The Power Rangers stood in shock. What was happening just couldn't be happening. Billy's oldest friend, Aura Robinson, who had only returned to Angel Grove just over a month ago, was standing before them as the Amber Ranger, their mysterious guardian and friend. But that was only the beginning of the surprises. Somehow, Zedd and Rita had gained control of Aura's mind, and now, at their command, she was demanding their surrender. And Billy, Billy of all people, was agreeing to it! He stood next to her, kissing her.
"I love you, Aura," Billy told her, still holding her in his arms.
Tommy took a deep breath, wondering if he was about to order his first attack on a Ranger that had been a friend and ally since his first days as the Green Ranger.
Billy's hand flashed up to Aura's throat, seized the necklace there, and pulled hard, breaking the clasp and throwing it against a rock. "Power Lance!" he summoned his weapon and slashed down at the necklace, shattering the stone.
He turned to Aura, who stood with her eyes wide and in shock. "Aura? How do you feel?"
Aura shook her head as if to clear it, then saw Billy there. "Billy? Oh, Billy, you're alive, I didn't kill you!"
"Yes, I'm alive, and you're safe again!"
"I don't get it, what happened?" Rocky wondered. Azure and Adam came up next to Aura.
"It was the necklace, wasn't it?" Azure didn't really seem to be asking. Aura nodded and was about to start explaining when Tommy asked her to wait.
"We can discuss that at the Command Center," he told her. "And we have a lot to discuss."
"Definitely," Aura sighed. Eight flashes of light: two white, red, yellow, blue, black, pink, and light brown, left the park and appeared at the Command Center moments later. Aura glanced around.
"Where are we?" she wondered.
"This is our headquarters, the Command Center," Tommy told her. "This is Alpha-5," he introduced her to the little robot. "And that's Zordon."
Aura turned to see the floating head, and quite literally stared with a wide-open mouth. "Ummm... hi?" her voice quivered with nervousness.
GREETINGS AURA, AMBER RANGER. Zordon smiled at her.
"You know me?" Aura gulped.
"He knows everyone, it seems!" Rocky grinned. Aura turned to Billy, trying to avoid looking at all the strange things around her.
"Billy," she touched his arm. "I didn't say thank you properly back there, for freeing me."
Before Billy could move, she pulled him into a long, deep kiss. "Thank you," she smiled.
Billy stood, almost in as much shock as she was, then kissed her back. "You're welcome!"
"Oh, they're getting mushy on us!" Rocky laughed.
Tommy interrupted. "Aura, how did Zedd and Rita control you, exactly?"
Aura settled against a console. "The necklace Billy broke. It's not... or it wasn't... my real necklace. The first time I was taken to the moon, I fought with Goldar... and lost. In the fight, the clasp came undone and the necklace fell off. Zedd put a different one on me: identical to mine in every respect except one."
"The stone was a ruby, not an amber," Azure supplied. Aura nodded, a touch surprised. "I saw it when you grabbed me. I know that necklace like I know you, Aura, I knew it wasn't the real thing."
Aura smiled. "You've always known me best, Azure. The ruby had a spell of control on it, that forced me to obey Zedd and Rita. I tried to fight it, but I couldn't win."
"What about when you broke free?" Billy asked gently. Aura's eyes darkened for a moment in remembered pain.
"It was when... when you said you loved me, I was able to overcome the spell. I was in shock from what I'd done to you, and from being taken back to the moon so fast, or else I would've taken off that necklace that second," Aura spoke quietly. A light grin flickered across her features. "I fought Goldar again, and won that time. But the minute I was done with the fight, Zedd put the spell right back on me. I resisted, but..."
Her voice trailed off as she remembered the pain that had racked through her body as she'd fought with the spell: and lost. Tears sparkled in her eyes and fell gently down her cheeks. A moment later she found herself wrapped in Billy's arms. She leaned against him and for the first time in her life, cried herself out.
The Rangers stepped apart for a few minutes, letting Aura release the pain inside her heart. When she stopped crying, Tommy asked gently, "Aura, could you tell us how you became the Amber Ranger?"
Aura wiped her eyes, sniffed a little, then glanced around the room at her new friends. They weren't going to believe this. She herself hardly did. "That's kind of a strange story: because I don't exactly know."
"What do you mean?" Aisha asked.
"First, what does this date mean to you?" The date she named floored Billy, Zordon and Alpha.
"That's the day Trini, Zack, Jason, Kim and I were chosen as Rangers," Billy breathed.
"Same here, sort of," Aura shrugged.
"Whoa," Rocky stared. "That's amazing."
Aura continued. "About eleven in the morning, I had this strange sensation that Billy and some others needed me. I couldn't explain it. My head started pounding: it was the first of my headaches. I kept hearing these three words in my head over and over. I said them out loud, just to see if it would stop. And I changed into the Amber Ranger."
"What three words?" Aisha asked.
"It's morphin' time?" Billy suggested. Aura shook her head.
"Amber Ranger Power. I was absolutely terrified, I didn't know what was going on, and the headache only continued. It was a good thing I was alone in the house. My whole body twitched, it was like I was supposed to somewhere, do something, but I couldn't do it; almost like something prevented me. I finally passed out, and when I woke up, I didn't remember anything about what had happened to me."
"Was that the day we found you on the floor unconscious?" Azure asked. Aura nodded. "We always wondered what had happened, but you could never tell us."
Aura smiled. "Now I know: and one more thing: the headaches I had happened whenever you guys were in a situation that you could have used my help. They were a signal of sorts that I was needed. Something stopped me from morphing anymore after that first time, I don't know what it was. The headaches got more frequent when I moved back to Angel Grove, since I was actually near when you morphed. Whatever stopped me from morphing ended when we first found out we were coming back to Angel Grove, I'm sure you noticed that." She grinned a little as the others nodded, then kept on with her story.
"When I was the Amber Ranger, I remembered only that I was supposed to fight evil and to help the Rangers. I was aware of who you all were in your civilian identities, but the minute I turned back into myself, I didn't remember anything. It was like Aura and Amber Ranger were two different people, only Amber Ranger existed only to fight."
"And now?" Tommy asked.
"Now I remember both sides of me. I remember everything that happened as Amber Ranger, and when I'm the Amber Ranger, I remember everything that happened as Aura." Her eyes filled with pain as she remembered recent events. "It's been like that ever since Zedd put that necklace on me. Something, I really don't know what, I don't think it was being evil, broke some form of mental block that was on me." Her hand drifted to her throat, where her medallion had been.
Azure noticed that. "Aura? Your real necklace, the amber one... where did it go?"
Sorrow filled her voice as Aura spoke next. "Zedd and Rita. It's still on the moon."
Tommy shrugged. "It's a small price to have you free," was his opinion. Only Azure and Billy saw the flicker of pain in Aura's eyes, but anything they were going to say was interrupted by Zordon.
AURA, YOU NOW CONTROL YOUR POWERS KNOWINGLY. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO USE THEM? Zordon asked.
Aura was taken aback. "I hadn't really thought about it." She looked at the others. "Would you - could I... I mean-"
Tommy smiled at her. "Would you like to become one of us, Aura?"
Aura nodded eagerly. "I want to protect people. It's... just something that woke up inside of me when Zordon asked what I planned to do. It must be from being the Amber Ranger. It's what I do. That's all there is to it."
"Then we'd be glad to have you," Adam grinned. "Welcome aboard, Aura." * * *
The next week was the most peaceful the Rangers had known in a long time. Aura hadn't had a single headache the whole time, not even when the Rangers morphed to test out her theory. This proved, to all of them, that now that Aura was fully aware of who she was as the Amber Ranger, the headaches ceased and were no more. That gave Aura at least as much relief as Billy's breaking of the necklace had.
It was a week to the day that Aura had been freed, and she and Billy were walking down by the beach. They'd spent nearly every waking moment together the past seven days, once Aura had awakened from a solid twelve hours of sleep. She no longer had the enhanced strength, speed, and endurance that being under the spell's power had given her, and her body demanded rest.
"Where are we going?" she asked Billy as they wandered hand in hand.
"It's a special place," Billy smiled at her. "I come here when I want to think."
He led her to the foot of Angel's Bluff. Aura looked around and sighed in joy. "This place is so beautiful," she smiled at the young man with her. Her heart was truly full.
"I'm glad you like it," Billy smiled back at her. "There's something I'd like to do, but I need you to close your eyes first."
Aura laughed, and closed her eyes. A moment later, she felt his lips on hers. She had sort of expected it, but it was still a wonderful surprise. She leaned into the kiss, enjoying and appreciating all she'd had to go through for it.
A timeless moment later, the kiss ended, but for lack of breath, not lack of desire. "Aura, you are beautiful. Has anyone ever told you that?"
"No one but you," Aura replied honestly.
Billy looked at her, the gray-eyed woman he had known since his childhood, that he'd wondered and worried about through her headaches and captivity, that he'd helped to free. He had to say it, he couldn't keep it inside a moment longer. "I love you, Aura Robinson."
Aura's cheeks were stained red for a moment, then she replied softly, "I love you, Billy Cranston. And always will."
They stood hand in hand, watching the waves come up on the beach for what seemed to be forever. Billy noticed Aura's hand crept to her throat, where her amber necklace had been, and her eyes filled with tears. "They still have it, don't they?"
Aura nodded. "If they haven't destroyed it."
"I wish we could retrieve it," Billy sighed. "Maybe..."
"Why can't we?"
"It's too dangerous!" Billy told her. Aura wasn't taking no for an answer now, though.
"Billy, that necklace is a part of me, a part of my life I've never been without it until now: it's like there's a part of me missing. I have to get it back!"
Billy had come to know a side of Aura he'd never known existed over the past week, the part of her that was the Amber Ranger. Dedicated, driven, and definitely not used to hearing the word 'no' applied to her. "Okay, we'll go," he said finally. "Zordon's not going to like this, though."
"We won't be gone long," Aura reminded him. "We'll just find it and leave at once."
"All right," Billy sighed. "Let's do it." * * *
The past week hadn't been quite so peaceful in the Lunar Palace. The Tengas had gone into hiding the moment the ruby had been shattered, knowing Zedd and Rita's tempers. In the week that followed, that had proven to be a wise decision, as anyone who crossed the two evil maniacs was at once blasted with a combination of verbal abuse and magical pain.
"That blasted Blue Ranger will pay for destroying the Ruby of Control!" Zedd raged that day.
"It was one of a kind! Priceless!" Rita moaned.
"He shall pay!" Zedd promised. He paced back and forth in the throne room, thinking over several plans for having his revenge on Billy and Aura both.
Both Rita and Zedd looked up suddenly as magical alarms they'd placed around the palace were activated. "Intruders!" Rita snapped.
"Tengas!" Zedd ordered. "Get the intruders! Now!"
"And bring them to us!" Rita added. * * *
Aura and Billy materialized in the palace, hoping they'd managed to avoid detection. Everything seemed quiet as they crept through the shadowed corridors.
"Where might it be?" Billy whispered.
"Last I saw it, it was in the throne room. They could have done anything with it," came Aura's low-voiced reply. "I'm hoping it's still here to be found!"
Billy glanced around, and suddenly grabbed Aura's arm. "Look out! Tengas!"
The bird-warriors leaped towards them. "Billy, morph!" Aura called out as she rolled to one side. Billy grabbed for his morpher, only to have it knocked out of his hands by a Tenga. Aura started to call out her morphing words; she needed no morpher for some reason, when several Tengas overpowered her. Billy tried to reach her, but soon he too was a prisoner. * * *
"So the Power Rangers have invaded my lair," Zedd gloated over the two prisoners. "What shall we do with them, my dear Rita?"
Rita smiled wickedly at them. "The Blue and Amber Rangers... just who we wanted to see! Fate smiles on us this day, my dear!"
Zedd nodded. "So it does!" he glared at Aura. "Tell me, Amber Ranger, how would you like to redeem yourself and serve me again?"
"Never!" was Aura's simple reply, along with a quick dissertation on Zedd's ancestry that didn't once mention anything remotely human.
"You try my patience," Zedd hissed and raised his staff. A beam of light shot towards Aura; she tried to avoid it, but to no avail. "NO!"
Billy stamped down hard on a Tenga's foot and ran towards Aura, intending on knocking her out of the path of the beam she currently writhed in. "Aura!"
"Billy!" Aura reached out towards him, then suddenly stiffened. Emotion drained from her face and eyes.
"What did you do to her, Zedd!?" Billy stared in horror at her.
"Just a little personality transplant," Zedd chuckled nastily. "A rather nasty one."
"You - !" Words failed Billy as he leaped at Zedd. Rito was there, however, and knocked him out with a powerful punch. Zedd laughed coldly and gestured towards Aura.
"Lock him in a cell," he ordered. As Aura obeyed, Zedd looked down towards Earth, hoping for a chance to unleash his regained Amber Ranger on the others. He saw a perfect opportunity unfolding in the park.
"Ah, so the young Black Ranger and his girlfriend are trying to enjoy a peaceful afternoon together!" he smiled evilly.
"Well, we can't have that, now, can we?" Rita laughed.
"Never! Go, my Amber Ranger, morph and destroy them!" he ordered.
"Of course, my lord," Aura morphed and teleported down to Earth, once more only intent on serving her evil masters. * * *
Azure and Adam walked through the woods, a little-known region that Adam had brought her to. "Man, this place is beautiful. I can't believe I've never been here!"
"Some of the best places are hard to find," Adam grinned and put an arm around her.
"As are some of the best people," Azure snuggled closer to him. Things finally seemed to be turning around for the better.
"I know how you feel," Adam said. A moment later, a sarcastic voice said from behind them. "Oh, I think I'm going to be sick!" Azure and Adam turned around.
"Do I have to repeat myself?" Amber Ranger leaned against a tree behind them, looking at them both.
"Aura?" Adam looked at her. "What are you doing here? Morphed of all things!"
"Doing what I do best, Black Ranger... destroying you!"
"Not again!" Azure groaned.
"Why not?" Aura came closer to them. "I'm at my best when I'm at my worst!"
Adam grabbed for his communicator. "Guys, come in!" Only static responded. "Blast it, something's blocking the transmission!"
Aura laughed coldly, sending shivers of fear through both of them. "My master will not let you call your friends... this is just between us!"
"It's morphin' time!" Adam grabbed for his morpher. "Black Ranger Power!"
Azure hid behind a tree and watched as her sister and boyfriend circled each other. "Time to die, Black Ranger," Aura hissed.
"Man, how did Zedd get a hold of you this time?"
"I've never stopped serving my master!" Aura laughed coldly.
Adam stared. "What?! And where's Billy? What have you done with him?" Aura took advantage of his distraction to sweep in with her axe.
"He's a prisoner of Lord Zedd and Queen Rita." Aura swept at him with her Axe.
"You heard me!" Aura's attacks were far more skillful than they'd been before; the training they'd put her through the past week had taken more of a hold than they'd thought. "This is the end for you, Black Ranger!"
"I don't think so, Aura!" Adam blocked her with his own axe and the battle began in truth. Back and forth through the forest they raged, neither truly gaining the upper hand.
"You're going to die, Ranger, and I'll be the one to kill you!"
"This isn't you!" Adam flashed back to a week ago, when the same words had been uttered to the same person.
"You've said that before!" Aura obviously remembered as well. "And you're wrong... dead wrong!" Her axe missed him by less than a hair's-breadth.
"I wasn't wrong before!" Adam declared, dodging another deadly strike and aiming one of his own, which slid off her axe. "And I'm not 'dead wrong' this time either!"
Aura raised her axe again, and as he raised his own to block, she kicked him hard in the stomach, knocking him into a tree, dazed. "Yes, you are!"
"Adam!" Azure raced to his side, not noticing Aura coming after them, murder in her eyes and axe in her hand.
"So, do you want to die together?" Aura growled.
"Never!" Azure stood between her sister and Adam. "Adam, now would be a very good time to wake up!"
Aura brought her axe down, then whirled it to one side, releasing it with one hand. With the other, she threw Azure to one side. "I'll deal with you later!" she hissed.
Adam's eyes opened just in time to see Azure being thrown to one side
and landing unconscious. "
Aura's cold laughter was the only reply. "You're next, Ranger"
"Man, where are you guys?" the Black Ranger wondered. His axe was off to the side, too far to reach, and Aura stood right next to him, her weapon in her hands. His eyes widened as she raised it over her head.
"Wherever they are, you'll see them next in the afterlife!"
"This can't be how it ends," he whispered as Aura's axe swung towards him at lightning speed.
Metal rang on metal as a sword blocked her blow. Both of them looked up to see the Rangers there, all but Billy. Tommy, Saba outstretched between them, shook his head. "I don't think so!
He knocked Aura away, then turned to Adam. "Zordon said you could use a hand."
"Rangers!" Aura spat the word out. "Just had to interfere in my fun, didn't you?!?!"
"Oh no, not again!" Rocky growled.
"Girl, what is with you?!" Aisha asked.
"Evil!" Aura replied, getting to her feet. Kat helped Adam up, saying, "We couldn't get a hold of Billy, but Zordon is going to keep trying!"
Aura laughed. "Good luck! You'll need it to get to him!"
"She said he was Zedd's prisoner," Adam reported. "They must have placed her under some kind of spell again!"
Aura leaped towards them, axe upraised. "Time for talk is over, Rangers! Time to die!" * * *
In the Lunar Palace, Zedd watched the battle. His Amber Ranger was such a fine warrior! He chuckled as Aura threw her sister to one side, then raised her axe to finish off Adam.
"NO!" he roared in outrage as the Rangers teleported in and stopped the fight. He glanced over at Billy, who was sulking in his cell, and considered using him as a hostage. He looked back down at the fight, to see Azure unconscious and unnoticed by everyone.
"This is perfect!" he crowed. He raised his staff and teleported Azure into the cell next to Billy. "With two hostages, the Rangers will be off-guard, unbalanced, and unable to stop me!" * * *
Adam stared as Azure vanished suddenly in a flash of light. "Azure! No!" He could tell it wasn't a teleportation beam from the Command Center that had done it; it had to have been Zedd.
Aura's familiar cold laughter echoed in his ears. "Lose something, Black Ranger? Or should I say... someone!?!?"
Tommy growled, "This isn't happening! Aura, listen to me, you are not evil!"
"Wanna bet?" Aura charged Tommy, who just barely managed to block her with Saba.
"Yeah, I'm sure!"
Aura kicked Tommy in the knees, doing her best to get him down. "Well, I'm sure, too!" She challenged his assertion. "Sure that you're wrong!"
Aisha and Kat managed to grab Aura from behind, holding the struggling Ranger. Rocky tried his communicator again. "Alpha? Come in!" There was no answer. He looked at the spitting, struggling Amber Ranger. "Tell us what Zedd did with Billy and Azure!"
"Forget it!" Rocky received a powerful kick in a sensitive area. The Red Ranger crumpled, and squeaked, "Man, she's gotta stop doing that!"
Aura laughed. "Why? It's so much fun!"
"That does it!" Adam punched Aura in the stomach as hard as he could. For the first time, Aura seemed affected by the blow. "Ooof," was all she managed to get out.
"Serves you right." He couldn't even look at her now. He went over to Rocky and helped his friend up. "You going to be okay?"
"Yeah," Rocky's voice was still a touch higher than normal. "Eventually."
"Good." Adam turned back to Aura, contempt and rage in his every movement. "Tell me what Zedd has done with Azure and Billy, or I'll punch you again!"
"So?!" Aura kicked at him this time. Adam moved just enough so her foot landed on his thigh, then stalked closer to her.
"Don't mess with me or my friends!" he warned her. "Especially don't interrupt my date!"
Aura threw her head back and laughed. "Foolish love: it blinds you Rangers every time!"
"That does it!" Adam headed for Aura. Tommy got in between them suddenly.
"Man, you need to chill! Get back to the Command Center, now!"
"That's right, little Ranger!" Aura cackled with evil glee as Adam teleported away, still fuming. "Run back to your Command Center!"
The other Rangers turned to stare at Aura, who suddenly stiffened as Zedd's voice sounded in her mind. Amber Ranger! Return to me!
"Sorry, Rangers, but my master calls! But I will return!" She vanished out of Aisha and Kat's grip a moment later.
Tommy sighed, then slammed Saba into the ground in frustration. "Back to the Command Center. I'm going to have a little chat with the Black Ranger!"
Kat shook her head. "Didn't we go through all this about a week ago?" * * *
As they teleported into the Command Center, Adam muttered, "Man, I'm in for it now!"
Tommy marched over to him, pulling his white helmet off. "What was with you, Adam?"
"I'm sorry," Adam sighed. "I just lost it."
"I noticed. We all did!" Tommy leaned against a console. "Aura's still one of us, man, that was totally uncalled for!"
Adam hung his head. "I know."
"I know you're upset over Azure being captured, we all are, but we'll get them all back."
Adam demorphed totally, then turned to Tommy, anger still in his eyes. "I'm going for a walk." He teleported out of the Command Center.
Aisha sighed. "I've never seen him like that before!"
"He's acting almost like Azure was when Aura was with Zedd and Rita before."
"You blame him?" Rocky wondered.
"Not really," the White Ranger shook his head. "I blame Zedd and Rita for starting this in the first place!" * * *
Azure slowly fought her way back to consciousness. A blurry pale face across from her began to clear up. "Azure?" she knew that voice. As the face came into focus, she saw Billy.
"Billy?" she whispered his name faintly. "What happened?"
"Something that shouldn't have," Billy sighed. He quietly told Azure what he and Aura had done.
"What's with Aura, then?" she asked when that was done.
"As near as I can figure from what Zedd bragged about, and the way she's acting, he implanted a false and evil personality over her real one." Billy had used his time in the cell to think over what had happened, and to try and think up ways around it. "She effectively isn't even the Aura we know and love. She's one of Zedd's servants who just happens to be named Aura and has her powers."
Azure leaned against the back wall of the cell and cried when she heard that; there was just no other reaction she could have. "Billy, is there anyway to change it? To bring back our Aura?"
Whatever Billy's answer might have been was lost, as Aura teleported into the room in her now-familiar flash of brown light. The mist she'd dissolved into and out of before now was gone, as she controlled her powers now.
"Aura," Azure whispered. Aura came over to them, helmet in hand, and a cold glint in her eyes.
"Azure," Aura greeted her, but with no joy or pleasure in it. "Like your new home?"
"This will never be my home!"
"Really?" Aura teased. "It's not like you're leaving or anything!"
"Shove it!" Azure turned away from Aura.
"Oh, I'm so hurt!" Aura's mocking laughter echoed in the chamber. "My baby sister's mad at me!"
"Do you blame her?" Billy asked resentfully.
Aura turned to look at him, and the hate in her eyes curdled his stomach. "No, actually, I blame you! It was your idea to come here in the first place! This is all your fault, Blue Ranger!"
Billy's face fell, and Azure was quick to speak. "If it's anyone's fault, it's Zedd's for doing this to you, Aura! And if what Billy said is true: it was your idea to come here to find your necklace!"
Aura ignored Azure, grinning maliciously at Billy's hurt expression.
"Oh, did I hurt your feelings? Sorry... not!" Aura laughed coldly. "By the way, you might like to know Adam is quite upset at all this! Which will make him sooo much easier for me to get rid of!"
"Don't you touch him!"
"Who's going to stop me?? Certainly not you two!" Aura turned to Billy. "Just remember, everything that's happened... it's all your fault!"
Billy hung his head even lower. Azure whispered, "No it's not, Billy. Remember that, if nothing else."
Aura still gazed at them, evil glinting in her eyes. "I do hope that cell's comfortable. Well, actually I don't, but-"
She was interrupted as Zedd and Rita entered the room. "What a pleasant picture! A Ranger and a little chick in a cage!"
Aura turned and bowed. "Just having a little fun with them, sires!"
"That is quite all right," Zedd reassured her. "In fact, I think I shall join in! So, Billy, how does it feel to know there's nothing you can do to stop my Ranger from destroying your friends?"
"Drop dead!" Billy snapped as he turned away, not able to listen anymore.
"Oh, I don't think the little Blue Ranger likes me anymore! How sad!" Aura laughed mockingly.
"He's not the only one!" Azure growled.
"Oh, I've lost my sister too!" Aura threw her head back with evil laughter. "What heartache!"
Zedd stared at Azure for a moment. "She might make an excellent punching bag for Goldar. What do you think, my queen?"
"I do believe you're right, Zedd. He's been sulking ever since Aura beat him so soundly last week!"
"Then so be it!" Zedd ordered. Billy turned, rage written all over his face.
"You aren't doing anything of the kind!" he screamed.
"Watch me!" Zedd called out. "Tengas! Take the little girl away; prepare her to fight Goldar in the arena!"
Azure had seen Goldar, she knew what kind of a fighter he was, and Aura had told her of her own fights with the armored warrior. She broke down into tears, knowing she had no chance of surviving.
Aura stood next to the cell, her eyes dark and shadowed suddenly. Billy stared at her.
"Aura, don't let them do this to her!"
Aura's face twitched with conflicting personalities, conflicting loyalties. Billy hadn't seen her after she'd attacked him earlier, when she'd overcome the spell of the Ruby Necklace, but from what the others had told him, she'd looked much like that. Hope leapt up in his heart. Her gray eyes lightened, turning from nearly black to their usual cloud-color.
Aura took a step towards Zedd. Her right hand slipped behind her back, and Billy saw the Axe of Kalakan appear in it. Aura, pain in every syllable, spoke. "Zedd."
"What is it, my Amber Ranger?"
Aura dropped her helmet and leaped at him, the Axe upraised. "Leave my sister alone!"
Zedd raised his staff to block the Axe. Aura kicked at Zedd, swinging the Axe once more. Azure wept too much to notice how her sister fought for her, though Billy was watching, hoping that something would enable her to remain herself.
Zedd raised his staff and a beam flowed towards her. "You will stop this foolishness, now!"
Aura instinctively blocked the beam with her Axe. "No way!"
"So be it!" Zedd roared. "Rito, get your bones in here now!"
Aura blocked another spell-beam as Rito shambled in. "Yeah, what is it, Ed?"
"Take that Axe away from her, or hold her still!" Zedd ordered, blocking a particularly nasty strike of Aura's.
"You got it, Ed!" Aura's attention was so focused on Zedd she didn't notice Rito's approach, but she did notice it when his sword struck her Axe out of her hands. Aura growled, then head-butted Zedd, refusing to give up.
Zedd backed off a few paces, then snapped, "Hold her!"
Aura whirled, but not fast enough to prevent Rito from grabbing a firm hold on her. Aura screamed, "No! Not again! Never again!" She kicked and hit at Rito with all her might, but to no avail. Zedd raised his staff again, evil red light pouring into her. Aura shook her head, every particle of her being fighting against the spell. "No... no control... my sister..."
"You won't be hurting her!" Zedd increased the power of the spell, trying to convince her to let her guard down so the spell would overcome her, restoring the false personality he'd implanted.
"Can't let anyone hurt her!" Aura screamed. She seemed on the verge of throwing off the false persona entirely; her need to protect Azure was overriding all of Zedd's magic.
"She will stay in the cage then," Zedd finally relented. "But you will obey me!" Rita raised her staff to join her power with his, and Aura collapsed under the onslaught of evil magic.
Billy stared at them, then at Aura. "How could she have fought so strongly, Zedd?" Rita wondered. "The spell should've blocked off her memories of being related to that twit. If she doesn't remember her, how could she care for her?"
"I don't know." Zedd was staring at Aura, who stood woodenly, her face blank and emotionless, emptiness in her expressive gray eyes. "There's something not right about her; that spell was designed to be unbreakable by a human. But she's been able to fight off its effects twice now!"
Both of them ignored Billy and Azure, who wept silently in Billy's arms. "You'd better come up with some way to make sure she doesn't do it again!" Rita snapped.
"She will not disobey," Zedd promised. "I've removed every memory she had concerning the Rangers except as enemies."
"Come, let's plan our Ranger's next assault," was Rita's only reply. Zedd and Rita left, with Rito and Aura following. Azure sobbed, barely able to get her sister's name out, which she seemed to be saying over and over.
"Shh, Azure, we'll find a way to get her back. Somehow."
"She still fights them," Azure whispered. "She isn't giving up."
"And neither will we," Billy nodded. "Her love for you wouldn't let her let them hurt you. There's still hope."
"I pray you're right," Azure whispered. She wiped tears away, and began to hiccup. "Man, hic, I hate when this, hic, happens."
Billy smiled a little. "It'll be all right. Somehow."
"I believe you," Azure sighed. * * *
Zedd stared down at the Earth. "Ah, the Black Ranger is alone! Amber Ranger!"
"Yes, my lord?" Aura stepped closer to him.
"Go down and destroy the Black Ranger!"
Rita interrupted his orders. "What about the others? They're probably watching him at the Command Center!"
Zedd thought things over for a moment, then, "I'll interfere with the Viewing Globe, crossing its receptors with a television station! They won't know what to think then!" * * *
In the Command Center, Kat and Aisha were keeping an eye on Adam, while Tommy and Rocky ran scan after scan trying to find Billy, Azure and Aura. Suddenly, the viewing globe filled with static. "What the heck?" Kat wondered. "Oh, it's clearing up."
She and Aisha stared as instead of Adam, the movie Labyrinth began to play. Aisha exclaimed, "Alpha, what's wrong with the viewing globe?"
Alpha turned to the globe. "Huh? I didn't know we got the Disney Channel! Oh, ay-yi-yi-yi, some wires probably got crossed. It'll take time to repair!"
Tommy turned to look at the globe as the movie unfolded on it. "I hope Adam will be all right till we can get it fixed." * * *
Adam walked along the edge of the lake, his thoughts filled with rage and sorrow mixed. He liked Aura, he really did, and he knew what was happening to her wasn't her fault. He was angrier at Zedd and Rita than he was at the Amber Ranger. "Why did this have to happen?" he wondered aloud.
"Hello, Black Ranger," Aura's voice was even more emotionless than usual as it came from behind him.
Adam turned. "Man, I am so not in the mood!"
Aura raised her Axe. "I really don't care what kind of a mood you're in."
"Where are Azure and Billy?" Adam asked yet again.
"Where you won't find them!"
Adam sighed. "Let me guess, you came here to either torment me or kill me, right?"
"You're brighter than you look!" Aura raised her Axe, and light glinted on the edge of it.
"Fine!" He grabbed for his morpher. "At least give me a fighting chance! It's morphin' time!" As he raised his morpher, Aura's Axe sliced down, cutting into his hand and causing him to drop it.
Adam swore and grabbed his bleeding hand. "Guys!" he called into his communicator; then saw it had been sliced into as well. "This is not good!"
"Maybe not for you, but I'm having a fun time!" Aura laughed insanely as she began to chase him. Adam fled into the forest, Aura chasing after him. "Come here, little Ranger! My Axe wants to have a conversation with your blood!"
Adam ran, dodging around trees and over streamlets, then dodged behind a tree, trying to catch his breath. He noticed his blood was leaving a fine trail for her to follow, and he knew also Aura wasn't going at full speed. He realized she was toying with him. She could've caught him at any time she wanted.
"You can't hide from me, Ranger!"
She's right. My blood is giving me away. But I can try to outrun her. For now. Adam leaned against the tree, thinking. For Azure's sake, I'm gonna try and stay alive.
He ran again. Aura's voice followed him. "You can run. But you can't hide."
Adam called over his shoulder. "Who says I'm hiding?"
"Oh, keep running, Ranger! I'm enjoying the hunt!"
Adam paused as he realized he was returning to the clearing where the whole chase had begun. "Man! I ran in a circle!"
Aura was only a few steps behind him. "Yes, you did. A circle begins and ends at the same place. And this began with me drawing your blood!"
Adam turned, his eyes extremely wide. His spirit rallied as he stared death in the face. "If I must die, then so be it. But at least give me the chance to defend myself in a fair fight one last time!"
"Why should I?" Aura smiled wickedly.
"I ask it as a last request!" Adam insisted.
Aura considered. "Well. Since I'll kill you anyway, this might make it more fun. Go ahead, morph. Not that it will do you any good."
Adam reached for his morpher, not taking his eyes off her for a second. He knew if she were herself, he'd trust her with his life and soul. But now... he dared not turn his back on her. "Thank you, Aura. Black Ranger Power!"
"Drop dead," Aura said flatly. "Oh wait, that's what I'm supposed to make you do."
The fight began. * * *
The movie ended, and the viewing globe returned to the park, where Adam had been. The Rangers stared as they saw Adam lying on the ground. Aura stood over him, breathing hard, her Axe raised high over her head. "NO!" Tommy groaned. "You know the drill! It's morphin' time!"
They teleported in, and Tommy once again halted Aura's attack with Saba. Aura used her free hand to knock Tommy aside. In a flash she'd seized Adam by the throat and dragged him closer to her. "If you want him to live, Rangers, you'll surrender, now!"
Tommy's blood ran cold as Aura spoke. He glanced at the others, then at the imprisoned Adam. "Doesn't look like we have much of a choice."
"Of course you don't. You never did," Aura almost purred in triumph.
"Guys?" The White Ranger looked at the others. Rocky stared as Aura casually held his oldest friend hostage.
"We can't let her kill Adam," was the Red Ranger's reply.
"But we can't let Zedd and Rita win!" Aisha protested, as Aura's grip around Adam's throat tightened.
"It's a no-win situation," Tommy sighed. "Kat, your vote?"
The Pink Ranger could feel the evil that simply oozed from Aura. "You're right Tommy," she sighed helplessly. "We don't have a choice."
"We'll surrender," Tommy told Aura. "Just let him go."
"Once we're on the moon," Aura promised. "Not until."
"Okay, let's go, then!" Tommy's mind hadn't stopped working on a way to get them out of this; they'd all be together in the palace, maybe Billy had an idea, or could come up with one... * * *
Billy and Azure couldn't believe their eyes as Aura reappeared: with all the Power Rangers with her, and with a grip around Adam's neck that looked all but unbreakable. "Adam!" Azure cried out.
"Oh, shut up!" Aura snapped. Azure fell back, tears in her eyes from the harshness in Aura's voice.
Zedd entered the room. "Ah, I see you've brought me a gift, my Ranger!"
"Yes, my lord," Aura nodded. "The entire team of Rangers! What do you wish done with them?"
"Put them in the cell with those two," Zedd commanded. "Tomorrow they will face my finest warriors in the ring, and the Power Rangers will perish!"
"How could you, Aura?" Azure screamed.
"How can I?" Aura replied coldly. "Because that's what my master wants me to do, child!"
The Rangers filed into the cell, then Aura threw Adam in after them and locked it. She stood a few feet away with Zedd, watching with icy eyes as Azure removed Adam's helmet and put his head on her lap. "Wake up Adam, please," she whispered. Adam moaned a little, as Billy checked him over carefully for injuries. Adam's Ranger powers were healing the wounds Aura had inflicted quickly, but she had done some serious damage to him.
"These humans are so weak," Aura said disdainfully. "And they break so easily too!"
"Come on, you've just gotta wake up!" Azure urged Adam, ignoring Aura's comments. The Black Ranger stirred a little, and opened his eyes.
"How true," Zedd agreed with Aura. "And their emotions will be their downfall! Come, my Ranger, let them rest: they will need their strength for the arena tomorrow!"
As Zedd and Aura left, Billy's tear-filled eyes followed the woman he loved. He wondered if they'd ever be left alone to live their lives in peace. He turned back to Azure and Adam.
"I'm here Adam, shhh," Azure soothed the injured man.
"How is he?" Tommy asked as the door to the prison area shut behind Zedd and Aura.
"He'll live: for now," Azure reported. Aisha shook her head.
"I can't believe Aura's doing this," she sighed.
"Billy, just how did Rita and Zedd get a hold of you and Aura?" Tommy asked. As Billy explained what had happened, Tommy's eyes filled with disbelief and disappointment. Rocky was the first to speak, though.
"For someone with an IQ as big as yours is Billy, that was stupid!"
"That went beyond stupid!" Aisha lashed out. Kat didn't hesitate to give her opinion, either.
"Would it have been so hard to just tell us?"
Billy sighed, his gaze never leaving Adam. "I wasn't thinking. I knew I should have told you."
Tommy nodded. "Yes, you should have!"
Azure snapped suddenly, "Would you guys please stop bickering? This isn't helping anything!"
Kat nodded. "Azure's right. We need to figure out a way to free Aura and get out of here, preferably in that order, too!"
Billy looked over at Azure, then told the others what had happened earlier, when Zedd had threatened to let Goldar use Azure as a "punching bag". "Azure may be the key to breaking through that fake personality Zedd's put on Aura."
"Good idea," Tommy nodded. "But just how do we do it? Any ideas?" His gaze swept the group, and was met with denial at every turn.
"Someone want my opinion on this?" Azure interrupted.
"You're just as much a part of this as any of us, Azure," Kat told her. "Of course we do."
"I'm not sure I know how to, or can even break Zedd's hold on Aura, unless they send me into the ring first. There may not be a way for me to break it."
Billy closed his eyes, reflecting on just what had happened earlier. "Hey, maybe it isn't Azure. But it might be how Aura feels about Azure."
"What?" Azure's brow furrowed in confusion as she glanced down at Adam, who was just starting to seriously wake up.
"She didn't start fighting the spell until they threatened you. Aura has always been the protective type, especially of you."
"I don't follow you, Billy," Tommy was just as confused as the rest of them.
"It's almost like there's a limit, only so much she'll let them do before fighting the control... and if we can somehow push them over that, without hurting Azure, that might free her completely."
Tommy thought it over. "I don't like the idea of putting a non-Ranger into any kind of danger, but if it'll help break the spell... it's your call, Azure."
"I don't like it either, but I don't know if Aura feels the same way about any of us except Azure."
Azure considered. "I don't know. I want my sister back, but I don't stand a chance in that ring."
"It's up to you," Billy reminded her.
Kat had a thought. "What if they just shove us all in there at the same time?"
Adam was slowly recovering his strength, and as his eyes met Azure's, the younger Robinson girl made her decision. "If they don't, I'll volunteer to go first." * * *
Aura stood at the door to the prison region, her Axe in her hands. She could hear plainly what was being discussed in the cell. Those foolish Rangers! To think she was anything other than her lord's chosen warrior, what fools they were!
"Sires," she spoke suddenly. "Will I be facing the Rangers tomorrow in the arena?"
Zedd looked up from his celebrating. "Goldar will face Tommy. I have not decided who shall face the others. Perhaps I will have Goldar deal with them all, unless my Ranger would like to join in the fun?"
Aura thought it over. "Yes, I would."
"So be it!" Zedd proclaimed. "After Goldar has beaten Tommy, you may crush the others."
The Amber Ranger nodded her gratefulness to her lord, then something occurred to her. "Sire, I would prefer, if I may, to take them all on by myself, all at the same time. After all, I was the one who brought them in."
"True," Zedd decided. "So be it, then!"
"Thank you sire, I will not disappoint you in their destruction!"
"You'd better not!"
"I will not," Aura swore. She noticed Goldar standing near Zedd's throne, and looking very annoyed. She could tell he hated her for 'stealing' his place as the most favored warrior of the evil lord. She smiled slightly; the winged warrior would soon be in for even more disappointment as she destroyed the Power Rangers one by one. * * *
The Rangers passed the night in fitful sleep, managing to communicate with Zordon and let him know what was going on, and what they were planning. They could teleport out of there whenever they liked; the only thing that kept them was Aura not yet being free. Zordon wished them luck and promised to keep a teleportation lock on them all, if the slightest thing looked like it was going wrong, they would find themselves back in the Command Center. * * *
The next morning, Aura was about to start her battle-preparations when she ran into Goldar. "There you are!"
"What do you want, Goldar?" Aura snapped. "I've got a battle to prepare for!"
"That's what I wanted to see you about!" Goldar told her. "Lord Zedd had promised Tommy to me long before you came around!"
Aura sneered. "Maybe if you'd done your job and actually captured the Rangers, you'd still have him to play with. Now it's too late, they're all mine!"
"You will fail, Amber Ranger!"
"Yeah right," Aura laughed. "Maybe if you're very polite to me, Goldar, I'll let you have Tommy's leg when I'm done with the rest of him: maybe!"
Goldar huffed and stormed off, delivering his final shot, "Mark my words, you will fail!"
"You'd know about failing, wouldn't you!" Aura retorted. She chuckled under her breath, then headed on to continue her preparations. * * *
The Rangers and Azure stood against Aura, who was already morphed and stood confidant and quiet on the far side of the arena, her Axe in her hands. Tommy whispered to Billy, "I know there's more of us than of her, but she's not going to be playing fair."
Billy nodded. "I know," he glanced over at their two weak links. "And she is probably going after Adam and Azure first."
Kat nodded. "So we guard them, make sure she can't get to them."
Tommy nodded in his turn. "Let's do it!"
Aura interrupted them. "If you've quite finished saying farewell to each other, or whatever it is you're doing over there, I believe we have a battle for me to win: and for you all to die in."
"We're ready," Tommy stated.
"Ready to die?" Aura's voice held nothing but evil in it.
"Let's get this over with," Tommy pulled out Saba. "I hope this works!" he whispered to Billy.
"You and me both," the Blue Ranger replied.
"You're not the only ones," Rocky said from his place at the end of the line they'd formed into. Aura circled them carefully, looking them over. They were protecting Azure and Adam mainly, while keeping an eye on her for any surprise moves.
"Man, this is nerve-wracking!" Aisha muttered as she watched Aura moving around. Suddenly, the Amber Ranger leapt to the attack, but not on Azure or Adam: it was Tommy who had to defend himself.
"You'll die, Ranger!" she spat as their blades clashed against each other.
"I dare you to try!" Tommy only defended himself, he wouldn't attack his friend.
"No problem!" Aura leapt beyond him to where Azure stood beside Adam. Azure tried to block her sister's fierce attack, but fell to the ground, grunting in pain and shock. Aura stood suddenly, staring down at Azure. Azure stared back up at her, trembling in fear. Aura lifted her Axe again and started to bring it down.
In mid-swing she halted, again caught by the unspoken plea in Azure's eyes. Billy pulled Azure away from Aura, as the newest Ranger turned to watch them. They couldn't see her face, but from the way she stood, the way she held her Axe, they could sense the indecision and confusion that warred within her.
"Zedd, what's going on?" Rita turned to her husband. "Why didn't she finish that brat off?"
Tommy grabbed Billy's arm. "I think it's starting to break!"
"Amber Ranger!" Zedd rose from his throne and roared. "Destroy the Rangers and their friend, now!"
Aura lifted her Axe again, her eyes drifting across the Rangers to meet Billy's. The Blue Ranger stood quietly, watching her as she watched him. Certainty replaced indecision in a heartbeat, as Aura buried the Axe in the ground at her own feet. She spoke a single word, that echoed in the arena.
Azure ran to Aura. "Aura? Are you back?"
Aura replied by demorphing and wrapped her sister in a warm hug. "Oh, Azure," she glanced up at where Zedd and Rita sat watching the proceedings. "Sorry, Zedd, I'm turning in my resignation!"
"I don't think so!" Zedd bellowed. "Goldar!"
The winged, gold-armored ape leaped to his feet. He'd known the Amber Ranger would fail, but he hadn't dreamed it would be of this magnitude! "Yes, sire?!"
As Goldar approached, Azure went pale; she feared this creature like no other in the world. "No," she whispered. A moment later, the Amber Ranger stood by her side where Aura had been.
"Guys, if seven of us can't take on Goldar, we don't deserve to be called Power Rangers! Am I right?"
Adam, almost totally healed now, nodded. "You're right!"
Aura laughed at Goldar. "You ready to rumble, monkey-boy?"
"Any time you are!" He charged at her. She laughed.
"Let's do it!" Aura threw her Axe in a downward spiral, tripping Goldar. He landed hard on his face, to the laughter of the Rangers.
"You'll pay for that, you Amber brat!" Goldar surged to his feet and headed straight for Azure. Aura wasn't having any of that, however, and pushed herself in between them.
"The name is Aura, ape-face!" Aura glanced over her shoulder. "Someone get her out of the way, please?"
Adam pulled Azure away, as Aura turned back to Goldar. "Ready to get those wings torn off your back the hard way?"
"I can take you on!" Goldar threatened. Tommy stepped up to Aura's side.
"You take on one Ranger, you'd better be ready to take on all of us!"
Aura giggled. "Goldar couldn't take on a toothbrush!"
"You don't even know what one is!" Goldar laughed. "No wait, that's Rito!"
Aura swung her Axe one-handed, aiming directly for Goldar's head. He jumped back. "I don't think so!"
"You just don't think at all!" was all Aura had time to say before they were teleported out. They landed in the Command Center.
As soon as Aura realized where she was, where they all were, and that they were safe, she demorphed. The adrenaline rush from the fight drained away as she leaned against a console.
"Guys, I'm sorry. It was my fault everything happened, all because I wanted to go after my necklace," she sighed.
Billy shook his head. "I should have told you guys what we were planning first, we could've had you watching us in case anything went wrong."
BILLY, AURA, I AM DISAPPOINTED IN BOTH OF YOU, BUT I AM ALSO RELIEVED THAT YOU ARE BOTH SAFE, THAT ALL OF YOU ARE SAFE AND SOUND AGAIN.
Aura glanced up at Zordon, then around at the others. "All this, because I wanted my necklace back."
"I wish you could've gotten it." Tommy had come to understand how much that necklace meant to her.
"Who says I didn't?" Aura's somber face suddenly lit up with a grin. She held out her right hand, clenched into a fist. As she opened her hand, her necklace appeared in it.
"What?" Azure stared from where she sat next to Adam as Alpha ran his scans on the Black Ranger.
Adam stared. "How?" he asked.
Aura grinned. "Goldar was wearing it. I just took it back from him. Amazing what he'll miss when there's an axe coming at his head!"
"Disinfect that thing before you put it back on!" Aisha advised.
"Believe me, I will!" Aura nodded. She lightly touched the amber stone, a soft smile curving her lips as she did so. Suddenly, the amber began to shine brightly with an unearthly glow.