Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, they belong to Saban Brands. This is a fan work and not for profit.
Author's Note: This chapter takes place after Mother Knows Best.
He stood over his fallen foe, regretting the necessity of slaughtering him. It wasn't the act of killing, for in battle it was only logical that the enemy needed to be destroyed. No, as Prince Gasket, arguably the Heir of the Royal House of Gadgetry, stood over the defeated form of the being that had called himself Behemoth, his only regret was that he would not be able to torture the identity of his foe's employer out of his broken corpse.
"The absolute foolishness of believing that any organic could hope to emerge victorious again a powerful machine like you," Archerina raged.
It had been a close call, even she had to admit that. Behemoth had been a big monster, at least the size of one of the Machine Empire's enlarged creations. He had also been extremely angry and dedicated to his task, tearing through whatever Gasket had thrown at him; their Cog reserves were absolutely exhausted following the battle to the point where there were hardly sufficient Cogs to run the factory to produce new units. The only good thing was that Behemoth had not cared whom he encountered while chasing Gasket across the planet and had taken his toll on the resistance movement as well.
"Quite my dear, but the question remains, who would be foolish enough to attack me? And why?"
Oh there were plenty on names that ran through Gasket's electronic mind. The rebels hiring a warrior to fight on their behalf only for the plan to backfire, his father deciding to destroy him for his continued disobedience. He briefly entertained the notion that perhaps Archerina's father or one of the other leaders of the rival factions within the Machine Empire had struck at him as some form of uprising against the Royal House of Gadgetry, but dismissed the notion. Most of those that opposed him or his father politically would have known not to send an organic creature against them. There were far better machines capable of assassination attempts... some would have had a chance of succeeding.
He moved on to consider other enemies of the Machine Empire, the so called heroes that opposed the will of the Machine Empire. There were many of them and it was true that he posed a threat to them. But even he had to admit that compared to other enemies, he was not the biggest threat.
~Besides there are very few races capable of enlarging others using light magic,~ he thought.
The Triforians could manage it but tests had proven that the effect only lasted so long at the Triforian was within range. Since the breach of their planet had been by Behemoth and Behemoth alone, that method on enlargement seemed unlikely. And since that was the most effective method of growing a being without turning to the darker powers, he was willing to rule out the Galactic Council and their members... for now.
So that left other villains. Those that were jealous of his strategic brilliance or feared his prowess in battle. Behemoth had been a strong opponent, of that there was little doubt. It had taken all of Gasket's cunning and mechanically enhanced strength to defeat the alien warrior. Fortunately Gasket was not only programmed in the noble art of sword fighting, he was also an experienced combatant. Over the centuries he had constantly pitted himself against the finest machines his underlings could create and from time to time sullied himself by facing organic warriors in single battle. It was that practical skill that would have allowed him to wield Damocles Sword in battle where his father had failed.
But who would have the nerve to attack him, or for that matter the gall? The new Grand Monarch had issued a summons just a few days earlier and Gasket was aware of what the Messenger of Fire had done to make it clear his master mean business. Was it possible the Grand Monarch had sent another agent to make sure that they got the message? Certainly killing the Heir of the Royal House of Gadgetry would have sent the message that he was serious, but Gasket liked to think that he was too valuable to be used in such a way. Sprocket perhaps, but not Gasket.
A rival then? Yes, that made much more sense. One of the other villains wanted him out of the way so that they could grab the planet Earth before the day of the meeting. There was no question that he who claimed control of that vital planet at the time would become one of the most important figures in the hierarchy of the newly formed United Alliance of Evil. And Gasket liked to believe that he had as much chance of seizing the planet as his competitors. More in fact given his superior machine mind and willingness to embrace methods his father shied away from.
Except now he wasn't a contender. Whether the intention had been to destroy him or injure him, the fact was Behemoth had succeeded. Gasket's Cog forces were all but wiped out, his factories had been severely damaged and his stock of machine monsters were limited. By rampaging across the planet, Behemoth had set back Gaskets ability to play a major part in UAE by decades. Even within the Machine Empire his faction was now the weakest and he would need to be weary of competitors seeking to claim possession of Horath.
~Master Vile perhaps,~ he wondered.
The ruler of the M-51 Galaxy was certainly powerful enough to take on the might of the Machine Empire and risk its wrath. While it was true that his magic would prove extremely limited against the Cold Iron bodies of King Mondo's forces, there were ways he could direct that power to overcome that disadvantage. Of course such an attempt would need to be swift and guaranteed to succeed, for there was no way that even a powerful magic user like Master Vile could defend himself if Mondo chose to attack.
~And Father would have been honour bound to avenge my death,~ Gasket realised. Not because there were any positive thought processes by Mondo regarding Gasket, but rather because Vile would have had the nerve to attack the Machine Empire. ~No, if Vile were to try this he would direct his attack at Father first.~ Vile would only have had one opportunity after all.
He dismissed Lord Zedd on the grounds that the villain had been destroyed. While his father had ordered a part of the Machine Planet's runtime to determine the exact nature of Zedd's existence, which given the amount of magic involved would likely lead to a complete failure, Gasket was a firm believer that they had seen the last of Lord Zedd. Whether that was a good thing given the former villain's abilities he could not determine -- for Gasket did acknowledge that when it came to actively conquering worlds, Zedd was a figure to be emulated.
~Rita then?~ Giant monsters were a part of her arsenal, but Behemoth was not one of her monsters constructed from clay. There was no sign of Rita's magic wand and if she had attacked he reasoned that she would have sent the Putty Patrol along to secure the planet after Behemoth succeeded.
Then there was Count Dregon. While not the best known villain attacking the planet Earth, and considered by most to be more the sort of threat left to the Rider Corp than a serious problem, Dregon was known to capture and experiment upon specimens from the worlds he conquered. The majority of his forces employed in the attempted conquest of Earth were creatures he had collected on Edenoi. So creating a monster possessing Behemoth's strength was not unfeasible. ~Unlikely though given his preoccupation with the Masked Rider and his problems on Edenoi.~
And finally there was Divatox. ~Would she attack me, would she even dare?~ The answer of course was yes, so long as she believed that she could get away with it. A previously unknown alien suddenly turning up and wrecking havoc on Horath would allow her to deny sending it, especially if it was a mercenary hired from outside the Dianthe Clan. ~And nobody would believe that she had done that when all her recent claims to be hiring mercenaries have turned out to be crewmen from her own fleet.~ She would never have the nerve to attack Mondo or the Machine Empire, but he was willing to be that if she saw an opportunity to get rid of a competitor and get away with it, she would.
~There was an explosion following his arrival,~ Gasket recalled.
Behemoth had plummeted through the atmosphere and mad a massive impact, but the explosions had come after he had landed. Was it possible that Divatox had launched two of her torpedoes to make him more powerful? Of course it was. It made sense that Divatox would take an opportunity on a whim without considering the consequences. While her mother was an ambitious woman and her brothers were both competent strategists, Divatox maintained her position through fear and viciousness. Whereas General Havok would have considered the fall out of such a move and the danger of making a move against the Machine Empire, Divatox would just see the opportunity.
Oh Divatox wasn't foolish by any means. It was clear that she had made sure that while his suspicions were likely correct, they were just suspicions. There was no immediate evidence that she was behind the attack. The torpedoes were known to completely combust following their use. He was not going to mistake a lack of forward planning for foolishness or stupidity.
But there would need to be retribution. Divatox would have to be shown that attacking Prince Gasket was not something she could get away with. But payback would have to wait. Seriously short on resources and determined to secure his position in the UAE, he had more pressing concerns.
"Our assessors have completed the inventory," Archerina announced, ending his quiet contemplation.
"And the results my darling?" Gasket asked.
"As you suspected," she said. "Most of our factories have been destroyed, our Cogs are barely sufficient to provide security. We will not be able to rebuild your creations."
"Have no fear my lovely wife," Gasket assured her. "All is not lost and we have at our disposal the means to rebuild our forces."
How indeed? It was a risky venture and would lose him control of Horath again, but if his new plan succeeded they would have an invasion force capable of conquering the Earth.
"Tell our forces that we are leaving this world and to prepare the Space Base for flight."
And there it was, the ultimate plan. When Gasket had conquered Horath, he had made his Space Base, which was considerably smaller than his father's, a part of the planet. And while the factories had been devastated by the recent attack, the Space Base would still function.
"But what will we do?" Archerina pressed.
"We are going to take this Space Base and take command of the replacement troops Grandfather is building on the Machine Homeworld," Gasket announced.
Following the arrival of the Messenger of Fire, the production plants on the Machine Homeworld had been brought to maximum capacity to fulfil Mondo's need for an ever growing army. And while they would not be able to seize any of his father's creations, due to the inbuilt loyalty programs, there was no reason not to secure a new legion of Cogs and begin work on their own creations.
"And when we have enough Cogs to form a work unit, we are going to set them to work converting this Space Base into the biggest Machine Monster those Rangers have ever seen. And then we will wipe out the Rangers, Rita, Divatox and my father in with a single blow."
"Standing against your father is a dangerous idea," Archerina commented. She would never stand in her husband's way of course. More likely she would be there to make sure his mother didn't interfere.
"Fear not my love," Gasket told her, clasping her hand in a gesture of machine modulated emotion. "The true genius of this plan is that even if the Rangers destroy my creation, I will at least secure my position as Heir of the Royal House of Gadgetry."
Their touching interaction was disturbed by a low moan as as their gaze shifted, they were surprised to find that Behemoth was starting to recover.
"Unbelievable!" Gasket proclaimed. "I was certain I had ended his existence."
"It seems my love that whoever sent this thing realised that it would be facing Prince Gasket and tried to make it stronger."
"Quite true my lovely princess," Gasket agreed, considering the rapidly recovering yet still incoherent creature. "Tell me Archerina, do you still possess those arrows you modified to work on organics?"
"Of course I do," Archerina said. "But you do recall that the effects are not the same?"
Indeed when Archerina had tried to use her arrows on organic beings in the past, they had turned insanely jealous, destroying everything around them in order to prevent the loss of their beloved Archerina. When one such experiment had destroyed some of Gasket's heirlooms, it was agreed not to continue the experiments.
"Yes," Gasket answered. "But consider what would happen if you used an arrow and let him loose in a place where he could only damage the enemy."
"Such as the Machine Home World?" Archerina asked.
There was no doubt that Behemoth would be destroyed before he could wreck too much havoc, but if aimed in the right direction, not only would his assault give Gasket a reason to visit the planet to protect his interests, but it could lead to the destruction of one of the areas he had been looking to destroy himself. And with Behemoth as the responsible party, the blame would be laid at Divatox's feet.
~Which would send Father after Divatox and allow me time to launch my attack on the Earth,~ he mused.
And once he had the opportunity to launch his attack on the planet, Gasket promised that his assault would be relentless. He had come to realise that the only way to overcome the humans was to dominate them completely. Not one monster at a time, but every weapon in his arsenal launched together to sweep aside the human defences and establish Machine superiority. It wasn't a knew idea and he understood that his father had likely calculated the need for such an attack when he had arrived at the planet.
~But Father's preoccupation with Sprocket has blinded him from his duty,~ he thought bitterly.
After their disagreement over his choice of bride, Mondo had removed Gasket from his position as Heir to the Machine King. He had gone further and destroyed his other potential heirs in case they too rebelled. To avoid upsetting Machina, Mondo had erased his former children's' names from every database within the Machine Empire and had then created Sprocket as their replacement. But the cover up had not been completely successful and Machina's memory banks could not be completely erased. And so Mondo had reprogrammed his wife and youngest son, forcing her to dote on her young child until he grew up while restricting Sprocket's programming so that he would mature as his body grew.
~But Sprocket's body cannot develop,~ Gasket thought. ~Father designed him to remain the same forever so the Mother would never know what he did.~
Not that Gasket cared that Mondo had destroyed his brother and sisters. If they were still alive he would have killed them the moment he assumed the throne. But the deception was holding Mondo back, forcing him to indulge his wife's need to teach Sprocket how to be a good conqueror like his father. And that meant that instead of creating the sort of machines that could conquer worlds, Mondo had been building a collection of toy soldiers.
~That will change now,~ Gasket calculated. ~Father will have to abandon his current approach if he wishes to beat Rita and Dregon. Mother will be most upset, but she is programmed to support Father above all else. And Sprocket will be incapable of understanding why Father is not indulging him any more.~
But Sprocket would not have time to be upset for long. For Gasket's plans required Sprocket to grow up... in more ways than one. And then with Sprocket removed, Grommet lost and his other mechanical sibling destroyed, it would just be a matter of waiting for his father's runtime to expire. And then he would be the rule of the Machine Empire and all would bow down to King Gasket.
~According to my calculations the future will be very interesting," he thought. ~Speaking of which...~
"Archerina my love, I have been computing the possibilities and I have decided that it is time for us to start construction of our child."
Archerina made a strange noise, a mix of an acknowledge and and electronic squeal of delight as she jabbed an arrow into Behemoth's prone form and practically dragged her husband toward their private chambers, leaving a few unfortunate Cogs to put the couple's devious plans into motion. If it were possible for Cogs to show fear, it would have been clearly evident as one nervously reached out and nudged Behemoth, just as he finally awoke. And as the noise of banging and grind from Gasket and Archerina were drowned out by the wild growls of a not-so-coherent Behemoth, other Cogs were already in the process of carrying out their ruler's commands.
And as hours later the batter Space Base raced through space, Gasket and Archerina cuddled while enjoying a goblet of warm oil. Sometimes it was good to be a prince, but for Gasket, better things awaited.
~I just can't wait to be King!~
End of Part