Cerina: "Why is my mother using this to hurt me? The baby is gone. She was there when it happened. She knows there 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."
Feeling light headed, Cerina sat down in one of the kitchen chairs and took a good look at Kayla. She couldn't believe she hadn't seen it sooner. The child had the same qualities as herself and Niki. She assumed that was what her mind was trying to tell her when she saw the picture. This was the baby she thought had died.
Cerina: "But.... but how? The doctor wouldn't even let me hold you! He said....."
Kayla, speaking a little more normally now: "Your mom suggested you go to that doctor, didn't she?"
Cerina's mouth dropped open, realizing she had forgotten that. Katie said he was an old family friend and that she was certain he wouldn't judge her for having gotten pregnant at such a young age.
Cerina, quietly: "She set me up."
Kayla: "She didn't think you were responsible enough to take care of a baby, so she took me in herself. Had you known the truth, you'd have fought her for custody. That is why she lied to you."
Cerina, still fighting back tears: "I.... I can't believe you're really here. You don't know how many nights I'd lie awake and wish that some how you survived. I spent years thinking it was my fault you died; that I did something wrong or.... God was telling me I didn't deserve you. But all this time, it was her. She did this to me. My own mother ripped my heart out."
Wanting to fully connect with her long-lost daughter, Cerina reached out to touch her face, but Kayla pulled away. Her face seemed to turn to stone looking back at her.
Kayla: "If you really wanted me, you wouldn't have let yourself believe that. You didn't check that doctor's records, you didn't give me a funeral, nothing. You didn't even want to see the body, so don't you dare touch me. Now, I find out that not only did you not care enough about me to look into it, but you have another daughter and she, not me, is your whole world."
Cerina: "I begged that doctor to let me hold you at least once! It isn't my fault he wouldn't do it!"
Kayla: "No mother would have taken 'no' for an answer. Not if you really
gave a damn."
Cerina: "I was fourteen! I wasn't old enough to know how the world worked! If I thought for a minute that this was a lie, I would have never given up on you!"
Kayla watched as her mother pleaded with her silently to forgive her mistake. But the longer she watched, the more hatred built up inside her. She kept thinking about Niki. She was the one who got all the love and attention she could ever need. She was the one who got the perfect life and the life Kayla had always wanted. She stepped back a little to distance herself from the Ranger, unwilling to make peace.
Cerina, after having calmed down: "But if you knew.... why didn't you tell me that day in the desert? If I knew you were my daughter...."
Kayla: "You wouldn't have left me there for the Vykron to kill. That's nice, Mom." She paused. "I didn't know it was you. I always knew Katie wasn't my real mom, but she never told me who was. I was out there because she forced me. I either tried to stop you from getting that morpher or I wouldn't have a home to come back to."
This reminded Cerina of the other thing she didn't understand.
Cerina: "I get that you don't want anything to do with me. But can you at least explain the rest of this to me. You said Katie was gone? Where did she go? And why.... why would she care if I got this morpher or not? It doesn't make any sense. I mean, I know we never got along, but what I did with my life never seemed to matter to her before."
Kayla: "That was her mission."
Cerina: "The rebels made her do that?"
Kayla: "No. The rebels have nothing to do with this. The missing weapons, her hunting Cyann, and you finding me here were all part of her plan. As was stopping you from becoming a Ranger. Katie..... she's not who you think she is."
Cerina was both pleased and heart-broken at the same time. Though Kayla
was giving her the answers she needed now, it was clear she hated her for
what happened when she was born. When she dreamed of this day as a teenager,
she always imaged the baby running into her arms and loving her without
question. This darkness; the cold tone in her voice; she never thought
this was how it would turn out. Part of her was saying forget Katie and
try to forge some kind of relationship with Kayla, but that just wasn't
going to happen until she knew the whole story. This, like Cerina's other
obsessions, was all consuming. Nothing else would even register until she
knew everything involved in her mother's plan.
In the palace, Shard stood on the balcony looking down at the world below her. She tried to force herself to forget Destructsa, but his betrayal had wounded her deeply. It was true that she could move past it. Being as self-centered as she was, it didn't stop her from living a normal life, but no matter what she tried, he was always on her mind. She trusted him with her life and he didn't care. Just turned on her like everybody else had. For the first time, she was starting to see the outcome of the way she treated people.
Her thoughts were soon interrupted by a bright flash of light. The ground began to shake and Shard grabbed the rail tightly to keep herself in place. The energy around her was blinding; the entire palace filled with multicolored light. Covering her eyes, her mind began to go to dark places, thinking of her own mortality. Was this the end? Did some force beyond her see to it that her life was over. She recalled hearing people say there is a bright light right before you pass into Heaven and that was the only concept she could grasp. Finally, she let go of the rail, allowing herself to fall to the ground.
Shard, frightened: "Who the Hell are you!"
She couldn't see anything. The energy burned her eyes when she strained to focus. It looked as if she weren't even in the palace anymore. Suddenly, two figures appeared in front of her in the sky outside the palace. They were covered in a cloak of blackness and stood out around the otherwise blinding light. Shard's mouth dropped open and her eyes grew wide, backing up in fear. The figures came closer, floating through the rail and into the palace.
In a flash, the light was gone and everything around her seemed normal again. She held her head for a moment, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the sudden change. She was breathing hard, unsure of what had happened. Her hair was somewhat out of place, due to the fall she had taken. Standing slowly, the queen ran her hands across her body, making sure she was in fact alive. The palace looked empty now, just as it had before. The room was quiet and cold. She started to dismiss it as just her imagination until she realized there was one wall of the room she hadn't checked; behind her. Heart beating wildly in her chest, she turned and gasped, seeing the two figures in normal light now. They leaned against the back wall, staring at her.
Katie was one of the figures and the other was Carnage, the man she met in the bar previously. Shard's eyes went directly to Carnage, as if ignoring Katie completely. Her face was filled with shock looking at him.
Carnage, sounding cocky: "Relax, Mother. I'm home and no, you're not dead."
Shard, relaxing now: "You asshole! You scared the hell out of me!"
Carnage: "I missed you too."
Carnage came toward her, extending his arms. He and his mother hugged, having not seen each other in years. Now that she had calmed down, Shard was delighted to see her favorite son again. He had always been the one she was proud of and the one Sorran never lived up to. The two were like polar opposites of each other. In her eyes, Carnage was cunning and ruthless; the perfect heir to her throne. While Sorran was a worthless waste of air.
Shard: "What are you doing here? I thought went on some journey to find yourself or something. I'm telling you, you watch way to many damn movies."
Carnage: "I did and I have." He turned, gesturing toward Katie: "I'd like you to meet...."
Shard: "The White Ranger's mother. I know." She paused, looking her up and down. "I have one very important question for you, Carnage, dear. What is that no good, slutty piece of trailer trash doing in my home?"
Carnage: "She is my wife."
Shard: "I love a good joke as much as the next person, but lets be serious. Why have you brought her here?"
Carnage: "I am serious. Katie and I met shortly after I left home. Her utter disregard for her children's welfare turned me on from the moment I saw her. She is truly the most heartless bitch I have ever met..... next to you of course, mother."
Shard: "You always did know how to charm me."
Katie walked up beside her husband, folding her arms across her chest. She could tell Shard didn't like her, even before she started to speak. She was dressed in camouflage paints and a green sleeveless shirt, while Shard most likely spent millions of dollars on the black, glitter covered gown she wore. They were from two different worlds. Both women looked angrily at Carnage, who now had a huge shit-eating grin on his face.
Katie: "You're loving this, aren't you?"
Carnage: "Don't worry, ladies. Soon you'll learn to love each other the way I love you. And then we can be one big happy family."
Shard, shaking her head at him: "I thought you gave up smoking pot. I am not going to be a happy anything with the queen of the tractor-pull over here. You know me and you know this is never going to work."
Carnage: "Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, it'll be priceless to watch."
Katie, dryly: "Did anybody ever tell you you're a prick?"
Carnage: "Certainly. Didn't you write that on the cake at my first birthday party, mother?"
Shard: "I suggest you get her out of here if you wish to see your next birthday."
Carnage put his arm around Katie and walked up to the balcony. Shard could tell he loved her, but that didn't matter. She knew the woman wasn't good enough for him and on top of that, both Katie and herself were the same age! Carnage was in his mid-twenties, while Katie was nearing fifty. The thought made the mother cringe.
Carnage, sitting on the balcony rail: "Have you been watching the White Ranger lately? Everything that is happening to her; the stress, the breakdowns; that's all Katie. I know how much you adore mind games, so I suggested she play one with her daughter for a while. I thought it might give you two something in common."
Shard: "You expect me to believe she came up with that plan on her own? In order for that to work, you need three things. One, a brain. Two, the sense God gave a lamp post. And three, a working knowledge of the English language. Somehow I doubt she has any of those bases covered. Tell me, Carnage, how much of the plan did you help with?"
Carnage: "I'm afraid you're wrong. This whole thing was her idea. All I said was mess with her head. Well that and kill Cyann, but you can thank me for that later."
Shard: "Why? She's still alive!" She paused. "Well... sort of."
Katie: "I'm working on it. Now that I am free of my daughter's little bart, I can focus on taking away the Black Ranger's life and our main problem at the same time. You see, you have yet to focus on Cyann and she is as much a problem as the Rangers, if not more. She, unlike them, can't feel. You can hurt those do-gooders by taking away what matters to them. That won't work with Cyann."
Shard: "Well hell's bells. That almost sounded intelligent."
Zedd was still chained to the table in the dark dimension. With his head turned slightly, he could see blood dripping slowly off his body and into the smoke covered floor. He growled at Rita, who had the stained blade held up to the light, admiring it. The joy on her face remained as she thought of her husband's pain. After all this time, he was finally paying for what he put her through. With each groan, she became more pleased with herself.
Rita: "I'll bet you wish you'd never met Scorpina now, don't you Zeddy?"
Zedd: "I wished that long before you ever joined Shard! If she hadn't come into my life, you and I would still be together! That is all that matters to me!"
Rita: "You just want me to go easy on you. Well not to worry. Soon I promise you will be able to feel nothing at all. You see, once you're out of the way, I can complete my mission and return to my own life. Not that toying with you hasn't been fun, but honestly I am starting to tire of it."
Rita: "You didn't think I was only on this planet for you? I wouldn't need Shard at all if revenge were all I was after. Sure, she held off the Rangers, but there is much more to it. Too bad you won't be around to see my plan unfold."
Zedd: "Whatever it is, I want to help you. We can take down Shard together and rule this planet side by side. Just let me go and allow me to prove to you that I am telling the truth. You are my universe, Rita. I would give anything to return to the wedded hell we were once in. You can't tell me you don't want that too. I saw the look on your face when we recruited Katherine to spy on the Rangers; when we destroyed their morphers; took down the Machine Empire. You may try to hide it, but you loved me as much as I did you. If you would just let go of this Scorpina mess, we could go back to that. Together, my dear, we were unstoppable."
Rita: "Maybe I did start to care, but none of that matters now. You can't change the past."
Zedd: "Like hell I can't! Let me go, I'll kidnap a Time Ranger, and....."
Rita: "Save it! I'm done with you, Zedd! I don't care how much you beg or how many times you pledge your loyalty to me, it won't matter."
Zedd: "You realize whatever it is you're doing to Shard won't work. Not if you're working alone. You need me to cover your bases. Otherwise that bitch will rip you apart. The moment she finds out your double-crossing her, its over! She killed Vulca without a second thought and she had a body guard. You have nothing! Goldar is gone and you've thrown Scorpina and myself out of your life. If you kill me here, how will you survive?"
Rita: "Shard has no more of an army than I do. I took care of Destructsa and those Vyrkon have no loyalty to her. They follow any orders they receive, for lack common sense. She and I are matched now. Face it. I have no use for you."
Zedd: "You think there's not more out there? Look at Shard! She has been spoiled her entire life. It stands to reason she has family somewhere in the galaxy. If you go after her, they will hunt you down like a dog. If I were to help you, the cover up would be much more effective."
Drawing back her staff, Rita prepared to finish Zedd off. She had heard enough of his pleading and longed to watch him take his final breath. Just as the red orb began to glow with energy, she felt a sharp pain go through her hand. The staff went flying into the air and she turned quickly to see Scorpina smiling back at her.
Niki and Sorran stared at each other in the light of the small lamp beside the bed. Their mouths hung open in surprise and a deep silence surrounded them. It was as if the entire planet had frozen and they were the only two people left there. The wind had stopped outside. After several moments, the silence was broken by the sound of crickets in the trees. Neither child dared speak.
After what seemed like hours frozen in time, Niki finally spoke up.
Niki, quietly: "Did we just do that?"
Sorran, quickly: "I'm sorry. I don't know why I....."
Niki: "No. You don't have to be sorry. It was cool."
A smile slowly spread across her face, partly out of embarrassment and partly because she knew Cerina had been right. She thought back to what her mom had said before and even though Niki denied it, Cerina saw the truth the entire time. There was more between the two than they were willing admit. Probably more than either one understood.
Sorran: "Do you feel as weird as I do?"
Niki: "Maybe a little. But I don't think its that bad. I've seen Mommy kiss a bunch of boys. I know that's what boys and girls are supposed to do if they love each other, but.... I never thought I'd do it. I always made fun of her about it and now I don't know what to think. I actually liked it."
Sorran: "Me too."
Both kids looked around the quiet, empty room and started to giggle. They had both seen adults do it millions of times, but the thought of the two of them kissing took them by surprise. Neither one knew how or why it happened, but each could tell the other didn't want to take it back.
After a little thought, Niki fell onto her back on the soft bed and started laughing. Her hair hung over the side and her feet flew up in their air. She was clearly more relaxed now, having accepted what happened.
Niki, while laughing: "Can you imagine what my mom would say if she caught us doing that? We'd be grounded for a year!" She began to mock her mom's voice, "Stop that! Ya wanna winde up barefoot and pregnant like Kari?"
Sorran: "You can't have a baby from kissing. Can you?"
Niki: "Beats me! But either way, we can't tell her about this. She'd never let us hear the end of it. Now when she gets home, I want you to act normal and let me do all the talking."
Sorran: "You do that anyway, Niki."
Playfully, she jumped on top of him, holding his arms down against the bed.
Niki: "Butt head!"
They stopped cold when they heard footsteps outside the door. Both of the excited children had their eyes locked on the thick sheet of metal as it slide open and Miranda entered the room, shaking her head. She looked from the two of them to the clock on the dresser and pointed.
Miranda: "Its not play time. Now lay down, cover up, and most importantly.... shut up."
Niki: "Or what? You'll beat us up? Mommy would kick your butt if you ever tried that again and you know it. So take your old, wrinkly self back out in that hallway, and leave us alone."
Miranda, giving up: "You have got to stop taking after your mother."
Running her hands through her hair, Miranda left the room, allowing the door to close behind her. Once they heard the latch click, Niki and Sorran burst into laughter.
Sorran: "I can't believe you just did that!"
Niki, pretending to be cocky: "That's the beauty of us Morgan women!
We don't take nobody's crap!"
Kayla's comment didn't take Cerina by surprise. She had never trusted her mother. Not sense the day she forced her dad to leave them there. Still in shock about everything, the Ranger waited for her new-found daughter to continue.
Kayla: "Your mother's work with the rebels was a cover. In reality, she is the wife of a creature named Carnage. Everything she has done was meant to lead up to her reuniting with her husband and taking her rightful place by his side. That has been done now."
Cerina, a little confused: "So they're going to take over Shard's place?"
Kayla: "No. Carnage is Shard's eldest son and the heir to her throne. He is part of the reason she needs power from this planet. He is the reason Shard lives and breaths; her whole world. The weapons Katie took for your ship were used to take out Cyann, who Carnage saw as a threat to the empire. They used yours so you would chase after your mother, see that picture, and come after me."
Cerina: "Okay. You tried to stop me from getting the morpher because you were working for Shard..... in a way. But why did I need to find you here tonight?"
Kayla: "She thinks I'm going to go with you. Let go of everything and pretend like you're the one I want to be with. Don't make that mistake. I want nothing from you. The entire game she played involving me was done to get rid of me. Children have no place in the palace and Katie knew that. You do to."
Cerina: "Right. They treated Sorran like dirt and she didn't want you to suffer that way."
Cerina took a deep breath, trying to relieve the pounding in her head. Everything had come together now, making perfect since. She only wondered why she hadn't seen it before. It would have been so obvious had she taken the time and thought things through rationally. Instead, she let her hatred for her mother and her obsession with the truth blind her. Studying Kayla, she could see the girl hated her. Her eyes were dark and cold; her expression hard as stone. After years with Katie, this was no longer her child. The two of them had grown up the same way; trusting the woman. And now she had been thrown out as though her life meant nothing, while the only mother she had ever known chased after a demon creature. They were very much alike; Cerina and Kayla. But that wouldn't bring them closer. Looking at her then, she seemed spiteful and full of anger and resentment.... just like Cerina had been.
Kayla, coldly: "You got your answers. Now get out."
Cerina: "I'm not leaving you here. It isn't safe. If those bastards know you're not under my protection, you're dead! Katie might have tried to save you by throwing you into my life, but Shard won't! She will kill you for the sole purpose of watching you die! There is no way I'm going to turn my back on you and let her claim another innocent victim."
Kayla: "Like you did with the Vykron, mother?"
Cerina: "Kayla, I didn't know! If I had seen you for who you really are, I'd have never let them near you! Don't you see? Katie lied to me; made me believe you were dead! There was no way I could have made that connection!"
Kayla: "And had I died that day, would you still be using ignorance to justify your actions? It wouldn't change anything. I'd still be dead, weather you knew it or not."
Cerina stopped, trying to find a new approach.
Cerina: "I know I've missed out on a lot and maybe I didn't try as hard as I should have. But I was fourteen when I had you. I was still a child myself and I made a mistake. I want to make up for that, if you'd just let me. I don't want to miss any more of your life than I have already. You're my daughter, Kayla. I am asking you to give me a chance. Let me be the mother to you that I couldn't be before. I am sorry about the Vyrkon and that I didn't see the truth when you were born." She paused. "But mostly, I'm sorry for the pain you've went through. Katie used you just like she did me. I know what that's like and you never should have been put in that position."
Kayla: "Don't waste your breath. I'm not going with you. I've been just fine without a mother all this time. I sure as hell don't need one now."
Cerina: "And what if Shard comes after you? She hates kids! What then?"
Kayla: "I'll survive."
The child glanced over at the gun on the floor, seeing that Cerina wasn't going to leave. Quickly, she dropped to her knees and grabbed it, only to have Cerina kick it from her hand. The weapon flew into the air and the Ranger grabbed it, pointing it at Kayla's head.
Cerina: "Look, I tried to play nice with you; make it look like you had a choice, but here's how its gonna work. You are gonna march your ass out that door and come back to the Fortress with me. You don't, your brains will be smeared all over every wall of this house. Do you understand me?"
Kayla: "Anybody ever tell you, ya suck at negotiation?"
Cerina: "I'm a self-centered bitch, hell bent on getting her own way. Its a family tradition. Now get up!"
Kayla returned to her feet. She stared up at Cerina, surprised that
she would pull a gun on her own daughter. Coldly, the mother pointed toward
the door, forcing her out. The air outside was cool as they made their
way down the gravel-covered driveway. Kayla didn't even dare turn around.
She had wanted to take one last look at the house she grew up in, but couldn't
bring herself to do it. The cool metal of the gun barrel against her head
was too much for her. The only thing her body would allow her to do was
follow directions and pray Cerina didn't pull the trigger.
The next morning, Niki slowly opened her eyes. The sun woke her gently, shining through the open window. Looking across the room, she saw Cerina sitting at the window, staring out across the yard. Her face bore an unmistakable sadness, which concerned her daughter. She sat up in bed, crossing her legs Indian style. Sorran was still asleep.
Cerina turned slowly to face her, but didn't say anything. Her eyes were glazed over and looked almost dead. Beside the chair were several bottles; some broken in pieces. She had sat there hoping to drink her problems away, just as she had during her time as Vulca's slave. This, even more than her beaten appearance, worried the child. She knew what her mom was like when drinking and what it took to drive her to that point.
Niki, quietly: "What happened last night? Are you okay?"
It took her mom a long time to answer. With each passing second, Niki became more frightened. All night, her dreams had been filled with visions of what it all meant. The mystery surrounding the previous week had taken its toll on her as well. Now, seeing what it had done to her mother, she wondered just how much their lives had changed.
Niki: "Mom, what is it? You know you can talk to me."
Cerina: "I don't know what I expected last night. Maybe I wanted her to come after me directly. Maybe I thought she'd have a good excuse. I don't know. But nothing...." She sighed. "Nothing could have prepared me for this."
Niki: "You're scaring me. What did you find out there?"
Cerina held out her hands for Niki to come sit in her lap. The child climbed down from the bed and went to her, putting her arms around her neck to hold herself in place. The warm sun that shown through the window felt good on her skin as she tried to make sense of the expression on her mom's face.
Cerina: "I should have told you this years ago, Niki, but.... I thought it was all behind me. This goes back to a part of my life I'm not real proud of and I never wanted you or your dad to have to deal with it." She paused, working up the nerve to go on. "When I was younger... maybe a little older than you, I ran away from home. Staying in that house, it just felt like the walls were closing in. I had to get out of there and make a life for myself. I knew your grandmother never cared, so it was like I was free. There was nothing in my childhood for me to miss; nobody in my life to worry if I hurt. I just ran and never wanted to look back."
Niki: "Where'd you go?"
Cerina: "Stayed on the street for weeks, eating out of garbage cans, sleeping in the park. Then I met this guy. He offered to take me in and give me the kind of life I was looking for. He promised me the world and fool I was, I actually believed him. When we got back to his apartment, he locked the door and it was like he transformed. The man I met in the park wasn't real. He was a monster behind a mask and when that mask slipped off..... that was the first time I realized how cruel the world really was."
From her voice, Niki could tell she wasn't talking about a real monster. Not the kind they fought every day. It was the darkness in their fellow human beings that she was referring to.
Cerina: "The man..... he forced me into his bedroom and..... he raped me."
Cerina studied her daughter's face, unsure weather or not she was old enough to understand.
Cerina: "Is this making any sense to you, honey?"
Niki: "Yeah. Kari explained it to me last year. He made you do bad stuff you didn't wanna do. Stuff that boys and girls should only do if they really love each other."
Cerina: "That's right. When I woke up the next morning, I could still feel his hands on me. My screams for help still echoed in my mind. With nowhere else to go, I went back home, praying I could forget everything that had happened. But it wouldn't be that easy. That man would be a part of my life forever and I didn't even know his name." She paused. "A few weeks later, I found out I was going to have a baby. Of course, I tried to hide it from your grandmother. I was so young at the time, I couldn't even imagine what she'd do if she learned the truth. And I did that for months, right up until it was time to deliver. Maybe she let me think it worked because she didn't want me to worry about it; maybe she didn't even care. But when I asked to go to the hospital, I could see it in her face. She'd known the whole time."
Niki: "But.... if you had a baby and the boy wasn't Daddy, then....."
Cerina: "You weren't my first child, Niki. But, until last night I thought it didn't matter. See, when I delivered the baby, the doctor told me she was already dead. She died in Mommy's belly somehow. That's why I never told you. I.... thought it was all over."
Niki: "Its not?"
Cerina: "That baby.... she's alive. The girl you saw in the picture is your sister. That's why we felt the way we did when we saw her face. Some force out there, it was telling us there was something wrong. Katie paid the doctor to tell me Kayla died. She didn't believe I was old enough to take care of her and if I had known what really happened, I'd have never let anybody take her away from me. Your grandma raised the baby as her own for years, but now she's gone. That's why this whole thing happened this week. I had to learn the truth so she could move on. She didn't want her anymore."
Niki, sounding excited: "She's here?"
Cerina: "Wait. This isn't going to be what you're thinking. Kayla.... she's doesn't want to be here. She's not going to be the kind of sister you want. Somebody to play with and share cloths and such. At least not now. She hates me for what I did to her, both as a baby and with the Vykron. Its going to take some time before she's ready to open up to any of us. She's downstairs now. Ecliptor is trying to talk to her, but don't expect anything. My mistake hurt her bad and I don't think its safe for you to see her right now."
The two of them were quiet for a long time. Cerina felt the room spinning around her the way it had been the entire night. The confusion on Niki's face made her sick to her stomach. She couldn't believe she had lied to her daughter for so long. Ever since she was old enough to understand, she told Niki to always be honest with her. She made the child believe that they could share anything, when in fact, she was keeping this secret from her since the day she was born. Nobody in her life had ever known the truth, besides her mother and she had planned to keep it that way. Looking down at the Yellow Ranger in her arms, she could tell that had been the wrong choice. She deserved to know she had a sister, even if the baby really had been dead.
Niki: "I don't understand. How come Grandma didn't want her anymore? If she was her daughter, shouldn't she love her no matter what?"
Cerina: "In a perfect world, yes. But she wanted something more out of life. Even when she was raising Tracy and me, she always thought there was something out there she was missing. She always spent her time searching for a piece of her life that wasn't there, instead of loving her children and making them the center of her world. We.... we just weren't enough for her."
Niki: "That's stupid."
Cerina: "That's what I thought too. Now she's moved on to a new life and a new man. Your friend Sorran, he's not an only child either. Your grandmother married his brother, Carnage. They rejoined Shard last night and that's why she didn't want Kayla anymore. She would have only got in the way. I guess like Sorran did. Shard hates kids and had they brought her, there would be no place for any of them in the palace."
Niki: "Grandma married Sorran's brother? Gross! She's old!"
Cerina laughed for the first time in what seemed like forever. Niki was right though. Carnage was in his mid twenties; two decades younger than Katie was. Gross pretty much said it all.
Niki: "Hey, does this mean we fight Grandma too?"
Cerina: "Yes. I know she was probably nice to you when you went to see
her that day, but you can't think of that when you're in battle. It was
an act, baby. Nothing she said to you.... or me, was ever true. She's just
another one of Shard's warriors now. She gave up her place in this family
and our hearts. Your grandma is gone."
Shard stood on the balcony with a cigarette in her hand. Staring across the vast plains of the planet below, she let a cloud of smoke escape her lungs. The thought of accepting Katie as a part of her family had driven her back to her old habit. In her eyes, Cerina's mother was dirt. She wasn't fit to live in the royal palace or even breath the same air as herself and Carnage.
Carnage entered the smoke filled room and his eyes went directly toward his mother. Having heard his footsteps, she turned to face him, narrowing her eyes coldly.
Carnage: "I thought you had given those up years ago!"
Shard: "Son, look what you sprung on me last night. I am going to smoke something. Frankly, its either these or an exhaust pipe."
Carnage: "If you would give Katie a chance, you might actually see her the way I do. Clearly, she is not in your social circle, but that is no reason for you to behave this way. The only thing that woman has done is give me purpose in life. And didn't you always tell me you wanted me to be happy?"
Shard: "Doesn't sound like something I'd say."
Carnage: "You taught me to go after what I wanted and I wanted Katie."
Shard: "When I said that, I didn't mean white trash Barbie in there! I meant if you see a nice planet you're interested in. Maybe a nuclear warhead or something. Anything but that!"
Carnage sighed, walking up to her. As she was about to take another puff, he grabbed her arm roughly, taking the cigarette from her. As her face filled with shock, he crushed it in his hand and threw the remains over the rail. He didn't even cringe from the burning tobacco, which despite her anger, impressed the woman.
Carnage: "You can ask her to leave if you wish. But keep in mind, if she goes, I go. Its your call."
Shard: "I don't want you to leave. Its just.... she's not fit to pick up our trash, darling. You are a smart, handsome, powerful warlord. Surely you can do better."
Furious, he grabbed Shard by the throat and slammed her against the wall to his left. His eyes were bloodshot and full of rage. His grip tightened to the point where she could see blue veins pulsing from his hand.
Carnage: "You talk down to her one more time and I will rip your head off and feed it to the dog. Is that clear?"
Shard's eyes grew wide.
Shard: "You brought a dog too? Give me a freaking break!"
Carnage, letting go of her: "I threaten your life and this is what you choose to focus on? I know I have said this in the past, but I believe it bares repeating. There is something fundamentally wrong with you!"
She laughed, seeing she had surprised him again.
Shard, groaning: "As long as she's here, I guess put her to good use. Rita has Lord Zedd captured in the Dark Dimension, which gives us the perfect opportunity to attack the Rangers. Not that they are that much of a problem, I just want to destroy something. You know, take my anger regarding your piss poor decision out on them. Find that woman and lets go before the Blue Ranger regains his freedom."
Carnage, nodding: "Thank you, mother."
He started to go wake Katie up, but Shard stopped him before he reached the door. Knowing perfectly well he wasn't going to like what was coming, he sighed and turned slowly back around.
Shard: "Oh, Carnage. You have a wife and a dog now. Please tell me at
least one of your new-found bitches is house broken."
Rita shook her hand, trying to make the pain go away. Scorpina stood ready in a battle stance, waiting for her to advance.
Rita: "How fitting you should be the one to come to his rescue. You are the reason he's in the mess."
Scorpina: "Zedd and I sleeping together was a mistake. He still loves you, but you made sure your marriage was over long before we ever did anything together. If you gave a damn about him, you wouldn't have tried to kill him in the palace in 99! Sure, you blame it on his becoming a Ranger, but did you ever bother to ask him why? Did it occur to you that it might have been a trick? Or maybe, just maybe, he did it for you?"
Rita: "The Rangers are our enemies. You know that, Scorpina. Zedd had no right to join them. There is nothing he could say to justify that. Those morphers were a link to Zordon, the man he claimed to hate. When he accepted that power, he went against everything we believed in."
Zedd: "I did that for you, Rita. I took the morpher to increase my own power. Did you not do the same in the creation of the Green Ranger? I wanted Onyx safe so we would have a place to go. Our kind have been banished from nearly every planet in existence, due to our alliance with Dark Specter. If Galaxia were to destroy it, we would have been on the run for the rest of our lives. Once the Earth's Rangers were gone and we ruled it, I wanted to know that we had somewhere else to go. That world would have been covered with human slaves. It is not fit for an empress of evil. Onyx is!"
Rita: "Then why leave me? If that were your goal, you could have taken me with you!"
Zedd: "Would you have gone?"
She remained silent, watching the sweat pour down his visor. Of course Rita knew the answer would have been no. Even if he had been up front with her, it wouldn't have mattered. In her eyes, their kind were never meant to be Rangers, regardless of their reasons behind it. But not wanting to admit that, she turned back to Scorpina and balled her hand into a fist.
Scorpina: "You don't wanna fight me. You've seen me in battle and you know I'll win. Think about this, Rita. You called me to the palace because I was a trained weapon. I had the skill in battle that you never did. If you start something with me, I promise you.... you will not live to finish it."
Ignoring her warning, Rita fired two blasts from her staff, which erupted by Scorpina's feet. She ducked and rolled out of the way of the fire and shot a blast of her own, knocking Rita back into the table. The empress' face was full of rage as she made another advance. Scorpina blocked both of her punches, pushing her back and kicking her in the face.
Scorpina: "I don't want to do this! We were friends once, Rita! Don't throw that away!"
Her former queen opened her mouth and allowed a beam of pink energy to escape her throat. When it hit the warrior woman, it threw her violently back into one of the green pillars; the impact splitting it in two. Scorpina lay hurt, covered in the thick smoke on the ground. She glanced up to see the tiny pieces of stone falling from the smashed pillar.
Across the room, Zedd struggled once again to break free, but it was no use. Scorpina started to recall the last time the chains had been used, seeing the answer, but Rita didn't give her time to be sure of herself. Energy blasts came flying at her like machine gun fire, forcing her to jump out of the way. Rita had anticipated this, however, and quickly redirected her fire to make a direct hit. Zedd could see the damage it had caused. Scorpina's armor was now tarnished; her face covered in blood.
Rita: "Too bad. She was your last hope, Zeddy."
Scorpina: "I'm not dead yet, bitch!"
Forcing herself to ignore the pain, Scorpina put all her strength into crawling toward Zedd. When she had finally gotten close enough to reach out and touch him, Rita kicked her back, laughing.
Rita: "Face it! I've won! Those Rangers can't save you here! They probably
don't even know you're gone!"
Shard, Carnage, and Katie walked quickly along a dirt path which lead through the woods by the Dark Fortress. Shard was in front with her eyes frozen on the path ahead. She didn't dare look back, knowing if she saw her son's bride, she could never go through with the battle. Just knowing she was walking on the same soil bothered her. After everything she had done to raise the perfect heir, how could he do this to her? Carnage was Shard's pride and joy; the one she had always believed would make her proud. But seeing that he had fallen for a commoner, it made her wonder if she had made a mistake. Maybe if she tried harder with Sorran. Could he have been the one?
Carnage jogged up beside his mother, but she didn't stop or even look at him.
Carnage: "Tell me again why you're draining power from this worthless rock? If you wanted the planet, though I don't see why you would, we could just take it. Is there a point to your wasting our own resources on this quest?"
Shard, stopping finally: "Okay, first you bring that thing into my life. Since then, my home has sounded like open-mic night at a trailer park. And now you're questioning my actions. I don't know what the hell happened to you while you were away, but you are in serious need of an attitude adjustment."
Carnage: "I am not a child. You do have to justify yourself to me." He paused. "That is, if you want my help. I need to know why this power is so important to you."
Shard: "The power I'm taking from these clueless bastards is important to all of us. Not just me. You need to allow me to do what's best for this family, the way I always have. Sure, I have made a few mistakes along the way." She stopped and held her hand down to her waist, as if to imply she were talking about Sorran. "But all in all, I have done my best to insure our survival here. Who are you to start demanding details now?"
Carnage: "I'm not your spineless little boy anymore. You can't just give me a cookie and send me on my way. I want to know what your goal is and one way or another, you will answer me."
She sighed, realizing he wasn't going to give up. Even though she didn't want to admit it, her little boy had grown up. He had become his own man and it was obvious there was no turning back. Shard had raised him to be a powerful leader and demand respect from all.... including herself. Now she would have to live up to the lessons she had taught him.
Shard: "Fine. You want answers, we'll talk later. We are less than a mile from the Fortress now."
Carnage: "You expect me to believe you can't finish your explanation in that amount of time? I am not a child, nor am I stupid, mother. You don't want to address this now because Katie is here. You should know not to lie to me. I was brought up far better than to fall for your shit."
Shard: "Okay, I hate her guts. I thought we made that perfectly clear last night."
Carnage: "She is a part of this family too. You have no right to exclude her from the details of our plans. If you are indeed doing this for our best interest, then that includes her. She is my wife and the sooner you accept that, the easier our lives will be."
Shard: "What do you want me to do? Pretend like this doesn't bother me? Become best friends with her? Borrow her cloths, go to the mall, have little mother/daughter bonding sessions. Well you can forget it! I will not give that woman one spare moment of my time, weather you give her one ring or a hundred. She is not good enough for you! One of these days, you're going to see that and thank me for trying to save you."
Katie, finally having heard enough: "Do you think I'm not here?"
Shard: "Do you think I care?"
Carnage: "Knock it off! I don't expect you two to love each other over night. I would have to be brain damaged. But what I do expect is a little effort on your part. Katie has done nothing to you, despite the thousand chances you gave her last night. Anyone else would have thrown you off that balcony just to listen to your bones cracking on the rocks, but not her. Because you are my mother, she listened to you drone on about your precious legacy and how much she and I disappoint you. Frankly, had you gone on any longer, I'd have killed you myself." He paused, redirecting his rant. "I brought her here out of respect for you. I wanted to share my life with you, because you have always given me the world. I wanted to give you a chance to see me happy."
Shard: "What you wanted to give me was a heart attack! Respect for me, my ass! You did this to get a reaction out of me and that's it! You wanted to see the look on my face when you paraded that slut through my door! You used me, son. I was the source of a cheep laugh to you."
Carnage: "I admit, I found this amusing at first. But its novelty has since worn off. The look on your face was not the sole purpose for my return here. I merely wanted to lighten the mood, seeing as you're depressed over Destructsa's betrayal. That is why I made those jokes before. I didn't do this to hurt you."
Shard: "How did you know Destructsa left?"
Carnage: "I am not blind. The man follows you like a puppy on a chain. When I entered and noticed that he was not panting at your side, it made things sort of obvious."
Shard: "I can't give your wife respect that she hasn't earned. If you want her to receive a place in my life, you teach her how to appear some what educated. For starters, she could try make up..... and cloths."
She turned, glancing at her black outfit. It was made of tight leather bands and didn't leave much to the imagination. The sight sickened Shard, forcing her to return her focus to her son.
Shard: "You have one week to turn her into a lady worthy of your love. You exceed the deadline, you're both out of my life forever."
Carnage, nodding: "Fair enough. If you don't want us around, that's
Cerina took a deep breath, trying desperately to clear her head. The mystery was finally over, but a whole new chapter of her life was just beginning. After years of having only Niki to worry about, she had to learn to give her love to two children and that could possibly be the hardest thing she'd ever done. Since Jim died, it had been just her and Niki against the world. Now she had to open her life to someone new and even though she wanted to, adjusting to that change would take a lot out of her.
Niki: "You think some day Kayla will like us?"
Cerina: "I wish I knew. But try putting yourself in her shoes. Her whole life up until this point has been one big lie. And on top of that, she sees me leaving her for the Vykron as the deepest cut. Honestly.... she wants what you and I have. You've never had to question weather or not you're loved or wanted. You've always known how much you mean to me. But Kayla.... she has never had anybody in her life to give her that kind of love. I guess she's kinda like Sorran that way."
Niki: "But if you didn't know she was your kid, what's the problem? You love her now, don't you?"
Cerina: "Of course I do. But its not that simple. She can't let go of what I did and in a way, I don't blame her. What kind of a Ranger leaves an innocent child out there to die? I made a mistake and now she's going to make me pay for it."
Niki: "Maybe Sorran could talk to her. He's good at making people happy. And if they've been through the same thing, then she might..... I don't know. She might open up to him or something."
Cerina: "Maybe some day. Right now though, she'd see him as your friend and that wouldn't help. She wants nothing to do with us. Sending Sorran in there would be like throwing our perfect lives in her face."
Niki: "Perfect lives? Did Grandma drop her on her head as a baby?"
Cerina: "Sounds pretty weird, but I guess compared to what she's had to put up with, ours aren't so bad."
Both ladies stopped talking when they heard pounding footsteps in the hallway outside. Seconds later, the door came sliding open and Miranda stuck her head inside. She looked frantic and they both knew why.
Miranda: "Shard's back! She's got your mom and some new guy outside. We have to go before they get the chance to strike the ship!"
Cerina ran to the window and saw her mom with Shard and Carnage. She
looked up at the massive ship with a wicked smile on her face. The image
would have upset most people, but this to Cerina was the first sign of
honesty she'd ever gotten from her mother. For the first time, she wasn't
trying to hide who she really was. They were on different sides of the
war and that was the way it had always felt to her. It was as though things
were finally right with the world.