Five months had passed since the wedding of Neras and Selania. Aura and Shaya had become very close, even though Aura couldn't tell so much she wanted to. As they sat together one fall evening, Aura mused over what she had left in the future: and what she'd found in the past.
"Kalakan is so beautiful," she sighed. "It's hard to imagine not growing up here."
"True," Shaya agreed with her; she couldn't imagine growing up anywhere else. "Aura, tell me of your friends, the ones in your time."
Aura thought over all the friends she had; the truest, most loyal friends it was possible to have. She smiled; there was one person she wanted Shaya to know of. "I'll tell you someone I miss. Azure, my sister. Well, adopted sister. It doesn't matter; we grew up together, we're sisters, that's all that counts."
"She must miss you a lot too!" Shaya observed. Aura nodded; the five months she'd been here had given her time not just to heal physically, but to realize how much she missed her friends.
"I've been out of touch with them for months! I hope they're all right while I'm gone."
Shaya smiled at her daughter's concern. "They should be fine."
Aura didn't stop worrying that easily, though. "They don't even know where I am; the Spirit of Earth didn't tell them, I think. Or should I say 'when' I am?" she couldn't help but giggle then.
"Do you know when she is coming back for you?" Shaya knew that Aura wouldn't be there forever, and it depressed her a trifle. Even knowing she carried the same child in her womb wasn't enough to lift her mood.
"Whenever I'm completely healed and trained," Aura knew she still had some healing left to do. "It shouldn't be much longer."
The sorceress sighed a little. "You will be missed."
Aura bit her lip; she knew better than to say anything about what was going to happen. "And I'll miss you as well," she decided was the safest thing to say. How can I tell her the truth? That Father will die, I will be sent fifty thousand years ahead in time, and that she must wait for me to return? "Would you have to go to the Heart of Kalakan for the birth? I know I had to go to the Heart of Earth when the twins came."
Shaya nodded. "I've got about three weeks left, more or less. I'm going to go to the Heart then," on Kalakan; having a child out of wedlock was not considered scandalous, if true love was involved. Love and politics were two different things, and the entire planet knew that Neras loved Shaya, not Selania. Selania herself had sent a gift to Shaya in honor of the upcoming birth.
Aura felt a sudden chill, as if someone was looking at her. She glanced around, but the only people to be seen for miles were Shaya and herself. She dismissed the feeling; it was probably nothing anyway. * * *
Zedd entered his quarters on his spacecraft, deep in thought over what he had just learned. On one of his regular spying trips on Aura, he had found out something he'd never even dreamed was true! "Goldar!" he bellowed out his servant's name. The great winged ape entered the room.
"Yes, sire?" he asked; Ever since Zedd's thwarted attack on the capital of Kalakan, he'd been banned from the planet. Everyone knew he was attempting to take over, and every force they had was on guard against him.
"We must capture Aura; she is from the future!" Zedd was a trifle amazed by this; to discover his future queen quite possibly hadn't even been born yet was disconcerting. No matter; he could use her knowledge of what was to come to his advantage.
"The future, sire?" Goldar looked confused; he'd not been hired for his brains, after all. Zedd nodded. "How shall we capture her, sire?"
She is a fierce warrior, and it will not be easy to subdue her. "That is the hard part," Zedd considered various options, turning over many thoughts in his mind. He was just barely able to stop himself from a full fledged fantasy about Aura, that had nothing whatsoever to do with capturing her for her knowledge of the future.
"Do you have a plan yet, sire?" Goldar asked, seeing the slightly more interested look in his master's eyes. Zedd glanced down at Kalakan, then smiled as he saw Neras and Selania returning to their home.
"She is sure to go visit Neras now that he is back," Zedd declared. "We shall ambush her on the way there!"
Goldar scratched his head; this was too confusing for him. "Sire, if she is from the future, won't she be able to know when we're going to ambush her?"
I don't believe I hired this imbecile! "I don't think so," was all he said, too enraged to speak much more than that. Goldar shrugged.
"Just let me know when to attack her, sire," he said. He was a warrior, that's all there was to it. He fought. He didn't think.
"Trust me, I will," Zedd glanced briefly at him, wondering if he should send the blithering idiot to school. No. It wouldn't do any good. But if he can bring me Aura, with her knowledge of the future, then that will be good enough. Of course, having her here to be my queen will be even better! Look out, Aura. You're coming back to me: like it or not. * * *
Aura was practicing her axplay in her mother's training area when a messenger came to the door. As her mother met the man, her thoughts were all on the flowing movements of her weapon, with occasional side thoughts for Billy.
"Aura," Shaya came over to her, with a wide grin spread across her face. Aura glanced towards her, raising an eyebrow in query. "You've been summoned by your father!"
Aura's grin answered her mother's. "He's back?"
"It appears so," Shaya read the message out loud. "Selania wasn't feel very well, so they came back early, and he wants to see you at once."
Aura smiled, she hadn't seen her father since the battle just after the wedding. "I'll go at once," she decided. Shaya agreed and asked her to send Neras all her love. "I will," the child from the future nodded as she hugged her mother. "I'll be back later tonight."
"I'll have a nice dinner waiting for you," Shaya promised. Aura smiled; Shaya's cooking was splendid now, and it was only going to improve over the next fifty thousand years. * * *
Aura headed down the road, humming under her breath that same tune she hummed so often. Things were going just fine, there had been no sign of Zedd in months, she'd learned a lot from her mother, and she had an idea she'd be going home in a couple of weeks.
"Hello, Amber Ranger!" Goldar was suddenly in front of her in the road. Aura jumped back, her good mood vanishing into thin air.
"What do you want?" she asked, hoping Zedd hadn't decided he wanted to marry her again! Once had been more than enough!
"You!" he pointed at her with his sword. Aura remembered other times he'd said that, and she hadn't liked them anymore than she did now.
"Don't you ever get tired of saying that?" she wondered, giggling at the confused look on Goldar's face as she spoke. He growled harshly in his confusion.
"Now, come!" he was suddenly surrounded by a small army of gray warriors, who bobbed and weaved and made what she could only describe as a 'burbling' sound. She remembered Billy describing these things to her, they were called Putties. She grinned to herself as battle was joined; these things were wimps compared to the Tengas she was used to fighting.
A blinding pain across the back of her head ended the battle, as Goldar struck her there hard with the hilt of his sword. She slumped unconscious to the ground and he laughed as he picked her up. "Weak!" he proclaimed. I don't know what Lord Zedd sees in her; she's no warrior! A real warrior wouldn't have went out with one hit!
He teleported back to Zedd's hidden base and quickly locked her into a cell there at his master's command. Zedd passed the time until Aura awakened staring almost mindlessly at her. As her eyes flickered open, he smiled.
"Greetings," he said politely. She is beautiful when she awakens, as always. I will have that beauty for my own forever: soon.
Aura was on her feet a moment after her head cleared, looking around to see what was going on. This just isn't my day! "What am I doing here? Let me go now, Zedd!"
Zedd shook his head. "I want to know about the future," he told her. He still looked at her in that same way; but now his evil was evident.
How'd he find out about that? "What are you talking about?" she laughed at him. "I don't know anything about the future!"
He glared at her. "I know you are from the future!"
Aura returned his glare for one of her own. "What makes you think that?"
"You told me," he explained. "Actually, you told Shaya, and I heard you. I watch you, Aura. All the time."
If he lays a finger on me, I'm going to kill him, then throw up. "Why should I tell you anything?"
He played his trump card. "If not, I kill Shaya and the baby!" he intended to kill them anyway, but that was beside the point. He smiled a little as she paled. "You don't think I'd do it? Do you?"
"You can't," Aura's voice shook suddenly. He can't kill that baby! That baby is ME!
"Why not?" he asked, a cold grin spreading across his face. She was scared, this was quite enjoyable. He wondered if he could persuade her into marriage by threatening them as well. . .
"Because. . .I. . .you. . .you just can't!" Aura declared. She couldn't let him hurt that child, especially not before she was even born!
Zedd laughed low and evilly. "Now, will you tell me about the future, or see the child and its mother die?"
I don't believe this, he's holding me hostage so that I can tell him about the future. I'll have to lie, until I can get out of here. Like he's even going to know I'm lying! "Wha. . .what do you want to know?" She was rather proud of the way she'd stammered with that; she sounded very hesitant and afraid! She grinned a little; a perfect idea had just formed. "Want me to tell you that you're as much of a jerk now as you're going to be when I'm from?"
The sound of his hissing anger was music to her ears. * * *
A quiet knock came to Shaya's door as she put the finishing touches on supper. She was expecting Aura home soon, and smiled lightly to herself as she touched her heavy stomach. I already know so much about you, little one. But there is still more I do not know. I love you.
She opened the door to see Neras smiling at her. "Hello," she greeted her love. Neras smiled and gave her a gentle kiss.
"Hello, Shaya. Is Aura here?"
Shaya frowned. "No, she was going to visit you!" This isn't good. Not good at all.
Neras looked down the path and she could feel his worry for their child. "She never showed up. How long ago did she leave?"
"Almost three hours," she told him. The normal trip between their homes took less than thirty minutes to walk. Shaya felt a thin thread of fear caress her spine. "Something must have happened to her."
"I wish I knew what," Neras bit his lip in frustration. An idea flicked through the sorceress's mind.
"Could she have gone back to her own time?"
"Without saying good-bye?" Neras raised an eyebrow. "I think the Spirit of Earth would at least let her do that."
She nodded. "You're right. Could it be Zedd?" they both knew of the unwholesome interest the evil dictator-wannabe had for Aura.
"Who else would take Aura?" Neras began to pace; this wasn't good at all. There was no telling what Zedd would or could do to her, and anything could upset the delicate balance of time and space. That wasn't even mentioning what it would do to Aura's emotional well-being. She'd healed so much and so fast, but this could damage her recovery permanently. . .
"Neras, we've got to get her back!" Shaya declared, her mother's love flaring up sharp and strong. Someone threatened her child, and she would go through hell itself to get Aura back safely. Neras nodded.
"And quickly. Do you think you could find her?"
Shaya started for her magical workroom. "I'll do my best," was all she could promise. And my best had better be good enough, for Aura's sake. * * *
Zedd glared with all his evil might at Aura, hoping to terrify her into submission to his will. "You will tell me!" he stepped closer to her. "Why do you protect Earth instead of Kalakan?"
"It's a nicer neighborhood," Aura wisecracked. Then of course, there's the small detail that Kalakan no longer exists in my time. But you don't need to know that!
"Foolish girl!" Zedd snarled. I hate to do this, but even from her I will not take such insolence! "Goldar!"
"Yes, sire?" Goldar was right there, ready to do his master's evil bidding. Zedd pointed at Aura as the cage swung open.
"Have fun," he said coldly. Aura took a deep breath, remembering how badly Goldar had beaten her in Zedd's dungeon in her time.
Relax, you were chained up then. You're not now. You can do this. Goldar came towards her, laughing. "It will be my pleasure to destroy her!" he declared. Aura couldn't help but laugh at that.
"You don't want to know how many times I've heard you say something like that!" she told him. The fight was short and ugly and ended with one clear victor. Neras arrived just as the fight ended, teleported by Shaya's magic, and stared in wide-eyed wonder at the scene before him.
Aura dusted her knuckles lightly off on her blouse and smiled. "Sheesh, I thought this was supposed to be hard," she declared. Goldar wasn't quite the massive warrior he was in her own time, and her knowledge of his moves gave her a definite advantage, one she wasn't above using. Her father looked at her in definite approval.
"And here I thought you needed help," was all he said. Aura smiled at him as she stepped over Goldar's groaning form.
"Well, I could use a ride back to your place!" she told him. Neras laughed as Zedd stamped his staff hard on the floor tiles.
"I think not!"
Aura casually glanced at him. "I've known that for years!" she couldn't resist saying it. No one could have! Neras chuckled as he took a long, measuring look at Zedd.
"I suggest you leave, Zedd, now!"
Aura nodded as she stood beside Neras. "We'll meet again, Zedd, but it won't be a pleasure then, and it certainly isn't one now!" And every time is less of a pleasure than the last!
"Kalakan will belong to me," Zedd proclaimed, leveling a steely glance at the female Amber Ranger. "And so will you, Aura. So will you."
As the father and daughter vanished, Zedd roused Goldar with a few kicks and zaps from his staff. "Prepare a full scale attack!" he ordered. Kalakan would fall! Or die. * * *
Kalakan died. Neras did his best to stop the attacks, but he was only one man, and he could not be everywhere at once. Aura would have helped, and wanted to more than she let on, but Shaya foresaw attempts on her own life that had to be thwarted. Aura wept ceaselessly as city after city was destroyed by Zedd, Goldar, the Putties, and the seemingly endless hordes of lethal monsters. Thousands, millions of people died, including Selania, Neras' wife.
Three slow, pain-filled weeks went by. Aura, Shaya, and Neras were the only people left alive on the entire planet. Zedd hadn't stopped, though, he fully intended to destroy every living thing on Kalakan. The small family had moved into the Heart of Kalakan, and as they discussed plans to drive Zedd away one day, Shaya looked up suddenly, face creased with pain.
"It is time!" she declared. Neras and Aura exchanged quick glances, then started helping her with the birth as best they could. Aura remembered the advice she'd been given during her own labor, and started urging her mother to breath repeatedly.
"I am breathing!" Shaya told them through clenched teeth. Things were going well, with the actual childbirth only moments away, when the Spirit of Kalakan appeared, eyes wide with pain.
"Kalakan is under attack," she said softly. Neras held Shaya's hand, and glanced helplessly about; he couldn't leave her, but he couldn't let his world just die!
Aura stood up, a cold strength in her eyes. Kalakan is my home, as much as Earth is. I was born here. I used the powers of the Amber Ranger of Kalakan to defend Earth in my ignorance, now I will use the powers of Earth to defend Kalakan, in full knowledge.
"Father, I will deal with this," she told him. "You have to see me be born."
Neras looked at her with grateful eyes. She truly is my daughter. I am so very proud of her. "Go, my daughter. Defend our world." * * *
Aura appeared at the battle site, eyes blazing with raw anger as she launched herself into the middle of the battle. She saw Zedd and Goldar on a hill watching the entire thing, and growled deep in her throat. They will pay for this. I knew Kalakan died, but I didn't think it was of this magnitude!
"Ah, so Neras appears at last," Zedd glared down at the brown-clad figure wielding the Ax. Aura chuckled under her breath; he though she was her father. As she ran closer to him, he got a better look, and saw the emblem on her shield was not that of Kalakan.
"Great," he smiled to himself. "It's Aura," Ah, to see my queen come running to me. What a wonderful sight. I don't know how she has the Amber Ranger powers, but it is of no matter. She will bow to me, and claim me as her husband one day!
"You didn't think I'd let you attack and get away with it, did you?" she challenged him as she came to the top of the hill to face them.
Zedd suddenly realized something. Aura has never come to fight us before, Neras has always done that. Wait, I know why he's not here! "I take it Shaya is having her child?" evil glee filled him; it was time to destroy the Alantrius line once and for all!
"That's none of your concern!" Aura snapped, not wanting him to interfere in her own birth. She didn't even want him to be in the same galaxy as he was! "I always thought you were more concerned with death than birth, Zedd!"
He laughed. "Oh, but I am, when it also means their death! Goldar!"
The winged ape stepped up. "Yes, sire?"
"Attack the Heart of Kalakan," he ordered. Goldar took off at once, heading for the one place still clean of destruction in that world.
"NO!" Aura screamed. Zedd grabbed her arm and pulled her close to him.
"Oh, but yes," his laughter was almost the duplicate of what it would be in the future and it revolted Aura. He looked deep into her eyes, captivated by the hatred he saw broiling there. "Marry me, Aura, and I will stop this attack, and spare the life of Shaya, Neras, and their child! Kalakan is dead, but I can give you the whole of the universe to rule over by my side, as a queen!"
Aura slammed her knee into his groin harshly for a reply. "Even if I wasn't already married to someone I love with all my heart, I'd never ally myself with something as evil as you, Zedd. Get out of my way, I've got a life to save!"
As she ran at top speed back to the Heart, Zedd forced himself to his feet again, watching her retreating figure. "You will be mine, Aura! I swear this!" * * *
Shaya and Neras looked at the beautiful baby girl in Shaya's arms. "She is so lovely," Neras watched as the amber necklace formed about her neck. "And what a destiny lies ahead of her."
You have no idea, my love. You have no idea. Shaya was about to say something, when Goldar charged into the Heart, sword in hand. "Drat! I'm too late!"
Aura was just a step behind him, and heard that. She smiled to herself. I'm born. Imagine that. Neras was staring at Goldar in utter disgust.
"How dare you come here?!"
"I dare because I can!" Goldar snarled as he headed for Shaya and the baby. Aura saw where he was going, and knew she couldn't run fast enough to get between them. She could, however, jump enough. With one fluid movement, she landed in between Goldar and her family.
His sword sliced cleanly through her shoulder, tearing muscles and skin, and grating on the bone. She bit back an oath, then slammed Goldar in the stomach with her uninjured arm. "Get out of here!" she snapped, her eyes burning with fury. Goldar backed away, not wanting to risk a conflict with two Amber Rangers, and disappeared. Aura, ignoring the blood pouring from her shoulder, turned to Shaya.
"Are you all right?"
"We are fine," she told the female Ranger. "But you are not."
"Come here," Neras morphed and called his Ax. "Let me heal that for you."
A moment later, she was healed completely. She smiled, flexing the shoulder this way and that. "Thanks, Father," she said, then glanced at her infant self. "So that's what I looked like when I was born."
"Yes," Shaya nodded, looking from her adult daughter to the newborn in her arms. I wonder. . .were we the ones who named her Aura? Somehow. .. I doubt that.
"Could. . .I know it's silly, but. . .could I name her. .. me. . .whatever?"
Neras glanced at Shaya, who nodded briefly. "Be our guest. After all, it is you we are talking about here!"
Aura glanced at the little baby, and bit her lip. I love my name. . .both of them. I could. . .no, I know what I must do. "Alaina," she whispered the name. "Her name is Alaina."
"But your name is Aura!" Neras stared at her in confusion, not quite understanding what had just happened. Aura smiled a little.
"I know, but please, just trust me," she asked him. He nodded; if one couldn't trust one's own child, who could one trust? * * *
A week of death and devastation followed, far greater than any before. Aura and Neras did what they could, but they both knew it was a lost cause. Kalakan was dead; that was all there was to it. They fought now only to protect the Heart, and the hope for the future that the infant Alaina represented.
"You are so beautiful," Shaya observed quietly one day. She and Neras had just completed the message to their newborn daughter that now rested within her amulet; waiting for the right moment to come so that she might unlock it. "Both as a baby and as a grown woman."
Aura smiled a little; she hadn't been able to feel very cheerful the past week. She knew, even though she hadn't been able to bring herself to tell her parents, that today would be the last day Kalakan truly existed. At some point that day, Neras would die, and her younger self would be sent into the future.
"Thank you, Mother," was all she could say. She didn't want to let Shaya know what was to come; let them live their dreams for now. I will be going home today, healed and whole at last. Father did so much for me, and I cannot thank him enough. My life would not be enough thanks for what he has done for me. Nothing would be.
Her eyes flicked towards Shaya, who stiffened suddenly. Aura had seen this before, while they were journeying home from Kalakan to Earth. Shaya was having a vision. A moment later, the sorceress relaxed, and looked at the baby in her arms with eyes full of tears. "So," she murmured. "this is why you will grow up on Earth."
Aura bit her lip; she hadn't wanted either of them to know. "I didn't want to tell you," she whispered. "I didn't want you to know what I do."
Shaya touched her arm gently. "It's all right, Aura. I have long since accepted the destiny that fate has laid out for me. I know what must be done."
Aura was about to ask something else, when Neras entered the small shelter and sat beside them. He was haggard and worn, no longer the proud warrior he had been just nine months prior. He had fought from one end of Kalakan to the other, only to see his people all slaughtered under the onslaught of Zedd's forces.
"Now I know why there are other Rangers in your time, Aura," he told her. "Defending an entire planet is too much for one person with Zedd around."
"I know," she sighed. "I've lost track of the number of monsters he's sent down just since I've been on the Ranger team in my time. I don't even know how many he used before then."
"Our world is dead," he said softly. "But you live, and you are the hope and the future of Kalakan."
Aura and Shaya exchanged glances; Shaya knew the fate that awaited their world now, fifty thousand years ahead in time. She could not, would not say it to Neras. Neither of them would. "I will do what I can to keep this place alive," she promised him, knowing even as she did so that she would only be able to keep it alive in her memories. But even so, memories are better than nothing. So long as I live, Kalakan lives in my heart.
"Neras. Shaya," the Spirit of Kalakan appeared next to them. "There is another attack beginning. Zedd must not be permitted to destroy the Heart, if he does, then all is indeed lost."
"Spirit," Neras said suddenly. "Our daughter, Alaina. The next Amber Ranger. She must be taken to safety. Kalakan is no place for her now."
The Spirit nodded. "I can take her to Earth, where she will fit in and be accepted as one of their own kind. In the fullness of time, she will return, and fate will take it's course," the Spirit knew who and what Aura was as well as any of them did. Shaya glanced at Aura, then Alaina, then the Spirit, and finally at Aura.
"I-I can't bear to give her up," she whispered. "Not knowing if I'll ever see her again."
The emotion in Shaya's voice was simply too strong. Aura could hold back no longer. "Mother, you will see me again. I can promise you this."
Shaya looked at her as she held the baby close to her heart. "What do you mean?"
Aura couldn't look at any of them, she looked instead at the star-spangled sky spread over them. She knew instinctively where Earth was, and it was there she looked, pulling strength and courage from the world she was sworn to protect. "In my time, you're still alive. You lived, to wait for me. You saved my life, Mother," she would say no more than that.
Her father watched the exchange with quiet eyes. Shaya glanced at him, then at Aura again. "I can keep myself alive with my magic, yes. But I can't do it to anyone else."
"I know," Aura whispered. "Oh, how I know!" I would have given everything to know you both! But I can't!
Shaya took a deep breath, then held out little Alaina to the Spirit. "Take her where she needs to go," she requested. "Let her live the life destiny has planned for her."
The Spirit nodded and took the baby, fading away. Aura looked at Neras. "She said another attack was starting," she said. "We're going to go take care of it. Both of us."
He wasn't going to argue with her, he knew that. There was simply no other way to stop the army heading towards them. She wouldn't have her Zord, being displaced in time the way she was, but she had her powers, and her skills as a warrior. That would be more than enough, when combined with Neras and his EagleZord.
"Let's do it," was all he said. They both stood and twin cries of Amber Ranger Power split the air. Shaya teleported them to the battle site, and sighed a little to herself, looking around the deserted Heart.
"Be safe, my daughter. My love, I will miss you," a silent tear coursed it's way down her cheek. "I will always love you, Neras. Forever." * * *
Goldar was in the forefront of the army, leading them on towards the Heart of Kalakan, sword in hand. The monsters and putties were going to destroy that place, rip it up, and put the last remaining Kalakans in the universe to the most viscous and horrible deaths imaginable.
It was going to be a great day.
Twin flashes of light spoiled everything, as Neras and Aura appeared before them. Already morphed, they were distinguishable only by their height and the designs emblazoned on their shields. Aura stood proudly erect, her Ax in her hands, and shouted forth a ringing challenge to the army approaching.
"Halt!" she declared. "You shall go no further! The Heart of Kalakan is sacred, and your evil will not touch it!"
"Ah, the Amber idiots have arrived!" Goldar declared, testing the edge of his sword and staring hungrily at the two warriors there. He had waited too long to get a chance at both of them. Neras had hurt him in the last battle, and he simply hated Aura.
"In fifty thousand years, you don't get any smarter, trust me," Aura told him, running towards him. Neras was going to handle the regular monsters, but it was personal between Aura and Goldar. She'd told her father that; and he hadn't objected to her fighting him on her own.
"We shall see about that!" Goldar promised. He knew something she didn't, and it was going to be a major shock when Zedd's little surprise happened. He smiled briefly; things were going just as his master had planned them.
Aura blocked Goldar's first strike at her, then the two of them settled into a duel the likes of which hadn't been seen on Kalakan in centuries. Blows and insults flew thick and hard between them as they fought back and forth across the battlefield. Aura almost didn't see the beam of light that lashed through and struck Neras in the back.
She would have heard his scream of pain anywhere though, from the depths of death, much less across a raging battlefield. She kicked Goldar away from her and ran towards him, throwing her helmet off as she did so, and dropped to her knees beside him. "Father," she whispered, removing his helmet gently. He was breathing far too shallowly for Aura's taste, and his face was pure gray.
"Aura," he whispered, trying to focus on her eyes. "My Aura," he smiled a little.
"Father," she bent over him, her heart breaking. "No, Father, you can't die!"
"I am . . .so proud of you. . .," he told her. "You. . .fight well. . .you. . .are a true. . . Ranger. . ."
"I named my son after you," she cried out, wanting him to know everything, but with time only for a few brief words. "His name is Alexander Neras Cranston!"
"Thank you," he was slipping away, she was being surrounded by monsters. She didn't care, all that mattered to her was the dying man in her arms. "I love you. . .my daughter. . .my Aura. . .my Alaina. . ."
Neras Alanatrius, the thirty-fifth Amber Ranger of Kalakan, died in the arms of his daughter from the future, Aura Lynn Robinson Cranston, Alaina Alanatrius, the thirty-sixth Amber Ranger of Kalakan and the first Amber Ranger of Earth.
Aura threw her head back and screamed her rage to the uncaring heavens. She bent over him, rocking back and forth, until cruel arms tore her from him and dragged her to her feet. She found herself pushed in front of Zedd, held by Goldar's powerful arms.
"I have won," he said simply, looking deeply into her gray eyes. "Will you still defy me, Aura, or will you submit the inevitable and marry me?"
She couldn't believe her ears. This monster had just proposed to her again, after killing her father! What arrogance! He was. . .ohh, her imagination balked at describing him in enough hideous detail. There was only one answer that she could ever, would ever give him!
"Never!" she hissed, breaking free of Goldar's grip and out of the ring of monsters that surrounded her. "By my very life and soul, I'll marry you on the day the universe dies and not until!"
Aura picked up her father's body and headed for the Heart of Kalakan at a run, ignoring the monsters that did their best to stop her. Halfway there, she vanished, teleported in by her mother's magic. Zedd watched her go, a satisfied smile on his lips.
You escape me for now, Aura. I know you're going home soon. And I will be waiting for you. You cannot flee forever, and you will discover one day that all your running has only led you straight into my arms, where you will remain forever.
You will be mine: my wife or my slave. I will have you, Aura Cranston: Amber Ranger of Earth. Forever. * * *
Aura appeared in the Heart, stumbling over to Shaya with Neras' body still in her arms. Her mother ran over to her, taking the corpse from her. "My love," she whispered brokenly. "I knew this day would come, but I had hoped it would not come at the same time!"
"Mother," Aura knew her time here had ended. The Spirit of Earth's appearance at that moment only confirmed it. "Oh, Mother, I must go! It's too soon, though!"
Shaya embraced her, tears falling from her expressive eyes. "Aura, I will love you forever, my daughter, and will remain here for all time if I must to wait for you."
"Not all time," the Spirit of Kalakan appeared to stand beside her sister spirit. "Only fifty thousand years. That is when I took your daughter, fifty thousand years ahead in time, to Earth."
Shaya glanced up at Aura, who could only nod. "When I come back, Mother, I have one request to make."
"What is that?"
"Have a spaceship ready to leave the moment I arrive," she whispered, remembering the pain she had been in on that horrible moment. I thought the Rangers hated me, I thought Billy and Azure were against me. All I wanted to do was die. I'm so glad I didn't.
Shaya nodded, not quite understand why, but accepting her daughter's knowledge. The Spirit of Kalakan went to Neras' body, and touched it lightly. In moments, he was nothing but ash which blew away in the wind, the proper way for an Amber Ranger to be honored in death. She turned to Aura and placed both hands on her shoulders.
"Aura, I will always be with you, in your heart and soul," she said gently. "When all seems darkest for you, remember where you come from. Remember that while it is Earth you protect, it is Kalakan that gave Earth that protector."
The Spirit of Earth joined them. "We are one, Aura, now and forever. You have accomplished that which you came into the past to do, and now it is time for you to return home."
The Spirit of Kalakan nodded. "But before you go, one last warning. There is a foe you must face one day that is more dangerous than any you can imagine. I cannot speak of him, for to do so invites trouble to Kalakan, and my poor world has suffered more than enough. I say only this: beware the killer of the bond."
"The killer of the bond?" Aura wondered. The Spirit faded away, and the Spirit of Earth took Aura's hand gently.
"It is time to go home," she told her. "All is done here."
"One last good-bye," Aura whispered, looking at her grieving mother. She stepped over to her and held her with all her love. "Mother, I will love you forever, and I thank you for everything you and Father did for me while I was here."
Shaya hugged her daughter with all her might. "I will heal Kalakan," she promised. "When you return, it will be the beauty I remember again."
"I know it will be," Aura whispered. "I love you, Mother. I love you so very much."
"I love you, Aura," Shaya whispered in return. "And will love you until the end of time, my beautiful warrior daughter. Be strong."
They stood there together, for a timeless moment, mother and daughter, united by love, separated by time, together forever. * * *
Billy Cranston watched, an indulgent smile on his face, as Rocky DeSantos played horsy with his daughter Alaina. The pendent around her neck flashed, reminding him yet again of his beloved wife. Aura, where are you? It's been three days. Four days since we rescued her, three days since that clone of yours showed up. And since Rita and Zedd quit. I still can't believe that.
Zordon had confirmed that Rita and Zedd had left the Lunar Palace and had last been seen heading in the direction of the M-51 Galaxy. According to the computers, that was where Rita's father, Master Vile, lived. Zordon wasn't certain if they planned to return, therefore the Rangers would keep their powers for one full year after this. If there was no sign of their enemies at the end of the year, then all the Rangers, except Aura when she returned, would be retired, hopefully permanently.
"Wheeee!" Rocky galloped up and down the room with Alaina in his arms, giggling with delight. Billy smiled; it was obvious Rocky would make an excellent father one day. My kids need their mother back. Maybe I should try and go to the Heart of Earth; see if she's there and all right.
Billy's thoughts were interrupted as the door swung open, and Aura casually walked in. She sat in her usual chair, and glanced over at him. "It's your turn to cook dinner, isn't it?"
Rocky and Billy both stared in shocked disbelief. "A. . .Aura?" Billy stammered for a moment. If this is another clone. . .another trick. ..
Aura leaped to her feet, ran across to him, and caught him up in a hug and kiss that knew no bounds. He knew even as she did so this was her, this was his wife and his love. "Aura," he whispered.
"Oh, Billy," she murmured into his ear. "Oh, Billy, I missed you so much."
He stepped away for a moment to look at her, eyes widening as he saw how much leaner and stronger she looked. Wherever she had been, it had obviously done good for her. She had been simply beautiful before, now she was awe-inspiring!
"You look great!" Rocky observed as he stood up and held Alaina out to her mother. Billy held his breath for a moment, remembering how the clone had inspired Alaina's tears. His fears ceased, however, when his daughter giggled and cooed at Aura, who looked down at the child with such love and tenderness he knew this was his true love.
"Where have you been?" Billy asked as he picked Alexander up out of the playpen and held him. The baby Amber Ranger gurgled and tried to reach out for his mother.
Aura stepped over to him and smiled. "Would you believe me if I told you I was fifty thousand years in the past, and met my father?"
He laughed. "Actually, Aura, I'd believe just about anything! We've got a lot to catch you up on."
Rocky cleared his throat and when Aura looked over, he was holding an envelope in his hands. "Remember, Billy? Adam and Azure left this in case Aura got back before they did."
As Aura took the envelope and started to read the enclosed letter, she absently played with the amulet around Alaina's neck. As she came to the end of the note, she smiled. "It's about time those two got married. I wish they'd waited for me to come back, though."
"Well, they sort of did. . .and didn't," Rocky told her. Aura raised an eyebrow, and the Red Ranger quickly explained about the clone and what had happened with it. Aura trembled a little at the mention of how the clone had quite literally given up her very existence to save Azure's life.
I would have done that. I would have done it so fast it would have made that monster's head spin. That thing was too much like me. Maybe that's a good thing. I wouldn't have liked coming back to my entire family dead.
A knock came at the door, and Aura automatically went to answer it. She was rewarded by a pair of arms being thrown around her neck, a powerful hug, and a cry of "Aura, you're home!"
"Yeah, and it's really me this time, not that clone," Aura told her sister. Azure and Adam entered, eyes dancing with glee at the return of the Amber Ranger. She smiled at them. "So, Mr. and Mrs. Park, how have things been since I've been gone?"
"So, you saw the letter," Adam chuckled. "It was Azure's idea to elope, Aura. We wanted to make sure that Zedd and Rita didn't interfere in our wedding."
Azure nodded, then smiled a little. "Not like we have to worry about that anymore. Their interference, that is."
"What do you mean?" Aura wondered. She still remembered, with a shiver, the look of desire and possession in Zedd's eyes fifty thousand years ago. I wonder why he didn't remember me when my powers started showing themselves. Well, it has been fifty thousand years. Imagine, a senile Zedd!!
"They quit," Rocky giggled. "Rita and Zedd quit!"
Aura found herself sitting down; luckily there was a chair right where she sat. Absently she unfastened the necklace around Alaina's neck and slipped it back around her own. If any of them had any doubts remaining, that solved them all; only the true Amber Ranger could remove the amber necklace. "They quit?" she repeated. Not that I'm complaining, but I go through all that just to be able to fight again, and when I get back, there's no one TO fight!
Billy told her of the package they'd received telling of Rita and Zedd's withdrawal. Azure noticed a slight tightening of Aura's jaw whenever Zedd's name was mentioned. She knew Aura, and something more than just the torment she'd went through in his dungeon's was causing this reaction. She stood up suddenly.
"Aura, we need to talk," Azure told her. She jerked her head towards the bedroom. "In private."
Aura bit her lip, looking up at her sister, then nodded, almost to herself it seemed. She put Alaina back in the playpen and headed back to the room with Azure. Adam and Billy exchanged almost confused glances, and finally the Black Ranger shrugged his shoulders.
"Girl talk?" * * *
"What happened, Aura?" Azure asked bluntly. "Where did the Spirit take you to heal, and why are you almost jumping every time someone mentions Zedd's name?"
Aura sighed. "I'm not sure if you're going to believe me," she said. "If it hadn't happened to me, I know I wouldn't have. It's just too strange."
"Enough of how strange it is, and talk to me," Azure looked directly into her sister's cloud-like eyes. "Please, Aura."
She sighed and glanced for a moment at the chunk of amber beside the bed. Somehow, seeing the essence for which she was named gave her strength. "I didn't precisely go to a where. I went to a when. the Spirit took me back fifty thousand years in time, to Kalakan, in the last nine months of it's life. I've been with my father, Azure. I have spent the last nine months with Neras Alanatrius."
It was safe to say if Azure hadn't seen all the things she had over the past year and more, she would have thought her sister had gone mad. But as more and more of the story came spilling out, Azure realized that Aura had went through more than any of them could have imagined. They had lived three days waiting for her to return. She had lived a lifetime.
Azure found her fists tightening with rage as she heard of Zedd's attempts to take Aura for his queen. As Aura told her of the love potion, and of how close it had come to working forever, Azure wrapped her arms around her sister tightly and held her through the sobs that followed. But the tale wasn't over yet, and as Aura told of how Zedd had killed Neras in pure cold blood, Azure swore something in the silence of her soul.
If I can, somehow, in some way, I will destroy him. Though it cost me everything, I will do it, for my sister. She went back in time to heal, she didn't need to have him hurting her all over again. Not like that, of all ways!
Her attention was brought back to reality when Aura's racking sobs became wails of agonizing pain. A knock came on the door, and Billy's voice said, "Aura? Are you all right?"
"Y-yes, Billy," she replied carefully. "We'll be out soon."
He stood there for a moment, obviously torn between his respect for her privacy, and his need to help her out. Finally he walked away, leaving them to each other. Aura sighed a little, her tears ended for now. Now that she was home and safe, she had finally permitted herself to grieve for all that had happened, in the past and in the dungeons of Zedd's palace.
Once Aura was done with her telling and her weeping, Azure told her again about the clone's short sojourn there. "When she healed me, it was like. . .well. . ever since then, it's been like there's a part of you inside of me. I feel closer to you, in a way. I don't know if that's the right way to say it or not, but that's how it feels."
Aura nodded; she understood what her sister meant. She took a deep breath and stood up. At last it's over.
As they joined their respective husbands in the living room, Aura felt her heart lightening. The war with Rita and Zedd was ended with. They no longer had to live in fear of battles everyday. But the Power Rangers still stood guard over their world, and once again, the Amber Ranger stood with them.
I am the chosen Ranger of the Earth. I am the Amber Ranger. I am Aura Lynn Robinson Cranston. I am Alaina Alantrius. But most of all, more than anything else. . .I am home.