The Power Rangers watched tensely as Azure passed smelling salts Alpha had hurriedly given her under her unconscious sister's nose. Aura had arrived at the Command Center only moments before, and as she'd looked at the Rangers, she'd suddenly screamed and fainted. "Aura? Come on," Azure whispered, trying to revive the Amber Ranger. _What made her react like that? That's not normal for her. What did they do to her there?_
Aura's eyes flickered for a moment, then opened completely. "Azure. . .are the snakes gone?" she murmured. Azure raised an eyebrow, she should've known only snakes terrified Aura to the point of collapse.
"There never were any snakes here," Azure told her. Aura glanced around, and her eyes went wide with fear.
"There they are!" she shrank back, heart pounding. Azure looked to see where she was looking, and saw the Rangers standing there, every last one of them looking confused. Billy looked worried as well, and Azure didn't blame him. Aura had, after all, been gone for two days, and now she was screaming in fear every time she saw him!
"Aura, those are the Rangers," Azure tried to relax her sister. Aura didn't want to be relaxed, however, as she curled away from her.
"Those are snakes!" she declared. "I'm seeing snakes!"
Azure sighed; snakes were the one thing Aura absolutely refused to be rational about. She didn't blame her older sister, either. "Aura, calm down," Azure tried again. She glanced to Alpha. "Can you teleport us home for a bit? I need to calm her down."
A moment later, they were both in Aura and Billy's living room. Azure asked quietly, noticing Aura's still fear-rounded eyes. "Do you see any now?"
Aura looked around, then took a deep breath. "Nope," she sighed in relief. She hated snakes with a passion that was almost holy.
"Aura," Azure knew she had to talk out what had happened, or it would eat away at her. "Do you want to talk to me?"
Aura sat on the couch, shaking. "Oh, man," she whispered, remembering what she'd been through again. Azure came to sit beside her.
"Don't you wish at times you could retire from all this?"
Aura nodded. "But I can't. I took an oath, and I won't go back on it. I wouldn't even if I could," she reminded her sister. Azure shook her head.
"You know what I mean," she said. "Not having to look over your shoulder, not having to be tortured, not having to worry about your kids. . ."
"Especially the not being tortured and not worrying about the kids," Aura sighed. Azure took a deep breath; she knew what she had to do.
"Want to talk about what happened while you were with Vile and Rita?" Azure asked softly. Aura shivered visibly, that was almost as bad as having to see snakes! Her trembling nearly doubled.
"I. . .I. . .they. . .Galan. . .Zedd. .. again. . .I saw them. . .," she whispered. She'd almost had a grip on things, then Azure had asked, and the memories had flooded back to her. . .
"That wasn't Galan," Azure knew Aura wasn't going to be easy to talk to for a few. She'd been too out of it when she'd first returned to the Command Center to notice Galan's ghost had been there.
"I saw him," Aura whispered. Azure sighed, Aura wasn't just mentally wounded, she was as stubborn as could be!
"Aura, that was a fake Galan. Galan helped Adam," she could only hope Aura would believe her. Aura focused on something.
"I knew they'd done something to him," she murmured. "But what. ..and why did Galan help him?"
Azure quickly explained what Adam had told her before Aura had been sent back, and Aura's eyes widened in amazement. Azure had one last bit of news, as well. "Neras was here."
Aura smiled. "Father. I wish I could've seen him again."
Azure took her sister's hand. "Aura, if it wasn't for Galan, Vile and Rita would never have sent you back to us." _And I never thought I'd be grateful to him for anything. But I am now._
"Galan," Aura looked up a little, an instinctive reaction by those who might speak to ghosts. "Wherever you are. . .thank you."
_Aura._ Aura looked around, eyes wild, as her old foe shimmered into being in front of her. "G. . .Galan?" she whispered.
He smiled a little. _You don't have to fear me anymore. I wanted to apologize to you, for everything I did to you and your family. If you ever find it in your heart to forgive me, let me know._
Aura stared for a moment, then realized something. "You repaid it all when you brought Adam back. Thank you. He is my brother and my friend. I do forgive you." _And I do._
_Then I can almost rest in peace. I am going to pay one last visit to Scorpina before I do. Thank you for giving her a good life now. I have been watching her, and she is happy now, far happier than she has ever been in thousands of years._
Aura sighed, one weight lifting from her. "That was the only thing I was never sure of. If I'd done the right thing with her. It was all I could think of, though. She didn't deserve death at the time."
_She is getting married, to a respectable and good man who loves her very much, and whom she loves. Be proud._
Aura sighed and smiled. "I'm glad." Galan began to fade, and his soft spectral voice floated one last time through the room. _Beware of cursed water._
"Cursed water?" Azure asked as he faded away entirely. Aura's eyes went wide, and once more she shook, but this time with raw anger instead of fear. "What is it?"
"I'm going to strangle her if I get my hands on her!" Aura growled. Azure stared at her, worried, and wondering.
"Rita!" Aura snapped. Azure asked what she meant, and Aura, in quick, bitten off words, told her of Rita forcing the water down her throat that must have been what was causing her to see the Rangers as snakes.
"That's what he meant by cursed water," Azure decided. "We need to get you to the Command Center, but get the Rangers out first. There is no way you're going near any of them until you are cured of this!"
Aura's eyes shimmered with tears. "I can't even look at my own husband without seeing snakes!" she shivered as she named her fear. It was only with great effort she didn't collapse shaking right then, at the thought of Billy being or even looking like a reptile!
"You will," Azure assured her. "Let's get you to Alpha!" a few minute s later, she and her sister were inside the Command Center, as the Rangers teleported out. Azure quickly told the little robot what was going on, and he started to run the data through the computer.
"I think we can fix it, ay-yi-yi," he said, "but it'll take time!"
As they waited, Azure looked over at her sister. Aura's head was lowered, and there was an air of fear about her. Azure asked softly, "Want to tell me something?" Aura shook her head. "Aura?" the young woman whispered something under her breath. Azure sighed a little; Aura clammed up sometimes so tight no one could get in.
"Know how to fix this yet?" Aura asked. Alpha looked over at her.
"I am getting close to an answer," was all he said as he went back to work. This would be so much simpler for him to deal with if Billy were there, but they all knew that was impossible. Aura turned away from them all.
"Let me know when you do."
Azure took a long look at her sister. She had always been the one person Aura never shut out, and she didn't like it now that it was happening. "Aura, talk to me, please."
Only Zordon had a clear view of Aura at that moment, and it was all he could do not to say anything. He knew Aura wouldn't react anywhere near rationally for some time to come. The tears on her cheeks only emphasized that. Azure turned away herself, just barely able to stop herself from crying as well.
"I can't get away from them, Azure," Aura finally spoke. "Even after they're dead."
"I know how you feel," Azure sighed. "Trust me. He still haunts my dreams, even after the Glitter Rose."
Aura didn't have to ask who 'he' was. There was only one 'he' for Azure. "But those were only dreams. I saw them. I felt them! They. . .they. . .," she dissolved back into tears at the memory.
"Were fakes!" Azure almost screamed, then regretted it as Aura flinched away from her. _Blast it, she was going through hell the past two days, and now this. I shouldn't have done that! But she's being so stubborn!_
Aura took a deep breath, and came over to Azure as she stood on the other side of the Command Center. "I'm sorry. I know they were fakes, my head and heart know they were fakes. But my memories, they still see them for what they looked like, and what they did. . .still hurts me."
"I know," Azure whispered. Aura sighed a little.
"I'm sorry, Azure," she said. "Sorrier than you can know. Most of what has happened to you would never have happened if you weren't my sister."
Azure turned to her. "Except what happened with Eric. It would have happened even if you weren't my sister. Except, I never would have made it through the first time without you."
Aura smiled a touch. "And I would never have survived anything of what I went through since we moved back to Angel Grove without you. I owe you so much, Azure, and all I can say is thank you. And I love you, little sister."
Azure laid her hands on Aura's shoulders; she still didn't like to be too near people these days. But it was a little better since it was Aura. She knew in her heart that her sister would never hurt her. "Some days, I honestly wish I'd never discovered who and what I am."
"Ay-yi-yi, I found it!" Alpha cheered suddenly. Aura looked over at him, stepping away from Azure.
"What is it?" Both sisters had the sudden feeling if it were possible, Alpha would have paled.
"You may not like it," he warned Aura. Her jaw tightened.
"Look, anything's better than seeing snakes every time I look at my friends and husband!" she declared. Alpha continued.
"You must travel to get the antidote, an antivenin that can only be found in one place," Alpha told her. "You must get it from the Great Wyrm."
Aura shrugged. "Okay, okay. . .wait. . .wyrm. ..as in snake. .as in huge snake?"
"I told you that you wouldn't like it."
Azure came to stand beside her. "I want to go with you."
Aura shook her head firmly. "No, Azure." _I don't want her to get hurt._
"Give me one good reason not to!" Azure snapped. "I know your fear of snakes, why you are afraid of them, and how you react to them! No one else does! You are going to need some mortal support, if not a little strength, with you!"
Aura smiled a bit. "All right," she didn't feel like arguing, but she also wasn't going to let Azure risk this.
"After we leave," Azure told Alpha, "contact the Ranges and tell them what's going on." Alpha nodded, and Azure turned to her sister.
"Ready to go?" when Aura nodded, Azure turned back to Alpha. She never saw Aura come up behind her, silent as a shadow, but she defiantly felt the blow that knocked her out.
"I'm sorry, Azure," Aura said, catching her sister so she didn't hurt herself. "And you're going to give me hell over this when I get back, but I have to do this alone. I'll never get over my fear if I don't," she glanced to Alpha. "Send me to wherever this thing is, Alpha, and tell her I'm sorry."
Alpha did as she said; he'd never thought to see Aura do that, and he did not want to tell Azure anything! He contacted the Rangers quickly.
"Any luck curing Aura as yet, Alpha?" Tommy asked through the communicator.
"Ay-yi-yi, Rangers, report to the Command Center," he told them. Moments later, the Rangers stood before him, and Adam's first reaction was to go to Azure's side as Alpha told them what was going on. Adam kissed Azure lightly on the lips, and as her eyes flickered open, she growled, "Where is she?"
Adam stepped back; he'd seen that look in Azure's eyes before, but never had it been directed at Aura, of all people! "She . .uh. ..left."
Azure glared at him, then rubbed a sore spot on her head. "She did this to me, didn't she?" as Alpha told her what Aura had done, and said, she glared one by one at them all. "We are having a little talk when she gets back!"
Kat frowned. "I don't get it. We know she's afraid of snakes, but she's never said why. And now she's going alone to face the biggest one in creation?"
Azure glanced away from them for a few moments. She and her parents were the only ones who knew what had happened to Aura that made her hate snakes as much as she did. Billy's soft voice pulled her back to the others. "Azure, please. Even I don't know why she's afraid of them. And Aura's my wife. I love her. I want to know. Maybe we can help her somehow."
Azure shook her head. "I can't. I maybe ticked off at her, but I promised!"
Adam looked at her with large puppy dog eyes, the eyes that had never failed to get just about anything out of anyone. "Azure, please."
"Man, you aren't going to make this easy on me, are you?" at the dual shaking Billy and Adam's heads, she sighed. "I hope she can forgive me. Aura was bitten by a poisonous snake when we lived in New York, she almost died of it," _the doctors couldn't figure out why she reacted as violently as she did to it. I guess now it's because she's a Kalakan. They have different immunities than we do. Man, Billy looks shocked._ "We were camping, and it came out of nowhere, bit her, and slithered off. She was in the hospital for two months because of that."
Adam shivered. "That must have been horrible!" _No wonder she freaks out so much at the sight of a snake!_
"Now you see why I promised her that I would never tell anyone?" Azure sighed a little. She'd never thought she'd break that promise, but the Rangers did deserve to know. Aura would understand. . if she survived the throttling Azure intended on giving her when she got back.
Billy nodded. "I wish she'd told me, though."
"She doesn't like telling people what's going on," Azure shrugged. "Probably my bad habit rubbing off on her. Heck, I'm still the same way myself!" she noticed Adam looking at her almost worriedly. _Probably wondering what else I haven't told him._
"I hope she's okay," Billy sighed. He wanted to find her on
the viewing globe, but knew if he did, he'd teleport straight there to
be with her. That wasn't what she needed right now. Azure reassured him
that she would be, as she looked away from Adam. It was a very quiet and
hopeful batch of Rangers that awaited the return of one of their own.
"She is going after the antivenin?" Rita shrieked as she and her father stared down on Earth.
"No!" Vile hissed. "If she reaches the Great Wyrm. . .this must be stopped!"
Rito shuffled over, peering down. "How, Pops?" he wanted to know.
"Reptilor!" Vile declared. "The embodiment of all her
snakely fears! It will stop her in her tracks!" _and should we be
lucky enough that it bites her. . .the venom will ensure that the Amber
Ranger is gone forever. . .in moments!_
Aura wandered through the desert, hoping she was on the right track to the Great Wyrm. She'd never imagined herself willingly going to see any form of reptile, much less the largest one in creation, but it had to be done. _I will not keep seeing my husband and friends as snakes! I just won't!_
She sighed briefly, hoping Azure wouldn't be mad at her when she got back. _Oh, who am I kidding, she's going to want to dismember me when I'm back!_
"Hello, Rannngeerr!" the reverberating tones of a serpentine monster sounded, echoing from all around her. A seven foot tall creature stood in front of her, hissing and spitting. It looked like a combination of every type of snake known, and Aura had only one reaction to it.
She screamed. Loud and long enough to almost shatter her throat. The monster, Reptilor, laughed. "Time to die!"
Aura stopped suddenly. Where a moment before, fear had filled her every pore, now black rage did. "That does it! I have heard that too many times! Amber Ranger Power!"
Reptilor lunged for her as she morphed. "You will die, Ranger!" Aura moved as quick as thought, and Reptilor slammed straight into a rock!
"Oh, really?" she almost laughed as the monster tried again to grab her. She moved too quickly, though, and had her Ax out in the next moment.
"I have had it, I have completely and utterly had it when you guys trying to kill me! It ends now!" Aura roared, rushing at the creature.
"Temper, temper!" was all it had time to say before her blade bit deeply into it.
"I'm gonna make snake stew!" she declared. In moments, the monster was nothing but a pile of dust that she kicked at and casually remarked, "That PMS is a killer."
"Hallo," she was surprised to hear a voice from behind her, and whirled to see a brilliant blue snake somewhat over three hundred feet long, with a scarf around it's neck. "May I help you?"
_Snake??? Wyrm?? I don't think that qualifies! I've never seen anything this big in my life!_ "A. . .are . ..are you the Great Wyrm?" she managed to stammer out.
"Yea, I am," it told her in a British accent. "And who are you?"
"Aura Cranston," she managed not to stutter this time.
"What are you doing here?" the Great Wyrm asked. "Not many people dare to see me."
Aura took a deep breath. "I need you help. I need some antivenin," she explained quickly what had happened to her. The Wyrm looked at her thoughtfully.
"Why should I give it to you?" it asked finally. "You fear me, but that is not enough."
"What more do you want?" Aura was almost annoyed! What else could this thing want?
The Wyrm bent it's head and looked at her. "I want you to accept that not all snakes are bad. You cannot judge us all because of one poisonous one."
Aura smiled suddenly. "I don't think that will be a problem anymore," she told the creature. "Why should I be afraid of normal snakes, now that I've seen you?"
"Do you fear me?" the Great Wyrm wanted to know. Aura took a long look at it, and examined her own emotions as dispassionately as she could. Finally, she answered.
"I'm extremely nervous, but I honestly think that's because of how big you are, not because of what you are. You could eat me in one gulp if you wanted to!"
"Would it help settle your nerves if I told you that I am a vegetarian?"
Aura laughed, no longer nervous in the slightest bit. "Really?"
The Wyrm nodded. "Probably how I got so big!" it laughed gently. Aura found herself giggling, and completely at ease.
"I guess so!"
"You have made me laugh," the Wyrm told her. "No one in a long time has been able to do that. Most of them just pass out. And you showed courage when you defeated that idiot over there. For that, you will have the antivenin," he pointed with his tail to a stand that appeared a few feet away.
Aura picked it up and smiled at him. "Thank you, Great Wyrm. Not just for this, but for helping me to get over the only fear I was never able to handle on my own."
"You are welcome," the Wyrm told her. "Do not forget me, and what you have learned here."
"I won't forget," Aura promised. _How could I forget?_
The Wyrm nudged her gently with its nose. "Go home, and see your family and friends. Be well, Amber Ranger."
"Thank you, Great Wyrm," she ran over quickly to him and planted a tiny kiss on what would have been his cheek, if snakes had cheeks. A moment later, she had left, teleported back to the Command Center. The Great Wyrm slithered back to his cave, and chuckled softly to himself.
"Be well, Aura. You have much ahead of you."
Azure was sitting on the table she'd been laying on earlier when Aura teleported into the Command Center. Azure looked up at her sister, who looked back at her for a moment, then looked away. Aura looked at the others, and as her eyes landed on Billy, she smiled. A moment later, she was in his arms, kissing with all her heart. She glanced to the other Rangers.
"You guys never looked so good!"
Azure smiled a little, her thoughts were elsewhere at that moment. Aura came over to her sister. "I'm sorry, but I had to do it alone," she giggled a little. "The Great Wyrm was very nice. He's a vegetarian!"
"It's okay," Azure sighed a little. Aura could tell perfectly well Azure didn't mean that!
"Azure, I got jumped on the way by one of Vile and Rita's monsters," the Amber Ranger told her. _I'm glad you weren't there to see how I acted, either. Or to be jumped by it, and hurt maybe._
"You're okay, that's all that matters," Azure said, not looking at her sister. She glanced at Katia. "I should get her home," she picked her daughter up and held her for a moment. When Adam called her name, she didn't even look at him. "I'll see you at home." she was gone a moment later.
Aura sighed. "I hope she's okay. Maybe I should have let her come with me."
"Somehow," Adam mused, "I don't think that's all that's bothering her. I just wish I knew what else."
Aura considered what she and Azure had talked about before. "I think she's tired of the constant attacks on us," she finally said. Adam sighed.
"I should go talk to her," was all he said. Aura nodded.
"I know how she feels," and she did, she was so worn out from the two days of torment she'd spent, and her quest, she felt about to drop straight into Billy's arms. Adam teleported out, hoping to say or do something to help the woman he loved more than anything or anyone in all the world.