Legal Disclaimer: You guys know the drill; insert whatever disclaimer you like the best here. . . this starts off in "Carlos and the Count", then moves beyond it. Oh, and I've taken a few liberties with certain things from the show, please don't blame me. If I'm not badly mistaken. . .I think I've written something that doesn't seriously conflict with the established Saban timeline. Hmm. ..I don't think I'm feeling well. :)

Dweller in the Shadows
by Cynthia

Angel Grove was not by nature a dark place, though it had been under siege by the forces of darkness for years. But that night, as Carlos, the Green Turbo Ranger, made his way home after being attacked and bitten of all things by one of Divatox's monsters, the shadows seemed darker and deeper than ever before. The pulsating pain in his neck didn't seem so bad as he entered his house, and the exhaustion he usually felt after a fight with Piranatrons had vanished. He went to his room, trying to work the stiffness out of his body, and promptly forgot all about the attack, faced with the far worse prospect of unfinished homework.

Outside, a soft laugh echoed through the trees as Count Nocturne, the creature that had bit him and infected him with the curse of vampirism, watched his victim. The mutated Lunar Bat transformed to his small winged shape, and flapped away over the city. He ignored the screaming in his mind that was Divatox as she ordered him back to the SpaceBase as best he could.

That Ranger was INCREDIBLY tasty, but not very filling. I think his powers had something to do with it. All that purity in his blood made me nauseous, he thought. And I am NOT going to snack on any of the mutants Divatox keeps around her place, those things reek! I want real blood. . .real, human blood, untainted by the Power.

He circled around. It wasn't going to be easy to find someone out this late. Carlos had only been there because he was going home from the horror festival, and by now, everyone else was already indoors. Like a vampire from mythology, he couldn't enter a building uninvited, unless it was a public place. By definition, those extended invitations to everyone, even creatures like him.

It's getting harder and harder to find a decent meal these days, Nocturne grumbled to himself. You'd think people were afraid to step outside their houses at ni. . .ohhhh. . .his eyes almost seemed to light up as he saw something below him. By now he was in another residential section of Angel Grove, far from any of the Power Rangers' homes, and far from any and all prying eyes. Beneath him was a young girl, looking to be about fifteen or sixteen, scanning the heavens with a telescope.

Nocturne perched in a tree, resuming his monstrous form, and watched her for a few moments. She didn't speak, which wasn't unusual considering she was alone, but did jot down a few things in a notebook she had with her. A stargazer of some kind, he decided. And out on JUST the wrong night.

He licked his lips, then waited just one more moment. The girl turned her back, starting to put her things away. It was the opening he was waiting for. The evil vampire swept down on her, seizing her swiftly and sinking his fangs into her throat. The sweet blood poured down his throat, and Count Nocturne drank it greedily, enjoying the sensations that swept through him as he did so. Her fear, her weakening struggles, soft cries as she tried to push him away, then she stopped. She wasn't dead, she just no longer had the energy to fight him.

Once he had sated his thirst, he looked quickly at her. Her skin was very, very pale, and her breath came in far shorter gasps than Carlos' had after his attack. Nocturne shrugged as he dropped her. She would be all right, he surmised, after some rest. As he changed back and flapped back to the SpaceBase at last, replete with her blood, he wondered in the back of his mind if his biting of her would also turn her into a vampire, as he already knew it would with Carlos.

What does it matter? he thought. I have more important things to worry about. . .like getting the Green Ranger to serve me forever.

Far behind him, the girl he had just drained of almost all her blood slowly stirred. If anyone could have examined her in that moment, they would have detected changes in her physical system that would have astounded them. Fangs slowly emerged from her gums, sharp and white. Her eyes shifted to enable her to see clearly in the dark. Strength and agility coursed into her muscles. As she sat up, almost a totally different person from the one who had been quietly cataloguing the movements of a comet a mere ten minutes earlier, she smiled briefly.

"I'm hungry."

* * *
two weeks later
T.J. and Ashley barely looked up as Carlos, Cassie, and Justin entered the Youth Center; they were too busy working out on the mats. Even though this generation wasn't quite as into martial arts as a lifestyle the way previous ones had been, they still practiced on a daily basis, to keep their health and strength and reflexes in tip-top condition. They were so involved in their training, they didn't notice that the Pink Ranger was holding a newspaper in one hand, and was talking rather worriedly to her companions about it.

"This is the third attack in the last two weeks," she said quietly, sitting down at their usual table. "The cops are really getting worried, there's even mention of a curfew."

Justin frowned. "But no one's been killed have they?" the words sounded strange coming from a twelve-year-old, but strange things had a way of happening around Angel Grove.

"No," Carlos shook his head. "Just attacked and drained of some blood. In all three attacks, the same person apparently made a call to alert the police. They're not quite certain if it's the attacker, but they at least want to talk to them."

On the mats, Ashley and T.J. had finally caught sight of their companions and the concerned looks on their faces. "Hey," Ashley paused the workout. "Let's go see what's going on, they look sort of upset."

Cassie looked up as soon as she heard her friend's voice. "We sort of are," she murmured as the other two Rangers came over to them and took their seats. "Look."

She laid the newspaper flat out in front of them. The Angel Grove Gazette declared in large letters, Third Vampire Attack! Beneath the flashy words was the story, about how yet another victim with matching puncture wounds had been found in the park, after a mysterious call with a voice no one could identify and that was only traced to a pay phone not far from the victim, with no fingerprints or trace of whoever it might have been. The police force was doing everything it could to find out who the caller was, since all evidence pointed towards them also being the attacker, though they weren't positive. In Angel Grove, people learned quickly never to take anything at face value.

Carlos quickly became aware of the fact that the others were looking at him rather curiously. It had been two weeks since Count Nocturne had bitten him, turning him into a viscious, evil, blood-sucking vampire. Though he had fought off the effects and had been cured with the destruction of Divatox's monster, this was still somewhat odd about these attacks coming after that. He sighed just the littlest bit.

"It's not me, guys! You know Alpha's antidote fixed that up for me!"

T.J. nodded. "This could be one of Divatox's monsters, though. If she made another Nocturne," he shuddered, and saw the pain in Carlos' eyes at that. "Come on, let's go talk to Dimitria."

* * *
Hovering over Angel Grove in the SpaceBase, Divatox, nemesis of the Power Rangers and unwitting author of what they were currently concerned over, was also staring at a newspaper she'd stolen from below. She tried to keep up with current events on Earth as best she could; to make certain they spelled her name right and got all the facts straight, like how she was the greatest force of evil in the cosmos and that she would defeat the Rangers one of these days.

"And just maybe this thing, whatever it is, is the key to doing it," she stared at the story she had been reading. She knew it wasn't Carlos who was attacking people, he'd been cleansed of the vampiric taint of Nocturne, as angry as that had made her. She'd been so close to having an army of vampire slaves. ...and then the Rangers had went and cured him!

She tried to calm down, to focus on the present instead of the far past of two weeks earlier. Her eyes scanned the newspaper report, her mind working as she plotted out where this strange being might attack next. I need to figure out who they are, and how they became what they are. I haven't quite given up on the notion of having an entire army of vampires at my command.

The pirate licked her lips a little, chuckling darkly under her breath, to the nervousness of her crew, who stood a few feet away watching her read and plot. "Do you think she's lost her mind?" Elgar bumbled through most things, but he was more concerned than the average person might have thought about his aunt.

"Is it our business if she has?" Rygog retorted. He hated even having to talk to the captain's nephew, but some things were unavoidable. He was wondering what it would take to get rid of Elgar, and if Divatox would mind all that much if he did. He'd heard there were some fairly cheap, and effective, assassins available, and he did have a fair amount of money stored in his savings account. It could be done so easily. ..

"Shut up!" the three of them jumped at Divatox's harsh voice. "I've been getting caught up on what's going on down on Earth. It appears there's a vampire in Angel Grove!"

Her crew looked confused; but that didn't surprise her. A simple math equation could confuse most of them. She glared, mainly for effect and also because she couldn't believe she had gotten stuck with these idiots for henchmen. Then again, she reminded herself, it could be a lot worse. She could have had Rito Revolto on her payroll. A shudder went through her at that concept, and she actually pitied Rita for a few moments. What is it with evil queens, that we have such stupid relatives? Rita's brother, my nephew. Oh, well, since Rita and I got the looks and the brains, there wasn't that much left for Rito and Elgar! Well. ..I got the looks, anyway! She could still use a MAJOR fashion makeover!

"I'm only going to say this once, you morons," she said, staring at each of them in turn, making certain they were paying attention. She slapped Elgar harshly across the face when she saw his eyes glazing over in anticipation of another one of her lectures, and jerked his face closer to her. "From now on, all our efforts are going to be directed towards finding this vampire, and getting them on my side! We'll attack the Rangers as we always do, but if anyone sees anything or hears anything that could indicate who this vampire is, I want to know about it! Is that understood?"

She nodded harshly to herself as the three of them nodded in varying degrees of understanding. She'd talk later to Porto in more detail about it. Despite looking like a very large marshmallow with a porthole for a face, Porto did have a brain, and was fairly useful. She really needed to appreciate him more. Maybe then she'd actually get somewhere in this war.

* * *
The night had always been her friend, but now it was more than that. Now it was a part of her, regardless of when the sun shone or when she was in it. Even during high noon she held the shadows of night within her soul, and she had never been happier.

Her feet made no sound as she walked the streets, the very faintest of smiles on her lips. She couldn't smile much beyond that because her fangs would show then. There was no quicker way to drive off her prey than for them to see what she was before it was time.

From the moment she had stood from the creature's attack on her, she had been a predator. Not like before, when she had simply been a girl, an amateur astronomer. She had lost no interest in the stars since then, indeed, she could see them now in far greater clarity than she ever had before. She had already made discoveries that would shock astronomers, if she were able to reveal them. Too bad she couldn't; half of what she knew now couldn't be proven by anything but the very strongest telescopes, and she had no intentions of letting anyone know that she existed as a vampire.

She could hear someone walking down the street now. A quick breath of air told her that they were a street person, a bum, one of the few that Angel Grove had. She had tended to feed on them in the last couple of weeks, they were easy to catch and didn't taste all that bad. She'd always wondered what a 'normal' person would be like, but didn't dare hunt early enough in the evening to catch one of them. Her preferred hunting time was as late at night as she possibly could get. It was far easier than trying to get out earlier in the day and trying to get by the officials at the orphanage.

Slowly, her lips skinned back from her fangs, and she smiled widely. Dinner was waiting up ahead of her, and her stomach only faintly curdled at the sight of it dressed in rags and with the strongest of stench coming from it. She'd tasted worse in the last fortnight, and with only a leap, she had pinned the old woman to the ground. As their eyes met, she quickly hypnotized her prey, smiling faintly as they relaxed and let their head fall to the side, exposing the vulnerable jugular. Quickly she sank her fangs into the vein, and drank the sweet nectar of life she needed so badly.

When her meal was over with, she quickly checked the pulse, and was relieved that once again, she'd managed not to kill. She didn't have to kill to feed, and she did everything she could to make sure she didn't. The woman was unconscious though, and the vampire nodded briefly as the puncture wounds scabbed over. Within a day they would be gone totally, and the victim would remember at most only a pair of eyes coming at her, eyes and teeth, and no pain whatsoever.

She fished a coin out of her pocket and went for the phone only a short distance away, dialing for the assistance she knew her dinner would need. Holding one gloved hand over the receiver, she grunted, "There's another victim of the vampire at Third and Vine. She is as the others, and will be all right. Have a nice night."

Before the person on the other side could say anything, she quickly hung up and left the area, blending into the shadows as quickly as she could. One of the fears that came with her vampiric identity was that she would be seen and taken to be dissected. After a mere sixteen years of life, and a bare two weeks of undeath, she didn't want that at all.

* * *
Carlos was somewhat worried the next day in school; Dimitria had known nothing of any new vampiric monsters that Divatox might have unleashed, which meant it probably wasn't one of the pirate queen's plots, her monsters always were detected by the endless scans in the Power Chamber. Of course, there was always the chance that she had figured out some way around the sensors, and if that was true. . .a shiver went down his spine as he thought of Count Nocturne and the horror that he had lived. The thought of going through that once more was more than enough to stop him in his tracks.

It's probably not a real vampire. Just some sicko who likes to think they are. Just a looney. Angel Grove has a few of those. Especially Divatox, he giggled to himself at the thought of Divatox being wrapped up in a straightjacket and sent to a padded cell. It would be the nicest fate that he could imagine for her. The worst didn't even bear description.

"Ooof!!" he was so deep into his imaginative thoughts he had bumped right into someone! His face flushed when he saw it was a very attractive young woman, with long black hair and deep pools of shadows for eyes. "Excuse me!"

She smiled. "It's all right, no harm done."

He quickly readjusted his books and smiled at her. There was something about her that was familiar, though he could wager that he'd never seen her before in his life. "I don't think we've met before, have we?" he asked. "Are you new to Angel Grove?"

"No, I've lived here most of my life," she smiled winningly, though somewhat thinly, without showing her teeth. "I just don't wander around that much. I don't hang out with other people that much."

"What do you hang out with then?" he couldn't help but ask. She smiled again, and he was struck once again by that sense of familiarity, though he couldn't figure out just where he could know her from.

"That's my little secret," she held out her hand. "Lyra Cunningham. And your name is?"

He stared at her hand for a moment, the familiarity overwhelming his mind for a moment. Where have I seen her before? Or have I? I don't know. . .I wish I could figure this out. . .When she cleared her throat a little bit, he jumped, flushing darkly, then shook her hand. "Carlos Alvarez."

"Nice to meet you," Lyra nodded. "Well, it's been fun talking, but I've got to go."

"You do?" he didn't want to get away from her so soon, at least not until he'd figured out why he had this strange sensation of knowing her. It was driving him insane just thinking about it!

Lyra raised one eyebrow. "Is there some reason I shouldn't?" she asked quietly. Carlos flushed even deeper, he was making a complete fool of himself, and he didn't even know why! Whatever it was that sort of. ..linked them. had nothing to do with romance, it was just a strong sense of kinship, as of a sister that he'd never known he had until meeting her.

"I. .umm....I know this sounds crazy," actually, even as he spoke, he knew it sounded more than crazy, it was purest insanity, but he had to ask, he had to find out! "But are you getting the feeling that know me? Because I'm getting the feeling that I know you."

Lyra raised one eyebrow. "Have you ever considered getting professional help for this sort of feeling? Because you know as well as I do that we've never met before."

"I know," Carlos admitted. "But do you?"

Lyra glanced at him a moment, a line forming between her eyes. Quietly, she spoke. "Yes. I do."

* * *
Divatox tapped one foot against the floor, impatiently staring at the periscope one moment, then glaring out the balcony the next. She was not a patient person, and as each moment passed without another word on the existence of the vampire, she was getting worse and worse.

Finally, she jerked the periscope around and glared at the only person she knew for a fact had any connection to the vampiric lifestyle: Carlos the Green Turbo Ranger. For a moment she searched around for him, then spied him standing next to a young girl of his own age.

A chill raced down the evil queen's spine as she saw them together. She could see what Carlos couldn't: the faint outline of fangs beneath the girl's lips, and her eyes widened. A teenager? The vampire I've been looking for is a TEENAGER? And not just any, but one who's hanging around with the Power Rangers? She wasn't quite certain if that was a good thing or not, but already plans were beginning to shape themselves in her mind.

"All right," she paced a little, thinking out loud to herself and ignoring the stares of her crew. "That little wimp with the Green Ranger could be the vampire I'm looking for. I think I see the fangs. I could be wrong. ..but I doubt it. I need to test her. And to test him, to see if they are protecting her. Of course, they'll probably protect her anyway, just because she's an 'innocent bystander'," Divatox's voice dripped with contempt at that. With a harsh snap of her fingers, a group of Piranatrons appeared. "Look here, you idiots," she gestured so they could see Carlos and the girl, she still hadn't caught her name yet. "Attack these two as soon as they're alone with each other, I want to make certain no one else interferes if at all possible."

She thought for a moment. Should I go ahead and kidnap her? No, not just yet. She might not be a vampire, and if she is, I don't want her hanging around here to get in the way and be rescued later. "Just fight them, you'll get your fishy butts kicked, but I'm after information here, not victory. Information that will lead to victory. Now go!" With that sharp order, the creatures vanished, and Divatox rubbed her hands together in glee. This was going to be fun!

* * *
Carlos stared at the young girl in front of him, and without even knowing why, they headed for the outside lunch area. They both had some time before they had to get to their next classes, and with an unspoken mutual wish, they wanted to get to know each other somewhat better. As they sat down, Lyra positioned herself carefully so that the sun didn't touch her. The light didn't destroy her, but she was more sensitive to it than she had been before. She didn't know why she was so drawn to Carlos, why she felt as if she had just found a part of herself that had been missing.

"This isn't exactly the most. . .usual thing that's ever happened to me," Carlos said, trying to find the words that would express what he was thinking. "I can honestly say I've never looked at someone for the first time and thought that I knew them before, or felt as comfortable as I do with you."

Lyra nodded. "I feel the same way. I'm really not comfortable with many people, it's one of the reasons I'm by myself a lot. But right now, I feel like I'm with an old friend. Which is kind of weird considering that I don't have any old friends."

"So, what do you do?" he clamped onto the only question that seemed sensible. "I mean, when you're not in school."

She shrugged briefly. "This and that. I like astronomy, I study the stars a lot. I read, too, constantly," she gestured to one of the books in her bag, it was a science fiction novel he'd vaguely heard of. "I spend as much time as I can in the library," it's kind of easy to track down dinner from there. The reading types don't always notice minor blood loss. She tended to vary her eating and hunting habits; having a pattern was the easiest way to get caught. She snacked on some people infrequently for a few days, then fed deeply from a single person, for now. She'd change it soon enough, she didn't dare get caught in a rut, or she would be caught.

Carlos nodded. "I'm into soccer myself," he said. And saving the world. The two of them talked for what felt like forever, exchanging their entire life stories, both edited for listener consumption. Carlos made no mention of the Power Rangers, and Lyra said nothing about having been bitten by a vampire. Despite what they felt towards each other, neither quite was certain if they could trust the other with that deep secret just yet.

"I think we'd better get to class," Carlos glanced at the clock and saw they only had about five minutes. "Who do you have first?"

She glanced over there herself. "Mr. Wilton, for chemistry. You?"

"Miss Appleby, English," he grinned. "Want to meet for lunch?"

"Can't," Lyra shook her head. "I've already got plans. But maybe we can meet later, after school?"

"Sure," he grinned and was about to head off to his class when the sound of splashing water interrupted him. To most people, that would have meant nothing more than someone had spilled a glass. To Carlos, he whirled, his every muscle poised and ready already for combat. A troop of Piranatrons stood in between him and Lyra, and he felt a powerful sense of protectiveness rising up in him at the thought of her being hurt or even looked at by these monsters! "Get away from her!" his voice was strident and determined. Lyra glanced over at him, her lips quirking.

"Don't worry about me, Carlos," she said calmly. "I'm capable of taking care of myself."

Without another word, she leaped towards the creatures, her hands seizing one by the arm and slamming it into another with strength Carlos would have taken a serious bet that she couldn't have had. There wasn't much of martial arts in her movements, but there was plenty of raw power that easily turned itself into self-defense. He stood for a moment in shock, not believing his eyes at all.

"Are you going to stand there and let me do all the work?" Lyra asked, tossing another Piranatron around as if it were made of straw. "Or are you going to get over here and be useful, I'm not that good, you know!"

He blinked for the barest of seconds, then raced into the fight, kicking and punching as strongly as he could. All his strength was quite literally nothing when it came to Lyra, though. She was lifting, tossing, and throwing the Piranatrons around with the greatest of ease, and as he ran by her once, he was willing to wager that she hadn't even broken a sweat! A thought ran through his mind. ..what is she!?

Lyra, on the other hand, was simply having the time of her life. Or unlife, whichever it could be called. She didn't know what these things were, but she also didn't care. Just being able to really cut loose on them and show her full strength was enough. As the last of them vanished, she found herself face to face with Carlos, who was staring at her. She chuckled at his expression of total shock and surprise, and told him completely straight-faced, "I work out a lot."

* * *
Divatox couldn't believe her eyes! Not only was the girl the vampire she'd thought she was. . .she was strong. Not as strong as a morphed Ranger, but definitely a lot stronger than a regular human! She smiled frostily, nodding to herself as she watched the massacre masquerading as a fight.

"Perfect," she nodded to herself, then jerked around. "Rygog, Elgar! Get over here, you two idiots!"

Her nephew and her first mate almost tripped over themselves running over to her. "We are at your service, your pirate-ness!" Rygog declared. Divatox winced briefly at the thought of hanging out with these idiots for another few thousand years. Had she committed some wrong in a past life or something?

"Here are your orders," a snap of her hand showed them the girl that was the vampire. "And that is your target. She is the vampire that I've been searching for. Her name is Lyra Cunningham, and she's currently hanging around the Green Turbo Ranger. Wait for her to be alone, I have no intentions of involving them in this until it's too late for them to stop me. Is that through your head or do I have to repeat it?"

With the way her eyes were glowing, no one had the nerve to ask her to repeat it. Divatox smiled wickedly. "She'll probably be alone tonight, hunting. Go after her then."

* * *
"Carlos!" Ashley, T.J., Cassie, and Justin raced up moments after the last of the Piranatrons had vanished. He was still staring at Lyra, who suddenly looked either shy or panicked at the appearance of his friends. "We heard there was some sort of disturbance here!"

The Green Ranger shook his head lightly. "Nothing really wrong for Angel Grove. Lyra, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she smiled her usual thin smile, then looked at the others. Her eyes seemed to widen briefly at the sight of them, then she casually turned back to Carlos. "Are you going to introduce me to your friends? I assume they are your friends."

"Yeah, they are. Lyra, this is T.J., Ashley, Cassie, and Justin. Guys, this is Lyra Cunningham, we met a little while earlier." Carlos didn't catch the sudden flash of jealousy in Ashley's eyes, but Lyra did, and almost bit her lip. He glanced back at his watch and groaned. "We'd better hurry, we're going to be late for class!"

Lyra quickly grabbed her books and nodded. "See you later, Carlos. Nice meeting all of you." Without a backward glance she headed to the main part of the school. The others watched her retreating back for a few moments, then T.J. looked back at his teammate.

"What really happened?" the Red Ranger asked firmly. He knew Carlos couldn't possibly have told them everything.

"We got jumped by some Piranatrons. I couldn't tell if they were after me or her, but I saw something incredible. She was tossing those things around they were made out of paper!"

The other Rangers glanced at one another in minor confusion. "She works out, apparently," Justin said finally. Carlos shook his head.

"I'm not certain that's just it. She was literally throwing those things around. You'd really have to see it to believe it. I can't believe how strong she was."

The Rangers looked at him for a few moments, and Ashley seemed about to ask something when a bell rang. T.J. muttered something foul, then looked at his friends. "We're almost late for class. Let's go."

* * *
All that day, Carlos tried to spot Lyra in various classes, but the few times he did see her, usually in the hallways, she avoided his gaze and hurried on without looking at him. He was wondering what was wrong right up until he ran into the others after classes ended.

"Youth Center?" were T.J.'s first words, though they were unnecessary. The Rangers always headed there after school. Carlos seemed a touch distracted, however.

"Carlos?" Ashley looked worried over her teammate. "Carlos, are you all right?"

The Green Ranger shrugged briefly, life coming back to his eyes suddenly. The strange feelings he had whenever he was near Lyra were really bothering him. "I'm okay. I was just thinking about Lyra.'

"What about her?" Cassie wondered. Carlos was looking almost like she did when she had first met Phantom Ranger. She knew if Carlos felt the same way about the black-haired girl that she did about the mysterious warrior, Ashley was going to be very, very disappointed. The Yellow Ranger cared a great deal for her green friend, and if she lost him, it would be painful to the extreme.

Carlos sighed. "I feel like I know her, like I've always known her. I feel...good with her." He searched mentally for the words to convey his thoughts. "I feel as if she's some part of me that's been missing, and I just found out it was gone when it wasn't anymore."

T.J. nodded; he'd felt the same way when he'd met Cassie on the bus. It wasn't something romantic, he believed it was just the meeting of two people who were destined to be friends for quite some time. "Maybe she could drop by the Youth Center and we could all talk for a while?" he suggested.

"If I can find her." Carlos shook his head. "I haven't seen her since earlier. I almost think she's ignoring me."

Ashley cleared her throat slightly. "I'm sure you'll see her again, she goes here, after all." A faint smile touched her face. "Come on, I'm going to need some help with my biology work, anyway, so we'd better get there and get our table."

Everyone, Carlos included, chuckled a little. Ever since the dawn of the Power Rangers, one particular table had been 'theirs', regardless of shifts in the roster or power changes. Almost no one actually went to it but them, even when the rest of the place was crowded thick with people. With no more thought of the recent strangeness, they headed for their hangout.

* * *
As they left school, none of them saw the eyes watching them from the darkness. Lyra sighed briefly, then headed back to the orphanage. She had to make some hunting plans.

Her eyes darkened briefly as she entered the orphanage, glad that none of them had seen her and that she was able to slip by Carlos all day. That hadn't been easy, either, but the last thing she really wanted was to be caught by one of the Power Rangers.

A chill ran down her spine at the memory. She'd known something very unusual was going on with Carlos just by the strange rapport they shared. She'd also sensed power about him, power with a touch of green to it for some reason. It hadn't clicked until she had seen the others, each in the other four colors of the Power Rangers and each with that same sensation of power about them, in differing colors. That was when everything else had come clear to her.

Several weeks earlier, at the same time she'd been attacked by the creature that had made her what she was now, the Rangers had fought off a vampire-like creature. Lyra had watched the fight from a safe distance, cheering for the Rangers all the way, until it had been destroyed. The moment it had blown, she had felt a brief sensation of...something. Just what it was, she wasn't certain. But she knew that she would never be the same again.

Of course, she hadn't been the same since the creature had bitten her. But she didn't mind anymore. Becoming a vampire was the best thing that had ever happened to her.

The orphanage officials were easy to slip by these days. They were busy making a new boy feel welcome as she headed up for the small room that was hers. Lyra was glad her door had a lock on it, and quickly slipped it as soon as she got inside. A glance out the window showed it was still some time until dark. She sighed for a moment.

I wish it wasn't so easy to sneak out of here sometimes. I could use a challenge. A real challenge. But at the same time, I don't want to get caught, and a real challenge would risk that too much. I refuse to spend the rest of eternity, or however long I have to live, in some scientist's operating room.

As she usually did this time of day, she felt an enormous weariness wrapping itself around her. Quietly she laid down, after dumping her books into one corner of the room. In moments, she was deeply asleep, waiting for the darkness of night and her hunting time.

* * *
Next to Lyra's bed was a small glass of water. As she slept, she didn't notice a tiny periscope poking out of it and peering at her. If she had, she might not have been sleeping so soundly.

On the other side of the periscope was, naturally, Divatox. She chuckled to herself. "Rest while you can, my vampire. It won't be long until you're mine."

* * *
Carlos lay in his bed, tossing and turning. It had been a long, hard day for him. First three tests he wasn't even certain if he'd passed. Then meeting Lyra. Then the Piranatron attack. Then another one which had come while he and the others were at the Youth Center, coupled with a monster attack. He should have barely been able to keep his eyes open. Instead, they never closed.

Why can't I sleep? He stared at the clock by his bedside and sighed. Three a.m. The entire town is asleep. Except me. What's wrong!?

The strange thing was, he felt every bit as alive and awake as he normally did when he'd had a full night of sleep. As that realization struck into his head, he sat up straight. The last time this happened was when I was under Count Nocturne's spell. I couldn't sleep at night, and I could barely keep myself awake all that day.

His fingers clenched spasmodically at the bedclothes and he took a deep breath. Something very odd was going on around her, and it all seemed to hark back to the attack of the vampiric monster. Things were slowly starting to fit together in his mind. His inability to sleep at night. The strange bonding he felt to Lyra. The vampire attacks in Angel Grove. Lyra's unnatural strength.

Carlos swung out of bed and reached for his clothes. He had to go find Lyra and talk to her. And he felt as if he knew just where to look for her.

* * *
Once deep night had settled onto Angel Grove, Lyra's eyes had popped open at once. She had to fight to stay awake during the day, but the moment it was dark enough, she was wide awake and ready to do what she had to do to stay in existence. She never used the word alive to herself any longer. She honestly didn't believe she was.

I need something nice and tasty tonight. That bum last night just wasn't filling. I barely got two mouthfuls before I had to stop. She made a face as she quickly arranged the bed to look as if she were in it. If any of the orphanage people peeked in, they would see her fast asleep: or at least think they did.

It only took her a few moments to get into her hunting array: black jeans, a black shirt, and black boots to came up to just past her ankles. Her hair was tied back into a ponytail out of her way, and a pair of wide sunglasses completed the look. She knew it was clichée to the extreme, but wearing black while hunting made her blend in much easier with the shadows. She glanced briefly into her mirror and smiled.

Okay, so the legends about drinking blood are true. But I can still see myself in a mirror. Good thing, too. I might have problems explaining that one. She stretched luxuriously for a moment, enjoying the feel of muscles against skin, then casually and quietly opened up her window and leaped out of it, landing neatly on the street below. The night opened itself up to her and she vanished into it.

* * *
Rygog stared through Divatox's periscope, trying to find the vampire they were supposed to capture. Though after the way she'd thrown the Piranatrons around, he wasn't all that certain this was a good idea. I wish I knew more about Earth vampire legends. On his homeworld, vampires, or those who fed off the blood of others, were a natural off-shoot of his species. Other than the fact they dined on red liquid, however, they were just like anyone else, and could be killed or overpowered by normal means. He wasn't entirely certain this was true for Earth vampires, however.

"Elgar!" he suddenly spied the girl in black walking quietly through darkened streets. "There she is! Let's go!"

The snoozing monstrosity that was the captain's nephew only snored even deeper, until Rygog delivered an abrupt kick to his shin. "Elgar! Get up! Divatox will have our skins if we don't bring that vampire back to her, and she's out there now!"

Elgar rubbed at his eyes, sitting up. "What's going on?" his voice was bleary with sleep. "Rygog?"

"Elgar!" Rygog groaned. "We've got to get that vampire!"

With kicks, cuffs, and blows, Rygog managed to get his erstwhile partner up on his feet and teleporting out of the SpaceBase. They didn't dare come back without the vampire.

* * *
Lyra's movements were preternaturally silent as she stalked her latest victim. It was a young black woman in either her late teens or early twenties, or so it looked; with long braids of black hair and the body of a warrior. Lyra wasn't quite certain if she wanted to feed off this one; it looked as if there might be trouble with her. She really didn't want that, but she hadn't seen much else that looked appetizing that night.

Oh, well, I'll just have to risk it. I don't want to hurt this person. Maybe I can hypnotize them first. She took a deep breath, ready to step out and capture the prey's eyes and do what she had to do. She stopped suddenly, however, when she felt, more than heard, the presence of two other beings.

There was an alleyway just ahead of her, and her eyes flicked immediately to it. She could hear sudden harsh breathing coming from it, and a half-muffled admonition for one of them to shut up before they were heard. Lyra's eyes flashed for a moment as her meal turned a corner and left her sight. Whoever they are, they robbed me of my food! They're going to pay for that! Vampiric instincts were rising up in her, and those were more animal than human. A hunter had been robbed of her prey, and there would be a penalty exacted.

Rygog and Elgar didn't expect her to know they were there. They were taken by surprise when she leaped into the alleyway and seized both of them by the neck, slamming them into the wall. "Who are you and why did you disturb me right when I was going to dine!?"

"Urk!" Rygog was barely able to utter that syllable as she glared into their eyes with her suddenly flame-red ones. Lyra sniffed deeply, and her eyes sparked an even deeper red.

"You have something to do with those fish-things that attacked me earlier." Her voice was flat and harsh, then she smiled suddenly as she spied something that might be jugular veins. "Well, it's only right that since you stopped me from feeding on that other, that you replace my prey. With yourselves."

Her upper lip wrenched back, and both the monsters, shocked into helplessness by the sheer power they could see rippling through her slender muscles, watched as her head began to dodge towards them.

"Lyra!" The vampiress stopped at hearing her name, and turned to see a green-clad young man in the entrance of the alley, his eyes wide and filled with something that might have been fright or anger. The moment she took her eyes off them, Rygog and Elgar did what any self-respecting pair of cowards would do: they teleported away.

Carlos stared in shock. He'd suspected, but he'd never really thought Lyra was the vampire. Until he'd seen this. Now he knew it right down to the core of him. "L..lyra?"

She sighed briefly, the red light fading out of her eyes and her lip going back down to cover her fangs. "Nice to see you, Carlos. Out a little late?"

* * *
Divatox's eyes glowed almost as dark a red as Lyra's had when Elgar and Rygog returned barely ten minutes after they had left, and without the vampire in tow. "You overheated, no-brained imbeciles! Do I have to do everything for myself around here!" was the first and the least offensive thing she said. As the two cowered away, she got even more creative and vulgar with her insults, until she finally just threw her hands up. "Get out of my sight, you imbeciles!" she hissed, kicking at them both. As they scampered away, the pirate whirled swiftly to Porto, hovering just behind her and enjoying the scolding she was dishing out.

"Can I help you, my queen?" he bowed quickly.

She smiled. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I think you can." She trailed her fingers on his arm for a moment, then stared at him. "This is what I want you to do."

* * *
Silence reigned between the two of them as Carlos and Lyra walked down the street. They had seen the occasional other late-night walker out, but Lyra hadn't even looked at them, despite the hunger that was starting to gnaw at her throat. She had never gone a day without feeding before, and she didn't know what would happen if she did. It wasn't something she was looking forward to, but right now, she was feeling another hunger: the hunger to talk to someone at last about what she was.

"It was Count Nocturne, wasn't it?" Carlos asked at last, breaking the peace. Lyra shrugged.

"I don't know what his name was. It was about two weeks ago, maybe a bit more. I was out late one night, tracking a comet I saw. Then this. . .thing jumped me." Quietly she related what had happened, how her heart had briefly stopped beating, and then how it had started again, but things had been different. "I knew what I was at once. The fangs helped me figure it out." She touched her mouth a little self-consciously. "The weird thing is, I've never felt as if this were wrong. I felt as if I were supposed to be this."

Carlos looked at her. He understood the connection he felt to her now. She had been transformed by Nocturne, as he had. In a way, they were siblings, though he no longer was a vampire. She wasn't evil, as he had been, though he could see she was capable of enormous rage. "I. . .I don't know what to say." It was true, he felt almost as if his mind were completely blank.

Lyra smiled faintly. "A secret for a secret. You know that I'm a vampire. Now I should tell you something I know about you." He looked curiously at her, until she reached down to touch his communicator briefly. "Green Ranger." Her voice was quiet, pitched so it only touched his ears.


She shrugged. "I can sense energies around people sometimes, if they're very strong. Those two back there had very strong evil energy, just like the thing that bit me, only stronger. You and your friends have a good form of energy, in different colors. I figured it out once I saw you all together earlier today at school. You had the energy, it was the same colors as the Rangers. I made the connection."

Carlos nodded quietly, and she hurried to reassure him that she would never tell anyone about what she knew. "Believe me, Carlos. I know how to keep a secret."

"Good. You know I'm going to have to tell the others about you. And our mentor. We've been wondering for a while just who was doing the vampire bit. They'll be glad to know it isn't one of Divatox's little schemes."

She nodded back at him. "I don't mind. I don't want to hurt anyone, Carlos. I just have to feed now, and I have to feed off the blood of living humans. I do what I can not to hurt anyone more than I absolutely must, though, and I'd never kill." She shuddered at the very thought, then glanced up at the skies. "I have to go, Carlos. Those two interrupted my meal, and if I don't find something to replace it, I think I could be in a very foul mood tomorrow."

"All right." Carlos remembered the raw hunger/thirst that was vampiric hunger, and he didn't want this strangely good vampire to have to go through it. "If you want to talk, about anything, let me know, okay?"

Lyra nodded, stepping away. Then she looked back at him. "Could you do me one tiny favor, Carlos?"

"What's that?"

"Ask Ashley out. You won't regret it." Then she stepped back into the shadow of a building and vanished to his eyes. Carlos stared at where she had been for a moment, not quite certain if he had been shocked more by what she had asked, or by finding out all that he had in the last half hour.

Before he could decide, however, he suddenly felt absolutely exhausted. He was just able to make it home before he literally fell asleep on his feet, the toll of the day finally catching up with him.

* * *
Lyra leaned back, redness staining her lips and fangs until she licked it off. That was good. Nice and filling. She checked quickly for a pulse, and was relieved, as she always was, to find it still strong and healthy. The victim took a few deep breaths, still not seeing her, and she quickly went to make the phone call. Maybe I should try this more often. Early morning dining...

The sun was just about to touch the horizon when she slid back into her room. This was the latest she'd ever stayed out while hunting, and her heart pounded as she turned back the covers, ready to grab another couple of hours of sleep before she had to get up and get ready for school. Be glad when the weekend gets here, she thought. I could use a very long nap.

Her eyes were just about to close when she felt every one of her hypernatural senses being overwhelmed by a powerful blast of pure evil. She started turning around, when she felt a gloved hand on her wrist, and a jab in her arm. Just before blackness overwhelmed her, she managed to turn enough to catch a glimpse of a golden mask, violet-tinged hair, and a mocking smile, as well as three simple words.

"You're mine, vampire."

* * *
Carlos paced briefly outside of the school, trying to control the nervousness that welled up in him. Something was very wrong, something he couldn't identify. He hadn't seen Lyra since the previous night, and it was out here that they had met the first time. She should be here. I don't think she can catch a cold. . .so she can't be sick. . .

His blood ran cold at the only thing that could be wrong with her: potential blood-lust. If she hadn't managed to find someone, then they could possibly have an infuriated vampire on their hands. He took two steps away, wanting to call the orphanage and check on her, when he saw Justin coming towards him, a worried look in the younger boy's eyes.

"Carlos?" the Blue Ranger saw him. "Have you heard?"

He frowned. "Heard what?"

"That girl you were talking to yesterday, Lyra. She's vanished from the orphanage. It was all over the news, there were signs of a struggle and everything!" Justin's voice was slightly frightened; Lyra lived at the same orphanage that he had before his dad had come home. The thought that something like that could happen where he had been was scary.

Carlos went whiter than a sheet. "What?" Justin gave what details he knew, which weren't many. The orphanage officials had come in to wake her up for breakfast, to find the sheets half-off the bed, a few of her things scattered around, but no sign of forced entry or exit, as well as nothing else of hers missing. The Green Ranger leaned against the wall, his eyes wide. "Lyra. . ."

* * *
Darkness was all around her. She couldn't see or hear anything. Then came the pinpricks. Little intrusions into her flesh, all over her. Arms, legs, stomach, neck. She couldn't count them all after a while. Some drew things out of her. Others put things into her. None of them satisfied the raging hunger and thirst that made her throat ache and her teeth itch.

The blackness was tinged with red after a while. She could hear an odd rushing sound, that was growing weaker and weaker with every moment, and the red grew stronger and stronger. She wanted to move, to get up and away from wherever she was and to find . . .sustenance. Food. Drink. The life-giving elixir she needed. Her mind presented her with a welter of images. People, always at night, with throats that seemed to hold what it was she needed the most. They gave it to her, willingly or unwillingly, and she fed from them.

I. ..hunt...the thought twisted briefly through her. I...drink...blood...she wasn't certain of who she was, but she knew now what she was. A vampire. One in dire need of blood. Her entire past was a blank to her, she had no conception of how she had come to be wherever it was she was, but she knew if she didn't feed soon, she could cause great harm to people. The very notion of it terrified her. She couldn't hurt someone. She had sworn not to.

A voice echoed on the edges of her hearing. "She is very strong, but I think I know a way around that, my queen."

"Good. Do it." the second voice was harsher and colder, demanding. "I want to have my vampire by nightfall. You've already been working on her for two days, Porto. Has she fed at all?"

The second voice responded. "No, my queen. I've been testing how long she can go without blood and still survive."

The sound of a hand striking something that didn't sound like flesh. "Don't. We can try that sort of test once the Rangers are vampires too. I want her, Porto! I want her to be mine!"

Vampire...Rangers...the words echoed over in her mind, and she trembled. Something about that made her nauseous, as if the thought of the two together were something so horrible it couldn't be dealt with. She could feel more pinpricks, things across her forehead, and other things she had no names for. Something was happening, and she was helpless to stop it.

* * *
"She's been gone for two days." Carlos paced in the Power Chamber, the others watching him nervously. Ever since Lyra's disappearance, he had been on edge. "Dimitria, are you sure you didn't detect anything?"

The wise sorceress shook her head. "Why do you suspect Divatox of this abduction, Carlos?"

The Green Ranger bit his lip nervously for a moment. He hadn't as yet told the Rangers about Lyra being the vampire, or knowing who they really were. He had wanted to do that when they were all together, Lyra included, so they could hear her story first-hand, instead of through him, with the risk of him forgetting any important details. It didn't look as if he had a choice on that, however. He turned to the others. "Because she already tried once. Maybe even twice, I'm not sure."

Four faces and a robot stared right back at him. "What!?" T.J. spoke first, then a cacophony of sound erupted from them, as they all demanded to know what he did, and why he hadn't said anything before. It was cut through by Dimitria's clear tones.

"Rangers!" as they fell silent, she looked to Carlos. "Please explain."

Carlos looked firmly at the others. "Lyra is responsible for the vampire attacks. Two weeks ago, after Count Nocturne bit me, he apparently went flying around, and bit her. For some reason, she become a vampire as well, but not like I was. She feeds off blood, she has super-strength and reflexes, and I think a few of the other vampire abilities as well, but she's not evil, and she also knows that we're the Power Rangers."

Everyone went pale as he took another breath and continued. "She swore she would never reveal that to anyone, and I wanted to tell you guys earlier, with her around. Divatox tried to attack her the day I met her, she might suspect Lyra's the vampire. Then that night, I couldn't sleep. I went out for a walk, and I happened across Lyra again, I think she was out hunting." He almost flinched at the word, but there was no other for it. "Rygog and Elgar had tried to attack her."

"Tried?" Cassie lifted an eyebrow.

"Tried." Carlos nodded, then detailed out what he'd seen. "I think she just took them by surprise, really, I don't think she's that strong, but I don't know. The point is, Divatox wants her. And probably for the same reason she wanted to turn me into a vampire in the first place."

Everyone felt a shudder going through them at that point. Ashley murmured softly, "She wants us all as vampires." One of her nightmares for almost a week had been that Carlos actually had bit her. "We need to keep an eye out."

Carlos nodded. "She's at least stronger than we are without being morphed. If she could get us by surprise, I don't think there's a lot we could do about it."

"Is she affected by garlic? You were." Justin remembered, chuckling a little at the thought of that. His friend shrugged.

"I don't know. She either isn't, or just didn't tell me." Carlos leaned against a console for a moment, his head low. "I wish I knew what was going on with her. I know Divatox had something to do with it. I just know it."

* * *
She was walking. . .no, being walked down a corridor. Her mind was slowly beginning to clear from the red fog that had filled it for what seemed like forever. She could smell food near by, smell fear all around her. But it wasn't fear of her, and it wasn't the type of food she knew in her bones would sustain her. It was making her very confused.

The ones holding her reeked of fish, and she almost recoiled from them. Something stopped her however. She wasn't certain what it was, but she couldn't fight it. She could only let herself be half-dragged along.

A door appeared ahead of them, and she was carried through it. A bed lay on the other side, and on it was a strangely beautiful woman in a very unusual outfit of red and gold. Her head was tilted to one side, and the vampire's eyes fastened at once on the throbbing vein of the neck. In a swift motion she jerked away from those holding her, and battened onto the woman, her fangs easily piercing the skin and drinking deeply of the nectar within.

For a moment, all seemed as it always had. Then, she clenched at her stomach as a dark and powerful force seemed to rear up within her. She stiffened, held completely immobile, and heard the roar of a voice in her mind. You are my slave. My blood runs through your veins, your life is my property. Do you understand that?

She could feel eyes on her, could sense the danger that she was in as she had not before. With her blood-lust satisfied, all of her memories were rushing back into her mind, and she felt nauseous, though whether that was because of the evil blood she'd just ingested or some side effect of the drug that had been used to knock her out, she didn't know. Danger didn't matter, however. She doubted there was much they could do to stop her from leaving here if she had a mind to. She opened her mouth to tell this idiot where she could stick her obedience, but heard another voice, her own voice stating quietly, "I am yours to command, Queen Divatox."

* * *
Divatox smiled approvingly at the kneeling vampire, then flicked her fingers towards Lyra's throat. A collar, bearing Divatox's emblem, appeared there, sealing her control of the bloodsucker. Porto had done very well with this. Two days of conditioning, testing, and programming had remade this girl from a weak-willed goody-two-fangs into a cold, cruel, obedient creature of the night subservient only to Divatox. The pirate liked that very much, and had ordered him to streamline the procedure to work on Power Rangers as well.

"I have a mission for you, my dear girl." Divatox purred. "I want you to bring me the Power Rangers. Singly or in a group, I really don't care which. It's almost dark now, but we have just enough light for my plan to work."

Lyra nodded quietly, rising at a wave of her queen's hand. "I will obey, my queen."

Divatox smiled. "I know you will."

* * *
Carlos yawned as he stared down at the Power Chamber console, his mind blanking out just a little from lack of sleep. He couldn't remember when he'd slept last. Little tendrils of thought wiggled through his brain. Lyra gone. . .no evidence leading anywhere. . .Divatox is gonna pay for this. . .alarms blaring. ..alarms blaring?

His eyes opened a little wider, and he saw the others teleporting in. "What's going on?" T.J. asked, not surprised to see Carlos hadn't left in the hours since he had told them of Lyra's vampiric ways. "And aren't you going to sleep?"

"Not until she's back." His voice was flat and uncompromising. Dimitria gently interrupted their exchange.

"Rangers, Divatox's Piranatrons, Elgar, and Rygog are attacking in the park. You had better go and deal with this."

Justin frowned as he glanced at the scanners. Something very odd was showing up there, but he didn't have the time to stop and try to figure it out just then. He saw Carlos standing, then almost falling. "How long has it been since you slept?"

"Yo, according to the scanners, it's been over forty-eight hours!" Alpha declared, waddling over. Carlos glared at both of them, as T.J. pushed him gently back down into the chair he'd been in.

The Red Ranger shook his head. "You're not going to be going with us on this one, Carlos. You need some rest. A lot of rest."

Carlos opened his mouth, when Dimitria shook her head also. "He is correct, Carlos. You are not helping anyone, much less Lyra, by depriving yourself of needed rest. Alpha, prepare the sedative." The Green Ranger was going to say something else, but didn't have a chance as Alpha slid the needle gently into his skin. Carlos blinked for a moment, then his eyes shut and he crumpled down to the floor.

"Teleport him back to his home, and keep an eye on him." Dimitria instructed. "Rangers, take care of those Piranatrons, please."

As four columns of light lifted towards the park, a fifth headed for a house in Angel Grove. From space, vampiric eyes watched with a gleam of fangs and a soft chuckle.

* * *
Cassie growled out some fairly nasty words in as many foreign languages as she knew as she tossed a Piranatron over one shoulder and kicked another as hard as she could. She'd been looking forward to getting some homework done that night, as well as getting a long-over due cleaning of her room out of the way. The Hammonds didn't demand that she keep her room as spotless as Ashley kept hers, but she had the sense they would prefer it if she didn't break any major bones while trying to get out of there.

"Such language!" Divatox, who had come down not that long after their battle had begun, mocked them. She was leaning against a tree, her purple tresses blending rather crudely against it's bark. "Just where did you pick up such things, Pink Ranger?"

"None of your business." Cassie growled. "Just where did you pick up your bad attitude?"

The pirate laughed. "Villains R Us, of course. Where else?" she glanced around, taking a quick count. As the last two Pirantrons fell into bubbles, defeated by Justin and Ashley, it was just her, Rygog, and Elgar standing there. At least, that the Rangers could see. She could almost literally smell her trump card in the wings. "Well, it seems that you have defeated me, Rangers. Or at least my Piranatrons."

T.J. was nervous; this wasn't par for the course. Normally Divatox vanished almost as soon as her troops were gone, on those rare occasions when she came down in person. He found himself uncomfortably aware of the fact that she had a vampire at least as her captive, and maybe even more. "What's your game, Divatox?" he asked, glad that his helmet hid his nervousness.

She smiled winningly. "A simple game of. . .capture and conquer. I know you've all met a friend of mine before. But now she's changed, just a little. Lyra."

The Rangers watched in sick awe as the shadows opened and from them stepped a figure. Her hair was slicked back much in the manner Carlos' had been before, and her once-black eyes were a vile glowing red. Her skin was very pale, much paler than it had been when they had last seen her, and she wore a duplicate of Divatox's outfit, only with every inch of it in solid black. "You called, my queen?"

"I did." Divatox pointed casually to the Rangers. "Deal with them."

Lyra turned to them, her eyes glowing even brighter. "Rangers." Her voice was sweetly seductive as she swayed over to them. All four found themselves unable to move at her approach, and she ran an appraising hand down T.J.'s arm. "So strong. . .so powerful." She lilted. "So. . .tasty."

"Lyra!" Divatox's voice cracked harshly. "I told you before, you are not to feed off them yet. I want them all at the same time, and I want them to suffer before you change them. For now, take them up to the SpaceBase and put them in the brig. Once we have Carlos, then you can dine to your heart's content."

The vampire bowed briefly, then commanded, "Join hands. We go." As if they were zombies, the Rangers linked hands, and teleported straight into the heart of their enemy's domain, followed by Rygog and Elgar. Divatox remained behind for a moment, luxuriating in the feeling of triumph that surged through her. So this was what it felt like to win. She thought she could get used to it.

* * *
The alarms in the Power Chamber grew stronger and stronger, until Dimitria felt she would go mad with the sheer noise of it. With a sharp command, she ordered Alpha to turn them off. "We already know there is danger. Divatox has captured the other Rangers."

"And we won't be able to wake up Carlos until at least eight hours from when we gave him the sedative!" Alpha groaned. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but with the others captured, and with Lyra under Divatox's command, they could literally be looking at the end of the Power Rangers.

Dimitria closed her eyes for a moment. She had to do something. It wouldn't be possible to rescue the Rangers without Carlos, and he wouldn't be available, or useful, until he had gotten the sleep that he had lost. He would actually need more than eight hours, but that sedative would at least get him started on recovery. "Begin to search for a cure for vampirism, Alpha." She stated finally. "It is all we can do for now."

* * *
The trance that Lyra's scarlet eyes had placed on them vanished almost as soon as the Rangers had reached Divatox's prison. They had been stripped, or rather had given over their Turbo Keys, to Lyra before walking into the cell and fastening the chains onto their own wrists, which rendered them now very effectively powerless.

"Is anyone else feeling like a prize idiot, or is it just me?" T.J. groaned as he stared at the ceiling. How in the world had Lyra been able to hypnotize them so fast? He had never thought that a vampire could do that to four people, four morphed Rangers at that. But then again, he'd never met a real vampire. Carlos' vampiric state hadn't lasted long enough for them to get any sense of his potential powers. Lyra had been one for two weeks, and now was an evil one. The things she could do quite probably would boggle the mind.

Ashley paced the few inches she could, her mind filled with a torrent of emotions. She wanted to do some serious talking with both Carlos (after he slept) and with Lyra (after she was free of evil's control). Carlos had given them every possible detail of every time he and Lyra had been together, and though she wasn't certain just if she could classify the vampire as a 'friend', she was at least willing to agree that Lyra wasn't a 'threat', at least not in the romantic sense of the word. With that out of the way, she wanted to get with Carlos and do some very serious chatting. They had some things to discuss.

Cassie leaned silently against the wall, her eyes shut and fighting to keep the tears from them. She'd never wanted to return here. Every cell of her body rejoiced that Havoc wasn't with Divatox this time, as he had been during her previous capture, when they were trying to lure the Phantom Ranger in. She had spent several hours in this very cell, and Havoc had . . .her mind shunted away from the agonies he'd inflicted upon her. Physical and mental agonies. Seven hours of intense pain of the body and pain of the mind as he'd drawn out every possible bit of information he could get out of her, and then had started just drawing out the pain, for the pleasure her screams gave him.

Justin watched Cassie with fear in his eyes. He didn't bother worrying himself with if his father would notice he was gone for a while. Dean Stewart was working late that night, and trusted Justin to be by himself for a while. The Blue Ranger had intended to wrap up his homework and watch some television before going to bed, but he had the strong suspicion things were going to be a little different.

They never heard her coming. She was simply there. A tall wand of shadow, with a sardonic smile of evil. "Rest well, Rangers." Lyra purred. "It won't be long before you all belong to me. And since I belong to Queen Divatox. . .so will you."

"Never!" T.J.'s voice was adamant. "Lyra, you can't possibly believe that what Divatox is doing is right!"

The vampiress laughed. "What I believe is my concern, and not yours. When I claim my Carlos, then I won't have to hunt for five nights. . .but you will!" she smiled, and then vanished into the shadows, leaving four worried Rangers behind her.

* * *
As soon as Lyra entered Divatox's throne room, she fell to her knees before her queen. That was just one of the things that Porto had programmed into her, and one of the things that endeared her to Divatox. It was nice to have someone who showed proper respect.

"You've delivered my threat? And promise?" Divatox asked, and Lyra nodded. "Good. We're going to wait twenty-four hours before we go after Carlos." At Lyra's curious tilt of an eyebrow, Divatox waved a hand. "It'll give him time to realize that there is nothing that can be done not only to save his friends, but to stop us from taking him. . .in every way possible." She laughed. "Oh, and by the way: Carlos is to belong to me once he's turned. You can have the others to toy with, but the Green Ranger is going to be my pet boy. I've been planning for that since I first saw him in those green tights."

The vampire almost bit her lip, before realizing that would do very little for her image. Image was everything to her now, right behind Divatox's whims. She bowed her head submissively. "As you command, my queen."

"And don't you forget it. Go grab some sleep, then report to Porto for your next injection. I've got some other plans to deal with for right now." Divatox at once forgot that her servant was there, as Lyra slowly removed herself from the main chamber. Instead of to her tiny room, however, the vampire headed for the balcony, staring at the crystal-blue Earth twirling out there. Something about it's beauty was calling a part of her that had been untouched by Divatox's evil.

* * *
Carlos yawned as his eyes opened and he stretched out, his fingertips touching the wall above his bed. He couldn't remember when he'd felt so refreshed. It was as if he'd slept eight or more hours in the most deep, dreamless of slee--his thoughts broke off, and he snatched up his communicator, touching the teleportation button.

"Good morning, Carlos." Dimitria's voice was quiet and firm as he appeared in the Power Chamber. "I would assume you have slept well?"

The Green Ranger refused deliberately to say several words that he knew would be far too rude. Instead, he just asked, "How did the Rangers do in the fight last night?"

"They were captured by Lyra." Dimitria replied. "Observe." She hated the expression of distaste and shock on Carlos' face as he saw the replay of the previous night's battle. As he turned back to her, she spoke again. "We have discovered only one possible way to free the Rangers, should they be vampire-transformed. The destruction of the head vampire. Of Lyra."

Carlos said nothing. As much as he hated the very thought, as much as it repulsed him, he knew that if it came down to the Rangers or Lyra, he knew where his loyalties would lie. For the safety of the world and of his team, if there were no other way, he would destroy the one thing he might possibly have to a sister in this world. He took a deep breath. "If that's what it takes." Was all he said. But don't let it take that.

* * *
Lyra wasn't certain how long she had stood there. Elgar had come up to her once, muttering something about her next feeding, and she'd come within a hair's breadth of throwing him over the edge of the balcony. Her eyes were fixed on the Earth, and had been since she'd come out there.

Then it happened. Light broke over the edge of the Earth, pure sunlight, unfiltered by the atmosphere and blinding in it's intensity. She flinched for a moment, then her eyes widened as the pure essence of it swept through her body. The darkness that she had drunk with Divatox's blood vanished at the touch of the light. She still felt a light hunger, but she was able to deal with it. The banishing of the dark blood did not plunge her into a bloodlust, for which she was grateful.

For a moment, she only bathed in the light, enjoying it's power and essence. Then her heart almost stopped as she remembered what she'd done while Divatox's blood had run around in her veins. Two plans touched her mind at once. Get the Rangers, run like crazy, do a lot of praying. Good idea, bad working. Too many chances someone will try to find out if the stake through the heart routine works for me or not. Okay, idea two. Get down to Earth, get Carlos for back up, then get the Rangers and get them all out of here.

A corollary to the second idea occurred to her just then, and she nodded to herself. She knew what she had to do. She concentrated briefly, tapping into some of the skills she remembered still from Porto's conditioning of her, and teleported down to Earth.

* * *
Carlos had to go back to his house before he was noticed as being missing, but his thoughts were completely on his friends as he showered, dressed, and had breakfast. His parents noticed he was unnaturally quiet, but neither said anything to him. Over the last few months he'd grown somewhat secretive, but they trusted their youngest child implicitly.

I've got to do something. . .he thought as he picked up his soccer ball and headed out to his backyard. It was Saturday; no one would be looking for him, he hoped, not with his friends gone. They usually spent the weekends together, hanging out, studying if they had a test, training, having fun. But today looked to be a very long, and boring day.

"Carlos." The voice was full of urgency. "Carlos! I know you can hear me!"

He looked up to see Lyra standing in the shadow of the trees, wrapped in a black cloak and with nervousness exuding from every pore. "What do you want?" he took a quick step back, not certain if he should stay or teleport off. Can't risk her hurting my parents. I'll stay. "Where are the others!"

"In Divatox's dungeon. And if you want to save them, you're going to have to trust me. I know it's hard now, but I'm not evil anymore!"

The Green Ranger stared at her, not sure what he should believe. "How can I be certain?"

"You can't be." She said flatly. "I know I wouldn't trust me, if the situation were reversed. But I can get you into the SpaceBase and all of you back out."

He tilted his head to the side. "And what about you?"

"I'll be fine." She shook her head. "I'm a creature of the night, Carlos. I'll always survive. What's important is getting your friends out in one piece. I don't know if the evil will come back, and if it does, I don't know if I could overcome it again."

Carlos wanted to know, "How did you get turned in the first place."

She glanced away, shame written across her face. "I'm a vampire, Carlos. Blood affects me in ways it doesn't a normal human. Divatox is pure evil, down to her blood. You do the math."

He flinched for a moment, then touched his communicator. "Dimitria, are you paying attention?" he sort of figured she was. Alpha might be hunting for the Rangers, but she would be watching him.

"Yes, Carlos. I believe we can trust Lyra." The unspoken qualification of 'for now' hovered in the air, but if Lyra knew of it, she said nothing. "What will you do?"

The vampire lifted her chin proudly. "Carlos and I will go to the SpaceBase. I'll get him by the guards, and you can get your friends out."

Carlos noticed that just like before, she had made no real mention of just how she intended to get out. Maybe she doesn't. Maybe she's going to stay with Divatox, and she just doesn't want the other Rangers there. Well. least if I have them with me, we can have a fighting chance. But. ..

"Let's go." She held her right hand out to him, and he was surprised to see it tremble a little. Slowly he took it, ready to retaliate if anything happened, and the two of them vanished in a double wash of green and white light.

Carlos didn't notice that in her left hand, she was carrying a wooden stake.

* * *
"Where are we?" he murmured as they appeared in a dark corridor. Lyra stepped back just a little, sliding the wood carefully into a pocket of the cloak she wore. It wasn't time to use it just yet.

"Fourth level. The Rangers are that way," she jerked her chin in a roughly leftward direction, then started down that way. "We're going to have to be careful. Porto's lab is also here, and he might want to put me through another session."

Carlos glanced at her. "Session?" when she didn't say anything, he fell silent and followed her as quietly as he could. She blended far more easily into the shadows than he did, and it was only due to the link they still shared that he was able to keep up with her or even see where she was. In the very strictest sense of the word, he wasn't seeing her at all, really. He just knew that she was where she was.

"What is Queen Divatox going to do to those Rangers?" they both paused when they heard Rygog's voice coming from a lighted room just ahead of them. Carlos winced at the pulse of hate he could feel coming from Lyra, and wished he dared ask what it was for.

Porto answered the warrior. "She's going to have the vampire bite them once we bring the last of them here. I hear she has some very exotic plans for him too."

Lyra moved a little closer to Carlos, and placed her lips directly against his ear, whispering so softly it would only carry to him. "I'm going to distract them. You get by me and wait until I can catch up."

She didn't wait for him to say anything, just swept ahead to stand boldly in the doorway of the room. "And just when are you going to go get that last Ranger?"

"What are you doing in here?" Rygog and Porto both turned to see the vampire standing there glaring at them. They didn't notice the other figure sliding through the shadows behind her. "You're supposed to be resting!"

Lyra snorted. "Who could rest with all your chatter? And the stench of this place. just turns my stomach!" She lifted her head and drew in a deep breath, then made a slightly exaggerated face. "I'm going to get some fresh air. And if you don't like it..." her fangs flashed briefly. "We can discuss it later."

Before they could say anything, she smiled wickedly at them, then swept off down the corridor. The two henchidiots looked at each other, then went back to work. Divatox hired all kinds...they'd seen weirder and more evil than her.

* * *
"You okay?" Carlos asked softly as Lyra rejoined him farther down the hall. She nodded quietly, then pointed to a thick door ahead of them. "That's where they are?"

"Yes." Her voice was even softer than his. "Come on. We have little time. Divatox could come to gloat at any moment." And if she comes any sooner, then my plan will be ruined.

Quietly they slipped to the door and Carlos pushed on it gently. When it didn't open, he started to reach for his Turbo Key. "No." Lyra stopped him quietly, then reached up behind a smoldering torch. "There's always a key here." She muttered. Her eyes widened briefly as she came back empty-handed.

"Of course there's a key there. When I'm not expecting traitorous company." Divatox's smooth voice said from behind them. Carlos morphed even as they turned, and Lyra's fangs flashed bright silver in the pale light.

"How did you know?" Carlos wanted to know. At least Lyra didn't tell her. She wouldn't have called her a traitor if she did.

Divatox only grinned. "You won't need to know. Porto! I think it's time for a second dose of my blood for my vampire."

The chubby scientist started to move close to them, but Lyra was having none of that. With a quick thrust of her leg, she broke through the door and practically threw Carlos towards the Rangers. "Get them out of their chains and back to Earth! I'll hold these jerks off!"

"But----" he tried to protest and was halted by her flaming eyes.

"DO IT!"

Carlos whirled, his blaster coming out and firing the lock off the door in the same motion. T.J. looked up as he did, and the Red Ranger's eyes nearly fell out of his head when he saw what was going on. "Explanations later." Carlos said as he blasted the chains off his leader and the others. "Let's get moving!"

Cassie looked to where Lyra was in the middle of a group of seething Piranatrons. "We have to help her!"

"You have to get out of here!" Lyra shouted at them, easily hearing her. "I'll be fine. Go that way!" a hand waved towards another, unbroken door. "You'll find your keys through there! Go!"

The Rangers glanced at each other, then all five of them as one headed for her. Lyra rolled her eyes from under the press of creatures, more at Divatox's shouting for them to destroy her than anything else, and decided to step up her timetable a little.

"Ahhhh!" the scream was in Lyra's voice, and Ashley whirled to see the vampire falling to the ground, what looked to be a hideous stake in one arm.

Carlos raced over there, kicking Piranatrons out of the way as fast as he could and cradling her in his arms. "Lyra! Are you all right?"

"I...I...." she couldn't speak. T.J., Justin, Ashley, and Cassie made their ways over to them, glaring the Piranatrons out of their way if nothing else, just as Lyra's eyes began to slide shut.

"Let's get out of here." Carlos' voice wavered slightly. He knew wood could harm vampires, but that was such a small were barely a true vampire. What do you know? The questions echoed in his mind as they teleported away. Divatox watched as they went, her eyes narrowed. She had known they would escape. It always seemed to work out that way. She shrugged her shoulders mentally. Scratch one vampire.

She still couldn't figure out where that stake had come from, though.

* * *
Dimitria watched with calm eyes as the Rangers returned and Lyra was placed on the healing bed. For a moment, her eyes touched those of the vampire, and a wealth of information was passed between the two. She nodded slightly, not enough to be noticed by the others, but she knew that Lyra had seen it. As she sent a mental command to one of the computers to locate and teleport the Rangers' keys back to the Power Chamber, she began to make other preparations.

"Rangers, please stand back. Lyra has not much time left." She said quietly. Carlos glared up at her.

"How do you know!?"

Lyra touched his hand gently. "She is right, Carlos. I am a vampire. Wood is deadly to me. ..even this small scratch. dying. ..again." Even as she spoke, she staggered, unable to stand and hardly able to speak.

"No!" Carlos could feel their bond fading, wavering, and fought to keep it strong. "You can't! I've just met you. .."

"Carlos. . ." Lyra leaned back on the bed, enjoying how it felt. "It's meant to be. ..I don't belong here...too dangerous...." her eyes flicked to the Yellow Ranger. "T..Take care of him, well together..."

Ashley nodded quietly, putting a hand on Carlos' shoulder. She would do her best. Tears were fighting to fall forth, but she didn't let them. Carlos didn't seem to feel the restraint however.

"We'll find a way...don't die, Lyra. ..don't die."

"I'm already dead..." she smiled weakly, raising one hand briefly. "This is brother. ..."


Lyra's hand fell to the bed, and all her vital signs ceased. Carlos threw his head back and howled, his grief tearing at his soul. Ashley put her arms around him gently and offered her support. "She was right, Carlos." she murmured. "It was too dangerous for her to be here."

The Green Ranger said nothing, only dropped to his knees and cried, holding the cold hand of a girl who had been, for the short time they had known each other, closer to him than his own soul. The others gathered around, doing what they could to give him the friendship he needed.

Dimitria watched quietly, and nodded again, to herself this time. It would be as Lyra wished it.

* * *
Three days had passed. The Rangers had presented Lyra's body to the authorities, and told them they had found her in a ditch. They had everything setup to look like that too. The cops had made a cursory effort, but there was no evidence to point to anyone in particular.

A small funeral was held, in which only the Rangers were the real attendants, plus a few people from the orphanage. Other than that, it was a sparsely attended service. Carlos managed to keep from breaking down through it, and afterwards he stared at the plot for several minutes, silent and tear-eyed, until he finally left, to continue his mourning in silence and solitude.

On the third night after Lyra's death, a shimmer of white appeared just a few feet from the grave. Dimitria had waited until Alpha had powered down for his nightly recharge and for the Rangers had all been asleep before she had come. One of the many things transmitted in that moment between her and the vampire had been this.

From the earth at her feet a hand exploded, followed by an arm and then the rest of Lyra's body as she clawed her way out of the Earth. The wound in her arm was completely healed, and she was filthy. As she brushed herself off, Dimitria spoke quietly. "Are you truly certain this is what you want?"

"It's more than that." Lyra's voice was determined. "I am too dangerous, Dimitria. I captured the Rangers with just a glance. If Divatox wasn't so blasted melodramatic and hadn't wanted to wait until she had all five, this planet would be hers right now. I can't be allowed near them, but I don't want to be dead. If everyone thinks I'm dead, if I'm listed as dead...then I'm safe. They're safe."

The embodiment of good reached out and hugged the vampire gently. "So be it then. But if we need you..."

"Call me." Lyra smiled quietly. She still wore the night-dark clothing that she had when she had died, and was glad that they hadn't done an autopsy on her. She had had enough troubles recovering from the wooden wound; it would have been impossible if she'd been eviscreated. Dimitria had seen to it that they didn't cut her open, another part of their agreement. Of course, just about any wound she was dealt she could heal from, except a stake through the heart. The one she had suffered had hurt badly, but she had healed from it. The 'death' had been a simple coma she'd put herself through on purpose, to create the illusion of her death. "I have to go now."

Dimitria nodded, waving a hand briefly to reseal the earth in the grave. None would ever know it had been disturbed. She looked up to see Lyra already several feet away, and lifted a hand in farewell. "Be well, Lyra Cunningham."

"Be well, Dimitria of Inquirius." Lyra stepped into the darkness of the trees and turned her back on Dimitria, on the Rangers, on Angel Grove, on the war between good and evil, and on the only home she had ever known. She slipped away, headed out for the world at large. Peace filled her soul. She knew what she was now. It was what she was destined to be. What she had been born to be, what she had died to be. What she would ever be.

A dweller in the shadows.