The FORMER Turbo Rangers, Divatox mentally corrected herself. It was late on the SpaceBase, and she was the only one awake. They've passed their powers on. And now I've got THESE new brats to deal with.
She growled softly at the thought of those insufferable brats. Even the little Blue Ranger was a severe pain, what with his brains and everything. What is it about the Blue Morphin and Blue Turbo Rangers? she wondered. She'd heard about Billy Cranston from her cousin Rita, and this Justin had several things in common with him.
Oh, well. I don't have to contend with him, at least. All I've got is these five colored freaks. The pirate queen sighed briefly, glancing down at her hands. Her still devoid of wedding ring left hand. "I want a man," she muttered to herself. "A man who won't, or preferably can't get away from me. But any man I try for, the Rangers are going to try and stop me again!"
But what if it WERE a Ranger? she stiffened a little at that thought. If I married a Ranger. . .the others couldn't stop me or fight me! But which one. . .that is the question! she whirled around and pulled her periscope down, peering down to Earth, to Angel Grove, California, to three bedrooms in turn. She didn't even consider one of the retired Rangers; all of those were too happily wrapped up in relationships of their own, she wanted someone unattached. For ease in capturing his heart, of course.
"Justin," she murmured, then shook her head sharply. "No way. He's just a little brat. I want a man, not a boy."
Next up was the Red Ranger. She took a long look at him, eyeing his entire muscled body. She licked her lips with her long tongue, considering. Hmmmm. Very nice, indeed. Muscled. Well endowed. Strong. I wonder how skilled he is. She considered him for long moments, then finally shook her head. Just not what I'm looking for.
She turned her periscope to the last male Ranger, Carlos. As she took a long look at him, she felt a strange leap in her heart. She took a long deep breath, her eyes tracing every inch of his entire flesh. "Him," she muttered. She couldn't explain the mysterious attraction he held for her, but she wasn't going to ask questions. She smiled darkly, then bellowed for her minions at the top of her lungs.
"What is it, Auntie D?" Elgar asked as he staggered up, wiping sleep from his large eyes. "What's so important you had to wake me up?"
Divatox threw her head back and laughed. "I want you to get me the Green Turbo Ranger! I'm husband-hungry, and I want Mexican takeout!!"
But that hair. . .those eyes. . .those. . .he put a definite stop to the turn his mind was taking. "The last thing I need is something like that running through my mind," he murmured as he got up and stared out the window. "Ever since I saw Divatox for the first time, I've been dreaming about her." And that first time, I wasn't even a Ranger.
He thought for a moment on that. It had been less than a week before the transfer of Powers. He'd been out during a monster attack, trying to get to one of the shelters. Finding them all locked up, he'd ducked into an alley, hoping that he'd be safe.
And he had been, at least no monsters had bothered him. But he'd heard a woman's voice outside, and had looked to see who else was trapped, intending to call her to safety. Until he'd seen who it was: Divatox, queen pirate of the universe, the current evil villainess attempting the conquest of the Earth.
From the moment his eyes had fallen on her, he'd been head over heels in. . .NO! he ground his thoughts to a halt. That's not what's going on! I am not. . .not. . .his misbehaving mind presented him with a full out fantasy image of Divatox in nothing but her birthday suit.
Oh, God. What a woman.
Divatox shuddered. "I'm supposed to be related to that thing?" she shook her head. "There must have been a mix-up when he was born, I know it," she took a deep breath, and looked at Elgar and Rygog both. "In small words," she growled. "Go down to Earth. Take Piranatrons with you. Kidnap the Green Turbo Ranger. Bring him to me. Do not hurt him. I do not want so much as a hair on his head out of place. Do I have to repeat any of that?"
"Um, no, ma'am," Rygog shook his head. "We understand, don't we, Elgar?"
The mutant scratched his head and frowned. "Um, do you want those tacos or not, Auntie Di?"
"Just go!" Divatox screamed. "And don't come back without the Green Ranger!" as they vanished, the queen sighed and threw herself into her chair. "I've got to get some new help around here!"
A sudden noise from behind him stopped his doom-and-gloom thoughts. His eyes widened to see Elgar, Rygog, and a whole school of Piranatrons behind him. Rygog stepped closer to him, even as his wrist started to twist to call up the Turbo Charger and Key.
"I wouldn't do it if I were you, Ranger," the monster growled. "Queen Divatox wants you!"
Divatox wants me? Carlos gulped. It can't be for what I'm hop. ..thinking. . ."Sorry, she's not going to get me!" he growled, eyes flicking to his communicator, still sitting on the nightstand.
Before he could make a move for it, Elgar and Rygog had darted forward and grabbed him by the arms. "Sorry, Ranger!" Elgar grunted. "Auntie Di always gets what she wants, and she wants you. . and some tacos!"
Rygog groaned and slapped Elgar upside the head with his free hand. "She doesn't want tacos, moron! She was talking about him when she said Mexican takeout!"
"Ummm. . .," Carlos didn't quite understand what was going on, and didn't want to find out the hard way. But that moan was enough to bring the mutants' attention back to him, and he shivered at the look Rygog gave him.
"The queen wants you!" in an explosion of light, they were all gone.
She was somewhat surprised to find that those images held nothing of domination, control, subjugation, or killing. Her eyes widened to realize that instead, they involved. . .tenderness. Romance. Love.
She was sickened at the very notion. She was the Queen Pirate of the universe, she wasn't supposed to consider things like that. If she wanted a guy, as husband, lover, or whatever, she took him, and that was all there was to it. His personal desires meant nothing to her. Only hers counted.
But as she waited for her hench-idiots to return with Carlos, she realized that this time, she wanted him to be happy. She wanted him to . . .care about her.
"Oh, stop it, Di," she muttered to herself. "That's the last thing you need, to be going soft! You lose your edge, then every other force of evil in the galaxy is going to be hovering over the Earth like a pack of wolves, just ready to take you down," Rita and Zedd are already on the moon waiting, and cousin or not, Rita would just love to push me out of the way as chief attacker.
There was a delicate balance of power between the various servants of evil in the universe. More than one could attack a planet at a time, without working together unless they so chose to. If an opportunity to take out some of the competition arose, then it was expected that chance would be taken as swiftly as possible. That had happened with the Machine Empire. They'd fallen for Rita and Zedd's trick, and had paid for it with their existence. Divatox's first act, once she'd settled on Earth and begun her own attacks, had been to establish her superiority by having their scraps melted down. She'd sent a message to Rita and Zedd, declaring her intentions to punish the Rangers for daring to interfere in her marriage plans.
Their reaction still grated on her. They'd both laughed at her, then returned to their palace as if she hadn't even said a thing. They hadn't sent any monsters or Tengas down to attack, not since her arrival, and she made certain to keep an eye on them at all times. She didn't trust her cousin one little bit.
Trust, love, faith, all of those are just illusions, she repeated what she'd learned so many times and so well over the last few centuries. She knew not to believe in anything except the wealth scattered all over her home. She fully expected any of her subordinates to make an attempt on her life at any point, and knew already how she'd handle it: by burning the very life from them.
"Two things in the universe are real," she muttered. "Power and wealth. Other than that, there is nothing."
Any other thoughts on her mind vanished as Rygog, Elgar, Carlos, and the Piranatrons she'd sent with them reappeared. She took a long, deep breath as she gazed into the eyes of the Ranger. "Let me go, Divatox!" he snarled at once, and at the sound of his voice, she shivered unnoticeably.
"Rygog, Elgar, leave us," was all she said, banishing the Piranatrons with a snap of her fingers. "If I want you later, I'll call."
"Your Majesty!" Rygog protested. "This Ranger could attack you! Let some Piranatrons stay with you at least!"
Divatox withered him with a glance. "Get out," she growled, pushing them out of the room. "And don't come back unless I say you can!"
"But!" was all the protesting they got out before she slammed and locked the door, then turned to Carlos, who stood in the middle of the room, somewhat confused, to say the least.
"Let me out of here!" he growled. Bewildered or not, he at least knew one thing: he did not want to be here! He wanted to be at home, in his own bed, not this near to Divatox and her bed! He deliberately did not think about those thoughts that were teasing at the back of his mind, involving the two of them and that bed.
She shook her head. "Sorry, you belong to me now," she told him, grasping his wrists firmly so he couldn't call for his Turbo Chargers.
He pulled away from her. "Sorry, Divatox!" he growled. "But I'd rather die than have you touch me!" You're lying and you know it! a small voice railed at him. You want her more than anything! So what if you're only sixteen?
Divatox took a long look at him, then reached out to flip a small switch in a corner. "You can't morph out of here," she said quietly. "And you can't teleport out. I've just put up a shield around this room that scrambles your morphing powers and your teleportation signal. As long as that door stays shut, then you're staying here."
Carlos paled at that; if she could do that, why hadn't she created something like that to destroy them once and for all? Before he could stop himself, he'd asked that out loud.
She raised an eyebrow. "Why should I answer you?" she replied. "That's not why I had you brought here."
"Then why did you bring me here?" he asked, hoping he was wrong somehow. Or did he want to be wrong? He was so totally confused he didn't even know anymore. He was almost convinced if someone asked him his name, he'd get the answer wrong.
Divatox smiled and snapped her fingers. A second later, she stood clad only in a very sheer gown that clung to her almost like a second skin, in a shade of red that left almost nothing to the imagination. Carlos gulped audibly, as his disobedient mind plunged straight into the nearest gutter.
"Does this answer your question?" she asked, her voice softer and sweeter than he'd ever heard it before. He stood frozen in place, his mind completely switched off. There was nothing he could, or wanted to do to protest as she pushed him to the bed. His entire being shrieked out for this, and he was utterly helpless to deny it.
And he didn't deny it. All night long, he was very busy not denying it.
"There was no sign of a struggle or anything," Cassie reported. She'd went over to see if Carlos wanted to get up a game of soccer, and been surprised to see cops crawling all over the place. She'd managed to pick up the few things which she'd told the other Rangers at once. Carlos was missing, there was no sign of a struggle, and his parents were worried sick.
Dimitria closed her eyes in thought for a few moments, scanning mentally for her student. She probed through several places on Earth he might be, delaying where she hoped he wouldn't be until the last. Finally, her thoughts and mind turned to the SpaceBase, easily slipping past Divatox's defenses. The pirate queen was very powerful when it came to physical attacks, and clever in her own way. But pure magic was something she didn't do very much of, or well. That left her SpaceBase open to magical scanning such as Dimitria did now.
The white-robed mentor sighed briefly to herself, unnoticed by her Rangers. I had thought this was so. I wish I had told Carlos of this sooner. But now he has found out the hard way. And he still does not know the full of it.
Dimitria watched quietly and sadly as Carlos and Divatox 'entertained' each other, to put it mildly, in the pirate's bed. She knew perfectly well he was under no control whatsoever, save that of destiny and his own hormones. She shook her head and returned to her body. He was going to hate himself once he was thinking again, she knew.
I love her, he finally thought it out in full. I know who she is. I know what she is. And I don't care. I love her. I don't really want to leave.
He dared, at last, to open his eyes, and the first thing he saw was Divatox's perfect face reclining against the pillows of her bed. He pushed away the thoughts of fighting, Rangering, and opposing evil away for now. This wasn't the time for it. This was just. . .now.
She's beautiful, he traced a delicate pattern along one high cheekbone. Relaxed in slumber, she wasn't the harridan that ordered attacks on the Earth day after day. She was a woman, soft, loving, and pure. A tear ran down one cheek as he realized what was going on here: he wasn't falling in love with Divatox, he was in love with her. He'd never had to fall in love. He had been in love from the moment he had seen her.
"Carlos?" her eyes opened as the tear struck her cheek. "Mmmm. . .good morning. But why the tears?"
He wiped his eyes dry. "No reason," he sighed, wrapping her up in his arms. "Can I go home now?"
She pushed him away suddenly, staring at him in shock and hurt. "After last night, you want to go home?" Wasn't I good enough? What do I have to do to keep you here??
I don't think that was the right thing to say! he paled suddenly. "It's not that," he shook his head. "My parents. . .the others. . ."
Her eyes were growing stormy as he mentioned the other Rangers. "You are mine, Carlos Valerte, and that is all you are from now on! You're not a Power Ranger anymore, remember that! You belong to me!"
He shivered at the look on her face as she stood up, splendidly beautiful in her fury. If his life on Earth had been one less bit important to him, if he had been one less whit dedicated to his job, he knew he would have just accepted her offer right then and there. Offer? he corrected himself. That's a command, and I'm not her property, whether I love her or not!
"I am a Power Ranger," he stood up, reaching for his clothes and not taking his eyes off her for a moment. "I am the Green Turbo Ranger, and I am not your toy!"
Divatox's eyes blazed, and her mouth opened to say something when the door to her chamber opened and Elgar stood there. "Morning, Auntie Di! I got that Mexican takeout you've been wanting!"
He held a Taco Bell bag in one hand.
"Why hasn't there been any word?!?" Carlos' father raged in the police station. "He's been missing almost twenty-four straight hours, and I haven't seen any evidence that you guys are doing anything!"
Lieutenant Eric Stone sighed. "We're doing everything we can to find Carlos, sir," he said. "I've got all my best men working on it!" Maybe I should've taken Cousin Jerome up on that offer to work with him at the Juice Bar. It would have to be less stressful.
"Your best men obviously aren't good enough!" the distraught man paced up and down. "Where is my son?"
"I wish I knew, sir," the officer glanced at the folders in front of him and shook his head. "I wish I knew."
"I don't know," T.J. shook his head a little. "I mean, how could he be safe on the SpaceBase?" They all trusted Dimitria's word implicitly.
"Let's give it a shot," Ashley suggested. "I mean, what have we got to lose?"
Even before the echo of her words faded, the Blue Ranger was scanning the home of their greatest enemy. He went one hundred percent pale as the readings showed up. "He's there. He's on the SpaceBase."
He went even paler as more information came up. "He's. . .in Divatox's bedroom."
Her nephew scratched his head. "You wanted burritos instead?"
Carlos couldn't help but chuckle a little, then realized that the door to the bedroom was still open! Time to get out of here! "See ya later, Divatox!" he laughed a little, pulling on his shirt and running out the door as fast as he could. As soon as he was out past the force field, there was a flash of green light and he was gone.
Divatox stared after him for a moment, then growled. "You moron!" She hit Elgar over and over again, wishing she knew some way to kill her idiot nephew once and for all. "Now I've went and lost the perfect lover!"
"You did?" Elgar started to peer around her room. "Um, where did the Ranger go, Auntie?"
Whatever Divatox might have said was lost in the wail of pure rage that erupted from her lips at that. The minions on the SpaceBase were going to pay for what she'd lost.
"Carlos!" the Rangers turned as he appeared in the Power Chamber. "Carlos, you're all right!" Ashley grinned. "Glad to see you back!"
The Green Ranger took several deep breaths. "I. .. I'm okay," he said. "I'm all right."
"What happened?" Cassie wanted to know, coming over to him. He was breathing hard, flushed, and his eyes were wide. "Did Divatox do something to you?"
"Yes. No. I don't know," he brushed past her to look up at Dimitria. "Dimitria," he said, not really wanting to ask what was on his mind, but he had to anyway. "Divatox and I. . .we. .ummm. . well. . .we. . .."
She nodded briefly. "I know, Carlos," the mentor told him. "It was meant to be. Your dreams were giving you warnings of what is destined in your life."
His jaw quite literally dropped. "Destined?" he choked. "What do you mean?"
Dimitria took a long breath. This wasn't going to be easy for him to hear. "Carlos, you and Divatox are soulmates. You are destined to fall in love and spend your lives together. She loves you, and you love her. That is why you did what you did with each other."
"I. . .uhhh. . .," Carlos' jaw worked, but nothing came out of it. Finally, he did the only thing he logically could do at that point.
He passed out.
"And I'm not going to experience it now!" she declared to herself. "I refuse to! He's just a great stud, that's all there is to it!" She wasn't certain if she were stating the facts, or just trying to convince herself of them.
She'd tossed Elgar into an exploding volcano shortly after she'd finished yelling at him for continually confusing Carlos with 'Mexican takeout'. He wouldn't be there forever; Elgar had the most amazing regenerative abilities she'd ever seen in anyone. He couldn't think worth anything, but it was the next thing to impossible to kill him off. But throwing in him had been incredibly therapeutic for her, at least.
"Divatox!" she jerked to see her mother appear before her. "What are you doing, young lady? Moping? That doesn't befit someone of our family line!"
The pirate groaned in half-sadness, half-regret. "Momma D, I lost the best lover I've ever had to that stupid nephew of mine! I could always send more Piranatrons after him, but he'd still keep trying to escape! Isn't there anything I can do to keep him?"
Her mother frowned. "Let me see who this lover of yours is, Divatox. You may be doomed to disappointment."
Divatox snapped her fingers, causing an image of Carlos to appear in the room. She sighed deeply, staring longingly at it. Despite his youth, and despite her vast age and experience, he had a special touch that had grabbed onto her soul and didn't seem to want to let go. She was startled out of her reverie by her mother's sharp intake of breath. "Mom? What is it?"
"Who is he?" Momma D almost seemed to growl. "What's his name, what does he do? Is he human?"
Divatox shrugged. "Carlos Valerte, he's human, as far as I know, and he's the Green Turbo Ranger. That's about all I know about him. Oh, and he plays some human game called 'soccer'."
Her mother's eyes seemed to widen in fear or shock, the pirate couldn't tell which. "NO! This can't be! I won't allow it!"
"Mom? What's wrong?" Divatox backed away a bit as a dark cloud of fury emanated from her mother. "Why are you so mad, when I've got the perfect opportunity to corrupt and crush a Power Ranger here!"
Momma D glared at her. "No, you don't! It's more likely that he'll corrupt you with goodness! He's your soulmate, Divatox! Your one and only soulmate!"
"I. . .thought that was Maligore," Divatox felt almost as if lightning had struck her at the word 'soulmate'. It fit perfectly when she thought of Carlos in that fashion, as if he were a part of her that she'd never even know was missing until she found it.
"No!" Momma D snorted. "Be honest with yourself, he was just a convenience, a route to power! But you must not associate with this 'Carlos' any longer! He is dangerous to your evil, my dear!"
Divatox shivered for a moment. How could someone that sweet, that kind, be. . .she stopped herself. Mom's right, I'm already starting to soften! Mustn't let that happen! Mustn't let it! "I won't go near him anymore!" she promised herself and her mother. "I will not fall from evil!"
"You had better not!" she was told harshly. "Because if you do, then there will be a reckoning, my dear! A harsh reckoning!"
As her mother faded away, Divatox banished the image of Carlos and strode out to the main chamber with renewed evil vigor. No matter what it took, she would forget the handsome Carlos. Soulmate he might be, but she would find some other male to occupy her days and nights. And for daring to even tempt her away from evil, even unknowingly, Carlos Valerte would die!
"Carlos?" the Green Ranger glanced up to see T.J. standing there. The two of them weren't anywhere nearly as close as Carlos and Justin, or Carlos and Ashley, or T.J. and Cassie were, but sometimes they both knew a guy simply had to talk to another guy. And this was one of those times. "Mind if I sit down?"
"Go for it," Carlos moved aside, letting his fellow Ranger join him on the riser. "If you don't mind sitting with someone in love with our mortal enemy."
T.J. shrugged. "So? You don't always choose who you love, Carlos, and apparently in this 'soulmate' thing Dimitria's talking about, you get even less choice than most people."
"I know," Carlos sighed. "And the weird thing is, even if I had a choice, I think I'd love her."
The young Hispanic nodded. "I'm not sure, though. I don't know enough about her to be sure just yet. I do know that I'd like to have the chance to find out, though. How can I be sure anything's real unless we try to find out?"
T.J. leaned back, glancing up at the lights of the Power Chamber. "I wonder where you take an evil intergalactic space pirate out on a date?"
His friend blushed a deep red at that. "I don't know. And we've already had our first, um,. . .intimate encounter. That wouldn't be a real concern, I think."
The Red Ranger leaned forward, a certain gleam in his eyes. "So, what was it like?" he almost laughed as Carlos blushed even redder at that. "Come on, tell me! Please!"
The other young man demurred for almost a full minute under T.J.'s determined inquiry. It was only when he threatened to get the other Rangers in on this that he finally admitted, "It was wonderful. I mean, I know it couldn't possibly have been her first time, like it was mine, but still . . .awesome."
T.J. smiled. "You really care about her, don't you? Even knowing what she is, and what she does."
"I do," Carlos nodded. He'd never be able to be with her, and he was quite certain no other woman in the universe would be able to satisfy him in the same fashion she did, but he did love her. "I love her."
"And will until the end of time," Dimitria's voice cut through their conversation. "It is destiny. And destiny is a force that not even the Power Rangers can fight. Or should."
Justin glanced at the two other male Rangers as they came over to where he, Cassie, and Ashley had been awaiting them. "So what's it like to be in love?" the young genius finally asked. Carlos looked at him for a moment.
"Confusing. Invigorating. Annoying," he said at last. "But right now, most of all, I'm worrying over what I'm going to tell my parents. You guys said they had the cops over looking for me earlier?"
Ashley nodded. "I think you're going to have to come up with one very convincing story. And something tells me that your parents aren't going to believe you spent the night with an alien pirate queen who's trying to take over the world."
The Green Ranger winced briefly. "I think you're right. I'm going to have to come up with something more believable than that. Anyone got any ideas?"
"Everyone ready?" Carlos peered around a tree to his parents' house. This was going to be a major performance for all of them. With luck, however, not only would everything be all right, but it might even give a boost to his reputation.
Nods came from the other four Rangers. "Okay," he took a deep breath. "Let's do it."
Carlos practically leaped out from behind the tree, running towards home as if all the demons of Hell were after him. He threw the door to the house wide open and ran inside, panting and wide-eyed with fright. "Mama? Dad?" he called out worriedly, as if uncertain they would be there. He knew they were, however, along with a cop that had been assigned to the house until his return. "Mama?"
They both came running out of the kitchen at the wavering sound of his voice. "Carlos!" Mrs. Valerte rushed over to him, hugging him immediately. "Oh, Carlos! We were so worried about you! What happened!? Where have you been?"
He could see the cop standing in the doorway, arms folded and not looking at all happy. He took a deep breath, and shivered as if still scared. "Oh, it was horrible, Mama! I couldn't sleep the other night, so I went out for some air. . .I didn't think I'd be gone long, so I didn't bother leaving a note. . .and. . .and. . .," he paused again, shivering. "I saw these fish-things. . .Piranatrons, I think they're called. . .they were doing something. . ."
His mother held him close to her again, and his dad's eyes were worried. "What happened?" Mr. Valerte asked. He could see the fear and the fright in his son's eyes, and wanted to know the details.
"They grabbed me," Carlos whispered, shaking. "If it wasn't for the Power Rangers. . ."
On cue, five columns of light entered the house and resolved into the Rangers. It was somewhat strange to see the Green Turbo uniform, and know that he wasn't inside of it. Of course, it wasn't technically the real Green Ranger suit, but no one outside the team knew that. T.J., as Red Ranger stepped to the front of the group.
"Mr. Valerte," he was looking directly at Carlos when he said that, "We came to make certain you'd made it home safely after your ordeal."
"Ordeal?" the officer came all the way into the room, staring at the Rangers. "What's going on here?"
Carlos looked at the Rangers, his lower lip trembling in assumed fear and relief at the fear being over. "Yeah," he pretended to be struggling not to stutter. "I'm okay. Thanks, Rangers, for getting me out of there."
Yellow Ranger came forward. "This fine young man accidentally discovered one of Divatox's most sinister plots," she stated. "She had kidnaped the Green Ranger, and had designs on him that are better not mentioned in public. Carlos was able to free our companion, but the Piranatrons grabbed him before he could get away. Divatox attempted the same scheme on him, but we also managed to teleport him away before it was too late."
"What sort of scheme?" the cop wanted a few more details than this!
Blue Ranger was next, and shook his head firmly. "She was attempting to seduce both the Green Ranger and Carlos. Luckily, she failed in both. We are sorry we couldn't rescue you sooner, Carlos, and we apologize for any inconvenience."
Carlos just nodded, as the Green Ranger gave him a salute and a handshake for supposedly rescuing him. His dad looked at the Rangers. "Thanks for saving my son," he said. The Rangers only nodded as they stepped back into a cohesive group.
"We're glad he's all right," Pink Ranger said. "Thank you again, Carlos. It's good to know there are people like you in the world."
With that, the five of them vanished in their usual blast. His parents looked at Carlos, obviously in shock. The cop shook his head a little. "I still get the idea I'm missing out on something, but everything seems to be okay. I'll head back to headquarters and get everything straightened out there. Welcome back, kid."
As he left, Carlos sighed deeply, and sagged against the wall as if exhausted; and he was. He'd been over a full day without sleep, and felt ready to drop. His mom took just one look at him, then hurried him onto his bedroom. It was obvious to him that they'd bought the tale, hook, line, and sinker. As he sank into his bed, the last thought through his mind was a grateful one.
Glad Dimitria could generate such a perfect illusion of the Green Ranger. I'd hate to have to explain why there was a missing Ranger! But now. . .I sleep.
And he did.
During those three days, there was no activity from Divatox detected whatsoever. If they hadn't known better, they would've suspected she'd stopped attacking the Earth altogether. Alpha and Dimitria kept a sharp eye on Carlos, knowing that the soulmate bond would prevent the space pirate from leaving him alone, if nothing else.
They never saw her watching him ceaselessly through her periscope, investigating every little detail of him as intimately as she could. Divatox's determination to keep away from him and to remain evil had only strengthened with each passing day, but to let a day go by in which she did not see him was purest agony.
So she watched, and so she waited. Divatox entertained the occasional notion of trying to corrupt him to the side of evil; surely he'd be amenable to it if he loved her half as much as she loved him.
But even as she considered that, she rejected the idea. If he were with her on a regular basis, the odds were so much better that he would corrupt her instead of the other way around. Besides, she liked him the way he was, pure and good and oh, so, sexy. It was that which had drawn her to him, she thought, that which made her love him. Just the thought of being in love with him made her feel warm and soft inside, and that was the part she wished she could change. A space pirate of her caliber couldn't risk being soft. She had to remain hard, cold, and proof against good. It meant worse than death to do otherwise.
Carlos was hurting over the separation just as much as she was, if not more so. It just didn't seem right to wake up in the morning and not see her curled up next to him. It was more than not right, it was actually painful. He didn't ask Dimitria what happened to soulmates who couldn't be together; he had a strong feeling he didn't really want to know. He did consider asking Cassie if this was anything like what she felt for the Phantom Ranger. He never did that, either.
The other Rangers worried over him; he wasn't taking this anywhere nearly as well as they'd hoped. They'd entertained the notion that once the two of them were apart awhile, both Divatox and Carlos would slowly forget about each other. Dimitria refrained from mentioning that soulmates simply couldn't forget about each other. It wasn't possible.
Which was why when Carlos agreed to go out with Ashley on the fourth night, everyone was startled.
She stared at Elgar, who'd just emerged from the volcano and made his way back to the SpaceBase. Still dripping the occasional droplet of fire, he stood in front of her and nodded. "That Ranger you had here was with the Yellow Ranger at the movies! I saw them when I was coming back here!"
The pirate shoved her nephew into his room, leaping for her periscope. She'd not checked on him in some hours, being involved in the last details of her plan for destroying the other Power Rangers. Just like a man, the moment my back's turned, he's going off playing with some other female!
It didn't even occur to her to wonder just why she was so upset over it as she scanned Angel Grove for him. She should've been glad that he was finding someone else, as she should've been searching for someone who was properly evil to mate with. As she focused on the theater, her blood boiled to see Carlos and Ashley sitting there engrossed in the latest inane human action flick. "How dare he!?" she screeched. "How dare he look at her!"
"Divatox?" she looked up at the sound of Momma D there. "What's wrong, dearie?"
"That Carlos!" the pirate hissed. "He's got his hands all over some other female!" In truth, Carlos wasn't even holding Ashley's hand, but truth had seldom mattered much to Divatox.
Her mother nodded approvingly. "Good! Let him have an interest in anyone but you! Now what you need is a man of your own!"
"I don't want anyone else but him!" Divatox finally admitted to herself. It didn't matter they were on opposite sides of the proverbial fence, she loved him and she would always love him. "I love him! I won't be weak and good, but I do love him! More than anything!"
"Divatox!" Momma D snapped. "This is unbecoming one of our line! Now, I've arranged a date between you and Master Vile, he's someone truly evil and corrupt! Worthy of you!"
Divatox shook her head harshly. "Forget it, mom! I'm going to get my man!"
In a flash of pure fire, she had teleported off the SpaceBase. No one else was in the theater, it was the early show, so no one but Carlos and Ashley saw her appear and screamed, "How dare you!?!"
Both of them were on their feet a moment later. "What are you talking about?" Ashley asked. "How dare who what?"
"Divatox!" Carlos alternately blushed and paled. "What are you doing here?"
The pirate queen moved quickly, seizing Ashley by one shoulder and slamming the girl headfirst into a wall, knocking her out, then smashing Carlos' communicator like a toothpick. "I should ask you the same thing!" she snapped. "I thought we meant something to each other!"
"We might have, if you weren't trying to take over the world and hadn't just knocked out one of my best friends!" Carlos retorted. "Those aren't exactly the best qualifications for a girlfriend, you know!"
"Well, I wouldn't have knocked her out if she wasn't trying to get her paws on you!"
The Green Ranger snorted, going over to check on Ashley to make sure she was in one piece still. "She wasn't. If you must know, Ashley just so happens to be in love with T.J.! She was asking me for advice on how to ask him out, and I was trying to forget about you: the same thing you've been trying to do for the past few days."
"How'd you know that's what I've been trying to do!?"
The two of them stared at each other for a few moments, neither quite certain just what to say at that moment. They both knew the answer to that. And it wasn't one either of them could accept just now.
Carlos quietly picked Ashley up, and looked at Divatox. "Maybe some other time." was all he said, then he triggered his friend's communicator, taking them both to the Power Chamber.
Divatox stood there alone for a few minutes, her head bowed in an uncharacteristic display of sorrow. Then she teleported back to the SpaceBase; she had some thinking to do.
He sighed deeply. Fate had to hate him, he realized. First it made him fall in love with a woman he could never have. Then it made her fall in love with him, a man she could never have. Then it had to give them both a taste of the joy that by rights should have been theirs, only to rip it all away.
"I do love you, Divatox," he whispered. The intervening days had only made it more certain. He loved her, and would do almost anything to be with her. If he wasn't a Power Ranger, he would actually do anything at all. But whether he liked it or not, being accepted into the Rangers, and accepting it, had placed a few limits on his social engagements. One of those was, though an unspoken rule, no fraternizing with the enemy. He'd never even thought it possible until now. But now it was.
"And I love you, Carlos," Divatox walked up next to him and sat down before he realized it. "I can't change what I am. At least not right away. But. . .I think I want to change."
His eyebrows hit the back of his head in surprise. "Say what?!"
"I love you," she stated again. "And I want to be with you. There's only two ways for that: if you become evil or if I become good. You can't be corrupted; that's why you're a Power Ranger. You can have a bad day, like anyone, but you could never truly be evil."
He tried to speak, but she laid a hand on his lips gently. "I can't change at once. I've been what I am for too long. But the attacks on Earth will cease, at least from me. I can't speak for Rita and Zedd, or for anyone else who might try. And there will be people who try. Earth is the richest plum in the universe because of how many different people like me have failed to conquer it. You don't have to worry about being an unemployed Ranger for a while," she smiled faintly.
Carlos shook his head. "I don't care about that. I care about you. Are you sure you want to try this?"
"I am," her voice was firm. While he'd been taking care of Ashley, she'd come to her decision. "I've already sent the SpaceBase back to Havoc, along with Rygog, Porto, and Elgar. They all think I'm crazy, by the way."
He smiled briefly as he enveloped her in his arms. "And are you?"
"I am," she purred richly. "Crazy over you, my sweet Mexican takeout."
He laughed. "Mexican is spicy," he corrected her as they fell gently to the ground. "And I love you."
Nothing more seemed to need to be said.
Havoc peered from around a corner. "Mother? What's upset you so? I could hear you screaming all the way from the construction bay."
"Havoc, get your Robot Warriors together!" his mother shouted, whirling around so fast she very nearly knocked the crystal over onto the floor. "We're going to Earth and we are going to knock some sense into that sister of yours!"
The general blinked briefly, then nodded. It wasn't exactly the smartest thing to do to argue with a dark sorceress as powerful as she was, not even if she was his mother. Perhaps especially if she was his mother.
As he marched away, Momma D stared into the crystal, her eyes glowing faintly as she watched Divatox and Carlos kiss one another again. She was beginning to feel somewhat nauseous just at the sight. You're going to pay for this, Carlos Valerte. You will suffer for turning my sweet dark daughter away from the shadows! And I will enjoy making you suffer.
Divatox smiled shyly. She felt so young inside...so young and free, as if all that she had lived through in her evil life was nothing more than a fairly nasty nightmare. She found that she wanted to see the other Rangers, she wanted to talk to Dimitria and hopefully be forgiven for all the hideous things she had done to those that she had battled against all this time. Most of all, she could feel a burning desire to speak with Jason Lee Scott and Kimberly Hart. She wanted to apologize for what she'd done to them on Murianthus.
There's so much I have to make up for. And I will. She looked over at her boyfriend and smiled. "Come on, let's go. Maybe someone can lend me some decent clothes, I want out of this outfit!"
Carlos couldn't resist what he said next, knowing it could be taken any one of a dozen ways. "I'd like to see you out of that outfit, too."
As he triggered their teleport, holding her delightfully close, he wasn't too surprised when she smacked him upside the head. He'd rather been expecting it.
"Yo-yo-yo!!!" Alpha's surprised voice was the first thing that they heard. "Carlos, whatcha doing bringing her here?"
As the sparkles of teleportation cleared away, Carlos and Divatox both saw Dimitria in her tube and the robot standing between them and the consoles, obviously highly agitated. Carlos stepped forward. "Calm down, Alpha, it's all right! She's not evil anymore!"
The good sorceress gazed at them both with tender and compassionate eyes. "Is this true, Divatox?" she asked quietly, feeling a strange comfort in the asking of questions.
"Yes, it is." Divatox sighed deeply, feeling the pressure and demands of evil rise from her. "I'm tired of always fighting, always destroying something or other. I want to make things, things that will last and be worth something, not things that will destroy something else."
Dimitria smiled, then slowly emerged from the tube and came to stand before her former enemy. "These are commendable goals. I know the Rangers and myself will help you to achieve them, if you will accept our help."
"I do." Divatox replied. "I honestly want to change." She reached one hand to her mask and removed it for the first time in eons, placing it carefully on a console. With a shake of her head, the purple faded from it, leaving it a deep and becoming shade of brown. The overdone makeup faded as well, and Divatox blinked slowly as for the first time in many thousands of years, she looked out at the world from eyes no longer hidden behind a mask.
Carlos had seldom seen Dimitria's emotions. Indeed he had not been all that certain she had emotions most of the time. But now, he saw something behind her veil that was nothing he had ever expected her to show: complete, utter, shock.
She reached out one hand to gently touch Divatox's face, then seemed to come to some sort of internal decision. With her free hand, she reached up and undid the veil that concealed her own face, exposing it for the first time in millennia. Carlos sputtered out something in Spanish that heated up Alpha's circuits as the two women gazed at each other, each seeing something that before, she had seen only in the mirror.
Their own face.
He wasn't the only retired Ranger in the Power Chamber right then. All of the team had been gathered together who had known them, or of them. Rocky, Adam, Kat, Tanya, T.J., Ashley, Cassie, Justin, Jason, and Kimberly were all there, and every last one of them appeared to be in as much shock as he was over this situation.
"I know how you feel," Divatox said quietly. "I could hardly believe it myself, but apparently it's true. Momma D kidnaped me when I was just born, and altered Dimitria's birth-records so no one would ever know there were supposed to be two children instead of one. I grew up not even knowing I had a sister. Or that I was born to be good."
Kat shook her head slowly, then walked over to the ex-villainess. "You didn't know, and now that you do, things are going to be all right for you, I think. You've got friends now. Believe me, a lot of us know what it's like to be evil. You're not alone."
Kim joined her friend, giving a warm hug to the older woman. "I forgive you." She said simply. "You were doing what you thought you had to do."
"But it turns out, I didn't have to do it after all," Divatox turned to Carlos, who was watching the whole thing with interest. "The person waiting for me was here all along."
Jason cleared his throat. "Think of it like this. If you hadn't done all the things you did, you wouldn't have met Carlos, would you?"
"Very true," Dimitria agreed with the young man. "But now we must make arrangements for you, my sister. A new identity and a new place for you to live must be arranged."
Justin stepped up. "I can do that, not a problem. I'll let you know once I've got things set up." As Divatox nodded her thanks, the youngest Ranger turned to a console and started to work. One by one, each of the Rangers and ex-Rangers offered congratulations and confirmed that not only did they approve of her decision, but they would support her in every way possible.
Everyone was so caught up in all the preparations, it took them by surprise when Carlos spoke up suddenly. "Whoa, I've got to be getting home! My parents are going to kill me if I'm home late again!" He leaned over quickly to peck Divatox on the cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow?" It was somewhere between a question and a statement.
"Of course." She returned the kiss with a full one on the lips. "I love you."
"I love you." They both smiled, then Carlos stepped back, touched his communicator, and vanished in a column of emerald light.
I think things are going to get a lot better from now on, the young Ranger thought as he closed his eyes. He was feeling very tired, more tired than he had a right to be. A day like he'd had, plus the very delicious meal his mother had fixed and some romping with his younger siblings, had worn him out quite thoroughly. I really should get some sleep. I feel so....
His thoughts drifted off as his eyes began to slide shut. A shadow moved itself across the room, just barely catching his attention, and he tried to drag his eyes open to see what it was. "W...wh....wha...?" was all he managed to get out as he clearly saw the figure in his room: General Havoc.
"Oh, nothing personal, Green Ranger, at least not for me," the general said as he stood by the half-slumbering Ranger. "Now, my mother, on the other hand, is going to take this very personally. Just go to sleep and don't worry yourself about what we do to you. If I've got my way about it, you'll make it through in one piece."
That was all Carlos heard before his eyes slid all the way shut, and black darkness drew itself over his mind like a thick blanket.
Her sister nodded; she understood the bond of soulmates. Each could feel what the other did on occasion, usually whenever danger threatened. "Alpha, check on Carlos, quickly."
The results came back not anywhere near fast enough for any of them, especially Divatox. But when they did arrive, Divatox went so pale Tommy quickly steadied her, for fear she might faint.
"Carlos is on the SpaceBase...." she whispered softly. "And so are my mother and Havoc." I knew I shouldn't have trusted them to stay away
"She is not your mother," Dimitria reminded her. "When we have time, I will introduce you to your mother. But Momma D is very dangerous. Why would she take Carlos?"
Divatox spoke the word simply, quietly, and with utter conviction. "Revenge."
Carlos blinked briefly, trying to clear his mind. "W..what?" Havoc was in my room...he said..something..what's going on? Who's this old bat?
"You're in my presence, filth!" the sorceress growled, her eyes boring into his. "When you are in my presence, you will refer to me as "Grand Majesty" and treat me with the respect and fear I am due!"
The Green Ranger didn't find himself impressed. "Sure, whatever, just tell me who you are, and why you've kidnapped me, and I might even agree with you." Something tells me this kidnapping isn't going to anywhere near as fun as the last one was.
The old woman slapped him again. "I am Momma D, mother of Queen Pirate Divatox, and you will address me with respect, or I will kill you where you stand!"
Carlos looked her up and down calmly. "She obviously takes after her father." That earned him another slap, something he was rather expecting. "Don't you have anything better to do with your time?"
He was ready for another slap, but instead, Momma D materialized a many-tailed whip in one hand, and cracked it harshly across his face. He felt a line of blood trickling down, and a chill turned his spine to ice. This woman is not sane.
"Mom, why bother with all of this?" the voice of General Havoc asked, and Carlos looked up to see the other standing in the doorway of the cell he was in. He took the chance to look around quickly; he was most definitely not in Divatox's bedroom this time around. The cell was quite small, just barely room for two, and he was chained to a wall by his ankles and wrists. "Since they are soulmates, then what happens to one will be reflected in the other. If you corrupt him with Maligore's lava, then she will once again return to the side of evil."
His mother snorted, her eyes switching quickly between Havoc and Carlos. "Certainly, right up until the Rangers haul Lerigot back from Liara and they make them both good again! If I kill this trash now, then Divatox will know the folly of betrayal and will suffer as nothing else could make her!"
"I don't think so," Havoc shook his head. "If you kill him, then none of the Rangers will stop until they've done the same to us."
The argument raged back and forth for several minutes, each side growing louder and louder with each exchange. Havoc insisted that turning Carlos to evil would be far more effective in the long run than merely killing him, while Momma D insisted that death was the only thing the Green Ranger deserved for corrupting her beloved daughter with the power of goodness. She punctuated her insistence on many occasions by cracking the whip on various body parts of the young Ranger, until he was upright only because of the chains holding him that way. If he had been left to his own devices, Carlos would have been on the floor, and most likely passed out or worse.
"I'm saying for the last time, mother, you could have revenge and Divatox back if you listen to me!"
"And I'm saying that I will do as I please with this fool!"
Carlos managed to lift his head just a little. "Excuse me..." he gasped, the pain almost unbearable. Momma D had treated the tips of the whip with something that made his flesh and skin far more sensitive than they had a right to be. Every time the whip cut into his skin, he felt as if his very soul were being ripped apart with the agony. "But...don't I get a...say in this?"
Both of his enemies answered with the exact same word.
Divatox's eyes flashed violet with rage. "You mean, with all your vaunted honor, courage, and all of that...you still won't go and rescue him?"
"It is against the code of the Rangers, Divatox," Dimitria said quietly. "We must honor it, or we become no better than the forces we fight against."
The ex-villainess frowned slightly. "Well, then it's good thing that I'm not a Power Ranger!" She gathered her energies about her and concentrated. I'm not letting those...those...creatures hold him one more moment! With a flare of purple energy, Divatox vanished, heading for the place that had so recently been her home.
"Now, let's see...what else can I do to you?" the ancient mage stared balefully at the captive. Carlos shuddered away; every other time she had said that had been followed by a session that meant exhausting pain for him, and worse.
"Well, I'm thinking sort of like....let him go." A very familiar voice to the both of them spoke, and Momma D turned around to see Divatox standing in the doorway, holding Havoc by the throat and looking somewhat...perturbed.
Carlos sighed deeply. Thank goodness! She came! He honestly hadn't been expecting the Rangers; he knew the Code as well as they did, and even in this situation, they couldn't go invading a place. If they had been able to teleport him out, or if he could escape on his own, that was another story. Divatox, however, was not even now bound by the Code. "Divatox..."
"Be with you in a minute, hon," the ex-villainess smiled, then turned her dark gaze back onto the woman who had raised her. "Now, are we going to go with the 'releasing him' option, or is it going to be the hard way?"
Havoc's view on the matter apparently was the 'release Carlos' option, or so they all assumed from the way he was clawing the air in the Green Ranger's general direction. Momma D frowned slowly, a long knife materializing in her hand. "I could kill him now," she said. "And you too. Rid myself of a Ranger and a traitor at the same time."
"You could." Divatox's voice was ice-cold. "But if you kill him, I swear you won't live to kill me."
Complete and utter silence fell between them all. Momma D's eyes flicked momentarily back and forth between the three, noticing the complete unrelentingness in Divatox's eyes. She might no longer be evil, but she would slit my throat as easily as she stands there. That would accomplish nothing but my own death, and who is to say that blasted Dimitria twin of hers couldn't bring the Ranger back to life somehow? Her powers were completely unknown, and beyond imagining.
Slowly, reluctantly, the evil sorceress stepped away. "Very well. Have him and your 'true love' and all of that. But remember what you grew up knowing: evil always conquers good in the end. Evil never gives up. Good is weak."
"Evil talks too much." Divatox said flatly as she threw her erstwhile brother towards Momma D and went over to cut Carlos loose. "You're going to need to see Alpha and the medtable, I do believe," she grinned as she helped him up.
He smiled up at her weakly. "I'd rather see you," he whispered, and she smiled, leaning him against her.
"Later, lover," she murmured into one ear. "Let's get you home."
With a flex of her energies, she sent them teleporting back to the Power Chamber. Her heart sang a song of peace and love as they warped through space, and there was nothing she felt that she and Carlos could not accomplished.
So long as they were together.