Billy Cranston woke up in the thin gray dawn light and stared at the
ceiling. He knew without having to look at a calendar or clock what today
was. It was the exact six month anniversary of a day he wished devoutly
had never happened. He turned in bed to look at the photo on his nightstand.
It showed himself standing next to a young woman with long, dark hair and gray eyes. A smile lit up both their faces, and from the expression and general attitude, nothing could have went wrong to spoil their happiness together.
A tear splashed onto the photo, blotting out the woman's face. He took a deep breath and wiped the tear away. "Another day without you, Aura," he whispered to the picture. "Six months to the day since I lost you. All because of Rita and Zedd."
The other Rangers had thought for months he'd gotten out of the depression he'd sunk into after her death. They were wrong. He hadn't dated anyone since then, and he knew he never would again. There was only Aura for him; he'd known that for as long as he could remember. Without her, he had nothing.
After a quick shower and dressing, he went to his garage. He'd made up his mind weeks earlier what he would do today. He just couldn't go on any longer. His nerves had been stretched to the breaking point already, and the recent escalation of attacks by Rita and Zedd had only increased it.
Before Aura's death, even before her return to Angel Grove, they'd sent down monsters every couple of days. Now, monsters twice and three times a day weren't an uncommon occurrence, and the Rangers could hardly leave their houses without getting jumped by Rito, Goldar, and a few dozen Tengas. It was obvious that with Aura gone, Rita and Zedd felt the Rangers were going to be much easier prey.
And so far, it seemed to be working. During the short time they'd known her, all the Rangers had become friends with Aura, and her death had devastated them utterly. It wasn't easy to fight when you knew the thing you were up against was sent by those who had so easily distracted and killed someone close to you.
It was worse for Billy than for any of them. He had loved Aura, he still loved her, and would until the day he died. He chuckled to himself as he thought that.
The day I die. How appropriate that phrase is today. After all, today is the day I'm going to die.
He'd never really considered suicide before. Not seriously, anyway. Not until he'd seen Kalakan explode under the onslaught of Serpentera, not until he'd realized he'd lost the most important person in his life. But now, he knew he couldn't go on anymore.
Billy knew he was leaving the Rangers without a Blue Ranger; and he honestly didn't care anymore. He'd done his best, he'd stuck with them for six months, fighting to spite Rita and Zedd. But he'd done all he could. Without Aura, nothing, not fighting, not science, not martial arts, not his friends, nothing mattered.
He quietly wrote out his note. It was simple and to the point. He quietly read it over and sighed.
Life meant nothing to me without Aura. I lasted as long as I could, but I can't go on anymore. I'm sorry. Good-bye.
He took a deep breath. It was time. He wondered briefly who would be the one to find his body. His parents, one of the other Rangers, maybe even Azure. Azure. She'd had Adam to lean on during the past six months, once she'd learned the real Rangers hadn't had anything to do with Aura's death. He wished the two of them the best of luck in the future.
Sitting on the counter in his lab was a vial of poison. It would be quick and painless, much like he hoped Aura's death had been. He made sure to put the note right where it would be easily found, then picked up the vial.
"It's been too long, Aura. It was too long the minute I saw Kalakan explode. But I'm finally coming to join you," he pulled the stopper out of the vial and took another deep breath, then brought the vial to his lips.
"Hey, Billy!" it was Adam!! Billy quickly stopped up the vial and put it and the note out of sight. The poison wouldn't kill him fast enough if Adam was as close as he sounded. He plastered a fake smile on his face as his friend came closer.
"Morning, Adam," Billy greeted him, turning on his computer and starting to work on something that hopefully looked so complicated Adam would just leave.
"Morning, Billy," Adam smiled at him. "Came by to see how you're doing today."
How am I doing? It's been six months to the day since Aura died, and you're asking me how I'm doing? I'm living a nightmare, that's how I'm doing, one I was going to end when you came up! Can't a guy even die in peace? Billy thought enraged. All he said out loud was, "As well as can be expected considering what today is."
Adam nodded. "Are you going to the graveyard? Pay respects or something like that?"
Actually I was considering more like going to the graveyard to be buried next to her. "I'd thought about it. But I'm still not sure if I can face that gravestone. It would be almost as if I were forgetting her forever."
"It wouldn't be like that, Billy," Adam tried to reassure him. "Not like that at all."
"How can you be sure?" Billy whispered, the raw emotion evident in his voice. "How can you say that it won't be like that?"
"I can't," Adam shook his head. "But. . ."
Whatever else Adam was going to say was lost as their communicators suddenly beeped. Adam sighed. "Looks like this conversation's going to have to wait. What is it, Zordon?"
IT APPEARS RITA AND ZEDD HAVE BEGUN EARLY THIS MORNING, RANGERS. THEIR LATEST EVIL CREATION HAS BEGUN TO TEAR UP THE AREA AROUND THE LAKE; PLEASE TELEPORT THERE AT ONCE.
"On the way, Zordon," Adam looked at Billy who glanced for a second at something near his computer. "You ready?"
"Guess I have to be," he sighed reluctantly. I'll wait till tonight. To this afternoon, to the exact moment Kalakan exploded six months ago. It's more fitting. Sorry, Aura, you'll have to wait a little bit longer. But I'm still coming to meet you.
"It's morphin' time!" Adam cried, pulling out his morpher. "Black Ranger Power!"
"Blue Ranger Power!" Billy didn't say it with quite his usual enthusiasm. Amber Ranger Power! he thought quietly. I'll never hear that again.
* * *
"Oh, this is just too sweet!" Rita laughed harshly. "Zeddy, you'll never believe what just happened! Or rather, what almost just happened!"
"Don't bother me, Rita!" Zedd brushed her away. "The Rangers are about to meet defeat!"
"Zedd!" Rita screeched. "The Blue Ranger came this close to committing suicide!"
Her husband whirled on her in obvious surprise. "You're joking! Why would he do something like that?"
Rita smiled cruelly. "Because today is six months to the day that you destroyed Kalakan: and the Amber Ranger along with it! He's still heartbroken!"
"Oh, how sweet!" Zedd chuckled. "And how stupid! What stopped him? Did he chicken out at the last moment?"
Rita shook her head. "No, mores the pity. The Black Ranger showed up and apparently Billy didn't want any interference!"
"Let's hope he doesn't get interrupted again," Zedd hissed. "One less Ranger is always good! Now, let me see how our monster is doing!"
* * *
"Oh, man, this isn't good!" Tommy grunted as he was thrown into the lake. The monster had the usual army of Tengas with it, and things just were going from bad to worse it seemed.
"When did they start getting stronger?" Adam wheezed as he recovered from a viscous strike by the creature, which looked like a cross between an angry hairbrush, a crab, and a hedgehog.
"They've been getting stronger over the past six months, ever since Aura died!" Billy could only speak her name in combat without choking up; he fought every fight with her on his mind, struck every blow in her honor and memory.
Rocky dropped from the tree he'd been thrown into and landed hard on his knees. "Someone tell this thing that the good guys always win, please!"
"I don't think it would believe me," Tommy coughed up some water as he climbed out of the lake.
"Tell me about it," Kat muttered as she and Aisha managed to escape from a pile of Tengas. Everyone headed back together, hurting in various places.
"Things just haven't seen the same since Aura. . . ," Aisha broke off as she noticed the pain that caused Billy, even through his uniform.
"We need help," was all Billy said, though, as the monster and it's attendant Tengas surrounded them. "Serious help." We need Aura. That's all there is to it. It's not just me. Even though I'm going to die, they still need help.
"Time for you all to pay for daring to stand between Rita, Zedd, and the destruction of this world!" the monster bellowed at them. "Time for you all to die!"
"I swear, you monsters always use the same atrocious dialogue! Why don't you hire a new writer; there's got to be some more inventive way to threaten your enemies!"
Everyone, Rangers, monsters, and Tengas, looked towards that calm, impossible voice. Leaning against a tree, arms folded, gray eyes sparkling, dark hair impeccably brushed, in clothes like none they'd ever seen before, was someone who was either a ghost, a clone, or a total illusion. Of them all, Billy was the first to recover, amazingly.
"A-Aura?" he stammered. "No, you're dead, it can't be you!"
"Of course it's me!" she smiled, that same smile he knew so well, that he'd known from childhood. She pulled out a small device from somewhere and spoke into it in a language they couldn't understand. A moment later, a light came from above, blasting the still-startled monster into dust. Aura put the device away and came over to Billy. "Who else would it be?"
"Au. . Aura?" Billy stared. "You're dead!" was all it seemed Billy could say. Aura wrapped an arm around him and pulled him into a deep and loving kiss. When they finally pulled apart, he stared at her. "You're alive!"
Aura smiled, then turned to the others. "Sorry about having my mother zap that monster for you, but you looked like you could use the help, and that's all I can do now, I guess."
Tommy shook his head in surprise. "Aura. . . what are you talking about? Your mother? She's at home, isn't she? Do your parents know you're. . . back yet? Where have you been for six months, anyway?"
"Has it been that long?" Aura sighed. "So hard to tell in space."
"Aura," a gentle voice, quite unlike anything they'd ever heard before, but one that sounded amazingly like Aura's own, spoke. Their seemingly reborn friend turned to where it came from. A tall woman, of middle-age, but with hair and eyes that mirrored Aura's, joined them. "Are these those of whom you spoke so glowingly?"
Aura nodded. "Mother, these are the Power Rangers. Tommy, Aisha, Adam, Kat, Rocky, and Billy. They're just about the best batch of friends it's possible for a person to have. I was angry at them about six months ago, but you know how that ended, and why," she then looked at the Rangers. "Guys, this is Shaya, my mother."
"M. . mother?" raised eyebrows and almost identical looks of disbelief were on every face. "Y-your mother?" Kat finally stuttered out.
Aura nodded. "I've got some explaining to do, I know. And I want to do it all at once, so I want to wait till we can get Mom and Dad and Azure at the Command Center first. I'm guessing you guys told them something about my disappearance."
Aisha nodded. "We told them the truth; they've kept our secret and Rita and Zedd haven't bothered them."
Aura smiled. "I'm glad; I've worried about them."
"You worried about everyone," Shaya spoke. "Rangers, I cannot stay here long, but I wish to meet Aura's Earth-parents and sister."
"Excuse me, ma'am," Rocky asked. "But. . .if I remember, didn't that message or whatever in Aura's necklace say that her name was Alaina? Not Aura. . . how come you're not calling her that?"
"Because I convinced her not to," Aura chuckled. Shaya smiled in return.
"Because you wouldn't answer to it, you mean!" she teased gently. "But I'm just glad we met in the first place. It doesn't matter what I call you."
"Ma'am," Tommy began, only to be cut off by her.
"My name is Shaya, Tommy," she told him. "Please, call me that."
"Shaya," he began again. "According to Zordon, Neras, Aura's natural father, died over fifty thousand years ago. If you're her mother. . .how have you lived this long?"
"I am. . .or I was, a sorceress of Kalakan, drawing my powers and my life from the existence of Kalakan, in much the same way that the Amber Rangers of Kalakan drew theirs. I was able to live because the Spirit of Kalakan supported me. For fifty thousand years, I was the only person alive on my world," tears shone in Shaya's eyes as she remembered. "I waited and watched for my daughter to return, and at last, she did."
Aura smiled a little sadly. "We'll tell them everything when we have Mom, Dad, and Azure at the Command Center; it's the safest place to speak."
Shaya nodded. "I wish to meet them. They raised a daughter I am very proud to call both theirs and mine."
Aura blushed lightly, then turned to Billy. "Want to come with us?"
"With all my heart," Billy sighed happily. Looks like that vial of poison's going to have to be gotten rid of: and not the way I'd planned on it. Not that I mind. I don't think I could've really done it anyway. And now, I'm glad I don't have any reasons to anymore.
* * *
"NO! This isn't possible!" Zedd hadn't been this angry in half a year. He'd seen it, but he hadn't believed it! A small spacecraft had appeared out of literally nowhere, teleported someone down to Earth, right in the middle of the battle, then had destroyed his monster with a single laser beam! He'd tried to destroy it himself, only to find it was protected with some type of shield he couldn't break.
"This can't be happening!" Rita groaned. Zedd was even more furious than she was as he saw Aura greeting her friends.
"She can't be alive; I saw the planet blow up, she couldn't have had time to leave it!"
"Well, what is that, a ghost?" Rita snarled. This was more than maddening; what did it take to kill that girl?
"Why not, when we were so close to beating them?" Zedd roared. He looked back down to Earth, and his eyes would have been wide with shock if that were possible. "So, she's still alive. That's how Aura survived; her mother saved her!"
Rita snorted. "Family love. How sickening."
Zedd's mind was already working it's evil thoughts. "If we capture her, and the Robinsons, Aura will have no choice but to surrender: and die!"
As Zedd outlined his plot, Rita laughed. "That disgusting love of hers will prove to be her downfall! You should never have come back to Earth, Amber Ranger!"
* * *
While Tommy and the others teleported back to the Command Center to fill in Alpha and Zordon on Aura's return, she, Shaya, and Billy headed for the Robinson home. They could've just teleported there, but it had been so long since Aura had felt true sunlight and wind, she'd just had to walk there.
"Aura," Billy's heart was singing with joy as they walked along through the park. "Can't you at least tell me what happened that last day? When you. . .left?"
"I can, but I won't," Aura teased. "I told you, I'm saving everything until we're all together. I don't want to have to tell the story more than once."
She gave him a light kiss on the cheek. "But I will tell you this: I love you, Billy Cranston, and will for all time, until death and beyond."
"And I love you, Aura Robinson," he kissed her back: on the lips. They remained that way for a few minutes, touching lip to lip, heart to heart, as both had longed for half a year to do. Billy's depression and suicidal tendencies were gone as if they had never been. Aura's uncertainty and insecurity about her alien heritage had also vanished; he could tell.
Shaya hated to interrupt them; she knew very well how much her daughter loved Billy, but this had to be done. "Tengas!"
Both of them looked up. "What?" Indeed, Tengas were all around them. It was too early in the morning, luckily, for many people to be in the park so Billy ninja-morphed at once. He glanced over to see Aura backed up against her mother, fighting the Tengas off unmorphed.
"Aura, you're going to need your powers, you'd better morph!" he couldn't wait to once more see that Amber uniform in action, on his side, as he'd dreamed of for the past six months. What he didn't expect was the sudden look of pain that crossed her face as he mentioned morphing. "Aura, what's wrong, we don't have time to play around!"
Whatever was bothering her, Billy didn't have time to find out, as he was suddenly engulfed by near two dozen Tengas. He fought them off, using every Ninja trick and ability he had, and even discovering a couple of new ones. He couldn't spare a single glance for Aura or Shaya, until realizing that the Tengas were gone. Aura was on her knees a short distance away, and there was no sign of Shaya.
"Aura?" he powered down and came over to her quickly. "Aura, what's wrong?"
"Billy. . .the Tengas. . .they took Shaya. . .they took my mother!" she stared at him, tears flowing down her cheeks. Billy couldn't believe his ears.
"Aura, why didn't you morph?" he had to ask. He also couldn't understand why she hadn't done something so simple, that once she'd done by sheer instinct alone.
"I. . .I can't morph," she whispered, lowering her head. Billy's eyes widened.
"Aura, what are you saying?"
"It's one of those things I was hoping not to have to tell until everyone was all together," she whispered. She shook her head, her tears vanishing as quickly as they came, then got to her feet. "We've got to get to the house, Rita and Zedd must know I'm back, they've got to be after my family!"
She headed straight for the Robinson house, Billy hot on her heels. Her announcement had stunned him; but he understood one thing in it's entirety: Aura's family was in danger, therefore he had a job to do.
* * *
"Hello?" Azure picked up the phone to find Adam on the other end. Her joy was tempered only by the remembrance of what had happened six months earlier.
"Hey, there," Adam greeted her. "Look, the other Rangers and I are having a sort of memorial at the Command Center this afternoon. We're even teleporting in Jason, Zack, Trini, and Kim. We were wondering if you and your parents could make it."
Azure closed her eyes, her heart aching with the remembrance of her sister. But still, it was fitting she be honored and never forgotten. She glanced over at her parents.
"Hey, Mom, Dad?" she asked. As soon as she had their attention, she continued, "They're having a memorial for Aura at the Command Center; they want to know if we want to come."
Mr. and Mrs. Robinson exchanged glances, then her dad nodded. "When do they want us there?"
Azure relayed the question to Adam, who replied, "We'll let you know, we have to get everything ready and I'll call again. Glad you guys can make it."
Azure sighed. "I still miss her so much, Adam. I keep expecting to turn around and see her there."
"I know how you feel," Adam told her. "I've got to go, sweetie, I'll call back soon. I love you."
"I love you, too," Azure sighed as she started to hang the phone up. Her sigh became a shriek when Tengas were suddenly everywhere in their house. "Adam!"
"Azure?" Adam clutched at the phone, then hit his communicator, teleporting straight to the Robinson house. He arrived just in time to see Azure and her parents vanishing in a swirl of black Tenga feathers. "No!!"
"Adam, what is it?" Aura and Billy ran up just then. "Azure. . my parents. . .what's happened?"
"Tengas," Adam growled. "Tengas took them!"
"Not them too!" Aura's eyes flashed with rage. Adam stared at her.
"Too?" then he noticed something: Shaya wasn't with them. His eyes widened. "Shaya?"
Aura nodded. "Come on, we've got to get back to the Command Center. It's the only way to help them."
* * *
"Welcome back, Azure. It has been a long six months, hasn't it?" Zedd glared evilly at the trembling girl. Azure huddled next to her parents, her heart pounding.
"Not long enough," she snapped back. It was Zedd who had controlled Aura when she'd nearly killed Adam, Zedd who had destroyed Kalakan while Aura was on it, Zedd who had killed Aura! She hated this being with all her heart. "Eternity wouldn't have been long enough!"
"Now, now, now, is that anyway to treat an old friend?" Zedd would have been smiling if he'd been capable of it.
"You're the one who killed Aura! You destroyed her home planet!" Mr. Robinson stared at this thing that had killed his daughter. "What do you want from us?"
"What else can you do to us?" his wife asked wearily. She had been having bad dreams for weeks of her daughter, of the grief and sorrow and loneliness Aura had felt during her death. This was just an extension of those dreams, she felt: to see the being that had caused Aura's death.
"To you three," Zedd spared a glance for the three adults. "A quick death will be your fate: after you see what I have planned for young Azure here."
Azure trembled as her mother put an arm around her. "Leave her alone, you. . .you. . . you thing!"
"What are you talking about, Zedd?" the stranger woman asked. Her voice and face seemed familiar to Azure, but she couldn't think of where she might have seen or heard her before. "What more harm can you do these poor people?"
Zedd's reply sent Azure into fits of trembling and shaking. "She will face Goldar in the ring tomorrow at dawn! Unarmed and alone, she will fight my mightiest warrior!"
"No!" Azure's cry echoed. "Please, no!"
"Oh, but yes," Zedd left them alone to muse over that. "If I were you, little girl, I'd rest. You're going to need all your strength."
Azure collapsed against her mother and father both, dissolving into tears. "I can't win," she whispered. "There's no way I can win. I'm going to die."
An unfamiliar hand tipped her head up; and she found herself looking into eyes as gray as clouds. So like her sister's were they she found herself whispering Aura's name. "No, I am not Aura," the strange woman smiled. "My name is Shaya."
"What are you doing here?" Mr. Robinson asked. "I mean, why did Zedd take you? For that matter, why are we here?"
Shaya sighed. I wish I could tell you that this is for Aura's sake: to trap her in Zedd's hold once more. But Aura herself wishes to tell these she loves that she is alive. I will say what I can, though. "I am a threat to Zedd's plans against the Rangers, one that he must take care of. As for you, I believe he plans delayed vengeance against one known once as the Amber Ranger."
"Aura," Azure whispered. "He must want to get rid of her whole family."
Shaya bit her lip, unwilling to say more. She smiled a little at the Robinsons. "The Power Rangers know already of where we are, and will be here as soon as they can."
"I hope they get here before tomorrow," Azure couldn't believe she was going to have to fight Goldar. Aura had told her once of how strong he was, and of how he'd beaten her before. She trembled again as she thought of the evil pleasure in Zedd's voice as he'd told her of her fate. Oh, Adam. . .if only you were here with me. . .
* * *
"Aura?" Jason, Zack, Trini, and Kim stared at her as she paced nervously up and down the Command Center. "They told us you were dead!"
"Yeah, I know," Aura snapped. "I'll explain everything once we've got my family back. Any ideas how to do that, yet, Billy?"
"Yeah, that's Aura," Zack nodded. There was simply no mistaking her fierce family love for anything but what it was.
The Blue Ranger shook his head. "Nothing yet, Aura. Rita and Zedd have some sort of barrier up around the palace, I can't penetrate it."
Aura began to pace again. "Even if you could, what good would I be?" she muttered. "I'm not a Ranger anymore."
"Aura?" it was Tommy; stepping into her path as she paced. "Aura, what happened? How'd you lose your powers?"
Aura looked around at them all; they were all concerned for her and for her family. Her gaze landed on Adam; he was at least as much of an emotional wreck as she herself was, but for different reasons. They deserved to know this much at least.
"It happened when Kalakan exploded," she said dully. She lifted her chin to show that her amber pendent was gone. "The amber vanished at the same time. My powers and my necklace were both linked to Kalakan's existence. The moment it died, so did the Amber Ranger: forever."
All of them, Rangers and former Rangers, closed around Aura in that moment, as tears she'd held in for six months suddenly spilled over. She held onto Billy, shaking with tears. "I couldn't even help my mother. . .like she helped me. She saved my life on Kalakan, she had a spaceship ready the moment I got there; I didn't even have time to ask who she was until Kalakan was gone. And it hurt to feel my world die, it hurt in ways I can't even begin to describe."
EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE UNAWARE OF IT, YOU WERE LINKED TO THE SPIRIT OF KALAKAN FROM THE MOMENT OF YOUR BIRTH. THAT IS WHY YOU WERE ABLE TO BECOME THE AMBER RANGER PREVIOUSLY, EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE ON EARTH.
Aura looked up at Zordon, tears shining on her cheeks. "I'd give anything to be able to help my family. In any way possible. No matter what it takes."
"Even if it costs you your life?" a moment later, a blue-armored figure stood there. Aura, Zack, Trini, and Jason stared with wide eyes, while the Rangers and Kim welcomed him with a heartfelt, "Ninjor!"
WHY HAVE YOU COME, NINJOR? The tone in Zordon's voice said he knew very well why, however.
"Aura Robinson, I presume? Also known as Alaina of Kalakan?" Ninjor turned right to the former Amber Ranger. She nodded in amazed awe. "You were once the Amber Ranger. . .and you can be again."
"What?" Aura's awe turned to shock. "That's not possible, Kalakan is dead!"
"True," Ninjor nodded his agreement. "But Earth is not."
"What do you mean?"
DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE POWER OF THE AMBER RANGER COMES FROM, AURA? Zordon asked gently. Aura shook her head.
"I do know that it was extremely painful when Kalakan blew up," she remembered. "But. . .my mother didn't seem to feel it nearly as much as I did."
"That's because you were linked to the Spirit of Kalakan, and when she died with that world, a part of you died as well," Ninjor explained. "Every Amber Ranger since your first ancestor was linked to Kalakan's Spirit."
"And now I'm not," Aura sighed.
TRUE, Zordon agreed. BUT YOU CAN BECOME CONNECTED TO THE SPIRIT OF EARTH.
"What?" Aura stared first at Ninjor, then at Zordon. The Ninja Master nodded.
"The Spirit of Earth has searched for many centuries for someone to bond to in the same fashion that you and your family were bonded to the Spirit of Kalakan. No one has been suitable, though, until now. You may be the one she's been looking for."
Aura stared. "I'm not from Earth. . .I'm from another planet altogether!"
"That has nothing to do with your suitability as her bonded warrior," Ninjor told her. "Do you wish to try? I warn you now, if she finds you are not what she seeks, it could cost you your life."
Aura closed her eyes and bit her lip in thought. My life. My parents and Azure already think I'm dead. I have to help them, though. I have to get them all out of there. If I don't at least try. . .I couldn't live with myself.
She looked at Ninjor. "I'll try. I have to try. Where do I begin?"
"With the power of Ninja," the ancient master seemed to be smiling. "You must learn your Spirit Guardian before going on to seek the Spirit of Earth."
"Then let's get started."
* * *
"You should get some sleep," Jessica Robinson glanced up into the strange face of the woman Shaya. She sighed a little.
"I know. . .but how can I sleep?" she settled back against the wall. "My oldest daughter was killed by this thing, Zedd, and my youngest is going to have to fight that thing, Goldar tomorrow."
Shaya sighed in her own turn. "Jessica, tell me of your daughter. Of Aura. What. . .was she like?"
"Why do you ask?" Jessica wondered. This woman was so strange, and she even looked a bit like Aura, with the same dark hair and gray eyes. . .
It took Shaya a few moments to answer. "Because I once had a daughter. I was forced to give her up, though everything in me said not to. My beloved, her father, died soon after she was born, and I longed all my life to meet my child again."
Jessica closed her eyes, thinking of Aura. "Her name was Aura Lynn Robinson, and she was seventeen. She was very beautiful, at least to me. She looked a little like you, with the same hair and eyes. She loved to learn things, she was very intelligent. She was a fighter, I always knew that. But there were things I didn't know about her, things that I found out she didn't even know about herself."
"Like what?" Jessica found herself telling Shaya about the Rangers, about Aura's alien origin, about her death.
"And if you had your daughter here before you now, what would you say or do?" Shaya wondered. There were tears gleaming in her gray eyes. It had not been easy for her to keep Aura's secret, but she'd done so. She wanted so much to tell this good woman that her daughter lived still.
"I would hold her forever, and tell her how much I love her," was Jessica's quick reply. "But that can't happen."
Shaya's lips twitched; she wanted to tell her so badly. Finally, she settled for, "Miracles do happen, Jessica. Perhaps one day, you will have your wish granted, and will be able to see your daughter again."
Jessica smiled a little. "And perhaps one day, you will see yours again too."
"Perhaps," the former sorceress sighed. "Let's get some rest; I believe we shall be rescued tomorrow."
"I hope so," Jessica gently stroked the sleeping Azure's hair. "I hope she'll be all right. Whoever rescues us had better do it soon, I don't want her to have to fight that thing Goldar."
"Miracles happen," was all Shaya said in return.
* * *
"Zedd, where are you?" Rita screeched. "Where is that chrome-faced idiot when I need him?"
She stormed throughout the palace looking for him, finally locating Zedd in, of all places, the library. "Zedd, what are you doing in here?"
He held a large book in front of him, and there was an air of strange pleasedness about him. "Rita, I've just discovered some very, very good news!"
"What are you talking about?" she stared at him in disbelief. She hadn't even known he could read!
"It appears, Rita, that the Amber Ranger is in effect, no more," he was actually laughing! She frowned.
"What are you talking about? Explain yourself!"
"The family line of the Amber Rangers was magically bonded to the Spirit of Kalakan," Zedd told her. "It was that bond that gave them their powers. When I destroyed Kalakan, I destroyed the bond: and the Amber Ranger powers! Aura has no powers anymore! She's not a Ranger!"
Rita's foul laughter filled the room. "Well, well, well, imagine that! She was even more of a fool to return to Earth then!"
"Indeed she was!" Zedd agreed. "We'll send the demand for her surrender once Goldar has taken care of that brat sister of hers. No need to deprive him of his pleasure!"
* * *
"Where are we?" Aura looked around the beautiful garden she found herself and Ninjor in. The entire place crackled with energy of a strange, but not frightening, type.
"This is the Temple of Power," he told her. "But your quest begins inside: both inside here and inside yourself."
He led her into the fog-filled interior and bade her close her eyes. "Close your eyes and concentrate. Older than time itself, man has always known the calling. Light of light, strength of the soul, ignite this eternal power inside of me. I am Ninja! I am pure of heart, body, mind, and spirit. Join with me now as I become one with the power of Ninja!"
As Ninjor chanted the old mantra, Aura found herself turning deep within herself. She felt herself soaring, rising on what felt like wings. What am I doing? What's going on here?
She looked down to see an endless expanse of nothing but sky and air all around her. Oh, this is wonderful! I'm flying! Without a plane, without a Zord, it's just me!
It took her only a second to realize it was. . .and it wasn't her. She was Aura. . .but not in the body she had worn all her life. Instead she was small and compact, with wings of light and eyes that swept the world with staggering sharpness.
What am I? Even as her mind formed the question, she knew what she was, what she had always been, what she would always be. I am Aura. I am. . .the Hawk!
As the realization poured through her, she found herself back in Ninjor's temple, back in her own body. She wore a ninja outfit like the Earth Rangers did in ninja-morph, in a delicate light brown reminiscent of her Amber Ranger uniform. She could feel a new connection inside of her soul, something that had been forged while she was in her trance. When she 'reached' for it mentally, she felt a whisper as of wings and endless flight. It's my animal spirit. The Hawk.
"Aura," Ninjor called her name. "I can give you no more than your Ninja-powers, you must go on to the Heart of Earth to reach the Spirit of Earth. From here on, you are on your own."
"Thank you, Ninjor," Aura told him. "Thank you with all my heart."
* * *
"Time to wake up!" the Robinsons and Shaya were rudely awakened by the screeching of Tengas to see Goldar glowering at them through the bars. Azure leaped back with a little yelp of fear. "And a good. . .final. . .morning to you, too."
Azure trembled in her mother's arms as the door to the cell was swung open. Goldar gestured towards them. "Time to fight. . .and die, little girl. Your sister's not here to save you this time!"
Azure stared helplessly at her parents, then felt Shaya's hand on her shoulder and heard a warm voice in her ear. "Fight with honor, Azure Robinson. You can do this."
She turned to look at the older woman, fear evident in her eyes. "I don't know if I can."
"You can," Shaya reassured her. "I believe in you."
"That's just too sweet!" Goldar laughed coldly and grabbed Azure out of the cell. "We've got an appointment in the arena!"
The Tengas surged in, seizing the Robinsons and Shaya. "And you all get the honor of watching her die!"
"You. . .you monster!" Mrs. Robinson screamed. "Leave me at least one child!"
"Never!" Goldar replied. "My master killed Aura, and now I will finish the job by killing this little brat!"
Screaming and fighting all the way, they were dragged into the arena: and Azure Robinson began the fight of her life.
* * *
"No sign of Aura or any word on her family," Adam paced up and down the Command Center, trying to distract himself and failing miserably. They had all spent a sleepless and worry-filled night, despite Zordon having ordered them all home not longer after Aura had left on her quest.
Billy shook his head, though Adam hadn't really been asking a question. Joy and despair warred within him; he hadn't believed his ears when Ninjor had told them that Aura would die if the Spirit of Earth didn't accept her oath. What will I do if she. . .no, I won't even think about that, it was stupid of me to even consider it in the first place. She won't die, and neither will I. Even if she does, I can go on. . .I hope.
Adam caught his gaze suddenly. "Billy. . .do you remember, back when Aura had captured us all, and Azure? Goldar said he was going to use Azure as a 'punching bag'. Do. . .do you think he'll hurt her now that Aura isn't there to stop him?"
As Adam let his worries out, Billy remembered the evil gleam in Goldar's eyes as the winged warrior had made his threats towards Azure. "I don't know, Adam. I really don't know."
Billy's eyes flickered briefly to the back of the Command Center, where the replica of Aura's costume no longer stood. Come back soon, my Aura. There's too much we have to do together, too many people who are counting on you. Azure's only one of them.
* * *
"This has got to be it," Aura could only stare in awe around her. A forest clearing, that pulsed with pure life and power, with a clear stream running near-by, and an aura of nothing but peace, life, growth, and prosperity. "This is the Heart of the Earth."
Indeed it is. Why have you come to my home, Alaina Alantrius of Kalakan?
"A-are you the Spirit of Earth?" Aura's eyes widened as she was called by her real name.
I am. Why have you come to me?
"I was the Amber Ranger, the defender of Kalakan, but when that world was destroyed, I lost my powers, and nearly my life," Aura explained quickly. "I come to you to make my oath as the defender of Earth, if you will accept me, that I might be the Amber Ranger again."
Is there no other reason?
Aura took a deep breath. "There is the greatest of reasons: my sister, my mother, my parents from Earth. They're all in danger, all prisoners of Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa. I have to save them."
Cannot the other Rangers rescue them? The voice was very calm and very rich, holding within it all that lived and all that died. Spring, summer, fall, and winter all were in that tone, all joy and all sorrow in the entire world were there as well.
Aura shook her head. "I don't know, and it doesn't matter. They're my family, the only reason they were kidnapped in the first place was because of me. It's my responsibility."
For no other reason than that?
Aura closed her eyes. The last reason, the best reason. The real reason she'd come here. "I love them. I can't just let them die and not at least try to do something about it. If you turn me down, and if I live, I'll see if Zordon will teleport me to the moon anyway, to try and get them back."
"Yes, without," Aura nodded sharply. "The power doesn't matter, it's the trying to help them. Helping the people I love."
And what will you do when they are safe?
"Use the power to help others, to help and defend this whole world from Zedd and Rita, and anyone else who might try to hurt it," Aura replied. "I love this world, and I want to help it."
Your heart is great, Aura Lynn Robinson, and you have proven that you seek to defend only. Step into the fire.
Before Aura could ask what fire, a huge conflagration appeared in front of her. She stared at it for a second, then leaped into it, trusting the Spirit of Earth. She felt enormous power, power beyond anything she'd ever known, power that made what she'd known as Kalakan's Ranger be nothing. Great wings of light and power were spun from her soul and she felt a connection she'd thought gone forever being reforged: the bond between the Amber Ranger and the spirit of the world she was sworn to protect.
Make your oath, Aura Robinson, and know that this binds you and your descendants for all time to come.
"I swear upon my soul, my heart, and my blood that from this day until the end of this world, I and those who come after me shall devote our lives to the defending and protection of the Earth and all who dwell upon it. We shall give our lives in this should it be necessary, but shall devote those lives to seeing that it is not. Until time's end, this I so swear."
From this moment on, we are one. As the animal you are most closely linked to, the fierce Hawk, is protective and loving of those it cares for, so are you. I am the Spirit of the Earth, and you are the Ranger of the Earth, known as the Amber Ranger. In time of great need, you will call upon the power of the HawkZord, fully as strong as the EagleZord you once flew. You have the right and privilege to come to the Heart of Earth whenever you choose, and to bring those with you whom you desire.
The fire faded from around her, and she was standing where she had been, clad once more in the uniform of the Amber Ranger. But where her shield had been blank before, now the image of the Earth was emblazoned. She felt a warmth around her neck, something resting over her heart, and knew it for a new amber pendent, symbol of the link between herself and the Earth.
Before her was a transparent woman, more beautiful than anything she had ever imagined in all her life. The woman laid a hand on Aura's shoulder and spoke. "I am the Spirit of the Earth, Aura, and I have been waiting for you for a very long time. Though I mourn the passing of my sister, the Spirit of Kalakan, and grieve over the pain it caused you, I am glad to know that our bond has eased that pain to a degree."
As she said that, Aura realized that the gaping wound within her soul caused by the destruction of Kalakan was gone, healed as if it had never been. "Thank you," seemed inadequate, but it was all that came to her lips as she removed her helmet.
"Return here often, my beloved other half," the Spirit enfolded Aura in her arms and pressed a loving kiss to her forehead. "But for now, there are others who need you."
Aura nodded. "Can you send me back to the Command Center? I think Adam would like to come rescue his girlfriend with me!"
The Spirit smiled. "With the greatest of pleasure," a heartbeat later, Aura stood in the Command Center. Adam leaped to his feet.
"Aura!" it was Billy who spoke, however, rushing over to hold her in his arms. "You're the Amber Ranger again!"
Even if she hadn't been morphed, he would have known; there was an air of confidence and power about her that had been gone before. Aura kissed him, then turned to Adam. "Let's go get Azure and all my parents back!"
Billy turned back to the computer he'd been working at. "You've got great timing, too, I've just managed to punch through the shields around the palace. Who's going?"
"Me!" Adam was morphed in less time than it takes to speak of. "There's no way I'm staying out of this!"
"I think that's all we'll need," Aura smiled. "Adam and I can take care of this."
"Are you sure?" Tommy looked concerned. Aura laid a hand on his shoulder, and he almost quaked before the strength and self-assurance in her eyes.
Billy didn't get them anymore time to argue over it, hitting the controls and teleporting the Black and Amber to the Palace. "I hope we're doing the right thing," was all he said as they vanished.
* * *
"Fight!" Goldar kicked at Azure once more. The younger Robinson girl did her best, but the winged monkey was just too strong for her. She backed away, tripping over a loose rock, and fell on her back. Goldar laughed hideously and stood over her, sword raised high.
"Azure!" Mrs. Robinson screamed from the wall where she, her husband, and Shaya were chained, tears in her voice and on her cheeks. "Leave her alone!"
Shaya closed her eyes, remembering how only months before she could have freed them all with a mere flexing of magic. Once magic had flowed freely through her veins, now there was nothing. Where are you, Aura? We need you.
"Your sister is not here to save you this time!" Goldar prepared to bring his sword down on Azure's unprotected neck. She shrank back, whispering under her breath, "I'm sorry, Adam. . .I did my best."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that, Goldar."
Everyone looked up as two shadows fell across the arena. One was the familiar Black Ranger that Azure's heart leapt to see. But the other. . . the other wore a uniform that the Robinsons had never seen, that Azure had never thought to see again, and that Rita, Zedd, and Goldar had thought was gone forever.
"A. . .Aura?" Azure whispered. Aura leapt down next to her sister, kicking Goldar away from her. "It's impossible. . .you're dead!"
"Aura!" Shaya smiled, stealing a glance at the wide-eyed Robinsons. "You found the Spirit of Earth!"
Her daughter pinned her with a glance. "You knew? We're going to have to talk about this, Mother!"
The Robinsons stared. "Mother?" Mr. Robinson asked. "She's right, we're going to have to have a talk!"
"Adam, get them out of those chains!" Aura told him as she held Goldar off. "Then we're getting out of here!"
"This isn't possible!" Zedd roared in disbelief. Adam quickly blasted the chains off the prisoners and urged them out to where Aura and Azure waited. Goldar charged once again, only to meet Aura's cold eyes and gleaming Axe. He stopped where he stood; not even he was foolish enough to suicide on that sharp blade.
"Oh, it's quite possible, Zedd!" Aura chuckled. "Amber Ranger is back in town, and better than ever, thanks to the Spirit of Earth!"
"Aura?!" Azure stared at her. "How are you not dead?"
"I'll explain everything back at the Command Center," Aura promised. "Let's go!"
Before Zedd or Rita could do anything to stop them, they were gone. "What just happened here?" Zedd complained.
"She's the Amber Ranger again!" Rita screeched. "I thought you said she had no powers!"
"She swore an oath to the Spirit of Earth, then!" Zedd retorted. "Didn't you know that's how Amber Rangers are made???"
It devolved into a screaming, shouting match from then on.
* * *
"All right, Aura, slowly and in words of one-syllable, tell us exactly how you survived Kalakan being destroyed," Azure stared at her sister as Alpha treated the wounds she'd received at Goldar's hands.
Aura smiled; it was so good to be back with her family, all of it, at last. She took Shaya's hand and turned her towards the Robinsons. "To begin with: this is Shaya Shaldar, my natural mother. She gave birth to me on Kalakan fifty thousand years ago, and has been waiting for me to return since about a week after I was born."
"When Aura arrived on Kalakan, in such pain from what she believed was the treacherous hate of her friends and family, I had a spaceship ready. I knew through the magic I still controlled at the time that Kalakan's time had come, and I did not give her a chance to protest or ask questions," Shaya smiled gently.
"She bundled me into the ship and was heading away from Kalakan before I knew what was going on," Aura took up the thread again. "All I knew was that I still hurt over what I thought was all of you hating me. Then Kalakan exploded. . .and I had something else to hurt over," there was pain in her eyes, remembered pain. "But something sort of released inside of me when that happened. I realized what was going on; that it had to have been some trick of Zedd's."
"We tried to get in touch with your Command Center," Shaya told them next, "but the ship's communications were destroyed in the explosion; I'm surprised we actually made it to Earth at all. And I had to put up with six months of Aura worrying and wondering over you all: but especially over you."
She was looking at Billy, who was once more drinking in the sight of Aura alive and well. He blushed a bit. "Well. . .," he stammered a bit, only to be cut off by Aura pulling him into a deep kiss.
"I love you, Billy Cranston," she said, gazing into his eyes. "I have loved you all my life, and will love you until the day I die: and even beyond then."
Billy's only reply was to return the kiss she'd just given him, with all his heart in it. Kat leaned over to Aisha and whispered, "I wonder how long till they get married?"
Aisha chuckled. "Who knows?" Trini, who stood near with the other ex-Rangers, overheard her and smiled.
"I think it'll happen before high school graduation," she told them. "In fact, I'm sure of it!"
"Just how sure?" Kat wondered. Kim tapped her on the shoulder and told her, "Don't ask. I've got twenty bucks that says Billy's too shy!"
Trini grinned. "We've still got about six months or so until then! We'll find out!"
Adam and Azure were having a talk of their own in a quiet corner of the Command Center. "I heard you saying something about being sorry, when Aura and I got to the arena," Adam asked. "What about?"
Azure sighed and looked down. "I couldn't beat Goldar," Adam tilted her chin up to her, not letting her take her eyes away from his.
"Hey, we have problems with him too a lot. You did your best, and I'm proud of you," he kissed her gently. "I love you, Azure Robinson."
Azure hesitated a moment, then wrapped him in her own arms. "I love you, Adam Park."
The Robinsons and Shaya were getting along splendidly as well. "I can't stay," Shaya told them. "I'm going to do some exploring of the galaxy now that my wait for Aura is over."
"It's been good to meet you," Mr. Robinson smiled at her. "I must admit, though, it's hard to believe you're her birth-mother: and over fifty thousand years old!"
Shaya smiled. "You raised Aura well, my new friends. I'm very proud to call her both my daughter and yours."
"So are we," Mrs. Robinson glanced over at her daughters, both of whom were with their boyfriends. "And we're so very grateful to you for saving Aura's life."
"It was the least I could do," Shaya smiled gently as she watched Aura and Billy embrace and kiss again. Those two were an excellent couple, she knew. They would do well together.
* * *
"It's like a long nightmare has finally come to an end," Billy told Aura later that night as they walked along the beach together. "You don't want to know how many times in the past six months I thought about just ending it, ending everything, suiciding."
"I would have never forgiven you if you had," Aura told him firmly. Then she said something else, he didn't know in what language, but it sounded like whatever she'd used the day before to communicate with her mother to destroy Zedd's monster.
"What was that?" he asked, wanting to be sure.
"Kalakan," she smiled. "Mother taught it to me on the way here. I said, 'I love you, Billy. Never leave me.'"
They paused under Angel's Bluff. Aura's lips curved into a smile as she noticed where they were. "Last time we were here was just before we went to the moon, to get my old necklace back."
"And wound up being captured and you nearly killed Adam," Billy sighed in remembrance. "I'm so glad all that's ended."
"As am I," Aura kissed him. "I can't say this enough times, Billy. I love you."
As they stood embracing under the moonlight, the Spirit of Earth stood near, invisible, and smiling.
This is not the end, Aura. This is only the beginning.