She stood clad in armor, with a sword in one hand and shield in the other. Her hair flowed free down her back, longer than it was in life, and a rich golden blonde. She stood in a clearing in the woods, with a sky splattered with stars overhead.
"The time has come, Warrior!" the voice was cold and icy. She raised her blade and nodded, though she could not see who spoke.
"Indeed it has, my Foe," her voice was different, stronger, more powerful, almost many voices in one. "Once again we do battle."
Across the clearing, he stepped into view. Tall and darkly handsome, dressed in armor of his own and with a sword in his hand, he saluted her. With no more than that the battle began, blades clashing against each other in terrible harmony, shields clanging in the stillness of the night.
He was a skilled warrior, but so was she. They seemed evenly matched, but inch by inch, movement by movement, he proved himself her superior. With a blurringly swift series of movements, he knocked her sword and shield away, tripped her onto her back, and stood there with his sword at her throat.
"And once again, I am the victor," he threw his head back and laughed, stepping harshly on her wrist when she tried to go for her blade. "In ten thousand years, you have never defeated me. And you never will. Farewell, Warrior. . .see you in another hundred years."
Starlight glinted on his sword as he raised it, and she stared directly into his eyes as he did so. As the weapon came down, memories of her other deaths at his hands flashed through her mind, and in each one, she had gazed into his eyes to the last. This would be no different.
Pain burst through her flesh as he impaled her on his sword.
Ashley sat straight up in her bed, eyes wide and heart pounding. Her hands flew to her chest, quickly reassuring herself that there was no blood, no pain, it had only been a dream. "The dream again," she whispered. "Every time my birthday rolls around, I start having those dreams. About fighting and dying."
She sighed as she stared out the window. _Wish I could figure out what they meant. Or even tell someone about them. But every time I try, I get this really strong feeling that I'm not supposed to. Not yet, anyway._
As she turned back to bed, she caught a glimpse of the communicator on her nightstand, and smiled a little. _After three months, I still can't belive I'm a Power Ranger. I would have NEVER guessed it. Me, Ashley, the cheerleader. I'm the Yellow Turbo Ranger._ She touched the band gently, then quietly reached into the pocket of the jacket hanging over the back of a chair. From within she drew out her Turbo Key and stared at it. That had become an almost nightly ritual, a way of reassuring herself that it wasn't just some wonderful dream.
After a few quiet moments of contemplation, she slid the key back into the pocket she habitually kept it in and laid back down to sleep. This time, her rest held no dreams.
But the shadows held eyes.
Outside of Ashley's window there grew a great oak tree. Within the spreading branches of that oak stood a figure, cloaked in shadows. His eyes never left the young woman in the bed, though his interest was not what one might think it was. He sought his pleasures elsewhere, not in the bodies of his mortal enemy.
Jaydos leaped from the tree and started down the street. No one noticed him as he made his way to the darkened warehouse that was his base of operations in this lifetime. He sat in the throne-like chair that had been his for over three thousand years, deep in thought already.
_So in this time her name is Ashley Hammond. It has been almost one hundred years since our last battle, my dear foe. And in this time, you have not spent the years of training you have before. You are unaware of your destiny._
A soft chuckle filled the room as he looked around at the paintings that filled the walls. In each of them was a face that the Turbo Rangers would have found eerily familiar: Ashley.
Her outfit was different in each, her hair different colors and lengths, but two things remained the same: her face and her eyes. Always those blue eyes flashed at him, challenging and proud. He growled a little as he pulled a bottle of wine out from a safe.
Jaydos drank sparingly, but this was a special occasion. "Soon," he whispered, saluting the last painting in the row, the one from one hundred years previously. "Soon, my dear Warrior, we shall meet. On the night of the Dark Moon. You shall meet your fate."
He laughed softly. "But you shall meet me first."
"Hi, Ashley!" Cassie waved to her friend as they met by the lockers. "Have you heard, there's a new history teacher!"
"Really?" Ashley closed her locker and slipped the lock shut, stifling a yawn as she did so. "What's he like?"
The Pink Ranger shrugged a bit. "No idea, I haven't seen him yet. But the gossip is that he's gorgeous."
"Well, I've got history next, I'll let you know!" Ashley grinned. Though her grades had suffered a little since becoming a Ranger, it had given her some great special benefits. Four benefits, to be precise: T.J., Cassie, Carlos, and Justin. Though it might've seemed strange to some people, for an almost-sixteen year old to hang out with a thirteen year old boy, to her it seemed perfectly natural.
Cassie laughed as they walked down the hall together. "You'd better, girl!" she seemed to have totally recovered from her crush on the Phantom Ranger, apparently not having him around had lessened her emotions for the mysterious warrior. She'd recently confided to Ashley that she was starting to find T.J. rather attractive, something Ashley could quite agree with, even though the Red Ranger wasn't quite her type. "See you after class, and you'd better give full details on this new teacher!"
"I will, I will!" Ashley grinned as she swung into the classroom. "See you later!"
Cassie smiled and headed down the hall to her own class as Ashley took her seat. Carlos sat behind her, and tapped her gently on the shoulder as she sat down. "Have you seen the new teacher yet?" he asked in his soft accent.
"Nope," she shook her head. "Cassie told me about him, though. He's supposed to be 'really cute.'"
"She thinks every guy is cute!" Carlos smiled. "I wonder what he's like?"
Ashley shrugged as she got out her books. "Who knows?" she was about to say, when a harsh voice suddenly interrupted her.
"Miss Hammond, Mr. Alvarez, if you have so many interesting things to say to each other, perhaps you'd care to continue your conversation after school, in detention!" they both looked up to see a tall, dark-haired man staring at them. "You both have detention after school," he told them. "And Mr. Alvarez, I want to talk to you after class, about a special history project I'd like you to work on. It could help your grades, and from what I've seen, they could use it."
Carlos only nodded as the man went to the board and wrote in flowing script, Mr. Worth. "That's me," the man gestured. "Jasper Worth. Mr. Worth to you."
The name hit Ashley's mind like the proverbial ton of bricks. It turned and twisted over and over, until a single name shone within her thoughts.
The class went on as normal for the next hour, and as the bell rang, Carlos watched as every one else filed out. He came up to the desk as the door shut behind the final person, and asked quietly, "What sort of project are you talking about, sir?"
Mr. Worth turned away from him for a moment, then when he looked back, the Green Ranger was shocked to see his eyes glowing a strange green-gold color. "You are going to help me in something, Carlos Alvarez."
Carlos started to back away. This must be some sort of Divatox trap! He brought his communicator up to his lips, only to have it slapped away by a harsh hand. "I don't know what sort of device that is," Worth growled. "But I'll not have any interference in my plans. There are two things I want from you, and I'm going to get them both."
"What are you talking about???" Carlos almost went for his Turbo Key, then realized: if he didn't know what their communicators were, then he wasn't from Divatox. If he wasn't from Divatox, he couldn't reveal his secret identity.
Worth's eyes glowed once more, and Carlos found it impossible to move all of a sudden. Those eyes seemed to grow and grow, until they filled the entire universe with their strange flickering light. Then they filled not only the universe, but his mind, his will were overcome by then, his resistance falling to dust.
Jaydos laughed softly. It had been the easier thing in the world to insert himself into this school as the new history teacher. Sending the Warrior to detention was a bonus, it got her out of the way while he laid his plans. He'd seen quickly that she and this young man were close, and he needed information. Carlos' mind had been stronger than he'd expected, stronger than was usual for this day and age, but it had fallen to his will just as so many others had before.
_And he is quite handsome. He shall be twice useful to me then. But first things first._ "Tell me everything. . .and I mean everything. . you know about Ashley Hammond. Every detail. All the secrets she's ever told you. Anything and everything you know. I will scrape your mind bare if you don't, and if you do. . .," his fingers trailed lightly down Carlos' neck. "The rewards will be great indeed."
"Ashley Hammond," Carlos' voice was wooden and stiff as he began to speak. Jaydos listened, eyes widening as secrets were revealed he had had no idea even existed. Superheroes, defending the world. _And this Divatox person sounds VERY interesting. I might be able to get rid of this Warrior without having to lift a finger. After ten thousand years of battle, I do grow weary._
"Enough," he said at last. "You have done well, my slave, and now it is time for your reward."
With a flick of a hand he locked the door, then turned back to Carlos. "Remove your clothing," was all he said as the room darkened. A low, throaty chuckle came from him as Jaydos indulged himself in pleasures he had not known in some thirty years.
But if Carlos' moans and screams were any way to judge, he hadn't lost
his touch. Jaydos barely had time or concentration enough left to put a
sound barrier up. After all, he didn't believe in group sex.
Ashley sat in detention, toying with a pencil as she marked time. She wondered briefly what the name 'Jaydos' meant, and what it had to do with the new teacher. _Why did that name just pop into my head when he said his?_
A flicker of memory in the back of her mind tried to get her attention. A full school of Piranatrons popping up distracted her attempts to recall, though.
"Who invited you guys?" she growled as she backed away. "Oh, I forgot, you don't ask for invitations!"
As the monsters started towards her, Ashley threw a desk in their path and backflipped to a clear space. "Detention's bad enough, I don't have to put up with you!" she growled, pulling out her Turbo Key, and thanking all her lucky stars that she was alone in there that day. "Shift into Turbo!"
The Piranatrons circled the morphed Yellow Ranger slowly, almost like sharks circling a tasty meal. This meal, however, wasn't going to go down without a fight. "Time to rock and roll!" she yelled, leaping into the battle. This wasn't the first time she'd fought alone, and she certainly wished she didn't have to again, but she knew she could do it.
Punch, kick, sweep, flip, dodge, run, jump, it became almost a routine, one she knew in her bones. The training sessions she, Cassie, and T.J. had put themselves through had prepared her for this. Ashley slammed Piranatrons all over the room with a skill most of her cheerleading friends would have never imagined she possessed. Finally the last of them was reduced to a shimmering pile of water beads.
"Whew!" Ashley groaned as she demorphed and collapsed into
a chair. "Detention never used to be like this!"
"Oh, those Piranatrons are absolutely useless!" Divatox shoved the periscope away from her and growled in contempt. "They couldn't even defeat the Yellow Ranger when she's alone and in school!"
Rygog, Elgar, and Porto scurried out of the way as Divatox grumped her way up and down the SpaceBase. When she got into a mood like this, it was best to just stay out of the way and wait for her to cool off.
"There's got to be some way to beat them!" the purple-tressed pirate muttered, waving her hands around wildly enough to almost hit some of her crew. "They can't be invincible!"
Elgar looked up at her. "Uh, no, Auntie Di, they just seem to win all the time!"
Divatox stared at him, eyes flashing with anger, and just as she was working her way up into a full blown laser blast at him, of all things, a knock came at the SpaceBase gateway. "Go see who that is, idiot!" she ordered her nephew, practically throwing him at it. "And tell them, whatever it is, we don't want any!"
She resumed her seat, paging through the Intergalatic Yellow Pages, hoping to come across something useful to use against the Rangers. She barely noticed when Elgar came back into the room. "Uh, Auntie Di, I think you want to talk to this guy!"
"No, I don't!" she growled, staring at the ad for Goldgoyle. "I said, I don't want any!"
A silken voice stopped her in her tirade. "You don't want the ultimate destruction of the Yellow Turbo Ranger, and after her, all the others?"
She jerked herself up to her feet, staring all around. "Who are you?"
"I am Jaydos," the dark-haired man standing in the doorway bowed slightly. "And you are Divatox, the Pirate Queen?"
Divatox nodded. "You said something about the destruction of the Rangers?"
Jaydos almost smiled as he came further into the room. His practiced eye scanned every corner of the room, checking for possible ways in and out of there. "The Yellow Ranger, first and foremost," he explained. "I have personal reasons for wanting her hide. . .and head," he told them. "And those reasons are going to stay personal. All you need to know is that I want her dead."
"So?" Divatox shrugged. "I want them all dead, what makes you so special? Why shouldn't I have my Piranatrons throw you right off this SpaceBase?"
Jaydos raised an eyebrow. "Because I have killed her before. And I will again. It is my destiny: and hers."
Divatox smiled. "Explain this to me," she ordered. "If you've killed the Yellow Ranger, I want to hear about it!"
"Sit back down," he ordered. "And get ready for a long
"Why didn't you tell me she was the Warrior?" Derek Hunter stared at Ashley's parents in disbelief. "You knew all this time, and you did nothing to prepare her?"
"Prepare her?" Irene Hammond laughed. "Prepare her for fighting someone who has killed. . .I don't know how many times!? You don't prepare someone for that. You hide from it. That's what I've always said."
Derek glared at his daughter. "Irene, you dishonor yourself and our family by those words. Ashley is the Warrior, and it is her destiny to do battle with him!"
David Hammond put a hand on his wife's shoulder. "She did what she thought was best," he supported her. "Couldn't one century go by without them fighting?"
"No," Derek's voice was flat and stern. "Can one day go by without a sunrise? Of course not," he answered his own question. "This battle is preordained, by the powers that make up the universe itself, how dare you presume to know more than they?"
Irene almost visibly deflated at her father's harsh reproof. She sighed. "She'll have to be told then."
"She should've been known from the cradle!" Derek paced back and forth. "She should've spent her entire life preparing for that battle! It's so close!!"
"Well, we didn't, okay!" Irene hissed, suddenly furious. "We didn't spend her entire life training her for a battle she's going to lose, we gave her a normal childhood and teenage years, as normal as possible, anyway! Forigve us for wanting what's best for our daughter instead of some stupid destiny!"
Derek took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Irene," he apologized. "I do not approve of how you raised her, but it wasn't my decision. We'll just have to make do with what we have. What does she do?"
Ashley's parents looked at each other. "She's a cheerleader."
Derek's eyes widened. "She's dead meat already."
"Hey, Carlos!" T.J. waved to him from across the street as the Green Ranger emerged from the school. "We heard you had to stay after class?"
Carlos nodded as he joined them. "Mr. Worth wanted me to work on a special history project," he told them. _They do not need to know the pleasure my master gives me. And this "Ashley" shall perish at my master's hands!_
Justin grinned at the older boy. "Want to play some soccer?" he offered. Carlos shook his head.
"I really need to get started on this," Jaydos had actaully given him a project, to lull anyone's suspicions. Carlos would do his best, of course, he wanted to please his master in all ways.
T.J. looked at him a little curiously. "Are you okay, Carlos?" he asked. Something seemed. . .off. . .about Carlos.
"Of course!" his friend nodded vigorously. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Okay," the Red Ranger frowned a little. _Something is up with him. He's not usually this evasive, and I've NEVER known him to turn down soccer._ Then he reconsidered. _His history grades are slipping some. I'm probably just being a touch paranoid._
Justin bounced a little down the hallway. "Hey, aren't we supposed to meet the girls after school?" he asked. "For a study session?"
T.J. nodded. "You going to be able to make it, Carlos?"
"Wish I could," the Green Ranger shook his head. "But I'll probably be working on this project for a while."
"All right," T.J. started down the hall after Justin. "Catch you later?"
"Sure," Carlos nodded and headed to the library, mentally
reliving what his master had done, and enjoying every second of the mental
"You have been killing her over and over for how many centuries?" Divatox was impressed, it wasn't often she'd met a human with a lifespan and history like Jaydos.
"I lost track at about thirty," he told her, balancing a dagger on one finger. "It's a very old feud that really can't ever be settled. But I get a kick out of killing her every hundred years or so."
Divatox chuckled. "I can see where that would get addictive after a while!" she leaned forward a little. "Let's get down to business, Jaydos. How much are you going to pay me to do your dirty work for you?"
He smiled a little. "Two hundred million, in solid gold," he chuckled to himself at the expression in Divatox's eyes. _Pirates. Offer them unlimited amounts of money, and they'll do ANYTHING you want them to!_
"That doesn't quite sound like enough," the pirate queen returned fire suddenly. "Five hundred million sounds much more appropriate!"
The old one smiled. "Four hundred."
"Four hundred and fifty million, and that's as low as I'll go," Divatox snapped, tired already of the bargaining. "Any less, and you'll have to deal with her on your own: again."
_Like I haven't already, QUITE a few times!_ Jaydos grunted to himself. _But I can afford her, and doing this will give me more time to spend with my tasty new slave. As well as take care of a few other things I've been delaying for too long._
"Very well," he said aloud. "Four hundred and fifty million, in gold, paid when you deliver me Ashley Hammond's head on a plate."
The pirate queen nodded. _Oh, what an IDIOT this guy is! If I have the Yellow Ranger here, I'm most certainly not going to KILL her. . .at least not right away! That's FAR too good of an opportunity to turn down! The chance to have an evil Ranger. . ._she smiled. _He's going to pay me for delivering his own destruction. What a fool._
She pulled her periscope down and took a nice long look at the sleeping
Yellow Ranger. Hours had passed while Jaydos had given her his life history,
and now it was night in Angel Grove. She smiled a little. _Rest while you
can, Yellow Ranger. You're going to need it very soon. Very soon indeed._
Perhaps it was a side effect of being watched by her two greatest enemies. Perhaps it was the full moon that rode so gracefully in the night sky above her. Perhaps it was the heavy dinner she'd had. Or a combination of them all, or none of them. But even as Divatox and Jaydos watched Ashley, her sleep turned from deep and peaceful, to troubled and dream-filled. Images poured into her sleeping mind as she tossed and turned, seeking solace that would not come.
She was running, running, but couldn't get anywhere. The Foe was on her heels, he had chased her down and would do again what he had done before. She had tried to fight, she had tried to flee, and neither worked. What would be, would be.
She turned in her tracks to stare at him. Once again, though she went down, she would take his hideous visage with her to the cold grave. It was a vow she had made, that always would she see his face last. That was one she would not break.
He stood behind her, sword glittering in the starlight. A cold, evil smile touched his face, one that sent chills down her spine, even more so than the thought of being dead. "And once again, I am the victor, Warrior," he spoke the words he had said so many times before.
"Do it and get it over with!" she spat back at him. "I have neither the need nor desire to hear your words of self-congratulation yet another time. Dispatch me that I might live again, and slay YOU one day."
He chuckled. "That shall never be," he taunted her, pulling his sword back. "Know this, Warrior, that until the end of days, we shall fight, and until the end of days, I shall WIN!"
She fixed her eyes on his. The blade came down.
And Ashley sat up in bed, shaking and almost screaming. Though oftimes she came close, she never screamed at these dreams. They seemed almost too real to be screamed at. As if doing so would just make her a silly girl, and that was one thing Ashley refused to do. She might be a cheerleader, but she had a brain in her head.
She shook her head, trying to clear the dream-images from it. _It's almost so I hate sleeping!_ she thought. _I think I need a walk, something to get my mind off this dream._
Moving as quietly as she could, she pulled her clothes on and wrote
out a quick note to her parents. Mom, Dad, had a bad dream, went for a
walk to clear my head. Be back soon, I'll be careful. Love, Ashley. She
left it where they would see it if they woke up, praying they wouldn't,
and slipped out the door.
"Divatox!" there was a pounding at Divatox's cabin door. "Divatox, she's alone, and the other Rangers are all asleep! Wake up! It's the perfect time!"
Divatox slowly opened the door, glaring at Jaydos, who pounded on it with all of his strength, almost denting it. "This had better be good!" she growled. She did not like her beauty rest interrupted, she got so little of it. Not to mention the fact she'd been having a very enjoyable dream about her ex-fiance Maligore.
"She's alone!" Jaydos repeated. "It's the middle of the night in Angel Grove, and she's out for a walk! It's the perfect time to collect her!"
The pirate was awake at once. "Excellent!" she declared, slamming the door in Jaydos' face as she did so. A few moments later she strode out into the main chamber, dressed and ready for an early day of assaults on the Earth. "Piranatrons!" she ordered. "Front and center!"
A school of the fishy fighters jumped up into existence at her command, and a few kicks got Rygog out of his deep slumber. "Rygog," she ordered as soon as his brain, what there was of it, was able to take orders, "take these Piranatrons and go down to Angel Grove."
"What for, my queen?" he asked a bit groggily. "It's the middle of the night! The Rangers are all asleep!"
Divatox screamed in his face, "That's the point! One of them isn't, and I want her! Go capture the Yellow Ranger, she's out walking, and the others won't be able to come help her! It's the absolute perfect time to get her! Think you can do that, or do I need to send Elgar with you?"
Rygog was fully awake and alert at once! "No, my queen!" he shook his head. Elgar was fun to hang around with, but he was really almost useless on missions. Every now and then he did something right, but it wasn't often! Of course, thanks to dumb luck, it was often enough for Divatox not to get rid of him permanently.
"Good!" she paced up and down for a few moments, then turned to glare harshly at Rygog. "Why haven't you left yet?"
Rygog, who had been waiting formal orders to go, jumped. "Your pardon, great queen!" he apologized, bowing over and over again, then teleported out with the Piranatrons, as Divatox waved at him in something that might have been orders to go. Then again, with that one finger up, it might not have been. . .but it wasn't his job to think. Just to do.
Divatox threw her head back and laughed, enjoying the sensation of being in total control of a situation. Very very very soon, she mused, she would have the Yellow Ranger captive, and then Jaydos. . . she paused and glanced at the ancient warrior, who was peering into the periscope. "Get away from that!" she snapped. "That's mine!"
Jaydos paid as much attention to her as if she hadn't even spoken. Her eyes glinted a bright red, then blasted at him with double lasers. He fell back, turning to her in startlement. "When I say get away, I mean get away!" she growled, marching over to the device herself. "This is mine, and no one else gets to look at it without my permission!"
"Fine!" Jaydos tossed his head. "Just remember who's paying you a fortune to get ahold of that Ashley!"
Divatox flatly ignored him, he could pay her triple fortunes, and that wouldn't get him permission to touch her periscope! That was her toy, her plaything, and no one laid a hand on it without her permission. She pulled it down and turned it onto Angel Grove, choosing the lake to peer out of this time. She wanted to watch the Yellow Ranger's capture in full and living color.
But perhaps Divatox should not have ignored Jaydos. If she had kept her attention on him, she might've noticed the slight nod that he did as he made a decision. The ancient warrior had many faults, not the least of which was a complete contempt for every other living being in creation.
To put it simply, Jaydos could've given Lord Zedd lessons in how to
break a deal.
The night was quiet as Ashley walked through the streets. She kept herself alert at all times, even for a Power Ranger it was dangerous at night sometimes. She'd never really been out this late by herself before, and found the night scents and sounds somewhat intoxicating as she wandered.
_I could get to like this,_ she considered. _It's peaceful, no one's bothering me, I don't have to worry about anything at the moment, except Divatox, and we have to worry about THAT all the time. I've actually sorta gotten used to it. Wonder if the others have._
Thinking about the pirate turned Ashley's attention to being a Ranger, and that in turn led to thoughts of her Turbo Key. She quickly dipped a hand into the usual pocket, and blanched to realize that it was empty! _Oh, crap! I must've left it back at the house! I'd better run back and get it, just in case. _
As she turned back around, she was startled nastily to find herself staring right into Rygog's ugly face! "Oh, this is not how I wanted to start off my day!" she groaned.
"Hey, it's not any easier on me! I was enjoying a nice restful sleep when Divatox woke me up to get you!" Rygog retorted. "If you'd just stayed asleep like a normal human, then we could've both avoided this."
Ashley snorted. "We still can, just run on back to the SpaceBase! You're going to get your butt beat anyway!"
"We'll see about that!" Rygog growled. "Piranatrons, attack!"
_I would have to leave my Key at home when they attack!_ she cussed herself out as the Piranatrons rushed her. _At least I remembered my communicator! I can get some help!_ She jumped away, hoping to get some free space and time to call. "Guys!" she yelled into the communicator, then the realization struck her that it was three in the morning. _Everyone's going to be asleep! Alpha's probably recharging or something, and I don't know about Dimitria! But I'm on my own here!_
Her attention was suddenly snagged by a Piranatron as it delivered a viscious punch to her stomach. The air whooshed out of her before she could block the blow, and she staggered back. _I've got to work out more with T.J.,_ she thought as she recovered from the blow and delivered a stronger one to the same Piranatron. "That's how it's done!" she snapped, leaping fully into the fight. _I guess this counts as my morning workout!_
She whirled into a graceful blur of motion, fighting with a bizarre combination of gymnastics, martial arts, and just plain flat out street brawling. Anything and everything she could do to keep those things away from her, she did.
"Argh, this is getting us nowhere!" Rygog growled from where he had been watching the fight. He didn't mind getting into a battle, but he was still yawning. As alert as he tried to be, it was still far too early in the morning for villany! He charged towards the combating Ranger, knocking his own Piranatrons out of the way in his mad dash. Ashley was so deep within the fight she didn't notice him coming up to her until it was quite literally too late.
With a quick blow of his sword to the back of her head, Rygog took the Yellow Ranger down. He laughed a little as she collapsed, almost into his arms. "I have succeeded, my queen!"
Divatox's voice echoed in his ears. "Then get her back to the SpaceBase, idiot!"
"Yes, Divatox!" Rygog laughed. This was really the easiest
he'd ever captured anyone! He really would have to look more deeply into
this 'getting up early' thing!
"So, this is the great Yellow Ranger," Divatox purred as she walked around and around the slowly-reviving captive. "She doesn't seem so tough now! Good work, Rygog!" she favored her henchmutant with a compliment.
"Thank you, my queen!" Rygog saluted her, doing his level best to stand at attention. It wasn't often she praised him this extravagantly! Most of the time if something went right, she took all the credit. For one moment, he thought she might have been softening, until she pushed him out of the way and into Elgar. _Nope, she's just the same as she's always been!_
"Uh, what's going on?" Elgar shook his head and came awake as Rygog pushed himself away from the resident idiot.
Divatox paid no attention whatsoever to her nephew as Ashley's eyes came all the way open. The Yellow Ranger looked up to see she was tied to a chair, and being glared at by her worst enemy. "Let me out of here!" were the first words falling from Ashley's lips. "Now!"
"Oh, no!" Divatox smiled, tracing one finger down Ashley's cheek almost delicately. She so enjoyed this part of a capture. Watching the prisoner squirm, trying to escape, then slowly realizing that they couldn't. It was one of the reasons she'd gone into piracy. That, and the prospect of unlimited wealth and power appealed to her as well.
The pirate looked up as Jaydos detached himself from the wall he'd been leaning against and came over to stare deeply into Ashley's eyes. "Yes," he nodded after a few long moments. "She is the one. Kill her."
"What?" Ashley jerked at the ropes that bound her, trying with all her strength to get free. "What are you talking about, I'm the one what?"
Jaydos punched her hard in the stomach, enjoying the grunt of pain he worked out of her with that. "The one who is going to be killed," he told her, then looked to Divatox. "As soon as she's taken care of, you get your money."
"I know that!" Divatox growled. "You don't have to keep repeating it over and over again! I'm not stupid!"
Her erstwhile partner glanced at Elgar, then back at the queen, muttering something under his breath about how some things ran in families. Even he knew enough not to say that outloud to Divatox on her own SpaceBase. "I'll leave you two alone, then!" he chuckled a bit. He'd done quite a bit of research on Divatox and her usual methods of dispatching a captive before he'd even come up to the SpaceBase, and even he didn't have a strong enough stomach for what he was sure would follow.
"You do that," Divatox smiled, an expression that chilled Ashley to her very marrow. She did not like the way the pirate kept looking at her.
_I hope the guys can find me in time! I have NO intentions of dying up here, or at all, anytime soon! And I really want to know who this guy is, and why he wants me dead!_ Ashley shuddered a little as Jaydos left, and Divatox turned her full attention to her.
The pirate licked her lips thoughtfully as she stared at the young girl, and Ashley shivered at the sight of that tongue. She wondered briefly if Divatox was part anteater, that thing was absolutely inhuman.
"Oh, don't worry," Divatox reassured her, or attempted to. "I've got something much more interesting in mind than death!"
"I'd rather die than spend another second here with you!" Ashley grunted as Divatox slapped her suddenly.
"You're going to wish you were dead by the time I'm through with
you," she promised. "And this is just the beginning, Yellow Ranger!
Just the beginning!"
T.J. slowly pulled his clothes on the next morning, yawning heavily as he did so. The Red Ranger was a heavy sleeper, and not precisely what might be referred to as a 'morning person'. Hearing his communicator go off wasn't what he wanted to hear, either. "What is it, Dimitria?" he muttered thickly into the device. _And this better be VERY good!_
"Rangers," it was an open call to all of them, he noticed belatedly. "Report to the Power Chamber at once, I have grave news."
"On the way, Dimitria," he grunted as he headed downstairs, glad his aunt and uncle never got up til past noon on Saturdays like this. Seeing him teleport out in a flash of red light might've been a little bit hard to explain.
T.J. arrived in the Power Chamber yawning, and barely noticed that only three other flashes, green, blue, and pink teleported in with him. "What is it?" he asked.
"Rangers," Dimitria looked at them all quietly. "Ashley has been captured by Divatox."
Four voices chorused on one word. "What?"
"Yo, yo, yo, Rangers, look at the Viewing Globe!" Alpha instructed. As they did so, they saw Ashley walking out of her house and down the street. "According to our scanners, she had a serious nightmare, and went out for a walk!"
The Rangers watched as the image of Ashley was ambushed by Piranatrons and Rygog. She put up a good fight, but in the end, Rygog simply conked her on the back of the head with his sword and took her away. "What do they want with her?" Cassie wondered, remembering her own brief time of imprisonment by Divatox and Havoc.
"We do not know at the moment, Cassie," Dimitria told her. "But we are scanning the SpaceBase now for any sign of weakness in their shields."
Justin started over to the controls and started helping Alpha search for anything that could help them get in. When Divatox and Havoc had kept the Turbo MegaZord captive behind those shields, they'd had to wait until she lowered them to get through, the results they'd gotten with scanning then were now being used to pinpoint any weakness that might be there this time.
Carlos stayed a little away from the others, his mind still clouded and controlled by Jaydos. _Does my master have something to do with this?_ he wondered. _If so, it is for the best of course. In his wisdom, he knows all. If she must perish for him, then so must it be._
He twitched for a moment as those thoughts went through his mind. _Wait. Ashley's my friend. We have to get her out of there!_ For a brief moment, obedience and friendship warred within.
Friendship never stood a chance.
_Whatever Jaydos wants,_ he told himself over and over, _is what I want._
"Carlos?" he looked up at Dimitria's voice to see her wise eyes focused on her. "We will rescue her," their mentor promised. "No matter what it takes, we will get her back. Divatox will not be permitted to harm her, I swear it."
The Green Ranger nodded only, not revealing his true desires; he'd never heard Dimitria speak with such conviction. Even when Cassie had been abducted by Havoc, she had always remained calm. But now, there was an edge to her voice that startled him a great deal. "Thanks, Dimitria," he said in his softly accented voice.
Dimitria closed her eyes in concentration as Alpha and Justin used the Power Chamber equipment to scan for Ashley. She was looking for the Yellow Ranger in a much more esoteric way, using the powers of her mind and soul. As her mind touched the aura around the SpaceBase, she frowned mentally. _So, the Ancient Foe has joined forces with Divatox. This is not good. He seeks to upset the balance of what must be. And he has. . ._she frowned even more deeply as she noticed something else. _I cannot speak of this, though. The Rangers would never understand. But that must be repaired as well._
Dimitria was busy scanning the world for the Foe, as the Rangers searched
for Ashley. None of them noticed Carlos teleporting out.
"Greetings, master," Carlos immediaedly prostrated himself before Jaydos as he appeared in the hidden homebase. "I have come to your call."
The ancient one nodded, smiling in pleasure. He had won again, and there was nothing he enjoyed more after a victory than a good rousing round of physical activitiy with whoever his chosen lover of the moment was. "I have once more defeated my long-time foe," he favored Carlos with knowledge. "Prepare yourself for me."
He watched in pleasure as Carlos displayed his full exquisite body for him. _Quite nice, quite nice. Once I have her head, I just might keep him around for a while. Long enough to enjoy myself for some time, at the least. But now is not the time for making plans, now is the time for CELEBRATION!_
Jaydos removed his own clothing, then ran a finger delicately across Carlos's shoulders to his chest. As hard as he tried, his thoughts always returned to business, though. _He works out. Very nice. I could use him as the basis for my new army. I will need one quite soon. First to dispatch Divatox, then these 'Power Rangers', and finally to accomplish what I began so long ago. By the time the Warrior is reborn, I will have taken over everything, and our war will FINALLY be ended forever!_
"Am I not pleasing you, master?" Carlos' voice brought Jaydos back to whatever passed for reality in the twisted one's mind. He remembered he'd implanted several powerful suggestions/orders within his slave's mind, chief amongst them being his own sexual pleasure. If it looked like something was interfering, then the slave reacted.
"Of course you are," he petted Carlos on the head, and took his seat again. "Continue doing so," with a simple gesture he indicated what he desired, and as Carlos bent to that task, Jaydos let his mind roam free while his body reveled in the pleasures at hand.
_Once I've celebrated my victory, I'll have to go back to the SpaceBase. Of course, that violet haired shrew won't much enjoy my arrival when I get there!!! Especially not since I'm not leaving without every speck of wealth she has, and her and every last member of that mutated crew of hers will be dead! I will share no part of my fortune, especially not with her!_
He ran his fingers through Carlos' hair as he mused further upon what he would do once he had done away with everyone who could so much as lift a finger to stop him. He regretted his controlling magics could only work upon one person at a time these days; if he could control entire nations as he had in his youth, then the world would be his for the taking. He laughed low and evilly as he imagined himself upon the throne of the world, wealth piled around him, and the soul of the Warrior gone forever, never to bother him again. All the magical might of the world at his command again, armies ready and willing to die for him, and the most delectable of men and women at his beck and call.
"Soon," he murmured to himself as he gathered his human toy
into his arms. "Soon it will all be mine again, and this time, there
is nothing that can get in my way."
Ashley struggled in her bonds as hard as possible, hoping they'd weaken enough for her to escape, if only for a few moments, long enough to get a signal to the Rangers. _I don't know what Divatox has in mind, but I don't want to stick around and find out!_
She was forced to look into her enemy's eyes as Divatox pulled her chin up and stared sharply at her. She had the unsettling feeling of being measured for something, though for what, she had no idea. She shuddered suddenly, and Divatox laughed. "This is going to be easy. Porto!"
The chubby scientist was by her side in a moment. "Yes, my queen?"
"You have what I ordered you to build?" the pirate wanted to know. Porto nodded over and over again, producing a slim device. "Excellent!" Divatox snatched it from her science officer.
"What's that?" Ashley dared to ask, though she really didn't want to know. She worked her wrists back and forth, trying to get up enough friction to tear through the ropes that bound her. "Something new to style your hair with?"
Divatox growled and slapped her several times harshly in succession. "You're going to learn to treat me with a little more respect than that, Ranger!" she hissed. "Before too long, you're going to be calling me queen! Just like all the other hired help around here!"
Ashley couldn't help but laugh. "In case it somehow escaped your attention, I'm not one of your little stooges! To start with, I actually have an I.Q.!"
"Hey!" Elgar protested. "I have an I.Q.!"
"That remains to be seen," Porto muttered as Divatox pushed him out of the way as she began to once more pace around the throne room. Elgar scratched his head a little, and muttered to Rygog, "Um, just what is an I.Q.?"
The chief of Divatox's forces sighed deeply. _And to think, my mother wanted me to be a doctor! But, no, I had to take up piracy instead!_ "Forget it, Elgar!"
"Uh, forget what, Rygog?" Divatox's nephew tried to figure out what was going on, completely oblivious as always.
Divatox returned to stare at Ashley. She was enjoying stretching this out, making the Ranger wonder just what was going to happen to her. She smiled. "Time to join the ranks of evil, Yellow Ranger!"
"Hah!" Ashley laughed. "You've got to be kidding!"
The lavender-haired pirate laughed, and aimed the device at Ashley. _No more playing around! Time for the real games to begin!_ With a flick of a switch, a beam of pale blue light washed over the Yellow Ranger. She threw her head back, screaming in agony as her mind was twisted and bent to Divatox's desires.
Divatox watched in sick pleasure and eagerness both as Ashley tossed her head this way and that. There was very little she enjoyed more than seeing someone of good bent under the power of evil. Back and forth Ashley rocked in the chair, finally tipping it over and falling out of the way of the beam. The evil woman turned it off and beckoned to the Piranatrons to untie the Ranger.
_Was she in it long enough?_ Divatox wondered. Her question was answered as Ashley's eyes opened. Where before they had been filled with enormous strength and determination not to serve evil, now they held only complete and total obedience. Divatox smiled slowly.
"Who am I, slave?" she almost hissed the words. Ashley stood up, turned, then dropped to one knee.
"You are Divatox, Queen Pirate of the Universe," she replied, her voice flat and without emotion.
"And who are you?"
"I am the Huntress," the young girl spoke. "I bear no other name and no other task save to hunt down those who you command."
Divatox smiled. "And you shall hunt someone very special, for me,
Huntress. Someone very special indeed."
"Has anyone seen Carlos?" T.J. asked suddenly, noticing that the Green Ranger had vanished sometime while they searched for Ashley. Justin shook his head.
"Nope," he said. "Cassie?"
Before the Pink Ranger could reply, a green flash of light signaled Carlos's return to the Power Chamber. "Where have you been?" T.J. wondered. "We were starting to think maybe Divatox had captured you too!"
"No, I'm fine," Carlos told them. "I just wanted to get out and get some air before I went stir-crazy in here. I don't do well under pressure."
"I've noticed that," Cassie almost cracked, remembering some of her friend's grades on pop quizzes. "But we still haven't found Ashley."
Justin's wild shout interrupted them suddenly. "Guys! I think I managed to penetrate the SpaceBase shields enough to get a visual! We can't teleport in or Ashley out, but it's a beginning!"
"Bring it up on the Viewing Globe, Justin," Dimitria requested gently. The Blue Ranger worked quickly, and a few moments later they were all staring up at the monitor. What they saw sickened and repelled three of them.
To Carlos it brought back memories, and a touch of rage that his master had not been obeyed. _Jaydos said that the Warrior had been destroyed! I do not understand this! Why does she live still, kneeling before Divatox?_
"I don't believe it!" T.J.'s fists clenched. "Divatox must've brainwashed her somehow! There's no way Ashley would work for her willingly!"
Justin and Cassie both nodded fiercely. Cassie looked away from the screen, she couldn't stand to see Ashley on her knees in front of their worst enemy, it hurt every inch of her soul to see that. "Justin, can you get through the shields, and either get us there, or here out??"
"I don't know," Justin was already back at work at the controls, the hideous scene in the Globe had vanished. "But I'm going to try."
Dimitria watched quietly as the Rangers went back to work. As unnoticeably as possible, she also observed Carlos, sighing internally. _If only I could let him know what I know. But I am forbidden. Those blasted Inquiran oaths that prevent me from helping the Rangers more than I am at the moment! "To know all, to tell little", bah! This could mean the difference between life and death to Ashley, and I cannot say a word to her, or to the others about it! I cannot even tell her I know she is the Warrior unless and until she mentions it to ME! Her parents haven't even told her, if they even know! It's been so long, will they even recognize the signs?_
The veiled one turned her thoughts and mind inwards once again as she
began to probe the outside of the SpaceBase shields for anything could
be exploited as a weakness. If she could not speak to her young pupil,
then she would at least do all within her power to free her to take her
part in the coming battle.
Jaydos arrived back on the SpaceBase in fine form; he'd had great pleasure of his slave for some hours, then dispatched him back to whatever mundane tasks he'd been doing before. "Divatox!" he called out as he arrived. "Divatox, it's time! I want her head, now!"
He toyed with the dagger in one hand, fantasizing on how it would be to slide the sharp blade in between the space pirate's ribs. One clean thrust, a spurt of blood, and it would be over with. A thousand year career of evil and villany, all ended because of her unwise alliance with the greatest evil of all time. It almost made Jaydos laugh.
If he hadn't been the one planning on killing her, he might have laughed. Instead, he only enjoyed the irony of it. "Divatox!" he screamed it this time. The entire SpaceBase was deserted, it seemed, not even a Piranatron in sight! "Where is everyone?" he saw the chair where the Warrior had been tied was on it's side, and wondered if somehow she had escaped. _No, not with every Piranatron and mutant in this place against her!_
"Jaydos," he whirled to see Divatox standing behind him, arms folded and eyes blazing. "Do you have my money?"
"Do you have the Warrior's head?" he retorted. "I want that before you get anything!"
The pirate nodded. "I have it," _along with the rest of her, serving me!_ "Now, deliver the goods."
Jaydos smiled. He'd known he could count on her. "With pleasure," he turned, as if to leave to get the money, then leaped back, blade outwards and stabbing towards where Divatox had been a moment before.
And where Ashley Hammond stood now. She moved faster than the eye could follow, snatching the dagger from him and throwing it point-first into the wall. It stuck three inches deep in there as she turned back to him. "None shall harm my mistress," she intoned, her voice almost dead. "Not even you."
_That lying, treacherous, bitch!_ Jaydos swore to himself. _This is the last time I get outside help! I'll have to take care of her myself! Well, at least like this, I'll KNOW she's dead! And it won't cost me so much, either!_ He backpedaled as fast as he could, noticing Elgar, Rygog, Porto, and a squad of Piranatrons just behind Ashley. "You will pay for this, Divatox!" he swore. "No one doublecrosses Jaydos and gets away with it!"
"Ashley," Divatox lazed the word out. "See to it that this fool pays for his attempt to doublecross me."
The Yellow Ranger saluted. She didn't have her Turbo Charger, but a side effect of the beam her mistress had bathed her in had given her strength almost equal to that of her morphed self. Destroying this fool would be simplicity itself. "As you command, my queen!" she turned her dead gaze upon Jaydos, who backed away even faster. In all the time he had fought the Warrior, in all the different guises he had seen her in, never had he faced her like this. It was chilling. Simply chilling.
"You will never win, Warrior!" he declared. "I have killed you a thousand times, I know how you die! I can show you your own death, a thousand times over! You can never defeat me, for you never have!"
Her response froze even his blood. "For the glory of Divatox, I will kill he who has threatened her life."
_She's serious. She has NO morals, no qualms about killing me, Divatox has destroyed all of those! Or hidden them, which has the same effect! I am in SERIOUS trouble! I've got to get out of here!_ He stepped away and invoked a spell of teleportation, returning to Angel Grove. At least there he would have a chance of survival.
Maybe a small one.
Ashley slid through the streets of Angel Grove, enjoying the feel of stalking her prey. Her opponent had called her the Warrior, but now she felt more like a huntress. An animal leashed until now, held back by duty and honor and commitmenets. But now, she was released, set free by her wonderful mistress Divatox to stalk through the shadows and slay the foe who had dared to raise a blade to her queen.
_He will pay_, the words floated through her mind. _None shall stand in my way. I am the servant of Divatox, and I shall avenge this slight to her! He was to pay her great wealth, not to attack her!_ For a brief second she wondered just what the agreement between Divatox and Jaydos had been, then shook her head. It was not her place to know such things. All she needed to do was catch her prey and destroy it, bringing what remained, if anything, back to Divatox in a tattered, bloody mess.
She found she loved her job.
Ashley raisd her head suddenly, hearing a noise ahead of her. _Ah, so there he is!_ All of her senses had been sharpened a thousand times over, til she could hear the wind in the trees over a mile away, could see a fly crawling on a windowsill from three blocks over, could taste the subtlest flavor, could feel the most delicate variations in sufaces, could almost track by scent alone. "You are here, my prey," her voice was liquid now, life returning as she thrilled to the hunt.
"We are not meant to fight in this place or time, Warrior," she looked above her to see the enemy there, a blade in his hands. She smiled. It seemed he wanted a fair fight. But she was no warrior. She was a hunter, and a hunter stalked her prey, trapped, and slaughtered it. She had stalked, and now it was time to to trap.
"I am no Warrior," she returned. "I am Divatox's Huntress. I live to kill, and kill to live, all for her."
The foe shook his head. "You are Ashley Hammond," he couldn't belive he was actually trying to reverse the brainwashing Divatox had put her through! "You are the Warrior! We are destined to fight for all time, you are not to kill me, you are to be killed by me!"
"No," the Huntress replied, even the name of Ashley slipping away from her as she fell deeper and deeper into the brainwashed persona. "I am to slay you for my queen!"
He backed away as she leaped towards him, eyes flashing with rage and hatred. _Well, I was going to kill her anyway! This is just a little earlier than planned!_ He brought up his blade, thrusting towards her, and expected to bring it back bloody and disgusting. Instead, it gleamed clean and bright in the moonlight, and she flipped away merrily, enjoying the look of surprise on his face.
"I am too swift for you now, my enemy!" she taunted him. "Though when I did not serve my queen I might've fallen prey to you, now I am the Huntress, and the Huntress shall fall to no one!"
_She definitly has Divatox's ego! The brainwashing must've transferred it!_ He sheathed his sword, it was of no use anyway. He'd seen how fast she moved, and she was right. There was no way he could've hit her with it. He'd have to get rid of her some other way, either that, or find a way to shift the advantage in their fight back to him, by reversing what Divatox had done to her. _For once in our extremely long associatoin, I have to help her. I think I shall be ill. But such is life._
One thing Jaydos had learned was to roll with the punches, and Divatox's
turning of his own eternal enemy against him, in a way he could not defeat
her, was one low punch indeed. But it was nothing he couldn't handle.
"Guys!" Justin shouted. "Ashley's on Earth!"
"Yes!" T.J. grinned. "Let's go get her back!"
Cassie was a bit more reluctant. "If we can. We don't know what Divatox did to her. If we don't know that, can we help her?"
"We shall try, Cassie," Dimitria promised them. "But do all within your power to return her to the Power Chamber, so Alpha can examine and determine what was done to her."
Carlos just came to his feet. "Let's go," was all he said. _Until my master gives me orders otherwise, then I shall follow these fools. For the glory of Jaydos and the defeat of the Warrior!_
After a quick "Shift into Turbo!" the four of them had teleported to the alleyway where the scanners had detected their missing companion.
"Ashley!" T.J. saw a pair of dark figures ahead of them, one of which bore a distinct resemblence to his friend and teammate.
A harsh voice responded, one he almost couldn't recognize. "Leave this place, Rangers! This is a personal matter!"
"Ashley?" Cassie breathed the word out. "What's happened to you?"
"Turbo Headlights!" Justin called out, turning on the lights in his helmet. Two beams of illumniance darted out, chasing away the shadows and revealing Ashley and whoever she was fighting. Carlos's eyes widened under his helmet to see his master there fighting she who had been his friend. Jaydos simply looked at them, unimpressed in the extreme.
Ashley, on the other hand, stared with dark and baleful eyes at those who intruded on her hunt. Divatox had given her a tight-fitting outfit that showed off every curve she possessed, which was a lot more than any of them had imagined. If Carlos hadn't been under the spell of Jaydos, he would've had his jaw on the floor in sheer awe at seeing the detailing of that black suit. She bore no visible weapons, but her eyes flashed with an unholy hatred for anything that stood in her way. "Leave this place!" she repeated. "Do you not understand simple words such as that?"
"Ashley!" T.J. stepped towards her. "What's Divatox done to you?"
"There is no Ashley!" she replied. "I am the Huntress! I am Divatox's Huntress, and you are standing in the way of my hunt! Aid me in taking my prey, or take yourself away, I care not which! But choose and choose quickly, for I have no patience with fools and weaklings!"
Cassie joined T.J. "You're not Divatox's Huntress!" she protested. "You're Ashley Hammond, our friend!"
Jaydos glanced towards the Rangers. "She will not listen to you, Pink Ranger," he told them. "The brainwashing that Divatox has put her through is too strong. Treat her as your enemy, for she will surely treat you as hers."
"Who are you?" Justin wondered as he joined Cassie and T.J., Carlos a bare step behind him. He was surprised when the man gave a little mocking bow.
"I have been known by many names throughout the centuries," he said. "You may call me Jaydos. For my own reasons I paid Divatox to do a job, and this," he gestured to the Huntress, "was the result. Now she seeks my life, at Divatox's command. And if you will excuse me, I do believe I must be going."
Before either Huntress or Rangers could move, he had turned and vanished into thin air. The Huntress turned to the Rangers, eyes blazing with unsupressed rage. "You interfered in my hunt!" she growled. "Do so again, and I shall hunt you!"
"Ashley!" Cassie reached out a hand towards her, only to have it slapped away. The Huntress leaped back, then was gone. The pretty Oriental turned to her friends.
"What do we do now?"
The Huntress dropped to her knees before Divatox when she returned to the SpaceBase. "I am sorry, my queen!" she grovelled. "My prey escaped me!"
Divatox laid a hand on the Huntress' shoulder. "It is forgiven," she felt generous today. "The Rangers interfered, as they always do. They gave the prey time to escape," she took a moment to examine the thing she had made. She didn't even think of her new servant as human or Power Ranger anymore. The Huntress was simply the Huntress, the living tool she would use to bring down first Jaydos, and then the Rangers, once and for all!
"My queen!" Rygog grumped, "why are you letting her have the fun of taking out that human? I've served you longer and with more honor than she has! She was one of your greatest enemies less than twelve hours ago!"
Divatox leaped up and kicked Rygog squarely in one knee, grinning visciously as he hopped around the throne room. "Don't ever, ever question my orders again, is that understood?" she growled. "I know what's best, that's why I'm the queen, remember?"
"Yes, my queen!" Rygog squeaked out. He wanted to glare nastily at the Huntress, but didn't even dare do that.
The pirate queen suffered another of her mood swings and sat back down. "Huntress," she said quietly. The Huntress stepped towards her in response. "Remain here at the SpaceBase for now. When I have devised a plan, you wil go out again."
"Shall I face the Rangers or the prey again, my queen?"
Divatox thought for a few moments, then shook her head. "I shall decide that once I have a plan," she determined. "But whatever it is, believe me, we shall triumph!"
"Yes!" the Huntress laughed, enjoying the feel of a totally refreshing evil laugh. She finally understood how Divatox could be so evil, why shouldn't she be? It was wonderful to hurt, to kill, to betray, to hate, to do and be everything that her upbringing had told her not to do. She ignored the small voice within her mind that shrieked out this was wrong, she wasn't the servant of Divatox, she was Ashley, the Yellow Ranger, and she shouldn't hurt others!
"You did well in the hunt, my Huntress," Divatox praised her. "And I am proud of you. Your prey fears you, for the first time in quite a long time. And you know nothing of why you two battle?"
The Huntress shook her head. "No, my queen," she replied. "The only time I can remember seeing him first is when he attacked you."
_The brainwashing took her true memories,_ Divatox remembered. _All she knows now is the memories I implanted within her about being my Huntress. Ah, well, I knew already she knew nothing. This is merely confirmation. Soon, they will meet again, but this time not as opponents in a battle field. No, they shall meet as Huntress and Prey, and there has never been the prey that can escape my Huntress!_
The fact the Huntress had only existed for less than three hours completely
slipped Divatox's mind.
"Dimitria, we screwed it up!" T.J. removed his helmet as the Rangers returned to the Power Chamber. "Ashley thinks she's Divatox's Huntress, and there was some guy there, Jay, Jayd, something or other."
"Jaydos," Carlos said softly. Justin nodded briefly, none of them noticing the strange flat look in Carlos's eyes.
Dimitria nodded slowly. "Jaydos is a mighty warrior," was all she said. "It is within the realm of possibility that Divatox had intended to use him against you all. But for some reason, they are now opponents."
Justin shook his head. "Who can say if that's good or bad?" he wondered. "I mean, it's good that we don't have to fight him, but bad that Ashley's fighting us!"
"Divatox has trapped Ashley's memories away from her, and replaced them with false ones of serving her as her Huntress," Dimitria told them what she had learned from a gentle brush against Ashley/Huntress's aura. "It is possible I may be able to reverse the brainwashing if I have her here, though."
Carlos nodded slowly as he watched the others. He wondered briefly if his master had any special instructions for him, then his eyes darkened as he felt the call. I am coming, my lord! he whispered in his mind, then stepped away. Once no eyes were on him, he teleported out.
T.J. and the others didn't notice, they were too busy scanning for Ashley anywhere in Angel Grove or on the SpaceBase. Dimitria frowned as she looked at where the Green Ranger had stood only moments before. _Once Ashley has been restored to us, I must heal him. He cannot remain under Jaydos's control for much longer. It could cause irreversible brain damage if it is not changed._
"Dimitria?" Alpha looked up at her and spoke softly. He knew the Rangers wouldn't notice him either. "Dimitria, something's wrong, isn't it?"
"Yes, Alpha," she spoke every bit as softly as he did. "It is almost Ashley's sixteenth birthday, and Jaydos seeks to subvert one of her friends against her."
The little droid shuddered, he knew well what would happen on Ashley's birthday. That Jaydos was turning someone against her was even worse. "Does she know? Or did she?"
"No," Dimtria shook her head. "She will learn, though. We can only hope that she does not learn too late."
Alpha nodded as he returned to the computers, seeking an answer for both Ashley's brainwashing, and what had been done to Carlos. He knew better than to speak of it to the Rangers; he was bound by the same oaths that Dimitria herself was, as much as they both hated it.
Cassie kept up the seach, even though she didn't understand half the controls she was working with. Justin was the genius on the team, Carlos understand more than he let on, she'd often felt, but she wasn't going to give up. Her best friend needed her, and Cassie Chan never let her friends down.
T.J. paced a little, noticing in the back of his mind that Carlos was gone again. _I'm going to have to talk to him about this. Find out what he's doing. I didn't think he was THAT claustrophobic!_ He flexed his hands a little as he paced, letting Justin and Cassie continue looking for a way to get Ashley out and free. _I don't know, I really could use some time out myself. Work on my swing. Work off this stress. Well, once we get her back, that's what I'm going to do._
A smile flickered across his face as he imagined Divatox's face on a baseball, and himself hitting a homerun that knocked his enemy right into another galaxy.
Dreams were sweet.
"Huntress!" Divatox snapped. "Attend to me!"
The Huntress was there at once. "Yes, my queen?" she asked, lowering her head in respect to the great pirate queen she served so faithfully.
"You shall go down and attack the Power Rangers," Divatox ordered. For over an hour she had mused, taking the various strengths and weaknesses of both sides, the Rangers and Jaydos. Finally, just out of sheer annoyance and pique she had made her decision.
The Huntress nodded. "As you command, my queen!" she was about to teleport off when Divatox laid a hand on her arm.
"If your prey should interfere, which I doubt he will," Divatox instructed, "be certain to take him down first. The Rangers will be around for some time. The prey is not quite as . . .available, and has become quite skilled in hiding over his life."
"As you command, my queen," Ashley/Huntress bowed again. "I live only to serve you," even as she thought that, a flicker from the back of her mind danced back up to tease her.
She and four others in colored costumes were standing against Divatox, weapons of various types in their hands. They would not let her win, would not let her evil reign over the world they protected! Even if it cost them their lives, they would prevent this!
She shook for a moment, and barely heard Divatox growling, "Huntress! I gave you an order, why have you not left yet?"
The memory vanished, as if it had never been. "I am sorry, my queen," she bowed again. "I go at once!"
Huntress vanished a moment later, and Divatox pulled down her periscope a moment later, staring to see where her servant had gone. _If her real memories are returning, this could be trouble!_ "Porto!" she screamed. "Get here right now!"
"What is it, great one?" he asked, bowing over and over again to her.
"What are the odds my Huntress's true memories are returning this soon?" she snapped.
Porto thought quickly, reviewing what he'd used to make the brainwashing device. "It is possible, my queen," he admitted. "But very unlikely. If they are, the flashbacks will be very short and not contain much she could use to grab onto and revert to her old way of being. It would take a constant barrage of her memories before the wall my brainwashing waves put in her mind would fall. If that happens, then you will lose your Huntress."
Divatox's eyes narrowed. "That had better not happen, Porto!" she snapped. "Elgar, Rygog, take some Piranatrons and go down to support my Huntress. Make certain the Rangers do nothing that will remind her of who she used to be. She is my property for all time, and I will have nothing and no one change that! is that understood?"
Rygog groaned a little. _Great, just what I wanted, the chance to baby-sit Divatox's new toy! I didn't sign on for this!_ "Yes, my queen!" was all he said as he and Elgar joined the Piranatrons Divatox called up.
"If you do lose her," Divatox said silkily before they teleported off, "then don't bother coming back to the SpaceBase!"
"Uh, sure, Auntie Di!" Elgar nodded affirmatively, raising hopes he might have had something that resembled a brain inside that huge head of his. Those hopes were dashed moments later when he asked, "What are we having for dinner, anyway?"
"Just get out!" Divatox screamed, sending them all out before
she burst a blood vessel yelling. She shook her head, maybe she should
recruit more Rangers! Not only would it lessen the odds against her, but
they definitly had higher I.Q.'s than the usual mutants around here.
"I have come, Master," Carlos bent his knee before his lord even as he appeared in the chamber. "What do you wish of me?"
Jaydos was storming up and down the room, almost ignoring the slave he had summoned. The Green Ranger waited quietly for his master to speak to him, willing to wait for eternity if that was what it took.
"Take this," Jaydos flung a dagger down at the ground in front of Carlos. "And return to those humans you work with, those Rangers," he commanded. "When the Huntress comes down, and she will, get close enough to her to slam this into her heart!"
Jaydos had thought long on it, and though it would give him the greatest of pleasure to destroy the Warrior himself, this was not the Warrior he faced. She was the Huntress, the warped and twisted slave of Divatox, and there were no rules to cover this sort of engagement. Therefore, he could and would make them up as he went along. He liked that!
"As you say, my lord!" Carlos took the dagger and slid it into his belt. "I will not fail you!"
Jaydos reached out and pulled Carlos closer to him, eyes blazing with a deep anger that terrifed his slave. "Should you fail, you will know what it is to suffer a thousand centuries' worth of pain before you actaully die. I will do things to you that cannot be imagined, and they will not be pleasant, none of them! Is that understood, slave?"
"Y-yes, master," Carlos grovelled at once, doing his best to turn aside his master's wrath. "I will not fail you, I swear it!"
Jaydos threw him against the wall and almost glared at him. "You had better not," he hissed. "Because that's what I'll do to you if I'm in a good mood over you failing! You don't want to know what I'll do if I get angry!"
Carlos nodded briefly and prepared to teleport away, when Jaydos pinned him with a simple glance. "I didn't say for you to leave yet!" he bellowed. "You leave when I say you do, and not before! Do you hear me?"
"Yes, master!" was all Carlos dared to say, he feared for his life if he even opened up his mouth. _What has happened to change my master so much? He is not the gentle lover he was not five hours ago. Now he is a monster!_ His eyes widened for a moment, as a flash of his past, from before his master had chosen him, returned to his spell-clogged brain. He had barely a second to see it, to see the Huntress in normal clothing, smiling at him, and he felt a memory, felt friendship and kinship with her, a commonality of purpose.
Then his master had nearly slapped his head off. "Get out of here!" he growled. "Get out and don't come back unless you've got that dagger drenched with the blood of the Huntress!"
Without another word, Carlos teleported out, returning to the Power Chamber. Jaydos paced up and down in his room, staring at the various paintings of Ashley in all her incarnations. He stopped suddenly, he could swear those things were laughing at him! "Stop it!" he screamed. "Stop laughing at me!"
Soft voices whispered in his mind, or was it one voice? _You can never destroy me, Jaydos. Kill my body a thousand times over, but you can never kill my soul! Have you not figured that out yet? In all the thousands of centuries since our war began, you have not learned the true meaning of it. A pity. For without that knowledge, you will never truly win! Why do you think I eternally return?_
Jaydos's eyes flashed with red fire, reaching out ignite all the paintings there. As he stood in the inferno, untouched by the flames, he swore, "If to win this war I must kill your soul, then kill your soul I shall! Should my slave fail in his task and we come to our appointed battle, Warrior, then I shall find a blade that can kill a soul, and with that, I shall end this endless cycle!"
Only cold, ghostly laughter met his tirade, as Jaydos left the burning room and went to his private library. There had to be something that would kill a soul, he thought. No matter what it was, he would find it. And use it.
He was tired of this war suddenly. It was time for things to end, once
and for all.
"Rangers, the Huntre-er, Ashley, has appeared in the park!" Alpha reported as the alarms went off suddenly. "You're going to have to go there and get her back, it's your only chance to get her free from Divatox!"
Cassie looked around, counting heads in an almost automatic motion. "Hey, where's Carlos?"
"I don't know," T.J. shook his head. Justin frowned.
"He's been acting really weird the last day or so," the Blue Ranger said slowly. "I wonder if he's okay."
A green column of light forestalled further discussion. "Carlos!" T.J. said as soon as he was solid again. "We'll need to talk once we get Ashley back, but she's in the park now, and we've got to go get her!"
Carlos nodded. "Of course," was all he said. _Yes. Get close to her, that I may use this most excellent dagger my master provided me with. Soon shall her blood cover it, and I shall be lifted high in my master's eyes!_
"Shift into Turbo!" T.J. called out. A few seconds later, Red, Pink, Blue, and Green Rangers were standing in front of the Huntress, who was dispatching the Piranatrons that had appeared soon after she had.
"Destroy everything in sight!" she ordered. "Leave nothing standing! This is for the glory of Queen Divatox!"
Cassie rolled her eyes under her helmet. "Oh, stow it, Ashley!" she groaned. "This isn't you, and we both know it! You're one of us, a Turbo Ranger, not one of Divatox's little henchmorons!"
The Huntress laughed as she charged towards them. "I am Divatox's Huntress, and now you are my prey!" she declared. T.J. grabbed her arms as she came close enough and pushed her to the ground, doing his best not to hurt her as he did so.
"You're the Yellow Ranger!" he gritted out as he stared into her blue eyes. "You're Ashley Hammond, our friend!" he insisted. "Don't you remember?"
"I remember only that I must destroy you!"
T.J. was about to say something else, when she kicked him powerfully in the groin and pushed him off her. She laughed coldly. "Men!" she said disdainfully. "They're all the same! Not even worth a fight!"
"What about me, Huntress?" she looked up to see the Green Ranger staring at her. A slow smile spread across her lips as she saw him. _He bears the aura signature of my Main Prey. Why did I not see it before? The Prey must have placed him under an enchantment. Which makes HIM prey, according to the laws of the Hunt._
"You are Prey," she savored the words. "And I shall enjoy taking you down!"
Cassie stared at her friend. "Carlos!" she couldn't believe he had a dagger in his hands, where had that come from? She'd certainly never seen it before! "What are you doing? That's Ashley, our friend, remember?"
The Green Ranger ignored her as he ran towards the Huntress, blade outstretched. She waited for him lazily, eyes dancing with what might have been glee, then as he came within reach, she moved out of the way and landed a powerful blow to his neck, sending him sprawling to the ground.
"Your master must be slipping badly if you are all he can afford to control," she said contemptously. Then she paused for a moment. _How do I know he used to do better?_
Carlos whirled around, seizing the dagger from where it had dropped next to him. "You shouldn't take your eyes off your prey, Huntress," he taunted, drawing her attention. Before the Rangers or the Huntress could move, he had thrown the dagger straight at her.
Bright blood spurted out from the wound, and the Huntress fell, clutching at her shoulder. "Carlos! Ashley!" T.J. screamed, not knowing if he was angry, upset, scared, or some mixture of all three. He ran over to the Huntress, checking her out quickly.
"T.J.?" Cassie's voice was strangled, and he turned to see what it was. The Red Ranger paled under his helmet to see that Carlos had fallen as well. "I can't tell what's wrong with him," she'd demorphed him, it was safe, they were the only ones in the park. "But he's barely breathing, and his pulse is really weak."
"I think Ashley's going to be okay," T.J. reported. "The dagger didn't hit anything vital. But we'd better get them back to thet Power Chamber."
Moving as carefully as they could, the three sound Rangers picked up
their fallen comrades and teleported out of the park.
"Dimitria, what's happened to Carlos?" T.J. asked the minute they were back in the Power Chamber. "Why'd he attack Ashley, and where'd he get that knife from?"
Dimitria looked at the three of them for a long few moments as Alpha began to work on their fallen comrades. "Carlos has been under the spell of a powerful sorcerer and warrior named Jaydos, he whom you met only hours ago as he faced Ashley in her Huntress guise. It is my belief he enspelled Carlos in order to gain information about Ashley he might not otherwise have been able to obtain."
"Why go to all that trouble?" Cassie wondered. "I mean, why would someone like that bother with Ashley, except for being a Power Ranger, she's about the most normal girl I know!"
Dimitria shook her head. "There is far more to Ashley than meets the eye, but I am forbidden to speak of it," she told them. "Only when Ashley herself knows may all be revealed. Suffice it to say for now that Alpha has discovered a way to restore both Ashley and Carlos to their normal states, though I fear neither will remember anything of the past twenty-four hours." _And in poor Carlos's case, this will be a true blessing._
Justin watched both of the people on the medtables carefully, not revealing
anything on his face. He'd never been so scared in his life as he had when
watching Carlos throw that dagger at Ashley. A thousand things had torn
through his mind, including the possibility it was all just some hideous
dream. But when he'd seen the blood, and heard Ashley's scream, he knew
it had been all too real. He sighed deeply. _Some days it doesn't pay to
put your spandex on,_ he thought.
"No, no, no!" Divatox whined. "The Rangers got my Huntress back! They're going to reverse the brainwashing! And I went to so much trouble too!"
Porto stared at her for a moment. "You went to so much trouble?" he murmured, not daring to speak it very loudly. "All you did was point the thing at her! I'm the one who designed and built it for you!"
Divatox whirled on him, her ears were very good. "Did I hear you say something?" she snarled. Porto backed away at once.
"No, my queen!" he denied. "I said nothing!"
"Good!" she glared all around. "And why did you two leave the battle?" she pinned Rygog and Elgar against the wall with her stre alone. "You knew the Rangers could take her with four against one odds! Why did you leave?"
Elgar looked at Rygog, then back at Divatox. "Um, I dunno, Auntie Di, it seemed like a good idea at the time!"
She threw up her hands in disgust and hissed at them, "All of you get out, I'm tired of looking at you!"
The three henchidiots scattered throughout the SpaceBase as fast as
they could to avoid her wrath. Divatox pulled down the periscope and stared
at Angel Grove for the umpteenth time. _I will have my revenge!_ she swore.
_On the Rangers and on that rat Jaydos! Somehow, in some way, I will have
"Hey, look!" Carlos grinned suddenly as Ashley entered the Youth Center. "It's the birthday girl!"
A week had passed since Ashley's brief time as the Huntress, and Carlos' service to Jaydos. True to what Dimitria had said, neither had remembered a thing when they had recovered. Things had quickly returned to normal, with Divatox attacking every now and then, and the five of them launching into action to stop her. Of Jaydos, nothing had been heard, and once the Yellow and Green Rangers had learned what he had done, both were extremely glad.
"Carlos!" Ashley blushed severely as she came to sit with her friends. "My birthday's not til tomorrow!"
"Well, still!" Justin grinned at her. "We're going to have to give you a party!"
Cassie nodded. "A sweet sixteen party!" she added.
"It's not every day you have a birthday," T.J. agreed. Ashley just laughed.
"I wish you guys could come over tonight," she sighed a little immediately afterwards. "But it's 'family only'." _I still don't know why they're all coming tonight. I mean, they've never come for any of my other birthdays, not all at once like this. Even Grandpa came, and I haven't seen him since I was. .. nine, I think._
"Ashley?" Carlos tried to get her attention. "You okay?"
"Hmmm?" she glanced up. "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I was just thinking about some things."
"Oh?" Cassie smiled at her. "Like what?"
Ashley shook her head. "Just this silly little family gathering tonight. Something to do with my birthday, but no one will tell me what it is!"
Carlos giggled lightly. "Ohhh, sounds mysterious! Maybe you'll learn some big family secret!"
"Yeah!" Justin leaned over a little. "Like how you're really related to Divatox!"
"Hey!" Ashley poked the younger Ranger a little. "That's not funny!"
The Rangers relaxed into teasing, and Ashley actually managed to get
her mind off that gathering. Something about how her parents had told her
all her relatives would be getting together had worried her a great deal.
She couldn't put her finger on it, but there was just something about it.
"She knows something's up, Irene," Derek Hammond sighed as he stared out the kitchen window. "Ashley's a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them."
Irene shook her head. "I know she's not stupid, and she probably can tell something's up. We have sort of done the 'sneaking around and acting mysterious' bit you know."
Derek nodded. His daughter had her own secrets, and he respected them. But what she was going to learn tonight was a family secret that had been kept for the past three generations. Now it was her turn to learn it, just as he had on his sixteenth birthday.
"Is everyone here?" he asked. Irene glanced briefly into the family room, and nodded.
"Everyone but Ashley. She's going to be back soon. She had cheerleading practice, then she was going to hang out with her friends at the Youth Center for a while," Ashley's mother looked down at her delicate gold watch. "She should be here in about an hour or so. That's time enough for us to discuss everything with the others and determine just what we're going to tell her."
"Everything," they both looked up to see Daniel Hunter, Irene's father, standing in the doorway between the family room and kitchen where his daughter and son-in-law were talking. "She has to know everything."
The two of them looked at each other. "Everything?" Irene asked softly. "Even about. . ."
Daniel nodded briefly. "She needs to know. She's the Warrior, remember? You guys never told her what she had to know when she was a child, so she's going to have to learn it now."
Irene sighed deeply. "I guess you're right, dad. I really didn't want this to happen."
"None of us did," her father told her. "But this is older and bigger than us. Come on. We've got a lot to prepare for, and not much time."
Together they went to the family room.
"Welcome home, Ashley," her grandfather hugged her as she came in almost an hour later. "We've been expecting you."
Ashley glanced around the room, every relative she had on her mother's side of the family was here, it seemed. And they all looked deadly serious about something. "What is it?" she asked. "Why are you all here?"
"Ashley," her mother came over to her and hugged her, it almost seemed to be formal in a way. "We have something to tell you. Something very special. It's about our family."
She frowned a trifle. "What about it?"
"Let me explain," her grandfather sat down, and gestured her to a large empty chair. "A very long time ago, Ashley, far back in the very beginning of things, there was a tribe of peaceful people who lived in a land very far from here. For centuries they had farmed the land, tended their animals, and lived in peace with all things around them. They belived things would go on in that way forever.
"But nothing lasts forever, not even peace. And one day invaders from outside their territory came, led by a warrior of great strength and power. He had a magic that allowed him to control the minds of those he desired, and that magic had led him to the conquest of half the known world at the time.
"When he reached this tribe's lands, however, he received a hideous shock. Always before when he had attacked, the men had rushed out to do battle, while the women had hidden in their homes. He had used his magic to bend the wills of the male warriors to his, and turned them against their own wives, sisters, and daughters, thus adding to his forces and conquering at the same time. Here, though, the women and men fought equally, and though he could turn the men against their comrades, the women were their battle-companions, and were not easily defeated. The battle was far fiercer than any he had ever fought, and he lost his bid to take over the world that day.
"The last two upon the battlefield were he and the chief of the warriors, a woman named Asona. Asona stared into his eyes, and swore by all her gods that though it took her a thousand years, she would keep the world safe from him. The warrior laughed in her face and ran his blade through her even as she spoke, and her eyes never left his face as she fell. He mocked her proud words, until the moment her ghost arose from her mortal flesh and stood before him.
"'I am more than mortal now, more than I was before,' she told him. 'Give up this quest for power, give your dark magics up, and all will be well. Do not bind yourself and me into an unending struggle, for I will never rest until you are stopped.'
"'Why you?' he asked her. 'Let another stop me, if you do not wish the fight! If another can!'
"'I am the one chosen by fate,' she told him. 'I am the one sent by the gods to stop you, and I will, in every lifetime. We shall meet again, and again, and again, until you learn the greatest lesson of all, or until one of us is dead forever. Hail, and farewell, my true enemy. And so it begins'."
He paused and looked at Ashley for a long moment. Behind her blue eyes was a thoughtfulness he had seldom seen in her. He quietly continued the tale. "Because of Asona's courage, her children had escaped his devestating attack, and into their family line was she reborn. In each lifetime she grew up knowing who she was and what she would be, for the tale was told over and over again, as it has been since that time. Years became centuries, and centuries became millenia, time turned, and places changed, but one thing never changed: on the night of the Dark Moon, in each century, the incarnation of Asona and the living Jaydos, whose dark magics have kept him alive all these centuries."
"We have come to call this incarnation of Asona the Warrior. And in this century," her mother said softly, "you are the Warrior, Ashley. You are the new incarnatoin of Asona."
Ashley said nothing, as she looked at each serious face. She knew, without
knowing how, that they spoke the truth. The tale of Asona and Jaydos had
rung true in her heart and soul. She stood up quietly. "On the night
of the Dark Moon," she said softly. "I will be ready."
In his lair, Jaydos looked up, sensing the awakened soul of his foe.
"The Warrior lives," he said softly, pausing in his search for
a soul-killing weapon. "Welcome back, Asona."
This fanfic was written Meda Conway, and is posted here with her permission.