Altered Amber
by: Cynthia and Elizabeth

Azure puttered about in the kitchen, fixing dinner, as Adam changed Katia in the bathroom. She hummed a little to herself, she had been doing her best to avoid the Rangers, and everyone connected with them, since she and Aura had awakened from that hideous nightmare realm. She almost jumped when Adam came into the kitchen.

"What's for dinner?" was all he asked, though he did have a nervous tone in his voice.

"A casserole," she replied. Adam smiled a little.

"Mmmmm. . .sounds good. You make excellent casserole," he replied. Azure glanced at him, and as she took her attention away from the stove, she jarred a pot, spilling water over her arm.

Azure barely noticed as Adam came over to start washing it over, but when she did, she pulled away. "I can handle it myself, Adam."

He sighed a little, and stepped away, pain in his eyes. Azure ignored it and returned to her room. A soft and well-known voice startled her a bit. "Azure."

She looked up to see the Spirit of Earth standing there. "Spirit?"

"Yes," the Spirit came over to her. "You are troubled, child."

Azure sighed as she slid the suitcase she had been looking at under the bed. "It's nothing important."

"You plan to leave your husband," the Spirit said plainly. Azure sat on the bed, eyes shadowed.

"I don't know," she murmured. "Honestly. I was looking for my backpack. I wanted to do a little hiking this weekend, alone."

The Spirit laid a hand on her arm. "You have wondered something. What might have been."

"I guess," Azure was barely listening.

"You have wondered what might have been if the Rangers never existed, if the aliens had never invaded to cause you or them any harm?"

"Among other things," Azure admitted.

"Would you like to see?" the Spirit offered. Azure looked at the Spirit, then nodded. The Spirit held her hand out.

"Then come." Azure took a deep breath, then took the hand. For a moment the world went gray, and when it cleared, they stood in a graveyard Azure recognized after a moment's thought as one she had seen in New York.

"Where are we?" she asked, heart plummeting already. _Who died?_

"A funeral," the Spirit said, a note of pain in her voice. Azure glanced around. She saw herself, her parents, her grandparents, several friends that lived in New York, but no one from Angel Grove was there. "Where's Aura?"

The pallbearers approached with the coffin held between them, as the Spirit said softly, "There she is."

"Aura?" Azure paled. "NO!" suddenly she noticed who was sitting next to her. "Eric? What's he doing here?"

"You and he are dating," the Spirit told her. She gave the spirit a questioning look.

"You're joking, right?" the Spirit shook her head. "All because Rita was never released from her trash can."

The Spirit nodded. "Azure, it was Eric who killed Aura."

Azure jerked up straight. "What? I'm dating the man who killed my sister?"

"Yes," the Spirit confirmed. "Look at yourself," Azure looked across to her other self, and paled to see the fear hiding in her eyes.

"I don't like this," she moaned. "What about Adam? What of him?"

The world once again grayed out, and as it cleared, they were staring at a gutter. Azure barely recognized the filthy, fat person sleeping there with a bottle of beer held tightly in one hand. Azure almost felt sick. "That isn't Adam, is it?"

The Spirit nodded. "He gave up his martial arts, and he took to drinking. There is nothing in his life he believes in at all. Nothing."

"Oh, Adam," Azure whispered in pain. _Oh, my love. . .to see you like this. . ._

"Is there anyone else you would like to see?"

Azure shook her head violently. "I don't think I could handle it."

The Spirit looked straight into her eyes. "Azure, things have been bad in your life, but there is always hope. And I promise you, a day will come when the Rangers won't be needed, for there will be peace on Earth."

Azure smiled a little. "Thank you for showing me this. It makes things a little clearer for me," as they appeared back in the real world, in her familiar bedroom, the Spirit faded away. Azure sat on the bed, then laid down, in tears.

* * *

Adam looked down at Katia, and whispered, "Sleep tight," he glanced up at the sound of Azure's sudden tears. "I hope your mother and I can work things out."

"Adam," the Spirit of Earth's sudden appearance startled him. "You are worried over Azure."

"You have wondered what would have been, had you never become a Ranger, never been needed," she said softly. "If you wish, I can show you what might have happened."

Adam nodded, and as the Spirit took his hand, the world shifted to gray, then was real once more. They were in a spotless living room, with a figure Adam knew well sitting in front of a television set. Another person he knew entered, and his jaw dropped clean to the floor.

"Azure?" indeed, it was she. With fright in her eyes and a bruise on her cheek the size of someone's hand: and he knew who's hand it was.

"She cannot see or hear you, Adam," the Spirit told him. "She is Mrs. Eric Matthews here."

Adam shook his head as Azure was grabbed by Eric. The Spirit continued, "She fears him and hates every moment of her life with him, but cannot leave him."

"Why can't she?" Adam watched as Eric leered at Azure.

"Did I say you could leave?" he chuckled. Azure whispered a terrified apology as Adam stared in shock. The Spirit touched his shoulder and gestured towards a plaque on the wall.

"That is why," Adam looked to see something that floored him completely. _Aura?? Dead??_

"No. . .he. . .didn't. .. .?"

The Spirit nodded. "She discovered he had raped Azure and went after him. He had a gun, and killed her. Azure saw him do it, but he has terrorized her into not speaking."

Adam watched in horror as Eric abused Azure, laughing the whole time. It was plain in this timeline Eric didn't know he was Zedd's son, but he was still just as much of an abusive freak as he had always been. "And into marrying him," he murmured. As Azure broke down into tears, Adam turned to the Spirit. "I. . .I can't watch this."

"Is there anyone else you wish to see?" the Spirit asked. Adam shook his head.

"No," he told her. "After that, I'm scared to even know what happened to the others!"

"You should be," was all the Spirit said as she returned him to their apartment. She faded away as Adam ran to Azure and held her tightly.

"Azure," he whispered, hardly daring to believe that she was safe in his arms. "You're all right."

Azure nodded, holding him at arm's length's. "I know."

"The Spirit," he whispered. "She showed me. . .," at the look in her eyes, he shook his head. "You don't want to know."

She touched his face gently. "That was a nightmare to even think about!"

"It was worse to see," he shivered badly. "Believe me. Oh, Azure, I love you so much," he leaned in and kissed her briefly before she moved away. For a moment, Adam wondered who else the Spirit would visit that day. . .and if they what they saw, could in anyway compare to the nightmare he and Azure had been visited with.

* * *

Billy watched happily as Aura played with the children. There had been a shadow in her eyes for a while, ever since she and Azure had been awakened from the dreaming spell. He sighed, then smiled a little, and headed for the garage. The toaster needed fixing, after Alex's last attempt at being "just like mommy" and cooking.

"Billy?" he looked up to see the Spirit of Earth standing there, a concerned look in her eyes.

"Spirit?" he got to his feet. "What is it? Is something wrong?"

She nodded. "With you."

"I don't understand," he frowned. Nothing was wrong with him!'

"Did you not say you wished they had never come and tried to conquer Earth?" the Spirit reminded him. Billy sighed.

"Well, yes," he admitted. The Spirit held out her hand to him.

"Come and see what would have happened if they never had."

He took her hand, and they were elsewhere in seconds. Billy's eyes widened as he heard a terrified scream he recognized as Azure's. Eric's laughter echoed all around them. They were in a small apartment, it looked like, dark and dank. Eric had Azure down on the floor, and Billy nearly threw up at what he was doing to her.

A moment later, Aura stood framed in the doorway, eyes burning with rage. Billy took a deep breath. "What's going on here?"

"This is the first time Azure was raped by Eric," the Spirit told him. Billy's heart sank as Aura seized Eric by the shoulder and pulled him away from Azure.

"Don't you touch my sister!" she declared. Billy recognized the scene from Aura's memories, but it took a sudden turn he didn't expect. Eric pulled his gun.

"I will if I want to!" Aura leaped for the gun, but not at the blinding speed she had in the memory. Eric pulled the trigger, to Azure's scream, and Aura Robinson fell to the ground, a hole directly in her chest. Azure tried to get to her sister, but Eric pushed her away, laughing at what he had done.

"No! Aura!" Billy screamed, not believing what he saw. The Spirit shook her head.

"It is too late. Because they n ever attacked, the Amber Ranger powers remained hidden within her. She died trying to save her sister, and her sister was never saved," the Spirit told her. Billy stared, wide-eyed.

"What's going to happen to Azure?" Billy had to know. When the Spirit told him, he wished he hadn't asked.

"She marries Eric. Their parents mourned for Aura so much, they never realized what happened. Eric was never even brought up on charges. Azure lived the rest of this life in total fear."

Tears filled his eyes. "Oh, Aura, my sweet Aura!" _To live without her, a world without her. . ._

"What about you?" the Spirit murmured. "What happened to William Cranston in this timeline?"

"What did happen?" he wondered. A moment later, the world was gray again. When they had returned to reality, Billy found himself staring at . ..himself. The other him sat in front of a computer screen, with thick glasses and ragged clothes on.

"So, what's going on with me here," Billy wondered. The Spirit almost smiled.

"You took on a life that none of your friends would have imagined: a life of crime."

Billy stared. "Say what?"

"You hack into other people's computers, mostly banks and institutions and things like that," the Spirit told him. "With no Rangers, you never came out of your shell, you remained a loner all your days."

"Am I. . .do I. . .is there anyone in my life. ..someone I love, anyone?" at the Spirit's denial, he barely managed to stop himself from crying. "This. . .this can't be happening!"

"Because there are no Rangers, it did," he was told. Billy stared at the nightmare version of himself and took a deep breath.

"All this, because Rita never escaped from her dumpster?" the Spirit nodded. "I want to go home. To my Aura, my alive Aura!"

"She needs to see this too," the Spirit said as they returned to the normal world he knew and loved. For a moment, as he was alone in the garage, he leaned against a wall and cried for what might have been.

* * *

"Aura?" the Amber Ranger looked up at the calling of her name, and smiled to see the Spirit of Earth standing there. "You are a good mother."

"Thank you," she said. "I do my best."

"There is something you must see," the Spirit told her.

Aura got to her feet. "What's that?"

"An answer to a couple of questions you have," the Spirit came a little closer to her, smiling gently. Aura glanced down at her offspring.

"What about the kids? I can't just leave them here!"

The Spirit shook her head. "Time will not pass here. To them, you will be gone a matter of nanoseconds."

"All right," Aura smiled. "Let's go." the Spirit held out her hand and Aura took it. "What sort of questions am I going to get answered?"

"What would have happened if the Earth was never attacked. . .what would have happened if you and your mother never came back from Kalakan."

"I have wondered about those," Aura mused. The Spirit nodded as the world faded, then reformed. They were in a graveyard, of all places!

"This is what would have become of you had you never been needed as a Ranger," the Spirit told her, gesturing towards a gravestone.

"What in the world?" Aura's eyes were wide with shock. "How?"

"Your sister's now-husband," the Spirit told her. Aura growled, "Who?" they were in a house a moment later, with a badly bruised Azure in a corner, crying her eyes out. "Eric."

"NO!" Aura screamed. "Not him!"

"With no Rangers needed, your family never moved back to Angel Grove, she never met Adam, and ended up living the rest of her life in fear."

"Adam. ..Billy. . .the others. . what about them?" Aura had to know, had to know what kind of a difference the Power Rangers had made. .in their own lives.

"Would you like to see what happens to Billy?" the Spirit asked. Aura nodded. "I want to see Billy and Adam both! I want to see them all!"

A moment later, they stood behind Billy as he sat in his garage, staring at his computer monitor. "This is what happened to Billy."

Aura looked at him. "He looks. . .well. .what is with the glasses, he looks better with contacts, doesn't he know that?"

"With no Rangers," the Spirit said, "he never came out of his shell."

"W. .what does he do?" Aura wondered, almost afraid to hear the answer. The Spirit answered her, though.

"Aura, Billy is what is known as a hacker."

Aura paled. "No way!

"Yes, way," the other half of her soul nodded. Aura stared helplessly at the nightmare version of her beloved husband, then turned to the Spirit.

"Adam. .what about Adam?" in a half a moment, she was staring at the filth-covered wreck in the street. "I am not seeing this!" she declared. The spirit nodded.

"You are seeing it."

"How could this happen to him?" Aura wondered. The Spirit told her, "Heartbreak after heartbreak, failure after failure. It was too much for him, he gave up martial arts and took to drinking."

"This just can't be!" Aura moaned. "I can't see what the others turned out like, I just can't!"

"There is one more question that needs to be answered for you," the Spirit told her. Aura looked at her, struggling to regain her composure.

"What. . .what would've happened if I'd never come back from Kalakan?"

The Spirit nodded, and in a second, they were once more in a graveyard. This time, however, Adam stood in front of the grave, which bore a name that struck to Aura's very core.

"Billy. . .no. .how. ..who. . what happened?"

"Without you," the Spirit told her. "He didn't want to face living in his timeline."

Aura watched as Adam knelt by the grave. "Why did you do it, man?" he whispered. "First Aura, then you, now this happens to Azure," tears shone on Adam's face.

"Azure?" Aura wondered. "What happened to Azure?"

"Listen, and you will know," the Spirit advised. Aura nodded, and kept her ears open.

"I can't believe she killed him," Adam went on. "I don't even know who this Eric guy is. The police won't even let me see her."

"She. . .she killed Eric?" Aura's voice filled with disbelief.

"Heck, none of us were even allowed to go to the trial!" Adam declared, completely oblivious to the spirit and woman so close to him. The Spirit nodded agreement to Aura's statement.

"She was tried and convinced of murder. There was no evidence that he tried to do anything to her," she told Aura.

"I could've told them what happened," Aura murmured. "But. .but I didn't come back." _I had no idea that this would happen if I hadn't returned!_

"You never did," the Spirit agreed. Suddenly, the familiar sound of a communicator broke the silence of the graveyard. Adam sighed.

"Man, I'll be back. It's not the same without you. Zack tries, but it's just not the same."

"Zack? The Blue Ranger?" Aura just barely managed to restrain a giggle. It just didn't have quite the same ring to it as "Billy the Blue Ranger." She looked at the Spirit. "What happened to me? Where am I?"

The Spirit took her hand one more time, transporting them across time and space to a spacious chamber in a richly appointed palace. Aura glanced around. "Nice place." _at least I'm not poor. But am I happy? How can I be, without Billy?_

"Aura?" her thoughts halted dead in their tracks as Galan entered the room, looking around. _Oh, please, don't tell me he caught me!_

"Your husband," the Spirit told her. Aura's eyes nearly tripled in size.

"I don't believe this!" Aura snapped. The Spirit nodded as Galan looked around angrily.

"Where is she? Aura?!?!!"

Aura watched as another version of herself entered the room. "What is it?" her other self was also heavily pregnant.

Galan smiled at her. "The ships are ready . We're ready to leave for Earth, to destroy those Rangers!"

"Took you long enough!" Alternate Aura growled. "Come on, I've waited six months to get even with them! I'm itching for revenge!"

"Let us go!" Galan declared. Hand in hand, they left the room.

Real Aura stared. "I didn't hear that. They're going to Earth?"

The Spirit nodded. "When you left, your resentment towards the Rangers turned you to a life of evil."

"And. .. I . .married him. . ."

"And you are carrying his child," the Spirit confirmed the hideous reality in front of her. Aura paled so much she looked like a ghost. "Would you like to continue? Or go home? To your real home?"

"I want to go home!" Aura declared wild-eyed. "My home, my world my timeline!" they were there a moment later, with Billy entering the room. Aura ran straight to him and wrapped her arms around him warmly.

"Oh, Billy, you're alive!" she murmured. "You're alive!"

He returned the embrace. "Of course I'm alive!"

Aura turned back to the Spirit. "Thank you. It scared the daylights out of me, but I needed to see that."

"You four now have your answers," the Spirit told them. "Do with them as you please."

"We will," Aura nodded. "And thank you again."

As the Spirit vanished, Billy sighed some. "Why do I get the feeling we all need a vacation?"

Aura went to the phone to call Adam and Azure. "Adam, it's Aura. Wild guess, you and Azure just saw something that could have happened if Rita never escaped, right?"

"Yeah," Adam said, glancing over to where Azure was crying on the bed.

"I think we all need to talk some," Aura said. "And we all need a serious vacation, too!"

Adam nodded. "Azure, want to go over to Aura's? She and Billy. . .well. .they saw what we did," at Azure's nod, he turned back to the phone. "We'll be over soon."

"See you then," Aura said as she hung up. She looked over to Billy, letting her eyes fill with all the love and tenderness she held for him. She had the distinct suspicion things would never quite be the same between them now.

They could very well be getting better.

* * *

Three days later, after arrangements for a Hawaiian vacation had been made, Aura threw the last of her bags into the car. She, Billy, Adam, Azure, and their children were going to the island resort to recover from what had happened over the last few days. They hadn't spoken nearly as much as they wanted to about what the Spirit had told them, somehow they just couldn't while being so near to their homes. Billy had suggested the vacation to get them all away from everything. The other Rangers would keep an eye on things while they were gone.

"I hoe we are not needed for one second over the next two weeks!" Aura declared. Adam was standing a little away from them, looking at Azure.

_She needs this more than any of us,_ he thought. Azure caught him looking at her, and gave him a small smile. Adam smiled back. "You ready to go?" Azure nodded lightly.

Tommy watched as they headed for the car. He didn't know what had happened to them, almost overnight they all seemed scared, nervous, and jumpy. This vacation was a good idea, he thought to himself. As they started to leave, he turned to Kat and voiced something he'd wondered for years. "You know, I wonder what our lives would be like if Rita had never escaped.

The car slammed on the brakes, and all four of them got out. As one, Aura, Adam, Billy, and Azure looked at him.