Legal Disclaimer : Hello again!! Hope you guys like this new fic, it's the sequel to "The Huntress", and is brought to you by the wonders of modern technology, AKA the WWW. Have a good read and let me know your opinions. Jaydos and Ashley's family belong to me, everything else belongs to Saban. Any other superhero teams/people mentioned are also Saban's property, I think, not mine. If you guys want to see more things set in this universe, I want to hear about it!
Ashley Hammond, the Yellow Turbo Ranger, carefully stepped her way through the woods, her every sense alert and her every thought on her adversary. If she let her guard down, even for a second, then she would be done for, and she knew it. He wanted her hide, and he would stop at nothing to get it. She couldn't even use her Ranger powers to defend herself, she had to do this all on her own.
In such a short amount of time, her life had changed dramatically. She'd been happy just being a cheerleader and a Power Ranger, studying design and working out with the other Rangers, defending the Earth. But then she'd been kidnapped by Rygog, brainwashed by Divatox, and the next thing she knew, she was hunting down some enemy of the pirate queen.
But that enemy turned out to be _her_ enemy, more than her mortal enemy, a _blood_ enemy, a soul enemy from the distant past. She had two goals in life now: to protect Earth and to train for the Night of the Dark Moon. On that night, as she had for unknown eons, she would face Jaydos in mortal combat.
"How do you deal with the idea of someone who's been killing you practically from the dawn of civilization?" she muttered to herself as she wiggled through a small opening between two trees. She knew the answer to that already, though. You train to kill them in return. Because there's no way to do anything else. If she didn't fight, Jaydos would hunt her down and kill her. He knew nothing else and wanted nothing else. "One good thing you can say about him," she chuckled softly. "He's committed!" _and he should be! To a psycho ward!_
_Cra-ck!!_ Her head came up, her nostrils flaring like a hunted animal's. She glanced this way and that, seeking out what, or rather, who had made the noise. There! She could see it, a slight shadow just to the left of that large stone! She pulled the dagger she'd taken to carrying from it's sheath up her sleeve and tested the edge quickly. "Perfect," she whispered softly. "Just perfect."
Moving as silently as she could, which these days was _very_ quietly indeed, she started off towards where she'd seen the shadow. She listened carefully for the sound of footsteps moving away or towards her, sniffed deeply in case the foe was wearing anything the breeze might bring towards her, and never ceased looking with every ounce of her attention. All her senses were ready for this.
They weren't, however, ready when a dark figure jumped out of the trees above her and bore her to the ground, rolling her flat on her back and pinning her there with a long sharp dagger of their own to her throat. She glared, annoyed, at the attacker.
"You cheated! You were up in the tree!"
Her assailant backflipped off her and sheathed their dagger. "Jaydos wouldn't go easy on you. He would've thrown something in your back from behind if he got the chance, and wouldn't have given _you_ a chance. You know that, Ashley."
She sighed and picked her dagger up from where it had fallen. "Yeah, I know. Doesn't mean I like it, though. When is this going to be over with? When _is_ the Night of the Dark Moon?"
Her trainer pulled off his mask and sighed. "I'm not sure. Only the Warrior and Jaydos know when the Night itself happens. I should be the one asking _you_ that."
Ashley nodded as they started back to the house a few miles away. "I guess so, grandfather. I know this has to happen, but I don't like it really. I mean, how could I like having to fight the guy who has been killing me over and over for the past umpteen thousand years?"
Her grandfather squeezed her on the shoulder. "You might not like it, but I know you will do all you can to succeed. Jaydos might not win this time around."
She sighed. "As if I didn't have enough problems in my life these
days." _ Most teenagers worry over zits, first dates, and whether
they should get one earring per ear or two. Me, I worry over people trying
to kill me and take over the world. Wonderful._
High above the Earth, Divatox, Queen Pirate of the Universe and embodiment of evil, was indulging in one of her favorite pastimes: counting out her wealth.
As Porto added up the gold, silver, platinum, and jewels she'd stolen over a lifetime of pirating, her attention was wandering, however. There were, after all, only so many times you could actually count out money, and there just never seemed to be enough of it. _Then again,_ she thought, _there's no such thing as TOO much money!!!_
Ignoring her little scientist for a while, she pulled her periscope down and peered around at the Rangers. None of them were doing anything interesting, except. . .she growled under her breath. "Yellow Ranger," she hated the Yellow Ranger these days, more than she usually hated all of them put together. The hatred stemmed from having had Ashley brainwashed for a short time, enjoying the services of a cold-hearted and evil huntress. "I'm going to get her for betraying me. Somehow!"
"Uh, my queen?" Porto dared to interrupt her, wincing already at the thought of what was probably going to happen to him if she were too angry.
"What is it?" Divatox asked, her tones bored rather than angry, actually; she could switch moods in a heartbeat. "And this had better be good."
"The total is in, and you have," as he rattled off the incredibly high number, Divatox groaned in disappointment.
"That's _all?_" she muttered, shoving the periscope away and forgetting about Ashley for now. Revenge could wait, this was business!! "That's _all_ I've got?"
Porto nodded, trying to shuffle away from her a little. "Yes, my queen! We, uh, haven't been pirating like usual so your income has went down somewhat!"
"Went down!?" Divatox screamed. "Went _down!_? It's practically gone in _reverse!_ I think I've got _less_ now than when we _got here_!" her eyes flashed around the interior of the SpaceBase for a few moments, and suddenly flashed with anger. "I do! And some of my priceless statues are missing too! I've been _robbed_!"
Her voice rose up so high on the last note, if the SpaceBase had possessed windows of glass, that would've shattered them. Porto, Rygog, and Elgar all winced away, and every Piranatron in sight ran, not willing to face Divatox's displeasure. Rygog shuffled over, "Who would dare to rob you, my queen? And how, we're in space! No one can get here!"
"Well, obviously _someone_ did!" Divatox pushed him out of the way and marched to the security cameras. "And I want to know who that someone is!"
As she started running through the last few days, her three main henchmen looked at each other, then quickly separated, running to their own quarters to check on their own things. If someone would steal from Divatox, the _ultimate_ thief, then they would most certainly sink to stealing from them! And each of them had little special treasures they didn't want taken from them.
Rygog checked under his bed, and was glad to see a priceless sword, made of metals that didn't exist on Earth, gleaming still in it's silvery sheath.
Porto pulled out a secret drawer in his lab and rejoiced when his collection of rare wines was still intact. He took a small sip of one to celebrate.
Elgar pulled a little stuffed bear out from under the covers in his
bed and hugged it. "I'm glad you're safe, Snuggles!!"
Angel Grove held many secrets, among them the existence of the Power Rangers and the ones they fought. But deep within it, in the heart of the abandoned warehouse district, was another, one that almost seemed to fester there. To the outward eye, it was just another weathered building, ordinary and without interest to anyone.
But had someone entered it, and been able to pass by all the traps and guardians set by the master of this place, they would've come across a most intriguing display.
Wealth beyond counting lay here, gold and silver and gems of priceless worth. Paintings, tapestries, rugs from all over the world were brought together here. Statues of men and women lost to history, carved by sculptors that would've made Michelangelo give up the craft, stood all over.
But those were not the only treasures here. Within a deep hidden chamber, far beyond the vain displays of material trappings, was a series of rooms, well over fifty of them, stocked with the greatest treasure of them all: knowledge. Books, manuscripts, parchments, and every other type of material that had ever been used to put words down and keep them for all time was there.
It was no mere library, however. This was the library of Jaydos, the ancient and evil master warrior who had lived for more thousands of years than almost anyone could remember, even him. And for the past several days he had been in this library, seeking out something he had only heard of, something he wanted at any cost.
"Soul-killing blade, soul-killing blade," he muttered to himself over and over again. "There's got to be one in these books somewhere, some mention of it."
He threw another book aside and leaned back for a moment, resting his eyes from the constant searching of the past few days. He glared at all the books, so many of which he had hunted through. He needed something to destroy the very essence and soul of the Warrior, of Asona, his most ancient foe, now reborn into the body of Ashley Hammond.
"After all this time, I am tired of this war," he sighed. "And if it takes me _another_ twenty thousand years, I shall find a blade to kill her soul with," his eyes suddenly glinted with the cold fires of lust. "And I will bring back my tasty little slave as well."
His desires stirred up at the thought of Carlos, the mortal human who had served him so recently and so well. Something had broken his control of the young man, and Jaydos had no idea of what it was. He'd sensed that something had wiped Carlos' mind clean of the young man's time as his servant, and whatever it was had to be powerful to do this.
He'd tested his control the day after the Huntress had been transformed back into Ashley. In his guise as a teacher at Angel Grove, he'd attempted to re-establish his dominance over Carlos, but just as something had gotten rid of his control, something else had prevented him from bringing Carlos back to him. He shrugged philosophically.
"Once I have destroyed the Warrior's soul," he decided. "I'll break the human personally, without my magic, but with _great_ attention to detail."
He chuckled. "And what a sweet breaking it shall be. Sweet and
spicy!" he laughed to himself at the weak attempt at a joke. "You
_shall_ be mine: both of you! One to kill, one to have!" he laughed
again, harsh and cold. "Who said you can't have it all!?"
"Has anyone seen Ashley today?" T.J. asked as he sat down with the others in the Youth Center. Carlos, Cassie, and Justin all shook their heads.
"I haven't seen her since yesterday afternoon," Cassie remembered. "She said something about having to spend some time with her grandfather, I think."
Justin nodded. "She's been hanging out with him a lot these days. Ever since her birthday."
"Yeah, ever since all that mess with Divatox brainwashing her," Cassie murmured softly. Justin nodded, glancing towards Carlos inconspicuously. The Green Ranger had no idea of what else had been going on during that time, his memory of his forced service to Jaydos had been totally wiped from his mind by Dimitria, just as Ashley's brainwashed time had been blotted out of her own thoughts.
"I guess she's got a reason," Carlos shrugged, staring half-heartedly into his math book. There were faint dark circles under his eyes; but when his friends had asked about them earlier, he'd only said he'd had a bad night's sleep the night before. If there was more to it, he wasn't going to let them know.
T.J. nodded as he gestured for Lieutenant Stone to bring him a smoothie, and started peering into his own math notes. "I just hope she remembers to study for tomorrow's math test. It's supposed to be _killer._"
Carlos seemed to shiver for a moment at that word, then just as Cassie was going to ask if he were all right, he spoke smoothly, "Yeah, I know. I've been trying to concentrate all day, but I just can't seem to focus."
Cassie shivered a little. "I know how _that_ is! Not the best feeling in the world."
"Tell me about it," Carlos put his book down and closed his eyes. "Let's hope Divatox leaves us alone long enough so we can study for this thing in peace."
T.J. nodded. "Last test I almost flunked because I couldn't study for it without her interrupting us."
"I know, same here," Cassie flinched for a moment, thinking of what her parents had said when her first report card after she'd become the Pink Ranger. She wondered how the former Rangers had done it; balanced studying, saving the world, and everything else she'd heard they'd done. "We'll just have to keep hoping she stays quiet."
Justin nodded; even his grades had dropped a little once he'd had to juggle the occasional morphing time into it. His dad hadn't really seemed to notice, but he wasn't going to argue over it. "We'll just have to study harder, too. Come on, back to the books!" he grinned at the others, feeling a trifle better as they started to crack open their books again.
As he started to fill his mind with algorithms and formulae, T.J. couldn't help but take a quick look at Carlos. The Green Ranger appeared to be absorbing mathematics as much as he could, moving his lips softly as he attempted to understand just how the numbers worked. _I hope he's okay. Dimitria didn't say if there'd be any side effects from what Jaydos did to him. I hope there aren't, last thing we need is to be down a Ranger right now, with both of those maniacs still out there somewhere. Dimitria STILL hasn't told us just who, or WHAT, Jaydos is exactly. I'm not really sure I WANT to know, either. As long as he leaves us alone, he can be whatever he wants._
T.J. glanced away as Carlos seemed to be looking at him._ And as long as Carlos never remembered just what it was that was done to him. Whatever it was. That's something else Dimitria didn't tell us. I can live with that, too. She only said he wanted information from Carlos. I think it was more.
A lot more._
Carlos tried not to show his nervousness at being around the other Rangers as he delved into the mystifying depths of his math book. The dreams he'd been having lately were things he had absolutely no intentions of revealing to anyone else. They'd lock him away, or worse.
_Dreams about HIM. Jaydos._ The very name stirred conflicting emotions within him, servitude, hatred, loyalty, lust, a desire to throttle until life no longer existed within that form, a thousand different things. And he had no more idea why than if the man had simply appeared out of thin air in front of him.
_Dimitria told me that he put a spell on me, that he wanted me to give him information about Ashley. But there's things she isn't telling, and I want to know what they are! I want to know why I feel like I can't stop myself from wanting him, but at the same time, I want to KILL him! What is WRONG with me!?_
"I'm going out for a walk, guys," he said finally. "I think I need some air to make sure this stuff sinks in right."
T.J. glanced up at him and nodded. There wasn't precisely a distance between him and the others since he and Ashley had been freed from their altered states, but they'd always seemed to find reasons to stay around him. If Ashley hadn't been always running off with her grandfather, Carlos had the intense feeling they'd be doing the same thing to her as well. The others waved as he headed out, and he was almost _certain_ he heard T.J. whispering into his communicator for Alpha to keep an eye on him. He growled a little under his breath.
"I'm not some stupid infant," he muttered. "I'll figure out what happened to me, somehow!"
Once he was out of the Youth Center, Carlos headed for the park and some deep thought. Math wasn't on his mind as much as the strange blankness there was. Carlos had once had amnesia, when he was about ten or so, after a soccer accident. He had hated the feeling of not knowing what was going on around him, and even after he regained his memory, that hatred of unknowing had continued.
He found himself a quiet corner of the park near the lake and settled down to watching the ducks swimming back and forth. It helped him relax somewhat as he gazed at their peaceful grace. He started thinking logically over what had happened to him recently.
_It got started that day when Mr. Worth asked me to stay after school. He wanted. . .to. ._Carlos' thoughts trailed off suddenly as he came straight into that blank spot in his brain. _ NO way. NO way! That's not possible! _
It had to be, though. It was the only answer, the only one that made any sense. Somehow he'd blocked it or had it blocked out. The blank spot extended from the moment Mr. Worth had started speaking to him, right up until he and Ashley had awakened in the Power Chamber, all healed and all completely unaware of what had just happened.
He'd talked with Ashley about it, and they'd both reviewed the tapes of the fight they had effectively missed out on. The consensus they'd come to, without talking to any of the others, was that somehow this Jaydos had hypnotized or otherwise controlled Carlos, while Divatox had taken over Ashley's mind. For some reason, they had been pitted against each other, and had just barely both survived. There had been no hint of _how_ Carlos had been captured, though Ashley's was common knowledge to the Rangers.
But the last point Carlos clearly remembered was talking with Mr. Worth.
He whispered the realization low, his every fiber shaking as he did so.
"Jaydos is Mr. Worth."
"Do you think I have a chance against him, grandfather?" Ashley asked as they sat down behind his sprawling old house. "You know, better than even I do, how many times he's killed me."
He shook his head. "You know better than I, for you have lived each death."
"I don't remember them, though," she shivered, not quite sure if she _wanted_ to remember a thousand different deaths. "I don't know if I want to."
Her grandfather looked deep into her eyes. "On the Night of the Dark Moon," he said softly. "All those memories will return to you. You will need them all, for only with their strength can you survive. You must _fully_ become the Warrior that night, with all the ancient wisdom she possesses."
"I thought I _was_ the Warrior," Ashley looked confused, and indeed was. "What do you mean?"
His voice and face assumed nearly same 'teaching' manner as they had when he was telling her about her ancestry and destiny. "You are the living incarnation of Asona, First Warrior of the Kelas people, the Children of the Sun, who perished one and all at the hands of Jaydos, Warrior of the Night, far more years ago than any mortal mind can comprehend. Throughout time you have fought with him, and always has he slain you. You must remember all those lives, all those deaths, in the final battle with him of this lifetime, on the Night of the Dark Moon. Only by remembering those lives and all that ancient skill can you win, and you do that by fully becoming the Warrior in all her strength."
She turned that over in her mind. Long and deep intensive thought wasn't something Ashley was used to when she wasn't studying, but she'd quickly learned after becoming a Power Ranger that if she _didn't_ think at times, it could be fatal. Once she'd learned of her Warrior status, thought had become even more vital.
"How do I get to all those memories?" she asked finally. Maybe if she got to them ahead of time, before the Night of the Dark Moon, she'd be able to figure out some way to defeat Jaydos this time. She wasn't looking forward to dying again. Her dreams of it had been more than vivid enough.
Her grandfather closed his eyes for a moment. _ I had no idea the Warrior would ask so many questions. The old family texts gave NO hints of it at all. Wait. The family texts. _"There are two ways," he said at last. "The first and most accurate is to wait for the Night of the Dark Moon and let them fill you. It'll happen automatically just prior to the fight. You'll see. But there is another way, one I don't know if you ever used before."
Her ears almost literally perked up. "Another way?"
The old man stood up, motioning for her to join him. "Come on. I'll show you what I mean."
Ashley was on her feet and following him into the house a bare second later. As she walked, the breeze rose up suddenly and sharply, sounding for the briefest of moments like a voice. Ashley reacted out of sheer instinct, her hands clenching into fists, her head coming up, and her eyes suddenly hot and feral. For one moment, she was entirely the Huntress, completely and utterly the ultimate predator.
Then the moment passed and she was still behind her grandfather, who didn't seem to have noticed a thing. Ashley shivered a moment, closing her eyes and trying to ignore the wild cravings that rose up within her.
_I can't think about that! _ she reminded herself harshly. She had told
no one about this, about the nights she woke up perched on her windowsill,
her nostrils flared to the wind, her every sense wide and alert, ready
to leap into action against whatever was deemed prey. _Dimitria freed me
from Divatox's brainwashing, I'm not the Huntress anymore!_ she reminded
herself harshly. _I'm myself again! I'm ME!_
Divatox paced faster and faster, her eyes blazing with the most unholy of fires! The complete inventory was done, and she'd ran through every inch of the security cameras' recordings. The verdict was in on who had stolen from her. "I might have _known_ that rat Jaydos would do this!" she grumbled. "He snuck in here and stole over two million dollars worth of _my_ stuff!"
"What are you going to do about it, my queen?" Rygog asked, just glad his own personal treasure was safe. "Are you going to attack him?"
The pirate queen snorted. "You'd better believe I am!" she declared. "I'm not going to let this go unpunished! I _will_ have my property back, _plus_ everything he's stolen in an eternity of. . .whatever it is he's done!" she stamped back and forth some more, grumbling and growling.
Porto popped his head up next to her. "Uh, Divatox?"
"What is it!?" she growled, hating being interrupted in her plans. "How _dare_ you interrupt me!?'
"My queen," the inventor piped up. "I hate to interrupt, but the Yellow Ranger is all alone right now, except for that silly old grandfather of hers. It would be a perfect time to attack her!"
Thoughts of retrieving her gold took second place to thoughts of smashing a Power Ranger around for a while. Divatox smiled wickedly. "Excellent," she almost seemed to purr. "Quite excellent. Rygog!"
Her chief warrior was beside her in the next second. "Yes, Divatox? How may I be of service to your greatness? Do you wish me to lead an assault on Jaydos' stronghold?"
She snorted. "Try and keep up with the rest of us, would you?" she ordered. "I'd expect something like that from Elgar, but you're supposed to have at least a _little_ brain!"
"Sorry, my insulting one!" Rygog bowed his head low. "What do you wish of me?"
Divatox bent over, taking a quick look through her periscope to see just what Ashley was up to. "Perfect," she nodded. Porto could actually have done something right! She snapped up a Piranatron patrol. "Rygog, take the Piranatrons and go down to Earth, attack the Yellow Ranger and her grandfather, and bring her back to me, in one piece! She won't be able to morph, and he's just an old man, so it shouldn't be too hard for you to do that!"
"Yes, my queen!" the mutant quickly vanished with the fish soldiers in tow. Divatox turned immediately to Porto.
"You _do_ remember that sweet little device that you used to transform the Yellow Ranger into my Huntress, don't you?" she wanted to know. Porto nodded quickly. "You still have it, right?"
He nodded again. "I'll have to look through my discard box for it," he told her. "But I think it's still there."
"Excellent!" Divatox chuckled. "Once Rygog has brought her back here, I want you to restore my Huntress to me!" she glanced at him. "What are you still doing here!? Go find that thing!"
The scientist was racing off as fast as he could before the echo of
her words faded this time. Divatox returned to her periscope and this time,
instead of spying on the Yellow Ranger, turned it to whatever Jaydos was
doing. She chuckled as she watched him turning through old book after old
book in some search or other. "Enjoy your life while you still have
it, old man! Because very soon now, the very person you've been fighting
since the dawn of time will once again work for me! And this time: there
will be no turning back for my Huntress!"
"What are these?" Ashley asked, looking at the rows and rows of books. "I mean, I know they're books, I'm not that stupid. But what are they about? They look old!"
Old didn't describe them. Ancient didn't describe most of them. The very youngest looked to be approximately sixty years old, if not older than that. None of them had titles on them, but instead were marked with numbers. "Grandfather?" Ashley wasn't quite sure what was going on here, what did this have to do with her memories?
Her grandfather didn't answer, only led her farther back into the room. She'd never been in this room in his house before, had never even had an idea that it existed! He stopped in front of a glass case. "Inside here is the first record we have of the history of Asona and Jaydos. Everything else in here is another life you've lived, another tale of the fight between the two of you."
Ashley nodded slowly, managing to stifle a shiver as she did so. As much as she tried to ignore it and think of the new fight coming up, she couldn't get away from the fact that every time since the beginning, he had killed her. She'd lost. She'd died.
"You can learn a lot of what's happened by reading through this," he told her. "You probably won't have time to read it all, even if you lived for a thousand years, there's quite a bit of history in these books. But you can still learn some of it."
Ashley nodded absently, glancing over what seemed to be the endless mound of books throughout this place. _No way I could ever read them all,_ she thought. _No WAY!!_ "How old is this place?" she asked.
"About thirty years," he chuckled. "But the books in this place are as old as time, in some ways."
She nodded slowly as he started to unlock the glass case. Ashley slipped her hands into her pockets, touching her Turbo Key. _If he kills me. . .what about the Rangers? They're going to want to know what's going on, and I'm going to have to choose a successor._
"Ashley!" her grandfather's voice sounded harsh in her ears, and she looked up, wondering if she'd somehow done something wrong at the way he sounded. He was pointing behind her, though, and she turned.
"Oh, just what I needed," she groaned at once, glaring at Rygog and the Piranatrons that had appeared just inside the library. "What are you doing here!?"
The huge creature waved his sword as the Piranatrons started towards them. "Serving my queen! As you soon shall again!"
Ashley snorted, concealing the terror that filled her at that. "Sure! Somewhere about the time that hell freezes over and not before!" she turned to her grandfather. "Shall we?"
The old man smiled. "We shall!"
"Hah!" Rygog mocked them both. "What can you do to---" he was cut off by a kick to the guts that knocked him back a good foot: delivered by Ashley's grandfather. He stared at the old human, he didn't think anyone was capable of hitting him that hard except a Power Ranger!
"We can do more than you think!" he was told! "More than you could ever _imagine!_"
Rygog never saw the old guy move. But he felt every last punch, kick, and hit that was delivered to him. And each and every last one of them _hurt!_
Ashley could barely keep an eye on what her grandfather was doing as she dealt with the Piranatrons. In the month since her release from Divatox's control, she had been put through one of the harshest training courses it was possible to go through and survive: the one engineered by her grandfather. These fishheads didn't stand a chance.
As the last of them vanished in their usual burbling bubbles, she paused to see how Granddad was doing.
And smiled to see Rygog, looking terrified, vanishing without even his
usual snappy farewell one-liner. Ashley chuckled as she put a hand on her
grandfather's shoulder. "He better learn not to mess with family."
"I don't believe it," he growled. "The best collection of knowledge since the dawn of time, and there's _nothing_ in here on a soul-killing blade! _Nothing!_ There has got to be one; it's the only way that I can finally kill her permanently!"
He sighed and went to stare out a window disconsolately for a while. Thoughts churned over and over in his mind on how he could win this battle once and for all, how to destroy her soul so that she would never return.
_Why do you not ask for my guidance, Jaydos?_ the voice was harsh and thick behind him, but he dared not turn, freezing in place the moment he heard it. _It has been long since you called me, my wizard._
Jaydos took a long breath. "I've not needed you, Master," he replied softly, not even having the nerve to tremble. If he showed the slightest fear, the creature from which he drew his evil magics would tear him to shreds without mercy. "I have been able to slay the Warrior without disturbing you."
_Perhaps I should withdraw my support of you then,_ the thing suggested, running a talon across the ancient wizard-warrior's neck. _Perhaps you no longer need me._
"I do!" he protested quickly, knowing that if that happened, he'd be dead of old age in moments. "I do need you, my Master!"
A throaty laugh. _Prove this need to me, my wizard. What do you need me for?_
He thought quickly. "My battle with the Warrior. It comes soon. I want it to be the last one."
_You must slay her soul then._
"I can't," he shook his head. "I don't have a soul-killing weapon! I need you to get me one!"
Another laugh. _So that is what you require of me. That is what my wizard needs: a warrior's weapon to slay the Warrior. A weapon to kill a soul._
_Then you shall have it_, the creature declared. _Bring your blade to me: the one you have slain her with so many times._
"As you command, my lord," Jaydos slipped around without looking
at the demonic thing; he'd seen it's face once and that was enough. He
would never forget that day, either. It was the day that he had died.
Jaydos had been born in the very beginning of history, when history wasn't even called that because it was happening right then. His people, since as far back as they could remember, had been peaceful farmers and fisherfolk. Then one day, Jaydos' father had discovered a strangely shaped stone in the woods, and brought it to the village for the shaman to look at.
The old man had taken but one look a the stone, then had dropped dead in sheer fright. As everyone stared at the corpse in shock, the chief of the tribe had taken it into his own hands to destroy the stone, and struck it with his axe. Instead of shattering to dust, as a normal stone would, the stone had split in half, releasing a dark cloud.
The cloud had shaped itself into a tall, hideous creature. Jaydos had stood, frozen in fear, as it slowly and methodically destroyed everyone in the entire village, until he and it were the only things that remained alive there. Standing over the prone body of his father, the thing pointed a finger to Jaydos.
_You are spared, boy._ it's voice was like molten lava. _ On the simple condition that you are my slave for all time. You shall perform as I command, and you shall live forever. You will have wealth and power beyond the dreams of any man who lives now or who shall ever live. And all for serving me. But should you refuse this offer: I shall kill you in a manner that will make their deaths seem pleasant._
The boy, no more than seven years of age, shivered at the sight towering over him and all around him. He didn't want to die. And the things he was offered were all things he had dreamed of. The creature spoke again. _All the world shall be yours. You shall have slaves and servants to please your lightest desires. You will be the Master of the World._
"I'll do it," Jaydos whispered, more out of fear than desire. "Please don't kill me."
The creature had laughed, then stroked his cheek almost as his father had in happier times, but with possession instead of love. _We shall go far together, my little one. Far indeed._
That had begun his enslavement to the creature, but soon it had turned
to servitude and a tentative partnership. It came and went as it pleased,
sometimes showing up to terrify reluctant troops into battle, taught him
spells and ways of magic that could bend the strongest of wills to his
own, and when the Warrior appeared and bound her soul to his for all time,
until it happened that one of them perished for eternity, his master granted
him life unending, that he might grow stronger and stronger with each rising
of the sun.
_It is done_, the creature looked at Jaydos, who knelt before him with bowed head. Never had he looked into his face since that first time. _ When you thrust this into the heart of the Warrior, it shall destroy her soul for all time, and you shall fulfill that for which I chose you all those eons ago: the conquest of the world._
"As you command, my lord," Jaydos whispered, staring at the sword that now gleamed purest black. "I will obey you."
_I know you will,_ a soft chuckle, and then Jaydos was alone. The ancient warrior-wizard gazed at the sword, and smiled.
"At last, after all this time," he whispered to himself. "I
have the blade that will destroy the Warrior, for good. What a wonderful
day: and what a wonderful night the Night of the Dark Moon shall be!"
Rygog shuddered away from the enraged pirate queen as she kicked and hit him nearly as much as the old man had, though not nearly as fast. "You were beaten by an old human!" she screamed. "Some old fossil! You call yourself a warrior? You couldn't fight a bar of soap! You don't even know what soap is! Now get out of my sight before I really get mad!"
The henchman didn't pause for a moment, just turned and scurried away. Divatox marched up and down her SpaceBase, mumbling under her breath about the idiocy of henchmen and how hard it was to find good help these days. Her nerves were totally shot, with being handed so many defeats by the Power Rangers, and having that jerk Jaydos to deal with as well. Just how much was a pirate supposed to take without snapping, anyway!?
Porto popping up beside her didn't help one bit as she stopped and screamed. "Don't you _ever_ do that again!" she ordered sharply, then saw what was in his hands. "Oh, great, that's a lot of good now!" she groaned. "Rygog let the little yellow Ranger brat get away!"
"My queen, perhaps we could go down to Earth and use this on her, instead of bringing her here?" Porto suggested quickly; he'd heard of Rygog's failure; just about everyone on the SpaceBase had heard of it!
Divatox smiled. "Excellent!" she announced. "Porto, take the device to Earth and---"
"I'll do it, Auntie Di!" Elgar lurched over and grabbed the device from Elgar, looking at it. "This thing is cool, what does it do again?"
"NOO!!" Divatox and Porto both screamed as in Elgar's clumsy hands, the device almost seemed to break apart! "You idiot!" Divatox beat her nephew about the head and shoulders. "Don't you ever touch anything around here ever again, is that understood!?"
"Did I do something wrong, Auntie Di?" the defective mutant
looked at her, and she just screamed. Loudly. Longly. Painfully.
"I wonder why Ashley wanted us all here," T.J. looked around to see if the Yellow Ranger had arrived yet. "Did she say anything to you, Cassie?"
"Nope," Cassie shook her head. "Nothing, just to meet her here today at three." Justin nodded; that was the message he'd gotten as well.
Carlos, who had been very quiet and subdued since they arrived, said nothing at all. T.J. was going to ask him what was wrong, if Ashley hadn't walked up just then. She looked somewhat nervous and upset, and was fiddling with her Turbo Key as she did so.
"Ashley?" Cassie looked at her friend. "What's wrong?" _ I've never seen her like this before._
She looked at them, and they were all surprised to see the look in her eyes. It was the look of one who has quite literally seen their own death. "Guys, I've got something to tell you," she said softly. "And it's very important."
Carlos looked at her. "It's about Jaydos," his voice was just as soft as his. "Mr. Worth. That slime. They're all the same. A scumbag from the beginning of time."
Ashley's eyes widened. "How do you know all that?" she wondered. Carlos snorted.
"I was his slave for two days, and I just recently remembered everything," he growled. "There's not much I don't know about him: or you: Warrior."
The other three looked from Ashley to Carlos in shock. "Um, what's going on?" Justin asked finally. "Could you guys explain this?"
Ashley took a deep breath. "I'm the reincarnation of a warrior that died against Jaydos very way back in pre-history, and every hundred years or so, I get reborn so I can fight him again. He's killed me every time, but I'm hoping this one will be different. But in case it isn't, you guys are going to have to look for a new Yellow Ranger."
Carlos spoke next. "Jaydos is a very powerful, very old sorcerer and warrior. There's almost nothing he doesn't know about fighting and treachery and just about everything else. He doesn't deserve to live, and I wish you all the luck in the world destroying him, Ashley," his voice was low and full of pain, so full the other Rangers simply stared at him in shock. This was nothing like anything they'd ever heard him saying.
T.J. took a long breath. "Is that what you've been doing the last month or so? Training for this fight?"
"Yeah," Ashley sat down next to Carlos, and smiled as he wrapped his fingers around her hand. "My grandfather's been training me. You wouldn't _believe_ how good he is. He kicked Rygog around like you wouldn't believe!"
"Whoa," Justin was impressed! "Don't worry, Ashley, I have faith in you! You're going to win this fight, I know you are!"
She sighed for a moment, not answering. _I hope I win, Justin. I really
and truly hope I do. Because if I don't, then it's the end of me._
"So many different things to do," Jaydos sat in his throne, deep in thought. "So many plans that I've used on her successfully over the years. The hard part shall be to decide just which _one_ of those it shall be."
His entire body stiffened suddenly and he could almost sense a shadow passing over the sun, though the light in the chamber remained unchanged. His eyes gleamed coldly.
"Tonight is the Night of the Dark Moon," he breathed. "Tonight is the night when you," he touched the swordblade by his side, "shall drink the blood of the Warrior once and for all! And before one year has passed, this entire planet shall have fallen into my hands!"
He chuckled again, then started through his plans yet again. This would
be the most ultimate of battles: and one that the Warrior would lose, as
she had never lost before: forever.
Ashley went very stiff suddenly as she was walking home with Carlos. She'd wanted to find out what he knew about Jaydos, and everything her friend told her sparked memories of her own. Through the back of her mind there churned flashes of herself fighting, living, loving, dying, thousands upon thousands of times over. She didn't have all the memories, she knew, and she could make very little sense of the collage of images that threw themselves at her. But all that would come in time.
"Ashley?" Carlos looked at her. "Are you all right? What's wrong?"
Her eyes almost seemed to glow for a moment as she lifted her face to the sky. "Tonight is the Night of the Dark Moon," she said, her voice faintly echoing, though it didn't seem loud really. "Tonight I face Jaydos once more, to determine which of us shall live and which of us shall die. And may all the gods that have ever existed, that do exist now, or shall ever exist in the future, have mercy upon both our souls."
Carlos stared at her for a few moments. "I think you should go talk to your grandfather," he said finally. "I'm going to go tell the others. One way or the other, we're going to need to be together for a while, I think."
Ashley nodded, then before Carlos could do or say anything or move out of reach, she took his arm gently and planted a gentle, loving kiss on his lips. "That's something I've wanted to do for a very long time," she whispered, admitting to him and to herself what she had kept hidden in her heart for a very long time. "I love you, Carlos. I'll always love you."
Then she herself turned and ran for the house as fast as she could, not wanting to stay so near him when she could very well be dead before the night was out.
Carlos stood there for a few moments, touching his fingers to his lips
in shock. Finally, smiling, he headed for the Youth Center. The guys simply
were _not_ going to believe this! He wasn't even sure if he did!
Derek Hunter absently paged through one of his family history books and took a deep sigh as the air suddenly seemed darker for a moment. He knew what that had meant, though he had never seen it in his lifetime. His own grandfather had told him what it meant, though.
"Tonight is the Night of the Dark Moon, when Ashley must face the challenge of a thousand lifetimes and with luck, defeat Jaydos once and for all," it was not his voice that spoke those words however, and he jerked around to see a tall, dark haired woman in flowing white robes and with a veil across her face floating behind him. "Greetings to you, Derek Hunter. I am Dimitria, guardian, mentor, and guide to the Power Rangers."
His eyes went _very_ wide. "I've heard of the Rangers, of course, but how do you know Ashley and how do you know about what she is and what tonight is?"
"Because Ashley is the Yellow Turbo Ranger," Dimitria told him. "I have known of her destiny since before she was chosen to take on the powers. She will not be permitted to use them in the combat, of course."
He blinked for a few moments. "Ashley is the Yellow Ranger?" he whispered. "Why didn't she tell me?"
"It is not permitted for her to reveal her identity to anyone," Dimitria informed him. "That goes against the code of the Rangers. I was only able to tell you because there is a very real chance that she will die tonight."
"I know," he nodded. "I've trained her the best I can the last month, but there's only so much time to work with. She's lost against him since the first time, and every other life she was trained almost from birth. I honestly don't think she stands a chance."
Dimitria shook her head. "You never can be certain," she observed. "I have seen many strange things happen throughout my life, not the least of which is truest victory snatched from what looks like the very jaws of defeat. Ashley might be the Warrior, but she is also a Power Ranger, and they do not give up. Even if he should win again, it will be a victory that tastes of ashes to him, I believe."
Derek sighed. "We can only hope so, Dimitria," he said. "I've been feeling strange feelings all day. My grandfather taught me to pay attention to those feelings, and they are not good right now."
The ancient sorceress closed her eyes for a moment, casting her mind out into the ether. What she encountered there brought her flying back into her body, her eyes flashing with nervousness and worry. "The creature that Jaydos serves has transformed his weapon into a soul-killing blade. Should it be the one that spills forth Ashley's life this night, then she will never be reborn again. Her essence will be destroyed, and evil shall reign over this world, and quite possibly others, for the gods alone know how long."
Derek trembled at the way she spoke, so cold and matter of fact, as if she had considered the possibility of ultimate defeat many times before. He could not, and never did, learn that Dimitria had seen things that would have aged him a thousand years if she had ever told him of it. "Could the Power Rangers stop him if that happened?" he wondered.
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "But I do know that they would avenge Ashley's death, and protect this planet to the last person."
Derek took a long look at her, and smiled softly. "You care about the Rangers a good deal, young lady."
She raised an eyebrow. "I may look young," she seemed to smile under her veil. "But I am far far older than you can imagine, and have seen quite a bit in my time. But you are correct. I do care about them a great deal, and have since their predecessors were placed in my care by the great Zordon."
Dimitria smiled a little. "I will be happy to tell you everything once the Night of the Dark Moon has ended and this has been settled: either to help you forget her death or to celebrate her victory."
"I am quite looking forward to it," Derek smiled in return. "More than you can possibly imagine."
She chuckled, a sound that the Rangers would've been quite surprised
to hear from her. "I can imagine a great deal, Derek. A very great
"Hey, guys!" Carlos ran up behind the other three Rangers, trying to get their attention as swiftly and as unobtrusively as he could. "It's going to happen _tonight!"_
Justin turned around. "What!?" the youngest of them's eyes were wide and full of shock. "Ashley's battle is _tonight?!_"
T.J. and Cassie both stopped in their tracks. "You've got to be kidding!" T.J. breathed. "But she just told us about it less than an hour ago!"
"I know," Carlos nodded. "But it's going to happen tonight. She's going to talk to her grandfather about it now, to see what she has to do."
"The only thing she has to do is fight me, and die!" a harsh voice spoke from behind them. Carlos paled as he turned and saw who it was. "Ah, yes, my slave, you _do_ remember me!"
The other Rangers looked at each other, then at the man there. "Mr. Worth, what are you talking about?" T.J. asked a little warily.
"He's not Worth," Carlos growled. "His name is Jaydos."
"And he is the one who is going to kill your little friend and destroy her soul for all time," Jaydos smiled, and Carlos bared his teeth in response, feeling an anger that he'd usually kept in check for Divatox and her goons. "And you, my four little prizes, are going to be what makes _certain_ she perishes."
T.J. moved quickly into a fighting position. "No way!" he responded. "We're not going to do anything to hurt Ashley!"
The ancient one merely laughed. "We'll see about that."
Before they could so much as say "Shift into Turbo", a wave of black light swept over them all, blinding them for a moment. When they could see again, all four of them were in what looked to be a classical dungeon. Each were chained up in a different area, separated from the others by at least ten feet or so. T.J., Cassie, and Justin were all against the wall in three separate small cells, while Carlos was stretched out and shackled to a table. It was with a major blush that he realized he was as naked as the day he was born as well.
"Carlos?" it was Justin's voice. "T.J., Cassie? Are you guys here?"
"Yeah, I'm here," Carlos groaned. "And I really wish I wasn't.
"I think we all wish that," Cassie muttered, with T.J. agreeing from his own cell. Carlos lifted his head a little, and was profoundly grateful to see that they were too far back in their own cells to see what his current state of undress was like.
"But I wish for you to be here, and that is all that is required," Carlos twisted his head and saw Jaydos standing in the doorway to the dungeon. Instead of the simple suit and tie he'd been wearing when they'd first seen him in the park, in his disguise as Mr. Worth, he now wore armor of an old design, but which still somehow managed to look terrifying. Emblazoned on the chest of it was a gleaming black claw, holding what looked to be a human heart in it. By his side was a sword as black as shadows. Carlos realized that for the first time he was seeing the _real_ Jaydos, as had not been seen for at least a hundred years.
He was afraid.
Jaydos quietly walked over to him and laid a cold armored hand on his chest. "And once I have destroyed the Warrior on and for all: you shall be returned to me, my tasty little slave," he actually licked his lips, and Carlos shivered. The old one laughed. "We shall celebrate together once this battle is ended, and once that is done, your three friends in my cells will also taste cold death. And that, little one, is _all_ of my plans that you shall know until I have won. Remain here now. When the battle begins, I shall permit you all to view it as I defeat the Warrior once and for all!" he stroked down Carlos' body for a moment, causing the young Ranger to shiver in cold and fear, then smiled wickedly. "And now to deliver a proper challenge."
In a very flashy column of light that was a twisted mockery of a Ranger's
teleportation, Jaydos vanished. There was a heartbeat of silence, then
each and every Ranger there started praying. For themselves. For Ashley.
"Grandfather!" Ashley ran into his house and stopped in her tracks to see Dimitria quietly floating there, as much at ease as she was in the plasma tube back at the Power Chamber. "Dimitria? What are you doing here?"
"Speaking with your grandfather, Ashley," the Inquirian said quietly. "About what you are and about what you must do tonight." _though I cannot SAY it to her, I can hint at least, now that she knows! _
The Yellow Ranger stood in shock for a moment. "You know?" she wasn't quite sure just where the question was directed, at Dimitria or at her grandfather. "You know what I am?"
"Yes," both of them answered. Her grandfather continued. "I know you're the Yellow Ranger, Ashley, and from what I've seen on the news, I'm very, very proud of you."
Ashley was still in shock over that when Dimitria spoke, "I know that you are the Warrior, Ashley, the direct descendent and reincarnation of Asona, the First Warrior, destined to fight against Jaydos, servant of the darkest of evil forces, on tonight, the Night of the Dark Moon. I have always known this, since far before you were chosen to succeed Tanya as the Yellow Ranger, and I always knew that it would be your grandfather and I who would guide you in the final hours before this battle. That is why I came to him, to inform him of my existence."
"What are you talking about?"
Before the question the confused Warrior had asked could be answered, a sudden explosion of light blinded her and her grandfather for a moment. When it cleared, a glittering scroll floated in the air in front of her. With trembling fingers she reached out to take it, but as she touched it, it too exploded. The dust it became shaped itself into an image of Jaydos.
"Greetings, Warrior!" he laughed. "You are hereby formally challenged to do combat to the death with me, Jaydos, master Warrior-Wizard of Silinos, Demonic OverLord of all time, as we have in every century since the dawn of time. Should you fail to appear in the appointed place as the Night of the Dark Moon arrives, then the Blue, Red, and Pink Turbo Rangers shall be slain, and the Green Turbo Ranger shall become my personal consort and slave for all time. These events will also occur when you die. Accept the challenge and buy them a few more hours of life and freedom, or deny it and end it all for them now. If you accept, let a drop of your blood fall upon this image and I will know of it."
Ashley's eyes had turned from surprised to anger to pure rage in the space of a heartbeat. As a dagger's blade entered her field of vision, she looked up to see her grandfather standing there, with her parents a silent and scared presence at the sight of Dimitria. She only nodded at them, then took the blade and stroked it quickly across her hand. Blood welled up and dropped on the image, which then vanished. Dimitria stroked her fingers gently across the wound, and Ashley stared to see it heal.
"You have done well," she said softly to the young Warrior. "And now this I say to you, Ashley Hammond, Yellow Turbo Ranger: I am proud of you. In your time as a Power Ranger you have fought against some of the fiercest fiends this world has produced, and done well indeed. Now you must fight a battle that your Ranger powers cannot help you in, against a foe who has slain you in a thousand lives. Your grandfather guided you to this point in your life, and trained you as best he could. Now he has one gift to give, and then it is my time to guide you."
Derek Hunter stepped up as Dimitria went to one side. "Ashley," he said tenderly. "You are the child of our family, the child of destiny, the chosen one, the reincarnation of the great Asona, she who founded our line and defended her people down to the cost of her very life. You, my granddaughter, might have to pay that price today. Know that if you do, we shall keep the line and the history of our family going, and in the next century, we shall rise again."
He reached out and touched a button on his desk. A panel in the wall slid aside and on a small roller there came out a suit of armor. Ashley knew it just by looking at it, it and the sword beside it. Quietly she went to touch it, and whispered, "Skystriker. Old friend."
The armor was splendid, though old, and on the chest of it was a phoenix
rising in splendor. She took a deep breath. "Time to get ready."
_for the fight of my lifetime. For the fight FOR my life. _
Darkness swept over the Earth. It was the prelude to the Night of the Dark Moon. All over the planet, silence bound everything and everyone. A sense of expectation, as if something that would change the course of the entire world, filled everyone everywhere. Those who could went outside, glancing up to where the stars would normally fill the sky, only to see nothing but pure blackness returning their gaze. Neither stars nor sun nor moon could be seen on the Night of the Dark Moon.
All over the planet, people went into a panic. They ran screaming into and out of buildings, planes were scrambled to try and find out what the answers were, to no avail. Everyone wanted to know what was going on.
In Japan, nine young women of ages varying from uncountable to sixteen gathered in a Shinto shrine and tried to figure out what was going on. There they learned of a combat older than even Sailor Pluto, and of a warrior who could quite probably give them all a good fight, powered by an evil that made Galaxia look like a sweet schoolgirl. The Sailor Scouts had defeated many enemies, but even they knew when to back off when out of their league.
In a small part of California, people reacted a little differently than the usual screaming norm in a few towns. In Angel Grove, they trooped diligently to the monster shelters and hoped the Power Rangers would handle things. In Leawood, the people headed for the high school and hoped Masked Rider could take care of things. In Crossworld City, the Underground Voice Daily basement became packed, and the VR Troopers headed for their base to see if this was Grimlord's doing. In Charterville, the Beetleborgs Metallix were biking to HillHurst as fast as they could to talk with Flabber; if Nukus were up to something, they had to find out about it.
All the differing teams of heroes were told the exact same thing by their various mentors however. This was the Night of the Dark Moon, when an ancient battle was raged in a hidden place, and none of them could do anything to stop it or to aid the Warrior as she fought her ancient foe. The only thing that would lift the shadow over the world would be the ending of the battle, be it for good or be it for evil.
And as the Power Rangers Turbo did in their own prison, Dex, Jo, Drew, Roland, Kaitlyn, Ryan, and J.B., along with King Lexian, Flabber, the HillHurst monsters, Professor Hart, and Jeb the talking dog, began to pray. There was very little else that any of them could do. It was all up to one person now: the Warrior. Ashley Hammond.
"You look magnificent!" despite the seriousness of the situation, everyone took a moment to stare at the now armor-clad Ashley. Her sword in her hand, she could feel the memories pulsating in the back of her mind, ready and willing to surge forward at the proper moment.
"Thanks, mom," Ashley nodded. "But I don't have much time. The Rangers need me."
Her mom smiled and hugged her, then stepped back, wincing. "Ouch! Remind me not to do that again, that hurts!"
"My little girl," her dad looked amazed. "A Power Ranger and the Warrior. I'm so proud of you."
Ashley glanced at Dimitria, not really paying that much attention to her parents just then. She had other things on her mind. "Now what?"
"This is my guidance, and it is all that I can do for you," the Inquirian said quietly. "Deep within there lies a power that everyone can tap into. It has been called by a thousand names on a thousand worlds, the inner spirit, the power within, the light of good, the force of the Ninjetti, the power of the Ninja, and many more besides. But it is all the same, the power of your heart and soul. Manifest that power in it's physical form, and even Jaydos cannot stop you. Do you understand that?"
The young girl closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them again. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "But I know I've run out of time. I have to fight Jaydos now. If I fail. ..I. ..I love you all. Dimitria, it's been the greatest honor of my life to be a Power Ranger. Please," she had taken off her normal clothes to put on the protective undergear for the armor. Now she reached inside her jeans pocket and pulled out her Turbo Key. "Please, if I don't come back from this, find someone good to pass this to. And protect the world from Jaydos."
Dimitria enfolded the Yellow Ranger in her arms and held her close to her. "Of all the Rangers, it is you I am most proud of, Ashley," she said softly. "For you have risen beyond what you were, and I was here to see it all. I wish you well, and will see you either in the Power Chamber or in the beyond."
Ashley nodded, and stepped back, raising Skystriker above her head. Her voice loud and clear, she declared, "It is the Night of the Dark Moon, Skystriker! As you have since the time it first happened, bear me to the place where I shall do combat with the forces of evil and with Jaydos, for the good of the world, the good of my friends, and for the ancient destruction that he has caused!"
In a blast of purest golden fire, Ashley Leslie Hammond vanished from the her grandfather's living room. Derek turned to Dimitria. "Do you really think she stands a chance?"
"I'm not sure," the sorceress's reply was candid. "If she can reach that power I told her of, then yes. But in all this time, she never has been able to. She has never fully understood it. Without that understanding, there is little that can be done."
Mrs. Hammond dropped into a chair and buried her face in her hands. "I have this awful feeling that he's going to do it again!" she cried. "He's going to kill my little girl and there's nothing any of us can do about it!"
"We never have been able to," her husband reminded her. Though he didn't share the bloodline of Asona, when he'd married her he had been taught all the old legends, and had rather vividly had them proven to him on occasion. "We'll do what those in our place have always done: wait and watch and hope. We have nothing else that we can do."
Dimitria nodded. "And I know a place to watch from. You are all
aware, of course, that you can never reveal Ashley's identity as a Power
Ranger to anyone. If you feel you cannot keep this secret, I will erase
it from your minds now and it will be as if you had never known it,"
when no one said anything, she nodded again, then teleported them to the
Power Chamber. They were going to have the equal of ringside seats.
Dimitria and her guests weren't the only ones preparing to watch the fight. There was a massed convergence of evil on Divatox's SpaceBase, which she'd permitted _only_ on the condition that they all leave once the battle was over with, one way or the other. And amazingly, they'd all agreed.
It looked like a major rogue's gallery as everyone jockeyed for a good view on the wide screen Divatox had set up for the show. The space pirate herself was in the front, with her brother Havoc by her side. Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd, along with Rito Revolto and Master Vile, were right behind her, glaring every now and then at the rebuilt Machine Empire, newly returned from the repair bay and now added with the finally reconciled Prince Gasket and Princess Archerina. Someone who bore an amazing resemblance to Maligore, calling himself Dark Spectre, and his chief lackey, a beautiful young woman whose hair seemed to change color and length every time Divatox looked, were hovering in the back. Grimlord and Nukus were talking over a possible alliance to defeat some people called "The Beetleborgs" and "The VR Troopers". Count Dregon stood like a stone, glaring hideously at them all, especially at Zedd; the two of them had _never_ gotten along. Zedd was ignoring everything and everyone except Rita and the screen.
Various henchmen were running around doing various things for their masters, as well as catching up on old times. Goldar, Finster, Scorpina, Squatt, Baboo, Klank, Orbus, Ecliptor, and Darkonda Divatox recognized right away, but there were others serving that she had no idea who they were or who they served. She shrugged; as long as they didn't steal anything of hers or mess on the rugs, she didn't much care.
"Everyone, everyone!" Porto tried to get the group's attention, but with no affect until Rito Revolto stood up and lifted a bony arm. At the resulting stench, everyone turned to the front, and held whatever it was they used to breath with. "Everyone, welcome to the SpaceBase! On behalf of Queen Divatox, I welcome you all! We are here today to witness the battle of the century, the combat between the ultimate wizard-warrior of evil, and the Warrior, currently Ashley Hammond, the Yellow Turbo Ranger!"
Boos and hisses filled the air at that. Porto waited till they calmed down a little to keep going. "As you all might have heard, this will also be the last fight that is ever fought between them, since this time around, Jaydos has a blade that can kill even the Warrior's soul, this assuring she will never more be reincarnated. Should he win, then he will begin a reign of terror unparalleled on Earth since the dawn of time!"
Even more boos and hisses came. Divatox stood up. "Everyone! I've had to deal with Jaydos in person! As sickening as it sounds, I think that should he win and destroy the Yellow Ranger, we're going to have to... to.. ..," she paused, the pirate queen was literally shaking! Zedd stood up; he'd been through this before.
"If that should happen, we will have to unite not only our forces, but with the Power Rangers themselves to sweep Jaydos off the face of the Earth," he declared.
Even the Machine Empire fainted on that one. Zedd and Divatox, the only two left standing, looked at each other in slight confusion. Divatox had teamed with the side of good before, early on in her evil career. Zedd had helped the Power Rangers once before, against Gasket and Archerina. Zedd shrugged.
"Was it something I said?"
Ashley's sight cleared and she saw she was in a clearing in the woods somewhere. She had no idea where, and she didn't really care. As the Night of the Dark Moon officially began, she could feel the ancient memories emerging at last. She let them take her.
_She was Asona, fighting for the safety of her people. She would not perish in vain. She would bind herself to this monster for all time should it be necessary, to keep him from harming any others.
She was Kylie, a slavegirl turned warrior, learning the forbidden past and the banned arts of war to protect all that was.
She was Sheopa, a priestess called from the service of Ares, god of war, to a higher calling, the protection of the world.
She was Ashley, a Power Ranger, sworn to protect the Earth, now called to do it in a different way.
She was all of them. They were all of her. They were the same, yet different. A thousand memories filled her mind, heart, soul, and body. She knew them all, she had them all, she WAS them all.
She was the Warrior.
And she was here to fight._
Over her the sky was suddenly splashed with stars. Across from her there stood another in armor of darkness, a cold counterpart of her armor of light. "The time has come, Warrior," the words were ancient, formal.
"Indeed it has, my Foe. Once again we do battle," her voice held that echoing quality she remembered from her dreams, a thousand voices in one. She could feel his hatred for her, and reached for the calm within, as one of her old teachers had told her. She knew what to do.
"And this time, you shall perish, forever!" he declared as she advanced on him with sword upraised. He matched it with his own weapon. "For this blade will kill your soul!"
_Kill my soul!? Then I won't be reborn! I'll lose, forever!! _ Fright gibbered in her mind, then was overridden by courage. I won't lose. _Not this time._ She gazed into his eyes. "No. Never."
"Brave words, but I've heard them all before!" he declared. "And now I hear them for the last time!"
With a rush of feet and a clash of metal, they met in the center of the clearing. Blades smashed together, and they sprang apart, their swords slashing at their legs and stomachs, trying to reach vital areas.
Unknown to them all, the battle was being viewed in many places: Japan, the Power Chamber, the VR Troopers' lab, HillHurst Mansion, the cave where Magno and Combat Chopper rested, the SpaceBase. And one and all, they were all rooting for the Warrior, as sick as it made the forces of evil.
Ashley dodged back and around, keeping his sword off her with her own, and scrambling to get into a slightly better position. With the back of her hand she wiped sweat out of her eyes and shifted her feet a little, not taking her eyes off Jaydos for a moment. _ This is hot work. This is worse than fighting Piranatrons. MUCH worse._
Jaydos stood there quietly, his sword stuck in the ground, hardly having even broken a sweat. "Are you going to surrender?" his voice held a taunting tone to it. She just glared back at him. "I'll take that as a no."
With a blinding jump he was at her, his sword heading straight for her chest. Ashley moved as fast as she could to parry the blow, then felt something hook around her ankle and jerk hard. She fell to the ground, her sword dashing a few feet away, and his pointed directly at her neck. He laughed.
"The easiest trick of them all, and you fell for it!" he drew the sword back and paused it for just a moment. "And that is the very last trick you shall ever fall for. My master enchanted this blade to kill your soul. It's been nice fighting with you, but now it's over. You have lost: and I have won! I have _won_!"
He raised the sword one last time, and brought it down with blinding speed towards her neck. Ashley stared into his eyes, determined to stare into his eyes as she always had, even this last time.
I'm sorry, she whispered in her mind. _I didn't win. I failed. I lost.
I'm going to die. I'll never come back. Not like I always have before.
If only I'd understood what Dimitria said. The power within. . .the power
of Ninja. . .the Power of Ninjetti. .._
It happened in a moment's time. One heartbeat, she was in her armor about to have her head removed by Jaydos' blade once and for all. The next, she stood in a wealth of stars and suns and comets. She had no idea where she was or what was going on.
"Hey! What is this! Am I dead!?"
_No, child. You are not._ The voice was that of light and fire and strength and power and ancient wisdom all combined. _ You are inside yourself._
She frowned. "Inside myself? How'd I get here and who are you?"
_I am you. A part of you that you do not know. That you have never known._
"I'm _really _not getting this!" she almost whined! The voice chuckled.
_I know. But you must understand me if you are to have a chance to win. _
Ashley shook her head. "I've already lost! He just has to take my head off!"
_Nothing is lost until it is lost,_ the voice said practically. _Understand me, and you understand yourself. Understand yourself, and you will have what you need to win. Win, and you win for all time._
Ashley blinked for a moment, trying to comprehend all of that. "How do I understand you?"
There was a whisper as of wings through the air. _You simply do. You simply must. Name me and you name yourself. To name something is to understand it. To understand it is to BE it. Be yourself. Be me. It is all the same. We are the same. Who are you?_
The girl didn't respond at first, her mind spinning from one concept to the other. She'd had so many names, been so many people, how could she choose one? She was all of them, wasn't she? She'd been all of them. . .she was all of them. . .
_Yes, _the voice approved. _You understand. _
And she did. "I don't have the soul of Asona. I am her. I am all of them. I am my past, my present, and my future. I am."
_You are. WE are. Now name me. What am I?_
Ashley knew it. She could never have told anyone how she knew it, but she did. There was only one thing that rose from the dead time and time again, that could never be killed and was her very essence and power. "You are, as I am, me. I am you. We are the same. We are, I am, you are. . .the Phoenix!"
Rising from the fires of her soul there came a huge bird, in feathers of silver and gold and crimson and blue and all colors of the rainbow and more. It hovered before her with eyes of light. _We are. I am. You are. You have named me and you know me, as I name and know you, Ashley Leslie Hammond, the Phoenix, the Warrior, Asona, the Yellow Turbo Ranger. So it has ever been, so will it ever be. Now and forever, we are one. We are you. _
It enveloped her in light, and was within her. "And we are about
to give Jaydos one major surprise," Ashley grinned. "Time to
end this: my way."
Jaydos laughed as she closed her eyes; yes, this time she'd die like the coward she was, eyes shut and afraid of him. His blade was an inch from her neck, coming down as fast as lightning. . .
Her eyes flew open, and Ashley's foot slammed as hard as possible between his legs, slamming the protective armor halfway to his throat. He lost his grip on his sword, it went tumbling harmlessly to the side. She grabbed him and threw him in the opposite direction and leaped to her feet, going for her own weapon with a speed and grace she'd never before displayed.
"How!?" he growled. "It's not possible!! What are you doing!?"
The Warrior held her sword, and the light of the reborn Phoenix shone from her eyes. "I am winning," she said simply. "You've tormented this poor world more than enough by your existence. It is time for it to be ended. You have been a brave opponent, and I salute you. But your time has ended."
Jaydos looked into her eyes, and for one moment, she saw the small boy who had been the willing tool of evil all these unending centuries. She saw the weariness hidden behind the evil, the grief concealed beneath the lust, and the sorrow kept away by the anger. She saw and understood him as she saw and understood herself. She quietly bowed her head for a moment in respect, and he made the same motion.
Long ago, Asona had told him they would fight until one of them had won forever or until he had learned the ultimate lesson. In that moment, both her current incarnation and he himself knew what that ultimate lesson was.
He should have died rather than serve evil. It would be better to die free of the hate and the pain and the lies and the slavery than to live in that bondage. He knew it now, knew it in all it's forms, and knew that only one thing could set him free. He had taken his master by surprise, he knew, and Ashley would have but one chance to do this, and she knew that. He spoke.
"Thank you," was what he said. "And I'm sorry."
"You gave me more than you will ever know," she replied. "And I thank you. Farewell, honored foe."
"Farewell, honored foe."
And with the simplest of moves, the most graceful elegance and elegant
grace, Ashley Hammond the Warrior removed the head of Jaydos, and the link
between him and his demonic master was severed. Black light poured forth
from his neck, and a howl fit to split the universe was heard. Then all
was silent. All was done. It was ended.
In the days and weeks that followed, things happened, as things do. Divatox threw her entire company of unwanted guests out as soon as Jaydos' body fell to the dirt, and sent down a group of Piranatrons to clear out Jaydos' treasure vaults, adding his wealth to her own.
They just missed being able to capture four of the Power Rangers, also, but Dimitria brought them back, Carlos decently dressed, in time. He told them all this time of what he had been through when Jaydos had enslaved him, and all of them gave him the support and love and friendship he needed.
Ashley especially gave him the love, since once she'd recovered from quite literally the battle of a lifetime, the two of them had went through a very long talk together about their feelings, that is far too private and emotional to reproduce here. But once it was over, they were an official couple.
Her parents gave her the most weepy welcome back that had ever been imagined, then sat her down and lectured her for two hours on why she hadn't told them she was a Power Ranger. Only Dimitria's reminding them that she _couldn't_ saved her from being grounded. Things did get somewhat easier for her after that, especially since she didn't have to make up excuses about why she was leaving the dinner table every now and then to go fight monsters.
It was a week after the fight, when Ashley and Carlos came down to the place in the woods where she had buried Jaydos' body. There was no sign of the grave, no marker. None was needed. They had their memories to mark him by.
"Things could've been so different," she sighed. "But they weren't."
"I know," he nodded. "But in the end, good came from his evil. You came from it, because without him, Asona wouldn't have been reincarnated so many times. You wouldn't be here now."
She smiled. "I know. And I'm glad I am."
"So am I," he gathered her gently into his arms. "So am I. I love you, Ashley."
"I love you, Carlos," she told him. "I love you forever."
And the soul of the Warrior rejoiced as their lips met in a kiss. Her ancient task was ended. Now, she could truly get on with the life she had wanted so long ago.
For Asona the Warrior had been married to Caris, who had bound his soul to his beloved's so many long eons before. He had been reborn with her in each life, and had found her always, only to have her reft from him in each one. Now, at last, they were united. Ashley and Carlos, Asona and Caris, were together.