Thanatos… He thought. The cloaked visitor had appeared to him one night, and told him of his fate, his impending death at the hands of Zordon and those despicable Rangers. But Darkonda had not accepted that he was to die, for why would the traveler bother telling him if there wasn't some sort of escape from destiny? He had challenged Thanatos with that fact, and the mysterious visitor had relented.
"There is a way," he had said. "However, it will not be easy. I can supply you with the spell needed to destroy Zordon, for if he is destroyed by the Forces of Evil, his death will be in vain. The final gift to the Forces of Good will not be bestowed, and you will survive."
"Why are you telling me this?" Darkonda, ever suspicious, narrowed his glowing yellow eyes. The cloaked figure shrugged.
"It…serves my current best interests that the Forces of Evil escape destruction at this point in time."
"What's the catch?"
"Catch?" Thanatos echoed.
"You know, the other part, the thing I need to do in order to get everything I want. My big sacrifice." Thanatos smiled underneath his hood, though Darkonda could not see it.
"You must kill Dark Spectre, in order to keep the balance. If Zordon dies, Spectre dies, or certain doom will befall all who serve either of them."
"Is that all?" Darkonda laughed. "Oh, this is absolutely perfect!" -Finally,- he thought to himself, -I can get Spectre out of the way.-
"Then you know what to do," Was all he said, and then he vanished, without a fuss. No sparkle of teleportation, or puff of smoke. One minute he was there, the next he simply…wasn't. Darkonda examined the yellowed scroll Thanatos had left behind with interest.
"A pure powerstone from the caves of Mirinoi, augmented by the energies of Fire and Lightning.." He read aloud from the first passage. He turned to his computer console, and stared in shock. On the screen that usually displayed the status of the engines in his ship, was an image of two humans, one in Red, the other in Yellow. "Fire and Lightning…" he mused, then noticed the identical rings both humans wore.
"Well, isn't this interesting."
Darkonda absently played with a knife as he glanced at the scroll before him. He still was no closer to why Thanatos wanted Zordon dead- all his research had led to dead ends, vague conclusions or just random speculation. From what he gathered, Thanatos's people considered themselves neutral in any conflict between the forces of good and evil, playing both sides in order to achieve their balance. It was also speculated that the mysterious traveler's people could move through time, and Darkonda didn't doubt that. One of the reasons for his lack of doubt in this strange claim was the fact that somehow, a small device Thanatos had seemingly planted among the computers created a rip in time. A rip that allowed the evil being to retrieve the first components for the spell to destroy Zordon.
"Unfortunately," Darkonda snarled to himself, "it allowed that…problem to follow me back." He didn't know what to do about her- he had a feeling that if she was allowed to live, it would seriously threaten his chances of succeeding in his mission. He yawned as he glanced once more at the security videos.
"Might as well entertain my guests," he mused, chuckling. He stood up and headed for the prisoner 'quarters', if one could call them that. "Nothing but the finest for prisoners of Darkonda." He seemed to find himself hysterically funny, and often didn't understand why others didn't. Of course, most of those others found they didn't have to endure the evil being's jokes for much longer.
"What do you want from us?" The male, whose name Darkonda hadn't bothered to find out, spat.
"It's very simple," Darkonda drawled. "I need your blood, and the powerstones you wear. If you do not want to give them to me willingly, I understand. And surprisingly- I don't even mind! It will be…amusing, taking them from you by force. A waste of two perfectly good slaves, really, but I'm a realist. If you're going to resist, I won't waste time killing you."
"We'll never give you what you want!" The female snarled, pulling at the chains that restrained her in the cell.
"Oh, really." Darkonda said dryly. He held a small video device at the bars of the cell, and pressed the play button. A Ranger in red armour appeared, fighting Quantrons. She was holding up, but was outnumbered. A man appeared before her and drew a blaster, firing a single shot and causing her to demorph. The female prisoner buried her face in her partner's shoulder as she heard the girl in the recording cry out.
"Take this warning- if you do not co-operate when the time comes, I will kill your daughter." Both prisoners winced visibly at this last statement, and Darkonda left, feeling satisfied. If he played his cards right, the little brat who had followed him back could turn out to be an asset rather than a hindrance.
Sitting once again in his own comfortable quarters, he pondered the scroll. It said that in order to kill the 'Bringer of the Final Light', he would require several things. The powerstone from Mirinoi was only one of a list of many.
"A blade forged in the pure waters of Kal'ra'Shan." He muttered. "They aren't making this easy, are they?" He grumbled to himself. It didn't matter. There was plenty of time before the Countdown, as Thanatos had referred to it, would occur. Plenty of time to eliminate the only major rival Darkonda would have once Zordon died- Dark Spectre.
"You have stood in my way too many times, old friend." He sneered. "But very soon, that will change. I will be the one giving the orders and you will be dead." Darkonda was not stupid. He knew very well Dark Spectre didn't trust him, because he felt the same way about the evil monarch. Trust was not something most people in his line of work even thought about.
Using the computer console in his quarters, Darkonda contacted the starship's pilot, an enhanced Quantron of his own design. Unsuited for fighting, but with an intelligence above that of a normal Quantron, they were the perfect obedient workforce for running his ship. While Astronema had a crew consisting of her most loyal henchmen and a few slaves, Darkonda preferred his own creations. They never questioned orders, required only a minimal amount of time to recharge their circuits, and best of all, they were replaceable.
"Pilot, set a course for the planet of Kal'ra'Shan." Darkonda
Beneath him, he could feel the engines power up as they prepared to
for the remote planet.
"His name is Darkonda. We don't know where he's from, or even what species he is. We thought at first he worked under Astronema, but then we found out he has his own agenda, one directly from Dark Spectre. Knowing him, he probably isn't really working for Spectre either."
"But why would he travel forward in time to kidnap my parents?" Karone said. "I don't understand."
"Maybe he needed them for some plan." Ashley suggested.
"But what?" Karone wondered out loud. "I mean, it's not like we need Rangers anymo-" she stopped herself, her eyes widening in shock as she realized what she had very nearly given away.
"What did you say?" Ashley inquired.
"My parents…used to be Rangers too." Karone admitted, hoping that would be enough. It wasn't.
"There's more to it than that, Karone Corbett." Ashley looked at the younger girl sternly. Karone remembered all the times when she'd been little, and done something especially childish. Ashley got this look in her eye, and would place her hands on her hips, and then just stare quietly at Karone until the girl admitted she'd done something wrong. It usually always worked, and today was no exception.
"Maybe, maybe I should explain this to everyone," Karone admitted meekly, and Ashley nodded with approval. She didn't enjoy keeping secrets from the rest of the Rangers, especially Andros.
-What are you doing?- Karone's inner voice seemed to yell at her.
-I can't keep secrets from these people. And maybe, just maybe, they could help somehow.- she rationalized.
-Help? How can they help? They don't know anything about you!-
-That's what I'm trying to change!-
"Karone?" Ashley's voice interrupted the inner monolouge Karone was having.
"Tell the others to meet in the Simudeck in an hour, I should have everything set up by then." Ashley nodded and went to find the other Rangers, wondering what exactly Karone had in mind.
As she walked down the corridor to Cassie's quarters, she saw Andros. Grabbing his arm to stop him, she smiled. "Hey, Andros, hold up. I've got a message for you from Sirah, she wants us all to meet at the Simudeck in an hour."
"Alright," Andros said. "I just want to recalibrate something in the Hyperrush engines, that should take about an hour. I'll be there." Unable to resist, he planted a quick kiss on the Yellow Ranger's cheek and dashed off, leaving her staring after him in wonder. Sometimes he was so distant, and then there were times like this, when he was almost as cheery as Zhane. It didn't really matter, she loved him either way.
"Now," she mumbled to herself. "Where's Carlos?"
"Carlos is currently exercising in the weight room," came DECA's voice from the speaker on the wall.
"Thanks DECA," Ashley nodded towards the AI's camera-eye.
"Thanks. I'll be there. Any idea what she wants to tell us?" –Uh-oh,- Ashley thought. –Do I tell the truth and say yeah, I know what's going on? Or do I lie?- "Yo, Megaship to Ashley," Carlos' voice interrupted her thoughts.
"Um, I'm not sure, exactly, what she wants. I think she's been keeping something from us, and maybe she wants to tell us what it is." At least that was a partial truth. Carlos just shrugged. "I've got to go tell Cassie and TJ now," she said, and scurried out of the room before she revealed just how much she really knew about Karone's intentions.
Glancing at her morpher, she was struck by a sudden thought. "Sometimes," she laughed to herself, "I can be such an airhead." Leaning against the wall, she tapped a button on her morpher.
"Ashley? What's going on?" Came the slightly tinny voice through the communicator frequency. "Is there an emergency?"
"No, nothing of the sort. I just wanted to tell you, Sirah wants everyone to meet in the Simudeck in forty five minutes."
"Will do," Cassie said, and cut the communication. It was easy enough to do the same for TJ, and Ashley decided she had enough time before the meeting to grab something from the synthetron.
"Steak sandwich." She said to the console. With a tiny whirring noise, the sandwich appeared in the cavity resting in the Megaship's wall.
"I can't even remember the last time I had a proper meal." She remarked to thin air.
"14 hours, 27 minutes ago." Came DECA's smooth reply.
"I wasn't asking for an exact date," Ashley said, then narrowed her eyes. "Wait a minute, you keep track of our eating habits?"
"In addition to your vital signs, sleep patterns, and excersing habits." DECA paused. "I was created in order to help the Rangers. Keeping track of the Ranger's health is only one of the many duties I preform to fulfill my programming."
"Makes sense, I guess." Ashley shrugged. "Huh. Who would've thought." After finishing her dinner, she asked DECA how much time had passed.
"You have ten minutes until your prescheduled meeting with Karone." The computer informed her.
"You know about that, huh?"
"I recently informed you that I monitor the vital signs of all Rangers. Would it surprise you to find out I do the same for anyone on board the Megaship?"
"Of course not…" Ashley grinned. "Never doubt the computer."
"I knew it!" TJ crowed. "Carlos, you owe me five bucks." Carlos just shook his head.
"That," he proclaimed, "is what I get for being entirely too trustworthy." Karone just rolled her eyes, somewhat grateful for the joke, as it had lightened the general serious mood in the room, and made her a little more confident with what she had to say.
"Anyway," she continued. "Um, first I should tell you, my name isn't really Sirah." She looked around the table. "You have to swear that you won't freak out when I tell you what it is." She held Andros' gaze for a second longer than the rest, then took a deep breath. "My name- is Karone."
"What?!" Andros exclaimed, standing up angrily. "That's impossible." Ashley grabbed his arm and pulled him back down into the chair. "Explain." He said simply.
"As I was saying, my name is Karone. Karone Corbett. I'm not from your time, hell, not even from your galaxy. My parents were former Rangers- they named me after the second Pink Galaxy Ranger, your sister, Andros." She paused for a second, letting this sink in. "DECA," she said finally, "bring up the first datafile." A minature image sprang to life in the centre of the table, depicting the Astro Rangers in the middle of a devestating battle with the Quantrons. "This is the battle that is yet to come- it's known to my people as the Countdown battle. It lasted for almost a week, and was spread throughout this galaxy, not just Earth. Many people thought the side of evil would win, but they didn't count on one thing- you. Any other Ranger team would not have been able to accomplish what you will." As the battle played out before them, Karone explained what had happened nineteen years ago to her, but would not happen for another six months to the Astro Rangers. "The final battle took place on the Dark Fortress, where Zordon was being held captive."
"Bring up datafile two." The scene abruptly switched to the Fortress's interior.
"Is that Astronema?" Carlos asked, staring at the tiny holographic image. It sort of looked like Astronema, to him. "What are all those machines on her?"
"Cybernetic enhancements." Karone didn't want to give away any more. Andros didn't know his sister was Astronema, yet. It was best not to completely twist the course of history- too many things depended on everything turning out the way it had. The Rangers watched in almost morbid fascination as Andros and Astronema fought, and all winced visibly as they heard the cry of pain from Astronema as the bolt from her Wrath Staff reflected off Andros' Spiral Sabre and hit her.
The miniature Andros then turned towards Zordon's tube, raised his Spiral Sabre, and smashed it. A wave of golden energy encompassed the image, and then it froze.
"What was that?" Andros asked.
"Zordon." Karone said quietly, "sacrificed his life so that your galaxy would live without evil. And it worked. For five years, peace was all your galaxy knew. The races that had formerly been so busy defending their homes against hostile invasions were free to trade with the others. Eventually, with the help of the inhabitants of KO-35, Earth built a space colony named Terra Venture. My parents were on that station, they were Rangers too. Eventually it found a new world, in another galaxy. That is where I was born. Datafile three." A beautiful world swam into view.
"Crystinia, my home. I was with my parents when they were kidnapped, by Darkonda. I followed him back twenty years in time, and ended up here. Now, I have reason to believe he is attempting to alter the course of history, to prevent Zordon's sacrifice and ensuring a universe ruled by evil."
"So why are you telling us this, exactly?" Cassie asked.
"Because when I was back home, I knew every one of you. You were my parent's friends, and now that I've gotten to know you a little in this time, when you're closer to my age, well, I didn't like decieving you."
"What are you going to do?" asked Andros quietly. The girl's admissions had shocked him more than anyone, because of her name and with it, the revelation that his sister was still out there, somewhere. Despite this, he found himself feeling closer to her than he had before. It had taken her a lot of courage to admit the truth.
"Well," Karone said, blushing slightly. "I was going to leave, but Ashley convinced me to stay, at least for a little while." The others looked curiously at the Yellow Ranger, who, quite uncermioniously, kicked Karone in the shins from across the table.
"Ow!" Cried the Red Spirit Ranger. "Oooh, you are so going to pay for that, Ashley!" she leapt up from the table and sprang for Ashley, who moved out of the way just in time, dashing out the door. The other four Rangers looked on with mild interest, but when they saw Karone's mock glare, decided maybe it was best if they took a run for it too. Laughing and shouting various silly threats, Karone followed.
-Maybe everything really will turn out,- she thought. –I
save Zordon and my parents, and go back home.-
"Everything is in place." He said. "The preperations for the great battle have begun, and Darkonda does not suspect a thing."
"Excellent." The Council leader paused for a moment, considering something, and then continued. "You will of course, continue to give him 'clues' as to how to go about preforming the spell,"
"Of course," Thanatos replied, his tone carefully neutral.
"And of the plan to rid the Universe of Dark Spectre?"
"He already desires this, and agreed easily."
"Then continue. I trust I can count on you to finish this task? I needn't remind you of it's importance."
"I've never failed you before, have I?" inquired Thanatos.
"That is true. Proceed." Was the Council leader's only response,
before he vanished
into thin air.