"It's Dark Specter," Karone said.
"DECA, how fast is that going?" Andros asked, his joy fading from his face.
"It will hit Earth within two days," the computer replied.
Andros looked at his companions. They all silently nodded.
"Karone," Andros said, reaching into his back pocket,"we have something for you. It was meant to be a present for your birthday but it can't be helped now." He handed her a purple morpher. Her puzzled face met his grave one.
"Andros, this is a morpher," she said."I can't accept this..."
"Why not? The pink powers were meant to be yours when you came of age but things didn't go as planned. Now all we have left are the purple powers."
Karone laughed somewhat bitterly."In case you haven't forgotten, Andros, I was recently the Princess of Evil. Don't you think that a sudden change in power would make me revert?"
Andros glanced away."It won't happen."
"Rangers," Alpha's high-pitched voice came to them."You must hurry. We cannot let this happen."
"We know Alpha," TJ said."We're right on it." He grabbed Andros and Karone and dragged them off into the jump tubes. There was a purple one next to the red one. Karone stared at it.
"Andros, when was this done?" Karone asked."I've only been here, well, for two days."
"During the night," he replied."Come on!" They assumed their positions before their tube, whirled and slid in. Karone hesitated for only a moment, recalling her dark past, whirled then jumped.
Professor Phenonemous yelped and pulled his wrinkly face from the oversized telescope. His apprentices, Bulk and Skull leaned towards the professor together, their puzzled expression evident.
"What is it?" Bulk yelled.
"An asteroid!" the professor screeched hysterically."Run for your lives!!!" He took off for his van. Bulk and Skull glanced at each other, and screamed. Bulk grabbed the telescope with one arm, Skull with the other and waddled away for all he was worth. The van took off, veering in the general direction of the space station, NASADA.
The six rangers, on their gliders, landed on the asteroid, fully armed with explosives. Andros set down his explosives and quickly outlined his plan. The rangers nodded and moved off just as Karone gave a scream of warning.
"Velocifighers!" she screamed. Karone honestly wondered if her powers still worked. She doubted her ranger ablities. Old habits die hard. Andros tackled her, knocking them both out of the path of the Velocifighter who targeted them. Both came to their feet, weapons ready. Karone grunted as a Quantron attacked her, swinging his clumsy weapon. Karone, who wasn't use to being attacked by her former soldiers, glared at him. He said something in his own language. Karone shrugged and blasted him with her blaster. She kicked his weapon out of his hands and shot it in his face. Karone whirled and fired another shot. The ranger powers were clumsy, she could feel it. There was no helping for it. Karone passed her hand over herself, purple sparkles trailing from her fingers. She was dressed in her Astronema clothes, staff in hand. She fired with her staff instead. The Quantrons, confused by Darkonda's orders to kill their mistress and their loyalty to Astronema, hesitated long enough for Ashley to finish them off. She glanced at Karone.
"Why the leather?" the Yellow Ranger asked.
"I was kind of hoping they would remember me and stop," Karone explained as she swung her staff. The Quantron went flying.
"It's not working!" Karone, who still thought like Astronema, regained her imperial expression. "Quantrons! Stand down!"
They paused again but the evil Darkonda appeared. He gestured with one hand."Get her! Destroy them!"
Karone was distracted by Andros' nod. Because of her, the others managed to set the explosives. She grunted as her head struck the rock as Darkonda's missiles slammed into her. The evil soldier landed on her, struggling for her staff. Andros' spiral sabre drove itself into Darkonda's side. He brought up his sword and blocked.
"Karone! Move!" Andros yelled. Karone slammed her staff's power into Darkonda, grabbed Andros' hand and teleported them back to the Megaship.
TJ glared at the leather clad Karone. His face was tight with rage."You sent them, didn't you!"
Karone passed her hand over herself and returned to her purple uniform. She turned a frosty glare to TJ."I did no such thing."
"Then why did you dress like Astronema?" he challenged.
"TJ!" Andros went over to his friend and laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder."I'm sure Karone has a good explanation."
Karone nodded."Of course I do. I thought that if they saw Astronema, they would stop. But I guess their loyalties lie with Dark Specter and not me."
TJ relaxed slightly."You better not be lying to us."
Karone backed up slightly, her expression alarmed. Andros stepped in front."Look! Karone had been Astronema for almost all of her life. She did what she thought was right. Give her time to, well you know, get use to being good."
Karone giggled."Nice way of putting it, brother mine." Andros flashed her a lopsided grin. Karone became serious again.
"Rangers,"DECA said,"the detonations are about to happen."
"Bring it up," Carlos said. The asteroid came into view. A series of explosions rocked the asteroid but it continued it's inexorable path to Earth.
Professor Phenonemous blabbered somewhat incoherently to the NASADA officials. They decipher what they could of his ramblings. Bulk and Skull, who stood behind their rambling teacher, screaming. Finally, the official had the two teenagers evicted.
"Slow down," he said."Are you saying there is a asteroid heading this way?"
"Yes, yes, that's what I said. Are you deaf man?" the professor asked indignatly.
"Get this senile old man into a room someplace. Get our telescope set on the coordinates." The guards left for their various tasks.
Three megazords flew out from space to slam directly into the asteroid. Two rangers each piloted a zord. Karone went with Andros. As the siblings operated the zord, they found time to talk.
"What was it like, being evil?" Andros asked.
"It was like being able to be a little kid with no punishment," Karone replied.
"Why did Ecliptor help us escape?" Andros asked.
"Ecliptor helped me escape," Karone corrected."Ecliptor's not a bad person once you get to know him. He loves me very much you know."
"He was the one that raised you wasn't he?" Andros asked curiously.
"Yes," Karone replied."I wonder what happened to him."
"Perhaps we'll find out one of these days," Andros replied.
"Andros, this asteroid is programmed by the Dark Fortress. We were going to use this to destroy Earth but I never got around to using it. I guess Darkonda activated it."
Andros paused to look at her."Destroy Earth? Why?"
"Where else would we destroy? Aquitar?" Karone laughed."It was my plan to destroy Earth and when the rangers were emotionally damaged, I would strike."
"That's a good plan. They're very attached to that backwater planet of theirs," Andros agreed. "I had no choice but to leave KO-35."
"Yes, but I do not remember KO-35 very much. I've never returned except for that one time."
"One day, we'll have to go back with Zhane."
"Zhane?" Karone asked with a little catch in her voice. Luckily, Andros was too preoccupied to notice.
"You remember him don't you? The Silver Ranger?"
"Yes, yes I do," Karone said. She looked down."How is he?"
"Zhane." Karone pointed. "Look! What's that?"
Andros peered out of the zord."I don't know precisely."
Karone gasped."The Dark Fortress."
"I'm positive." Karone shimmered and then seated beside Andros, was Astronema. Andros looked in some surprise.
"Blue hair?" he asked.
"What's wrong with blue?"
"Why do you keep changing your hair color?"
"It's like a sudden thing. Forget my hair," Karone said. She pressed a button on the console."Fire up the engines."
"Karone?" Cassie's voice came over the speaker."The Dark Fortress is within sight."
"Yeah, I know," Karone replied."We saw it."
"Karone," Andros said, getting out of his seat."You say the asteroid is programmed by the Dark Fortress?"
"Yeah," Karone replied. She twisted to look at her older brother."Where are you going?"
"Well, since the only way to stop it is through the Dark Fortress, that's where I'm going."
Karone reached for him."You can't Andros!"
"Ecliptor could be there, or worst, Darkonda."
"I can handle it."
"Let me go Andros. I know my way inside out of that Fortress."
"Karone, I spent half my life looking for you. I'm not going to let you go back."
"What if you get killed?"
"I won't," Andros assured her."It's the only way, Karone. You know it as well as I."
"Andros...."Karone sighed."Be careful."
He smiled at her."Tell the others." He stepped out of the zord and few minutes later, she saw him speed towards the Dark Fortress on his Galaxy Glider.
"Karone, where is Andros going?" Carlos' voice came to her through the zord's interlinked computer.
"He said he was going to the Dark Fortress to try and reprogram this asteroid."
"Karone, this is Ashley. Where's Andros going?"
"Cassie here. What's Andros' doing?"
"Karone, where's Andros going?"
"He's going to the Dark Fortress to reprogram this asteroid," Karone shouted into the linked zords. There was stunned silence then a babble of rising voices.
"We've got to stop him!" TJ hollered.
"No! He's right, this is the only way," Karone snapped. She turned her computer communications off then contacted Andros. "Andros, I forgot to tell you. The program for that asteroid is not on the main computer. It's on the smaller one, in my throne room."
"Thanks." His voice was full of static."Communications are breaking up Karone. Be careful."
"Same to you, brother mine."
Karone zapped at the console with her power, trying to perk it up again but it overloaded again. Then there was a sudden shock.
"Andros? Buddy, answer me," a familar voice came over the computer. Karone felt her heart jump. It was Zhane!
"Zhane!" the others cried in surprise."What are you doing here?"
"Helping you. That's why I'm here right?" the happy-go-lucky Silver Ranger laughed."Andros, buddy, whats up?"
"Andros is on the Dark Fortress. This is Karone," she said.
"Kar...Karone?!" Zhane yelped. "Is that really you?"
"Duh Zhane. Who were you expecting, the tooth fairy?" Karone retorted.
"Karone? You were lost, kidnapped...."
"I was," she corrected."I'm back now."
"What happened to you?" Zhane asked.
"I became Astronema."
There was another stunned silence then Zhane laughed."Oh, that's a good one. But seriously, what happened? And did you know that Andros got weird?"
"I think you got weird, Zhane." Karone smiled to herself. She had him on screen but he didn't know that.
"Just answer the question, Karone."
"You being Astronema? Yeah right," he scoffed.
Karone began to snicker."Yeah. Turn on your monitor."
There was a pause then his eyes widened."Astronema!"
"Yes, Zhane? Was there something?" Karone began to laugh.
Zhane's expression clearly showed his surprise and anguish."Astronema?"
"I can't believe it. No way, you can't be Astronema," he rambled.
"Astronema's evil and you're Karone," Zhane said.
"She's Astronema all right," Cassie's voice came to him."I know. It's shocking isn't it?"
"Hold on, I'm receiving a transmission from Andros," Karone said. She switched over to the link with Andros' helmet."Yeah?"
His voice came as a whisper."I'm inside and you've got an impressive system here. Anyways, I need the code to get into the computer."
She told him."Okay, I got it. Where's the file?"
"It's in the one marked...Andros? Andros!" Karone's cry was drowned up by Andros' hoarse cry of alarm. Karone flinched as a loud blast of static rocked her ears. Then there was a soft buzzing noise then finally, silence. Karone was alarmed."Andros? Andros! Come in Andros."
There was nothing, no buzzing, no static, just nothing. Karone felt more and more scared by the minute. Finally, she opened her communications channel."Something happened to Andros. I don't know where he is."
"Maybe he saw somebody coming and turned off communications," TJ suggested.
"Yeah, but then why did he scream like that?" Karone flicked a few switches."DECA, scan for Andros on the Dark Fortress."
There was another brief silence then the line hummed."Andros is not responding to his communicator. He is aboard the Dark Fortress but I cannot locate him."
"Thanks DECA," Karone said."You guys, DECA says that Andros is on the Dark Fortress but she can't find him."
"Do you think...." Carlos left it hanging. Each of them knew what it meant.
"Then I'll go rescue him," Karone said firmly."He's my brother and he's...."
"And he's gonna murder us if we let you go by yourself," Zhane finished.
"That wasn't what I was gonna say," Karone said irritably."Okay, then two of us go. Me and somebody else."
"I will naturally," Zhane interceded."He's my best friend and besides, I owe him."
"Let's get this asteroid off course first, okay guys?" TJ said. There was a steely note in his voice, probably because he was once the leader and with Andros gone, should of been second in command. However, Karone had far more experience in leadership and her upbringing indicated a certain type of business. The others accepted Karone's authority without question; she was the sister of their leader.
The four zords, the Astro Megazord, the Mega Voyager, the Delta Megazord and Zhane's Mega Winger, continued to push at the asteroid. With a great deal of effort and a little bit of explosion, the asteroid was pushed off course.
Karone held tightly to Zhane as they sped towards the Dark Fortress. The former Princess of Evil was dressed in her black and silver outfit but she was not wearing the ridiculous steel breastplate which, in Ashley's opinion, contrasted badly. So, Astronema (they referred to her as Astronema in those clothes anyways) left her breastplate behind. They spotted a couple of Velocifighters.
"What do you say we steal a ride?" Zhane asked.
"Why not just tell them to pull over and get out for us?" Karone, or should one say, Astronema, asked.
"I thought you knew. I'm a Power Ranger."
"So?" Astronema waved to one of them. The Quantron inside stopped, hovering alongside. Zhane blasted him with his silverizer and Astronema climbed in. Then she pulled the other one over, Zhane disposed of him and got in.
"Get his outfit," Astronema said. Zhane ripped the outfit off the dead Quantron, kicked his body over, and put it on. Then Astronema and Zhane geared towards the Dark Fortress.
"Yo, Karone. You got any idea of what to do?" he asked.
"Yep," she replied."We get in line and fly into the holding bay."
Zhane laughed."Delightful girl."
"Yes, I know." Zhane and Astronema managed to sneak in without any problems, mostly because Astronema's viled threats and insults sent the Quantrons squirming. As they made their way up the Fortress, Astronema got a queer feeling in her stomach. She dismissed it as they neared her throne room. Suddenly, a swarm of Quantrons came swarming out of the main control room. Zhane leapt into battle. Astronema knew that these Quantrons were loyal to Dark Specter and not her. She slammed her staff into one of them, disengaged and kicked another. There was a break in battle and the two made a dash for it. The door to her throne room hissed shut. Zhane removed his helmet and Astronema changed back into Karone.
"Andros?" she whispered."Andros!"
Her throne slowly turned. Sitting in it, hand against cheek, was Andros. The Red Lightstar Ranger did not resemble the serious ranger. Instead, he was dressed in black. A black cotton ribbed shirt was stretched across his well developed torso and stomach. He wore black pants and black boots. He held his Spiral Saber in his free hand.
"Andros? Come on," Zhane said."Nice outfit by the way."
He surveyed them. Karone gasped. Andros' long hair had been cut and redyed. It was spiky and the tips were gold but the rest was brown. He wore a wire which was hooked up between his temple and reached half way down his cheek.
"Andros? Don't you remember us? I'm your sister, Karone," she said in vain. Her brother's eyes flashed.
"Sister? Oh yes, the darling Astronema, Princess of Evil," he said softly."Ecliptor!"
The huge henchman burst into the room. Some parts of him had been made over. Karone stared at him in chagrin.
"Ecliptor?" she whispered. She changed back into Astronema, hoping to jolt his memory.
"Princess," he said.
"Ecliptor, what have they done to you?" she whispered in horror.
"Same thing which will be done to you!" Darkonda roared. Zhane lept into action as did Astronema. The former Princess of Evil fired a couple of lighting bolts at Darkonda.
"Stand down, Karone, Darkonda," Andros said quietly."Leave, Darkonda." The evil soldier left and Astronema turned to Andros in surprise. He stood just behind her, his Spiral Saber in hand.
"Karone, let's move!" Zhane yelled, leaping for her. As fast as he was, Andros was faster. He lifted his hand as a gestured and in the next, drove his Spiral Saber into Karone.
A gasp left her lips as she sank to the floor, her tight leather concealing the blood. She stared up at the cold faced Andros.
"Why?" she gasped.
He turned away."Who knows? Who cares? Dark Specter wanted you to be taken back, I wanted you dead."
"I know. Wasn't it a waste of time?" Andros laughed chillingly."Ecliptor, take her body and put it someplace. We'll give her a proper funeral."
"Over my dead body!" Zhane bellowed. "Super Silverizer!"
Andros watched indifferently as Ecliptor engaged his best friend in battle. He began to laugh, a horrible icy sound, as Ecliptor's sword went through Zhane like a stick goes through water.
"Whoa buddy, calm down," he said."What's your beef?"
"Zhane...is Karone still alive?" he asked.
"Yeah," Zhane said."Last time I checked, Astronema was live and kicking our butts."
Andros laid back and sighed."I had a nightmare."
"Yeah, I kinda figured."
"I dreamt that instead of Karone going back, I went and I killed her and Ecliptor killed you."
"That hunk of metal can't beat me. I'm the Silver Ranger!" Zhane boasted.
Andros got up and pulled on his pants and tucked his shirt in. He pulled his jacket over top and went up onto the bridge.
"DECA, bring up a picture of Astronema please," he said.
"As you wish, Andros," the computer replied. A picture of Astronema came up. Actually, it was the image of Karone, rewired as Astronema. Andros sighed and sat down, leaning his chin in his hands."One day Karone, I'll get you back. And when it happens, you're not getting out of my sight!" The image went on, long after Andros fell into a light doze and the first rays of the sun from the Aorotha System crept in.