Cerina was in the living quarters of the Dark Fortress picking up piles of wrapping paper from the floor. Christmas had come and gone and they were still knee deep in the remains of her daughter's presents. She sighed, stuffing another handful into a nearby garbage bag. Looking up, she saw Niki come in tossing a ball up in the air and catching it.
Cerina: "Why am I the one cleaning up this mess?"
Niki: "I told you I'd get it."
Cerina, rolling her eyes: "Now would that be before or after Valentines' Day?"
She shrugged, running to the window to look out. The snow had melted and the sun was shinning brightly in the sky. She could feel its heat coming in through the glass when she turned back to face her mom again.
Niki: "I'm going outside to play for a while."
She smiled, noticing her mom was wearing the gold locket she got her for Christmas. It was around her neck, showing nicely on the glittery silver turtleneck sweater she wore. Dropping the trash bag at her feet, Cerina pointed to her wrist.
Cerina: "Got your morpher? We don't want a replay of what happened the other day."
Niki: "Yeah. It's in my pocket. Don't worry!"
Not waiting any longer, Niki took off into the hallway and out the door. It was surprisingly nice out for December. She wore pink shorts and a white t-shirt, taking advantage of the weather. She put the ball on the ground and kicked it around for a while, enjoying herself, but stopped when she heard something moving in the bushes beside her.
Niki: "Hello? Anybody there?"
She took her morpher from her right pocket and held it tightly in her hand. Her eyes scanned the area where she heard the noise. After a moment, she saw what it was. Sorran came walking out onto the grass waving to her. In surprise, she dropped the morpher and ran over to him, throwing her arms around the boy. Every night since her escape, she prayed that somehow he would come back to her and now those prayers had been answered.
Niki, overcome with joy: "You're alive!"
In a back room of the palace, Rita stood before a huge computer; its keyboards running all the way around the room. It reminded her a little of Zordon's Command Center. Everything was silent while she scanned her surroundings. Still exploring the palace, she had come across the open door and decided to check it out. The computer came as a shock to the former empress. It seemed out of place in the otherwise ancient looking palace.
After a few minutes, a stack of discs caught her eye. They were lying on top of the center control panel in front of three slots. She picked them up, but couldn't find any clues to what was on them. Their cases were clear and the discs inside unlabeled.
Rita: "Well Shard, lets see what you're really after."
Rita carefully opened one of the cases and prepared to insert the disc when she heard soft footsteps behind her; then the click of a gun being loaded. Destructsa stood behind her with a blaster pointed at the back of her head. His muscles were tense; ready to strike. His finger rested on the trigger, not at all surprised by her presence in the room.
Destructsa, with no feeling in his voice: "Put the disc down and back away slowly."
Knowing when she was beat, Rita did as he commanded. Once far enough away from the slot, she turned to face him in time to see him lower the gun to his side.
Destructsa: "I knew you were up to something."
Rita: "What is it you're so desperate to hide? If Shard is really as careless as she lets on, me looking at those discs shouldn't matter. What don't you want me to know?"
Destructsa: "Their contents are none of your concern. You are a servant here, Rita. Your days of control are over. The queen will tell you only as much as you need to know. You learn anything more than that, you become a risk, and I will not allow that."
Rita: "What if you had got here a few seconds later, huh? Then what? You can't hide whatever this is from me forever."
Destructsa didn't worry about her finding the answer any other time, because this in fact was a set up. He had left the door to the mysterious room open, testing the woman. If she entered, that meant she was looking for something. She needed information on Shard, he just didn't know why. Curiosity certainly wasn't the case, or she would have gone straight to the throne room, instead of sneaking around to view them behind their backs.
Destructsa: "The only reason you were allowed access to this room was to prove my point. Shard doesn't believe you are out to get anything more than revenge, but I don't believe that. I left this place open to you just to see if you would take the bait. And now...." He paused, pointing to a camera in the corner, "now I will show my beloved empress what kind of person you really are."
Rita: "If you want my help, I have a right to know what your end game is. Why do you need Stregna's resources?"
Destructsa: "I owe you no explanation. I'm afraid your time here will be short lived. Once I show that tape to Shard, you're history."
Rita: "You'd love that, wouldn't you? Then its just you and her all alone. Who knows? Maybe you can get lucky for once in your life. That's all this is, isn't it? You can't seduce that woman with me around. You don't seriously believe I'm up to anything. You just wanna get in that rich bitch's pants."
Destructsa: "I feel nothing for her but loyalty. And it is because of that loyalty that I made it my mission to expose you. I haven't trusted you since the first day you came to this palace. Your motives.... they don't make sense. You could just as easily separate Zedd from the others and take him out if he were all you really wanted. But no. Instead, you insist on moving in here, getting closer and closer to us with each passing day. What are you after?"
Rita: "You're good, but I've seen the way you look at her. Its the same way Zedd used to look at me. You know I don't have an agenda. You just want your precious queen all to yourself."
Destructsa grabbed her arm and pulled her out into the hall. After letting her go, he pushed a little blue button on his wrist, which made a thick metal plate slide quickly over the opening, closing it off.
Destructsa: "You're opinion does not matter to me. The fact remains,
I will show that tape to her and when I do, you will be dealt with. Enjoy
your last few hours of life, my dear."
Ecliptor had left the Dark Fortress a few minutes earlier and was now running up the side of a steep mountain. The sun reflected brightly off his armor as he went. On the monitor, he had seen Cyann watching a burning village from high atop the mountain. Common sense told him it was too late to save the people who lived there, but still he ran to the scene. In his mind, he wondered why he had gone to her. Instinct, he supposed. The truth was, he had no idea what he was going to do once he saw her.
When he reached the top, he saw Cyann and froze. She was being held by a woman with long brown hair. She was in her late forties and wore black jeans and an army green tanktop. Acting without thinking, Ecliptor fired a blast from his hand, knocking the mysterious woman to the ground.
She turned, now standing calmly to face her former love. Her face still bore the same blank expression it always had. He expected no less. Only this time, she didn't fight him. Just turned and walked away slowly, heading toward solid ground. The woman he had blasted got up, brushing dirt off of her jeans and watched as her prey got away. Ecliptor gasped, finally getting a good look at her face.
Ecliptor, in surprise: "Katie?"
<Due to the twenty year gap between Series 2 and Series 4, the role of Katie is now being played by Lena Olin. For new readers, Katie is the woman who took over as Psycho Green in Series 2, after Ecliptor left the team to be with Cyann.>
Ecliptor was almost surprised he recognized her at all. It was as though time had sent her through a total transformation, leaving hardly a trace of the woman she was before. She had gone from a bright, energetic young girl, to this dark, beaten down woman with the most stone cold eyes he'd ever seen. She looked almost as dead as Cyann.
Katie: "How could you do that? I had her!"
The warrior woman came at him, pushing him violently. Ecliptor stumbled back, not used to her new found strength. The fact that twenty years had passed since the two last saw each other escaped him. He still expected her to be like she was, despite her appearance saying otherwise.
Ecliptor, sounding concerned: "Katie, what happened to you? You look so different now. The.... the last thing I remember, you...."
Katie: "I almost died in that lab explosion. You and the other Rangers left me for dead. Because of you, I had to learn to live on my own, in hiding. Even after you killed Cyann, I wasn't safe. You brought me into this world and then left me here alone to rot. You call yourselves Rangers? You were no better than Cyann or Vulca."
Ecliptor: "Had we known you were alive, we would have come back for you. When Cyann's warrior destroyed our lab, it looked as though no one could have survived. We just assumed both you and Seth died."
Katie: "I didn't, but Seth did." She stopped a second, looking back the way her enemy had left. "None of that is important now. I could have finally taken Cyann down had you not stopped me. I don't understand. You're supposed to be so wise and caring, yet you allow this woman to blind sight you every chance she gets! My God, Ecliptor, she's using you! Did you see the way she was looking at you? Whatever you thought you saw in her before; its gone now. There is nothing left but a monster and you still save her!"
Ecliptor: "She's dead. That is why she looks the way she does."
Katie: "I know Olympius killed her on Earth. But somehow she was able to come back and she's even worse than before. The first time we fought her, there was at least some hope of reasoning with her."
Ecliptor: "Its my fault. I was the one who brought her back. I took her body and restored life to it, not realizing that she was in fact human. Or at least organic. She had a soul and that was the one thing I could not give her. The woman you fought before is only a shell of the queen. Everything I loved about her is gone."
She turned away from him for a second, pulling her hair back and then letting it drop into place once again.
Katie: "If you really believe that, why did you get in my way?"
Ecliptor: "I don't know. I have tried so hard to force myself to do the right thing. I can see she has to be stopped, but every time I try, something comes over me. I remember all the time we spent together and when I go to strike, I feel like I'm striking down the love of my life, instead of this demon that took her body."
Katie: "Fine. You can't kill her, but I can! If you're too stupid to see everything she's done to these people, that's your problem. I had a chance to end this madness and you blew it." She paused, rethinking things. "Look, if you don't want to fight her, that's your decision to make. Just stay out of my way."
Ecliptor: "I can't do that."
Niki sat down on the grass, waiting for Sorran to join her. He still wasn't used to the freedom of being on his own. Eventually, he sat facing her; smiling for once. It was the first time he had felt the sun on his back in years.
Niki: "I don't get it. How did you get away? Those guys were huge!"
Sorran: "I knew if the Vykron caught me, I'd be gone. My mother ordered them to kill me on sight. All I could do was run. It looked hopeless, but like you said the other day, at least I would know I tried. After a while, I managed to hide from them. I found this huge forest and.... I got lucky. They looked for days and didn't even stop when it was dark. That's why it took me so long to come find you. This was the first chance I got."
Niki: "Its okay. As long as you lived through it, that's what matters."
Looking down, Niki pulled up a blade of grass and started to play with it. Her mind was racing. There were so many things she wanted to ask him now that she had the chance. Everything was jumbled. She tried to think back; remember everything that had been going through her head the last couple nights, but it was blur. Seeing him there was such a shock to her that anything else sort of faded away.
Niki: "So what now? You got away from Shard, but.... what do you wanna do? I can ask my mom to let you stay here. I mean, if you want to. Or stay with my aunt Tracy. She lives in the city a few miles from here, so the war will never touch you there."
Sorran: "I don't want to escape. Not that way. When I was running from those warriors before, all I kept thinking about was how much I wanted to know you. The whole reason I broke away in the first place... it was you, Niki. I've never met anybody like you before. You're young like me, but you're different. Smart, funny, great in battle." He paused, looking at Shard's palace in the sky. "Everything my mom wanted me to be."
Niki: "You think she would have treated you different if you could fight?"
Sorran: "That's why she kept me around as long as she did. She wanted to use me; train me as a weapon in her army. Destructsa was told to train me, but he couldn't. That's when she stopped caring. I was only three when they gave up. I always thought the kind of perfect kid they were looking for didn't exist. Then I met you."
His words surprised her. Cerina had always said she was everything she could ever want, but Niki had never heard anything like this from somebody else. With her mom, it was like she had to say that, but Sorran didn't even know her. The girl blushed at the thought of being half as good as he thought she was.
Niki: "I'm not perfect. And Shard.... if all she wanted you for was a warrior, you shouldn't feel bad about it. If she was too stupid to see you for who you really are, its her problem. I knew you were different from the first day I saw you. The rest of that army is so dark and scary, but somehow you turned out okay."
Sorran: "She didn't think so."
Niki: "Big deal! That woman only cares about herself. I'll bet even if you could serve her the way she wanted, it still wouldn't have mattered. It isn't your fault Shard is the way she is. The important thing is you never have to see her again."
Sorran: "I know she's a terrible person, but part of me still wants to make her happy. I don't know why."
Niki: "You want to make your mom proud. There's nothing bad about that. It just won't happen with Shard. She's a monster and you have to remember that. And you know what the truth in all this is?"
He stared blankly back at her, waiting for the answer.
Niki: "She's not good enough for you."
Katie looked stunned. She couldn't believe he was being this way after he claimed Karone had changed him.
Katie: "What do you mean, 'you can't let me'? Its not your choice! Cyann has killed millions of people on this planet because they defied her and now she's killing them for sport! How much does this woman have to do before you can finally see her for the sick bitch she really is?"
Ecliptor: "I loved her and I will not allow you to take her away from me the way Olympius did. I agree with you in part, that she needs to be stopped. Stopping her, however, does not mean you have to kill her. There is another way."
Katie: "Then why the Hell haven't you found it? Why am I out here slaving away what's left of my life trying to catch her if you have a better way?"
Ecliptor: "That's a good question. Why are you doing this? You're from Earth. She never had any effect on you until we brought you to Stregna. You have no right to hold a grudge, considering they are not your people. And don't try to tell me you care because I can look at your face and tell that you don't. The people of this planet may have mattered to you once, but they don't anymore. Why take it upon yourself to hunt Cyann?"
Katie: "We've been back in each other's lives five minutes and you're already telling me what I feel. Damn, Ecliptor, are you a mind reader now too? I swear, man, you never cease to amaze me."
Ecliptor: "I don't have to read your mind to see what's clearly written on your face. When I look into your eyes, do you know what I see? Divatox, Rita, Trakeena, all of them! I spent enough years with the alliance to recognize evil when I see it. You have the same darkness about you that they always did and don't try to deny it. You want her for your own reasons and I want to know what they are."
Katie: "Who cares why I'm doing it? The fact is, she is evil and has to be stopped."
The part of Ecliptor that had been programed by Dark Specter was telling him to forget it all and kill her. Even after Karone's influence, he still got urges that date back to his time with the alliance. Looking at her, he wished he was still the man he was. Killing Katie would have ended his problems, but he knew he could never live with himself if he did. What would Karone think? That was how he got through the days now. If it weren't for Karone's presence in his mind and Miranda's friendship, he wasn't sure he'd be any better than Cyann.
Ecliptor: "You're right. It doesn't matter. No matter what you say, it will not change my position. Cyann is mine to deal with as I see fit. You're right to attack her was lost the day you lost the morpher. You are not a Ranger anymore, Katie. The sooner you understand that, the easier your life will be."
Katie: "I'm a rebel! The same as the past Rangers!"
Ecliptor: "They sent you out here? But why? Shard is in charge of the palace and has been for weeks. What purpose do you have for striking out against the fallen empress? It is a waste of time."
Katie: "She may not be in power, but she is still a threat. The queen is the one I was ordered to kill and by God I will do my job. Those people saved me and I owe them my life. When you left me here, they took me in and trained me as their own. If my commander wants Cyann gone, then that's how it will be."
Ecliptor: "I know the rebels. They would never order one soldier to complete such an impossible task."
Katie: "A lot has changed since you were involved. When that Kari woman, the former Psych Blue, left, the new commander set things right. She was soft and that is why three generations of the royal family were allowed to walk Stregna at the same time. Now Vulca has been taken out by Shard and Cyann's mother...." She cracked her knuckles before continuing. "She was my last mission. A total success."
Ecliptor: "So that's it. They order you to take someone's life and you do it? No questions asked?"
Katie: "She did the same to countless rebels. Its only right that she pay. We felt the punishment should suit the crime. Death was the only reasonable solution."
Tired of dealing with him, Katie started to walk away, but Ecliptor grabbed her arm. His grip tightened quickly, unwilling to let her carry out her plans. She shook her head; her teeth clenched together. In one quick motion, she spun around and punched in the face with her free hand. He let go instantly, stumbling back. Ecliptor heard her bones pop when she spun for the attack, but looking at her now, it was like she didn't feel a thing.
Katie: "Are you sure this is the way you wanna play it? You get in my
way one more time, little man, and you will be removed. You are more than
welcome to come at me again, but you have been warned."
Sorran kept looking from Niki to her morpher, trying to understand the child's life. Since he had failed Shard's test, he had never been allowed to go back into battle. She didn't even let him watch one. Niki, on the other hand, was able to not only watch, but make a difference in their fights.
Sorran: "So how did you get to be a Ranger?"
Niki: "I had always wanted to be. When I was little, I used to read stories about the Rangers on Earth. How they fought Rita and did all this brave stuff and saved people. I never told Mom about it though, cause we worked for Vulca then. She was the general, like Goldar. When she left for battle, I used to think what it would be like if I could do all the stuff they did."
The boy listened closely as she continued.
Niki: "When Mom ran away from Vulca, we joined the Rangers and that just made me want a morpher even more. I got to see what they did for real, not just in a book. A few months after we started fighting her, I found out the Blue Ranger, Kari, was going to have a baby. That meant she couldn't fight anymore. That's how I got my first morpher. It was so cool! The first time I used it, it was like a dream! I couldn't believe it!"
Sorran: "You're pretty lucky. I always thought it would be fun, but I didn't think kids could do it. Until I saw you, I mean."
Niki: "After Kelly, the Yellow Ranger, died and Ransik left, that made it just me and Mom fighting. So when we got these new powers, she let me stay a Ranger. In her last fight with Vulca, I saved her life. That's how I showed her I could handle it."
Sorran: "Vulca.... that's the woman my Mom killed to get the palace, right?"
Niki: "Yeah. She was the queen back then, but I wish she wasn't. She was so mean to me! That's why we left. Mom couldn't take it anymore. She woke me up one night and said we had to go. I still remember it all like it was yesterday. She drug me out into the cold and we went to sleep in the grass. The next morning, Vulca found us, but we joined the rebels and became Psycho Rangers."
Sorran looked up at the sky for a moment, wondering what he could ask her next. Her life seemed so filled with excitement compared to his. He wanted to know everything about her. Niki smiled, enjoying their talk. She had always wanted somebody like him in her life. Sure, she enjoyed playing with the other Rangers, but that wasn't the same as having a real friend. Somebody her own age she could spend time with.
Niki: "This is really nice. You're the first kid I've ever been able to hang out with. Before, it was just adults and they only play with me when they have time. Even then I knew they had other stuff they'd rather be doing."
Sorran: "Guess that makes us alike. I never had a friend either. My mom wouldn't let me talk to anybody else. Said they weren't good enough to breath the same air she did. Pretty stupid, huh? And she never let me go out anywhere."
Niki: "The only person I can honestly say was my friend was Nadira. She was Ransik and Kelly's daughter. It still wasn't like this though. She was twenty something, she just didn't act like it. We used to hang out a lot while everybody else went into battle, but she's gone now. Mom and Kari didn't like her. So even when she was there, it was hard to get to do anything with her."
Sorran, after a long silence: "You think she'll like me any better?"
Niki: "Well yeah. Why wouldn't she?"
Sorran: "I'm Shard's kid."
Niki: "That don't matter! You're not like Shard and she knows it. Besides, you saved my life out there the other day. My mom will love you for that alone. Nadira.... she just didn't like her cause she was a bad influence. She taught me how to steal stuff and shot some guy in front of me. She's nice to most people though. It was just Nadira and her parents that she hated."
Both kids jumped when they saw a fire ball fly over their heads. Niki quickly grabbed the morpher when she saw Rita materialize behind Sorran. She was standing perfectly still; the sun reflecting off of her staff. The two of them got close together, forming battle stances. Niki strapped the morpher onto her wrist and was ready to fight.
Ecliptor held his morpher out in front of him, refusing to give up on the only love he had ever known. Throughout his entire life, no woman has ever captured his heart the way Cyann did. It was as though fate brought them together and he wasn't about to let some mindless rebel soldier rip them apart.
Ecliptor: "Psycho Blast!"
In a flash, he dawned the uniform of the Black Psycho Ranger. The display didn't frighten or impress Katie, however.
Katie: "Fine. You had your chance to walk away. Now you deal with me."
The good part of Ecliptor didn't want to fight her, but he knew she wouldn't let this go. She was a completely different person than she was before and he couldn't let her destroy Cyann. Coming at her, he threw a punch, but she saw her opening and kicked him in the chest. He didn't move from the hit, but he could feel it through his suit. The rebels had trained her well. When she jumped into the air to try another move, he grabbed her leg and threw her to the ground. While down, she tripped him, jumping back up quickly. She then tried to stomp on his stomach, but he rolled out of the way before she could connect.
Ecliptor: "Katie, don't do this!"
When he returned to his feet, she threw another high kick, hitting him in the face. This gave her time to go for a blaster that was strapped to her thigh. She pulled it off quickly, dodging a punch while taking the safety off. Ecliptor was turned back around when she opened fire on him from close range. The blasts made him cry out it pain, each one knocking him back a little further. Sparks flew when each laser hit his suit.
Katie thought: "I have to get rid of him. If I waste all this time doing battle with some love sick Ranger, I'll never be able to get Cyann."
Hoping to end her current battle, Katie pulled a little metal box off of her belt and took a silver pellet from inside it. Seeing Ecliptor running back at her, she threw it at his feet. The pellet gave off a flash of blinding light, which allowed her to jump over the side of the mountain with him seeing her. When his sight was regained, he was alone up there. She had gotten away.
The robot's suit was burnt and his systems running low on energy, but
instead of returning home, he took off down the trail, determined to find
her again. He knew she would go directly for Cyann, as that seemed to be
her only interest at the moment.
In the palace, Destructsa came running into the thrown room where Shard was staring at the wall. She didn't move or even blink until he spoke. Her mind had been on Sorran and what she could do to pay him back for his betrayal. A few minutes earlier, Rita had offered to deliver a message to him, but that wasn't good enough. She wanted him to suffer.
Destructsa: "Empress, you must see this!"
She looked down at the video tape in his hand and sighed.
Shard: "Honestly, if that is a tape of your vacation, it'll be the last one you ever get."
Destructsa: "No. This tape is proof of what I've been trying to tell you all along. Rita is no good. She cannot be trusted. I set her up before and she took the bait. I wanted you to see first hand the kind of person you are allowing to live within these walls."
While he was talking, two Vykron had pushed a TV and VCR in on a cart. They stopped and stood at attention when it was directly in front of the empress. Destructsa backed up, not turning away from her to put the tape in. A few seconds later, she saw Rita with the three discs from before. Then Destructsa stopping her from viewing them.
Shard, after the video stopped: "You're certain she saw nothing?"
Destructsa: "Yes. I was there the entire time, waiting for her to make a move. She was unsuccessful this time, but does this not show you she's up to something?"
Shard: "Rita trying to look at those discs does not necessarily mean she is playing us. But it does arouse suspicion. Keep your eye on her. Odds are she was curious, but we cannot allow her to discover our true purpose here. If she knew our goal, she could easily turn on us, as Sorran did, and report it to the Rangers."
Destructsa: "That's it? You want her watched? How can you still trust her?"
Shard: "I don't. Never did. Need I remind you that I am using Ms. Repulsa to my advantage. Trust was never a part of the equation to begin with. You see to it that she does not view the contents of those discs. I still have use for her until my master plan is complete. Once that day comes, you may do with her as you wish."
Destructsa: "But my queen...."
Shard: "Was I not clear? Take no action until I give the order. Now get out."
Angered, he let out a loud growl before stomping away. He had wanted
to show his loyalty to this empress by proving he was right about Rita,
but she still didn't care. It was like nothing he could do was enough to
make her see what he knew was the truth. Shard laughed, hearing him punch
the wall in the hallway. His child-like tantrum amused her.
Rita looked back at the two children, laughing a little. Niki looked so much like her mother then, the empress couldn't help but find it amusing. So small, yet always ready to fight.
Rita: "As adorable as those little poses are, you can stand down. I didn't come here for battle. I was sent to offer you one chance, Sorran. Return to the palace with me and you will be allowed to live."
Sorran, stepping up in front of Niki: "You can forget it! I'm not leaving Niki and you can't make me!"
Rita: "You're a fool. If you stay with this girl, you will die."
Sorran: "I'll take my chances. You saw the way they treated me, Rita. Mom never even cared about me before. She let Destructsa do whatever he wanted to me! So why does she want me back now?"
Rita: "To set an example. If she were to let you walk out without any punishment, what's to stop all the other warriors from doing the same?"
Sorran: "I'm not a warrior. I'm her son."
Niki was surprised how calmly the two were talking now. It was as though they weren't enemies at all. She guessed it was because this wasn't Rita's problem. She had no reason to force Sorran home. Her only mission must have been to deliver the message, not so much to make sure he followed it.
Rita: "To Shard there's no difference. You left her and you will pay the price. If you're smart, you'll tell your little friend good-bye and return with me. I'm telling you, this is the only time you will get this offer. Your mother doesn't care enough to give you a second chance to come home. This is it."
Sorran: "You heard me. Niki is the only friend I have and I will not leave her. You can tell my mom to send any monster she wants, they'll never bring me in alive."
Rita, shrugging: "Suit yourself."
Rita started to disappear, but stopped, returning her staff to its original position. She studied the little boy's face for a while, seeing his determination. Even at such a young age, he took a stand against his own mother, because he knew what she was doing was wrong. The idea of having that kind of bravery at six amazed Rita. She nodded, looking into his eyes.
Rita: "For what its worth, kid, I respect what you're doing. I wish Zedd would have stood by me that way."
After she disappeared, Niki stared at her friend in surprise. She couldn't believe he had stood there and had what passes for a civilized conversation with Rita Repulsa. This was the same woman she read about when she was younger. The evil witch bent on destroying the Earth. She was so heartless in the stories; written as a cartoon like villain. But standing there just now, she saw the real Rita and the difference was staggering.
The two of them returned to their previous positions, sitting on the warm grass facing each other.
Niki: "I just never expected her to be like that. When she sent that monster after me when I got my morpher, she seemed evil. The way I always heard she was. But when she was talking to you, it was like a totally different person or something."
Sorran: "Rita was pure evil once. When Dark Specter held her under his control, she had no choice but to destroy the Earth. She didn't have any motives or anything for what she did. But she's free of that now. Zedd broke her heart cause he left her to be a Psycho Ranger and later tried to kill her. That's why she's attacking us now and why she can seem different sometimes."
Niki: "But Zedd.... he still loves her. He said he did."
Sorran: "I'm sure he does. Even though she's free of the spell, Rita doesn't think clearly. Its like the part of her brain that applies logic to a situation was destroyed from that spell." He paused. "I don't know. She's just.... weird, I guess."
They were quiet for a while, both laying back and looking up at the clouds. Everything was perfect for them at that moment in time, even though they both knew it could never last. All they could do was enjoy peace while they had it. Do their best to remember this day and use it when things got tough. As long as Sorran was with them, Shard would try even harder than before to destroy them. Days like this one where they were free to enjoy each other's company wouldn't come about very often.
Niki, looking over at him: "Hey, what's your mom up to anyway? I know she needs energy for something. I heard Miranda say that once, but she never said why."
Sorran: "I don't know. She never told me anything. I tried to listen a couple times, but it never worked. Destructsa always caught me and.... well, I couldn't find anything out."
Niki knew there was more to it, but it was clearly too painful for him to talk about. She didn't dare ask him what happened after the warrior got to him. She wished she could have got some information out of him. That wasn't why she wanted to be his friend, but it would have been nice to contribute something. Show Cerina that Miranda wasn't the only one with an inside source.
Sorran: "So, when do you wanna tell your mom?"
Niki: "It doesn't matter. She's just cleaning. I left a huge mess in the floor after Christmas! It looked like a junk yard! I'm sure she'll be in there for most of the day."
Sorran: "You're sure she'll be okay with this? Cause, I could always go back into hiding and come visit you. I don't wanna make her feel like she has to let me in or anything. I can make it on my own if I have to."
Niki: "One thing you should know about her. Nobody makes my mom do anything. You don't have to worry about her thinking she has to let you stay. Believe me, that'll never happen! But I know she'll want you to. Like I said, you saved my life. She's going to want to repay you and this will be the perfect way. So quit stressing out over it. Everything will be okay."
Niki lifted Sorran's head and rested it in her lap, running her hands
through his hair like a baby. Playfully, he rolled over and tackled her;
both laughing loudly. From the window, Cerina looked out at the two children
with a huge smile on her face. She didn't know how it was possible, but
she was glad Sorran lived. He made Niki happy and that was the most important
thing in the world to the caring mother. Watching them wrestle in the yard
like that warmed Cerina's heart. She had always wanted to give her daughter
a normal life like other kids had. Go outside and run and scream like a
six-year-old is supposed to. She knew the child would never have a normal
life, but it looked like she at least got a step closer. She was playing
with someone her own age for once and no worrying about wars and keeping
herself safe. It was a beautiful sight and Cerina, despite her work load,
couldn't take her eyes away from the window.
After hours of searching for Katie and Cyann, Ecliptor gave up, returning to the ship. He came in through the back door, hoping to avoid the others, but his plan failed. Miranda looked up from a lab table where she had been working on a gigantic piece of machinery.
Ecliptor, pretending he had done nothing unusual: "Miranda, you're building something. Why don't you tell me about it?"
Miranda: "I could do that. Or you could tell me where the hell you've been all day. Weren't you the one who preached to me about the importance of team work and all that crap? Now personally, I don't care if you wanna run around all day. I say more power to ya. But if you're gonna ride my ass about, you can bet I'm going to do the same to you."
Ecliptor: "Please, can this wait?"
Miranda: "Its a two way street, Ecliptor. If I have to deal with this team, so do you."
She stopped, laughing a little. Ecliptor knew she was messing with him, but he was tired from chasing after the two women all day. Miranda was actually only trying to give him a listening ear. He knew he should have been thankful she was there. He wasn't, but he knew he should have been.
Miranda: "Why don't you just save us both some time and tell me what's going on. We both know I'm going to get it out of you eventually. The way I see it, you could fight me on this for the next six hours, or you could tell me now, save time, and the two of us can actually do something constructive with the rest of the night. What do you think?"
Ecliptor: "I think you can be a real ass when you want to be."
Miranda, taking a bow, "Thank you. Now spill."
He wasn't sure he'd ever seen the Red Ranger in such a good mood before. She was laughing and joking like a normal person and given her life-long problems, he didn't think that was possible. Once again, Miranda had managed to surprise him. Every time Ecliptor told himself he had her figured out, she threw him a curve ball, which sent him back to square one. That was one of the things he liked about her. No matter how much he thought he knew, there was always something about her he didn't count on. It seemed that even after everything she had gone through, she was still capable of kidding around. That just showed him she was a stronger person than he had ever thought.
Ecliptor: "I was out looking for Cyann today. She's being hunted by the woman who took my morpher in 2000. Only now she's different than she was before. Darker, less caring some how."
Miranda: "Katie, right? Young one with a heart of gold?"
Ecliptor: "Maybe at one point. When I looked into her eyes today, she looked nearly as dead as Cyann did. She's working for the rebels and her mission is to locate and destroy Cyann. I'm not sure why she's really doing it. Of course she tried feeding me this load about wanting to pay her team back for taking her in, but there's more to it."
Miranda: "Huh. You almost sound as cynical as I am."
Ecliptor: "A lot of times, that's how you have to be. In a place like Stregna, nobody is doing anything out of the goodness of their heart. Not even us. I know Katie is working some angle, I just don't know what."
Miranda: "Does it matter? She's still gonna kill your woman, no matter what the reasons behind it."
Ecliptor: "So you think I was right to stop her? She could have completed her mission had I not got in her way. Of course I love Cyann, but I'm really not sure if I'm doing the right thing. She has brought so much pain to so many people over the years. Do I have any right to come to her aid?"
Miranda walked a little closer, thinking his question over before she answered. It was a tough call, seeing as how she had never loved anybody the way he had. The whole thing was new to her and she wasn't able to put herself in his shoes. If it were her, she'd have let Katie kill the woman and been done with it.
Miranda: "I don't know. All I can tell you is follow your heart. If its telling you to save Cyann, then that's what you should do. I don't wanna tell you how to live your life. Hell, look at mine. I am not the person to come to looking for advice. Trust me!"
Ecliptor: "I wish I could find a simple answer to this. And don't tell me there is no such thing, because I already know that. This.... this is the one time I wish there was though. It is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I love her and don't want to kill her, but clearly she doesn't feel the same about me. At least not anymore. Now she's out to kill every living thing that crosses her path and me... I'm just letting her do it."
The stress finally built up inside him to the point where he blew. Grabbing the table, he threw it across the room, watching it smash against the wall. Miranda's machine went with it. Afterwards, he stopped and forced himself to calm down. He thought he may have scared her, but his friend only stood there looking back at him. He hadn't phased her in the slightest.
Miranda: "Are you done?"
Ecliptor, coming back to his senses: "Your device. I'm sorry. I didn't mean...."
Miranda: "Forget about it. I made it to help the team and from the looks of that hole in the wall, I'd say it did just that. Sometimes you have to let off a little steam. Break something, make some noise. Some people find it childish, but if it helps you, go for it. We're both going through a lot right now." She stopped and smiled before finishing. "I get my escape by working with technology and you.... apparently you get yours by destroying it."
Ecliptor: "I didn't mean to wreck that thing. Whatever it was. I guess I just lost it."
Miranda: "Stress will do that. I really think you need to figure this
thing out tonight. Decide what you want to do before that Katie woman makes
your decision for you."
Niki and Sorran stood in the hallway outside Cerina's room later that evening. The door was open and they could see her inside with a magazine in her hand. Sorran stood back, pushing Niki inside. She turned back, grabbing his arm to pull him in with her.
Niki: "What's your problem? Come on!"
Sorran: "No way! She's your mom! You ask her!"
Niki: "You big chicken, she's not gonna bite!"
Sorran: "I don't wanna do it! Please Niki, just go in and talk to her. I'll wait out here."
Not wanting to waste her time fighting anymore, the little girl went inside, closing the door behind her. Cerina looked up with a big grin on her face. Realizing what her daughter was going to say would be more interesting, she tossed the magazine to the floor and motioned for her to come sit beside her. Niki went hopping over to her bed and Cerina lifted her up beside her.
Niki: "Guess what! Sorran's okay! He lived through those ugly Vykron guys' attack!"
Cerina: "Yeah. I saw you two outside earlier. I'm glad you found a friend your age. It looked like you really had fun and that's something I've wanted for you for a long time."
Niki: "I did. He's great. So easy to talk to and once you get him to come out of his shell, he can be a blast to hang out with."
Cerina: "You're probably going to have to give him a while to get used to this, Niki. You know what kind of a world he grew up in and this is a big change. He's gone from no freedom at all to having close to no rules. It would take anybody some time to adjust. The important thing is he's safe now. Shard can't hurt him anymore. You just need to remember that he isn't exactly like you. He may not be ready to completely open up yet."
Niki: "He talks to me, but I think he's afraid of you. Pretty silly, huh?"
Cerina: "I can understand that. Adults have always been cruel to him. Try to imagine what his life was like with Shard. That boy has every right to be uneasy around people. I'll bet you really help him though. Sorran talks to you cause you're different. Adults treated him badly, but a kid never did. I suppose that would make it easier."
Niki: "I never thought about it like that."
She leaned a little closer to her mom, thankful she never had to go through everything Sorran did. Even though she lost her dad, she always had one parent to love her unconditionally. That was something she knew he never had. Cerina was always there for her and meeting her new friend helped her appreciate that.
Niki: "So, can he stay here with us? I don't want him to have to go back out on his own. Its cold and lonely out there. And Shard, if she finds him, who knows what she'll do."
Cerina: "Easy on the guilt trip, girl! Of course he can stay!"
Cerina: "Yeah, its fine. This is actually the safest place for him. You know she'll come after him the way Vulca did with us when we ran away from her. Lunatics hate being betrayed. Besides, he's your friend and you need to have him around. You're only a kid for a very short time and you need to enjoy it."
Cerina looked over at her daughter, who was grinning from ear to ear. Niki jumped up from the bed and ran to the door. She stopped, turning back when she heard her mom say something.
Cerina: "Oh, Niki, one more thing." She paused, trying not to laugh. "Niki and Sorran, sit'n in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g...."
Cerina: "Guess somebody finally found a cure for cooties, huh?"
Niki: "Shut up! He's just a friend!"
Her face turned bright red and her mom couldn't stop laughing for anything.
Niki had given her such a hard time about boys in the past that she decided
a little payback was in her future. Embarrassed, the blushing child ran
into the hallway, grabbing Sorran by the arm and took off.
That night, after everyone had gone to bed, Ecliptor sat on his bed wide awake. He, as a robot, didn't need to sleep, but often used the time to reflect or to recharge himself. The lights were on and he was lost in thought. Miranda was right. He had to figure out what to do about Cyann before Katie killed her. Even though his mind told him getting her back was a lost cause, his heart told him to keep trying.
Getting up, he put his hand on the phone, but stopped. He wanted to call Karone, but he knew he shouldn't. She was busy with Andros and Ashley and the last thing she needed was him pouring his worries out on her. Ecliptor felt bad enough for having drug her into the mess in the first place. He didn't want to pull her back in when she had more important things to do.
Ecliptor, talking to himself: "God Cyann, how could this be our life? We were perfect together, then all of a sudden, it was over. Olympius killed you and that crushed all our dreams. I wanted to be there with you, to watch Vulca grow up. But now, because of me, she's gone too. What would you say if you were here? Could you ever forgive me for allowing our baby girl to die?"
He stopped suddenly, hearing the sound of glass shattering. It was distant, but he knew where it had come from. The room they stored the weapons in had a glass window in the back wall and that was the direction the crash had come from. He ran quickly down the hall, but when he got to the room, all he found was the broken window and any empty table. Three big blasters were gone.
He was certain she had taken them by the rebels' orders. Shard had her
own supply of weapons and Cyann had no use for them. She was the only one
left with any motive to take them.
Without bothering to wait until morning, Ecliptor went to the main room and put in the tape from the security camera. He wanted to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that she was the one, before taking any action.
Cerina came in through the side door, having heard the glass break. She wore a white nightie, but didn't bother to get dressed. She was too tired and didn't see Ecliptor as a real man anyway. She knew he was not attracted to her, so it made no difference how short the article of clothing was.
Cerina, yawning: "What was that?"
Ecliptor: "That is what we are about to find out. The window in the weapons room was busted and three blasters were stolen. I am almost positive who is responsible, but this tape will tell me for sure."
Cerina: "Couldn't you wait till morning? If they're already gone, there's nothing you can do."
Ecliptor: "If this is who I think it is, I cannot afford to wait. She will use those guns to kill Cyann and I won't allow that."
Cerina: "This again! It's 2:00 in the morning! Let it go!"
The robot ignored her, pushing a button on the keyboard in front of him. An image of Katie appeared on the screen. She was inside and tossed the three weapons out to two more members of her rebel team. He couldn't see their faces, but didn't need to. She was the one who concerned him. He waited a minute, before turning off the monitor, expecting to hear Cerina argue with him again. Surprisingly, she was silent.
When he turned around, her saw her staring at the screen; frozen. It was off now, but it looked like she didn't even notice. He walked closer, unsure of what to do. The look on her face was one he had never seen before. Perhaps a combination of shock, terror, and hate.
Ecliptor: "Cerina? Are you all right?"
Cerina, after a long silence: "Her."
The woman's voice was cold and angry. Ecliptor could tell she wanted to jump inside the monitor and rip Katie's head off, but he had no idea why.
Ecliptor: "You know her?"
Cerina: "I wish that were all it was." She paused; her features going
dark, "She's my mother."