Three weeks had passed since Aura had been freed from Divatox's control. Billy was starting to worry over her; she hadn't spoken a single word about what had happened to her while she'd worn the collar; and the one time he'd pressed her for answers, she'd told him flatly she didn't remember anything except for taking Pyris. The tone she'd spoken in had discouraged him from further inquiry into the matter.
The repair work on the Community Center had proceeded very well, and it was almost ready to reopen. Azure and Adam were there that day helping to fix up the last few things, and were supposed to come to the Cranstons that night for dinner.
Aura and Billy sat on their front porch, watching their children play. Aura had been silent all morning, her eyes distant and thoughts even more distant. Billy wished she'd talk to him; she hadn't been this silent and cold in years.
He turned to watch the twins play, smiling a little at their innocence. _Alex is going to be the Amber Ranger after Aura. And Alaina seems to take after Shaya. I wonder what little Shaya and William will be like._
As Billy watched, Alaina stiffened suddenly, her eyes growing distant as a vision flowed before them. Her older brother looked at her a bit nervously; even at three, the twins knew they were different from most children. Alaina saw what was to come, and Alex would one day be responsible for the defense of the planet.
"Alaina?" he asked, worried over her. He jumped when she screamed out a denial of something. "Mommy, Daddy!" he called, and almost before the words were out of his mouth, Aura and Billy were over there.
"Alex, Alaina?" Aura was worried when she saw her elder daughter shaking in tears. Whatever had happened, it obviously had terrified Alaina.
"What is it?" Billy wondered. Aura knelt down by Alaina.
"What's going on? Alaina?" she held her in her arms. "Alaina, honey, what is it? Did you see something?"
"Uncle Adam," Alaina cried. "He fell. . .down long tunnel!" she wrapped her small arms around her mother's neck and held her. Aura glanced to Billy, worry in her gray eyes.
"Alaina, honey, can you tell us anything else?" he asked.
Alaina thought for a few moments. "He was falling. Then I couldn't see or hear him."
"Could you tell where he was?" Aura wanted to know. When Alaina couldn't, Aura did her best to comfort her. "It'll be okay, Alaina. It'll be okay."
"I wanna talk to Uncle Adam! Wanna make sure he's okay!" she was trembling in fear. Aura thought for a moment; Adam and Azure were both at the Community Center, helping with the last bit of organization it needed before reopening.
"All right, we'll go over there right away," Aura decided.
"Thank you, Mommy!" Alaina smiled a little as Aura started
towards the house to get ready. She wouldn't let her beloved uncle fall!
Divatox stomped angrily around the bridge of the Subcraft, eyes blazing with rage. She threw herself into her throne-chair and glared around the room. "I'm bored!" she said petulantly. Elgar, playing with his pet flying fish, looked up.
"I wanna pillage!"
Divatox got up and stared through her periscope at Angel Grove. "There's some very fine jewelry on display at the Angel Grove Museum, and I want it!"
"But those Rangers will try to stop you again!"
She pouted some. "I know! It wasn't like that when I had my own Ranger!"
"Captain, may I suggest something?"
Divatox glanced over to her science officer. "What is it, Porto?
And it had better be good!" at Porto's suggestion, the pirate smiled.
"Oh, that is a very good plan! I'm glad I thought of it! Prepare Lampster
at once, and send him to that place I blew up when we first got here. The
Green Ranger and his wife are there; that should draw the others in no
Azure and Adam worked quickly getting things back in order at the Community Center. "You're a big help!" Azure smiled at Adam as they worked.
"I do what I can," Adam told her. Azure smiled a very little.
"I know. I wish Jacklyn hadn't gotten sick," she sighed; she missed her friend a great deal. Adam put a hand on hers.
"She's going to be well again in a little while, Azure."
"I know," Azure sighed. She looked up as the sound of a car came from outside. "What are they doing here?"
"Who is it?"
"Aura and Alaina," she could see her niece a little better, since the little girl was running towards the building as fast as she could. "And it looks like Alaina's been crying. Adam, you may want to come here."
Adam came over to her. "Wonder what's wrong?"
Alaina ran straight over to him as she practically blew the doors off coming inside and hugged his legs. "Uncle Adam!"
"Alaina!" Adam bent down a little. "Alaina, have you been crying?"
"You okay?" the little girl asked, staring up at her uncle. Azure glanced over to her sister, confused, until Aura whispered a quick explanation to her of what Alaina had seen. "You didn't fall?"
"No, I haven't fallen," Adam shook his head as Alaina held him as tightly as she was capable. Suddenly, a loud bang from upstairs interrupted them.
"What was that?" Azure glanced up and frowned.
Aura shook her head. "I don't know," she looked over to Adam. "Let's go find out."
"Alaina, stay with Aunt Azure," Adam told the little girl. "I'm going with your mommy to check on the noise."
"Let's go, Adam," Aura and Adam carefully crept up to the second floor, while Azure and Alaina stayed in what would hopefully be safety. Once up there, they separated, Adam checking the right side of the storage room the noise had come from, while Aura investigated the left. Adam heard something else coming from behind a pile of boxes and quickly peeked behind it. He growled softly to himself as he saw a monster happily trashing things up there. _It's only a matter of time till it goes on downstairs; I'm surprised it hasn't already! Well, that's not going to happen!_
"Aura!" he whispered, catching her attention with a quick movement. "I found it!" as soon as she saw what it was, she swore under her breath, though she also couldn't keep herself from chuckling a little. _It's got a lamp on it's head! I don't believe this!_
"Just great," she muttered. After all, she had to at least look like she was taking this thing seriously, no matter how much it made her want to laugh.
"Think we'd better morph?"
Aura nodded. "Let's do it!" she paled a bit as the monster saw them. "It's morphin' time! Amber Ranger Power!"
"Shift into Turbo!" Adam called out the other Rangers' new call. "Desert Thunder Turbo Power!"
The creature laughed at them as it charged. "I am Lampster, and it's time for you Rangers to see the light!"
Adam fell back a bit as Aura blocked the creature's attack. They could both see this thing was too tough for two Rangers on their own. "Guys, trouble at the Community Center!" he snapped.
"On the way!" he heard Tommy saying. He glanced over just in time to see Aura take a nasty chop to the neck. "Aura!" he jumped over to her aid.
"Thanks!" she took a moment to catch her breath while Adam dealt with Lampster for a few moments. As she charged back to the fight, the other Rangers teleported in, fresh and ready for a fight.
Things got somewhat hectic after that, especially when a round dozen Piranatrons showed up to help the monster out. The Rangers traded blows with the minions of evil in their usual fashion, until Aura spied Lampster drawing a bead on her with it's interior lamp. _I don't know what that thing can do, but I'm not taking any chances!_ She dodged just as it blasted at her with the lightbeam, and laughed at by how far it had missed her.
She stopped laughing when she heard Adam screaming. As fast as she could move, Aura ran to the window she'd seen Adam fighting near and glanced down. The Green Ranger was holding onto the ledge with all his strength. "I've got you, Adam!" she said, grabbing his wrists.
"Hurry, Aura!" he cried as she started to back up, pulling him in. "I can't hang on any longer!"
She grunted; Adam was a lot heavier than he looked! "You need to go on a diet!" she growled. Something caught her eye across the street, and as she realized what it was. . .the blood drained from her face. . .
And her grip on Adam's wrists slipped and loosened.
The first hint Azure had that something was wrong was when she heard Adam screaming from the second floor. She ran outside and looked up, only to see a figure falling. Something small dropped from him as he did, and in a flash of green light he demorphed. Azure's heart nearly stopped when she heard him hit the ground. That sort of fall would normally have done nothing to a morphed Ranger, and wouldn't have been too bad even for a normal person. But Adam hadn't fallen well, and had landed even worse.
She ran to Adam as fast as she could when she saw him hit the ground, her heart in her throat. _Oh, God, please let him be all right!_ She dropped to her knees, hardly noticing Billy calling an ambulance. "Adam? Answer me! Please!"
Adam's eyes flickered slowly. Alaina ran up beside her aunt and stared at the fallen Ranger. "Uncle Adam fell!"
Azure glanced at Alaina, the little girl had told her in as much detail as she could about the vision while they'd waited for word from Aura and Adam. "Your vision?" she looked up as Aura emerged, demorphed, and absolutely white and shaking. Azure knew she was probably much the same way herself. "Her vision. . it. . it. . .," she couldn't keep going, choking on her own tears.
Aura nodded a little. "I know, Azure."
"What happened?" Azure almost screamed. "How did this happen?"
"Azure. . .," Aura could barely get the words out. "I. . the monster. . .I. .. "
Azure looked at her sister, frowning. "You what?"
"I dropped him," Aura whispered. "I didn't mean to, but when. . . "
"You let him fall?" Azure's voice dripped ice a moment later as she looked at her semi-conscious husband.
Aura's eyes were filled with pain and regret. "I'm sorry. . .I. . ."
"Later," Azure shook her head as she brushed some of Adam's hair out of his face; his Turbo Charger had fallen off at the absolute worst time. "Adam, honey? can you hear me?"
"A. . .Azure?" Adam's eyes flickered a little. Azure smiled.
"You're going to be all right!" she reassured him. "The ambulance is on it's way."
Adam whispered softly, "The monster. . ."
"It left," Tommy told him. Adam nodded a little, closing his
eyes. Words couldn't say how much he hurt right then. The sound of the
ambulance grew closer; Azure never let go of his hand as she waited. _He's
got to be all right. He just has to be!_
Azure paced back and forth in the hospital waiting room, worried and upset. She'd been waiting for any word on Adam, and the Rangers, since she'd gotten there. She glanced up as Tommy rushed in and over to her. "Any word yet?" the other Rangers were hot on his heels.
"No," she glanced at the Rangers behind him. "What happened up there, how did this happen?"
Aisha gave her the quick version. "The monster shot some sort of beam at Aura, it missed her hit him, knocked him out of the window. Aura went to grab him, then she let him go. I couldn't be sure why, couldn't see her face."
Azure turned to stare at her sister. "You let him go?"
"I'm sorry," Aura whispered, shock still evident in her eyes. Azure sighed, angry at all of them for the first time.
"Mrs. Park?" she glanced up as the doctor called her.
"How is Adam?" she wanted to know at once.
The doctor shook his head. "Not good," the list of injuries was extensive; broken ribs, a broken arm, sprained wrist, a few internal injuries, and partial paralysis.
The doctor nodded. "It should be temporary, we don't know yet."
Azure took a deep breath. "Can I see him?"
"Yes," the doctor nodded. "He's in room 324."
Azure shot one last glare at Aura, then headed down the hallway to her husband's room. No one heard Aura's soft whisper.
Billy cleared his throat a little. "Guys, I hate to make a mention of this, but with that Lampster still out there, we're going to need a new Green Ranger."
Tommy nodded, glancing at Aura. "Hope we don't need a new Amber one, if there could be one."
"Um, guys, I have a suggestion, and it's very unusual!"
Rocky glanced at her. "What is it, Aisha?"
Aisha checked to be sure no one was near enough to hear her, then said softly, "Justin."
Tommy's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "That is very unusual. He's a great fighter, but I don't know about using someone so young on the team."
"But anyone else we'd have to tell them about the Rangers, and we couldn't be sure if we could trust them right away. We know we can trust Justin."
Tommy sighed and glanced down the hallway. "Okay, but somehow,
I don't think we want to tell Azure about this."
Divatox laughed horrendously as she watched the Rangers through her periscope. "This is just too good! The Green Ranger's in the hospital, and the Amber one was the one who let him fall!"
"What is your next plan, my captain?" Rygog asked eagerly.
"To retrieve my Amber Ranger!" she chuckled. "And so far, everything is working out perfectly
"This shall be wondrous, captain!" Rygog declared. Divatox laughed again, she enjoyed toying with the Rangers' minds so very much. She quickly barked out her orders to the Piranatron swarm she summoned up, then sat back in her throne.
Nothing could go wrong with this plan.
Azure quietly stepped into the hospital room, hating the sounds of the heart monitors as they beeped. They reminded her too much of when she and Aura had spent time in hospitals; too many times when they'd been hurt somehow. "Adam?" she whispered softly.
"Azure?" Adam glanced over at her, smiling. Azure sat next to her, laying a hand on his leg. "I was so worried!"
"I'm gonna be okay," he tried to reassure her. Azure wiped away a tear in her eye.
"Yeah," was all she said. Adam looked at her, he knew something was wrong.
"Azure, what is it, why are you crying?"
Azure glanced down at her hand, and trembled a little. "Adam, can you feel where my hand is?"
"It's. . .," Adam paused as he realized he couldn't feel her hand. "I. . .no. . .."
Azure hated what she had to say next. "Adam, you might not be able to walk again."
"No. . .," Adam whispered the words. "No!"
She held onto his hand. "Adam, do you remember what happened?"
"I remember. . .," Adam thought for a moment. "Aura grabbing my wrists, she was pulling me back in, then. . .then. . ." his eyes clouded with anger and fear.
"She dropped me."
Azure bit her lip, feeling her rage against her sister coming back. "Adam, I wish I knew what to tell you, why Aura dropped you. But I have no answers to give!"
"Where is she?" Adam wondered. "Has she said anything?"
"She's out in the waiting room, and no, she hasn't said anything."
Adam looked hurt, with more than just the pain in his back. "Nothing? That's not like Aura! Then again, neither is dropping a friend out of a window!" Azure flinched at the hate in his voice.
"I don't know what's going on with her. She's been acting really strange since you guys got your Turbo Powers!"
"You don't think she's jealous or something, do you?" Adam looked at his wife carefully.
"Why?" Azure wondered. "She never lost her powers."
Adam nodded. "No, but she was with Divatox for a while. Who knows what else could have happened to her before she had that collar put on her?"
Azure glanced towards the door, frowning. "You don't think that she. . ."
"What?" he whispered.
"That she is still under Divatox's control?"
"How?" Adam wondered. "We destroyed the collar."
Azure nodded. "Like you said, who knows what happened to her before. . I. . .," she stared at him for a few moments, nervous and upset.
"Azure, what is it?"
His wife sighed deeply. "I just wish we had taken Alaina more seriously about her vision of you falling."
"Me too," Adam looked concerned. "Maybe Alaina can help us figure out what's wrong with Aura."
Azure shrugged. "I hope so!" she smiled a little. "Maybe she can also figure out if you're going to stop being lazy and get out of that bed!?"
"Hey, I deserve some rest!" Adam chuckled.
"Yeah!" Azure smiled at him. "I bet you just want to get out of helping me out around the Community Center," she got serious a moment later. "Adam, what are we going to do if you can't walk again?"
Adam reached out and took her hand. "I don't know, Azure. I really don't know."
"I'm so scared," she whispered, holding his hand a little tighter.
"How are you feeling, Adam?" they glanced up to see Billy standing in the doorway.
Adam glanced over to his friend. "Kind of a stupid question considering what just happened."
"True," he nodded. "You'll be out of here soon, with luck."
Adam sighed. "True, in a wheelchair."
"Until you get the right therapy," he almost did a literal doubletake. "Wheelchair?" _I didn't know he knew!_
Azure stood up. "Adam, I'll let you two talk for a while."
"I know," Adam told Billy. "I can't feel my legs, and somehow, I don't think therapy is going to do me any good right now," he glanced to Azure. "Hurry back!"
As Azure left, Billy sat down next to his friend. "Maybe not right now, but soon."
"What are my chances of feeling my legs again?" Adam wondered. " That was a pretty nasty fall I had there."
"I know," Billy nodded. "And I'm not sure, but the doctors are going to do everything they can," he whispered, "and so will Alpha and Zordon."
Adam glanced to his friend. "My Turbo Charger. You have it, don't you?"
Billy nodded. "It's safe. Is there anyone in particular you want us to give it to until you're ready to come back?"
Adam glanced away. "No one," his eyes filled with tears and sorrow. "Whomever you find, you may just want to keep them."
"Adam," Billy said, warningly and carefully.
His friend turned around to look at him. "Billy, we both know that there is a good chance I'll never walk again."
"And if you do?"
"What good am I going to be to the team?" Adam asked bitterly. He had never felt so helpless in his life, never!
"Once you get your strength and skills back, you'll be just as good to us as you've always been!"
Adam sighed and was quiet for a few moments. Finally, he asked, "What happened out there today?"
"You fell," Billy told him. "Aura tried to pull you back in, and. . .." he stopped.
"Let go?" Adam asked softly. When Billy nodded helplessly, Adam sighed. "Has she said why?"
"She's hardly said anything since it happened," Billy told him. "She won't talk to anyone, about anything."
Adam glanced to the door. "Why do I think I know now where Azure went?"
Billy sighed. "I don't know what's wrong with Aura; she's never been like this. Except. . .""
Billy sighed in remembrance. "Except that one time, just before we found out she's the Amber Ranger. When she shut me out of her life, completely. Ever since then, we've been inseparable. Most of the time. But now. . ."
"When she didn't want anyone else to get hurt? Billy, I don't know
what's going on, but someone needs to get Aura's side of the story!"
Azure stormed into the waiting room and straight over to her sister. "Aura, we need to talk." Aura glanced up at her, then looked away again, unwilling to meet her eyes. "Now!" she snapped. Aura sighed and got up.
"Outside!" Azure walked with her sister outside, for once in her life, ready to hurt her. "What in the name of the Spirit of the Earth possessed you to let go of Adam?" she growled.
"I. . I. . s. .I just lost my grip!" Aura replied, voice shaking. _Can't tell them what happened; they'd never understand! How could they?_
Azure sighed. "That's not like you, Aura."
"That's what happened."
"Why didn't you tell anyone sooner?" Azure wondered, scared out of her mind at recent events.
"No one asked!" Aura practically growled. Azure turned away, looking hurt.
"I'm sorry," she sighed. "I shouldn't have snapped."
Aura nodded fiercely. "Right! You shouldn't have!" without another word, she marched off, to all outward eyes, furious. Azure watched her go, sighing.
_I think I was right. She is being controlled somehow._
Azure quietly walked back into her husband's room. Billy was still there, talking quietly as she re-entered. He looked up as she did so. "Azure, what is it?"
"Something I hope I'm dead wrong about."
"Azure?" Adam glanced worriedly at her.
Billy almost stood up. "Azure, what is it? Were you talking with Aura?"
"I think Aura might still be under Divatox's control, even if she doesn't know it."
Adam swore under his breath as Billy spat out a heated denial. "How often have you known Aura to lose her grip?" Azure asked. Billy shook his head.
"Never. I don't think it's possible."
Azure sighed. "That's what she told me, and you all told me that it looked like she let go of Adam. Billy, I know you don't want to face this, but Aura may still be under Divatox's control."
"No!" Billy shook his head, then sighed. He knew it was possible; they knew so little of how Divatox worked. "How. .how could it be?"
Azure sighed. "I wish I knew. But something inside tells me that it just might be possible."
"I wish I'd been able to see her face when I fell. Maybe I could've told then. . .," Adam sighed. Azure placed a hand on Billy's shoulder.
"Maybe Zordon can tell us for sure. On both what happened, and about Aura."
"What are we going to do if she is being controlled?" Billy wondered.
"Where is she now, Azure?" Adam asked before his wife could answer.
"I don't know," Azure shrugged. "She got really mad at me and stormed off."
Billy's eyes went wide. "Aura got mad at you?"
"I think so," Azure really couldn't believe it herself. "I've never seen her mad at me before, so I don't really know."
"Maybe I should go talk to her," Billy was troubled over this, troubled greatly.
"Be careful," Azure advised. "She's not in a good mood."
Billy nodded and left as Azure sat back down next to Adam. "I hope we're wrong," he sighed. Azure nodded.
"So do I."
Aura lay curled up in the crook of a tree, tears streaming down her cheeks. _I don't believe this is happening. Azure doesn't trust me; she thinks I deliberately let Adam fall. Adam probably hates me. Billy. . . who knows what he feels about this? And I can't talk to them about it, I can't say anything, they'd never believe me, they'd be so ashamed of me. Like I'm ashamed of myself._ She sighed a little, then stiffened as she heard Billy's voice calling her name. She slipped out of the tree, drying her eyes quickly, and went out to where he could see her.
"What's going on?" he asked as soon as he got up to her.
She frowned a little. "What do you mean?"
"With you!" he told her. "I'm worried about you."
She shook her head. "You don't have to be, I'm fine. Go worry about Adam, he's the one in the hospital."
"I think Azure is doing enough worrying for the whole team," he reminded her. "Aura, talk to me, please."
"There's nothing to talk about," she insisted, stepping away from as she did so. She couldn't stand to look at him, he'd see the shame in her eyes, she knew it. She didn't want him knowing what was going on in her heart, for once in her life.
"Yes, there is," he insisted. "Something's bothering you, what is it?"
She whirled around, filling her eyes with fake anger. "Nothing!"
"If it were nothing, you wouldn't be getting this upset over it."
Aura hated to treat Billy like this, but saw no other options. "Billy, how many times do I have to tell you to stay out of my private life?" _Of course, there's the little detail that in three years of being married, and a full lifetime almost of being friends, I haven't HAD a secret from you that I didn't wind up telling you!_
Billy looked at her. "Aura, we haven't had a secret from each other in years, we agreed not to have any, remember?"
"So now I want one, is that a crime?" Aura snapped.
Billy sighed. "If this is about what happened to Adam, it was an accident, he wants to see you!"
"I don't want to see him," Aura didn't say what else was on her mind. _He'll blame me for the fall, and I won't be able to tell them what happened, I just can't!_
Aura was almost about to step away when Piranatrons appeared all around the two of them. Billy rolled his eyes. "Great!"
_Oh, this is just wonderful!_ Aura groaned to herself as she got ready to fight. The fish-creatures charged. ..right by Aura as if she weren't even there! For a moment she stood still, not believing this, then did her best to fight.
Only to have them avoid her as if she carried some form of disease! _What is going on here?_ Billy had to fight alone; the Piranatrons wouldn't even touch Aura, but he finally managed to beat them off.
"Wonder what that was all about?" Billy asked. Aura shook her head.
"I don't know."
Billy looked at her a bit curiously, but didn't say anything. "You sure you don't want to see Adam? He doesn't blame you."
Aura turned away from him, whispering far too low for him to hear. "I blame myself," she spoke louder. "No."
"He understands that it was an accident, Aura! Honest, he really wants to see you," he could tell she was thinking it over; it was hard for Aura not to see her friends for long, even if they'd had a disagreement. "Well?"
She sighed finally. "All right. I'll go see him."
"Come on," Billy smiled as they started back to the hospital.
Aura wiped away a tear when Billy couldn't see her. _I hope I'm not making
a big mistake doing this._
Adam glanced up as Aura and Billy entered the room. Aura did her level best not to look at Adam, either. "How are you doing?" he asked.
"Okay," Aura told the window on the other side of the room. "What about you?"
"I will be," Adam's eyes were fastened on the far side of the room.
"That's good," Aura nodded briefly.
"Did they tell you what was wrong with me?" there was an edge to Adam's voice as he asked.
"No, not yet," Aura shook her head. _And I don't think I want to know, really._
He told her, "I may be paralyzed, but there's a very good chance it's not permanent."
"Good," she nodded. She saw Azure and Billy talking, but deliberately ignored them; she could give them that much privacy at least; normally she would have heard them plainly.
Billy whispered softly to Azure, "Azure, it was like the Piranatrons were avoiding her on purpose."
"You don't think Divatox told them to?"
He shrugged. "There's only one reason I can think of why she'd do that."
Azure whispered, a trifle louder this time, "Divatox still has her under her control."
Billy nodded. "Looks that way."
Azure stared at her sister; almost afraid of her! _Is she still our enemy?_ "This is bad," Billy whispered. Aura whirled around; she couldn't avoid hearing that!
"What?" at that, teary-eyed Azure ran out of the room. Aura looked at Billy and Adam both, upset. "What is wrong with her?"
Billy placed a hand on her shoulder. "I think we should go to the Power Chamber. There is something we need to take care of there," his eyes never left Adam as he spoke.
Aura practically glared at them. "What?"
"Come on," was all he said. "You take care, Adam, we'll be back."
Adam watched as they teleported out, and sighed. _Somehow, even if I
DO walk again. . .I think my Ranger days are over with._
The Rangers and Justin were all gathered in the Power Chamber when Aura and Billy arrived. She stepped back a little from the others as she and Billy solidified; she really didn't want to hang around them much. "What is it we have to take care of?" she asked.
Billy held out Adam's Turbo Chargers. "This. With Divatox on the loose, we're going to need the full team!"
"Who's going to be the temporary Green Ranger?"
Tommy put a hand on Justin's shoulder. "Justin."
The young boy looked up, eyes wide. "Huh? Me?"
JUSTIN, YOU HAVE PROVEN YOURSELF AS A LOYAL FRIEND, AND FROM WHAT THE OTHERS HAVE TOLD ME, YOU ARE VERY SKILLED IN MARTIAL ARTS.
Justin blushed a little at Zordon's words. "Well, yeah, but I'm only twelve!"
"We weren't that much older than you when we got our first powers," Tommy told him. "Justin, we have faith in you and your ability, otherwise, we wouldn't have considered you."
"Wow!" Justin was overwhelmed. "Well, if you really think I'm good enough, I'll do my best."
Billy smiled a bit sadly, as he handed the Chargers and a communicator to Justin. "Justin, you do understand that this is only until Adam is better, right?"
"Which I hope is very soon!" Justin nodded sharply. Billy glanced over to Aura and took a deep breath.
"Now that that's over with, you wanted to know what's wrong with Azure," he said. At her nod, he continued, "Aura, part of it is what happened to Adam, it's going to be hard for her, almost as hard for Adam to deal with what happened. But also, part of it has to deal with you."
"With me?" she thought for a moment, then nodded briefly. "Oh, because of how the accident happened."
The next thing Billy said totally floored Aura. "Aura, there is a chance that Divatox still has some sort of control over you."
Aura's eyes went completely wide; this was the very last thing she'd been thinking about. "What?"
He kept going. "We don't know what kind of powers Divatox has, she may, somehow, still have control over your actions."
"What makes you think that?" Aura's eyes glinted with rage at this.
"The way you've been behaving since the collar was destroyed," Tommy told her. The Amber Ranger glared at him.
"What have I done?"
Rocky spoke up next. "You've been so distant, and losing your grip on Adam, is something you've never done before."
"Excuse me for living!" Aura snapped. "And accidents happen!"
Billy stepped over to her. "Let Alpha scan you, just to be sure that you're okay, please."
Aura jerked away from him; she couldn't believe he'd asked that! "If you can't trust me, Billy, I don't know if I want to stay married to you, much less stay on the team!" she hissed, teleporting out. Billy sighed, tears in his eyes.
"I hope, I really hope, that this doesn't mean what I think it might," Aisha murmured.
"So do I, Aisha, so do I," Billy sighed.
Aura cried again in the park, this time over the accusations of her husband and friends. _How could they think that? How could they SAY that?_ She forced herself to think logically, despite her grief. _They don't know what happened when I went to the Heart of Earth after Billy and Ninjor rescued Pyris._
She relaxed a little as she remembered. The Spirit of Earth had been waiting for her, and in her loving arms had she sobbed out the grief from being turned against the side of good once more. The Spirit had then told her of the Psychic Armor, a mental and spiritual shield that could deflect all magics or technology that would warp her normal way of thinking. She'd been working on it the last three weeks, and had finally perfected it that morning, just before Alaina's shout had interrupted what had been a pleasant day.
_That's why I've been so 'distant'. I've been trying to figure out how to make sure I'm never turned against them again, and then they turned around and accuse me of still being under her control! Then again, they don't KNOW that's what I've been doing. I didn't tell them because I wasn't sure if I could master the technique. I didn't want to give them false hope._ She sighed. _Or myself false hope if I failed._
Her own powers had also been increased to be equal to the Turbo powers; and her Zord's strength had been improved. The Spirit of Earth took very good care of the Ranger she loved so very much.
"Hello, my Amber Ranger!"
Aura jerked up at Divatox's voice and leaped away. "Get away from me!" she spat.
"Why should I?" the pirate queen laughed. "You did me a great favor in that battle with Lampster!"
"What are you talking about?" Aura wondered.
Divatox laughed harshly. "You destroyed the Green Ranger for me!"
Aura looked away. "I saw that monster of yours, and. . . .," she shivered, feeling sick to her stomach. Divatox smiled.
"You are, whether you want to or not, working for me now!"
"No!" Aura shook her head "The Rangers destroyed that collar, you have no control over me anymore!"
Divatox smiled. "Don't I? Why don't you look towards those trees behind me?" she watched as Aura's eyes grew wide at the sight she saw there. "Get used to seeing that if you don't obey!"
"Why are you doing this to me?" she whispered. "Why can't you leave me alone, leave Earth alone if nothing else!"
"There are just too many things I want on this planet! I'm not leaving until I get them all!"
"Then you're going to have to fight me and every other Ranger for everything you want!" Aura glared; as angry as she was at the others, she would not fail in her duties to protect this world.
Divatox shook her finger in Aura's face, enjoying the fear in the Amber Ranger's eyes. "By the time I'm through with you. . .nooooo!" in the very middle of her threat, Aura was teleported out. In a flash she was back on the Subcraft. "Porto!" she snapped. "Send my two monsters out at once to take care of those Rangers! Destroy them completely!"
"Yes, my queen!" was all Porto said, doing it at once.
Aura glanced around quickly as she appeared in the Power Chamber. Tommy was right in front of her, worry in his dark eyes. "Aura, why didn't you tell us you saw Melter before?"
She looked down at the floor. "I couldn't."
"I think we all owe you an apology, for thinking you were under Divatox's control," Tommy told her. He'd been hiding in the bushes near where she and Divatox had been speaking, and had heard her fervent denial of the pirate queen's demand. Aura shook her head.
"It's okay," she murmured. "I was acting kind of strange."
Billy wrapped her into a warm and loving hug. "Don't be afraid to talk to us, about anything that's bothering you," he whispered. Aura nodded briefly.
"I couldn't face the fact it had happened again, that I was turned against you guys again. I'd blocked it out. Then when I saw Melter. . .it all came back," she finally told them what had happened.
Rocky nodded. "And your grip on Adam slipped?"
"It's not your fault," Tommy told her at her nod. "It's Divatox's, and if we ever catch her, we're going to make her pay Adam's hospital bill!"
"She certainly has enough in that sub of hers to do it several times over!" Aura smiled, thinking of the tons of jewels and gold she'd seen. Suddenly, the alarms blared and Alpha whirled around the room in a panic.
"Rangers, the Lampster and the Melter Monster have both appeared in downtown Angel Grove!" he told them.
"Ready for your first fight, Justin?" Tommy asked. The young Green Ranger took a deep breath.
"I certainly hope so!" he told them. Tommy nodded and pulled out his Turbo Charger. The other Rangers took their stances, and their leader smiled. No matter how old they go, or what their powers were like, one thing never changed.
The Rangers defended the Earth.
"Shift into Turbo!" he commanded. "Red Lightning Turbo Power!" the Red Turbo Ranger stood where he had a moment earlier.
"Mountain Blaster Turbo Power!" Rocky thundered, becoming the Blue Turbo Ranger.
"Desert Thunder Turbo Power!" Justin called out the command for the first time, and the new Green Turbo Ranger came into being.
"Dune Star Turbo Power!" Aisha snapped out, morphing into the Yellow Turbo Ranger.
"Wind Chaser Turbo Power!" Kat called, transforming into the Pink Turbo Ranger.
"Phantom Power!" Billy's ruby glowed as he became the Phantom Ranger. Aura smiled as her friends morphed, watching Justin grow an extra two feet and put on at least twenty pounds of muscle was an experience that definitely would need getting used to. Now it was her turn.
"It's morphin' time!" she cried, pulling out her Power Coin. "Amber Ranger Power!"
In seven flashes of light, red, blue, green, yellow, pink, black, and amber, the Rangers went into battle. Aura and her HawkZord, along with Billy and Artillatron, took down the Melter Monster, while the others put Lampster's lights out in record time. As the monsters' ashes vanished in the Angel Grove breeze, Justin suddenly cleared his throat. "Um, guys, don't you think that someone is wondering who has their powers?"
"He's right," Aisha nodded. "We'd better let him know."
"And I have to talk with Azure, and let her know what's going on," Aura was looking forward to clearing the air with her sister.
"And for some reason, I don't think she's going to want to know who took Adam's place," Billy sighed.
Tommy nodded. "You're right, she's going to be upset!"
Aura bit her lip; she knew Azure's temperament better than any of them.
_Upset is going to be an understatement I do believe!_
As the Rangers entered the hospital room, once more a tight-knit group, even with the new addition to the team, they saw Azure curled up next to Adam, who was sound asleep. "Azure?" Aura whispered softly. Azure glanced up at her sister a little fearfully.
Aura came over to her. "Azure, I have something to tell you. About why I let Adam fall."
Azure got to her feet. "In the hall," was all she said as the two walked out. Tommy shut the door behind them, then gently nudged Adam. As his friend opened his eyes, Tommy said softly, "We need to talk."
Adam sat up a little. "Where's Azure?" was the first thing he asked.
"Talking to Aura in the hall," Billy told him. Adam frowned a little.
"Is Aura okay? I mean. . .,"
Tommy quickly explained what had happened, then took a deep breath. "We picked Justin to hold your powers until you get better."
"Justin," Tommy nodded at Adam's outburst.
"He's just a kid! How could you do that to a kid?"
Justin came over to the side of the bed. "I agreed to it," he told Adam, who shook his head.
"You don't know what you're getting into, Justin."
Tommy promised, "We'll keep an eye on him."
"I still don't like it," Adam said. Billy sighed.
"Adam, it's only until you get back on your feet, he understands that!"
Adam struggled to sit up. "Then I'm going to put everything I've got into getting back on my feet!"
Justin smiled. "You'd better!"
"What are you guys talking about?" Azure stood in the doorway, Aura just behind her. When no one answered at once, she looked over at Justin, and her eyes narrowed at the sight of the green shirt on him, and the green communicator on one wrist. "You didn't?!"
"I agreed to it," Justin defended their choice. Azure looked angry enough to have smoke coming out of her ears!
"How could you?" she practically roared. "How could you?"
"We had to have a Green Ranger; and there was no one else," Tommy told her. All the ex-Rangers were unavailable, for one reason or another. Azure wasn't listening, though.
"That is no excuse!" she screamed. "He is just a kid! You are putting his life in danger!"
Aisha stepped up. "Azure, his life is in danger by virtue of the fact he lives in Angel Grove! At least like this, he has some protection, and it's only until Adam's back on his feet, anyway."
"Look what Divatox did to Adam!" Azure just barely managed to keep her voice down enough so no one would hear them. "How can you say that he's going to be safe?"
"I didn't say he was going to be safe," Aisha retorted. "I just said he'd have some protection. There is no safe place, it looks like, on Earth!"
"Get out!" Azure pointed to the door, even as Adam tried to calm her down. "Get out!"
One by one, they filed out, as Azure sat next to Adam's bed, crying. She looked up as Adam called her name. "Don't blame them," he told her. "They did what they had to do."
"Did they?" she asked harshly. "He's just a child!"
"He's a Power Ranger," he corrected her. "For now."
Azure shook her head. "He shouldn't be. He should be a kid enjoying his life, being around his friends, not defending the Earth from Divatox."
Adam nodded. "I know. And if it weren't for Divatox, it wouldn't be necessary in the first place. But someone has to do it, and you might want to ask Justin how he feels about it, it's his choice, after all," he bent over and brushed his lips against hers. "I love you, Azure."
"I love you, Adam," she told him. "But I can't accept that the Rangers even asked him to do this."
"Would you rather they have asked you?"
Azure glanced away, not wanting to show the fear built up within her. "No."
"Everything's going to be fine, Azure," Adam tried to reassure her. She stood up and started getting ready to leave. "Tell the kids I'll be home soon," he asked her. She nodded, wiping the tears away.
"I will," she couldn't keep them from her voice, though. It was all she could do not to cry as she left her husband there, back to the children she loved.
And now one like them, though somewhat older, was responsible for the defense of the world against an evil pirate queen.