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Note:
Welcome to the sequel to "Clinging To Promises"! :) If you haven't read that yet, I suggest you do so because everything in this fanfic is directly based off the events that unfolded in the one prior to it! ^_- All my thanks goes out to Suzy for the beta-read, for she is my little sister. ;P Just a fair warning, there is strong use of the idea of miscarriage, so if you can't handle that, then you may not want to read this. And I hope you guys enjoy this because I've been certainly having a blast writin' this sequel! :)

Without Fail
Written By: WhiteZeo

Dear Dana,

It's me, Ryan. You're probably reading this and wondering what the hell Evan is doing in the middle of your quarters. Well, this letter's to explain that.

You know when I told everyone Victoria was dead and that she committed suicide? I wasn't telling you everything. Victoria's dead, but there's a way to bring her back through demonic magic. The catch is I have to willingly serve Queen Bansheera, as does Victoria. I know you're probably pissed at me, but I had to do it. I can't live without her, Dana, and I do love you and Dad, but this is just different. I hope you understand that.

I'm leaving Evan with you. No way will I let him grow up the way Victoria and I did. Besides, he has a prophecy to fulfill, even if Bansheera may think it doesn't exist anymore. I know you'll take good care of him; teach him everything you can, but never tell him where Victoria and I are. It'll be hard for you to lie to him, but do it for me. I'd much rather have him believe that we are dead than know that his parents are the ones leading the attack to destroy his world.

I hate doing this, but I have no choice in the matter. I love you, Little Sister; don't doubt that. I'll see you around.

Love,
Ryan

***

It's been nearly eighteen years since I first read that letter from Ryan. Eighteen years filled with horror and tears.

After Ryan left us to be with Victoria, the first few weeks were calm. Then outta nowhere, Ryan and Victoria reappeared on the scene looking twice as big and bad as they had the first time.

They were merciless. Ryan attacked the city with his Max Solar MegaZord while Victoria infiltrated the Aquabase and tore it to pieces; Dad and Miss Fairweather barely made it out, and a lot of other good people weren't as lucky. Miss Fairweather saved Evan single-handedly as well; Ryan sings her praises even now. Thank God she saved him, because I really don't think I would have been able to forgive myself or faced Ryan again if Evan has...well, you know.

Within a week the city was completely demolished. Bansheera created a barrier around Mariner Bay, calling it her "domain"; we haven't had outside human contact since.

Mariner Bay is now simply a demon's paradise. They thrive on the surface, living in the lap of luxury. Bansheera even moved Skull Cavern into the center of the city; it looks absolutely disgusting there. I can't imagine living there for my entire life like Ryan and Victoria have.

Speaking of living conditions, I bet you're wondering where the heck I live. All of us - you know, Chad, Kelsey, Joel, Carter, and Miss Fairweather - live underground in the hidden nooks and crannies of the old Mariner Bay Subway line. At first it was hard going, but after being here for so long we've developed a good-sized community of survivors at around one thousand. It's the best we could really hope for.

Sitting up in my bed, I look down at Carter. Yeah, I eventually did marry him - after my dad died two years following the dive underground. I needed to someone to rely on and there was Carter, who accidentally got me pregnant and we got married, living happily ever after. The end.

No, that's not how it happened, but I swear, it sometimes feels like it happened in that kinda stupid fashion. I do love Carter, but complicated things like what happened with us just get a billion times more complicated with the hand-to-mouth existence we lead.

Anyway, I'm gonna wake this lump next to me up; he needs to get ready to train with Evan.

***

A person fell flat on my stomach as my wake-up call this morning. This really puts things into perspective - which one sucks more: being an orphan, being an orphan with crazy, annoying cousins, being an orphan and living underground...damn. There are just too many fucking options.

"Avery..." I growl, kicking the seven-year old hyperactive bomb off my bed - actually, it's more like rolling her off my bed. Why the hell did Dana and Carter decide to have another kid after Karilee? I'm bettin' a million rations of pineapples that Carter did it to just like spite me or something half-assed like it.

Oh...didn't realize you were there. I'm Evan Mitchell, the said orphan with crazy cousins living underground in a subway. Really, it's all I remember so it doesn't bother me too much...but when the survivors start remising about topsoil, I sometimes think they're lying.

The survivors are what we call the people who originally lived through the Hell that turned pristine Mariner Bay into Bansheera's Bed and Breakfast. I'm a survivor too, but I don't really refer to myself as one; I was only like a month old when all the crap went down, so I don't remember what life topsoil was like.

Dana's always telling me how Angela saved my life - Angela Rawlings that is. You know, formerly known as Miss Fairweather? Yeah, her and Joel hooked up when I was six; I remember thinking she had cooties back then. Then again, everyone had cooties at that time - that was when we had the lice outbreak.

Every time Aunt Dana decides to ramble about the past, she's always been pretty good about talking a lot about my parents 'cause she knows that's all that really matters to me.

My dad was her older brother, Ryan, and my mom was his girlfriend, Victoria. Bansheera's servant, Diabolico, held them captive until they escaped and my dad became the Titanium Ranger. They had me and then a week later died in a set explosion created by Bansheera. My dad's powers were stripped from him and now Bansheera has one of her goons running around with them, using them to hunt us (the rebels) down.

Sometimes though, as she tells the story, I feel like Dana's not telling me everything; she's holding something back from me. When I was younger I really didn't care, I just loved the idea that my mom and dad were sorta seen as heroes. But now that I'm eighteen and those fantasies don't hold me anymore, I find myself pestering her more about it. However, I usually know when to back down - after all, her memories and stories are my only link to my parents; it's not like Carter's gonna up and start talking about my parents if I asked him to.

"Evan!" Avery's whining totally breaks my thoughts. "Mommy told me to come wake you up!"

I lie back down in bed and hide underneath my blanket. "Yeah, well, tell you mom I'm awake and that you did your job."

I didn't hear any movement. That blonde ball of sugar is still here.

"I'll play with you later on, Avery."

The door to my room creaks open and then slams. She's gone.

I am NOT looking forward to going to training. I mean, I love being a ranger - I feel like I was born for it - but I hate my trainer: Carter.

He hasn't liked me since day one or whenever I first remember him, and I'm willing to take a wild guess that he didn't like me when I was born either. Karilee says it has something to do with an argument he and my dad had over my mom back in the day. 'Course Kari would know: she's Carter's oldest child and my other crack-headed cousin.

Not that I don't adore my fourteen-year old cousin, who plays those stupid few mp3 files of 'N Sync that she was able to salvage on her computer non-stop, but sometimes I swear Carter gives his precious daughter special treatment. Like today, Kari doesn't have to train with me because she trains every other day, but I have to train everyday and nearly die from exhaustion in the process. It's not like he wanted her in the first place when he found out Dana was pregnant with her...that's another story entirely.

Whatever, I've gotta get ready for training, so if you'll excuse me...

***

As my eyes open, I feel Bansheera turn me toward the other side of the bed, which I already know is empty; Ryan never stays asleep long enough in the mornings to greet her.

Bansheera's disappointment etches across my face and soon enough her spirit leaves my body and floats off. I sigh in relief as I do every morning when she vanishes. It feels so good to control my own actions; I never realized it until that bitch started occupying my body.

Yes, you hear right. Queen Bansheera possessed my body nightly in order to take advantage of my lover. And I would be Victoria.

No, I am not dead. Ryan brought me back to life with his sacrifice. He sacrificed his freedom and life for my own, pledging forever allegiance to Queen Bansheera so long as I live.

Early on, when I found out what he had bargained for me, I was tempted by suicide many times; I left Ryan to keep him safe from all this evil and if I had to do it one more time, I would. Unfortunately, the other half of the deal was that every night Queen Bansheera would be able to occupy my body and make love through me to Ryan. At first, it was hard for me to deal with, but after so many years it has become fairly normal to me; I just force myself to pretend her actions are really mine, and I make it through the night with some semblance of sanity.

Anyway, when Bansheera occupies my body, she can read my thoughts. It took five thwarted suicide attempts to for me to realize what was going on. I've been able to figure out how to hide certain thoughts from her over the years, but still she has destroyed my life...has taken my seeds of hope away from me, time and time again...

...I need to go and see Ryan.

***

More sweat beads at my temples and slides down my face. I barely register it as I continue to furiously pound the punching bag before me. Imagine it's Bansheera...imagine it's Bansheera...imagine it's Bansheera...

After all, Bansheera only stole everything away from me. Well, maybe she did give me back Victoria on some level, but she was the one who killed Victoria and took advantage of my distress when she made her bargain: Victoria's life for life-long servitude to her from the both of us, and the chance to bed me every single damn night through my lover's body. It's disgusting, and that's not even the half of it.

Victoria's been pregnant over a dozen times in the last eighteen years; I'm not sure on the exact number of times; I stopped counting after her fifth miscarriage. And trust me when I say that it isn't a problem with Victoria's body that causes this.

ARGH! I punch the bag furiously fast for a few minutes, but it still doesn't help me drive the pain away.

You know, half of the time, Victoria doesn't even know she's pregnant until Bansheera aborts it from her body; the last time - the most recent - she didn't know either.

Victoria came stumbling into the training room just about four mornings ago, AFTER Bansheera had left her body. Her cheeks were streaked with knowing tears as she clutched her stomach and winced painfully. Just looking at her appearance, I knew what was happening, just as she had known at the first sharp pain.

It happened right there in the farthest corner of the training room on the mats. I could only watch and help her through the pain as our tiny child was flushed from within her, stained with blood. Victoria's eyes were bloodshot and terribly dry as I met her gaze with my blurry eyes; her tears had run dry long before mine.

Afterwards, she cleaned up the mess of bodily fluids and healed herself once she regained her strength. Then, she simply left me alone sitting in the corner to grieve; I wasn't shocked by her leaving, we had gone through the process so many times that everything was routine.

This is Bansheera's game with us. She always takes away anything that could possibly give Victoria and I hope. A child is pure and innocent and good; it is hope, so it must be eliminated.

There is one thing that gives us hope that Bansheera hasn't managed to get her hands on: our son.

Evan is our hope. Victoria knows about how I left him with my sister in the knowledge that he would survive and thrive with her. We both were and still are sure that had we brought him with us, Bansheera would've found a way to kill him; without us, Bansheera can't get near him because she doesn't know the first place to look.

I know where the rebellion hides. I've spoken to my sister, I've seen my son as he's grown up; Victoria hasn't been able to have the same chance because we fear Bansheera finding out about Evan through Victoria's thoughts. So all Victoria knows is that Evan is safe and has certainly grown up; I hate having to keep her in the dark, but it's absolutely essential for Evan's protection.

***

Evan strode into the training area about an hour later, easily catching Carter's eye because they were the only two in the room. He knew Carter was going to yell at him for being late when he was actually on time. "Forget it, Grayson," he cracked at Carter, glaring at the older man as he removed his sweatshirt. "I know the punishment. Fifteen laps - I've got it covered; don't waste your breath."

Carter visibly tensed at the tone that Evan took with him, but didn't bother with punishing the young man any more. "Fine," was all Carter grumbled tersely. "Start."

Evan rolled his sharp green eyes, tossing his gray ragged sweatshirt aside and starting his laps. At first, Evan totally despised the laps Dana's husband and his ranger predecessor made him do, but after awhile he didn't really care. First of all, he knew there wasn't anything that he could do to change the situation, and secondly, the time taken up by the laps meant less time spent with Carter and more time to be alone and think.

When he ran, Evan thought about his life and tried to remember even the smallest thing about his short life topsoil. There were times when Evan could remember how his father used to smell when he cradled him in his arms as a baby: a strong sweet, sometimes musky, but always sweet. He could faintly recall his mother's tresses of red bronze and how he loved to reach for them because of their unusually pretty color. But that was all he could remember. There weren't any pictures of either of his parents anywhere; Dana had always claimed that time had flown so fast during that short period that they were with the other rangers and they hadn't the time to take any pictures.

Evan clung to the past tightly, trying to relive it in his present, and that was how he had lived for most of his life. As a child he was deeply introverted from anyone who hadn't known his mother or father, and even then, he had clung closest to Angela until she had died in one of the Titanium Ranger's attacks when he was ten. Her death brought around Evan's evolving from a shy and meek boy, to a fighter for vengeance and retribution: for his parents and for Angela. That was how he got into the mess of training with Carter daily for the past eight years.

That was how he became the lone Red Ranger.

***

Blindly, Victoria ran frantically down the halls of Skull Cavern, her long bronze hair whipping behind her and her breath coming in rasps. Her skimpy silk green nightgown hung off her shoulders sloppily as she darted around, trying to avoid running into the filthy human servants that walked the halls.

"RYAN..." she bemoaned, turning into a deserted corridor and collapsing to the ground.

Hearing Victoria's cries for her lover, a young dark-skinned girl rounded the corner and ran to the woman's side. Unlike the other humans that had been loitering in the halls, this girl was far superior to them in status due to her clean appearance. "Mistress!" she pleaded with Victoria, clutching the sobbing woman's arm and struggling to pull her up from the ground. "Mistress, PLEASE! You are ill! You must return to your quarters."

Victoria turned her head and looked at her personal servant, Isabella. "You don't have any siblings, do you, Isabella?"

Isabella shook her head, playing along with her mistress' game; Victoria usually had these bouts of madness and she always managed to ask the same questions time and time again. "No, Mistress. I don't have any siblings or relatives," she quickly answered, heaving Victoria onto her feet. "Now, please come with me. You need to rest."

"What about your parents?" Victoria continued to babble, walking along with Isabella. "Are they dead?"

"Yes, they are dead, Mistress."

"Did you love them?"

"No, Mistress."

"GOOD!"

They were nearly to Victoria and Ryan's quarters when Victoria asked something of Isabella she had never asked before.

"Have you ever wanted children, Isabella?"

The tall and young raven-haired girl stopped dead in her tracks before she attempted to answer while opening the door to the room before her. "Yes, Mistress. I have wished that one day I might be blessed with children," Isabella answered hesitantly, but truthfully as she had never before.

As Isabella slowly ushered her into the room and onto the unmade bed, Victoria blurted out her secret. "I have a son, Isabella. A beautiful baby boy. Looks more like me than Ryan, but I would suppose he has Ryan's-"

Just then, Ryan burst into the room, stopping Victoria mid-sentence and catching a glimpse of Isabella's shocked face. "The servants told me something was wrong with Victoria. Has she gone...?" Ryan trailed off, not wanting to call his companion delusional or crazy because she wasn't either at all.

Isabella simply nodded dumbly as Ryan took Victoria into his arms and rocked her back and forth, calming her madness. "Master?"

"Yes, Isabella," Ryan replied in a somewhat preoccupied manner.

"Do you and Mistress have a child?"

Isabella quickly caught the stiffening in the man as he hesitated to speak. However, Victoria whispered quietly, "Yes."

Ryan looked appalled at his companion for a moment, then realized slowly why she had told Isabella the truth.

Victoria has found Isabella in the wreckage of a building after a short altercation with a group of rebels just about twelve years ago. She had heard whimpering and followed her motherly instincts to discover a six-year old Isabella with a broken arm. Victoria instantly took to the girl the moment she saw her with long dark braids and pained brown eyes.

Victoria healed Isabella and then brought the girl back to Skull Cavern with her. She made sure that Isabella was cleaned up and given the best clothes. When Bansheera found out about Victoria's new friend, she fought with Victoria against it, but eventually lost because on the subject of Isabella, Victoria had more want than Bansheera's hate. So with that, Isabella became Victoria's private servant and learned everything from her mistress.

It was only year later that Victoria explained her reasons for taking Isabella under her wing. "She reminds me of myself," she had told him," but more so, she reminds me of Evan; they're the same age and both struggling without their real parents."

"Are you sure you want Isabella to know?" Ryan looked his lover in the eye and she nodded her answer.

Isabella was clearly confused. "Master? Mistress?"

"Isabella," Ryan began, "please sit down..."

***

After training alone with Carter for the entire morning, Evan headed towards the Hall - the name for the dining hall where rations were served - in search of his aunt.

As her wandered through the many corridors, girls and women alike ogled at him like he was dessert. Evan simply rolled his eyes at their antics. Here they were trapped and being hunted down, yet all these women could think of was frivolous things like kissing him. Yes, he was handsome and he knew that because every freaking person told him so as he grew up, but he didn't think that was important. What was important was reclaiming the topsoil from the demons, and even if it was a job he had to do himself, he was going to do it.

Pushing the doors of the Hall open, he spotted his aunt and his two cousins quickly; it was still a bit early and not everyone had arrived for lunch. "Evan!" Avery squealed happily as she also noticed him walking toward their table.

"Hey Avery," he greeted, smiling a bit at the kid then glancing over at her sister. "What'd you find now, Kari?"

"Nothing," the older blonde answered, absorbed in the archaically old laptop computer before her that took the place of her lunch. "Just writing in my journal."

"Oh." Evan shrugged, sitting down next to Dana at the table. "I need to talk to you."

Dana faced her nephew while taking a large swig from her beat-up tin coffee cup. "You do? What about?"

"I had another flash while I was training this morning." Evan's voice had dropped many tones as he spoke of delicate subject, but Avery still managed to eavesdrop as she leaned across the table as far as she could.

"OOH! You hadda flash?!" the little girl eagerly piped up.

Evan gritted his teeth in annoyance. "Yes, I did," he yapped at Avery. "And you know what? I had a flash you were going to die tomorrow!"

Avery instantly shut up, her cheery demeanor falling as she returned to picking at her lunch with her fork.

Dana simply shook her head at Evan's antics. "You DO realize she's only a seven-year old, right?"

"But she's so damn annoying!"

"And you're an only child who can't cope with having cousins/siblings!"

"You know that's not true, Aunt Dana. I had Kari! And she NEVER was as annoying!"

Realizing that Evan was not about to let go to the subject until she did, Dana returned back to their original topic of conversation. "What did you see this time?"

"I saw a flash of a woman in a green dress; she felt familiar, but she was far away and I couldn't see who she was," Evan slowly described, racking his mind for the vision and its important details. "Then I saw Vypra fighting me near one of the ration hideaways."

Dana mused on the information. "Sounds like Vypra might be trying to stop our teams from bringing in the ration delivery today," she hypothesized, purposefully avoiding the first half of Evan's flash.

"What about the woman?" Evan pushed eagerly, taking good notice of how his aunt had ignored that part of his vision. "What does she mean?"

Dana looked Evan directly in his sharp green eyes and quietly gave him his answer. "Your mother was wearing a green dress the last time your father saw her; really, the last time anyone saw her."

"Oh." Taking a few moments to absorb the new information, Evan bit his lip, slowly and painfully closing his eyes. He then opened them once more, with a renewed fire burning within them. "So, when's the next delivery?" he asked in an urgent tone.

"Within the hour." The older woman frowned. "You'd better get going right now if you want any chance of catching her."

"Alright." Evan stood up from the table and kissed his aunt on the cheek. "I'll be careful."

Dana grinned slightly at his insistence. "I know you will."

As Evan left the Hall, Avery watched him go and then turned to her mother. "Mommy, does Evan hate me?"

"Yes, he does," Karilee proclaimed with a snort, closing her laptop as she finished with it.

"Kari." Dana gave her oldest daughter a warning glare and then gave her attention to Avery. "Evan's just got a lot of things to do, Avery. He doesn't hate you."

"Oh." Avery pursed her lips in hard thought. "Why does Evan get flashes and we don't?"

"Evan's mommy was special. She knew all kinds of magic and she just gave her magic to him. That's why he gets those flashes."

***

"I wish I could meet your son, Mistress," Isabella sighed to Victoria as the older woman returned to her quarters from a meeting with Olympius.

"From what Ryan tells me he's not very big on girls swooning over him, Isabella, so don't think you can catch his attention that way," she laughed, stripping from her black cloak and gown.

"Oh, no!" Isabella exclaimed and blushed, seeing she had been misunderstood. "I want to meet him because he's with the rebellion!"

"SHUSH!" Victoria quickly placed her hand over the young girl's mouth. "Do not even mention that! Bansheera might hear you; that demon has ears EVERYWHERE! Besides, I'm going off to fight that rebellion you're so fond of right now!" Easily, she slipped into her breastplate as she spoke, then pulled on her gloves and armbands.

"Olympius' orders, Mistress?"

Victoria put on the rest of her armor and lastly, attached her sheathed sword onto her waist. "Of course, his orders. Why would I fight my own blood willingly?"

***

Evan walked around the topsoil of the ration station as the group of men finished hauling all the rations into the back of their truck, stolen from Bansheera's henchmen.

"Can you guys be a little faster about it?" Evan called back, ever wary of the upcoming attack he had envisioned.

"We're trying, Evan. Believe me, we're trying," one of the older men replied hastily, while they pushed the last barrel of rations onto the rickety truck. "There. We're good to go."

Just as his words reached Evan's ears, Vypra and her battalion of battlings turned round a darkened corner of a nearby semi-demolished building. "How perfect," Vypra crooned gaily toward the startled and frightened men scrambling into the truck. "You finished just in time for us to ruin it all. It's always such fun to watch you rebels lose hope."

Standing between the ration truck and Vypra, Evan coughed loudly and noticeably.

Vypra did a mock double take at Evan and laughed. "Oh, don't worry, Red Ranger. I didn't forget you standing there, trying to save the day."

Evan folded his gloved arms across his chest and shook his head at Vypra. "You're a riot, Vypra. I beat you down continuously and you STILL come back for more. I never took you for a masochist, but-"

"BATTLINGS, ATTACK!"

The flock of battlings quickly took off toward the ration truck and hideaway, and Evan looked on as the truck narrowly escaped from the attack, speeding off and down one of the narrow, deserted side streets. With the ration delivery safely out of the way, Evan went to work on the battlings, pulling his laser pistol from its holster and firing on them, one after another falling.

Vypra easily caught onto his game and threw an energy blast at his hands, forcing him to throw his gun aside. "Come and play with me, Red Ranger," she taunted him when he spun around to face her. "I'll give you a real challenge."

Very much tempted by the battle, Evan moved toward Vypra and whipped out his sword to meet Vypra's with a loud clang. The two danced around each other throughout the fight, each attack to weaken the opponent's defenses met with the perfect countermeasure - almost as if they had sparred with each other for their entire lives. This routine continued until Vypra finally relented, seeing her battlings had done enough damage to the rebel ration station to fulfill her orders.

Bowing out gracefully, Vypra grinned devilishly. "I'd love to continue, Red Ranger, but it seems as if my job is done for now." Within seconds, her battlings had lined up behind her, and she vanished into her aura with the winged creatures following suit.

Once they had left, Evan turned his attention back to where the ration hideaway had once stood to now see the rubble that was the battlings' handiwork. Cursing himself for being so easily swayed into the battle with Vypra, Evan returned his sword to its place and began his trek home to report his failure to the Almighty Carter.

***

"I swear, it's like that boy inherited his father's moves..." Victoria quietly muttered to herself as she walked down the halls of Skull Cavern to return to her quarters so that she could rid herself of her armor. "He's too easily lured by a fight, though; impatient. Another one of his father's qualities he inherited..."

The petite woman smiled mysteriously to herself, not completely noticing when Olympius joined her on her walk. "So I take it everything went well with your skirmish by that smile on your face?"

Startled slightly by his appearance, Victoria quickly recomposed herself and replied coolly, "Well, the ration station of the rebels has been destroyed if that's what you mean."

"Nothing else?" Olympius' voice was almost hopeful and Victoria was nauseous at the sound.

"You told me only to destroy the ration station and the truck if I could get it. I did what you asked-" The demon son of Bansheera cut off Victoria's innocent little spiel.

"You did what my mother told me to tell you to do, not what I wanted. If I had my way, all these little rebel ants would have died a terribly long time ago." He stopped before the door of her quarters and leaned on the wall across from it. "I think my mother has an infatuation with these humans and their pathetic attempts to undermine her."

Victoria placed her hand on the doorknob and leaned slightly against her door. She wasn't surprised by Olympius' casualness because he had always treated her as if she were no different than him; he didn't think of her or Ryan as humans - he had never thought of the two of them as humans because they had been bad and "demons" ever since he was a baby as Impus. Their little stint on the side of the Power Rangers hadn't phased his image of them; Ryan and Victoria had been evil much longer than good. "I think that perhaps the Queen is trying to break their will slowly, so that when they do eventually surrender, it will be unconditional." Victoria actually knew for a fact that that was exactly what Bansheera was trying to do because she had gotten the original idea from Victoria when she possessed her. Of course, the demoness had no idea that Victoria had planted that plan for her, so as to buy precious time for the rebels.

"I suppose you're right," Olympius acknowledged as Victoria slowly slipped into her room. "They are terribly stubborn. Will you be coming to dinner?"

Victoria nodded her head. "Ryan probably won't make it though. It's his weekly night patrol tonight."

"Right. I'll see you then, Vypra. Good job today."

"Thanks."

She quickly shut the door and sighed heavily in relief. "What a life I lead. One minute I'm crazy mad, and the next minute I'm cool and calm. I cover for my lover, I fight against my son, and I play friendly with demons..."

Tugging her armored wings off her back, the petite woman collapsed face forward onto her bed to take a nap before her expected, and mandatory, attendance at dinner.

"Ganbatte, Ryan..."

***

As the darkness of the natural night fell upon the conquered Mariner Bay, Ryan walked the streets confidently as the "evil" Titanium Ranger with his battalion of battlings following and ready to snap to his commands.

Early on at the beginning to the demons' reign, Ryan had suggested that he take weekly night patrols as a way of keeping control over the city and capture any of its survivors for Queen Bansheera. Of course, she had jumped all over the plan happily and had let him implement it himself, which was what he had been counting on.

The weekly patrols proved to be the perfect guise for his selfish intensions. He needed to find the survivors, needed to know that his sister was safe and that his son was alive. So, once a week, under the false pretense that he would seek and capture all survivors, Ryan set out with his troops into the deserted streets. Of course, they all split up; covering more ground, he explained, but really to allow him the freedom to pursue his own search without being caught.

It only took him a month to find them in the subways.

Dana was fine, as was Evan. Miss Fairweather - Angela - had saved his son.

It was during his second visit to the underground hideaway that Ryan had insisted on seeing and holding his son. Dana reluctantly brought Evan to her brother, and he clutched his son desperately to his chest. It was during that visit with Evan that Ryan cried tears of sorrow: tears for Victoria, for Evan, for Dana, for his father, for everyone that had suffered because of him. It was the last time Ryan demanded on seeing Evan.

Ryan snapped from his reverie momentarily to give out directions. He sent groups of battlings to the northern, southern, and eastern parts of the city while he took the western part - always.

Heading off in his direction, he didn't need to look around himself to know where he was headed. After eighteen years of tracing the same route on a weekly basis come rain or shine, he had an instinct and intuition about his direction.

Eventually, he came upon a random demolished building and looked around quickly before demorphing into his simple rebel disguise of a faded blue shirt and dirty, torn jeans. He then proceeded to climb up the remains of the demolished building. Near the back of the rubble pile there was a small hole covered over with broken beams of wood and metal. Ryan pushed aside the rubble until there was a hole big enough so he could barely slip through. Dusting his hands off on his jeans, he then carefully slid himself through the hole and fell a few feet downward until he felt his feet meet the solid stone of the old subway steps. He continued on his downward descent into the caverns of the subway from there.

He trekked for about twenty minutes, making a dizzying number of lefts and rights as per usual, and finally ended up just outside the outskirts of the rebel compound. Two guards stood stoically at the nearest entrance into the compound and were armed to the hilt. However, Ryan wouldn't have to worry about them because Dana waited just inside the entrance, ready to escort him in.

He approached the entrance and Dana quickly spotted him. She leaned over to one of the guards and said something to him. When she finished, the guard stepped aside and allowed Ryan inside the compound.

He calmly followed Dana's lead to wherever she was taking him and looked straight ahead. It gave him the appearance of a courier from one of the other rebel compounds, which kept the people in the corridors from examining him too much; Dana always managed to keep him clear of Carter and the other former rangers, as well as Evan.

This time around Dana led him to her quarters, knowing no one would be there and that they wouldn't return too soon. She opened the door and ushered Ryan inside, then followed him and shut the door tightly behind her.

Dana stood before him in the semi-messy room, her aged features gazing fondly at her brother's still youthful face.

Ryan simply smiled and enveloped his little sister in a hug. "God, I've missed you so much..."

"It's only been seven days, Ryan," Dana chuckled softly, pulling away from her brother's hug and unconsciously tugging her ponytail a bit tighter.

Ryan shook his head and ran his hand through his hair, making it even more disheveled than it had been. "The longest seven days of my life," he muttered, glancing at his sister. "Victoria lost another baby."

Dana's face instantly fell and her eyes filled with sorrow. "I'm so sorry, Ryan."

Her brother nodded, as Dana took a seat in a nearby chair and he continued to stand. "I know you are. And one might think I'd be so used to going though this never-ending cycle." He began to pace the room feverishly as his anger slowly bubbled. "But every time...every time she comes to me...and I see...it; I just can't lose another to Bansheera like this!!" Ryan threw his fist against the concrete wall as to punctuate his exclamation furthermore.

Dana watched her brother as he returned to his tense pacing, his pain peeling off him in large waves. "You need to calm down, Ryan," she softly pleaded. "Try not to think about it; tell me about something else."

He told her everything else he could. He told her about Isabella and how she had been brought into the small fold of secrets and lies. He told her about how restless Olympius was to do away with the rebellion, but that Queen Bansheera's implanted ideas from Victoria stood in his way and allowed time for the rebels. He even told her how coming to see her every week was a lifeline for him in a dark, cursed world. And to think, he once feared revealing his vulnerability to his sister. How he wish he could go back to that once upon a time, just to escape the hellish existence he led now...

After ranting and raving to his sister, Ryan realized how inconsiderate he was being and was just about to ask her what was happening with her, when the door of the room burst open and there stood Carter and Evan in the doorway, apparently in the midst of a heated conversation.

Dana looked quite startled, almost like a deer caught in a car's headlights, but Ryan wasn't the least bit ruffled by the sudden interruption and maintained calm composure, hiding all of his formerly expressed emotions.

Carter and Evan on the other hand, both were stunned into silence by the unexpected guest with Dana.

The current Red Ranger didn't know what to make of the situation, except for the fact that if his aunt was cheating on Carter, he was all for it. The jerk deserved to realize that everything wasn't under his control, as he liked to believe.

The former Red Ranger's first reaction to the stranger was to examine the unknown man with his wife and it only took him a fraction of a second to identify him. Even after the many years of his cowardly actions of abandoning his son and family, he retained the youthful messy look that had coldly rejected Carter years ago. "I didn't know you were expecting anyone, Dana." He broke the silence, looking to his wife for an explanation of some kind.

"I wasn't," Dana answered hastily, then continued to elaborate, "but this courier came from the North Rebel camp to inform me of some of the Titanium Ranger's movements in the area, so I was talking with him so Evan could possibly be ready for the next attack."

Carter's worn gaze narrowed tightly on Ryan, and he noticed. "Perhaps I should leave now," Ryan suggested, heading toward the door and averting his eyes from his sister's husband.

"No." Evan stopped him, clasping Ryan on the shoulder. "You were here for something important and we interrupted; we should leave."

Ryan faced his son and looked at him for a long moment.

Evan had inherited his mother's coloring with the dark hair and the lightly tanned skin, but had Ryan's stature with his height and sleek, yet strong build. He had gotten most of Ryan's facial features as well, especially the blazing green eyes that his father had once, before they had dulled and hardened.

Dana's voice broke through Ryan's awe of his grown son.

"No, it's okay, Evan. We were just finished."

Ryan turned to looked back at his sister and nodded mutely. "So, I'll just try to come back to you with those reports as soon as possible?" he questioned, feigning the continuation of their supposed former conversation.

Dana didn't even miss a beat. "Yes, that'll be it. Thank you."

"No problem," Ryan acknowledged, slipping past the two men and exiting out into the hall. He then quickly proceeded to leave the compound, and it wasn't until he had left it and was a far distance away that he even tried to breathe.

***

One would assume that eating dinner would be a pleasurable experience, but that was exactly the opposite for Victoria.

She sat on one side of the long dining table in the cold and bare dining hall - dressed in simple black as required - directly across from Olympius while Queen Bansheera kind of half-floated, half-sat at the head of the table. Before herself and Olympius were large ancient goblets filled with demon wine while only one plate of food was in front of her because demons couldn't really eat, and Bansheera wouldn't have been able to eat even if she had wanted.

So as Victoria picked at her food, the ghostly demoness began the usual dinner conversation, which wasn't really dinner conversation at all, but actually a daily update of activities. These conversations were exactly why Victoria hated dinner - it wasn't even really dinner!

"Did you destroy the ration base today?"

"Yes."

"And the Red Ranger?"

"Still as good as new and still alone."

"Where is Ryan?"

Victoria took a sip from her goblet before answering her queen's anxious voice and was about to when a clean, freshly dressed Ryan walked into the dining hall. Following in his lover's lead, he dressed in a simple silk shirt and slacks, completely black. "I'm right here, my queen," Ryan answered smoothly, a smile dancing upon his lips.

Quickly, he made his way to Victoria's side and just as he sat down, one of the servants hastily set a plate of food and a goblet of wine before him. "You seem quite pleased with yourself, Ryan. I assume, you succeeded in your rounds since you returned so soon?" Bansheera questioned lightly - her voice suddenly filled with emotion, something that it had been lacking when speaking with Victoria.

"Actually, I unfortunately didn't, my queen," Ryan replied, taking a long drink from his goblet. "The night was too cold; no rebel in their right mind would have been out wandering on the streets. That is actually why I returned."

Victoria watched happily as she took a backseat to Ryan and he continued his conversation with Queen Bansheera. He was quite the actor; twenty years before he wouldn't have been able to lie himself out of a corner, but now he did it with flawless grace. Lying had become necessary to both of their survivals and so they took the art to a level of perfection.

She had never been comfortable under the scrutiny of the demoness who possessed her, and it was because Bansheera possessed her that Victoria was immensely uncomfortable. That, and she continually threatened her life, but Victoria believed she was okay - after all, without her, Bansheera would have NO relationship with Ryan whatsoever...right?

Pulling away from her reverie, the Asian beauty continued to eat her dinner meagerly while starting up a conversation with Olympius on the status of the demonic shield surrounding the city, drowning out the thoughts of a jealous, envious Queen Bansheera.

***

"Why the Hell was Ryan here?"

Carter's voice managed to remain toneless and cold as the words left his mouth, betraying his emotions.

Dana turned around from where she had just shut the door to the room following Evan's recent departure. "Couldn't wait one minute, could you?" she spat spitefully, sighing and leaning heavily against the door.

Carter didn't even blink at her words, his jaw only tightened and his veins slowly beginning to throb. "Why was he here, Dana? You said Ryan committed suicide all those years ago. You said that Bansheera must've stolen his morpher. You said that Vypra must've betrayed Ryan for Bansheera. You told us all THAT!" Carter's brown eyes burned with anger and betrayal. "YOU LIED!"

"I did lie." Dana calmly and freely admitted, meeting Carter's furious gaze with her calm blue eyes. "But if you're going to try to send me on a guilt trip, you're not going to be able to because I don't regret hiding this from you; you might've just ruined it all with that impulsive temper of yours."

Carter's rage slowly cooled down a little bit to allow for a small amount of confusion to rise. "So, what really happened? What really has been going on?" he asked, then added, "I promise I won't blow up at you."

The blonde woman arched her eyebrow warily, but still told the story.

"Ryan's letter didn't tell me that he had committed suicide to be with Victoria. His letter told me that he had left to join up with Bansheera in a deal to bring Victoria back from the dead. He had made a literal deal with the devil to save her - his service and never wavering loyalty as well as Victoria's for her life to be spared," Dana hesitated momentarily on whether to tell Carter about Victoria's struggle with Bansheera and quickly decided not to; she didn't think Ryan would take kindly to her telling Carter about that particularly delicate situation which was already hard enough to deal with.

"He had no choice, BUT to attack us on that day with Vypra. After our retreat underground, Ryan came searching for us, hoping to find us all alright."

"You mean his son," Carter muttered under his breath.

Dana blinked at him angrily with a glare. "Of course he was checking if his son was still alive - what do you think has kept him and Victoria going all of these years?! You'd do the same thing for Kari or Avery if you had to and you know it!"

Carter sat down at the edge of the bed, sufficiently rebuked for the time being.

"As I was saying, Ryan found us after a month of searching. Because everything was so chaotic at the time, he was able to blend in with the rest of the survivors and found me. Ever since, we've been having secret weekly meetings, always changing our rendezvous points for the sake of avoiding all of you; Ryan wasn't ready to deal with all of your reactions and even now, I don't think he is." She paused, musing quietly on her brother. "He has enough to deal with, playing Bansheera's loyal little soldier."

"What about his looks; his age? He doesn't look a day older than twenty to me."

"Bansheera has "gifted" both of them with eternal youth; she's quite fond of both Victoria and Ryan." Of course, Dana didn't care to completely divulge how fond Bansheera had become of Ryan for the sake of some semblance of privacy for her "younger" brother.

Following her words, a hush fell over the both of them until Carter once again dared to speak.

"So he knows? He knows about Evan...about everything?"

Dana nodded. "If you're referring to if he knows Evan is the Red Ranger now, yes, he knows and so does Victoria; they know about his visions too. From what I understand from Ryan, Victoria doesn't particularly enjoy fighting her own son, but she enjoys tutoring him in her own way."

"Does she know if Evan's magic will evolve to something more than his visions?"

"She believes he has a lot more magical potential, but she doesn't know what it will manifest as because he grew up with us and wasn't raised to have a demonic nature like her. His powers may never even come to evolve."

Carter nodded understandingly, his features much calmer than before. "Well, it's too bad because we could really use some of that demonic magic on our side." He glanced over at his wife and hesitated slightly before again speaking. "You're not going to tell Evan, are you?"

"No," she easily answered. "There's no way I could tell something like that to Evan; I can't imagine how he'd react to hearing that he'd been lied to his entire life. Besides, Ryan wouldn't want me to tell him."

"Why not?" Carter was intrigued. If anything, he thought Ryan might jump at the chance, given all of the circumstances. "I've never thought highly of Ryan and to deny his own son would just give me more reason-"

"Think about it, Carter," Dana snapped a bit harshly, cutting him off. She wasn't going to let him bad-mouth Ryan, not this time. "Ryan has had eighteen years filled with chances to confront Evan and tell him the truth, but he's never taken any of them because he can't face what he's done and what he's become. Ryan is the Titanium Ranger and Victoria is Vypra, a demon enchantress. How could either of them face their son and tell him that they abandoned him and became the scourge of Mariner Bay because they had no choice?! Evan would blame them for everything, and they would blame themselves for being selfish, and neither of them deserves any blame. Eighteen years of evil and pain simply can't be justified, and both Ryan and Victoria are ashamed of their choices..."

***

"So, how did your rounds really go tonight?"

Victoria crept up from behind Ryan, her arms slipping around his bare abdomen as she hugged him dearly and kissed his back softly. Ryan's gaze remained fixated on something far away - far beyond the darkened Mariner Bay below that the small view of their iron-barred window allowed - until he snapped himself out of his trance.

"What?"

"Did you talk with Dana tonight?" Victoria was now concerned as she took notice of his far-off gaze, knowing something was on his mind. She moved to face her lover. "You came back a lot earlier than usual."

Ryan turned away from the window and walked across the room to sit down on their bed. "I saw Dana." He answered somewhat reluctantly. "And I saw Evan."

Victoria cocked her head peculiarly at him and took a moment to actually absorb the shock. "Wait, you actually SAW our son?" She spoke slowly and skeptically, hoping she hadn't heard wrong.

"Yeah, I saw him," he acknowledged distractedly, his eyes cast toward the floor and gnawing on his lower lip. He then nodded casually and forced a small laugh. "I even talked to him."

Victoria literally burst with joyful laughter, grinning from ear to ear. "You actually SAW him! Evan!" She excitedly jumped to his side, plopping onto the bed. "That explains your mood at dinner; why you were so happy. This is AMAZING! What did he look like? Does he look like-"

All the while through her rambling, Ryan was solemn and Victoria almost didn't notice because she was so happy, but then quickly cut herself off when she did. "Ryan? What happened? Why do you look like you just had sex with Bansheera?"

Ryan was silent for a moment before he simply began to talk, his thoughts flowing directly from his mind to his lips. "He has your coloring, the dark hair and the bronzed skin. He's tall like me, and strong; he carries himself with confidence, and yet loneliness still emanates from him. He's stubborn like the both of us, and he doesn't seem to judge by appearance." He paused, his eyes clearly remembering every feature of his son. He swallowed slowly, repressing his need to shed tears. "He has my eyes, a bright and hopeful green."

Victoria solemnly crawled up behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders, whispering in his ear. "You didn't tell him, did you?"

He quickly jerked away from her touch. "I couldn't!" he cried in frustration, roughly running his hand through his hair. "I couldn't tell him! How could I?! How do I tell my son that I am his father and that I left him to become evil?!" He was breathing rapidly, frantically hoping to tell Victoria and then be rid of the problem forever. "I COULDN'T tell him!"

"But you didn't leave him for evil!" Victoria insisted, trying to calm him down. "You left him because you had no choice! Bansheera tricked you into sacrificing him for me! You left to save me! And even if you hadn't, you KNOW that Evan would have been in more danger with you than without you; it was safer to leave him with Dana! You left him to protect him!"

"I know that, you know that, but how could HE understand that?!" Ryan appealed angrily, his head in his hands. "All he believes is that we were killed by Bansheera in the attack that pushed all the humans underground, when really we left him to join up with the evil that he fights everyday! If I had told him the truth, why would he have any reason to believe me? He wouldn't! He couldn't!"

Ryan faced Victoria, his dark jaded eyes filled with tears. "He doesn't need us Victoria," he whispered painfully. "I know, both of us have been hoping and dreaming that one day - one day - we would be able to tell him the truth. But we can't do that now; we waited too long, we did nothing for too long, it's too late. It's better we protect him from afar..."

Victoria watched frantically as her lover reluctantly gave up on their dream of ever living through the Hell that surrounded them to somehow be reunited with their estranged son. She shook her head adamantly. "No...no..." She whispered forcefully. "I won't give up on this, Ryan; I CAN'T give up. Evan's my son, I can't let go of him; I can't. I won't." Lifting her eyes from where they had been staring down at the cold floor, she stared straight into Ryan's eyes. "You're going to help me, Ryan. If you can't tell him the truth, then I'll go to him and tell him the truth."

The dark blond's eyes widened. "No, Victoria, you can't. You KNOW what would happen if you did. The night after you return, Bansheera would raid your thoughts and she'd know everything; we can't afford that."

"You're her golden soldier, Ryan," she quietly stated with a distasteful snicker. "You have nothing to lose; you could do wrong and Bansheera wouldn't do anything. I have EVERYTHING to lose. She keeps me because I'm useful sometimes and because I keep you happy for her; that's all.

"Without my son - without the hope and the joy that he feeds to me everyday he breathes - without that, I have nothing in my life to keep me going; you should've just let me die at Bansheera's hand so many years ago." She reached out and touched his startled face, her hand grazing down his cheek. "I love you, Ryan, but if you're going to give up on this one last hope, then you'll be alone because I can't give up."

Slowly, Victoria stood up and slipped under the sheets of their bed. "Ryan, get up and act normal, please," she requested softly, rolling onto her side in the bed. "Bansheera's coming soon and we can't look as if we just had an argument or she'll probe my mind more than usual."

Ryan stoically stood up, extinguished the torch in the room, and fell into the bed, taking Victoria into his arms. Both closed their eyes and calmly awaited Bansheera's arrival.

Part Two

It's been two weeks since I last saw Ryan and I'm worried.

Intelligence reports from the rebel bases under Joel and Chad's leadership have reported that the Titanium Ranger has been out and about in his normal weekly rounds, so at least I know that he is alright and alive. But as to why Ryan hasn't been around in the last two weeks, I have no clue.

Well, maybe I do have one clue. Evan has been having more visions lately, ominous visions. Visions of what he believes to be his mother visiting him - returning to him - and then Vypra and the Titanium Ranger writhing and dying a horrible death. Some of them actually include a battle between Vypra and the Titanium Ranger.

Evan believes that they are a good omen: that the demons will soon be destroyed and that humans will be restored to topsoil. Of course, I know better and realize that what he's seeing is so much more of a bad thing than a good thing. I just don't know what that bad thing is.

I talked to Carter about Evan's visions and he agreed with me on the ominous factor, but it's apparent he could care less about what happens to both Ryan and Victoria. The way he can be so heartless sometimes, it makes me crazy mad. He only knows how to think in black and white, and never is there any gray. I tell you, it's very frustrating being married to man like him, but I do care for him and love him nonetheless.

Speaking of Ryan and Carter, Carter has insisted on telling the rest of the former rangers about Ryan's alive status. We spent a week fighting over it tooth and nail after he found out, but when Ryan didn't show up for our meeting that week, Carter sealed his fate. "He decided to not come, not to confront us, and so he has no say in who we tell, and I believe it's incredibly important that we tell the rest of the team what really happened to him; we've been living a lie too long," were his exact words, if I remember correctly.

I could only roll my eyes at that because really Ryan, Victoria, and Evan are being forced to live the ultimate lie; lies have shaped the entire course of their lives.

***

Sometimes I can remember the past vividly, and sometimes I can't remember it at all. It's never my choice whether I do or I don't, I just remember and I hate it. I don't want to remember anything; I mean, who would want to if they were me?

When I was a baby, my parents were killed by demons and now, I don't even remember them. Following that, the entire city was destroyed by those same demons, who now enslave half of us and have driven the rest into underground hiding. Then, during my childhood, I was literally ignored by Carter, which didn't exactly lend to my emotional health. At ten, the one woman that I saw as the closet thing I had to a mother was killed by the Titanium Ranger, whose powers were originally my father's. And it was because of Angela's death that I took it upon myself to kill every last demon oppressing us now.

So you see, my life so far has been incredibly depressing, but PLEASE don't feel sorry for me because I get enough of that from all the girls who throw themselves at me and say they're so sorry for my loss, when they never really mean it and only say it as a chance to touch me. It's tiring and hassling; it's easier to not remember if no one else remembers, but it seems like everyone and their freakin' MOTHER remembers.

It has been two weeks since the last attack and it's gotten more and more difficult to forget. There are no distractions, like when I would fight with Vypra and get that feeling of adrenaline pumping like crazy through my veins. All I have are non-stop visions. Of course, the visions aren't all too bad because they depict the death of all the demons, but along with those visions I apparently have visions of my mother too. So I remember more and I feel the need to brood more.

Of my two parents, I remember my mother more vividly, even though Dana tells me that she passed away earlier than my father did. Supposedly there's a connection between a child and their mother: one stronger than any other bond; I think I'm living proof of that.

She's always in my visions: sometimes she's humming, sometimes she's laughing, and sometimes I just feel her warmth. She's pretty - the epitome of all beauty in the world - and although I've never seen her, I can just feel her and know it deep down within me. Her soul is embedded in mine.

Having her by my side in those visions sometimes makes it a little easier to deal with all that I've lived through.

*****

Ryan's upset.

Well, he's been upset since that night we argued over Evan, but of course he hides it incredibly well from everyone but me. He can't hide his emotions from me; we're two sides of the same coin. I know how he feels.

We rarely talk; it's just like it used to be when I first started miscarrying them. We couldn't talk to each other about the pain; we had grown up being taught to not show weakness, to hide it at all costs. It took us awhile to realize that we had to turn to one another for solace because we had no one else to talk to, no one who could truly understand. This time our silence stems from a lack of understanding: he doesn't understand my love for our son, and I don't understand his neglect toward our son.

I'm going to sneak into the rebel compound.

I won't let Ryan stop me, because he won't know. He doesn't understand my need to see my son - to see my hope. After so many sacrificed lives, I've had enough. I've finally realized that I have to break free or I'll live forever in shackles. I can't do that, maybe Ryan can because he is utterly adored here, but I can't because I'm the ignored one; I was never important in the scheme of things - I'm just insurance for Bansheera. When she made that deal with Ryan so many years ago, she made it to capture him in her grasp, not me.

Bansheera will send me to attack something rebel related today. She always does, because today is Wednesday: the day Evan was born on and the day we destroyed Mariner Bay. I will face down Evan in a little skirmish and then retreat, but I won't return to Skull Cavern this time. This time I will hide nearby and when Evan begins to return to the rebel compound, I will follow him.

Meanwhile, Isabella will cover for me with Ryan, Olympius, and Bansheera. She will insist that I am out on search roundup to Bansheera and Olympius. To Ryan, she will lie expertly - perhaps better than Ryan himself - and tell him anything to keep him occupied.

If all goes well, my son will know the truth by sundown.

*****

I can feel the warmth of the sun upon my tingling skin, cool grass beneath my fingertips. I can hear delicate laughter, giggling. I can feel a grin spread across my lips at the sweet sound, and I open my eyes to view the bluest of blue skies.

I sit up to find myself in the middle of a lush meadow, many varieties of flowers blooming around me in the vibrant colors of life. Upon the light breeze, the fragrant spring is carried to me as well as the soft laughter of bliss.

Not too far away from me are Victoria and Isabella, both spinning carelessly among the flowers. Both are wearing light, flowing dresses of white that tangle around them as they spin. Their hair is loose and long and dark, fanning behind them and giving them the appearance of flowers in full-bloom.

I watch them, fascinated for a time, until they stop and collapse to the ground, still laughing merrily. I smile widely, and as I do, I finally register that Victoria is holding something in her arms. She holds it to her chest carefully and protectively, and I see both women begin to turn their attention to it. A baby's pleased gurgles barely reach my ears.

"Evan..." I breathe quietly to myself, and as my son's name leaves my lips I find myself waking to the reality of the dark and damp quarters I share with my lover in Skull Cavern.

It takes me a minute to realize what I had just experienced was a dream, and once I do, I groan and roll out of bed. I stretch and quickly take notice that Victoria has already woken and left. For once, this is actually good because I don't think I could bear to see her this morning after that dream.

Ever since our argument, I haven't been able to face Victoria in the way I wish I could. She thinks I don't understand her connection to our son, but in all truth, I do; I love him just as much as she does. It's just that I'm scared.

Yes, I am scared. Ryan Mitchell, Bansheera's golden soldier, is scared.

I'm scared of actually meeting Evan. Technically, I have already met him, but I mean meeting under the pretenses of telling him that I am his father and that I'm actually still alive. I'm scared of his reaction and I'm scared of my own reaction; I'm scared of what Bansheera could do to him if she ever found out.

I hope Victoria at least understands that last thing. Bansheera could destroy our son easily if we let him fall into her grasp. She would destroy us if she found out that we've been lying to her.

As I put on my sweats to go work out, a sudden thought strikes me and fills me with dread. Victoria did say she might try to go to Evan herself. Oh, shit. Please, do not tell me she went today, of all days to go.

I speedily pull on a shirt and run down the hall in search of my companion, hoping she hasn't yet made the biggest mistake she could ever possibly make.

***

Evan walked into the Hall and looked around at the mass of nearly all the residents of the camp squeezed into the small space. Everyone was dressed to the nines, or at least as nicely as they could be considering the circumstances; Evan wore some simple black pants and a worn red polo shirt passed down to him through Carter. Though crowded, the noise level in the Hall was at an incredibly low level and the overall attitude was somber.

Today was the anniversary of the Fall.

As had been the ritual since the first year following the Fall, everyone congregated in the Hall early that morning to prepare to pay their respects to those lost in the battle. Early being before the sun actually rose on topsoil, and perhaps too early as many young children demonstrated with their whines of exhaustion. However, the timing of the event couldn't be helped; it really was one of the few times that they would be somewhat safe from a demon attack.

Evan made his way up to the front of the room where the rest of his family stood waiting for him. "For once, you're on time," Carter scoffed at the younger man as he came up to hug Dana tightly.

"I could never be late for this." Evan easily rolled Carter's comment off of his shoulders, moving to stand beside the older man. "It's the only time you ever respect my parents' memory; I can't really miss that."

Carter momentarily exchanged a skeptical glance with Dana while Evan turned to address his two cousins quickly.

"Alright, people!" Carter bellowed over the crowd, whom had been at a low hush and now fell to silence. "I think we all know how this works. The groups have already been assigned: the first group will be going with me, the second will be going with Dana, and the third will be with Evan. Please remember to stick together and while we don't want to hurry everyone, each group only has about twenty minutes at the Aquabase ruins. So, if the first group would please head out into the corridor we can get started right away."

Carter stepped down from the bench he had been standing on and began to head out of the Hall with Avery, as did about a third of the assembled group of mourners.

"What group are you going with this year, Kari?" Evan asked his younger cousin, shoving his hands into his pockets.

"Yours." The petite blonde teenager grinned up at him. "I've gone with Mom a few times and Dad a bunch of times, but never with you."

"You make it sound like I've been leading groups for years; this is only my third year," the Red Ranger chuckled, hugging her close to him.

Dana poked her nephew in the side playfully. "You're only a rookie at this stuff, so you had better keep an eye out for my daughter, or I'll have your scalp!" she teased.

"What happened to all that faith you had in me?" the eighteen-year-old teased back with a wink.

"Flew right out the window." Just then, a group of girls a bit older than Kari passed by the group of three and kept looking at Evan and giggling. Dana and her daughter exchanged glances and laughed. "Maybe I should have Kari keep an eye out for you, Evan! I can't even imagine how many girls signed up to be in your group..."

"Not just girls, Aunt Dana, lots of women too." Evan sighed, recalling how he had gone through the list last week and had to move a good amount of the women to Dana and Carter's groups because his had been way too big for him to handle. "I don't understand them. They have no concept of the fact that we could lose our lives any minute in an attack by Vypra or Titanium Ranger! They're delusional!"

"Or they're just in denial," Kari pointed out rather nicely. "It already sucks living underground: who the heck would want to think about death?"

Evan stared at his cousin for a moment, and then snorted. "Hmm. Maybe you're right, Kari."

"I KNOW I'm right!" Kari declared victoriously, trotting off to join some of her friends before it was their turn to leave.

For awhile, the two remaining relatives were quiet until Dana spoke up. "I know you'll be careful, but just watch yourself, alright, Evan?"

The dark-haired man looked over at his aunt and noted the worry in her eyes. "Don't worry, I'll be fine," he assured her with a soft smile and a consoling touch. "Nothing has ever happened before on this day, and I really don't see a reason for anything to happen today."

***

"You're up early today."

Victoria pounded out a few more punches on the punching bag before she stopped, facing Ryan, who walked toward her from the doorway. "Isabella came by to measure me for a new dress Bansheera wants me to wear." Stray wisps of bronze hair fell out of her ponytail and into her brown eyes, and Ryan found himself resisting the temptation to simply reach out and brush them away. "A nice long red number."

"You don't look good in red."

"She knows that."

The casual, yet strained, conversation between the lovers came to a halt as Victoria moved away from Ryan toward the side of the training room. As she patted her sweaty face off with her towel, Ryan pulled off his shirt and tossed it to the side of the mats.

Victoria found her attention momentarily swayed by her partner's gorgeous upper body, but quickly snapped herself back into reality and approached Ryan from the opposite side of the mats. Reaching back to tighten her ponytail, she asked, "So, just sparring?"

"No, use your magic too." Ryan kicked his shoes off to land near where his shirt lay, flexing his toes as he did so. "You haven't done that in awhile; I could use the practice."

The enchantress nodded her head and without a moment's notice, threw an energy ball at Ryan.

Swiftly, he flipped over the charge and unleashed a kick at her, but before he could nail it, Victoria had ducked down in an effort to sweep him off his feet with a lower kick. Ryan picked up on her move and fell backwards onto the mats purposely, springing right back up when she pulled back. She flipped over him quickly and caught him momentarily off-guard from behind with another kick. Ryan fell forward onto his hands, but easily moved his foot out to temporarily trip Victoria up, allowing him a brief moment to recover and face her again.

They continued on like so for a rather long time: meeting each blow with the perfect counter to buy another second. However, Ryan's luck finally ran out when Victoria released a green smoke screen at his feet. Blinded for a moment, he failed to see his companion behind him as she threw a small, but potent ball of blue fire upon the small of his back, nailing his ancient cobra tattoo. His shadowed figure fell face forward into the mats.

Victoria dispelled the green mist easily with a sweep of her hand, and walked over to the unconscious Titanium Ranger.

She straddled his body and lowered herself so that the tips of her nails grazed over the rather large cobra tattoo sitting at the base of his spine. With the lightest of caresses, Victoria traced the black outline of the cobra from its bared fangs to its coiled tail. It hadn't moved once from its spot on her lover's back as Ryan had never really been given the chance to redeem himself by fighting against evil.

"A fallen warrior," she whispered softly, almost pityingly.

Victoria sat quietly for awhile, just staring at the tattoo that held the faint memory of her long dead father, before sliding her hands up his shoulder blades and running her callused fingers along the mini-crescent moon scars. She smiled softly as she recalled the night they had finally discovered their feelings for each other - one of the purest nights of her life.

"We could have never imagined what life had in store for us, Ryan." Her smile faded away to reveal an expression of pain, regret, and loss; her eyes took on a far-off gaze as she found herself sucked into dark memories of the past.

The opening of the door and the cool air of the corridors breezing into the room brought Victoria out of her reminiscence and she looked up to see the shadow of Isabella framing the doorway. She reluctantly pulled away from Ryan and joined her protegee at the door. "Is everything ready?"

"Yes," Isabella answered in a hushed tone, her gaze on her fallen master, somewhat startled. "What did you do to him?"

Victoria chuckled as she turned away to retrieve her towel. "Nothing that he won't recover from." She noted Isabella's unsure expression, still fixed on Ryan's body sprawled on the mats. "Don't worry, Isabella; he will be fine." By that time, she was at the younger woman's side and gently urged her back into the corridor, shutting the door behind them.

Silently, the two of them returned to her quarters. However, once the door was closed and they were somewhat protected from eager eavesdroppers, Isabella immediately began to speak. "When I reported back to the Queen with your measurements, I caught her speaking with Olympius about sending you for a random attack with the purposes of reconnaissance; he should be here any minute with your orders."

"Good," Victoria acknowledged, laying out her plan mentally.

First, she would do her little song and dance attack and afterwards, follow her son carefully back to his camp. Before infiltrating the camp, she would then change into some clothes that would allow her to blend in. Once inside - if she got inside - the rebel camp, she was on her own as she was going to go on instinct from then on. Meanwhile, Isabella would distract Ryan, Olympius, and Bansheera to the best of her ability, so they wouldn't take notice of her missing status. The plan had some catches, but if everything went right, she would have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Isabella sat down on the bed and watched her mistress as she ran through her plan. The excitement and joy Victoria got from her plan was immense; Isabella had seen nothing quite like it and she knew why.

It was all due to her son, Evan.

Victoria was infatuated with her son and had been since Ryan's meeting with him two weeks prior. Perhaps it had been Ryan's relinquishment of his hope that motivated her more than anything, but it was also at that time that Victoria finally realized her worth to the cause of evil and Bansheera, which wasn't that much at all. Bansheera didn't need Victoria and Victoria didn't need Bansheera, but Victoria did need her son, and so her quest began then.

Within the past two weeks, Isabella found herself drowning in images of her mistress' son. Victoria couldn't stop speaking of him and her experiences with him in battle, so it was only natural that Isabella began to create mysterious, yet heroic images of Evan the Red Ranger in her mind. The only problem was Isabella had fallen smitten with the Evan that had been created with Victoria's finely woven words and her own imagination, even after all of Victoria's warnings.

Suddenly, the door burst open and Ryan entered the room, destroying both women's daydreams of Evan. "Oh, you woke up," Victoria casually stated, moving toward her chest where she kept her armor.

"You could've at least waited until I woke up before you left," Ryan growled lowly, crowding her from behind and allowing Isabella ample time for escape before she witnessed a clash between her two superiors and mentors.

"Even after eighteen years, you STILL can't handle losing, can you?" She shoved him away, and walked over to the bed, laying her armor out and quickly beginning to strip.

"I can't handle losing to you when you cheat," he restated, trying to resist temptation by not focusing on the smooth curves of her body as she changed. Of course, being the man he was, he found himself losing THAT battle as well.

Victoria rolled her eyes, tugging her leather pants on. "Since when was using a smoke screen cheating? It's just about the same as being blinded by a laser blast!" Her back was turned to him, but nonetheless, she could feel him drawing closer as the tension between them grew stronger.

"You know how I feel about being blinded in battle; I've always felt like it's a type of cheating." He now was whispering in her ear, his voice tempered by frustration and not so much with anger.

She tried to resist and focus on her mission, but with his breath at her ear and his hands gently resting on her hips - tickling her through the leather - she couldn't help herself and let out the softest of moans. "You can't always get what you want, Ryan; no matter what Bansheera tells you," she murmured, leaning back into him fully.

Ryan viciously turned Victoria around so that she faced him, and dragged his rough thumb across her moist lips. "I want you," he growled hungrily from the deepest recesses of his throat.

He was mere moments away from claiming her mouth with his own when the closed door was pounded upon and Olympius' insistent voice was heard. "Vypra? Are you in there? I must speak with you!"

Just as quickly and zealously as lust had come over the two quarreling lovers, it left them with the arrival of Olympius. A startled Victoria scrambled to pull on her breastplate and the rest of her armor, while a begrudging Ryan moved to stand near the door. "Come!" she called out, shooting her lover a warning glare to act appropriately even though she was sure he would.

Olympius entered their quarters and nodded at the emotionless Ryan in acknowledgement before turning to the calm and collected enchantress, who was pulling on her leather gloves. "So I see you've heard."

Victoria looked up from her gloves with feigned puzzlement. "Heard what, Olympius?"

"You're being sent out on a reconnaissance attack," Olympius informed, taking in Victoria fully and appreciatively, which didn't fail to escape Ryan's eyes. "You will attack the Aquabase ruins; today is the anniversary of our victory over Mariner Bay and the humans' loss. We've always been good about giving them their grieving room, but now, no longer. Find out as much as you can, then attack them."

Victoria gave a curt nod. "Of course." She was nearly out the door, but then turned around. "You haven't seen Isabella by any chance, Olympius, have you?"

"Actually, I did see her on my way here; she looked as if she was going toward her quarters."

Victoria gave him the smallest of smiles, simply keeping up her fašade. "Thank you."

She left the quarters, leaving Ryan and Olympius alone.

Ryan glared at the demon menacingly. "She's mine."

Olympius glanced at the Titanium Ranger with the traces of a smirk as he exited the quarters. "Of course, she is."

***

Evan looked out over the dark waters at the horizon that was gradually becoming tinged with flecks of red and knew that soon he'd have to return below with his group. However, if it meant anything, he didn't want to leave, even with the cool ocean breeze biting deeply into him.

On this one day, in this one place, Evan felt like he had come home.

He had been born in the Aquabase. The few moments he spent with his parents when they were alive took place in the Aquabase. The Lightspeed Aquabase had been his family's legacy as were the Power Rangers - from his grandfather to his father and aunt, and finally to him. The Aquabase was a part of him just as his mother's magic was a pivotal part of him.

Gazing out toward the demolished ramp that once led into the ranger base, Evan closed his eyes momentarily and tried remembering remnants of that past life. After a few minutes, the young man snapped out of his trance in failure. "I've come here every year and tried the same thing to no avail," he whispered out loud to no one in particular. Traces of tears began to form in his eyes. "This year is no different.

"I'm not in denial. I understand that you both are dead; I've understood since I was three. It's just that sometimes I wish you weren't dead and sometimes I even go as far as to fantasize what my life - our lives - could have been like had you survived. Most of the time, I'm just trying to remember the short amount of time together we did have, and I get frustrated when I can't.

"I can feel you, Mom, within me through the magic and I can feel you, Dad, whenever I train and fight; at times, I can almost hear you egging me on. But there are days when that just isn't enough and that's when I become selfish and wish you hadn't sacrificed yourselves to save the rest of the damn world; don't worry about that though, I manage to deal.

"I guess what I'm hinting at here is that I love you both no matter how long you've been gone and how little I remember of you. I will never forget either of you and I won't let anyone else either."

Long moments of silence passed before Kari came to her cousin's side and looped her arm through his. "You talk to them?"

"Yeah." Evan grinned softly, taking one more glance out at the horizon before looking down at the younger girl. "We'd better get going."

Just as Evan and Kari were going to split up to go quietly alert the group of their imminent departure, a voice called out. "Don't tell me you were just leaving now, Evan!"

Evan broke into a smile as he recognized the voice and turned around to see the leader of the North Rebel camp - Joel Rawlings - walking alone onto the mourning grounds. "You're a bit late, aren't you?" the Red Ranger returned to the older man.

"Actually, I already brought our groups out here," Joel replied, drawing closer to the two. "Hey, Kari. What have you been up to?"

The blonde smiled widely and hugged her father's friend tightly. "Nothing much, but it's good to see you anyway."

"So why are you here then?" Evan questioned, following the exchange between Joel and Kari.

"Carter didn't tell you again, hmm?" Joel shoved his hands deeply into the pockets of his jacket to stave off the cold. "We're having a meeting; Carter has something important to tell us."

"Oh." Evan didn't need Joel to elaborate any more as he knew that "we" stood for the rebel camp leaders and the former Lightspeed Rangers: Joel headed the North camp, Kelsey Winslow headed up the South camp, Chad Lee took on the East Camp, and Carter and Dana took care of the West camp. Even though they were top-secret meetings, most of the time they concerned Evan - as he was the only active Ranger - but Carter always saw fit to not invite him into the meetings until one of the others did. So, him not knowing of the most recent meeting didn't surprise him in the least.

"Anyway, we were just heading back home, so you can walk with us and we can catch up," Evan suggested.

Joel nodded his head. "Sounds like a plan to me."

The three of them fanned out, telling the rest of the people that it was time to return to the camp. Just before they started to leave though, Evan remembered something he had been meaning to thank Joel for and caught the former Green Ranger. "Hey Joel!" The younger man jogged up to catch his friend. "You know, I can't thank you enough for sending down that courier a few weeks ago with information on the Titanium Ranger's movements. It totally helped us in revising a few of our ration routes-"

Joel looked strangely at the Red Ranger and stopped in his tracks. "What are you talking about, Evan?"

It was Evan's turn to look upon Joel strangely. "Don't you remember? Aunt Dana said you sent a courier to the camp about two weeks ago to give us some-"

Before Evan could continue, a large blast of fiery blue energy fell just a few feet in front of him, causing him to be thrown backwards as Vypra's insidious laughter filled the crisp morning air.

***

The cool breeze tickled Victoria's skin as she hid in the shadows of the early dark morning, anxiously awaiting her chance to attack. "The faster I do this, the faster I can move forward with the rest of my plan," she muttered to herself.

After leaving Ryan and Olympius, she caught up with Isabella and recounted over the plan one more time as to ensure its proper execution. Once that had been done, Victoria took her "disguise" clothes from Isabella's quarters where she had been hiding them and left for the Aquabase ruins. She hid her clothes in a nearby abandoned building, finally beginning her watch of the rebel mourners.

She knew that she was somewhat late in her arrival to spy on them as she noted how the sun was barely peeking over the horizon; the rebels made it a principal to not be out during the daytime in large groups. However, she continued to watch.

Not really having any idea of what her son looked like - he was always morphed whenever they fought - she still clung to the slight hope of seeing him. Perhaps she would recognize him because of the way he carried himself, or because of something he said that she would overhear, or even because he looked exactly as Ryan had described him.

The rebels' actions weren't out of the ordinary as far as she knew with the limited rebel contact she had; Victoria had never witnessed the mourning procession before and the only two who had actually seen it were Ryan and Olympius many years ago, after returning from a binge drinking session at one of the many demon bars that had been established after Mariner Bay's conversion. They were very solemn looking - the rebels - and a bit cautious too. Of course she understood why: it was probably the only time out of the year that they were outside their rebel camp.

Soon enough, her musing was upset by a familiar voice breaking ever so softly through the sound of the waves and murmurs of voices.

"Don't tell me you were just leaving now, Evan!"

Victoria searched for the origin of the loud, but not too loud, voice from her hiding place and it didn't take her too long to find it. It was Joel, the former Green Ranger, who had yelled as he approached the grounds alone. He had aged a bit, unlike herself, but she still recognized his voice and the cowboy hat he still wore, most likely worn down and dusty after so long.

For some strange reason, the fact that Joel had called out her son's name didn't quiet register until a bit later when she saw the older man meet up with a dark-haired young man and a little blonde girl. Quickly, Victoria covered her mouth to avoid letting out a yelp of joy. She blinked back tears from her brown eyes, taking in the young man she could only assume was the Evan that Joel had been speaking to.

He was everything that Ryan had described him to be and more. She suddenly understood why all the girls swooned over her son and felt a swell of pride within her. Ryan and her had created this beautiful person and had given him life with their sacrifice. If she only hadn't abandoned him, if she only hadn't lied to him, if only she hadn't waited so long...if only those sacrifices hadn't been necessary for his survival.

Victoria wasn't allowed much time to awe over her child though, because suddenly the group of three split up and appeared to be rounding up all the other rebels to leave. "It's now or never," she grumbled to herself, wiping the few tears from her face that had escaped the confines of her eyes.

From where she was standing, Victoria teleported up to the tops of one of the nearby buildings. Hastily, she focused her magic into a blue energy ball and threw it down below, making sure it struck right in front of her son and caught his attention. Swallowing down any prior emotions she had exposed, Victoria took on her persona of Vypra and let out a hideously evil laugh.

She watched as all the little people below looked up at her, horrified, and began to run as she jumped down from her ledge to land near where Evan and Joel stood next to one another. "I simply couldn't resist dropping in on the party this year," she crooned sweetly, an evil smile upon her lips. She leaned forward toward Evan slightly. "I've left you alone for far too long, Red Ranger."

"Joel, take Kari and lead the group back to the camp as fast as you can," Evan ordered, gritting his teeth angrily and taking a fighting stance. He didn't dare betray his surprise to her; how she had found out his identity, he had no idea, but it was a question he could ponder later.

Victoria's heart almost shattered as she watched Evan glare her down, and she quickly removed herself further from her Vypra persona. "Oh, come on. Don't play mad, Red Ranger," she taunted as Joel and Kari shot off to hurry and herd everyone out of the area. "Just because I found out your little secret."

She lunged forward at him then, showering him with small, but powerful blue energy blasts. He was blown backward a bit and fell to the ground, clutching his side.

Rolling her eyes, she laughed once again. "What? No challenge? I know you've got more in you than that!"

Knowing full well that she had pissed him off, she watched as Evan slowly rose from the ground and whipped out his morpher. "LIGHTSPEED, RESCUE!"

The morph was quick and in an instant, Evan pulled out his pistol and took out at least a dozen shots at her. Victoria shielded herself with her hands, though it wasn't really necessary because of her protection spells. She came back at him with her sword when he was through.

So, the complex dance between the mother and son began once again as they both fought for dominance in the battle.

"What do you want?!"

"Nothing you could possibly understand!"

"Oh yeah! Try me! I'm already living in Hell, I think I can understand anything!"

Victoria stumbled slightly at Evan's words and he got in a lucky strike with his sword, a gash spilling open on her right arm and oozing blood. Startled by the sight of her red blood - something he hadn't expected from the supposed demoness - the Red Ranger pulled away momentarily, staring at her open wound.

Placing her hand over the wound without one wince, Victoria released the healing blue light and as soon as it had appeared, the cut was gone. She glared at him menacingly, but in truth was thankful for the reprieve from the fight as it gave her the chance to retreat. "You've won for now," the petite enchantress hissed, melting into her violet aura and disappearing from the mourning grounds completely.

Evan stood still for awhile longer, not fully registering her leaving, but now staring at his sword that was tipped with bright red blood. Blood that looked terribly human-like.

Quickly, he replaced his sword onto his holster and ran as fast as he could back to the camps, looking for answers from Carter and absolutely unaware as his mother watched him from above, concern etched across her features.

"That went badly."

***

Ryan stared at the glass before him, his hand gently grasping the cool object. He moved the glass back and worth at little, allowing the ruby red liquid to slosh around, but not spill. Lifting the glass off the bar, he quickly downed the substance and bit back a warm stinging sensation as it slid down his throat.

He examined the shot glass momentarily before slamming it down onto the wooden bar. "Hit me again!" he insisted bitterly, yapping at the lithe blue bartender with three horns. Obligingly, she murmured a "yes, sir" and poured him another shot of the same red drink. Ryan smirked at her eagerness to please and patted her hand brusquely before she pulled away.

"Ahhh...demon vodka: the same taste, but less bang for your buck." He spun around on his barstool to look at the rest of the room that had been converted into a demon bar after they had regained control over the humans so many years before. Currently, it was empty, as the early morning hour didn't contribute to having much business; the only reason Ryan was getting any alcohol at all was that he had ordered the bartender to serve him or else. The bartender was smart and hadn't waited to find out what the "or else" was.

Contrary to what it seemed, Ryan wasn't an avid drinker at all, though it didn't really matter either way because demon alcohol wasn't as potent as normal alcohol was. The Titanium Ranger could count on one hand how many times he'd gone drinking with Olympius, who had always been the one to harass him into it; this time, the young demon had pushed Ryan to it.

The weary man gulped down the shot of alcohol and turned to holler for the bartender, but found that she was nowhere in sight and he was alone again. "That's not unusual," he grumbled to himself, banging the glass down on the top of the bar. "Damn her..."

He hunched himself over the bar and thought about the events that had brought him to where he was.

First - though he would never admit it to Victoria - his ego has been bruised when she pretty much kicked his butt in their earlier sparring match. It hadn't helped that he wasn't exactly concentrating on fighting her either; he was more concerned with the breakdown of their relationship since their argument two weeks prior. She wouldn't talk to him anymore, and she shut down completely. He wasn't sure what she would do next anymore.

Second, to be close to her in that short moment they had alone in their quarters and not be able to reach her tore him apart. They were so close to a middle ground in their standoff, which would've easily led to reconciliation, but were interrupted by Olympius.

Olympius. He was the third and main reason for Ryan's drinking binge that morning. That runt had leered at his lover! LEERED! And Victoria didn't do a damn thing about it! She just gave him a coy smile and went off to go meet Isabella!

Ryan angrily shook his head, refusing to allow the scene to replay in his mind once more. He grabbed his shot glass and tried to drink the last lingering drops of demon vodka before hollering for the bartender again. "HELLO?!?! Another drink here!!"

He did understand why Victoria didn't do anything about it - seeing that if she caused a ruckus, Bansheera could come down heavily on her head for it - but the whole incident still didn't sit right with Ryan. Perhaps it was just a stupid male thing about having to be able claim his territory or something, but it left him wanting to kill Olympius over and over and over again.

Then again, that feeling could also be because he hated anything associated with Bansheera too.

"Whatever..." Ryan muttered quietly as the bartender finally returned and quickly filled up his shot glass before he could become further incensed.

With an almost child-like happiness, Ryan returned to the glorious pastime of mind-numbing drinking, allowing him to forget his miseries for a little while.

***

Victoria quickly changed into her disguise and caught up quite easily to her frantic-footed son. She couldn't possibly imagine his mindset after discovering that the demons he had been fighting might just turn out to be human. And if that hit him hard, then she was somewhat afraid of what his reaction would be when he found out his whole life has been based on lies.

For a moment, she almost backed down from her plan, but easily shook off her doubt and pushed forward. She followed Evan through the morning shadows until he stopped short before a handful of collapsed buildings and piles of rubble. His helmeted head darted around a few times to check if anyone was around a Victoria shrunk back into the shadows. When she was sure that he wasn't looking, she peeked out just in time to see Evan slip through what appeared to be a hole in the rubble.

"So THAT'S how they've managed to hide from us." Victoria grinned in spite of herself. Those rebels certainly were clever in picking their hideaways.

Climbing out of the shadows and into the light of the dawning day, the woman approached the tall pile of rubble and sifted through it until she found the hole. Reminiscent of her son's own movements, Victoria checked around her before falling through the hole into what she faintly recognized as Mariner Bay's subway tunnels.

Adjusting herself to the new surroundings, she realized that it was visually impossible for her to track Evan because he was nowhere to be found. Luckily for her, Evan more than likely was still morphed and she had an acute sixth sense for picking up morphing signatures that stemmed back to when she first began battling the rangers.

A bit of concentration was all it took and she easily pinpointed where Evan was and was swallowed up by her aura, teleporting herself even closer to reclaiming her blood.

***

The five former Power Rangers and current rebel camp leaders rushed into the conference room and frantically took their seats around the table set up in the middle of the room.

"Joel, what happened?" Kelsey pressed, literally squirming in her seat. "Why'd you and the others come running in her like bats out of Hell or something?!"

Joel placed his beaten hat down and then slammed his fist against the table. "That damn bitch Vypra is what happened!" he voiced vehemently. "She came out of nowhere and started attacking Evan, specifically! She knows he's the Red Ranger!!"

The other four were stunned by this new piece of news, but only Dana came to Victoria's defense and tried to put a doubtful spin on the accusations. "Are you sure, Joel? Couldn't she just-"

"I'm SURE, Dana!" the North Rebel Camp leader insisted, his voice filling the room with anger. "They won't even leave us alone to grieve! We have got to destroy them all and soon! If we don't, both Vypra and the Titanium Ranger will have no mercy and destroy US!"

"Calm DOWN, Joel!" This time, Carter came to Dana's aid to quell the madness. "Look, I know you're upset about the attack, but Evan should be able to take care of it. We called you guys here to tell you something important and after we tell you, THEN feel free to get as mad as you want!"

Everyone fell silent.

"Since I'm the one who told Carter, I'm going to tell you all straight out, right now." Dana paused, preparing herself to spill the beans on a secret she had kept sealed for over fifteen years. "Ryan is still alive and he's the Titanium Ranger."

Chad was the first to speak as Joel was now at a complete loss for words. "Dana," he began, his tone wary and unbelieving, "are you telling us that eight years ago, Ryan was the one who killed Angela and not some human-hating demon?"

"YES- I mean, NO!" Dana cried, defending her brother's actions. "That was an accident! Ryan told me-"

Kelsey nearly jumped out of her chair. "Wait! You've been speaking with him?!"

"Yes!" she insisted, then continued over Joel's cries of protest. "All those years ago when Ryan left after Victoria's death, he didn't commit suicide. He made a pact with Bansheera that bonded him to her if she brought Victoria back to life. He had no choice - or at least, at the time he believed he had no choice; he couldn't live without her."

"What about Victoria?" Chad questioned, still in disbelief. "Why is she still Vypra?"

"Her bondage to Bansheera was also part of the deal," Dana explained. "Ryan came looking for us after the Fall to make sure we were alright. I've kept his secret since then and we met weekly until two weeks ago when we accidentally had an encounter with Carter and Evan; I was forced to tell Carter then."

"That's why Evan thinks I sent a courier here," Joel mused, choosing to dwell on the more simplistic parts of the discovery before addressing the more complex ones like his wife's death at the supposed hand of Dana's brother. He'd go mad if he tried. "You told him that Ryan was a courier."

Dana nodded solemnly. "I couldn't possibly tell him that he had just met his father. It would destroy him, realizing his life had been all lies."

At that very moment, Evan burst into the conference room demorphed. "YOU'VE BEEN LYING TO ME!" he howled painfully, casting accusing glances around at the five people he'd grown to respect.

Kelsey, who was closest to Evan, took him by the hand and tried to calm him down. "What did we lie to you about, Evan?" she questioned gently, sending a rather pointed glance Dana's way.

Evan jerked his hand form Kelsey's grip and paced the length of the room before turning around abruptly to face his superiors. He answered the question with a query of his own. "Vypra's human, isn't she?"

The five adults looked around at one another guardedly before Carter replied, "What makes you think that?"

"Her blood is red!" he proclaimed, frantically running a hand through his hair while he tried wrapping his mind around the idea that he'd been fighting a human all along. "I cut her with my sword and she bled RED!"

The group was completely silent as they didn't have an excuse prepared for Evan, and he was about to yell at them for lying to him when another calm voice spoke.

"Yes, I am human."

All six snapped toward the wide open door and immediately jumped from their spots. There in the doorway - wearing a simple black top and short, worn jean skirt and toting a style of long, disheveled, rust-tinged hair - was Victoria.

"Victoria..." Dana breathed, not exactly trusting what she was seeing.

"VYPRA!" Joel cried, amending Dana. He stalked over to where the still youthful Asian stood, shutting door behind her. "What are you doing here?! You have NO RIGHT to be here!"

A tense silence fell over the room once more as Victoria simply stared Joel down, hesitating to respond.

Evan stood in the corner of the conference room, watching the glaring match take place and not completely comprehending the events of the past few seconds. This woman, bearing a striking resemblance to Vypra, entered the room and claimed to be human. Aunt Dana then called her Victoria, which was the name of his mother, but Joel insisted upon calling her Vypra. So the woman was Vypra, but was she also-

The fog in Evan's visions suddenly disappeared and he could see with crystal clarity the face of the woman who he'd always believed was his mother. Her face was the face of Vypra, and Evan's beliefs were confirmed with Victoria's next words.

"You're probably right, Joel," she conceded slightly, glancing at the other former rangers who had shunned her once upon a time and continued to without knowing all the facts. "I don't belong here. I'm evil: ruthless and blood-thirsty and one who serves Queen Bansheera ever so loyally." Her tone was bitter and sarcastic. "But I'm not here as Vypra. I'm here as Victoria-"

"Victoria, don't!" Dana pleaded with her brother's lover. "You KNOW what can happened if you do this. You know Bansheera will find out and kill you and Ryan! You-"

Victoria stepped away from Joel and closer to the former Pink Ranger, not so much in a threatening manner as a desperate one. "You and I know the stakes, Dana, but THEY," she swept a hand over the others, "don't. I can see it in their eyes that they know Ryan's alive. You told them, didn't you?"

The five watched as Dana fell victim to Victoria's cold, condescending voice. "Yes, but-"

"You didn't tell them the whole story," Victoria finished off her sentence knowingly. "Well, since you failed to tell them the whole story, let me."

She was quiet, waiting for a protest against her continuing, but the group was still reeling from the exchange between Dana and her and couldn't say much of anything.

"Great." Victoria jumped up onto the conference table to sit and begin. "Let me just start from the beginning because Evan doesn't know that part of the story, so the rest of you have an advantage over him.

"Ryan and I were brought together by Diabolico, at the time trapped in a crypt. He saved both of our lives basically because we would've died otherwise in the situation he found us in. He trained us for all of our childhood - Ryan in combat and I in demon magic. We grew close as friends, family and eventually lovers.

"It was then that Diabolico revealed to us why he had saved us. We were part of a prophecy that claimed a child borne of both magic and combat would bring the downfall of Bansheera and ascend him into power; of course, he didn't tell us that last part because we were just pawns in his game. He asked me to give him the child of the prophecy and I did." She gazed fondly at her son for a second, calming her madness. "You, Evan.

"Through a progression of events, Diabolico brought us to Mariner Bay and we both turned away from evil, with no help from Carter, Dana, and Joel who were my most vehement adversaries during my stay in the Aquabase. I had you, Evan, and a week after, I found myself doubting my place in your father's life and returned to Skull Cavern to find my own father, Diabolico, murdered by Queen Bansheera. She then killed me and made it look like suicide when Ryan found me.

"She preyed on Ryan's emotional state and got him tied into a deal with her: she would revive me in exchange for the loyalty of both of us...AND the ability to possess me every night and bed Ryan through me." She spoke the end of the sentence with a quiet anger, and paused before continuing. "You see, Bansheera is only a spirit - a powerful one, admittedly - but she lacks a body. So, for the past eighteen years, she's used me to get what she's always wanted: Ryan.

"Once the deal had been sealed with my resurrection, nothing could be done to free us; not even death could save us as she cursed us with immortal life. We had been trapped; we didn't destroy Mariner Bay by choice, but by force.

"After the Fall, as you call it, Ryan made excuses to Bansheera and was able to look for you all. When he found you, he was absolutely thrilled." Victoria grinned softly to herself, remembering. "Of course, I was never told the exact details of your whereabouts because of what Dana was just alluding to: when Bansheera possesses me, she is also able to mind-rape me to an extent. So, I always have to be careful with the amount of information I know.

"Over the years, Ryan I have become skilled at the art of deception, but there are things that still haunt us and we can't hide. For Ryan, it's your wife's death." Victoria was now facing Joel, who was rather solemn. "That day was a training exercise for Ryan, and I was monitoring him from above. Had the battlings not been there, he wouldn't have attacked and we would've left. However, since they were there, he had no choice; he had to keep up appearances for everyone's sake because even with a little suspicion, Bansheera would've been drawn like a moth to a flame. He was too preoccupied with fighting you and Carter and he failed to keep track of the battlings and by the he noticed Angela, it was too late." Victoria slowly closed her eyes, trying to block out the horror she'd been forced to witness. "He doesn't go on attack exercises or runs anymore, only his weekly patrol. He still wakes up in a sweat sometimes, haunted by that day.

"As for me, I've carried over ten babies and miscarried every single one - each little one's death at the hand of Bansheera." The worn woman moved to pace the length of the room before continuing on. "All that I've been able to figure out is that she somehow manages to release a toxin into my body that kills them, and then, that's that. There's nothing else I can do for them other than flush them from within me and mourn them in fits of madness that seize me following.

"To lose children like that is devastating, which is why all our hope was directed toward you, Evan." Victoria leaned against the cold cement wall, gazing forlornly at her son. "When you became the Red Ranger, both Ryan and I were ecstatic. I've always looked forward to our fights because it allowed me to teach you in my own way and test whether Carter's training was really worth it. When Ryan laid eyes on you those two weeks ago, the man you had become awed him, which is why I had to come see you today. I couldn't stay away any longer.

"I spent the last eighteen years protecting you from afar, and to see you now, it makes all of the sacrifices I made worth it." She sighed softly, glancing around the room. "So there's my story. Take it or leave it."

Unfortunately, before anyone could question her, Victoria slumped down to the floor, fainting away.

To be continued...