Cerina stormed back onto the Fortress, slamming her palm against the keypad to close the door. The idea that Miranda had attacked that sweet boy made her sick inside. He may have been Shard's son, but he was nothing like her. He came to them looking for a place where he could be wanted and she single handedly sent him back to the same hell he had endured all his life.
Zedd came out of the training room and nearly got ran over by the enraged White Ranger.
Zedd: "Cerina, what's your hurry?"
Cerina: "I have to find Sorran. Miranda..... you were right about her. She's as big a monster as Shard."
Zedd, a little thrown: "What makes you say that? Sure, its true. I've been trying to tell you people that sense the beginning, but what was it that made you see it?"
Cerina: "She attacked Sorran. She tried to get information out of him and.... well, you know that wouldn't work. He doesn't know anything. And when he told her that, she snapped. I just need to find him and make sure he's okay and that he knows that won't happen again. I let him stay here so he would be safe from this kind of abuse and what happens? The whole thing just makes me sick."
Zedd nodded, agreeing with her. Though not even he would have guessed Miranda would have sank that low.
Zedd: "Don't you think you should calm down first? If you go in there now, you're just going to scare the kid more. Stop and breath. I know what she did was horrible, but you can't let him see you this way. He's frightened enough as it is."
Cerina: "What do you know about it?"
Zedd: "He and I talked the other day. He still seems uneasy here. Like he doesn't know if he's welcome here or what he can do without breaking the rules. Sorran wants to do the right thing, he just doesn't know what that is. I don't think you storming in there the way you are now is going to help him. You're stressed out over this thing with your mother and now you've got his problem to deal with. You need to relax; get some sleep."
Cerina: "Sleep? I haven't slept in days, Zedd! With Katie back here doing God knows what, how can I sleep? Its too much. Hell, when Miranda told me that, I stuck her in the mouth and walked away. This is how on edge I am."
Zedd: "That is exactly my point. He won't understand. And as happy as I am to hear someone finally hit that bitch, I know its not like you. Not now, anyway. You have to stop; forget about all this stuff for one night. Watch a movie with Niki or go for a walk. Do something you enjoy instead of juggling all this stuff. You can't keep running on empty. Eventually you'll crash and I don't want to see that happen."
Cerina took a deep breath, knowing perfectly well he was right. She was so tired that the walls in the hallway around her were spinning. The sudden rush of drama in her life was starting to take its toll.
Cerina: "Fine. But tell me something. How did you get to be so wise? You spent most of your life destroying planets and cussing out that Zordon guy. What am I missing?"
Zedd: "I'm over 20,000 years old, Cerina. Did you think in all that
time I wouldn't learn anything?"
Rita looked across the throne room at Shard, who had been leaning in the corner for hours. As much as she hated to admit it, it was clear Destructsa's betrayal had hurt her a little. Rita wanted to help her, but she also didn't want to waste time. If she stayed there and tried to talk to her, it would further lure her into a false sense of security. However, spend too much time there and she wouldn't be able to take Zedd by surprise the way she planned.
Shard, from across the room: "Do you want something?"
She walked across the room toward the depressed queen and stood before her, leaning on her scepter.
Rita: "Don't let Destructsa do this to you, Shard. He's not worth it. What's done is done. I think you should move on. After all, whatever it is you're doing here seems to be working. Those Rangers aren't even trying to stop you now that what's her face's mom is back."
Shard: "I'm draining Stregna's power like I wanted. This is true. But..... I just can't believe this is happening. Destructsa has been at my side for so long. It just doesn't seem real."
Rita: "I know you're going through a lot right now, losing both him and your son."
Shard laughed at the thought of actually missing Sorran. A few days earlier she was fixing to throw a party due to the fact that he was gone. She hated that he defied her, but couldn't have been happier that he was out of her life.
Shard: "Are you on drugs? Sorran leaving is the best thing that ever happened to me! Do you have any idea what its like to wake up seeing the same homely face day after freaking day?"
Rita: "Have you seen my husband?"
Shard: "Oh, right. I guess you do know where I'm coming from. Destructsa leaving bothers me because I actually trusted him. But Sorran, not a problem. I do plan to make him pay, but its not really a priority. Killing him is.... well, more of a rainy day activity. Certainly nothing I'd concern myself with now."
Rita went over and looked off the balcony. She could see the lights on the Dark Fortress through the black night sky. Starring out at the ship, she wished she could just blast it and be done with the whole mess. It would have been pointless to try, however. She knew Dark Specter made that ship. It implied that one little blast from her staff wasn't going to do anything to it.
Shard: "You want to attack, don't you?"
Rita: "Yes. I think its about time I show old Zeddy boy who he's dealing with."
Shard: "Then what are you standing around here talking to me for? Go. Have fun. Murdering your husband can make for such a lovely evening. Please, don't let me spoil it for you."
Rita: "You're sure you're okay?"
Naturally, Rita didn't care, but she knew getting close to Shard would ultimately bring her closer to her goal. This was the perfect time to make her believe she could trust her.
Shard: "I'll be fine. Probably open up a bottle of vodka and forget my problems..... and eventually my name. It'll be great. You just go, have a good time, and try not to ruin those beautiful nails while stabbing his ass."
Rita laughed. Shard didn't seem like such a bad person if you catch
her at the right time. The former empress rather enjoyed her sense of humor
and care-free approach to life. Her whole world had come crashing down,
but it really didn't seem to bother her that much. She was a little down,
but nothing like most people would be in that situation. The truth was,
Rita found herself liking Shard at that point in time.
A little later, at about 11:00 that night, Cerina came into her room and found Niki and Sorran huddled tightly in her bed. She sighed, shaking her head at them. Niki waved to her happily.
Cerina: "May I help you?"
Niki: "What? If you aren't gonna use your bed, we sure are."
Cerina: "Actually, I'm glad you're here. There's something I want to say to both of you before bed. Its kind of important so I want you to listen."
Going over to the side of the bed, Cerina got in beside her daughter and looked over at the two children. It took her a moment to start. She wasn't really sure how.
Cerina: "Sorran..... I know what Miranda did to you the other day. I am so sorry that happened. You came here to get away from that and she just sent you right back."
Niki: "Miranda hit you? How come you didn't tell me? You know I'd have kicked her butt."
Cerina: "Niki, this sort of thing is embarrassing sometimes. And besides, Mommy's already kicked her butt." Turning her attention back to Sorran, "I promise you this will never happen again. I made it clear to her that she had no right to do that. I know Shard didn't tell you anything. She shouldn't have done that to you, no matter what her reasons were."
Sorran, quietly: "I'm used to it."
Cerina: "Well you shouldn't have to be. I wanted you to be safe here. I just feel so bad about this. But.... I just wanted to let you know that I handled it and there's nothing to be afraid of anymore. If she ever tries to hurt you again, I want you to come to me or Zedd. We'll always help you."
Niki: "What about Ecliptor? He's nice."
Cerina: "Yeah, he is. But I think he has a crush on Miranda. Somehow I doubt he'd be the best choice when it came to her being the problem."
Both children: "Ooowwww. Ecliptor's got a girlfriend!"
Cerina: "You might not wanna say that to him. That's like asking for
another one of his 'I love Cyann' speeches. I'm telling you, that is not
something you should have to sit through." She paused. "Come to think of
it, that would probably be child abuse on top of just plain boring."
Zedd walked into the bar, looking around for a minute while he stood at the door. He wanted to get away from the Dark Fortress for a while and take the same advice he had given Cerina. He needed to relax and forget his problems. That would never have been possible if he were under the same roof as Miranda.
Gazing across the crowded room, he saw Trakeena behind the counter. The purple eyes on her helmet drew attention to her in the otherwise dreary atmosphere of the establishment. He went over to her, pulling up a bar stool. She smiled, surprised to see him there. The two had been Rangers together in 1999, but hadn't seen each other much since then.
Zedd: "Trakeena? You work here?"
She nodded, wiping off the bar in front of her with a wet rag.
Trakeena: "Yeah. For a couple months now. I decided to leave Onyx and try to start over. When I was there, I just kept seeing these monsters; the ones who served my father. They were all kind to me, as they were when he was alive. Asked me how I was doing, if I was okay with his death and all. They did it to be nice, but honestly, it was starting to bother me. Its been over twenty years since Leo killed him."
Zedd: "And their concern made you think about him more."
Trakeena: "Exactly. The more they asked, the more I started to drift back to that dark place I was in right after he died. I don't want to go there again. It took too much out of me to live my life for revenge. I hate the Red Ranger for he did, but I can't keep focusing on it. Leo's gone somewhere on Marinoi. I couldn't find him now if I tried. I mean, what's the point of living that day over and over again if I can't do anything about it?"
Trakeena handed her former team-mate a beer and leaned on the bar studying him. Glancing at his wrist, she noticed the morpher.
Trakeena: "So, you're back in the game, I see. What made you want to be a Ranger again? The big bad emperor of evil running around in blue spandex. There has to be something that lured you back."
Zedd: "My wife, Rita, joined with that Shard woman that's been draining the planet's resources. I didn't actually plan on going back to this. Hell, I can't even look at myself in the mirror anymore, knowing I'm a Ranger. I hate everything those do-gooders stand for, but its my only choice. Either dawn a morpher or die."
Trakeena nodded, tapping her nails against the wood. It didn't click in her mind at first, but after a few seconds, she caught on to what he had said.
Trakeena: "Wait a minute. Rita? You killed her when we were Rangers."
Zedd: "That's what I thought too. But some how she survived that day and..... she saw me with Scorpina. That's why she's after me now. That and leaving her to be a Ranger in the first place. God, what was I thinking the day I accepted those powers? My life has been a mess ever since."
Trakeena: "Yeah. It'll do that to people like us. We were never meant to be Rangers. They were Zordon's soldiers; defenders of truth and justice. All that disgusting crap humans seem to care about. We had no business trying to protect Onyx. Its people are our monsters, yes, but since when do we give a damn? They're expendable. That's why we send them after the Rangers instead of going ourselves. If they die, it doesn't matter."
Zedd: "If only somebody could have explained that to us back then. Maybe we'd both be some place we want to be right now, instead of sitting here in this hell hole. I could have destroyed the Earth with Rita by my side and you could have made that Galaxy Ranger pay for what he did to Scorpius."
Trakeena: "Ya know why we did it?"
He shook his head no. Their lives were indeed a mess, but sitting there with Trakeena seemed to make him feel better. He knew the both of them had made the same mistakes. She could actually understand where he was coming from. If they hadn't tried to be something they weren't all those years ago, things would be so much different now.
Trakeena: "Astronema. That's why. She was soft and loving and we let that get under our skin. She some how made us believe that we had good inside us somewhere when common sense would have told us the exact opposite. She was human; born to be a Ranger like her brother. We aren't like her."
Zedd: "I never thought of it like that, but you're right. She was the one who talked us into this. I don't think she was trying to ruin our lives or anything. Karone just couldn't understand the difference between us."
Trakeena sighed, scanning the bar.
Trakeena: "Oh well. Too late to change any of that now. You're stuck being something you hate to fend off the woman you love. And I'm stuck slaving away serving drinks to the nastiest people in the galaxy. Thanks a lot, Karone."
They were silent for a long time, wondering how they could have ever let things get this far out of hand. Their thoughts were soon interrupted by the sound of several Vykron warriors busting through the door. They yelled war cries at the top of their lungs while slottering the people around them. Trakeena jumped over the counter and stood in a battle stance next to Zedd. Neither one cared about the drunks, but were not going to let anything happen to each other.
A low growl escaped through Zedd's mask when he saw Rita walk calmly through the hole where the wooden door once was. The floor was littered with dead bodies; blood puddling underneath them. Trakeena's eyes grew wide when she realized that they were the only two left alive.
Rita: "I guess Trakeena was next on your list of sluts. I should have
known you didn't really love me. The day Finster was forced to remove the
spell, it was all over. You only stayed with me until you could find some
brainless bimbo like her to fill your bed."
Cerina stood outside her room in the hallway with a cordless phone to her ear. Glancing through the door she saw Niki and Sorran cuddled close together, both sound asleep in her bed. She couldn't help but smile. On the other end of the phone, Tracy couldn't believe what she was hearing.
Tracy: "Cerina, I really wish you'd let this thing go. I know you hate our mom for what she did to Dad, but.... you're asking her to break your heart all over again. You have to know that whatever game she's playing is to her own benefit. So why are you letting her do this to you? Don't play along and she won't be able to hurt you."
Cerina: "I've asked myself that so many times over the last few days. And every time I try to forget about this, something pulls me back. I'm not going to be able to rest until I know the truth. There's something here. I can feel it."
Tracy: "The only thing there is another one of her damn mind games! That's it!"
Cerina: "I wish I could block her out the way you do, but I just can't. The fact of the matter is, this could be something important. And Tracy, believe it or not, it could involve you too. I don't see how you can stay in that apartment and pretend nothing's going on. How the hell is this not driving you crazy?"
Tracy: "Simple. I don't care. Mom took away my childhood. I was working two jobs at twelve because of her. I just don't care anymore. My life is better without her in it and yours would be too."
Cerina: "Like I said, I can't block this out like you. Its not that easy for me."
Tracy: "You obsess over this stuff; pour your whole heart into it, and every time that woman ends up doing the same thing she's always done. You wonder why she makes you go back to the way your were with Vulca. Because you let her!"
Let down by her sister's lecture, Cerina took the phone away from her ear for a moment. She had called her looking for support, but it was clear she wasn't going to get it. Tracy was right. Everything she was saying had been proven a hundred times over, but Cerina didn't care. No matter what it cost her, she had to find out why her mom was playing her. She had taken the weapons to force her to come after her. And she did that so she could see something in that house. Standing there, going over it in her mind, she was certain that something had to be the picture. There was nothing else there that stood out. Just the same stuff that had been there when she was a child. Nothing was moved; not even a new paint job. The house looked exactly the same except for that one thing. Finally, she returned to her conversation.
Cerina: "Tracy, I'm going. I wanted your support on this, but if that's too much to ask, fine."
Tracy: "I won't give you the go ahead so you can trash your life all over again. I know how she is and you're setting yourself up for a big fall if you keep doing this. I love you and I don't want to see you go back to that monster you were before. I get that you can't help yourself, but if you do this.... that's the road you're headed down. You said yourself, Mom always does that to you. Do you think this time is going to be different?"
Cerina: "Ya know what? I don't need this shit. I thought you would be there for me when I needed you, but I guess not."
She pushed the small button on the phone, hanging up on her sister. Looking at the floor, Cerina took a few deep breaths trying to calm down, but nothing worked. In rage, she threw the phone at the wall, watching it shatter and fall to the floor.
Cerina, talking to herself: "You don't wanna help me, Tracy, that's
fine. I'll do it on my own."
Zedd started to morph, but Rita shot a blast at him, transporting him out of the bar. Trakeena looked at the burn mark on the floor where he had stood and gasped. Her face was frozen in horror. At first, she wasn't sure if his wife had captured him or destroyed him, but giving it some thought, she knew Rita wouldn't want him dead in one shot. That had never been her style. She would torture him first; make him regret every decision he ever made. Then and only then would she see to it that he died.
Trakeena: "You won't win, Rita! I have hatched these plans hundreds of times and every time, the Rangers stopped me. Surely you of all people should understand that. You're no different than me or anybody else who tried to get rid of them. That team will hunt you down and destroy you, just like they did my father."
Rita: "Don't bore me with your pathetic memories of that weakling Scorpius. The Red Ranger killed him because he wasn't good enough. I, on the other hand.... I have been fighting them for close to thirty years and I'm still alive. No Ranger has what it takes to stop me. Not permanently. And by the time any of them figure out where Zedd is, it'll be too late."
Trakeena: "No! You can't do this!"
Rita: "And who's going to stop me? You? I don't know what he promised you, but if its his heart, Trakeena, you can forget it. He left me, he left Scorpina, and if you trust him....."
Trakeena: "He is my friend and nothing more. And I won't stand by and let you end his life for something you forced him to do in the first place! He only tried to kill you back when we were Rangers because you left him no choice. Anybody in his position would have done the same thing."
Rita laughed. The concept of the insect queen standing in her way was humorous to her. She knew of Trakeena's skill in battle and was certain the young insect could take her down in hand to hand combat. And that was why the empress never fought that way. Trakeena was tough, but she believed herself to be smarter. That was her ticket out of the bar and that was the one thing that had kept her alive all these years.
Rita: "If you want me, come and get me. But I should warn you; take one step away from that stool and I will leave you in pieces, just like your customers." She smiled, challenging her. "Come on, show me what you got."
Trakeena wanted to lunge at her and enjoy every minute of ripping her face off, but she knew it wouldn't work. Rita's staff was pointed directly at her. If she moved even an inch, she'd be gone. That was what she wanted her to do. Stuck there, she narrowed her eyes at the witch and sighed.
Trakeena: "Go. But I assure you, the Rangers will find you. Even if you do kill him, they will hunt you down like a dog and make you regret the day you ever set foot on this planet."
Rita, laughing a little to herself: "I'll take my chances."
Looking especially cocky, Rita turned and walked slowly toward the door. Once she had left, Trakeena drug her nails across the top of the bar, making a loud screeching sound. Deep scratches remained when she removed her hand. There had to be something she could do, but there was no way the other Rangers would know where Zedd was. None of them had ever faced Rita before. The dimensions under her control were a complete mystery to them and her both.
Trakeena: "You won't win, Rita. I will find a way to stop you."
Cerina stood outside the door of the Dark Fortress looking out into the night sky. She had made up her mind to go back to the house and put an end to this madness. But the same question loomed in her mind that had been there for days. Where would all this lead? As she stood there, the facts became more clear to her. She really had no idea what she was getting into. As it were, she knew nothing for sure except that her mother was up to something. The mystery behind her coming back into her life was driving the woman crazy. Even though the thought of what might lie ahead scared her to death, she had to go on. If not, she would never know the truth and wouldn't be able to live with herself. It would drive her crazy for the rest of her life. That was how Cerina acted. She could obsess over one little thing until it drove her over the edge.
She started to walk away, but stopped when she heard a voice behind her.
She turned around, but her expression didn't change. Niki wore a white pair of pajamas with little Power Rangers all over them. Since the Rangers had started fighting Vulca, stores across the globe began to carry such items, in support of their battle. Seeing her there, Cerina remembered how happy her daughter must be. She was living her dream; to be a Ranger.
Niki: "You're going after Grandma, aren't you?"
Cerina: "I want answers and I'll get them any way I can. The truth is, I don't know what's going to happen to tonight, but I promise you, I won't come back with nothing. I am sick of spending every second of every day worrying about this shit. It has to end."
Niki: "Guess you're not gonna let me go."
Cerina knelt down in front of her daughter, looking into her eyes. She could see Niki wanted to go, but something inside her was screaming 'no'. Maybe it was her over-protective side taking over again, maybe it was the fear of not knowing what was in store, but whatever it was, she didn't feel comfortable with the idea of the child joining her.
Cerina: "Please don't fight me on this. The only reason I'm not taking you is because I don't know where the night's gonna lead. I'm not saying you couldn't handle it. The truth is, part of me wants you with me. I..... I guess I don't wanna do this alone. But I have to. If your aunt is right, then Mommy could be walking into a trap and I don't want to bring you down with me."
Niki: "What if you get hurt? If we went together, we'd be safe."
Cerina: "No, Niki. You're not going. As much as I need you there with me, I'm not going to give in. This is something I have to do on my own. I promise I'll tell you everything in the morning."
Niki sighed, sad, but not surprised.
Cerina: "Fine? So you're not going to ignore me ten seconds after I walk away? I don't have to find you hiding in the bushes or breaking any more windows?"
Niki: "I said fine. I don't like it, but I know this is serious. I'll stay here, but you have to swear to me you'll call if you need something. If its a trap, use your cell phone. Please, don't die over this. Its not worth it."
Cerina: "We've been through so much in our lives. Believe me, I'm not going anywhere. I will get the answers I need and be back here as soon as I can. You have my word."
The little girl nodded, heading back inside the ship.
Niki, looking back "Good luck."
Rita: "Relax, Zedd. You're not going to break those chains. They were forged by the fire of hell and only those pure of heart may over power them." She paused. "And lets face it. Where are you going to find pure on Stregna?"
Zedd: "So this is it? You go through so much to make sure I fall in love with you and now.... now this is how it ends. You and I in some God forsaken wasteland with nothing between us but hatred? I understand why you're doing this. You feel betrayed, but I assure you, that is not the case. I am not under Finster's spell anymore and believe it or not.... I still love you! Just end this madness and open your eyes. I have been telling you this same thing since you attacked me in the cave. I became a Ranger; yes. I tried to kill you for my own safety. You left me no choice. But none of that meant my feelings had changed. I vowed to spend the rest of my life with you, Rita, and I still want that."
Rita: "You slept with Scorpina. Nothing you say can erase that image from my mind. Frankly, I don't care if you think you love me or not. Whatever I felt for you when we were married.... its gone now. The moment your body touched hers in that bed, it was over. You and I were no more."
Zedd: "My God, can't you let one damn thing go? I thought you were dead!"
Rita: "I used to dream about the two of us finally destroying the Earth. The Rangers would be in chains; Zordon lying in a puddle of blood at our feet. The entire population at the mercy of our army, and you and I..... we would be wrapped tightly in each others arms watching everything those bastards fought to protect go up in flames."
Zedd: "We can still do that! Let me go and we can try again! Zordon is dead now and there are no Rangers! There's nothing standing in our way!"
Rita: "I can't do that. The man I wanted then.... its not you. I wanted my husband with me; to hold hands around the same blade as we slide it slowly across Tommy's throat. But that can't happen now. You and Scorpina.... I won't act like that never happened. You are different now. When I look at you, I want to rip you apart the same as any other Ranger."
Zedd: "You're hurt, I get it! But give me a chance to make it up to you!"
Rita: "Forget it! You're lying there begging me for forgiveness and look at you! You're a Ranger! Your blood has been tainted by the power of a morpher, Zedd. Even if I could block out your affair with my best friend, you betrayed the darkness and there's no coming back from that."
Zedd wanted to object, telling her that he wasn't like Astronema. He was evil and never pretended to be otherwise, but she didn't give him the chance. A blade appeared it her hand which made his eyes grow wide. He knew she wouldn't kill him right away, but if he didn't find a way to get through to her before the night was over, that would be it. Rita would toy with him, torture him for a while, but she had learned her lesson from their past battles against the Rangers. They played around with them and allowed them the opportunity to win. She wouldn't do that with him.
Lying there, feeling the cold chains against his chest, he wished he had never met Scorpina. Had he not given in to temptation, the two of them would still be together. The Earth would be at their mercy right then instead of him being stuck at Rita's. The empress slowly walked toward him, making sure he noticed the weapon in her hand. The stars on each wall gave off a bright light which reflected off the silver blade of the knife.
Zedd: "Rita, don't do this!"
Rita: "Seeing you two that night was like a knife through my heart. Its only fitting that you feel the same pain."
Before he could say anything more, she drew back her hand and stabbed
the icy metal tool into his leg so he got a taste of what was to come.
Zedd cried out in pain, seeing blood rushing down his thigh and onto the
table. The evil expression on Rita's face as she listened to him groan
only reminded him of the many things he loved about her. The fact that
his pain meant nothing to her proved that she was the only woman he could
ever love. She was cruel; unfeeling. Even when it was his own life she
toyed with, the darkness inside her still turned him on.
Fearing for Zedd's life, Trakeena tore quickly through a wooded area on Stregna, not sure where she was going. She knew the Rangers couldn't save him, never having fought Rita before. Ecliptor, though once in the same empire, knew nothing about her. There was no way he would be able to tell her where the empress had taken Zedd. Now, for lack of a better idea, she just ran, hoping some how she'd find the answer.
Coming to a deserted road, her head began to pound. A sharp pain rain behind her eyes, making her cringe and fall to her knees in the wet grass. Taking a deep breath, she looked around. Her mind was racing, never having felt pain like this before. Was Rita behind it? Did she place some spell on her at the bar, preventing her from saving her former partner?
The longer she sat there, the stranger she began to feel. In the back of her mind, she started to feel something; another presence. It was as though there was someone else in her head. Then, hearing a familiar voice behind her, she turned, falling when her eyes focused in the darkness. Sitting on a stone behind her was a vision of her father. Trakeena knew he wasn't really there. She could see the trees through his transparent form. His tentecles flailed wildly, making her move back a little.
Scorpius said nothing; only sat staring back at her with his big black eyes. She remembered how he had looked the day he died, withered and weak. Leo had taken away his power and his pride, leaving nothing but a broken being. It seemed now though, that his depression was not due to the Galaxy Ranger. She could feel his thoughts inside her, as he had returned to her through a gateway in her own mind. They were connected and no words were needed to convey his feelings.
Trakeena: "You're disappointed. I've failed you in some way."
Scorpius: "You search for the former emperor of evil in hopes of saving his life. You are here to stop Rita and come to his rescue."
Trakeena: "Well.... yeah. But....."
Scorpius: "How does this make you any better than they Rangers who destroyed me? Their goal was to save the lives of others who were strong enough to defend themselves. Now I find you, my own daughter, following their path."
Trakeena: "Daddy, Zedd is my friend. I'm not good. You know that. I just don't want Rita to win. He doesn't deserve to have his life cut short because she's too damn hurt to see the truth."
Scorpius: "You will leave this be. If Zedd is meant to live, he will survive on his own. It is not your place to offer help to another. That is the rule of the universe, Trakeena. The strong survive and the weak must be destroyed."
Trakeena: "You're asking me to let her kill him?"
Scorpius: "If you are as evil as you claim, it should be no problem. I raised you to be the heir to my throne. Not to defend those who do not deserve it. If you free him from Rita, you will have crossed the line. If you save him.... you are no longer my daughter."
Trakeena: "How can you do this?"
Scorpius: "When I died, you vowed to honor my memory. Keep your promise and become the woman I know you can be. I saw you when you ordered Deviot's destruction. The empty expression on your face made me proud. Go back to that place and forget your worthless human feelings. They are a weakness and one my heir cannot afford."
Trakeena: "Zedd and Deviot are nothing alike! I agree with you, that bastard wasn't fit to live. But Zedd is!"
Scorpius: "Allow him to prove that."
Everything inside her was saying that her father was wrong, but since his death, Trakeena's only goal in life was to live up to his legacy. If helping Zedd made her look weak in his eyes, how could she continue? Throughout her childhood, she had seen thousands of generals come through the doors of the Scorpion Stinger. This was because Scorpius never believed in helping them. They had all died in battle and when it had made her sad, he always reassured her it was their fault. If they were strong enough, they would have survived. The question was, could she really be as cold as her father had been? Looking at his image staring back at her, it didn't seem she had any choice. No matter what, she had to prove she was still worthy of being his little girl. Nothing had ever mattered to her more than the creature's approval, especially since his death.
Trakeena, standing: "Fine. If he dies, its his own fault."
Niki and Sorran were lying in Cerina's bed. The window was open, allowing the curtains to blow freely in the wind. The lamp beside the bed shown brightly in the room as Niki stared at the wall. Sorran took her hand, causing her to jump with surprise.
Sorran: "Your mom will be okay, Niki."
Niki: "Its not that. I know she can handle this. I just wish I knew what this was about. We both got that weird feeling when we looked at the picture. There is something going on here and it driving me crazy. I need to know what's happening. Does she know yet? Did she find my grandma?"
Sorran: "You really think its that big a deal?"
Niki: "Have you ever seen one of those movies where the character knows something isn't right, but they don't know what? That's how I feel. Something was calling out to me when I saw that girl. I've seen her face a million times in my mind since that day. I don't know why, but.... I feel like tonight's the night. There is something in that house and once Mom finds it..... our lives are gonna change forever."
Niki pulled the blanket up close to her and turned her head, looking into her friend's eyes. Anyone else would have called her crazy for saying things like that, but Sorran seemed deeply interested in her words. He didn't laugh or even crack a smile. Being there with him seemed to make things easier for her. Had they never met, Niki would have followed Cerina, unable to be left in the dark. It was like Sorran was a necessary piece of her life that she didn't even realize was missing.
Niki: "How come you're not laughing?"
Sorran: "If you believe the picture called out to you, then I do too."
Niki: "I've never met anybody like you before. I always thought..... if I met another kid, they wouldn't like me. I'd be too weird and they'd just make fun of me. You know I didn't grow up like everybody else and you're actually okay with that. My life has never been normal, but.... its like that doesn't matter to you."
Sorran: "Look at who I lived with. Shard didn't let me live a normal life either. I guess after being with her for so many years, I don't see you the way other people would. It doesn't matter what other people think of us, Niki. We're not like them and we never will be. We're both stuck in this life weather we like it or not. Why would I pick on you about being a killer's kid? I am too. Its who we are."
Sorran's heart pounded in his chest. Neither one of them said anything
for a long time. Then, a smile slowly formed on Niki's face, having realized
she had found a true friend. Somebody who wouldn't judge her or make fun
of her, no matter how weird their lives got. Both acting on impulse, they
leaned closer; staring into each other's eyes for what seemed like forever.
Soon, they felt their lips touching and the two of them had kissed. Both
kids lay in shock at what had just happened. Neither one moved or dared
to speak. The same question was repeating itself over and over in their
minds. Did that really happen?
Cerina stood outside her mother's house with her arms folded across her chest. Out there in the cool night air, she began to wish she had brought Niki. Being alone there brought back so many memories for her. Going closer now; her hair blowing in the breeze, she looked through the window, seeing nothing but darkness. Every light in the house was off. She knew Katie wasn't there, but something inside her said that the truth behind this whole mess was.
Taking a deep breath, Cerina ran over to the door, turning the knob. It was locked.
Cerina, talking to herself: "I'm through taking your shit, Mom. We're ending this tonight weather you like it or not."
Reaching into her purse, the White Ranger pulled out a gun and pointed it at the door. Firing two bullets as the knob, it fell to the pavement and she kicked the door open. Still clutching the gun tightly with both hands, she entered the house and slammed her fist against a light switch. The entire place lit up, but there was no one in the room.
Cerina: "All right, bitch! Game's over! Come out or I blow your freakin head off!"
The room was silent. She was now certain Katie wasn't home. Otherwise she would have approached her with her usual cocky attitude. Cerina walked a little further inside, looking over her shoulder out of fear. A deep sense of dread washed over her. It felt like something out of a horror movie as apposed to real life.
She made her way into the kitchen, turning on the light. A file folder was lying open on the table. Moving slowly, she went over to pick it up. Her hand shook, realizing what it was. She let the papers fall to the floor and pointed her gun at the cabinets which lined the room. Firing numerous shots at them in frustration, she shattered the glass doors; each one making a loud crash as the shards fell down onto the countertop.
Cerina: "Stop playing games and tell me what this is about! What do you want from me?"
She knew her mother wasn't there to hear her cries, but she couldn't contain them any longer. Between stress and lack of sleep, Cerina couldn't take it anymore. She would put an end to the mystery, even if it meant destroying that entire house to do it.
Before she could do anything more, she heard footsteps behind her and turned quickly, aiming the gun directly at the person's head. To her surprise, Kayla, the girl from the photograph stood before her with fear in her eyes. They were both locked in place for the longest time; the gun shaking in Cerina's hand. Finally, she dropped it. The sound of it hitting the tile floor startled them both.
Cerina: "Who are you?"
The girl didn't answer. Just looked silently back at her, no longer afraid. She didn't see the Ranger as a threat with the weapon on the ground. The blank expression on the child's face only made Cerina more furious. Her heart was beating rapidly in her chest while she forced herself not to snatch the young girl up by her neck and beat the answer out of her. She knew resorting to that would make her no better than Miranda. She also knew that this was most likely not Kayla's fault. Odds are Katie had used her as a pon, just as Cerina had once been. The child had been used and shouldn't be made to pay for what that sick woman's plan.
Cerina: "You tried to stop me from becoming a Ranger and now my mother is using you to mess with my head. I have tried and tried to piece this together in my mind, but there are too many unanswered questions. Now I want the truth. What do you know about this? What is my mother trying to do to me?"
Kayla, dryly: "Katie's gone."
Cerina: "Answer me, damn it!"
Kayla: "She left today. You won't find her. Its over now, White Ranger. Your mother is no more."
Her voice frightened Cerina a little. Everything she said was in monotone. She spoke with no emotion what so ever. Frozen in place, the woman began to feel dizzy. Even though her mom wasn't there, it was clear she had reached the end. This girl was the key.... some how. The answer lied within her. She just didn't understand why Katie had used a kid in her plan. Niki, maybe, but before the incident with the morpher, Cerina and Kayla had never met. It seemed too random to try and make sense out of.
Cerina: "What aren't you telling me? There's a reason she wanted me to see you. Now I know she used you like she does everybody else, but if what you're saying is true, then come clean. She can't hurt you anymore. If Katie is gone and it really is over then..... what was the all about? Why you? Who.... who the hell are you?"
Kayla: "Your entire life has been a lie, Cerina. Your mother is not the woman she claims to be."
Cerina: "I am not in the mood for this! Stop being cryptic and answer me!"
Kayla: "Why do I owe you anything? Have you done me any favors?"
Cerina: "Yes. I have yet to rip your fucking head off! Now knock this shit off! I can see she told you to do this, but none of this matters now! If she's gone, then just help me understand! This has been driving me crazy for days!" She paused. "Please, Kayla, I am begging you, help me. I have been snapping at my friends and my family; running myself ragged trying to get to the bottom of this and I can't do it. You know why all of this happened and.... you're probably the only one besides my mom who does."
Kayla, still speaking in monotone: "Family?"
Cerina sighed, not wanting to make small talk. But she knew she had to gain the child's trust before she would open up.
Cerina: "Yes. I have a daughter who is about your age. I can't keep obsessing over this anymore. I'm a Ranger, I have Niki; I can't handle this. Maybe if it were just me, but there are other people's lives involved. I can't be a mother to that girl if all I can think about is this twisted mess."
Kayla: "Niki. She's the one."
So much of what was happening to Cerina felt like a dream. The child's voice sent a chill down her spine every time she spoke. Other than their words, the house was completely silent. Not even the hum from the refrigerator. She looked around at the room, a mess from gun fire, and tried to make the errie feelings inside herself go away.
Cerina: "What are you talking about?"
Cerina's eyes started to fill with tears, finally at the end of her rope. She couldn't take not knowing any longer. She prayed the child would take pity on her, but clearly she was at her mercy. Kayla didn't have to tell her anything and this, like all the other times, could turn out to be just another piece of the puzzle. She wanted out so badly, but couldn't force herself to let go. The mystery had consumed her, just as Katie knew it would.
Not answering the question, Kayla pointed to the documents in the folder on the floor. Cerina took a deep breath, having thought that chapter of her life was over.
Cerina: "The papers. All right, its about the papers. What about them? Just tell me!"
Kayla: "Niki is not your only daughter, Mrs. Morgan?"
Cerina, after a long silence: "No. I had a child before her, but.... she died. It was still-birth. I.... kept the papers in memory of her, but I never thought I'd have to see them again. I spent so many years obsessing over her death; blaming myself. I thought maybe had I done something differently..... she might still be alive."
Her face was now covered in tears. She had never told anyone about the daughter she had lost. Not even Jim.
Cerina: "Why is my mother using this to hurt me? The baby is gone. She was there when it happened. She knows there's no turning back now. Even if it was my fault, I can't change it. Kayla, I need you to help me understand. What does my mom want? Why does she have those papers and....."
She stopped, cold, finally seeing the truth in the child's eyes. The answer had been right there for her the entire time. This was her mother's end game. This moment in time was what the past week was all meant to lead up to. The two of them standing there; Cerina wiping the tears from her eyes.
Kayla: "That's right, Mom. Its me."