Azure sighed a little as she started to dress; it had been too long since she was out of the hospital. In the month that had passed since awakening from her coma and Aura's entering of her strange catatonic state, she'd relearned how to walk. Today, she was getting out of the hospital at last. "I'm glad you're finally getting out of here," Adam said as he handed her the clothes he'd brought.
"I wish Aura was," Azure put her clothes on carefully, noticing her almost-faded bruises and her extreme weight loss.
"I'm getting worried," Adam said. "It's been a month."
"Adam? Did you bring a belt?" as Azure stood up, her pants almost slid off! "Yeah, I know, I'm worried too."
Adam handed her the belt he'd thought to bring. "Are you going to go see her?" Billy hadn't left Aura's side for more than ten minutes at a time since he and Rocky had found her in their house.
Azure nodded. "I did, but I'm going back."
"It's a good thing Alpha and Zordon were able to put a teleportation barrier around her room. I'd bet money Zedd would've tried something else if they hadn't," he told her. Azure came over to him, pushing the nervousness she still felt aside.
"Can we?" she asked. Adam smiled at her.
"Leave here? Sure!"
Azure shook her head. "See Aura?" _I want to leave. But I want to see her first. The dreams have started again. I wish I could never dream again._
"Sure!" Adam smiled a little. "You didn't have to ask that! Come on, let's go!"
Across the hallway, Billy was still sitting by Aura's bed. Aura lay there, breathing quietly, her face at peace, with no sign of the inner turmoil that racked her mind and soul. "Aura?" Azure whispered. "It's me, Azure. I'm back."
Billy sounded as if he hadn't rested in weeks. "I'm beginning to wonder if she'll ever be all right."
"You need sleep," Azure observed, seeing the shadows under his eyes. _He looks horrible! This is a living nightmare for both of them!_
"What if she comes out of it and I'm not here?" Billy echoed words spoken by Adam only a month earlier. Adam looked at his friend harshly.
"Don't make me have Alpha give you a sedative," he half-threatened. As Billy smiled a tiny smile, Adam suggested, "Let me drive you home. Aura will be fine; and Bulk and Skull will call us if anything happens." _I can't believe how much those two have changed over the past few years. They went from being the school bullies to actual police officers! And they're doing so well at, the first time they've ever done something so well in their lives._
"Yeah, I guess," Billy sighed. "But it's been a month." _A month without her._
"I trust the Spirit will find a way," Adam started urging Billy to his feet again. Billy sighed.
"I hope so. I think I'm going to talk to Aura about starting to
look for a new place once she's herself again," he glanced down at
his wife. _Aura, please, wake up! Please! I can't bear this!_
It didn't take them long to get to get back to the Cranstons' house. Azure stared at it for a few moments, remembering the last time she'd been there. . .the hideous pain in her stomach as Eric had slammed his knife into her. . .
"Azure?" Adam asked gently. "Are you all right? Is something wrong?"
She plastered a quick fake smile on her face as she looked at him. "Yeah, I'm fine," her voice was as unconvincing as her smile was.
"Are you sure?" _I don't believe her._
"I'm sure," Azure nodded briefly and glanced around a little. _I hope I can handle this. Oh, God, I hope I can handle this!_
Adam looked over at Billy. "Now, are you going to eat and sleep, or do we have to force you to?"
"If you guys eat too!" _I'm not going to be forced to eat without company!_
Adam grinned a little as he looked at Azure. "You hungry?" his wife nodded briefly.
"A little," she said softly. Adam quickly fixed something, since neither Billy nor Azure was up to cooking so much as a piece of toast. Once they'd finished, Adam looked sharply at Billy.
"Okay, Billy, you are going to bed!" he stated. Billy nodded reluctantly as they started up towards the bedroom. Azure's heart pounded as they drew nearer to it. She stepped into the room with courage in her heart, but the moment she passed the threshold, her eyes widened as memory struck her in full.
The pain. The fear. Eric's knife sliding into her, his hideous laughter ringing in her ears. She stepped back, wanting to get away, and bumped into something.
"Azure?" Adam asked gently, seeing the fear in her eyes. "What is it?" she only screamed incoherently as he tried to soothe her. "Azure?"
Billy closed his eyes, remembering what Aura had told them! "Man, I don't think this was a good idea to bring her here!"
Adam put an arm around Azure. "And I forgot! Man, I am an idiot!" Azure twisted out of his hold and ran straight for the bathroom. A moment later, they heard the sound of her retching coming from it. "That does it," Adam growled. "I'm taking her somewhere for a while! Azure, we're going on vacation!" Adam followed Azure into the bathroom, to see her staring at him with her eyes large and vacant. He looked to Billy, just behind him. "Any ideas on where we can go? Someplace where Zedd and Eric can't bother us."
"Adam?" they all looked up to see the Spirit of Earth standing there. "What has happened?"
"We forgot," Adam whispered. "We forgot that it was here Eric tried to kill Azure. She remembered as soon as she saw it, and now. .," he gestured sadly towards his crying wife. "I need to take her somewhere where she can heal mentally, somewhere where they can't bother her."
"How about the Heart?" the Spirit asked. _Azure must be healed. It is as imperative as Aura's own healing is._
"Oh, yes!" Adam smiled. "that would be wonderful!"
The Spirit looked at him seriously. "Adam, you must prepare yourself for being there for a long time. There is no telling how long Azure's healing will take."
_I think I know what she means._ He called Zack. The former Black Ranger teleported in a few moments later, and stared wide-eyed at Azure. "What is it?"
"Zack, I'm going to the Heart of Earth with Azure. We could be there a while. I want you to take back the Black Ranger powers until I get back, please."
Zack smiled at his friend. "I'll take care of them. After all, you did."
Adam smiled as he handed his Power Coin to his predecessor. "Thanks, Zack. A lot."
"My thanks will come when Azure is back, and Aura."
Adam sighed a little as he gazed at Aura's spiritual partner. "Any ideas yet on how to get Aura back?" As the Spirit shook her head, Adam sighed. "Well, let us know as soon as you find out anything."
"I will," the Spirit promised. "Go, prepare for the trip. I shall take Azure to the heart. Contact Ninjor when you are ready to leave."
Adam nodded, reaching out to touch Azure's face very gently. "I'll see you soon, honey," as she shrank away from him, he sighed. "This could take a long while."
The Spirit nodded. "It will not be easy. We will see you soon."
"Take care, Azure," he whispered as tears rolled down her cheeks. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
A moment later, only Adam, Zack, and Billy stood there. Adam sighed
deeply, then left, heading for his own home and making the preparations
he needed to make for what could be the longest recovery session any of
them had ever gone through.
Zedd laughed coldly as he saw Azure screaming in terror at the sight of a simple room. Eric snickered from beside him. "This should be entertaining to watch. I doubt even the blasted Spirit of Earth can help her after what I did!"
"No one can," Zedd reminded him. "After what we are going to do!"
Eric nodded. "It's going to be so much fun! We can hurt both of them at the same time!"
"While you take care of the brat sister, Goldar will keep Adam and the Spirit of Earth busy," Zedd glanced down towards the hospital, where the object of his desire/hate lay trapped in the endless loop he had created. "And I will have my fun with Aura."
Eric laughed sarcastically. "You'd best find a way to distract the other Rangers as well. Billy is so overprotective. I wonder why!"
"I already have a plan," Zedd told him. He smiled a little; things had never been so perfect.
"When shall we hit them?" Eric wanted to know.
"Soon, very soon!" Zedd promised. Oh, this was quite simply
the most fun he had experienced in eons!
Adam glanced around at the other Rangers, past and present, gathered in the Command Center. "Guys, I've got some bad news," _Bad news doesn't describe it. Horrible comes a lot closer._
"What is it?" Jason wanted to know. Kat nodded, a worried look in her eyes. "What's going on?"
Adam sighed. "Azure has reverted into herself. I'm taking her away from Angel Grove for a while; I don't know when we'll be back."
"Where are you going?" Tommy asked.
"Somewhere Zedd and Eric can't touch her. The Heart of the Earth. She's there already," he told them. He couldn't wait to get to her; she was so fragile right now.
Rocky wondered, "Who's going to be the Black Ranger while you're gone?"
"The original," Adam glanced over at Zack, who nodded. It felt strangely good to pass the power back to his friend, as good as it had felt to get the powers in the first place.
"It's only until Azure's well again, though," Zack reminded him. Adam sighed a little.
"I wish I knew how long this is going to take, but I might be gone for a very long time. If you saw how Azure was. . .," he shivered a little. "It was like the last time Eric was near her."
Jason frowned; he'd been a friend to the Robinsons since they'd first lived in Angel Grove. "If I get my hands on Eric. .. ."
Adam's voice was stern. "Let me handle him," he said. "This is personal."
"It depends on who gets to him first," Jason replied. Adam glanced up at Zordon.
THIS IS NECESSARY, ADAM. WE WILL MISS YOU AS WELL.
Adam sighed again, then for a moment looked so worried and scared the Rangers all turned to him. "Adam, is everything all right?"
"I was just remembering how Azure looked before the Spirit to her to the Heart," he closed his eyes, shivering. _So fragile, so afraid. So hurt. . . we have to help her get better. We just have to._
Zack shivered as he remembered how she'd looked. "She'll be all right."
"She is terrified," Adam told them. "What kind of person would make another person fear their own loved ones?"
"Someone who hates everyone," Kim would have loved to get her hands on Eric and slowly strangle him if it were possible.
Adam took a deep breath. "I guess I should go pack. I hope I'll see you guys soon, but somehow, I doubt that."
"Are you taking Katia with you?" Rocky asked, and Adam nodded that he was.
"She needs her mother, and I think her mother needs her."
Rocky nodded in his own turn at Adam's statement. "Hey, you got your hands full with the twins and Shaya," Adam reminded him. "I thank you for looking after her while Azure was in the hospital." _She was so thin, and so many bruises..._ "For that, I am grateful."
"My pleasure," Rocky smiled as everyone crowded around to let him know just how much they were going to miss him while he was gone. Finally Adam stepped apart, wiping away a tear from one eye.
"I'll see you around," was all he said as he teleported back to his apartment. The others looked around, already feeling a strange sort of sense of loss without him there. One and all, they wanted Azure and Aura well again.
And Eric and Zedd gone from their lives forever.
Adam watched Azure as she played with Katia. In the week since they had been there, his wife had shown some improvement, but not nearly as much as they both wanted. The beauty and peace here was probably the only thing that had even enabled her to come this far along in her recovery. He hadn't come near her much, he wasn't even sure if she was aware of the fact he was there in the first place.
"She's made some progress," the Spirit of Earth spoke softly from next to him. She wasn't always there, at least not always visible, but the sense of her presence was eternal in this place. He could easily see why Aura loved her so much. She exuded love and caring; she was the essence of life itself on this world
"I'm glad, too," Adam nodded. All he wanted right now was his wife back to her usual laughing self.
The Spirit watched Azure for a few moments, then asked Adam, "Want to try talking to her?"
_Should I? Would it hurt her even more? She hasn't want to be near anyone since this all got started. But how else can she heal up if she doesn't START being near people? I guess I'll find out._ "Azure?"
"Adam?" he'd come up from behind her, not wanting to startle her too much by just appearing.
"Yeah, it's me," he said as tenderly as he could. The tension in her shoulders eased, just a trifle, just a mere trifle.
"When. . .when did you get here?" she asked, wanting to turn and look at him so much it hurt.
"Not long ago," he replied.
"How is everyone?" she asked, heart longing for news of her family, and for one special member of it. "Aura?" _Please let her be awake!_
Adam sighed. "Aura is the same. As for everyone else," he quietly filled her in on the few things that had happened while she was gone.
"Want to sit?" she offered after a few moments, gesturing to the ground near her. He nodded and sat cross-legged near, but not too near, her. She managed to look at him, and he was disappointed to still see the look of fear in his eyes. "Why am I so scared of you?"
Adam closed his eyes for a moment. "I think because of what happened in the hospital with Eric," he could never forget seeing Eric standing over her, threatening her, and he was unable to do anything at all to help her! Hot rage poured through him at the memory.
"It wasn't your fault," Azure looked back down at the ground. "I know that now. But it doesn't help."
A soft wind played over the both of them, and Adam noticed something that made him feel a little better. Azure was wearing the sundress they had been married in. "I know that too. You'll get through this. We'll help you." _No matter what, we will get you healed, inside and out, my beautiful Azure._
Azure glanced at Katia, now playing by herself with some of the flowers that grew everywhere in the Heart. "I hope so. For her sake if not my own."
"We'll all get through this," Adam promised her. She stood up and started down towards a stream that flowed not far away. He heard her whispered voice as she left.
"I hope so."
Neither of them noticed both the Spirit of Earth and Ninjor standing on a hill watching them from a short distance away. "This doesn't look good," Ninjor observed quietly.
"Not at the moment," the Spirit demurred. "But she will heal," her voice held nothing but conviction, without a single inch left for doubt. Her long-time friend looked at her quietly.
"You are sure of this? You know something, don't you?"
The Spirit nodded, once she was certain Adam and Azure couldn't hear her. "She is the one of the prophecy."
Ninjor's eyes widened under his helmet. "She? Are you sure?"
"How?" the ancient Ninja Master was surprised. "The prophecy states that. . .," his voice trailed off as he remembered. "I see your point."
The Spirit nodded. "Once she is healed, then something will happen. I know not precisely what, but she will fulfill her destiny."
"Is that why you saved her when Galan put the spell on her to stop her heart? You had a feeling even then that she was the one?"
"That was one reason," the Spirit told him, gazing still at Azure and Adam as they talked in low tones.
"One?" Ninjor sounded curious. "There was another?"
"Yes. Because it needed doing. She is as much my daughter as Aura is, actually more so, for as much as I love her, Aura is not of Earth, and Azure is."
Ninjor nodded. "True. I hope that Azure is ready for all that lies ahead."
"As do I," the Spirit kept her eyes on the two young people.
"As do I."
"This can't be! Her!" Zedd glowed so red it looked as if he was going to explode. "This simply cannot be!"
Eric stared at his father, wondering why he was so angry. They'd just been spying on Adam and Azure in the Heart, then this had started happening. "What? What is it?"
"She can't be the one the prophecy spoke of!" Zedd raged, barely hearing his son. Eric managed to get his attention, and asked just what this prophecy was. "Some goody-good gibberish on how one connected to the powers of good but not serving them will destroy the greatest evil. I don't know it's full details, but I do know that it's been bothering me for centuries!"
"Azure?!?!" Eric stared, his little girlfriend was going to destroy evil?
"That is what they said," Zedd glared down once more at the Heart. "She must be stopped! I will not permit this prophecy to come to pass!"
Eric snapped, "I claim that honor, Father!" _We'll just see what she destroys when she sees ME!_
"Then so be it!" Zedd declared. "Goldar!"
"Yes, sire?" the winged ape asked. He'd heard of this prophecy, and didn't want anything to do with whoever it was who was destined to fulfill it!
"The time for our attack is at hand! Eric, bring her here, then you can have some fun before destroying her!" Zedd snapped out his orders. They would see just who destroyed who!
"I will, Father!" Eric couldn't wait to see Azure again. She'd learn just what it meant to be subject to the greatest evil the universe had ever known: him! He watched as his father zapped up a monster for the Rangers to be kept busy with, then transformed into an orderly. "Have fun with Aura, father!" he wished him.
"Oh, I will!" Zedd chuckled, then teleported off to Earth.
This prophecy would not happen!
Aura hadn't moved a single inch in days. Tommy sighed as he looked at her. "I hope the Spirit can find something to help her."
"And soon," Jason agreed with him. Everyone except Adam was there, keeping their usual vigil over their fallen comrade. Kat looked at her friend long and appraisingly. Aura's bruises had faded weeks earlier, but that same vacant look in her eyes remained.
"She really doesn't look good," she sighed.
"At least Zedd can't get to her in here," Tommy reminded them all gratefully. The teleportation barrier was absolute, no one could teleport in or out. Jason nodded briefly.
"I hope he can't get to Azure, either!" They all wanted that girl home and healed and safe!
Tommy glanced out the window. "I don't think he can. They should be safe there."
"The Heart has the Spirit of Earth there. No one crosses her," Kat reminded them all. Jason shook his head for a second.
"I am still trying to get used to what is going on. Heck, I didn't even know about Eric until this happened!"
Tommy told him, "We didn't know about him until he first showed up in Angel Grove," the memories of that little escapade weren't good.
"When Azure tried to kill herself because of him," Billy sighed, remembering how scared they had all been.
Kat nodded, memories soaring through her mind of how she had found Azure once during Galan's tenure. "If it weren't for Aura, she would have died."
"I just wish none of this had happened," Jason sighed. Things had changed so dramatically from when he was a Ranger, and most of it had been for the worst, it seemed now.
"We all do," Tommy replied. "We all do."
Billy leaned forward to place a kiss on Aura's forehead, when their communicators beeped. Tommy growled. "What is it, Zordon?"
A MONSTER IS ATTACKING DOWNTOWN ANGEL GROVE, RANGERS. YOU ARE NEEDED.
"Great," Tommy muttered. "Jason, Trini, Kim, you stay here and keep an eye on Aura. Billy, we've got work to do."
Billy nodded and stood up; he knew perfectly well Aura would have his hide if he neglected this responsibility. "I love you," he murmured as they left. Jason walked over to the window and stared quietly out of it for a few minutes.
"Good luck, guys," he murmured. Trini and Kim were on opposite sides of Aura, watching for any hint of life in her eyes, anything at all. An orderly entered the room, starting to straighten up.
"You're new, aren't you," Trini asked; in the last month they had seen just about every nurse, doctor, and orderly there. The young man nodded.
"Today's my first day," he told them. He glanced over at Aura. "What's wrong with her?"
"Something that only time will heal," Jason sighed, wishing it were otherwise with all his heart. The orderly nodded as Jason turned his attention back to the window. His eyes widened suddenly to see Tengas trashing the small yard where those patients who could walked every now and then. Thankfully no one was there at the moment, but they were causing serious damage!
He turned to Trini and Kim, gesturing quietly outside. Both of them saw what was going on, and stiffened. "Let's go get something to eat," Trini said casually. "Aura should be all right for a few minutes."
They sauntered out, not appearing any more anxious than anyone else around there did, until they reached the yard. Back in the room, things were not quite that serene, though. The orderly closed and locked the door, then shapechanged back into his real form: Zedd. Once more he broke the loop Aura was in, ready for torment and terror.
As Aura came out of her nightmares, she looked around, hoping that somehow Billy had rescued her from them. "B. . .Billy?" she whispered his name. A shadowy figure stepped up to her.
"No," Zedd said, smiling at her. She looked so helpless, so vulnerable to anything he wanted to do to her! Just at that same moment, she jerked, feeling a pain that racked her entire body. She knew that pain, knew that sensation!
"The Heart," she whispered. "You're attacking the Heart."
Zed nodded as he caressed her, almost lover-like. "That is where your sister, niece, and her husband are. And very soon, your precious little sister will be no more!"
"No!" Aura tried to scream, but couldn't. "Leave them alone!"
Zedd shook his head. "Your sister is a great threat," he told her seriously. "The greatest threat in the universe."
"Azure?" Aura couldn't believe her ears. " What could she do to you? And get your hands off me, now!" she did her best to hit at him. He stopped for a moment, then jerked her arms above her head and created shackles to hold her there.
"She is a great threat, not only to me, but to my family!" Surely she understood what it was to protect family!
Aura kicked at him, wanting to fight with everything she possessed. "Then more power to her! I wish her all the luck in the world! I hope she kills all of you!"
"She won't be able to," Zedd laughed. "You should see what happened when she went into your house. She is totally useless and soon Eric will destroy her!"
Aura growled, "If he does, then I won't rest until I've destroyed both of you!" she cried, unable to bear the torment he inflicted on her, the part of the world that was her home, and her family. "Leave me alone, Zedd! I've been through hell the past. . .I don't even know how long it is, I can't stop reliving everything you and your hideous family have done to me!"
"Not enough hell," Zedd hissed. "Not enough at all!" _Not until you are so broken and defeated you don't even bother to fight me when I come to you. When you are so annihilated all you want to do is to have me with you, forever!_
"What is enough to you? Haven't you hurt me enough? All I did was tell you I didn't love you, fifty thousand years ago!"
"Hell enough is when you die!" he hissed. _It will make it all the sweeter when she thinks I will kill her: then I keep her forever as my slave-queen!_ "Pity you can't help your own sister!" he vanished, as did her shackles. Aura cried for a few minutes, then realized.
She was still out of the loop. He hadn't put her back into it. She managed to stop her tears; she wasn't ever going back into it again, either! "I can't take this anymore," she whispered. "If enough hell is death, then so be it!" she glanced around, and saw a knife that had been left behind. She managed to get to it, and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Billy," she prayed he would understand. "But I can't live like this. Not with him doing this to me every chance he gets. I love you."
She started to draw the knife along her wrists, when it flew across the room. She saw Zedd standing next to her still, and realized he had never left, he had only went invisible! She tried to get up, only to have him force her back down to the bed. "Remember this," he hissed. "Remember your despair forever!"
She sank back into the mists of her eternal loop, and Zedd laughed.
He hoped things were going half as well in the Heart with Eric as they
had just went with him. Soon everything he had ever wanted would be his.
Azure trembled as she hid behind a tree, listening to Adam fight the Tengas and Goldar. "I'll find you!" Eric growled as he stomped through the Heart, causing as much damage as he could. "You cant' hide from me, Azure!" he laughed a little. "What's the matter? Afraid? I know you are, you're afraid of everyone now, even your own dear husband!"
Tears rolled down Azure's cheeks as he spoke. "You know, this is fun! By doing this, we get to hurt you and your sister at the same time! Remember what any damage to this place does to her? And of course, what my father's doing won't help her any!"
"No!" Azure couldn't remain silent a moment longer. Eric turned to where her voice had emanated from. He smiled in evil joy as he saw her.
"There you are!" he grabbed her as she tried to sneak away. "You're not going anywhere!"
"Adam!" Azure screamed at the top of her lungs. She was glad she'd seen Ninjor and slipped Katia to him. Adam turned away as he fought Goldar, only to be hit upside the head. He staggered and fell.
"No!" Azure screamed, not wanting to have seen that. Eric kept a harsh grip on her arm and pulled her closer to him.
"You are too dangerous to live, girl," he hissed in her ear. "And my father and I are going to see to it that you don't!"
Azure squirmed trying to get free, wanting only to be far away from
everything. As they teleported away, the last thing she saw was Goldar
trashing the Heart, and Adam in a heap, unconscious.
Azure grunted in pain as Eric kicked her in the ribs as she fell into a heap on the floor of the lunar palace. "We're finally going to be rid of you!" he gloated. He bent down closer to her. "This is going to be so much fun!" she shrank away from him, and he chuckled. "Then after you're gone, we start with the Rangers: beginning with your sister!"
Azure's eyes went wide. "No," she whispered, tears coursing down her cheeks. Eric laughed.
"We've already begun to do her in, of course! The damage to the Heart can't be healed without her, and she's in no condition to do it!" Azure kicked at him as hard as she could, then balled up, crying. Zedd's evil laughter didn't even affect her, but what he said next did.
"It's so hard to heal anything when you're dead!"
Azure looked up, eyes wide. "W-w-what?"
"She's dead!" Zedd told her evilly. "She suicided!" at Azure's strangled denial, he continued. "I revived her, just to talk, and she ran away, grabbed a knife, and slit her wrists!"
Eric laughed wickedly; this was a dream come true! "Finally! Rid of her at last!"
_Dead? My sister? Dead? Suicide. . .no, it can't be, it just can't be!_ "Aura. . .no, Aura," she whispered.
"Excellent work, Father!" Eric complimented Zedd. The evil overlord glanced down at Azure with contempt.
"Thank you, my son. One down, and one to go!"
Eric chuckled a bit. "Who gets to kill her?" Zedd laughed, debating over just who got that 'honor'. Eric bent over her, chuckling as his hands found just the wrong areas to touch. "Maybe a little fun first. . ."
"Help me," Azure whispered, not expecting an answer, but remembering that the Spirit had told her she would always be with her.
And she was.
"Leave her alone!" the Spirit of Earth appeared, in full and splendid outrage. Eric, however, laughed at her.
"What can you do?" he mocked her. "You are helpless without Aura!"
The Spirit stood by Azure, as protectively as any mother. "Am I?" she smiled a little, then turned to Azure. "Trust me. Open up to me. This is your destiny."
Azure looked up to her, then touched the Spirit's hand gently. In that moment, the two became one, and the Guardian of the Earth stood there. It wasn't the same as when Aura joined with her, there was more rage, less vindictiveness, but not one shade less power. Zedd and Eric stared in mutual confusion and fear. In all the annals of history, no one but the sworn Ranger of a world had ever been able to bond with the Spirit of a world!
"No way!" Zedd breathed. "This isn't possible!"
"Is it?" the Guardian chuckled a little. "Know that this is your own doing, Zedd, for it was your clone's healing of my daughter Azure that enables her to now join with me. So has the ending of evil come from the workings of evil."
Eric took a deep breath. "Dad, I think we're in trouble!"
"You better believe it!" the Guardian raised a hand, encased in a shimmering golden glow. "You have plagued this universe for far too long! You have done unspeakable damage to innocent people."
"Azure, remember me!" Eric did his best to look terrifying; despite being as frightened out of his mind as he was. "Remember what I can do to you!"
"And remember what I did to your sister!" Zedd hissed, blasting away at the Guardian with his staff, with no more effect than had he been a fly.
The Guardian extended the glowing hand ominously. "That is why it is time for you to meet your hand! As Galan did before you!"
The entire palace began to shake. Zedd and Eric had only time enough
to exchange one last glance and words. "Oh, shit."
Adam had forgotten how many times he had paced back and forth in the Command Center, waiting for word on Azure. "Why is this happening?" he murmured. _Couldn't they leave her alone to heal? Oh, Azure, please be all right!_
"I don't know, Adam," Billy told him. "but I'll find her!"
Find her he did, and as Billy brought up the Lunar Palace on the Viewing Globe, he breathed in awestruck wonder, "Woah. . . "
The palace was collapsing.
"Azure!" Adam screamed, falling to his knees. "No!" _This hasn't happened! It's all a nightmare!_
"Adam?" the voice was Azure's, but deeper, fuller, more resonant. It had the same kind of sound to it that Aura's did when she was the Guardian. Everyone turned to see where it was coming from.
And everyone stared for almost a full minute as Azure, still joined with the Spirit of Earth, appeared in the Command Center. "Azure?" Adam breathed. _This. . .I. . .whoa. . ._
"Yes," Azure and the Spirit separated, and she dropped to her knees, crying. Adam ran to her, calling out her name in mixed joy and fear.
"Well done, Azure," the Spirit told her. "You have fulfilled your destiny." _Only the first part of it. But the rest must wait. Until you are ready._
Azure hugged Adam, her love finally overcoming her fear. "My destiny?"
The Spirit explained the prophecy that had foretold the downfall of Zedd and Eric at the hands of one who had suffered by them, yet who was not a sworn warrior of the Light. Everyone looked at Azure in surprise, and all had the same thought on their mind. _Remind me to stay on her good side!_
"They're dead?" Adam had never been happier in his life! Finally, once and for all, Zedd and Eric were out of their lives, and it was his brave Azure who had done it!
Azure hugged him with all her strength. "I. . .uh. . .," something Zedd had said reoccurred to her. "Aura!"
"She is alive, Azure. Zedd lied to you," the Spirit told her, sensing the confusion. Azure closed her eyes for a brief moment.
"I killed them," she whispered. _And I was so angry with Aura when she did it to Galan. But when I did it, I felt the same things she did. She wanted to protect me. I wanted to protect her, even though I thought she was dead. I wanted to STOP all the pain Zedd and Eric have caused._
"And if you had not, they would surely have killed you and went on to destroy the world and all you hold dear," the Spirit knew perfectly well what would have happened. It was part of being the Spirit of Earth.
Azure whispered, "And I got upset with Aura when she. . . ."
"She will understand," the Spirit assured her. "When she is free of the loop."
"But we don't know how to break that loop!" Zack protested. _I don't want her to remain in that thing forever! None of us do! She has to be out of it!_
The Spirit looked at them all. "There may be a way. One way, but it is very dangerous."
"How?" Billy asked at once. _I'll do anything!_
"If this fails," none of them had ever heard the Spirit sounding so serious. "Then Aura will never be free. Do you still wish me to tell you of it and to try it?" Azure as well as the Rangers all nodded. "I can send you all into her mind. There you must help Aura realize that all she sees are memories, memories that she can control, grow beyond, and deal with. That is how Zedd was able to trap her in them, for not one of those memories has she ever faced. She has only avoided. Only if they are defeated can she be free of the loop. But if you fail, she will remain there forever: and so will you."
Billy answered at once. "I'm willing to try." the other Rangers were only seconds behind him, while Azure just looked at the ground, even when the Spirit called her name.
"How can I help her if I can't battle what's going on inside of me?"
The Spirit placed a hand on Azure's shoulder. "Azure, you can fight your doubts and fears."
Adam nodded. "And I'll be there with you, you'll be safe."
"We'll all be there," Tommy reminded her. Azure smiled a thin smile.
"Okay," she decided. "I'll try."
The Spirit looked up to Zordon and over to Alpha. "What of you?"
"I will try," Alpha was glad to be a part of this!
AS WILL I, Zordon wanted Aura back as much as they all did.
"Then rest," the Spirit advised. "Everyone rest as completely
as you can. Tomorrow, we heal the Amber Ranger."
Jason watched over his friend, wondering if there was any chance at all for her to come back to herself. He glanced up as Billy entered, calling his name. "What is it? Any word on Azure?"
"You might say that," Billy quickly informed him of the recent happenings. When the recitation was over with, Jason's eyes were wide.
"So you guys are retired again?"
Billy shook his head. "I doubt it. There's still Rita to worry over, my scans indicated she wasn't there at all, and didn't return with Zedd."
"Man," Jason glanced back at Aura. "I wish that this loop would have died when Zedd did!"
"That's what I came about," Billy got to the real reason he'd come there, other than to watch his wife. "There may be a way to break her out of that."
Jason looked back at his friend, so worried over the woman he loved so much. "How?" once Billy had explained it, and told him the size of the force going in, Jason had but one question. "When do we do it?"
"Tomorrow," Billy told him. Jason nodded briefly.
"Then I'll see you then. Go get some sleep. We'll both need it."
Billy smiled a little as he leaned over to kiss Aura gently on the lips. "Tomorrow, Aura," he whispered. "You're coming back to us."