Sagittarius lay in the shadow of the Equinox, sobbing for breath. The dark-skinned centaur was caked with grey dust, foamy sweat and rust-colored blood, which had mixed into a dull brown clay in places. His right foreleg was swollen and twisted at an unnatural angle, fractured beyond repair. Judging by the ugly, widespread bruising and swelling across his body, that wasn't the only bone he'd broken.
A shaky, feminine laugh rang out, and Sagittarius looked up. Out of a puddle shot a liquid arm, which seized the rocky ground. Aquarius dragged herself halfway out, and slumped against the rocks. She was almost chalky white with mud and grit. Even her smile looked tired.
"Just us, huh?"
Sagittarius gave her one curt nod. Aquarius rolled over onto her back, hair splayed out around her. It was starting to lose its form, melt into trickles of water that soaked into the ground. The same seemed to be happening all over her body; beads of water appeared like sweat, dripping to the ground.
"I hate losing."
"Who doesn't?" The Blue Ranger's voice rang out.
Sagittarius started and scrambled back, but Aquarius only lifted her head. She flopped back as the Blue Zeo Ranger approached them, morphed, one hand on the Zeo Laser Pistol strapped to her hip.
"Go away. I'm too tired."
"Oddly enough, I'm here to make sure you've gone to your final rest," the Blue Ranger replied, drawing her Zeo Laser Pistol.
"It would be you," Sagittarius said.
The Blue Ranger looked up at him, and drew in a slow breath. She stepped around Aquarius, looking down at the centaur.
"Hate to admit it, but I was hoping we'd get to do this. You not being able to stand up wasn't required, but I don't mind it."
Sagittarius reached over his shoulder; the quiver hanging from his back still held a few unbroken arrows. The Blue Ranger leveled her gun at him.
"Really? You're going to do that anyway."
"I could shoot you in the hand first," she suggested.
Sagittarius gave her a questioning look, eyebrows raised. "Really? That doesn't strike me as a very Rangerly thing to do. Then again, neither is executing your enemies while they're down. You should really let me try to shoot you, then you can call it self-defense."
"I'm here to make sure you don't cause any more trouble for this planet. That's my job as a Ranger," she replied. "We both know what happens when you're just sealed away."
"Blah blah fighting, blah blah justice," Aquarius interjected, mimicking the mouth movements with her hand. "You guys sound like Libra. If you're going to fight, get on with it!"
Sagittarius and the Blue Ranger just looked at each other for a long minute. She kept her gun trained on him.
"You killed Ophiuchus." Her voice was icy.
"He betrayed us."
"Can you blame him?"
"No. No more than you should blame me for doing my duty to the alliance, or I blame you for wanting revenge."
"You're doing it again," Aquarius grumbled.
"Then why don't you fight?" Sagittarius retorted.
Aquarius gestured to herself. "Look at me. I'm about ready to collapse into a puddle. I couldn't fight off a stiff breeze—and neither could you. If it's all right with you, I'd rather not have my last moments be full of stupid moralistic bickering."
The Blue Ranger looked from one Zodiac Emperor to the other, and sat down, holstering her gun again. That got Aquarius's attention; she rolled over onto her stomach, sending flecks of water in every direction. Even Sagittarius looked surprised.
"I told the other Rangers I was going to make sure you were all dead. That's what I'm going to do. No reason to do the deed myself."
". . . Are you serious?" Aquarius asked.
In answer, the Blue Ranger demorphed. She gave them a bitter, wry little smile. "Do I look like I'm kidding?"
A surprisingly awkward silence fell over the trio. Looking down, Aquarius trailed a finger through the mud, only for it to dissolve. She pouted at her hand. The loudest noise was Sagittarius's difficult, clearly painful breathing. Brow furrowed, the Blue Ranger looked at him with something like pity.
"I know it's probably stupid, but for some reason I still want to ask if there's anything I can do for you," she said slowly.
Sagittarius gave her an incredulous look, and Aquarius burst out laughing. "You really are a goody two-shoes! How are you up here with us instead of celebrating with the rest of your little friends?"
The Blue Ranger shook her head slowly. "It still doesn't feel right."
"Then go make it feel right." Aquarius scooted closer, lowering her voice conspiratorially. She rested her chin on her hands, elbows sinking into the soil. "I bet the Red Ranger would be happy to help."
Zeo Blue gave her a weird look. "What are—"
"Come on, it's so obvious he likes you!"
"Do you have any idea how bizarre this conversation is?" Zeo Blue retorted.
"This is Aquarius you're talking to," Sagittarius replied, with a helpless shrug. "You never did care about the war, did you?"
"Oh no, he's onto me!" Aquarius scrambled back, but only ended up losing more of her body. "Dangit. Okay, before I go entirely, I just have one question. Which of us was the coolest enemy? I know, Aries and Pisces screwed around with your memory, but you've studied what we did, right?"
Violet fell silent, thoughtful and visibly bemused by the question. Aquarius watched her intently.
". . . Coolest? Probably Gemini; the doubles took a lot of effort and he had his forces pretend to fight each other."
"Okay. I liked your stuff best, actually," Aquarius said to Sagittarius. "The big siege attack after we captured Violet was really impressive."
Sagittarius started to laugh, but it turned into painful gasping, and he clutched at the stomach of his horse body. By the time he'd regained control of his breath, blood was starting to fleck his lips, drip from his nose. He lay back, stretching out on the ground with little, stiff movements.
"Right, then, oh, what a world, what a world," Aquarius said. She dove into the ground, splattering apart with a little plop. What was left soaked in rapidly, leaving only a damp stain behind.
Sagittarius's breathing thinned. As the Blue Ranger watched in silence, he shuddered, horse legs pawing the dust. All the breath went out of him in one long sigh, and his muscles fell into that utter slackness that only corpses can achieve. Zeo Blue reached over and felt for a pulse. She didn't expect to find one, and was not surprised. Slowly, she stood, turned her back, and raised her communicator watch.
"They're all gone, Alpha. We did it."
"Finally! Teleporting back to the Power Chamber."
The Ranger glanced back once as blue light enveloped her, shooting away from the moon and back towards the Earth. She materialized standing near the rows of colored tubes. All of the other Rangers were scattered around the room, most getting (thankfully minor) injuries treated. The Riders, who'd come out of things with comparatively little harm, had taken the task of getting the rescued civilians home, and Alpha had the Viewing Globe on to monitor their progress. So far it looked like a chaotic mix of confusion and happy reunions.
The Blue Ranger sat down, and David came over to join her. He was moving a little stiffly; Aries's attack had left him with a sprained back and right arm, but as usual he was pretending to be fine. The Blue Ranger silently gave him a hand, helping him sit.
"So, you're staying with the Wildmans."
She shrugged. "Seemed like the right place to be. It's still awkward, though."
"I can imagine."
The Blue Ranger sat up a little straighter, looking up at him. "You can, can't you? You've had a long-lost brother."
David nodded. Casey's voice rose above the other noise.
"Of course we need to get the Super ZeoZords back! How are we supposed to fight in space without stuff that can fly?"
"Fight what, exactly?" Alpha 5 asked.
Casey faltered. "Fight . . . oh, yeah. Well, there are more monsters, right?"
"None that I can think of," Sabrina said.
"But more will show up soon, won't they?" Casey looked around.
"You sound like you want that to happen," Lidian said.
"No! But I mean, what's the point of being Power Rangers if there's nothing to fight?"
Realization sank in slowly, expressed in looks. Casey grew visibly uncertain, Lidian hopeful, and Sabrina concealed her reaction. Alpha 5 was the first to break the silence.
"We've won, Rangers. There's really no need to keep the powers now."
"But . . ." Casey looked at her Zeonizers.
Alpha 5 cleared his throat—or rather, made the noises of a person clearing their throat. "Rangers, we have fulfilled our mission. Once again the Earth is safe."
"Are you quoting somebody?" Casey asked. "Because it sounds like you're quoting someone."
Alpha glanced towards the still-broken tube in the corner. "Not directly. Anyway, all of you have sacrificed a lot for this mission, and now the time has come for you to move on with your lives."
"Move on to what?" That was the Blue Ranger, standing up.
"Uh—it's up to you, I suppose," Alpha replied. "That's the point."
"Wow. Free time," Casey said.
"Only if you want to flunk eleventh grade," Lidian retorted.
"I can study and still have free time! Plus it's not really studying if we do it together." She grinned mischievously.
Sabrina rose silently, and made her way out of the room. Alpha started to follow, then apparently decided against it and went back to the console. The Blue Ranger sat down again, looking down at her hands.
"You don't think you can do it?" David asked.
"Pretty much the only thing the Zodiac Emperors left me with was fighting. Now what am I supposed to do with that?"
"Don't shortchange yourself like that." She glanced up at him in surprise. "You have a lot more to work with than just combat training. And if you're worried about what to call yourself—"
"Violet's fine." She smiled at his surprise. "It's pretty close to blue anyway."
Casey looked away from Lidian for more than five seconds, and furrowed her brow. "Alpha, are you crying? How?"
The robot was making some rather odd noises. "I-it's nothing, really."
Casey glomped him, nearly knocking the shorter robot down. "Aw, it's okay! Just because we're not fighting anymore doesn't mean we'll stop coming to see you!"
"Why are you acting so surprised? You're our friend and you're awesome! We're not just going to forget about you."
Alpha 5 hugged her back.
"It wouldn't be out of place to throw a party, would it?" Lidian asked.
"A party?" Casey let go of Alpha and bounded back to her boyfriend. "I want a party! Who doesn't like parties? Well, I guess maybe introverts, but your house is huge so they can creep off and be introverty too—"
As Casey babbled on, Violet began unstrapping her Zeonizers. David started to do the same, but the splint on his right wrist made it awkward. Without a word Violet reached over and helped him.
She gave him a half-smile. "Anytime."
Sabrina sat on a curving stone bench, looking up at the benighted mountain. A drink stood beside her, basically untouched. The faint noises of a party carried towards her from Lidian's house. It was far from the only place in Angel Grove—or anywhere else on Earth—celebrating that night.
"So, we won," Capricorn said, coming up behind her. He'd shed his disguise, and was carrying his flute. "And without any true casualties."
Sabrina nodded. "It looks that way."
"Not what you planned for?"
"What do you think?"
Capricorn nodded. Raising his flute, he began to play. His song was rapid and skirling, but not quite joyful. Sabrina relaxed and listened to the sound.
Out of the shadows came Tayisa, Ezra not far behind her. The Edenoite woman took a seat on Capricorn's other side and watched him play, while Ezra leaned against a tree. Nobody said anything; Ezra sipped his own, alcoholic-looking drink. The silence lingered even after the song ended.
"What are you going to do now?" Sabrina asked at last, turning towards the group. "None of us seem to quite belong to this planet."
Ezra chuckled a little. "Having lived here for years, I disagree—but then I'm not going to stick around."
Ezra shook his head. "I'm going back to Edenoi." Sabrina looked up at him in surprise, and he smiled wryly at her. "No more excuses. I can at least trust them for a fair trial, and they deserve closure too."
"On that note, we have a request to ask of you," Tayisa said. "Lidian and I will be accompanying him back home; can you look after the house until we return?"
Sabrina hesitated. "Me?"
"It seems like the most logical arrangement since you're already living there," Tayisa replied. "You won't need to worry about Black Lily operations, David's—"
"Actually," Sabrina interrupted, "Could I join?"
The others exchanged looks. Capricorn smiled at Sabrina, as if to say "see? There's something you can do." She rolled her eyes.
"We'll ask David if he can train you," Tayisa said. "If he's open for it, I don't see why not."
Sabrina looked to Capricorn. "Well, we're all making plans, what about you?"
The satyr let out a long breath. "I really don't know. Try to find myself a place somewhere, find a curious and non-judgmental historian, perhaps."
"Actually," Tayisa put in thoughtfully, "If you're open for it, the Black Lily would probably be interested in your experiences. The more we know about conquerors, particularly ancient ones who might be sealed away instead of truly gone, the better prepared we'll be if they return."
"That could work," Capricorn admitted.
"So it's settled?" Sabrina asked.
Ezra shrugged. "More or less."
Sabrina picked up her drink once more. "The future?"
Ezra came closer to clink glasses. "The future. Let's hope it's a nice long one."
"I'll settle for short if exciting." Sabrina grinned.
" . . . I wish you could have met them, Zordon," Alpha 5 said, sweeping the last of the broken glass into a dustpan. "They were good kids and great Rangers."
He dumped the glass into a waiting bucket, and carried it out. Returning, he dusted off his hands and stepped back to admire his work. With a few hours' labor, he'd replaced Zordon's broken tube with an opaque, glowing tube, like the ones along the far wall which had originally held the Rangers' old uniforms. It cast white light across the room.
"I've been thinking," the little robot went on, in a more hesitant tone. "Back when we started, there were basically no Power Rangers, or anyone else to defend the galaxy. Now there are the Astro and Galaxy Rangers, Black Lily, SPD . . . things have changed."
He hesitated, fidgeting in place. At last, he blurted out, "Would you mind if I retired? Not right now—I've gotten a couple of calls asking for help designing morphers, but I would like to visit Edenoi again first. I mean, it's been thousands of years, and I think the Earth is finally learning how to protect itself."
There was, of course, no response. Alpha 5 looked sheepish.
"I know, it's silly talking to someone who isn't there, but I couldn't think of anyone else to ask." He sat down in the one wheelie chair, a leftover from Billy's tenure. It squeaked a little at the weight.
"I think I know what you would say, though. I've already said it to the Rangers, basically." He laughed. "Thanks for the talk. Oh! I should tell Lidian and the others I want to come with them!"
He sprang to his feet, hurrying to the console.
"Wait, they don't have their communicator watches anymore! I'd better go ask in person. Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi. . ."
Trivia: Here are most of the ideas I had planned for this series, but which fell to the wayside without me actually deciding not to include them.
Sabrina would become Capricorn's student in learning to master her Zodiac Empress powers.
There were going to be more members of the Andromeda Guard, and Violet would have to infiltrate them as part of the finale.
Capricorn was evil, and going to use his flute's music to induce pandemonium.
Sagittarius might have turned good.
As an Andromeda Guard Violet would have gotten a costume change—white armor and a featureless mask over a black bodysuit.
Lidian's mother would have left with Ezra around the Ophiuchus arc, and its first episode would have composed his trial on Edenoi. Ophiuchus would have tried to sabotage it and failed. I may still use this in the event of a "movie", crossover or otherwise.
And another series done!