Cerina jerked a rolling chair away from the console nearby and sat, growling in frustration. She couldn't believe that the woman Ecliptor had been chasing was really her mother. Her mind told her it was impossible, but she had seen her there plain as day on the screen. There was no way to deny it.
Ecliptor, asking again: "All you all right?"
Cerina, quickly: "No! Hell no, I'm not all right! I thought that woman was out of my life forever! I finally move on and get the kind of life I want and here she is to wreck it just like she did when I was little. I have a kid, a job making a difference in the world instead of destroying it, I'm standing on my own two feet and here's mommy dearest ready and willing to knock me down."
Ecliptor: "I knew her years ago. The other Rangers recruited her to take my place on the team when I left to be with Cyann. I never imaged the two of you were related."
Cerina: "Her, a Ranger? Ha! I'd have liked to have seen that!"
Ecliptor: "From what I saw on the mountain earlier today, Katie is a different person than she was before. We she joined the team, she was only in her early twenties. A lot can happen to a person over that amount of time."
Cerina: "Apparently, cause she is not Ranger material anymore."
She got up, pushing the chair across the room and going angrily to the door. Before leaving, she punched the wall, surprising Ecliptor. He could see her mother brought out the worst in Cerina. He had always known they didn't get along, but never asked her for the whole story before.
Ecliptor, before she left: "If she goes after Cyann again.... what should I do?"
Cerina, coldly: "Do what you want. The bitch is dead to me."
The next morning at about 9:00, Cerina stopped her car in front of her sister Tracy's apartment. Still filled with rage, she jerked her keys out of the ignition and slammed the door behind her. A cop who was formerly on Vulca's payroll, now freelance, approached her before she could reach the building. Saying nothing, he pointed to a bright yellow sign beside her which read 'No Parking'. She took one look at him and forced a fake smile. After which, she took a wad of blue gum from her and smacked it firmly against the sign before continuing on her way. The cop stared at it, too surprised to do anything.
Cop, after she had stormed away: "Wow."
Upon entering the building, Cerina nearly knocked a woman down who had her arms full of packages to be mailed. She stumbled a little, but the Ranger didn't stop. Her high heals clicked loudly on the floor as she proceeded to the elevator and jammed the number six on the keypad. She wore her silver dress that she had worn while in Vulca's service. In it, she looked like a business woman, but people around her could tell otherwise. By choice, Cerina usually never wore the outfit anymore, but she was feeling darker today than usual. Her mother's arrival had made her feel the same way she did back then, like she didn't care about anything. Her uniform from her time as a trained killer was a perfect match to the way she felt inside.
Finally, she reached Tracy's door and knocked on it without stopping until her sister answered. Tracy stepped back, allowing Cerina to enter. The room was a mess. The table that had been against one of the walls was turned over on its side, every drawer in her desk was dumped out on the floor, and when she went a little further inside, her jaw dropped. The huge picture window to her right was busted; shards of glass littering the hardwood floor.
Tracy: "Sorry about the mess. Somebody broke in last night. I've been trying to clean up since six this morning."
The rage that had overcome Cerina on the way over suddenly faded, replaced by a mixture of concern and surprise. Her sister's hair was a mess. She wore ripped blue jeans and a white t-shirt, with bags under her eyes. It was obvious she hadn't slept at all since the break-in.
Tracy: "I looked around. Ya know, tried to find what they were looking for, but I can't figure it out. The only thing missing is my gun. I had it in the desk if Shard or somebody ever tried to come after me." She paused, looking at the wreck that was her home. "It doesn't make sense. Why would somebody waste all that time breaking in here if all they were going to take was a damn gun?"
Cerina's expression changed, while she listened. Something had clicked in her mind, remembering the broken window on the Fortress and Ecliptor's security tape.
Tracy: "Honestly, what the hell point did any of this have? I really don't understand it."
Cerina: "Maybe I do."
Tracy, a little thrown: "Huh?"
Cerina: "Last night, the same thing happened on the Dark Fortress. The window was broken and three blasters were gone. I thought about it all night and I still don't get why, but.... I know who did this."
Tracy waited for her to finish her thought. She had paused to take another look at the trashed apartment.
Cerina: "Its Mom."
Tracy: "Come on, Cerina, I know she's scum, but this? There's no way she would have done this. Its not her style at all."
Cerina: "We caught her on camera. I know she was the one who broke in at home and this.... its too big of a coincidence. She got in the exact same way and took the same thing. It has to be her."
Tracy: "Our mom wouldn't just out of the blue decide to take weapons from both of her daughters. Its far-fetched at best. And as for going about it this way; no. She wouldn't do this. If she were the one, she'd have come in right through the front door and took it. She tricks people into believing she's a good person.... and then robs them blind. This is tacky. Not Katie at all."
Cerina: "She's desperate now. The rebels want her to kill Cyann and I guess she has to use her own equipment to do it. I assume they got fed up with her, like everybody else in her life, and this.... it looks like she's in last chance territory."
Tracy: "But why us? She could have stolen this stuff from anybody. Why go out of her way to make us the targets?"
Cerina: "Like I said, I can't figure out the 'why'. She wanted us to know it was her doing this, but you're right. It doesn't make sense. Its like she wants us to track her down, cause she knows damn well that's the kind of thing we'd do. Its some kind of mind game. Like she's saying 'Come and get me'. But why would she do a thing like that?"
Tracy: "Glad I'm not the only one who's lost."
They were both quiet for a long time; their minds racing. Their mother was a horrible person and they knew that. That was why Cerina never mentioned her to Niki before. She believed her daughter was better off not knowing her; a luxury she wished she had had growing up. Both Cerina and Tracy hated Katie for a number of reasons. She had always done things to make them lash out against her, but this was clearly something different. It felt more serious than her other games.
Tracy: "If she wants us to find her, there has to be a reason; something out there she wants us to see. Otherwise she would have stayed, instead of taking the weapons and running. I agree, if she is working for the rebels, then she needed guns. But she's playing with something else. There has to be a reason she picked us."
Cerina: "Well, we're just gonna have to find out what that is."
Sorran came running into the kitchen of the Fortress and jumped up onto the counter. He began to look through the cabinets for food when Zedd looked over at him from the table. The boy gasped, nearly falling backwards when he noticed he was being watched.
Zedd: "Relax kid, I don't care what you take. Its not my food."
After grabbing a candy bar from a pack on the top shelf, he came back to the floor and went to Zedd's side. The man studied him, noticing the smile on his face. He was still a little edgy from his life with Shard, but he seemed to be enjoying his time there just the same.
Zedd: "So, where's your shadow?"
Sorran: "Oh, Niki? She's in the shower."
Zedd smacked his hand lightly against the table in front of an empty seat, motioning for Sorran to sit. Reluctantly, he pulled the chair out and did as he was told. Looking back at the monster beside him, he started to shake. Every time an adult had spoken to him, it was always about something he had done wrong. He wasn't sure what else Zedd could have wanted with him.
Zedd: "Sorran, you don't have to be so scared. I'm not Shard. As I'm sure demon seed back there has told you, we're nothing like your real family. I guess I probably look scary as hell, but I'm not really that bad." He paused. "Unless your name is Tommy and you drive a big freaking tiger. Then I'll hang you without a second thought."
Sorran laughed, seeing the lighter side of Zedd. Before his marriage to Rita, he never could have acted the way he was then. When he first came to this galaxy, he had no sense of humor. She was the one who changed him, making him decent company for the boy. Spending years married to someone as demanding as Rita, it was either laugh or shoot himself with his own staff. Naturally, he chose to take things easier than before.
Zedd: "You guys have any big plans today?"
Sorran: "Niki wants to go play with that battle simulator Miranda's got. I guess if I got to fight Shard in there, it might make me feel better. Like I could finally fight back after everything she's done to me. I know its not real, but...."
Zedd: "No need to justify it. Sounds fun to me. I believe that's why Ecliptor got it for her. It gives you a chance to do the things to someone that you would never have a chance to do in real life. Like a fantasy, but you're actually living it. I gave the thing a try earlier and found it very enjoyable."
Sorran, eagerly: "Who'd you fight?"
Zedd, after a moment's silence: "Honestly.... Miranda. She and I have a history together and its probably no secret that I don't like her much. That machine saved me the trouble of bickering with her and I know that will make things easier in the long run."
Sorran: "How come you don't like her? She's mean or something?"
Zedd: "Well, yes. But that's not why. Really, you don't want to hear about all that. Its boring grown up stuff. You should just worry about having fun. Not what's bothering everybody else on this ship."
Sorran: "I wanna help."
Zedd: "That's nice, but frankly its also crazy. If you tried to fix
every problem these people have, you'd be here till you graduate high school.
We're a psychologist's dream come true!" He paused, leaning over a little.
"A word of advice. Try to stay away from all the drama if you can. Once
you're tied up in it, its like you can't get out. Just enjoy being a kid.
You won't be young forever."
Cerina stood in her room later, with Tracy at her side. She looked out the window, not sure what she wanted to do. If she went after Katie, it might lead her to the truth, but it could also send her right into a trap. Her mother had never tried to harm her or anything, but so much of what she was doing seemed out of character now. She didn't know how far the woman would be willing to go to complete her mission.
Tracy: "Well Cerina, its your call. I think we should confront her about this. Its obvious she's up to something and that's the only way we're going to find out what."
Cerina: "Yeah, she does have some plan. But.... why do we care? Its all I've been able to think about since I saw her on the screen, but it makes me sick. I spent years telling myself I was done with her; that she was out of my life forever. And now its like I'm right back where I started. She wants our attention and she's got it."
Tracy: "What else are we going to do? I hate giving her what she wants as much as you do, but what choice do we have? It could actually be important."
The two adults stopped talking when they saw Niki come out of her room. Her hair was wet and she carried a pink towel in her hand. She was going to put it in the laundry, but stopped when she saw how serious her family looked.
Niki: "What's going on?"
Neither one answered at first. Tracy knew it wasn't her place and Cerina didn't know if she wanted Niki to know about their situation. She wanted to spare her daughter the pain of ever knowing her grandmother. If she told her the truth, that would give Katie some connection to her and that was the last thing she wanted.
Cerina: "Your aunt and I have to go out for a while. I want you to stay on the ship until we get back. If you need anything, go to Ecliptor. We'll be back as soon as we can."
Niki: "Where are you going? Did Shard do something?"
Cerina: "No, its not that. I'll talk to you about it later, okay?"
The child would have objected, hating being left in the dark about anything. But she could tell by her mom's expression that this was big. She didn't want to upset her because it was clear she already was. She didn't smile or joke around with her the way she usually did and that was always a sign that something was wrong. Niki turned and went back into her room, for once respecting their wishes. Tracy stared at her sister, concerned.
Tracy: "You know you have to tell her. She won't let you off the hook forever."
Cerina: "What would I tell her? She's gonna ask me what Grandma wants and why she's doing this stuff and I don't have the answers! If we go there, maybe we can figure some of this out. Then I'll sit her down and discuss it. Right now, she knows about as much as we do, Tracy."
Tracy: "Not a damn thing."
They waited a little longer, then went for the door. Neither wanted to face their mother, but they knew they had no other choice. She would keep pulling these stunts until they got to the bottom of it all. When the door closed, Niki came walking back out of her room; a devilish grin on her face.
Niki: "If she thinks I'm going to sit here on my butt and do nothing
while she has some big adventure, she's got another thing coming."
Cerina and Tracy drove to their mother's house; which was the same one they grew up in. It was small and kind of run down, but still had a bright and inviting look to it. The appearance of the house was the perfect cover for the lives they had really lead back then. Tracy started to open the door, but stopped when she saw Cerina wasn't moving. Her face looked blank as she stared straight ahead at the house. In her mind, she was reliving the night she had severed all ties with her. The night she finally realized her own mother didn't care.
It was a dark, rainy night in July and a very young Cerina knelt down beneath the kitchen window. A cold chill went down her spine as she listened to her parents on the back porch. Every light in the house was on and the air was warm. There was no wind outside, so she could hear every word clear as day.
Outside, Katie had her back turned to her husband, Brock. His face was filled with rage. The only light out there came from the tiny bug zapper that was mounted next to the door.
Brock: "Don't give me this silent treatment, Katie! You have been out every night this week, you come back in with hardly a word to me or the girls, and you act like nothing's wrong! I know you're not being honest with me. I've known that for a long time now, but I'm done looking the other way. I didn't want to fight with you because of the kids, but I just can't do this anymore! I work all day, then when I come home to spend time with my family, I find out you're doing God knows what somewhere and leaving our kids home alone! Now I want the truth."
Katie: "Why do you care, Brock? All you do is sit here in front of that TV. You don't even see me anymore. I try to talk to you, you just brush me off. I ask you what's wrong, you tell me nothing and go back to your damn ball game. What difference does it make if I'm here or not?"
Brock: "I can't just keep going nonstop. Spending nine hours a day in that factory takes its toll. When I come home, I want to relax and you just can't understand that."
Katie: "Its not just then! Any time I say anything to you, its like talking to a wall. God, we don't talk, we don't touch; its like we're strangers now! You want honesty, fine. I can't live like this! The man I married was sweet and romantic, but you.... you're not that same guy anymore. I mean, the only time we ever talk is in a fight. You only kiss me when I ask you and even then its like its a chore." She paused. "Look, its clear we don't have what we used to have. I need more out of life than you can give me."
Brock: "So what, that's it? We have one rough patch in our marriage and you're ready to call it quits?"
Katie: "You left this marriage long before I did!"
Cerina shook, hearing her parents yell at each other that way. It always hurt her when they fought. She wanted to shut it out and act like it wasn't happening, but she knew it wouldn't work. No matter what she did, that thought was always in the back of her mind. Her mom and dad didn't love each other anymore and it tore her up inside. Part of her wanted to run from that window and force herself to forget, but she couldn't. Something made her stay.
Brock leaned on the patio table in front of him when Katie turned to face him.
Brock: "You're seeing somebody else. Is that what you're trying to tell me?"
Katie: "What choice did I have? No woman can spend her entire life in a house with a man who doesn't care! You've lost that spark you had when we were dating. Now its just the same thing day after day and I can't take it! When I swore to stand by you forever, I didn't know this was the man you'd become."
Brock: "Fine. You want out. But what about Tracy and Cerina? I'm not the only one you're going to hurt. You think they don't know something's wrong between us? They see the way you look at me, they hear the way we fight! Before you give up, think about what its going to do to them!"
Katie: "This isn't about the kids. This is between you and me."
Brock: "Its never about them! Hell, you act like they don't even exist. You wanna know why I've changed? That's part of the reason I don't see you the way I used to. Those girls need you and you're never there for them! Their grades are suffering, they feel rejected. When was the last time they had a home cooked meal? Huh? Or don't you remember? They are our responsibility and you've just turned your back on them!"
Katie: "I love our kids, but I need more! I want to go out dancing, eat at a restaurant that doesn't have a clown's face on the wall, really feel like a woman. I can't live every day for them. You might, but that will never be me. I'm a person too, Brock, and I can't make my whole life revolve around those girls. I can't!"
Brock: "Fine. If that's the way you want it, I'm gone. You want to waste your life with some new guy and ignore your children, I can't stop you. But one day, you're going to look back and realize you had the perfect life and you threw it away. We're parents, Katie. They are supposed to be our lives. And when they grow up you'll see. Tracy and Cerina will walk out on you the same way you did our marriage!"
Without another word, he went out into the rain, slamming the screen door on the closed in porch as he went. Katie watched him walk away, but didn't seem hurt by it. In her eyes, he had already left her, so this didn't mean anything. It was freedom. They had finally let each other go and maybe then they could both get what they wanted out of the years they had left.
<End of Flashback Scene>
Tracy took Cerina's hand, forcing her back to reality.
Tracy: "Are you all right?"
Cerina, softly: "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I was just thinking about the day Dad left. That.... that was when my feelings for Mom just sort of faded away. It hurt me that she ignored us, but when she made him leave, that was it. Whatever love I might have felt for her was gone."
Tracy: "Our parents split up because they had to. But I know you're always going to hate Mom for it. You were too little to hear that sort of thing, but they didn't care."
Cerina: "Its not just that. Dad wanted us! We could have been happy if Mom had just let us go. Instead, she fought for custody and forced us to take care of everything she wouldn't. Its her fault you never had a childhood, Tracy. You should feel as bad or worse about this than me."
Tracy: "Mom turned her back on us and that was wrong. But Dad couldn't have taken care of us any better than she could. They were both gone all the time. The only difference is, he was working. She had no morals, but I don't see the point in holding a grudge over that specifically. It couldn't have been helped. The court would have never let us be with him anyway."
Finally, they dropped the subject and got out of the car. Cerina wasted no time; the built up rage she had felt that morning coming back to her. As they walked up the driveway, Tracy could see that expression on her face returning. The blank empty one she had described many times before, when referring to her time as Vulca's general.
In one swift kick, Cerina busted the door in and proceeded into the living room.
Cerina: "You wanted us here, you got us. Now talk, bitch!"
Sorran was in the hallway of the Dark Fortress looking for Niki. After going through every floor on the ship, he still couldn't find her. She would have told him what she was going to do, but didn't have time. Cerina and Tracy had left in a hurry, making it impossible for her to warn him. In fact, she probably would have taken him along, given the opportunity.
The boy turned his head, hearing high heals clicking on the metal floor. Miranda was coming toward him quickly; a serious expression on her face. He started to walk the other way, somewhat frightened by her. So much about her reminded him of Shard that he wanted to run, but when he tried, a wall came shooting up in front of him.
Miranda: "Not so fast."
She held a remote in her hand. It went to the security system of the Fortress. With it, she had closed off the hallway, making it impossible for anyone to get in or out. Sorran backed up against the wall, shaking in fear.
Miranda: "There's no need to be scared. You and I just need to have a little chat."
Sorran: "A...about what?"
Miranda: "As you know, we are at war with your mother. And you are in a position to help us. You see, spending most of your life with that woman, it stands to reason that you've overheard things. As it is, we know nothing. You are going to help me change that. I want to know everything Shard has ever said to you from your first breath to the day you left."
Sorran: "She never told me what her plans were. I.... I swear, I don't know anything."
Miranda, shaking her head: "Wrong answer. She wants Stregna's resources and I want to know why. What does she need with that stuff. What is she trying to power?"
Sorran: "I told you, I don't know! If I did, I would have told Niki!"
Miranda: "Maybe. Or maybe you're playing us. You know what I think? I think you are still in alliance with Shard. She ordered you to befriend the Yellow Ranger, knowing perfectly well she wouldn't expect it. You have her blood, kid. You're no better than she is. So skip the act. You and I are trapped in here until you tell me what I want to know."
Sorran: "I'm not working with her!"
He stared up at her with a frightened look on his face. She studied him, but still didn't believe his story. It was impossible in her eyes, for him to have lived there for so long and still know nothing. Frustrated, she drew back her hand and smacked him hard across the face. The kid fell to the floor from the force and looked back up at her with tears in his eyes.
Miranda: "Don't play innocent with me, you little bastard! I want the truth!"
He started to cry, seeing that there was no way out. He had told Miranda everything he knew, but still she wouldn't believe him. There was nothing more he could say. Tears flowed down his cheeks like rain as he remembered his old life. He had been in that position so many times with Shard. Niki told him all of that was over when he came to the Dark Fortress, but no matter where he was, he still had to face people's cruelty. Nothing had changed. He was still powerless to stop the violence that surrounded him. It was as if he'd never even left the palace.
Miranda: "Tell me the truth or I'll give you something to cry about!"
Sorran, screaming at the top of his lungs: "I don't know!"
Miranda: "That woman took away my parents and my baby and you expect me to believe that! I gave up over twenty years chasing her. The best part of my life was pissed away because of that woman and you, her son, are sitting there lying to my face! The others might see you as some sweet little orphan boy, but I don't buy it! You're as much a part of Shard's army as Destructsa or anybody else. Now I want answers!"
Sorran: "She never told me why she did any of the stuff she did! Even when I tried to save Niki that day, she wouldn't tell me anything! I tried, but she hated me! She'd never confide in me. She never even talked to me! You have to believe me! I'm telling you the truth!"
She was certain he was lying, but wasn't sure how to make him admit it. Staying there wasn't going to help her. All that would do was make the others wonder where they were. She couldn't let them find out she was pumping him for information. They were too soft. Her strategy would seem heartless to them. Finally, Miranda had heard enough. While Sorran was still on his knees, sobbing, she kicked him in the mouth, sending him the rest of the way to the floor. Blood poured down his chin as he wailed uncontrollably.
Miranda: "If you tell anyone we spoke, you're dead."
Pushing the button on the remote, she watched as the walls sank back into the floor, opening up the hallway. She took one last look at the child, then walked away, without any attempt to help him.
<Note to Readers: I in no way condone Miranda's actions in this
scene. What she did is horrible, no question about it. But that is what
separates Psycho Rangers from Earth Rangers. Sometimes they do the wrong
things for the right reasons. This does not reflect my own views what so
Katie turned to face her daughters, unfazed by Cerina's violent entrance. Her attitude came as no shock to her. Her calm appearance made Cerina want to lash out even more, but she fought the urge.
Cerina: "You wanted us to see you take those weapons last night. Why? What are you trying to tell us?"
Katie: "Once again, Cerina, you read too much into things. I took your blasters because I needed them. End of story. My mission is to destroy Cyann and I'm going to do it. The rebels refused to allow me access to their own weapons, so I had to acquire them another way. There is no hidden meaning here, my dear."
Cerina: "If that's true, then why take Tracy's hand gun? The blasters I understand, but that thing is not going to help you. If this was not about us coming after you, then why waste your time with it?"
Katie: "How was I to know that was all she had? The woman nearly took out KO-35 in one shot. Common sense would lead me, or anyone, to believe she would possess more than one little gun. Why do you think her house was a wreck and yours was not? Seriously, you need to grow up. Not everything is about you."
Cerina and Tracy exchanged glances, neither one believing a word she said.
Katie: "I realize you are upset about your childhood and my divorcing your father, but that is all in the past. The truth was, I never ran around on him. I've been with the rebels since before you girls were born. They are my life and that left me no room for Brock.... or you. It saddens me that I wasn't there to watch you grow up. When I was gone, it was because of my missions. The man I told your dad I was seeing.... he never existed. I just knew I couldn't be there for him the way he needed me to be."
She paused, watching the ladies faces. Their expressions didn't change. After a lifetime of cruelty, it would take a lot for Katie to regain their trust and she knew that.
Katie: "I was gone nearly every night. You saw that. I didn't want Brock to have to suffer the way he did any longer. He deserved better than that. We both did. I couldn't do my job knowing he was sitting at home waiting for me. And you.... I wish I could have done something to spare you the pain. It broke my heart leaving you there alone."
Tracy: "You could have told us the truth."
Katie: "No, I couldn't have. The rebels wanted my involvement with them to be a secret. The only reason I'm being open about this now is that I'm already in a bad position with them. If I don't take out Cyann, I'm no longer one of them. I guess it doesn't matter what rules I break now. Odds are I am going to fail, thanks to your Black Ranger."
Tracy: "So that's it. It was all fake? You didn't fall out of love with dad, you didn't hate Cerina and me? It was a cover for your place with the rebels?"
Katie: "That is correct. I look back at my life now and, like anybody else, I have regrets. My biggest is not being there for you like a good mother would have been. It was just... back then, I couldn't turn my back on them. They took me in after Ecliptor and the others left me for dead. They were the only ones who would help me. All the rest were too afraid of Cyann and what she would do if she found out. Helping a Ranger survive was enough to get them killed. I felt like I owed the rebels for sticking their necks out like that."
Everything was starting to make sense now. Cerina and Tracy hadn't realized how long Katie had been with the rebels. It was their understanding that her involvement was a recent thing. They never imaged that could have been the reason behind her actions when they were children. Everything they had known about the mother had been a lie. Now, neither one was sure what they could do or say.
Katie: "I don't expect you to forgive me for what I did. I just wanted you to know the truth. What I did before was wrong, but as I said, they put their lives on the line for me and I had to repay them. Stealing you weapons; that was an act of desperation. It had nothing to do with you. And Tracy, I do intend to pay you for the damages, if I am able to receive payment from my commander for the execution of Cyann."
Cerina: "So why didn't you let us go with Dad? You knew that was what we wanted. If you had, you wouldn't have had to worry about us. Your life would have been easier had you not fought him for custody."
Katie: "If I had given you up, would you have ever visited me? I think we both know the answer to that. If Brock were allowed to take you, I'd have never seen your girls again. And even though it would have made things easier, I didn't want that. It broke my heart to lose him. I don't think I could have lived if I lost you too."
Tracy: "So why let him go? If you loved us and let us suffer, why not Dad too?"
She could tell they didn't believe her. Their questions were their way of saying they were far from being able to trust her.
Katie: "Your dad and I weren't kids anymore. Had we stayed together, we would have been wasting our lives. I wanted him to have a shot at happiness before it was too late. As for you, you were children. I wasn't taking away either of your last chances the way I would have been his. Once you grew up, you could still have the lives you wanted. I just didn't want Brock to die without having been treated the way he deserved to be."
Tracy nodded, starting to except her story as the truth, but Cerina put her hand on her sister's shoulder.
Cerina: "Not so fast, Tracy." She turned her attention back to Katie. "If you cared so much, why treat us like shit all that time? Did the rebels command that too?"
Katie: "My treatment of you was a mistake. The stress of the job got to me and I guess I took it out on you. I wish I had seen what I was doing sooner, before the three of us drifted apart this way. When you were born, I never imaged our lives turning out like this. Sure, I knew my being a rebel might cause problems, but I never imaged this. I look at the two of you now and see hatred in your eyes. That bothers me more than you'll ever understand. But worse yet, I know I deserve it."
The three of them stayed silent for a long time. This was the first
time she had been honest with her children in decades. They listened, hearing
the dryer running in the background. Its hum seemed to surround them, as
it was the only sound in the entire house. Cerina's head pounded, trying
to wrap her brain around everything her mom had said. She was sure there
was a lie in there somewhere, but she couldn't find anything that sounded
off. She played the words over and over again in her mind and they all
seemed to make sense. Though she knew her mother could lie with total conviction
if need be. She still was not convinced she was telling the whole truth.
Outside, Niki sat up in the back floorboard of Cerina's car. She had snuck inside while her mom and aunt weren't looking. Gazing over at the house to her right, she could see the two women through the window. She also saw Katie, but didn't know who she was. Quietly, she got out on the opposite side, not closing the door. She didn't want to make any more noise than she had to.
Carefully, she ducked behind the car, watching the window.
Niki to herself: "Who is she?"
Since Cerina had hated her mother for so long, Niki had no idea who
Katie was. There were no pictures of her on the Fortress and the two of
them had never met.
Katie glanced uneasily back the hallway before offering her daughters a seat on the couch. She sat in a chair by the wall, hoping she could forge some relationship with them. It seemed impossible, but the mother in her made her at least want to try. The two younger women looked around. The house brought back so many memories for them; most of which were bad, however. Cerina looked at the frame around the door and sighed. She saw cuts in it where Brock had measured their growth when they were kids. It always made Katie mad that he was cutting slashes in the wall, but he did it because he loved them. Tracy followed her gaze and thought about it as well. The marks stopped a little over the doorknob. That was when he left. They were about Niki's age.
Katie: "Cerina, what exactly is it you're after? Being a Ranger implies that you have some interest in saving this planet. Yet you contradict yourself. You battle Shard, yet allow your Black Ranger to save Cyann. What am I missing here? They're equally dangerous, but you're helping Cyann."
Cerina: "Ecliptor loves her. I'm sure he told you that. Not everything is as cut and dry as the rebels make it out to be. Sure, I want Cyann dead. She and Vulca deserve it, but would I tell him that? No. They are his wife and daughter. I don't want to be the person to tell him they're monsters. He has to figure that out on his own."
Katie: "And when do you think that'll be? How many people will that woman have to kill before he can see the truth?"
Cerina: "Rebels and Rangers are not the same. At least not now. With Kari, it was different. We were rebels, but she had a heart."
Katie: "Ms. Miller was weak. She had no business being a rebel in the first place. I simply cannot see how you people can justify allowing her to kill, just because you don't want to break the heart of a creature who does no even possess one. Ecliptor is a robot. He can't truly understand love, so why spare him this way? You're letting her hurt the people you claim you want to protect."
Cerina: "I can't just go out and kill her. He might be a robot, but he's my friend. I won't hurt him that way."
Katie: "Well don't be surprised if she ends up dead. If he gives me an opening, I'm going to take it. I want to be a part of your lives again, but I won't coddle him the way you do."
Tracy: "Can't you work something out? You both want the same thing. Ecliptor doesn't want those people to die, he just doesn't have it in him to kill the woman he loves."
Katie: "Well he's gonna have to make up his mind. Cyann won't quit. He either has to learn to fight her or stay the hell out of the way. This isn't going to go away just because he's too weak to make a damn decision."
Cerina: "Stop! He is one of the kindest people I've ever met! Don't you sit there and insult him because he can actually listen to his heart instead of shutting himself off from the world the way you did! You claim it was a mistake. Prove it. Don't expect him to make the same mistake you did, just because it would help you reach some goal."
Katie: "What do you want me to do, Cerina? Tell me that much. I have to kill that woman or I'm out. I can't do that because he's stopping me. Do you see the problem? Hell, forget the fact that you're Rangers helping an evil queen. Just look at this from my point of view. He's standing in my way. What would you do in this position?"
Tracy: "If it were me, I'd leave the rebels. You don't need them. I know they helped you before, but you don't owe them your whole life. You have more than repaid the debt."
Cerina: "Yes. Why are you so desperate to stay with them? You have a house, you don't need to work. Money became worthless the day Vulca died. This planet has no government since Shard took over the royal palace. So that means taxes and any sort of transfer of funds is a thing of the past. You're free."
Katie: "Lets say I do resign. What about Cyann? You're just going to let her run around murdering anybody she wants?"
Cerina: "We will find a solution to this. You just have to give us some time. I can see we're in trouble and we have to fix this, but truth be told, you're not helping. This is Ecliptor's problem, but he can't focus on it because he's too damn worried about you killing her! Let go of this and maybe he could find a way to end this whole thing!"
Cerina took a deep breath, thinking things over. She knew she was asking a lot of her mother and didn't want her to think they were actually letting Cyann do this.
Cerina: "Come by the Fortress later. You and Ecliptor can sit down and decide what to do."
Katie: "You're.... you're actually letting me on board?"
Cerina, after a moment of thought: "I guess so. But if I find out any of what you told me was a lie...."
Katie: "Its not. I don't blame you for thinking I'm lying. Who wouldn't. But I am glad to see you are willing to give me a chance."
Cerina: "I'm doing this for Ecliptor, not you. I don't want him to suffer because you killed the woman he loves. The way I see it, if you two can work this thing out, maybe we can spare him the pain of losing somebody else in his family. Vulca's gone. There's no point in us making him lose Cyann."
Cerina and Tracy stood, walking toward the door. Cerina took one last look around, but didn't notice anything strange. She had been sure there was something there Katie wanted them to see, but she couldn't figure out what. Maybe she was reading too much into this, but she still felt uneasy about it.
Tracy went out first, holding the screen door for her sister. Katie grabbed Cerina's arm, stopping her.
Katie: "If I come to the Fortress, does that mean..... I'll get to meet my granddaughter?"
Cerina: "Niki is off limits to you. You will go in, find Ecliptor, and the two of you will go elsewhere. You might be telling the truth, but I am not setting my daughter up to have her heart broken in the event that you're not. What I told you the day she was born still stands. You will never have any contact with that child as long as you live. You can tell me any story you want to and that will never change."
She jerked out of her mother's grasp and started back down the driveway without looking back. Tracy, however, noticed the pain on their mother's face after Cerina had told her no. It seemed genuine. She was starting to believe Katie really did care, at least about her family.
Seeing them come out, Niki darted away from the car and hid behind a
bush in the neighbor's yard. She had got behind it just in time. The two
women hadn't seen her. She wanted to find out what was going on and the
way Cerina had looked earlier, she didn't trust her to tell her everything.
Her mom had never out right lied, but something felt different this time.
It didn't involve Shard or another man in her life. The child could tell
there was something deeper here.
Back on the Fortress, Zedd gasped when he saw Sorran walk into his room. He had blood running down his chin. It had stained his shirt and his face was soaking wet with tears. Zedd got up quickly, running to him. He knelt down and put his hands on his shoulders.
Zedd: "What happened to you?"
Sorran remembered Miranda's warning and thought before her answered.
Sorran: "My.... my mom sent some Vykron after me. I think they're gone now. I managed to get away from them."
Zedd took him into the nearest bathroom and did his best to clean him up. He had never done anything like this before, but tried to remember movies he'd seen where parents had cared for their children's injuries. The boy jerked away at first, wanting to avoid the sting of the wet rag.
Sorran: "I know I wasn't supposed to be alone outside."
Zedd: "Well now you see why. We don't want anything to happen to you. If you wanted to go out, you should have come to Ecliptor or myself. We'd have been glad to go with you."
He was thankful Zedd bought his lie. No matter what, he didn't want
to find himself alone with Miranda again. He knew if he told him the truth,
she would come after him, and this same thing would happen again.
After Cerina and Tracy had driven away, Niki stood up and walked out in front of the bush. She looked at the house for a long time, before working up the guts to go closer. She found herself going up the driveway and pretty soon, she stood in front of the door. Common sense told her to turn and run, but being Cerina's little girl, she was too hard-headed for that. Instead, she rang the bell and waited.
Soon, Katie came out and gasped. She had never seen Niki before, but right away she knew who the child was. It was like looking into a time machine. The girl standing before her looked just like Cerina did at that age. Nearly an exact match. Niki looked up at her, at a loss for words. She hadn't thought about what she would say when the woman answered. She froze.
Katie, surprised: "Niki?"
Niki: "You know me?"
Realizing the girl had no idea who she was, Katie knew what she had to do. If she wanted to be a part of Niki's life, she had to do it on her own. Cerina was not going to help her. She didn't blame her daughter for not trusting her, but she wanted to make up for her mistakes. Since she wasn't there for their childhood, she at least wanted to be there for Niki's.
Stepping aside, she allowed her granddaughter to enter the house. She looked around for a minute, noticing a picture of Cerina on the wall. Seeing it, she turned to face Katie, giving her a funny look.
Niki: "How come there's a picture of my mom up there?"
Katie, sitting down on the couch where Cerina had been: "I know your mom probably never said anything about me, but.... I'm your grandma."
Niki: "She never even said I had one."
She couldn't believe Cerina had kept that from her. Though she didn't mention Tracy before she came back into their lives either. This really shouldn't have surprised her.
Katie: "Your mom and I don't really get along. That's probably why she never told you about me. You see, I made a lot of mistakes when she and Tracy were growing up. Things I wish I could take back. I told her that today, but she doesn't believe me. I didn't expect her to."
Niki: "She looked mad when she left. What did you do?"
Her attitude reminded her of Cerina, as well as her appearance. It was like she were an exact clone of her mother.
Katie: "Its a long story. But we're okay now. She doesn't like me and rightfully so, but we did get some things resolved. When it comes to you though, your mom is very protective. I'm really glad you're here, cause otherwise I would have never got to see you. She won't let us talk because she doesn't want me to make you sad the way I did her."
Niki once again looked around the old house, getting a sense that something wasn't right. The expression on Cerina's face from earlier was flashing in her mind. It was a warning to her not to let her guard down. Sure, she was over protective, but her mom was generally right. There was something off about Katie. She just couldn't put her finger on it.
Katie: "You okay?"
Niki: "Yeah. I'm just shocked. I keep on having these relatives I didn't know about. First my aunt, now you. Heck, while I'm here, is there anybody else?"
Katie laughed, but didn't say anything. She watched as the little girl's eyes shifted across some pictures on the wall. There was one of Cerina when she was little, which she would have sworn was her own picture if she didn't know better. One of Tracy, which she managed to recognize.
Katie: "Feel free to look around. I have to go take some cloths out of the dryer. Be back in just a minute."
She got up, but Niki didn't hear anything she said. Noticing the woman was gone, she got up and went over to a shelf in the corner. There was a gold frame sitting on top of it with a candle on each side. In the frame was a picture of a little girl. It looked newer than the others; the quality and the child's hair style seemed up to date. She studied it for a minute, wondering who she was, but jumped when she heard the voice from back the hall.
Katie: "There's some cookies in the kitchen if you want some!"
Quickly, she sat the picture back down and returned to her original seat on the couch. She was breathing hard from panic when her grandmother returned.
Katie: "Ya hear?"
Niki, startled: "Oh.... yeah. I'm full. Raided the fridge before I left."
Katie: "How'd you get over here anyway? I hope you didn't walk all that way. Its really not safe with Cyann and Shard out there."
Niki: "Nope. I snuck in the back of Mom's car." She giggled before finishing, "I wanted to see what she was up to and you know she wasn't gonna tell me. Had to find out on my own."
Katie: "You do this kinda stuff often? Run around on your own and all?"
Niki: "Oh yeah! Its not a big deal though cause I'm a Ranger. If I get in trouble, I'll just morph and beat up whoever messes with me. Pretty cool, huh?"
Katie: "Yeah. Your mom used to do the same thing. I wasn't home much when she was growing up, but when I was, I swear I had no idea where that kid was. She would go out in the middle of the night and not come back till morning. All I got was the open window and her lame ass excuses." She paused. "I think you two are a lot alike. You seem to have her wild streak."
Niki: "That's why she let me keep the morpher. Cause I was like her. I went out and got it even after she told me not to. I had to fight this monster and a witch named Rita. It was great!"
Katie: "Yep. That's Cerina. Completely disregarding authority and doing whatever the hell you want anyway. Its like a family tradition for us. Me, I only did one bad thing, but let me tell ya, it was real bad. I had to change planets just to avoid the cops! Your mom seemed to be more into the little things. Driving me nuts one gray hair at a time."
Niki laughed, imagining her mother doing those things. Looking at her watch, she jumped to her feet, heading toward the door. Katie was surprised by her sudden urge to go home.
Niki: "Nice meeting you, but I've gotta go. If I'm not back soon, they'll realize I'm not on the ship. For all they know, I've been in the shower since 9:00 this morning!"
Katie laughed, looking at the clock. It was a quarter after five!
Katie: "How 'bout I drive you? That'll make it faster. I won't go up to the ship or anything, just pull up a little bit away so they can't see me. I wouldn't want to get you in trouble."
Niki: "Cool! Thanks!"
She didn't say anything, but she knew her plan had worked. It was only
a matter of time before Cerina did exactly what she wanted her to and it
was all thanks to Niki.