yellow Ranger out of the brig. Ashley was shocked by TJ's action, but she didn't fight him. Carlos and Cassie followed, leaving Astronema and Alpha alone in the brig.
"Why did you do that?" Ashley asked once they were out of earshot, "Maybe we can break through her little charade with force!"
"Ashe, she was crying," TJ said, "Couldn't you tell?"
"Probably crocodile tears," Ashley muttered.
"Maybe," TJ conceeded, "but maybe not. If she isn't Kerone, then she's one heck of an actress. But if she is Kerone, no matter how unlikely that is, then she's been through a lot just now. Andros just took her on a tour of her destroyed home world! No matter what kind of spell she may be under, that's too powerful a stimulus to not evoke any reaction at all."
"So you think she's Kerone too?" Ashley said in shock.
"Like I said, its possible. So why badger her now? If she's really lying, and those are false tears, then she really isn't in any weakened emotional state, and therefore it doesn't matter if we interrogate her now, or once she's calmed down a bit. Right?"
"Right," Ashley sighed, "You're right, of course. Sorry, Teej."
"Let's go join Andros on the bridge," Cassie suggested, "I'm actually pretty surprised Ecliptor hasn't done anything to try and save Astronema yet. We should keep our eyes peeled for the Dark Fortress."
"Good idea," Carlos affirmed, "Let's move."
"You guys go ahead," Ashley said, "I'm going back to the medical lab. I'm going over those test results one more time."
"Ashe, we've been over them a dozen times," Cassie said gently, "There's nothing to find there."
"There has to be," Ashley said quietly, "Andros asked for hard evidence, and I'm going to find it!"
Inside her cell, her brown eyes wet with false tears, Astronema remained with her back towards the energy bars, her eyes on the back wall. She breathed heavily, and sniffled quietly.
"Um, Astronema?" came the timid voice of Alpha.
"Just leave me alone," Astronema muttered.
"Sure thing," he replied, "I just wanted to give you this."
Alpha reached into the brig, and lay down a cotton handkerchief. Astronema turned around, and realizing what the robot left, rose to her feet to accept the token. She then took her seat again, without saying thanks. As she dried the false tears from her cheeks, a small grin crossed her face.
Its working splendidly. Not only do I have the Red Ranger fooled, I even have the rest of the team unsure. Its only that blasted Yellow Ranger who hasn't bought my story, and its her constant meddling that's stopping them all from completely believing me. Still, now is the time to act. *Ecliptor! Darkonda! Can you hear me?*
Aboard the cloaked Dark Fortress, Ecliptor and Darkonda heard the echoing sound of Astronema's telepathic voice.
"We hear every word," Ecliptor said.
*Good. Now listen carefully. We finally have them right where I want them. All I have to do is get out of the brig to a less secure area. Once I'm clear, I'll need you two to come up with a fantastic distraction. Keep the rangers busy fighting for their lives, and I'll try and disable the shields. Once the shields are down, board the vessel. We're taking this baby over!*
"I have a complete squadron of Velocifighters prepared to engage the Megaship," Ecliptor announced proudly, "and once the ship's defenses are down, Darkonda, Elgar and I will board the ship. We shall make short work of the Astro Rangers."
*See that you do not fail. I will contact you again soon.*
On the bridge of the Megaship, Andros quietly reviewed all the information he had learned in his head, while tightly grasping the two halves of the medallion in his hand. As he reflected, TJ, Carlos, and Cassie walked onto the bridge to join him.
"Andros?" Cassie asked gently, "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Cassie," he answered with a heavy sigh, "I suppose I'm just... frustrated."
Andros turned around in his chair, and noticed that only three of the four remaining rangers had arrived. "Where's Ashley?"
"She went to the medical lab," Carlos responded, "She's trying to find that 'indisputable evidence' you asked her for."
Andros winced slightly when he heard his own words shot back at him, even though the strong emotion behind them wasn't repeated. "I suppose I could have handled the situation better."
"She's just trying to help you," TJ said, "We all are. You can't blame her, or any of us, for being skeptical. Ashley did have a point: everything seems incredibly convenient, to blur the evidence that could incriminate Astronema. We have to take this info with a grain of salt, or we could fall in a serious trap."
Andros nodded. "Perhaps my thinking isn't quite as clear as it should be. Maybe I'm... afraid. If Astronema does have Kerone's necklace, and she's not Kerone, then what does that mean? What could have happened to my sister? And, how will I ever find her without the identifying mark? She could be anyone!"
Suddenly, Andros' communicator sounded. "Yes?"
^Andros, its me, Alpha. Astronema wants to see you right away.^
Andros blinked, and glanced up at the others.
"You'd better go ahead," TJ said, "Maybe you did make some headway after all."
Andros nodded, rising to his feet. He briskly walked through the bridge, and onto the deck.
"You wished to see me?" Andros asked, stepping into the brig. Astronema's eyes were still moist, but she was mostly composed. She stood at the bars, a bland expression on her face.
"Yes," she said quietly, "I was... wondering if I could visit KO 35 again. Alone."
"Why? If I may ask."
Astronema cast her eyes to the floor. "I... I don't know. I'd just like to take another look at the mansion, but without you peeking over my shoulder."
Andros nodded. "I suppose I can understand that. But, how can I trust you?"
Astronema rolled her eyes. "You do have security measures on it," she pointed out, "and you constantly tell me that I should trust you. Perhaps its your turn to reciprocate."
"Fine," Andros said, "DECA, please bring Astronema to the Simudeck. Security override AW1-RR85. And also, activate program A-1, password Kerone."
^Passwords verified,^ DECA sounded, and Astronema vanished from the small cell that had become her home. She soon rematerialized inside the spacious garden that she was in earlier that day.
Now, all I have to do is figure out how to get out of here. But first, I'll wait for Ecliptor's distraction. Hopefully, with DECA operating to defend the ship from outside invaders, she won't be able to pay as much attention to little ole' me...
"Okay, Carlos," Andros said, sitting back down in his swivel chair, "anything in your quadrant?"
"Not a whisper," he responded, studying the screen he was looking at closely, "There isn't so much as spacedust over here. I'm not picking up any tacheon particles, or anything else that would be left behind by a space vessel."
"It must be out there somewhere," Andros said, touching his chin, "Ecliptor has served Astronema faithfully for... as long as I can remember! I know he wouldn't just leave her in the hands of the law."
"Maybe he wanted his own chance in the throne?" Cassie suggested.
"No," Andros said confidently, "he'd never betray her like that. Have you ever seen him defend her? Its whole-hearted. He's no groveling servant. He's a loyal warrior. Loyal to the death."
"Could they have gone for reinforcements?" TJ asked, "Maybe they want to hit us hard from both ends, to make sure they beat us?"
"Where would he find reinforcements in the Terran system?" Carlos pointed out, "Dark Spectre's main army is light years from here."
Suddenly, the alarms screamed to life. The four rangers immediately stopped their hypothesizing, and turned on the viewscreen.
"I'm reading four... no seven Velocifighters moving in our direction," Cassie reported, "Fast!"
"Okay, team," Andros, putting both hands on the arms of his chair, "Prepare for evasive action! DECA, take Megaship off standby. Put all available power to weapons and shields."
Inside the medical laboratory, Ashley looked up from her microscope in alarm as the alert signals sounded, and the ship shook from impact.
"We're under attack!" she exclaimed, "Maybe Ecliptor's trying to free Astronema? Figures..."
Ashley rose from her seat and ran down the hallway. She soon arrived at the brig, and realized instantly that their captive wasn't there.
"Alpha!" she panted, looking around the brig, "Alpha?"
"Aye yi yi!" Alpha shrieked, walking out of a storage closet, "There's no reason to yell, Ashley. I can hear you perfec--"
"Where's Astronema?" she interrupted, "She's escaped!"
"No she didn't. Andros brought her to the Simudeck again."
"Andros is on the Simudeck at a time like this?!" Ashley cried in disbelief.
"No, Astronema wanted to be alone," Alpha clarified.
"She wanted to be alone on the Simudeck?" Ashley repeated, her eyes widening with realization, "Of course! The Simudeck may have security protocols, but they aren't top priority, neither are they as powerful as the brig's! If the ship is in battle mode, energy is taken directly from the Simudeck, since its a non-necessary program, to give a boost to the weapons! Astronema may get loose!"
"Aye yi yi!" Alpha shrieked in alarm, "You're right!"
Wasting no time, Ashley dashed down the corridors.
Astronema began to cackle with joy as the image of KO 35 melted away, and then phased back into reality.
"As I figured," she said, her hands on her hips, "the ship's diverting power from all non-necessary systems, including the Simudeck. Ecliptor's timing is perfect!"
Astronema tossed back her brown curls, and walked toward where she knew the exit was. The door appeared as the image of KO 35 once again blinked out of reality. Astronema stared at the doors, trying to force them open with her powers, but they wouldn't budge.
"DECA!" she called, "Open the door!"
^Opening the Simudeck gate while the program is on maximum security is prohibited by protocol 321-89973556.^
Maybe enough energy hasn't been diverted yet to completely shut down this maximum security thing, but I'm sure its enough to make DECA herself a little more susceptible to deception...
With a conspiring grin, Astronema cleared her throat. "Verbal command, voice scan Andros Wiengart, commander of Megaship," she said in an exact replica of Andros' own voice. She had recalled perfectly what Andros had said to deactivate security, although usually, DECA would be able to detect the slight differences of the manufactured voice. This time, however, DECA wasn't paying enough attention.
^Voice scan confirmed.^
Astronema's grin widened. "Security override AW1-RR85."
"Now open the door."
Astronema chuckled as the door opened before her, giving her total access to the famed Megaship. However, she gasped with surprise as the door parted, and a fully morphed Yellow Ranger blocked her path, her arms crossed.
"I was right," she said, walking into the Simudeck, "You were playing us for fools!"
Astronema snarled. "And all this time, you were the only thing standing in my way..."
With that, Astronema bent her arm at the elbow, the back of her palm just reaching her chin. She then extended her arm, a wave of purple energy streaking the path her hand moved, and flying at the Yellow Ranger full force. Ashley cartwheeled out of the way, and replied to the attack with her Star Slinger. She fired four consecutive beams of light at her opponent. The first three all missed their intended targets, but the forth made contact, striking Astronema on the left cheek and cutting through her supple skin like a knife. Astronema shrieked with rage and fell onto her back. Ashley confidently stood above her, holding her Star Slinger ready to fire.
"You breathe, I fire," Ashley threatened. Astronema remained still, her brown eyes tinted with a purple glow. However, a particularly powerful hit to the Megaship caused both women to roll along the Simudeck floor. Quickly, Astronema lifted herself into the air, protecting her from the shaking of the ship, and watched as Ashley tried to get back on her feet.
"No you don't, little ranger!" she yelled, holding both hands at the Yellow Ranger. Vines of purple energy entangled the Yellow Ranger, forcing her to drop to the ground. As she struggled against Astronema's magic, the young sorceress walked towards the entrance, which was still open.
"You'll pay for this with your life," Astronema muttered, touching the blood that streaked down her cheek. "DECA," she said in Andros' voice, "turn on the most dangerous training program on file, and turn off safeties. Computer Lockout, priority one."
^Lockout confirmed,^ DECA said, as fading image of KO 35 vanished completely. The scene slowly became a jungle, with vicious animal sounds echoing in the area. Astronema laughed deeply, and glanced at the Yellow Ranger, who was still struggling against her bonds.
"Good luck," she called, stepping out of the chamber. The door closed behind her, and sealed.
"Only Andros can undo a priority one lockout," Astronema said to herself, walking down the corridor, "and by the time he finds out what's happened to his precious Yellow Ranger, she'll have more holes in her than the moon!"
Astronema continued to laugh as she moved through the corridors.
Finally, she arrived at a computer terminal. Astronema's laughter died down a little, and she held both her hands on the terminal.
"And they thought I needed my scepter to use my powers?" she chuckled, purple sparks of energy flowing from her body into the computer, "Ha!"
As the energy flashed throughout the system, it traveled through the interworking connections at light speed. Soon, the lights flashed on and off, and the engines came to a halt.
So long as I focus my dark powers through the ship, all its systems will be stalled. Ecliptor had better arrive soon with reinforcements, so we can level this ship, and everyone on it!!
On the bridge, the lights suddenly cut off.
"What happened?!" Cassie shrieked, turning around in her seat.
"All systems are non-responsive!" Carlos yelled, madly pressing buttons, "Nothing's happening!"
Andros' eyes widened, and he watched the dark screen that previously showed the three remaining Velocifighters. "Without power," he said quietly, "the shields--"
To punctuate his statement, the ship rocked even harder than before, throwing all the rangers from their seats, and causing control panels to spark with fury.
"Could the Velocifighters' lasers have cut off the power?" TJ asked, shakily rising to his feet.
"I doubt it," Cassie muttered, tossing back her black hair, "It must have happened from the inside--"
"Astronema!" Andros shouted, "She was in the Simudeck. DECA!"
But DECA wouldn't respond, and the ship once again shook madly.
"TJ! Carlos!" Andros ordered, "Go check out the Simudeck, and see if she's still in there!"
"You got it," TJ said, grabbing a flashlight from beneath his control panel. Carlos did the same, and the two rangers hurried to the gate. Meanwhile, Andros and Cassie both managed to sit back in their seats, and buckle themselves in.
"Without interior power, we can't contact any of the ship's communications relays," Andros said, lifting his wrist communicator, "But we should be able to reach Ashley. Ashley? Come in. Do you read me?"
Andros frowned when he received no answer. He then changed the frequency of his communicator. "TJ?"
^I read you, Andros,^ the Blue Ranger responded.
"Ashley's not answering her communicator, and with the systems down, I can't figure out where on the ship she is."
^We'll keep an eye out for her, but without internal power, its hard maneuvering through the ship! We have to pry open all the electronic doors.^ "Keep moving," Andros said solemnly, "We don't know how much time we have left."
Inside the darkened Simudeck, Ashley heard her communicator sound. However, she couldn't respond, for she was still trapped within the purple vines of energy Astronema had entangled her in. She tried to pry her arms free, but it was no use. She couldn't reach her communicator, which meant she was completely cut off from her friends.
"DECA!" she called into the darkness, "DECA! Can you hear me?"
Suddenly, the lights turned on again in the Simudeck, leaving Ashley in the dark tiled room she was familiar with.
"DECA, can you hear me now?" she asked.
^Affirmative,^ DECA answered, ^Now starting training program level Sigma.^
"No!" Ashley shouted, "DECA, discontinue program!"
^Program lockout,^ DECA sounded tonelessly, as the tiled room once again transformed in appearance. Ashley gasped as she found herself in the jungle she had seen moments before all the power cut off, with the threatening voices of dozens of animals all around. Ashley felt herself quake with fear when she saw the bushes nearby teem with motion. Suddenly, a large wolven creature leapt out of the bush, bearing claws over a foot in length. Ashley struggled to push herself away as the creature slowly approached.
I've got to get free, she thought, forcing herself on her back. When the creature leapt at her again, she pushed her legs out, holding the creature back. However, it roared angrily, and slashed at Ashley nonetheless. The razor claws managed to break through the energy chains that restrained her, but they also penetrated Ashley's armor, leaving three six inch long cuts along her upper left arm. Ashley struggled to get up, and grasped her wound painfully. She was shocked to see how easily its claws sliced through her armor.
"Push past the pain," she ordered herself, taking a fighting position. The creature leapt at her again, its claws at the ready and saliva dripping from its fangs. Ashley managed to sidestep the monster, delivering a mighty spinning kick to the monster's back as it sailed past her. The added force of Ashley's attack, compounded with the monster's own momentum, caused it to fly uncontrollably into a tree. It crashed through the tree, causing the top portion to fall in Ashley's direction. Ashley quickly caught the falling tree at the base, and pushed it the other way, crashing onto the monster and pinning it to the ground. Ashley gasped with relief, and began looking around the jungle for something to bandage her wound with. But she soon noticed another bush moving slightly.
"I hate Vermillian Wolverines," she muttered, once again taking a defensive stance, "They always travel in packs!"