Rita was walking down a long hallway of the palace looking pleased with herself. The thought of a caged Ranger had always brought a smile to her face. Violently, Destructsa grabbed her wrist, forcing her to stop and turn to face him. She hadn't even realized he was behind her until that point. When need be, he could move without the slightest sound.
Rita: "Somebody should hang a bell around your neck! Don't you ever sneak up on me like that!"
She jerked her arm away from his grip, looking angry. They were on a lower level, far from the throne room, thus giving them the freedom to talk without Shard's interference.
Destructsa: "I know you're up to something, Rita. And you can rest assured I am going to find out what that is."
Rita: "You're just pissed because its my plan that's working so well! Did you see that look on Shard's face before? She couldn't be happier and its all thanks to me."
Destructsa: "I am not paranoid. No one lends their services while getting nothing in return. You have an agenda and I suggest you inform me now. Otherwise, should I have to find out on my own, I will kill you with my bare hands."
Rita: "I told you why I'm here and its not to double-cross you. My husband, Lord Zedd, is a Ranger and I want him to suffer. Had you watched someone you loved in the arms of your best friend, you would do the same. He promised his life to me and that's exactly what he's going to give up when I get my hands on him. I need you to make that a reality. Having Shard's men at my disposal gives me what I need to occupy his friends."
Destructsa: "I don't buy it. You're playing the empress for a fool!"
Rita: "If you're so sure, go ahead and prove it. I'd like to see what kind of wild stories that twisted imagination of yours can come up with. It should be a real hoot."
Sick of the sight of the jealous warrior, Rita pushed him out of her way and continued down the hall. Her cocky attitude made him want to attack her right there in the palace. Of course he knew better. As long as she was following Shard's orders, she was off limits to him. One move and his queen would have him cast out like yesterday's trash.
Destructsa, speaking very low to himself: "You'd best watch you back,
The evil Niki returned to the ship to find the other three Rangers running out the door. They stopped dead in their tracks when they saw her coming toward them. She was going as fast as she could with a huge smile on her face. The child waved happily, causing Miranda and Ecliptor to turn their heads toward each other, wondering if they were both suspicious.
Miranda: "What are you doing out here alone? Where's Cerina?"
Niki: "She went to the store. Something about some last minute gifts. I didn't wanna go, so I ran back." She paused, studying them. "What's wrong with you guys? You look funny."
Ecliptor: "You should not have been out alone without your morpher. Your mother has told you that. I know it is Christmas Eve, but that will not stop Shard. You are a target every day of the year and you would do well to remember that."
Niki: "You worry too much. That mean old lady doesn't scare me."
Miranda: "She should."
Ignoring them, Niki skipped into the fortress, admiring the garland that hand been hung on the walls. Before they started to worry, Zedd had decorated the entire ship, hoping to cheer Niki up. Even though it was the holiday that reminded her most of her father, he thought maybe it would make a difference. If nothing else, all the effort on her behalf would show her that she still had people in her life that care about her. As he went in behind her, followed by Miranda and Ecliptor, he noticed her change in attitude. Not wanting to think anything else of it, he decided his plan worked. She was enjoying herself like a child should on Christmas Eve.
Niki turned and started to walk backwards so she could face the others.
Niki: "Ecliptor, wanna help me wrap Mom's present? I got it for her earlier while she wasn't looking. I have to get it under the tree before she gets back."
Ecliptor: "I guess I can."
Miranda patted him on the back, glad to see he was going to do something
that didn't involve crying over Cyann. He was still upset, but they way
Niki was acting reminded him a lot of Karone. Growing up, she was such
a happy child. Her idea of play was battle training and war strategies,
but she seemed to enjoy it. With Vulca gone and Karone on Earth, Cerina's
daughter was all he had left. If making her happy was a way to forget his
troubles for a little while, he was more than willing to do it.
In the dungeon, the real Niki remained in the corner, shaking from the cold. She sighed, hardly believing this was how she was going to spend Christmas Eve; locked in some damp dark cave, alone. It was so depressing to her having nobody there. She was trapped, knowing perfectly well if she screamed again, no one would be able to hear. The only sound in the room now was the beating of her own heart.
Now she wished she had been more open about the holiday. The others were trying to show her a good time and all she wanted to do was think about her dad. She should have tried harder to have fun, at least to make them happy. As things were, she may never see them again. The last time she saw them, she treated the others like dirt and she didn't even tell her mother she loved her.
Just as she was about to give up completely, she saw something move near the door. A shadow on the wall that was coming toward her. At first, she thought it was Destructsa, but to her surprise her visitor was Sorran. He stayed back looking at Niki from the entrance of cave. The prisoner jumped up, running to the bars. This let him know it was okay and he came over to her cage.
Niki: "You? I saw you the other day on the balcony when we lost our powers."
Sorran: "Hey. I'm Sorran."
She reached her hand threw the bars and shook his, happy to see someone besides the three maniacs that put her there. The girl still seemed a little thrown by him through. Somebody her age with Shard made no sense to her.
Niki: "What are you doing here? Did Shard capture you too?"
Sorran: "No. Not exactly. She's my mom."
Niki: "Oh." She stopped for a second, thinking. "Why do you stay? With Shard I mean. Isn't she mean?"
Sorran: "If I thought I could run, I would. But they'd track me down. Ever since I was old enough to walk, I dreamed about running from them and never looking back. But that's all it'll ever be: a dream. Mom didn't capture me, but I'm as stuck here as you are."
Niki: "So she's as bad to you as she is to everybody else." She paused. "Did you ever try to get away? If she's a witch to you too, I sure would have tried. What's the worst she can do?"
Sorran: "If she even knew I had thought about it, she'd send me to Destructsa. I.... I just can't do that. He's worse than Shard. Every time I look at him, I just wanna cry. He's capable of so much and Mom..... she won't stop him. I could beg and plead till I'm blue in the face and it wouldn't matter."
Niki: "You're crazy! If ya hate 'em that bad, get the heck out! You act like they treat you bad anyway. It couldn't be that much worse if you ran. And even if they did catch you, at least you'd know you tried. Now you're just letting them do it. If you stay here, its like saying the way they are is okay."
He shook his head, backing up a little.
Sorran: "You don't care. You just want me to let you out and that's not gonna happen. I'm not risking my life for you."
Niki: "That's not it. Really. I'm just telling you what I'd do."
Sorran: "I'm not falling for your tricks. Mom told me what the Rangers are really like. You're no better than she is. Zedd worked for Dark Spector, your mom was Vulca's hired killer. You're all a bunch of heartless liars. I trust you and its like giving up my own life. I won't do it."
Niki's hopes suddenly melted away. She looked into the boys eyes and
saw pure terror. That place had frightened him to the point where he couldn't
trust anybody. She wasn't playing him, but there was no way she could make
him see that. Just being down there talking to her seemed to make Sorran
uneasy. She was stuck. He would never see her as anything more than the
daughter of a murderer and because of that, she would die there.
The clone Niki and Ecliptor sat at a table. There was a little box in front of the child, which Ecliptor had his eyes on. He didn't know how she paid for it or how she snuck it past her mother.
Ecliptor: "So, are you going to show me what you got her?"
The truth was, the present appeared in her hand only a few seconds earlier while he had his back turned. This was one way to separate him from the others and that was her goal. She opened it, extending her hand so he could see. Inside was a little gold heart on a chain with a monogram 'C' on it. He nodded and opened it. It was a locket with Niki's picture inside. The thought he assumed she had put into the gift warmed his heart.
Ecliptor: "I'm sure Cerina will love that."
Niki: "I hope so. It took me forever to find a picture! That's actually what I was looking for earlier when I was going through her stuff. I just found the picture of Dad by accident. Guess it just made me sad."
Ecliptor: "That is understandable. Though I have to ask, why is it that we came all the way down here to wrap this? Your mom is not even home. There is absolutely no risk of her seeing it early."
Niki: "I didn't want to take any chances."
A smile spread across her face as she imagined taking him down the way she had the White Ranger. Pleasing Shard was the clone's only Christmas wish and she was determined to make it come true. Across from her, Ecliptor figured the smile was due to her excitement. The holiday served as good cover for the way she acted. Luckily, Rita had anticipated this. Though she was under her control, the clone was made from the blood of a child. The excitement that came from pleasing someone and doing the job right couldn't have been hidden in the way that an adult could have. She was evil, but in very many ways still a kid. It was like Rita had thought every detail of this plan out in her head.
Ecliptor: "I remember when Karone first celebrated Christmas with me. She was as filled with joy as you are now. The two of us had pulled the wool over Dark Spector's eyes long enough to enjoy ourselves. You see, he would have never allowed that to go on. Karone was a weapon to him. I was to train her and that was all. This is why Darkonda kidnapped her in the first place. It was my job to turn her into the Princess of Darkness."
Niki: "And you did, right? Even though you didn't listen to him."
Ecliptor: "This is true. She did grow up to be Astronema, but the love I showed her became her weakness. Had I followed his orders, she would still be a part of the alliance today. Her quest for Andros and later betrayal of our master was my fault. I showed her what it's like to be wanted and cared for; something Dark Spector never anticipated."
Niki: "Cool. I'll bet he was really mad!"
Niki got up and went to the door, surprising the robot. She quietly laughed as he turned around, curious as to where she was going. When his eyes met hers, a blast of energy knocked him out of the chair and to the ground. Not going down as easily as a human, he rolled out of her immediate range and returned to his feet. When he went for his morpher, she shot it off of his arm and watched it slide across the slick metal floor.
Niki: "I don't think so, Ranger!"
Everything made sense to him now, regarding Cerina's disappearance. Whoever this was had taken her out and was going after him next. His first thought was Cyann, remembering that she had the ability to change her form. The problem was, she had no motive. The Rangers weren't her concern.
Returning to his current problem, Ecliptor fired two green lasers from his eyes, but Niki was easily able to duck them. While in a crouching position, she shot another blast back at him. This continued for a while; the room looking like something out of a space movie; everything lit up from the light show their blasts put on. Finally, one of Niki's hit him dead on, causing his systems to shut down. The girl stood proudly, looking at her latest victim.
Niki, quietly: "Three down, one more to go."
Back in the cave, Sorran started to leave, but the sad, heartbroken look on the real Niki's face caused him to stop. Her eyes began to water when she thought about Cerina spending Christmas without her. The boy was her only hope. If he couldn't or wouldn't help her, that was it. She would never see her mom again.
Niki: "Please Sorran, you don't have to run if you don't want to. Its your life, but I'm begging you, help me get out of here! I really don't want to see you trapped here, but I won't force you to do something you don't want to do. All I'm asking for is this one favor. Unlock this cage so I can go home!"
Sorran: "If I do that, I die."
Niki: "If I get caught, I'll tell them I found another way. I won't rat you out, I promise! Just let me go!"
Her pleading was getting to him, but he couldn't give up his own life for her. He had felt sorry for her since he found out she was down there and that was why he went to his mother before. He thought maybe he could talk her into letting the little girl go. That was a lost cause, but he didn't want her to be there anymore than she wanted to be. He himself often felt like a prisoner in that palace and didn't want anyone else to go through that pain. In his heart, he wanted to save her, but his mind was telling him no. There was no way he could get away with it.
Sorran: "They'd know better. You get out, I'm the first one they go to. I hate that she did this to you, but I know how my mom is. She would blame me for this."
Niki: "That's why I think you should get out of here too! Come with me!"
Sorran: "We'd never make it. The Vykron would catch us and kill us both. You'll die anyway once the others are caught, but me.... I'm fine. At least for now. They treat me like I'm nothing, but they won't kill me."
Niki: "You're right. You are fine now. But what about tomorrow, huh? Or a week from now? Sooner or later, you'll pay the price just like me!"
Sorran: "Not if I do what they say. If I live by their rules, they won't hurt me. I've learned that much."
Niki: "What the heck kinda life is that? Sure, you get to keep breathing. Big woop! You never have any fun, I'll bet you don't have a friend in the world. Wouldn't it be worth it to try? See if we can escape. If we do, you'll know what its really like to be a kid. Forget all this evil crap and really enjoy your life!"
Sorran: "It'll never happen. I've seen people try to escape my mother. They never get out. We go and we will be ripped apart before we even reach the door. This place scares me, but I'm more scared of dying."
Feeling defeated, Niki sunk back to the ground covering her eyes. From across the room, Sorran could hear her sobbing. He had crushed any hope she had of escape. The boy stood there saying nothing for a while, just watching her. His mind was going in circles, not at all sure of what he should do. The longer he stood, he began to drift off into his usual fantasy. A normal life where he got to play games, eat candy, and have fun with people his own age. The sort of thing he saw on TV but never got to experience. Niki was offering him that chance. If he went with her, things would be different for him. He remembered seeing her with Cerina on that first day and she looked so happy. He also recalled the loving way Cerina had looked at her, like she was her whole world. Not once had Shard looked at him that way. She never told him she loved him; never even said she wanted him around. His whole life he had felt unwanted and out of place and he had spent nearly every night crying alone in his room like Niki was now. This was his chance, probably the only one he'd ever get, to escape the Hell that was his life. If they got outside the palace, they would have a chance. And it wasn't like he'd be missed.
He looked over at the door, imagining himself running through it. How free he would feel to actually do something he wanted to do instead of whatever he thought would spare him a beating. Turning back to Niki, he came closer and knelt down in front of the bars. Reaching through, Sorran touched her hand, causing her to look up.
Sorran: "Don't cry, Yellow Ranger."
Niki: "What choice do I have? Its Christmas Eve and I'm alone in this cave! Your mom's gonna kill my mom and then me! Why shouldn't I cry?"
Sorran: "She won't kill any of you." He paused, taking a few more moments to think it over. "Not if you get there first."
Her eyes lit up as he stood, running to the wall. They keys hung on a little hook that stuck out from the rock. He had to jump to get them, put after hitting them a few times, they fell and were finally in his reach.
Niki: "You're really gonna help me?"
Sorran: "Yeah. What you said.... it made me think. I hate this place so much, why shouldn't I run? If I die, at least I'll be free of my mom's control."
Putting the key in the lock, he turned it and heard the latch snap. It took both kids pulling on the bars as hard as they could to move them, opening the cell enough for her to squeeze out. Once on the outside, Niki gave Sorran a big hug, so happy to be free of the prison. Her action surprised the boy. He had seen people hug before, but nobody ever hugged him. The feeling was completely new and made him all the more certain he was doing the right thing.
Niki: "Thank you. You have no idea how much this means to me."
Sorran, not wanting to waste any more time: "Come on. We have to hurry. They probably heard the lock. We have to go now!"
Both kids ran as fast as they could for the stairs. They couldn't see much while they were going up. Several of the torches had gone out and nobody bothered to relight them. Once at the top, they found themselves in the throne room. Shard turned quickly; her face filled with surprise.
Shard: "You little bastard! How dare you!"
She started to come after them, but stopped when she saw them reach the rail of the balcony. Sorran looked over the side, then back at his mother. Niki was scared to death, already aware of what he was thinking.
Niki: "Are you nuts? We can't jump that!"
Shard rolled her eyes, also believing the two of them were stuck. It was a very big drop and as always, she didn't believe her son had the guts to go for it.
Shard: "Well children, what'll it be? Stay here with me or plummet to your death? My, such a hard decision."
Neither of them moved; frozen in fear for a moment. If they stayed they were sure to die, but if they jumped, there was at least some chance of survival. Sorran knew what they had to do, but he couldn't force himself to do it. His fear was getting the better of him.
Shard looked at the door, then returned her gaze to the rebellious six-year-olds in front of her.
Shard: "I suggest you make up your minds. In about thirty seconds, this place will be crawling with Vykron warriors and believe me, that will not be a pretty sight."
Sorran, turning to Niki: "We have to do it! Its our only chance!"
Both of them took deep breaths and jumped off the side. They felt the wind rushing up underneath of them as they fell. Neither one was sure if they'd make it. Shard ran to the rail, looking down; her mouth hung open in shock. Eventually, she turned back around, seeing the Vykron awaiting her orders. There were about twenty standing at attention in front of her.
Shard: "You certainly took your sweet time getting here." She stopped
a second, her tone becoming serious. "I want those two found and killed!
Niki and Sorran fell hard in the snow below the palace. Their legs ached as they forced themselves up. Niki looked up at the balcony high above them.
Niki: "Can you believe we just did that?"
Sorran: "Come on. It won't take those guys long to get out here. We have to get ahead of them."
The knees of their pants were covered in blood from the landing, but they moved on, running through the field where they had their first battle with Shard. Past it was a patch of tall weeds, which gave them a little cover. Niki grabbed Sorran by the shirt and pulled him down when she heard the yelling of Shard's soldiers.
Niki, putting her finger to her lips: "Shhh. They can't see us."
They were all shouting; their voices rough and angry. Through the weeds, the kids could see them searching frantically, swinging their axes. Three of them started toward them and they began to move. They were on their hands and knees being as quiet as they could. With no morpher, Niki didn't stand a chance against them.
Sorran saw that they weren't going fast enough to avoid them. The warriors would be on top of them in a matter of seconds. He grabbed Niki's shoulder, making her turn around.
Sorran: "Go on. I'll hold them off."
Niki: "No way! We got this far, you're not backing out now!"
Sorran: "If we both go, we'll never make it. I'll give myself up to the Vykron while you crawl away. They'll never think about catching you until its too late. They'll be too busy with me. I know it sounds crazy, but those guys are dumb! You have no idea!"
Niki: "I don't care! You're not sacrificing yourself for me!"
Sorran: "Its the only way. You have a family to go home to and friends to save. I have nothing. If they kill me, it won't be any big deal."
Niki: "Sorran, no. I don't wanna leave you. Not like this."
Sorran: "Please. You're the only person who has ever shown me the slightest bit of kindness. I don't want you to die out here. I'm asking you to save yourself. You deserve to live a long and happy life with the other Rangers. I don't want to die, but if I don't do this, we're both going down. After all this, at least one of us should be able to escape."
Before she could object any more, he stood up and started running right
toward the men. Niki sat there a little longer, wishing she could help.
Thinking of Cerina, she made herself look away and go on through the weeds.
In the background, she heard Sorran scream. The sound went straight through
her, causing her eyes to again fill with tears. She had finally made a
friend her own age and already he was gone. First Nadira died, who she
had grown close to when Ransik was a Ranger, now Sorran. It was as if her
friends were doomed from the start.
Niki managed to make it back to the fortress, fighting back the tears as she went. Charging through the door, she ran down the hall, looking in each room as she went. She knew Shard had made a move, she just had to find the others.
When she reached the second level, she heard a crash. In the next room, the clone Niki had Miranda cornered; a gun in her hand. Her finger sat waiting to squeeze the trigger. She seemed to enjoy the woman's fear. Miranda gasped when she saw the real Niki come through the door.
Niki: "Leave her alone!"
The clone turned, firing a shower of bullets from the gun. Niki ducked, rolling underneath of them on the floor. Once it ran out of ammo, she came up kicking the gun away. The two girls looked into each other's eyes, both a little surprised to see their own image staring back at them like a mirror. The trance was soon broken when the clone kicked Niki back into a table. To buy some time, Niki threw a chair at her and jumped onto the table, spinning around and kicking her in the face when she approached. Doing a backflip off the table, she ducked as Rita's monster fired a blast that went over her head. It left a hole in the wall with smoke billowing out of it.
Miranda watched from the corner as the little girls went into close range combat. She wanted to help, but didn't know which one was which. She prayed Cerina would come through the door, knowing she was the only one with any chance of telling the dueling children apart.
The clone threw a punch, but it was blocked. Niki's retort was to jump up, kicking her in the mouth twice without any pause. When she came back down, she grabbed onto her double's throat, but the evil girl broke out of the hold by elbowing her in the face. Niki backed off a moment, holding her check where she had been hit. Another energy blast came at her, but she dodged it, now breathing hard. She didn't know what to do, seeing as her morpher was not an option.
The entire display made Miranda's head spin. Finally, she realized that one of them had blood on her knees. Thinking back, the clone who attacked her was not injured in any way. That was it! She got up, grabbing Niki's attacker and holding onto her arms. She struggled, but couldn't break free.
Miranda: "The desk! Get the blaster!"
Niki ran to the desk at the side of the room, opening every drawer until she found an extra gun. Grabbing it, she pointed the weapon and shouted a warning to her fellow Ranger.
Miranda rolled out of the way just as the blast hit the evil Niki in the back. The real one knelt down, shielding her eyes. The entire room filled with flames from the monster's explosion; though she found the heat a nice change from her previous wintery battle. After the smoke cleared, Niki stood back up going over to Miranda.
Miranda, totally confused: "What the Hell was that?"
Later, Niki was in her room with her face buried in her pillow. She ran past the others after the battle, once Sorran's fate had a chance to sink in. The child couldn't get over the fact that he had given his life for her. Somebody she didn't even know was brave enough to die for her. Just the thought of it was unreal.
Though she found his final actions brave, she couldn't help but feel responsible. Had she only worn her morpher when she went to her father's grave, none of this would have happened. That innocent boy would still be alive and maybe one day he would have been able to enjoy Christmas the way she always had. Niki had been crying into that pillow for hours now, wishing there was something she could do; some way to go back and do it all differently. She wanted to spare him the pain of dying by those warriors' hands.
Cerina watched her silently from the doorway for a while. She had just gotten back and Miranda had told her everything that happened. The only thing she didn't know was how Niki got out, so her crying seemed out of place. Eventually, she walked to her daughter's bedside, putting her hand on her shoulder. Niki looked up at her; her face wet with tears. Cerina ran her fingers gently across her cheeks, wiping them away.
Cerina: "What's wrong, honey? Is it your dad?"
She shook her head no, not speaking.
Cerina: "Then what?"
Niki still said nothing, thinking her mom wouldn't believe her. When she had first told Cerina about the boy, she brushed off his involvement with Shard as something bad. She had figured Sorran worked for the queen instead of being held captive by her.
Cerina: "How can I help you if you won't tell me what's the matter? Come on, it's me. You and I have always shared everything. Please don't shut me out."
Niki, through sobs: "You won't believe me."
Cerina took her into her arms, running her hand through the girl's hair. Niki looked up at her with such a heartbroken look that it almost made her mother break down in tears. She hated seeing her daughter in pain and hated even more that she couldn't help her.
Cerina: "I will believe anything you tell me. I promise. I just wanna know why you're crying. It's Christmas Eve. I don't understand why you're so upset, if it's not about your dad."
Niki, finally managing to stop crying: "It's the boy from Shard's palace. The one I told you about. I was right about him. I told you he wasn't evil! He was a kid just like me! I told you!"
Cerina: "What are you talking about? You met him while you were there?"
Niki: "Yeah. He's Shard's son.... or at least he was. She never loved him or wanted anything to do with him. And when we started talking, I asked him to help me escape and we'd run away together. I wanted to bring him back here so he could have a real life. Ya know, have some place where he knows somebody cares about him. Like I've always had with you. He deserved that. He was so nice and so brave, but...." She paused, taking a deep breath. "He died before we got a chance."
Cerina: "I am so sorry. If I had known, we could have rescued him sooner. I just...."
Niki: "There was no way you could have known." After another pause, "We got past Shard, but the Vykron were gonna catch us. He gave himself up so I could get away. The last thing I heard was him scream. It was the scariest thing I ever heard in my life. When I was running back here, all I could think about was the pain he must have been going through and its my fault. I did that to him."
Cerina: "You did no such thing."
Niki: "I was the one who went out alone after you told me not to. I didn't have my morpher and I got caught, just like you said. If I had listened, he never would have had to rescue me and he'd still be okay!"
Cerina: "You made a mistake. That boy took a chance for you and you should be grateful for that. I know how sad you are, but these things happen. We're at war, sweetie. Its hard, but the fact is people die. That is the ugliest part of what we do. Even though we try, this isn't a cartoon. The good guys can't always save the day. There are times when innocent people have to pay the price for the actions of others.... sometimes even our own."
Niki: "It sucks."
Cerina: "Yeah it does. But I think you learned something really important today. Sorran's death showed you what Miranda was trying to tell you from day one. This isn't a game. People go out and risk their lives in wars every day and it doesn't always turn out okay."
Niki: "Will it always feel this bad? The sound of him screaming keeps going through my head and I can't stand it."
Cerina: "You will never forget him or what he did for you. I can promise you that. But it will get easier with time. Years will pass and you will learn how to move on. You notice how Mommy and the others Rangers go on about how this or that happened to them and how bad it was? That's because everybody has bad things happen to them at some time or another. Big, life shattering things and I think you got a taste of that today. This is one of those things you will carry with you forever."
Niki: "I wish I could have saved him. I wanted to stay and fight, but he made me go."
Cerina: "He gave you a priceless gift by doing that. Sorran spared your life and you should thank God every day for that. I know it seems unfair now. You're wondering why he died and you didn't. I'll be honest and tell you I don't have an answer for that. He did what he did for a reason and you and I may never know what that reason was."
She saw a confused look on her daughter's face.
Cerina: "My point is, God did this for a reason. He wanted Sorran to save you today and we can't question that. And I want you to know that he is in a better place now. He will never have to feel any pain or rejection ever again. He's with the angels, baby. He's free."
Niki: "I thought God was just an Earth thing. Sorran probably never even saw Earth."
Cerina: "Earth people may be more in touch with this sort of thing, but God created all of us and has a special plan for us. Believe me, his love does not stop with the Earth's barrier." She thought for a moment before continuing. "You don't have to agree with me on this, but I think his death was really a blessing. If he was never given the attention he needed by Shard, maybe this was God's answer. Take him to a place where he will be loved, away from that horrible woman."
Niki: "Maybe. But I wanted to help him. He could have stayed with me." She stopped, noticing that she was being selfish. "I guess Heaven is better than where he was before. I just wish there was some other way."
Cerina: "I know you do. And I'm sorry you lost him. I'll bet you two
would have been great friends. The key is to never forget him, Niki. It
won't be the same, but if you keep him alive in your heart, he will never
truly be gone."
At about 11:00 that night, the team was sitting in the room Ecliptor and Miranda had been in with the tree. But now it was lit up by the bright overhead lights. There were tons of presents stacked so high, they covered half of the wall. Zedd and Miranda sat on opposite sides of the room, though they were still close. It was not a very large room at all. The two had decided to put their feud aside, at least for one day. With it being Christmas and considering Niki's loss, both of them realized something. They may have a lot of things on their minds and a lot of built up anger inside, but the world did not revolve around them. There were other people out there with much worse problems than theirs, like Sorran had been.
Niki sat on Cerina's lap holding out a small box. Inside was the locket created by the clone. She may have been evil, but Niki couldn't have thought of a better gift, even if it really had been her. Cerina opened the box and her eyes lit up almost as brightly as the bulbs on the tree.
Niki: "Do you like it?"
Cerina, opening the locket: "Oh, I love it! Thank you! I'll wear it all the time. That way I can always keep you right where you belong.... next to my heart."
Ecliptor turned to Miranda, taking a box out from behind the pillow on the couch. She looked surprised, unsure what she thought of the gesture.
Ecliptor: "I know you don't like holidays, Miranda, but.... I wanted to show you what your friendship means to me. It seems like every other day of the year, everyone is caught up in their own lives. It is rare that we get to thank the people in our lives who really matter."
Miranda, taking the box slowly: "Um.... I...."
Ecliptor: "It's all right. You don't have to say anything."
He knew she valued his friendship as well, but a woman like her would never show it. He didn't want to put her on the spot, so decided to let her off the hook. That in itself was like the perfect gift for her. After a minute, she opened the box and found a little round disk inside.
Ecliptor: "Its a fight simulator for the training facility here. I asked Karone to send me a copy from her brother's ship. It allows you to do battle, but you can choose the form of your opponents. It can create the exact image of anyone you want."
Miranda: "That's really nice. Now I can kick Shard's ass without even leaving the ship."
He laughed, glad to see she liked it. He had put a lot of thought into it, taking her two interests and forming them into one. Kicking Shard's ass was kind of a given, but the other he really had to think about. When he had come back from his quest for the morpher, she seemed to know right away how to repair him. This implied an interest in technology. He assumed that before her obsession, that had been a passion of hers.
Cerina: "You know, Niki, there's several thousand dollars worth of toys under that tree. You plan to open them anytime soon?"
Niki: "Just a minute. There's one more part of your present you haven't got yet."
Cerina: "You didn't have to do that."
Without listening, Niki ran out into the hallway and came back in pulling her aunt by the hand. Tracy, Cerina's sister, smiled feeling a little out of place. The two had come back into each other's lives about six months earlier. She was attacking KO-35 and Cerina managed to return her to the sister she grew up with.
Cerina: "Tracy, I didn't know you were coming."
Tracy: "Neither did I. Santa's little helper here insisted I pay my baby sister a visit during the holidays."
The sisters gave each other a big hug, having not seen each other since she moved out of the Fortress a few months before. Their faces were glowing with happiness, which made Niki feel a little better. She felt terrible about what happened to Sorran, but at least she had given her mom the present she knew she wanted. The three of them being a family again was something she felt very strongly about when Tracy first returned. They had been separated for years after Tracy ran away.
Cerina: "This is like Christmas as I've always imagined it. All of us together, getting along for a change. I wish things could be like this all year round. No stress, no war, no doomsday secrets to hide. Just family being together like it should be."
Miranda: "Don't push it, Cerina. One day of this mushy crap is plenty."
Cerina, pointing to the couch: "Tracy, this is Miranda. The two of you should really get to know each other sometime. You have so much in common, it scares me."
Cerina and Niki looked over at Zedd sitting alone in the corner. They knew things would be hard on him. He didn't have anybody on the ship to really call a friend. They liked him, but it occurred to Cerina that they weren't really close. He was more of a loner, except for the rare occasion he let off steam to whomever was around. She leaned down, whispering something in Niki's ear, then tossed her the phone from the table beside her.
Niki ran over and jumped in Zedd's lap, surprising him. She put the phone in his hand and smiled.
Niki: "You should call Scorpina. I'll bet she misses you."
Zedd: "I'm afraid she made her feelings very clear that day at the cave. She wants nothing more to do with me."
Cerina: "Zedd, damn it...."
Niki: "Its Christmas, call her. You know you want to. Sure, she's not your lover girl, Rita, but she'll do."
He laughed, finding her simple approach to everything refreshing.
Zedd: "All right, I guess it couldn't hurt. We have been friends for a long time and..... she does think I hung the moon, after all. I probably should give her a call.... just to be kind. I'm in a giving mood this year."
Miranda, speaking softly to Ecliptor: "That is the biggest load of horse shit...."
Ecliptor: "Miranda, let it go. Just for one day."
Before getting up, Niki gave Zedd a kiss on the shiny metal part of his mask. There was no way to tell, but the others were sure if he had skin, he would have been blushing. Afterwards, Niki ran into the room across the hall and came back with a candle and a lighter.
Cerina: "Where did you get a lighter?" In a few seconds, she could answer her own question. "Damn Kelly! The woman's been dead six months and she still bothers me!"
Niki went to the window, sitting down the candle. After a moment, she was able to light it. Thinking of Sorran, she looked up at the stars and prayed that he was okay. The candle had been lit in his honor, as a small token of her appreciation. She wished there was some way to talk to him, but of course it was too late. Her only hope was if he were watching her from Heaven.
Niki, quietly: "Merry Christmas, Sorran. Where ever you are."
Deep in a snow covered forest, standing alone in the darkness, Sorran looked up at the stars through the mess of leaves and thought of Niki. He wondered if she had gotten out okay and if he would ever see her again. She was the first person to truly be nice to him and that gave her a special place in his heart.
Sorran: "Merry Christmas, Niki."