Destructsa stood at the back of a damp, dark cave. His blue eyes glew brightly through the deep blackness surrounding him. A low laugh made his prisoner tremble with fear. Turning around, he swiftly waved his hand past a torch on the wall, lighting it with a small energy blast. The flames lit up the room, giving light to the shackled monster in the corner.
Finster lay beaten and bruised on the dirt floor with pieces of metal and wires in front of him. His hands shook from a combination of old age and terror. His heart pounded harder with each tap of Destructsa's foot. The warrior grew impatient waiting for the results of his order.
Destructsa: "Have you finished?"
Finster: "I.... I have. But I haven't tested it yet."
Ignoring him, Destructsa snatched the machine up from the ground and examined it. Finster looked up at him, waiting to be released from captivity, but he only turned his back to him, heading for the mouth of the cave.
Finster: "What about me?"
Destructsa: "Not to worry. I'm sure the maggots will eat you eventually."
Shaking his head, Destructsa continued toward the ray of sunlight shining in from the outside. Finster pleaded, but the life of the monster meant nothing to him. He had done his part and now all that remained was for the target to be located.
Destructsa, talking to himself: "Shard may have turned me away, but
you, my dear Miranda.... you will be mine forever."
Shard smiled, seeing the Rangers come running toward her. Dust flew around their feet as they stopped across the field from them. Cerina and Katie's eyes locked on each other, as if one were challenging the other. Cerina could feel her face growing hot. She had waited for this moment her entire life. The day she would finally be able to pay her mother back for all the pain she put her through.
Katie, stepping up in front of the other two: "Don't take it so hard, Cerina. You always thought I was dirt. I'm only proving you right by joining them."
Cerina: "Is this the part where I'm supposed to beg you to come home? Tell you this is a mistake and you're better than them? Well you're not. You are right where you belong. Sure, Shard is using you and she will throw you out in the cold when she's done. I won't stop you from doing this, because I don't care anymore. I only hope when she does turn on you.... I'm there to see it."
The Rangers' morphers began to glow with multi-colored energy as Cerina took one last look at the woman she had despised for so long.
Cerina: "Psycho Blast!"
In a flash, they were transformed; their suits shining brightly in the morning sun. Shard rolled her eyes, stepping back from the battle to ensure her own safety. Ecliptor followed her with his eyes, wanting nothing more than to rip her apart. The wound of losing his daughter, Vulca, was still fresh and deep. When he looked at her face, he knew she could see right through him. She knew his thoughts and without words, she challenged him to charge her. They both knew he could never make it. Throughout their entire war, no one had ever been able to harm Shard. No matter how hard they tried, she was always just beyond their reach.
Cerina ran at Katie, who instinctively kicked her twice in the stomach. Her blows were like rockets colliding with her skin. With a new found rage on her face, the woman grabbed her daughter by the shoulders and threw her across the field like a rag doll. Cerina hit the dirt hard. Both her body and ego equally bruised. Smiling at her, Katie waved her on, waiting for the next attack. Cerina got up and waited for a long, white dagger to appear in her hand. She tried twice to stab her, but each time, Katie dodged. Once she finally thought she had connected, she found that her mother had only grabbed the weapon. Holding it in her hand, she bent the steal blade over with two fingers and threw it to the dirt. Cerina gasped, surprised by her strength.
Across the field, Niki watched Carnage cracking his knuckles. He armor, which greatly resembled Destructa's, shown brightly in the sun, as did his bulging muscles. In that light, she actually found him cute, but quickly reminded herself that he was Sorran's brother. He, like Shard, was part of the reason her friend was traumatized. When she came at him, he held out his foot, tripping her. On the way down, he grabbed the back of her neck, forcing her down hard into the dirt. While stuck in the hold, Carnage punched her twice in the back, sending a shower of sparks flying up from the yellow costume. When Niki tried to stand once again, he spun around, kicking her in the head. The entire field seemed to shake beneath her feet. The blow had come close to knocking her out.
Carnage: "How is it my mother hasn't destroyed you yet? It would surprise me if indeed you were even potty trained."
Niki hated to be treated like a baby, which Carnage had assumed after taking one look at her. He could tell by the look in her eyes through the tinted visor; so serious and focused on the battle. She charged him again, punching him as hard as she could in the stomach many times. His abs, however, were like stone. After a moment, she backed off again, shaking her hand. A sharp pain went through her, as if she had been punching a brick wall.
Carnage, laughing: "Pathetic child."
Ecliptor and Miranda were standing in front of Shard, but neither one moved. She didn't seem worried by their presence, which assured them she had Vykron in the bushes waiting to strike, should they get too close. Both Rangers had been put through so much at her hands. It filled them with an uncontrollable rage knowing they could do nothing to make her pay.
Shard: "Ah, Black Ranger, still longing for your lost wife?"
Ecliptor: "You leave Cyann out of this!"
She laughed, looking toward the bushes. Miranda had seen that look on her face a million times before and in the back of her mind, she already knew what had happened. Ecliptor followed her gaze to a pair of Vykron soldiers standing near the trees. Miranda gasped when she saw the body at their feet.
Miranda, quietly: "No."
Ecliptor took off running. He could hear the sound of Shard's cruel laughter behind him as he sank to his knees. Cyann lay before him; her eyes shut and her face covered in blood. He leaned close to her, but could hear no heart beat. That was not proof of anything, seeing as she had been dead for years, but he knew looking back at Shard that it was truly over this time. She had taken away his last hope of being with the former queen. The Black Ranger took one deep breath after another, but couldn't force the anger away. He wanted to go after her so badly, but that would surely mean his own destruction.
Miranda's mouth dropped open when she saw a device in Shard's hand for the first time. Her head turned quickly from her enemy to Cyann's body and realized what the bloody lines on her face meant. A bomb had been planted inside of her once she had been killed, to form a trap for Ecliptor. Gasping for breath, she charged for him, jumping and pushing him out of the way just as his wife's body went up in flames.
The ball of fire could be seen for miles around. Ecliptor tried to throw himself into it, acting on impulse, but Miranda grabbed his arms and forced her to stay back. He struggled, shouting in agony, while visions of his love passed through his mind. Cerina and Niki had stopped fighting now, both watching Ecliptor. They knew how much she had meant to him and how much work he had put into to bringing her back to life. Now, because of Shard, it had all been for nothing.
Once the fire went out, there wasn't a trace of Cyann left; her body completely destroyed by the explosion. Ecliptor rose to his feet once again, jerking out of Miranda's grasp. He walked slowly up to Shard, staring at her for a long time. He couldn't believe she could laugh. She had just watched a woman be blown into a million pieces and she actually found it funny. This proved it. Everything Miranda had said was true. Shard was a monster.
Ecliptor: "How could you do this? You didn't even know her!"
Shard: "She was a threat to me. Besides that, Katie warned you her destruction was coming and you did nothing. You could have saved her, Ranger. That is, if you really wanted to. But instead you sat there, night after night going over things and trying to decide what action to take. There are so many ways I could put this, but the phrase 'shit or get off the pot' I think says it best. You had your chance to take matters into your own hands, but you couldn't make up your love sick mind. That left me no choice. She was a warrior without fear and that, my dear, is the most dangerous weapon in existence. She had to be destroyed."
The other Rangers ran to Ecliptor's side.
Cerina, looking at her mother: "You did this! Shard wouldn't get her hands dirty and that son of hers looks like nothing but a pretty boy. That leaves you, Mom."
Katie: "That's right, my darling. I killed her and I planted the bomb, just like I said I would. You had any doubt?"
Cerina: "You're sick! Cyann may have been a threat, but it didn't have to end this way! We were willing to work something out, but you couldn't wait! You had to take matters into your own hands, no matter who it hurt!"
Shard: "Yeah, yeah, she's horrible. I think we all get that. So, if its all the same to you, we'll be going now."
Before they could say anything more, the group disappeared, leaving
the Rangers on the battle field outside the Dark Fortress. They all watched
Ecliptor, wanting desperately to help him, but none knew what they could
say. Miranda began to feel light-headed, but kept to herself. It hit her
suddenly while Shard was talking, but she didn't dare mention in. Given
Ecliptor's pain was much greater than hers, it would be inappropriate of
her to complain. She knew perfectly well what kind of hell he was going
Shard and Carnage stood outside the palace after the battle, waiting for Katie to go inside. She turned back, realizing that her husband was not following her and proceeded through the thick metal door and down the hall. Shard was still laughing at the pain that filled Ecliptor's voice moment's before.
Carnage: "So, do you still wish I hadn't met her?"
Shard: "I admit, that plan had style. The murder.... a three-year-old could have seen that one coming, but the bomb; that was good. I honestly thought those bloody lines on her face were just an art form. Maybe a signature she was working on or something. But from the implantation of a bomb. That never crossed my mind."
Carnage: "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were pleased with my wife's performance."
Shard: "Don't push it. She has her good qualities, but I still see her as more slave material than a member of this family. Why not cheat on her with someone worthy of your greatness and allow me to turn her into a general or something? Don't force me to deal with her this way day in and day out. Its too much."
Carnage: "She just caused a Ranger to break down in the middle of a battle. What more do you want from her?"
Shard: "God Carnage, I didn't say I hated her guts as a person. I just hate that you fell for her. This is like.... say Rita were to have dated Goldar back when she had an empire. Sure, he wasn't a bad person or anything, but he wasn't in her league. Katie... she's just not royalty. That's all I'm saying."
Carnage, smugly: "She scarred that poor bastard for life and you loved every minute of it. One day, mother... one day you will see that Katie is something more than a member of a social class. There is so much more to a person than who they associate with. She's strong, heartless, and clever. Isn't that what you've always said I should want?"
Shard: "I don't recall hearing 'dirt poor' in that list."
Carnage: "Damn it...."
Shard: "All right, all right, I'll shut up. I'm happy. Let's not spoil it. She did well today and I guess that's what matters. I would be more than willing to wait until she screws something up to give you this speech. It'll give me time to fine tune it."
He sighed, not exactly happy with her answer, but it was probably the best he could get out of her at that point. She didn't seem to want to claw her eyes out anymore, so she was at least making progress. He started back toward the palace, while his mother looked up at the clouds, but stopped when he remembered something.
Carnage, turning back to face her: "Say, did you notice that red light around Miranda earlier? When you were gloating, I could swear I saw something. It was just a flash, but.... I don't know. There was something there."
Shard: "Don't look at me. When I gloat, I am dead to the world! You'd
be better off asking one of those trees what happened, cause I sure as
hell don't know."
Scorpina used the broken pillar to help herself up. Gasping for air, she stared at Rita, who was waiting for her next advance. The two of them were still stuck in the Dark Dimension at the empress' mercy. Using her last bit of strength, Scorpina jumped into the air, drawing Rita's fire. When the blast was about to connect with her, she jumped off the wall, throwing herself toward Zedd. She landed beside him, making it the first time the two had gotten a good look at each other since she entered the intergalactic prison. Seeing him lying there brought the feelings she had for him flowing back to her like a river, but she refused to let herself get caught up in them again. She had her heart broken once and couldn't bare that again.
Ducking a blast from Rita's staff, she remembered the weakness of the chains. Before rolling out of the way of the rapid fire, she pushed the button on Zedd's morpher, transforming him into the Blue Ranger.
Scorpina: "Now Zedd! Break the chains!"
Before he even flexed, they fell into the smoke below him, allowing the alien to once again regain his freedom. He got up and joined Scorpina on the opposite side of the room from his wife.
Rita: "Very good. You figured it out. Using your morpher was enough to fool the darkness behind those chains. They believed because you had the power of a Ranger that you were in fact pure good. And honestly.... they're right. Look at you. Standing there carrying on Zordon's legacy as though you were one of his Earthling children. You are no emperor of evil, Zedd, and you never were."
Zedd and Scorpina exchanged confused glances.
Zedd: "A test? This whole thing was a test?"
Rita: "Yes. And you both failed. Those chains proved that you are in fact good at heart. True, you couldn't break them without the morpher, but if you were truly evil, not even it could have saved you." She paused, redirecting her focus. "And you, Scorpina. You claim Zedd means nothing to you, yet here you are running to his rescue. The two of you can deny your feelings all you want, but look around. The only people you're fooling are yourselves. I can see the truth now clearer than ever."
In a flash, she disappeared, leaving them in shock. Neither one spoke for a long time.
Scorpina: "This was a game to her! She made us believe she was going to kill you just to prove a point! I don't believe this!"
Zedd: "Its Rita. You know how she operates. Rather than move in for the kill immediately, she will toy with her victims. It is true that I thought she had grown out of that, but I guess not. This.... this whole thing was done to mess with our heads. She wants me to believe that I have betrayed the darkness the way Karone did before. And you...."
Scorpina: "I am supposed to see that I still have feelings for you. That gives her more cause to destroy us. Its like this was her way of rejustifying her vendetta against us. Some sick reminder of why she wants us dead."
Zedd: "Like we really need to be reminded."
Neither one knew what they should say next. Rita had played them both for fools, throwing them back together and stirring up the old memories they had buried. Scorpina could tell that even after everything that had happened, nothing had changed. Zedd still carried a torch for Rita and he always would. She didn't really expect anything less. She would come to his rescue and they would again go their separate ways. But it was still a let down to her in some way. Maybe somewhere in her mind, she believed this could turn the former emperor away from his wife and show him the kind of woman he was chasing after. Of course, common sense told her that could never be. Everything that pissed her off about Rita were the exact things that attracted Zedd to her. He loved her games and her bad attitude, even when they were directed at him.
Zedd: "Thank you for saving me. If you hadn't done this...."
Scorpina: "She wouldn't have killed you. She only aimed to hurt you. Had I not come, she'd have let you go."
Zedd: "I'm not so sure."
Scorpina: "If she wanted you dead today, she could have done it. There's no way I could have stopped her. You don't owe me a thank you or anything else. I swore to serve you and that's what I did. End of story."
Zedd: "So she was wrong. You don't feel anything for me?"
Scorpina, frustrated: "Why does that matter? You feel nothing for me and you made that perfectly clear when you got that morpher. No matter what I think, we can't do this. Not while you still care about her. It will never work."
Zedd: "You're right. I was only trying to...."
Scorpina: "To spare me some kind of pain. Well don't bother. You're free now and you can go back to staring at her picture or whatever it is you do to pass your time."
She turned away from him, ready to disappear, but stopped herself. She had remembered one last thing to put this to rest.
Scorpina: "Next time she comes after you, I suggest you be ready because I'm not going to be there to catch you when you fall. I did my job and saved you, but this is the last time. I've warned you before, but nothing I say can get through. If you still lust after her no matter what she does, I won't keep running after you. I'm out of it."
Before Zedd could say anything in reply, she vanished, leaving him alone
in the dark, smoky room. Of course he knew his warrior was right. He did
his best to survive, but in a way, he allowed Rita to do this to him. No
matter what was done to him, it was never enough to open his eyes. They
had been separated too long to get back what they had in the 90's. Their
marriage was over, but neither of them could let go. Odds are, one day
she would be right about the outcome as well. It was never said in words,
but he knew what she was thinking. If he kept chasing after that same broken
dream, it would eventually be his downfall.
<The following scene may not be suitable for children>
Later, Sorran went running quickly down the hallway in search of Niki. His footsteps could be heard across the entire level, stomping against the metal floor. He passed several doors until he got to the hallway with a picture window overlooking the woods beside the Fortress. It was the same one Miranda had trapped him in days earlier. This caused him to stop; the events of that day still haunting him. He backed away from the window a little hearing sobbing around him. At first, he thought he was the one crying, but soon realized he wasn't alone.
Turning, he saw a little girl huddled in a ball in the corner. She had her face buried in her knees and didn't look up. He wasn't sure if she even knew he was there. At first glance, he thought maybe it was Niki, but her hair was too blonde. It couldn't have been Kayla either. She was still locked floors below him. Hesitantly, he got closer, staring down at her. She wore pink shorts and a matching shirt; her blonde hair tied back in a pony tail. After a moment, he knew something wasn't right. He had never seen this girl before and was certain he, Niki, and Kayla were the only kids on board.
Sorran: "You okay?"
She didn't answer him. Only continued to weep uncontrollably. The sound got to him almost instantly, remembering the many nights he had been alone in tears. No one ever bothered to comfort him. Often no one even knew he was there. Shard ignored him to the point where he could scream at the top of his lungs, but still never be heard. Who ever this was, he didn't want her to feel that same emptiness he had. Kneeling down in front of her, he tapped her on the shoulder, hoping to get her attention.
Sorran: "Who are you? Does anybody know you're here?"
Giving up, the girl lifted her head and looked directly at him. Sorran gasped, realizing who the child was. Her body was one he'd never seen, but her eyes gave her away. They were the same eyes that had stared down so angrily at him that day in this very hall. Some how, the girl in the corner.... was Miranda.
Sorran: "Miranda, what.... what happened to you? You're little now."
Sighing, she ran her hand along her cheeks to wipe the tears away. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child once again frightened her so greatly that she shook at the mere sound of another person's voice. Everything she had kept bottled up inside came back to her as though it were happening all over again.
Miranda, through tears: "Its Destructsa. He did this to me. I don't know how or when, but he did. Its some cruel joke."
Sorran: "I don't get it. Why would he turn you into a kid and nobody else. Plus he doesn't even work for my mom anymore. Why attack you at all?"
Miranda: "What Destructsa and I have... it goes much deeper than this war. That man's face has haunted my dreams every night of my life. You don't have any idea how many times I've woke up crying because of the things he did to me. That pain.... it never goes away. No matter how hard you fight or how many years pass, its always with you. Waiting for you. And the moment you think maybe you've moved on, it all just comes back. There's no end, Sorran! I can't escape this! He won't let me!"
She wasn't sure why she was telling the boy any of this, but for whatever reason, she couldn't hold it inside any longer. Sorran sat down across from her, remembering his own terror. He too had woke up consumed by fear. Destructsa had been the same plague on his life as he was hers.
Sorran: "I understand."
Miranda: "How? There's no way anybody could know what I've gone through all these years! Hearing his voice echoing through my mind night after night! Unless...."
She stopped and studied his face. The sadness that surrounded him answered her question before she had even asked. It was clear to her that the two of them had gone through the same thing. She had seen that same expression a thousand times in the mirror. There was no mistaking it.
Miranda: "You? It happened to you too, didn't it?"
Sorran backed up a little, remembering the man's words. The child had been warned never to speak of those nights to anyone and that command started to overpower him. He knew the warrior couldn't get to him there, but the fear didn't let up. It had been a part of him for as long as he could remember.
Miranda: "Sorran, it's okay. Please, if he did something....."
Sorran: "He hurt you, didn't he? When you were little."
She nodded, forcing herself not to cry.
Miranda: "When I was younger, my parents and my brother were killed by Shard's men. They.... they would have killed me too, but Destructsa took me away. I fought him, but I just wasn't strong enough. His grip was so tight. Its like I can still feel his icy hands on me. He took me to an empty warehouse. It was dark and cold and all I could hear was the sound of my own heart pounding. That's when I saw him. He had been in the doorway watching me; laughing at me. I still don't know how long he was there. When.... when he realized I had seen him, he started to come closer...."
Sorran's face was frozen in fear, realizing that her words echoed his own life. Hearing them from someone else's mouth made him feel sick to his stomach. It was like verifying that every bad thing he had etched in his brain really had happened to him. He could no longer dismiss them as a bad dream.
Miranda: "I was chained to a pipe in the floor. I remember the cold steal handcuffs locked around my wrist. Every time I tried to pull away, they just got tighter and tighter. I.... I begged him to stop; said I would do anything. But it was like he didn't hear me. I did everything I could to get away, but nothing worked."
She paused, taking a deep breath.
Miranda: "The only thing I remember after that was seeing my clothes torn in pieces beside me and the feel of his cold metal armor against my skin. Then..... the pain. Everything else is a blur, but the pain was worse than anything I have felt before. Like a blade taring me apart. I couldn't move; couldn't scream. I was his and there was no way out."
Sorran: "I.... I thought it was just me. Maybe my mom made him or I did something wrong. I never knew he....."
Miranda: "Destructsa is a monster. He is the devil brought from Hell and unleashed on the world. What happened to you.... it was in no way your fault. You were his victim.... like I was."
The two studied each other, realizing how similar their lives really were. Now more than ever, Miranda regretted what she had done to him within these walls. Sorran had suffered at Destructsa's hands just as she had. He knew her agony and was perhaps the only one who could ever really understand her.
Sorran: "How do you do it?"
Miranda: "Do what, honey?"
Sorran: "You're so strong. Its like nothing scares you. Me.... I jump every time I hear a noise. I can't even look at a stone floor without remembering how it felt on my back. How can you go on like nothing happened?"
Miranda: "I can't. Destructsa took something from me that night that I'll never get back. He took away my innocence and made me what I am now. I.... I never wanted to be this cold; to lash out at people for nothing. I have been disconnected from the world ever since. He might have physically saved my life that day, but mentally, I'm as dead as the rest of my family. What you call strong; its what I had to do. I wish I could go back and change what happened, so maybe once I could actually live like a real person. But its too late. Now I go through life feeling empty and alone and I know there is nothing I can do about it. Strong.... no, Sorran. I'm dead."
Sorran: "How come it made you that way, but it didn't me?"
Miranda: "When things like this happen, they effect people different ways. I shut myself off from the world, but you.... you seem to need affection more now. There is no right or wrong way to deal. Just whatever gets you through the day."
Sorran: "Is Destructsa why you hurt me that day?"
She didn't answer right away. There was no way to justify what she had done, but in a way it was his fault. Everything she had done following the night he raped her was all about regaining the power she'd lost. That was why she was cold and why she spent years in battle. Miranda wanted control over her life once again and it was that quest for control that lead her to the breaking point.
Miranda: "That was nobody's fault but my own. Words can't describe how sorry I am for what I did to you. I never should have let myself go that far. I know what its like to be taken advantage of and no child deserves that. I just.... I wanted power. Like I could make up for what happened to me by lashing out at other people."
Sorran: "I get it. When I was with my Mom still, I used to break weapons when nobody was looking. I thought if I could take even one little thing away from him, it would make us even. It never did though. I always felt just as bad, no matter what I broke."
Miranda: "I know its hard, but we're not alone anymore. You got me to open up just now and you know what? You are the first person I have ever told about that night." She paused. "Please Sorran, if the other Rangers found out.... I am begging you please don't tell them. I don't think I could face the world if everybody knew the truth. Can this stay between us?"
He nodded silently. They sat there for a long time, trying to bring themselves out of that dark place and back to reality.
Sorran: "Its hard being little again, huh?"
Miranda: "This is something I never thought I'd have to deal with. When I came out of that battle today, it was like I lost a battle I'd been fighting my entire life. When I saw that little face looking back at me in the mirror, everything I had worked for just faded away. I was helpless again. All I could think about was how easily people could take advantage of me and use me the way he did. I trained my body and turned it into a weapon and now.... Destructsa took that weapon away from me. He wants me to suffer. That's why he did this. He wants to force me to keep reliving that same terror over and over again. That's why I was crying before. I just don't know what else to do. I'm defenseless; to weak to even stand up for myself, just like before. He turned back the clock and there is nothing I can do to make things right again."
Sorran: "Ya think he'll ever die? Destructsa, I mean."
Miranda: "One day, God willing, he will get what's coming to him. Honestly, I don't know if he's immortal, human, or the devil himself. But if he can be killed, I pray I'm the one who jams that knife in his chest. There have been so many nights I'd lie awake and dream of driving that steal blade through his body. Feeling its sharp edges slicing through his flesh and the look on his face when he realizes that the helpless little girl he devastated is the one who took his life."
She stopped, noticing for the first time what she was saying. It occurred to her that her fantasy was too graphic to share with someone his age.
Miranda: "I'm sorry. I guess I just forgot who I was talking to."
Sorran: "Its okay. I've thought that same thing. If I could just make him hurt bad one time for all the times he forced himself on me, it would make me feel so much better. Like I could finally get revenge."
Miranda: "One day you will. He may not be able to die, but I promise you.... we will make him wish he were dead."
Sorran looked out the window and thought. He finally understand Miranda. When he first met her, even the sight of her frightened him. Her distance reminded him so much of his mother; the woman who allowed Destructsa to take his childhood from him. For years, he begged her to make him stop, but she never cared. His pleading only made her laugh. Seeing even part of that woman in Miranda made his heart skip a beat. But now, it all made sense. She was only that way because she was forced into it. She never had a choice in the person she became. That had been taken away from her.
Sorran: "If your family was gone, how'd you live? Where'd you go when you found out what happened?"
Miranda: "I didn't know the truth about them for years. The morning after, I woke up on the floor naked and alone; scared to death. I took what I could of my clothes and ran as far from that God forsaken place as my legs would carry me. I couldn't bare to face my family. I thought if they saw me, they would know what he did. What I allowed to happen to me. I saw my brother die, but my parents.... I didn't know for sure. After running for what felt like days, trying to outrun the memories in my own head, I found a cave and stayed there in the darkness for years. I couldn't stand the light. It was always the sign of goodness and to me, there was no goodness in the world anymore. While I sat there, huddled in the corner the way I am now, I always imaged the worst. Somewhere in my mind, I knew my parents had died. I saw it over and over, but I never had proof. Just that thought that kept repeating itself inside me. I was alone."
She stopped and looked around, making sure the hallway was still empty.
Miranda: "When I grew up, I forced myself out. I had vowed revenge against Destructsa for what he had done. It was then that Shard told me what became of my parents. She gloated; laughed at me like my life were worth nothing. Just the way she did Ecliptor today. That's why I went after both of them. Together, they had destroyed everything I had ever known. Wanting revenge so badly, I pushed my body to limits beyond comprehension. Put myself through impossible tasks with one goal in mind: to see their blood on my hands."
Sorran: "You don't have to feel weak now just cause you're little. You survived on your own without any help. That's not weak no matter what size you are."
Miranda: "You'd be right, except that logic isn't really a factor in
a case like this. These are just the things my mind keeps telling me. I
felt like I was powerless against everything at this age.... and I guess
I still do, simply because of what he did. I know it wasn't my fault, but
it doesn't change it. In a way, I can't help but blame myself. If I were
stronger; if I had tried harder.... this is the sort of thing that went
through my head in that cave. I gave so much thought to justifying the
events in that warehouse and figuring out what I could have done differently,
even though I know now that it would have made no difference. What my brain
tells me and what I feel inside are two very different things, Sorran.
I keep thinking I could have done more, but in reality that is just false
hope. There was nothing any child could have done in that position." She
paused, forcing a smile. "I'll bet none of this makes much sense to you,
does it? Don't worry. Sometimes I don't understand how my mind works."
Cerina was in bed facing the wall, but her eyes wouldn't close. She felt dead and had for over a week, but she couldn't let go of her own problems long enough to get a moment's sleep. The mother was almost happy to hear her daughter's footsteps coming toward her. That gave her an excuse to remain awake and not waste her time trying for something she knew was impossible.
Turning over, she saw Niki's worried expression. She looked as if she were ready to cry. It didn't take her long to run to the bed and curl up beside her mother. That had always been a safety net for her. No matter how grown up she thought she was, she was always willing to find comfort in her mom's arms.
Cerina, quietly: "You're worried about Ecliptor, aren't you?"
Niki: "Is he gonna be okay? You know how sad he was when Vulca died. Now Cyann's gone too. I feel so bad for him. He's such a nice guy, but all this stuff keeps happening to him."
Cerina: "Not fair, is it? There are people in the world like Shard and Destructsa, but Ecliptor is the one who's life gets torn apart. A man like him, he only cares about one thing; his family. And its like that's what fate is taking from him. He turned on his master so he could give Karone the home she needed and now she's gone off with that Andros guy. His daughter is dead and now he's had to watch the woman he loves die too..... twice. I really don't know how much more he can take."
Niki: "I don't get why Shard has to be so mean. We never did anything to her."
Cerina: "She doesn't care about other people's feelings."
Niki: "I know. When she was laughing at him today, I wanted to just beat the crap out of her so bad! Ya know, wipe that snootty smile right off her face!"
Cerina: "We all did. That's probably what I hate most about her. When we fought Vulca, she'd always be willing to go into battle. It didn't help us win the war, but it at least made me feel like I was doing something. With Shard.... no matter what we do, we can never touch her. It seems like the harder we fight, the less our actions matter. She's always there and is never phased by a damn thing we try."
Niki: "She's not even scared of us either. Usually in cartoons if the villain girl can't fight, she won't go onto the battle field. Or if she does, she's at least shaking a little. Shard just stands there though. Like she knows nothing can hurt her."
Cerina: "She's toying with us. As long as we know we can't harm her, its never going to feel like a victory for us. That's the whole reason she goes into to battle. She's just rubbing it in our faces."
Niki stared out the window for a while thinking about her fellow Ranger.
She wished there was something she could do, but she knew nothing would
bring Cyann back. Especially considering Ecliptor already tried that. He
would have to find some way to move on with his life.
Miranda stood looking at her reflection in the glass. The sad little girl staring back at her looked almost like a stranger. The pain that filled her big blue eyes scared her. For years, she had vowed never to go back to that dark place in her mind. But seeing herself in the body of a child once again forced everything back to the surface.
Miranda: "I can't do this, Sorran. I can't just stand here and let that bastard ruin my life again. If I let him get away with this, its like admitting nothing has changed. That I'm still the powerless kid I was back then and that my fate is in his hands. He wanted me back then because he knew he had power over me. There was nothing I could do to stop him. I won't give him that power back. Not this time."
Sorran: "What can you do? You can't fight him alone."
Miranda: "I have no choice. I'm not going to the other Rangers, begging them to fight my battles for me. Destructsa is my enemy; not theirs. I am not some baby who needs a bunch of grown ups to save me. I am my own woman and nothing he does will ever change that."
Sorran: "If you go after him, you'll be walking into a trap! He'll just hurt you again like he did before!"
Miranda: "No. I won't let myself be put in that situation again. This time.... this time its his turn to cry. I will make him wake up with nightmares. Fill his mind with sick images and paranoid fears just like he did me. I was his victim once, but now he is going to be the one scarred for life."
Sorran: "I know you hate him, but there's no way you can win! I tried every night of my life to get away from him and I couldn't do it. He's too strong, Miranda! If you go there, you are giving yourself to him. If he does it to you again.... it will be your fault. You're putting yourself in a position where he can do anything he wants to you. Do you wanna go through that all over again?"
She sighed, shaking her head. Nothing the child said could change her mind. She had been dreaming of the day she got revenge for so long and that day had finally come. She had taken enough from him and was ready to end it. In her mind, backing away from this would be a sign of weakness. She wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he'd he'd succeeded. Everything inside her was screaming 'no', but she wouldn't listen. Miranda could never live with herself if she didn't make him pay.
Miranda: "You won't change my mind. I am going to bury Destructsa if I have to dig his grave myself."
She turned and started to run for the door. Hearing Sorran's voice calmly behind her, she stopped, again facing him.
Sorran: "You go.... I tell the Rangers."
Miranda: "How can you even think something like that? You have suffered at his hands night after night! Wasn't that enough to show you what he's capable of? If I let him do this, I am saying its okay. I'm giving him the green light to take another child's innocence away. I can't let him do it. It is because of him that I'm like this. I don't care if I live or die. I've never loved anyone since my parents died! How can you ask me to allow another kid to feel the way I do? He is a monster and he has to be stopped before another soul is lost in this darkness."
Sorran didn't speak. She had started to get to him, but her safety was still on his mind. He didn't want her to put herself in the line of fire this way. It was too big of a risk.
Miranda: "What if next time, he goes after Niki? Then what? I saw the way you looked at her last night in Cerina's bed. You love her and you can't hide that. How would you feel if she went through what you did?"
Sorran, clenching his fists tightly: "No! He can't! I won't let him do this to her!"
Miranda: "Then let me go. I can stop him and save her. Have you seen him in battle? No matter what, his eyes go directly to her, as if imagining her in that position. I never wanted to say anything before because I didn't want to make myself remember. But I know what he's thinking when he sees her out there. He stares her down like some animal stalking its prey. I'm afraid if we go into battle again, he could drag her off somewhere and.... it would be too late. If Destructsa got to her, the girl you care so much for would die. Believe me, I know. Please Sorran, if she means anything to you at all, don't stand in my way. I am going out there to protect her and any kid like her. Please.... just walk away. Let me do this before he claims somebody else."
He wanted to object, but the thought of Niki being his next target overpowered all else in his mind. Sorran had seen the good in her from the moment they met beneath the palace and he knew she was destined to make a difference in the world. If Destructsa got to her, all that would fade away, just like it had for Miranda. She would be lost in despair with no hope of ever living up to the person she could have been. If he didn't let the Red Ranger go, this would be his fault.
Sorran: "Fine. I won't say anything. But I'm telling you its a bad idea."
Miranda: "Your opinion doesn't matter to me. When I come back here with
his blood on my hands, you'll thank me. I am doing you and everyone else
a favor. This world may be far from perfect, but it was sure as hell be
a better place without him in it."
Carnage and Katie were out in the woods training. Sweat poured down Katie's face from the workout. Sitting down on a rock, she flipped her hair back over her shoulder and waited for her husband. Carnage stuck his sword into the ground, causing flames to shoot up from the dirt, engulfing the trees that stood in his path. After watching them burn for a moment, he turned around and smiled smugly at the adoring woman.
Katie: "Done showing off yet?"
He sighed, cracking the bones in his neck. The sun shown brightly down on them, forcing him to take a seat next to his wife. They had been out there for hours and the heat was finally taking its toll.
Katie: "I think you're over doing it just a little. My daughter and the rest of those pansies aren't good enough to take us now. Why tire yourself out training like this? Our time could be better spent wrapped in each other's arms, shooting civilians like ducks in a pond. You can't tell me that doesn't sound like fun."
Carnage: "There's no time. I don't want to beat those Rangers. I want to annihilate them. Leave no trace of their existence what so ever. When I battle, Katie, I will not except anything less than a blood bath. My mother has wasted far too much time on them as it is. I want them taken out."
Katie: "I get it. But you don't have to spend every waking moment obsessing. Didn't you see what that did to Cerina? I made her lose her mind and if you're not careful, the same thing could happen to you. Its not like Shard's ever gonna show us any appreciation anyway. If you kill them, what is there to gain?"
Carnage: "You mean besides the pleasure of slaughtering them?"
Carnage: "If you and I are the ones responsible for their death, my mother will have no choice but to accept you as one of us. You saw how she treated you on the way into battle this morning. That's not the life I wanted for my bride. She needs to see you the way I do. Pure evil, without a shred of human compassion. This is the only way we can make that happen."
Katie looked up at the clouds for a moment, thinking about Carnage's standpoint. It was nice of him to want the two women to get along, but it really made no difference to her. Shard's opinion was nothing. She saw no reason for him to break his back trying to impress her.
Katie: "I appreciate your effort, really I do. But what's the point? I don't give a damn what she thinks."
Carnage: "If I let things go, she will take matters into her own hands and I don't need that. As it stands, she hates you. You're a weapon to her and nothing more. That means, once our mission here is complete, she will again try to control my life by taking you out of it. I have to convince her that you're worthy of being a princess while she still thinks she needs you. Once this war is over, it will be too late. You will go to bed one night and I can promise you.... you won't wake up."
Katie: "She doesn't scare me, Carnage. That high society whore couldn't wield a knife if she tried."
Carnage: "She doesn't need to. I have seen so many people die on her orders. She will kill you and make sure that I can't prove it. It will either be blamed on the Rangers or played off as some random act of God. Weather or not she picks up the blade herself is irrelevant."
The two sat in silence for a long time. Katie didn't bother arguing with him because it clearly would do no good. Now she wondered why they were on Stregna at all. What was so special about that planet? Why would Shard take so much time out of her life to wage war on a place like this? Besides the fact that she had a long standing grudge against Miranda, it made no sense. There were thousands of words she could conquer, but that didn't seem to be the goal here. If she wanted to take over the planet, she wouldn't bother draining its energy first.
Katie: "Did you ever get a straight answer out of her about why we're doing this shit? What does she need all this energy for?"
Carnage: "I tried, but she only dodged the question. I am going to corner her tonight and demand the truth. The Rangers aren't her main focus here. That much I can see. She enjoys toying with them, but that seems to be the extent of their place in her life. We don't go after them the way we would if this were entirely about Miranda. That energy.... its important to her. I can see the way she looks at those generators. The woman is nearly glowing with joy every time the meter goes up. She's hiding something big and we have a right to know what that is."
Katie: "A war zord maybe? When I was on Earth, I remember the witch woman, uh.... Rita sending one of those. Guy on the news said it needed so much power, she had to move her freaking palace to make it work."
Carnage: "I know what you're talking about, but I've seen no evidence to support that theory. Rita would be able to spot the clues surrounding a zord based attack. The fact that she knows as little as we do suggests its something else."
Katie, surprised: "Wow, wait a second! You know Rita?"
Carnage: "Not personally. We passed in the hallway earlier. She was married to the Blue Ranger and Shard is using her as a weapon against him."
Katie: "Your mom enslaved Rita Repulsa? Empress of evil, voice like a million banshees, Rita?"
Carnage: "I gather she is playing her. Making her believe she is in some position of power when in fact she is no higher than the Vykron. This is how she plays the game. Rita is doing exactly what she wants because she thinks she's in control of her own life. Shard always told me that was easier than using force and less time consuming than a spell. One of the many lessons she drilled in my head as a child."
Katie: "Guess it makes sense. It just surprised me that Rita would go for that again. After that Dark Specter guy, I thought...."
Carnage: "She'd have wised up. I know. It really is sad how many times
people can fall for the same old line. Its almost like she chooses to believe
this. I like to tell myself that nobody could really be that stupid."
Rita was in the cave below the palace where Niki had been held on Christmas Eve. The huge stone door had been closed and the room was dark and silent. The only light came from an image projected on the wall by her magic. It was lined in fire and shown a picture of an equally dark room. She could make out a figure in the shadows, but it was impossible to make a positive ID.
Voice: "What have you learned?"
Rita: "You're one impatient little bitch!"
Voice: "Fine, Rita. What have you learned about Shard? I asked you to go there because I needed to know the truth. You owe me that much."
Rita, changing the subject: "I showed Zedd that I hold his life in my hands last night. As far as my next move, I'm going to leave him guessing for a little while. I do love to watch him squirm!"
Voice: "Your sick marital games aren't my problem. Can you do this, or do I have to go to Shard myself and tell her that you plan to bring her down when all is said and done? We both know she'd kill you. So answer wisely."
Rita: "I told you I'd find out and I will! Give me some time! I promise
you, you will get what you're looking for very soon."
Ecliptor sat alone in his room. The lights were off. All that could be seen were his red eyes glowing; focused on the wall in front of him. For hours, images of Cyann had been running through his head. Their time together, though short lived, had meant the world to him. Just the thought of what she had gone through first at Olympius' hands and now Katie's, made him sick inside. It was now around 5:00 and he still made no effort to move. He couldn't bare the thought of seeing the other Rangers.
Looking over to his left, he saw the door slowly begin to slide open. The light came on soon after, to reveal the worried expression on the face of his first child. Karone had come home after hearing about what happened to Vulca before and now Cyann. She wanted to help the man who had raised her in any way she could.
Ecliptor: "Please, princess, go back to Earth. I don't need to be looked after like some sort of child."
Karone: "Niki called and told me what happened. I am so sorry. I know how much your family meant to you."
She walked a little further into the room, waiting for the door to close. Ecliptor looked at her for a long time. It was hard for him to imagine that the woman standing before him was once the little girl Darkonda had left on his doorstep. She was now nearing forty and he could tell life had taken its toll on her as well. She still had the body of a model, but her eyes; they gave away the agony she had faced since her final days as a Ranger. Not only had her relationship with Zhane failed, but also with Taylor, the Silver Ranger she met on Onyx in 1999. She was even once so desperate for some sign of romance that she nearly broke up Ransik and Kelly's marriage. The world had been anything but kind to her, yet she still put her would-be father's feelings above her own. No matter what happened, Karone was good at heart and nothing could destroy that.
Ecliptor: "I know what your life is like, Karone. You don't need to do this anymore. You are a grown woman now. You have your own world to live in, with your own problems. Why spend your time trying to fix something beyond your control?"
Karone: "Because I love you. You took me in and gave me the best life any kid could ask for. Its not your fault the rest of it turned out the way it did. I couldn't just stay on Earth and pretend like you were okay. That none of this ever happened. You adored Cyann. I can't even count the number of emails you sent me regarding her. And as for Vulca.... she was my sister. We didn't see eye to eye, but I never wanted this. I could see so much of you in her and I know given a little push, she could have broken away from evil the way I did."
Ecliptor: "There's nothing you can do. Vulca and Cyann are both gone. Just return home and be with Andros."
Karone: "And leave you here alone? Forget it. Andros and Ashley understand. They can handle Brandon for a few days on their own. I need to be here with you."
Ecliptor was silent for a moment, still caught by surprise. He hadn't seen Karone since she delivered the Cyris Crystal, used to resurrect Cyann in the first place.
Ecliptor: "Brandon, huh?"
Karone, nodding: "They had a little boy last month. Andros is working with NASADA and.... as much as he loves his son, that job demands a lot of his time. And Ashley can't handle him on her own. I've been helping them. I guess he gives me purpose. I don't feel sad when I'm around him. When I look at that tiny little person in my arms, everything else.... it just fades away. No Zhane, no Taylor, nothing. He gives me a fresh start."
Ecliptor: "That is the same way you made me feel. Children can be remarkable that way."
Karone: "I didn't come here to talk about me. What about you? What are you thinking now? Is there anything I can do?"
Ecliptor: "I told you no. I appreciate what you're trying to do, but you can't bring them back. This is something I am going to have to accept. I never should have tried to bring back Cyann in the first place. In my mind, I knew it would never work. She was human. They can't be rebuilt."
Karone: "You did it out of love. There's nothing wrong with that. You did everything you could for your family."
Ecliptor: "And now I have to let them go."
Karone: "I wish you would have called me before, when Vulca died. I could have...."
Ecliptor: "You could have left your brother and his pregnant wife to deal with me. I wouldn't want that. I still don't. I am not a human. There is no logical excuse for me to feel this way. In time, I will be able to forget them. You don't need to put your life on hold to help me."
Karone: "Its okay. It will take time for you to make peace with this and I am going to be here every step of the way. If it wasn't for you, I'd be dead right now. You could have left me out in the cold just as easily as Darkonda took me away from my real family, but you didn't. You made me feel wanted. You made all the fear and nightmares from the kidnapping go away and made me into the person I am today. I owe you everything, Ecliptor. There is nothing you can say that will make me turn my back on you."
He nodded, seeing that she wasn't going to give up. She had always been caring to a fault. Putting other's ahead of what she wanted for herself. This is what made her a perfect Ranger and what made him proud beyond words.
Karone reached into her purse, taking out a picture. Smiling, she handed it to Ecliptor. It showed Ashley holding the baby in her arms. She looked so happy and that made the warrior feel slightly better. Her hopes in showing it to him were that maybe he could get his mind off his problems for a while. He clearly didn't want to talk about it and her pushing him wouldn't help anything. He had to deal with this in his own way.
Karone: "He's great. Doesn't sleep much, but besides that."
Ecliptor: "I am glad he makes you happy."
Karone: "Ya remember Sarah? The girl I found on Onyx before?"
Ecliptor: "Of course. She became a Ranger herself, didn't she?"
Karone: "Yeah. When I hold him, I remember what it was like when she was little. I know he's not mine or anything, but it makes me feel like I'm doing something right. I can't make men love me, but I can make sure Brandon has a good life, the way I did for Sarah."
Ecliptor, happy to focus on her problems instead of his own: "Have you seen anyone lately?"
Karone: "Nothing serious. That little guy is my whole world right now and that works for me. I don't feel like I'm missing something anymore. I guess some women don't need a man to complete them. Sure, sometimes I wish I had tried harder. Especially with Zhane. Mostly though, I'm okay. When I got to the point where I was ruining other people's lives, I realized I had gone too far. Men, marriage; its not the only thing out there and Ransik helped me see that. I'm just glad I could understand before it went to far."
Ecliptor looked down at the floor, not speaking. His hand shook a little, concerning Karone. She waited for him to say something, but he didn't.
Karone: "What? Is something wrong?"
Ecliptor: "Ransik and Kelly..... they didn't really work out."
Karone: "No. Don't tell me she left him again. They seemed to be working things out before."
Ecliptor: "Kelly's gone. She died in a car crash shortly after you left the Fortress. It tore Ransik apart and he left the Rangers. No one has heard from him since."
Karone: "That's terrible."
Ecliptor: "Cerina said they were back together, so I can say that she died happy. It doesn't make things any better, but I suppose it is better than being buried alone. She knew how much Ransik loved her."
She could tell they really weren't talking about the criminal couple anymore. When Vulca was killed, Ecliptor hadn't seen her for years. He had left on his mission to bring Cyann back, which his daughter never knew about. To her, it looked as though he didn't care enough to stay. He left her with Kitana and Cerina, who was then her general, but that wasn't enough. Providing good help didn't show the kind of love he felt a father should.
Karone: "Vulca knew she mattered to you. You spent years showing her that."
Ecliptor: "Did she? I left her alone in that palace to deal with her mother's death."
Karone: "Cyann died when she was seven. Vulca was a grown woman when you left. There's a difference. And you only did that because you wanted to bring her mom back. That proves it. She may not have understood then, but I believe she's watching over you now. Every time you think of her, Ecliptor.... she knows. As long as you keep her in your heart, you have nothing to worry about."
He looked down, noticing the little cross than hung from her necklace.
Karone had apparently turned to God to shed some light on her problems.
It seemed to work well for her. She was smiling more than before and looked
genuinely happy. But he didn't believe any of that could apply to him.
Feelings or not, he was still a robot. He didn't have a soul. God created
and loved humans. Ecliptor never doubted that. But not a robot. He was
nothing more than a shell of wires and computer chips; a creation of man.
Why would God show Vulca his true feelings and help him, knowing that he,
unlike Karone, was never truly alive. Ecliptor only functioned. He didn't
breath or grow. Being alive was never an option for him, despite how he