Sisters of Night

By:  Mark J. Hadley

*          *            *

CHAPTER 1

            The City of Townsville, on a quiet evening in the neighborhood of the Utonium residence.  Quiet, except for a truck that pulled up to the house across the street.  The moving men climbed out of the truck and started to unload boxes, carrying them over to the house.  From their side of the street, the girls peered out of the bedroom windows to watch as the men carried out their task.  "That's the fourth truck today," Buttercup mentioned.  "It's dark out…are they going to be doing this all night?"

            "Looks like it," Blossom nodded.  "Maybe our new neighbors will be moving pretty soon, then.  Just look at all those boxes…"

            Bubbles remarked, "I don't see any toys…I don't think they have kids…"

            "I hope they're nice people at least," Blossom said.

            The professor appeared at the doorway, looking at the girls pressed up against the glass.  He smiled and entered the room, saying, "Girls, it's almost time for bed.  What are you doing?"

            Bubbles looked back at the professor and said, "Another truck 'cross the street…"

            "Oh really now?" the professor said.  "I'm interested to see just what our new neighbor is going to be like.  I haven't had the chance to meet her yet."

            "Neighbor?" Blossom asked.  "There's only one?"

            Nodding, the professor said, "I heard that she moved here from Citiesville.  Probably wanted a taste of good old suburban living.  Not that I blame her; Citiesville can be a rough place to live, especially on your own like that…"

            "Ooh!  I see something!" Bubbles said pointing at the glass.  The girls looked out and saw what she was pointing at: a black sedan had just pulled into the driveway next to the truck.  A few moments later, a woman got out…she was about the same height as the professor, and had long brunette hair, tied back into a ponytail.  Her dress was a deep blue, and even though they could barely make it out at this distance, it matched the color of her eyes almost perfectly.  She was quite beautiful, even in the dim light of the street.

            "Hey, let's go welcome her!" Blossom exclaimed, turning quickly and tugging on the professor's coat.  "Can we?"

            The professor thought about it and said, "I don't know…it's pretty late, and you should really get ready for bed.  But…ah, what the heck, it's the friendly thing to do!"  The girls cheered, and went downstairs with the professor, heading for the front door.

            Outside, the woman was just signing something on a clipboard for the movers when they crossed the street, heading over to greet her.  She looked up and saw them approach, and smiled.  Even her smiles seemed radiant in the dark.  She said, "Oh!  You must be my new neighbors!"

            "That's us!  We live across the street over there!" Buttercup said.

            Bubbles happily added, "Welcome to the neighborhood!  You'll just love it here!"

            Nodding, Blossom asked, "Did you have a good trip?  What's your name?"

            "Whoa whoa, easy now, girls," the professor said, holding out his hands.  "Give her a chance to speak, won't you?"  He looked back and the woman and smiled sheepishly, saying, "Sorry about that…my name's Professor Utonium.  My girls and I would like to welcome you to Townsville, Ms…?"

            "Kimball," she answered.  "Ginela Kimball.  My, you have such darling children, Professor!  You take care of them all by yourself?"

            The professor scratched his head idly, and said, "Well, y--…I mean, of course, I…heh…"

            Ginela had already crouched down and was taking a closer look at them, "What are you names?"

            Blossom spoke up first, "My name's Blossom!"

            "I'm Buttercup," Buttercup quickly added.

            Bubbles smiled, "And I'm Bubbles!"

            "Blossom, Bu—…" Ginela said, trailing off.  She suddenly stood up and said with some enthusiasm, "Wait, now I remember where I've heard your name before, Professor!  These must be the famous Powerpuff Girls, aren't they?"

            "That's my girls," the professor said, proudly.

            Ginela seemed impressed, "That's so amazing!  I heard about them from Citiesville, although the people there were always saying some rather nasty things about them.  I had the feeling that they deserved better than that…and you know, seeing them in person, I can tell that I was right."

            "Well, Ms. Kimball, I…" the professor started to say.

            "Ginela…please, call me Ginela," she corrected him.

            Smiling, the professor said, "Oh…okay, Ginela…I, uh…"

            Blossom flew up and gently nudged him, whispering, "Invite her to dinner!"

            The professor snapped out of his trance and said, "Anyway, Ms. Ki—…err, Ginela…I was wondering if you'd like to join us at our home for dinner one evening.  As a welcome-to-the-neighborhood kind of thing…"

            "I'd love to," Ginela replied.  "Oh…when, though?"

            "Well, how about tomorrow at, say, six o'clock?" the professor suggested.

            Ginela saddened a little, "I'm so sorry…I can't.  I forgot to mention…my new job here in Townsville is a network administrator, and I work the midnight shift.  I had the same position in Citiesville, so I'm used to sleeping during the day…"

            "You only work at night?" Bubbles asked.  "Don't you get scared of the dark?!"

            Ginela chuckled a little and said, "Not at all.  You have to look at it from a different perspective…I love watching stars, and this way, I can watch them all the time."

            "I guess…" Bubbles said, although she was still uncomfortable about the idea of being awake all through the night, being out in the dark.  Scary, she thought, I hope I never have to get a job like that when I get older…

            The professor thought for a moment, and then suggested, "Perhaps later, then?  My girls are usually in bed, but I suppose they can stay up late for one evening."

            "That's fine," Ginela said with a smile.  "Tomorrow at, say, ten o'clock?"

            "Okay!" the professor agreed.

            Nodding, Ginela glanced at her watch and said, "Oh my…it's getting late, I need to arrange a few things in my house before I head off to my first night of work.  It was a pleasure meeting you, Professor…"  She looked down at the girls, "…and you too as well, Powerpuff Girls!"

            "Have a good night!" Blossom said.

            Buttercup added, "Yeah, see you tomorrow!"

            Ginela turned and walked back for her house.  The movers had already finished unpacking, and the truck had just pulled out.  As the professor and the girls started back for their own home, Bubbles gave a worried glance back at Ginela, asking, "She really stays out at night?  All the time?"

            "Some jobs have to be worked late at night like this, Bubbles," the professor explained.  "It's not easy, but someone has to take care of it.  After a little while, they really don't even know the difference.  I'll bet you didn't know, but I used to work a midnight shift once myself, a few years back…"

            "Really?" Blossom said.

            The professor nodded, "It took me a little bit to get used to, but I managed.  And Ms. Kimball is right…getting to watch the stars every evening is a little bit of an advantage."

            "Yeah," Buttercup said, smirking.  "It'd be cool to get a job like that, wouldn't it?"

            "No…" Bubbles insisted, shaking her head.  The went back into the house, but Bubbles paused for a moment to look across the street again.  She could tell that Ginela was a nice person and everything, but working a night shift…there was just something unsettling about it to her.  The only things out at night are monsters and criminals, she thought, and since she's no monster…

*          *            *

            The girls set the table carefully, with five places this time instead of the usual four.  Everything was perfect, including the flowers in the middle.  The professor himself was in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on some roast chicken, as Blossom went over the final details to make sure it was all perfect.  She yawned…it was later than she usually stayed up, but it wasn't too bad, not much different than the occasional late-night crimefighting.

            "How's it look?" Buttercup asked, carrying in a plate of vegetables from the kitchen.

            "Great!" Blossom answered.  "We're all set!"

            Bubbles, in the meantime, was staring out the front window at the house.  She had settled down a bit during the day over the whole thing, but the darkness still frightened her.  Noticing the shape of Ginela coming out of the house in the dark, she thought, Look at her, she's not bothered at all by it!  You know…maybe she's right, and I should just look at this a better way.  If she can do it, then I can, too!

            Suddenly remembering why she was looking out the window in the first place, Bubbles called out, "She's coming!"  The professor came out of the kitchen, and the girls flew over to the front door, waiting for her arrival.  A few moments later, there was a knock, and the Professor took a deep breath and answered it.

            Ginela was standing there…even though she wasn't elegantly dressed or anything, since this was just a casual dinner, she still looked stunning in the dress that she did wear.  It was a deep blue, matching her eyes just as well as the one she wore the other day.  "Good evening, Professor!  And hello again, girls!" she said.

            "Hello, Ms. Kimball!" the girls said together.

            "Please, come in, Ginela," the professor responded.  "Dinner is all set."

            Ginela followed him into to dining room, and Blossom flew over, pulling her chair back so that she could sit down.  "Why, thank you!" Ginela said, as the girls took their own places at the table.  The professor returned from the kitchen with dinner, bringing it out to the table.

            "I'm happy you could make it," the professor said.  "I know how demanding a job like yours must be."

            "Oh, you have no idea," Ginela said, carefully taking a serving of the food.  "So, Professor…what is it that you do, exactly?  I'm afraid that the news about you I heard in Citiesville didn't really say much about you…"

            The professor thought and said, "Well, I…do science, of course.  Besides working out of my lab here at home, I teach at an institute in Townsville."

            "Judging by the look of this place, you make a lot of money doing it," Ginela remarked, motioning towards some of the paintings hanging on the wall, and other furnishings across the room.

            "I suppose a little," the professor shrugged.  "Most of it comes from my job, and a few patents here and there."

            Blossom asked Ginela, "So what is it you do again?"

            "Network administration," Ginela answered.  "There's a company downtown that hired me; they run their network 24/7, and were willing to pay me a lot better than I was making back in Citiesville, so I decided to take the offer, naturally.  I'm glad I did…if you four are any indication, Townsville will be a great place to live."

            Buttercup nodded, "Yeah, 'cept for the giant monsters and bad guys and stuff.  But that's what we're here for!"

            The professor lifted another forkful of his food up, stopping to ask, "What company do you work for?"

            "Oh…" Ginela said, stopping for a moment to think.  "…Globalsys.  At their headquarters."

            Bubbles blinked a few times, wondering briefly why Ginela had hesitated, but she dismissed it and said, "You might wanna be careful working there.  The building had to be fixed twice from monster attacks already."

            "Okay, thanks for the warning," Ginela said, "but I think I'll be fine.  I like to think that I'm a lucky person.  Besides, I'll bet these monsters only attack during the day, don't they?"  As the nods around the table, she added, "Then I should be okay.  Professor, this chicken is delicious, you must give me your recipe for it sometime!"

            "Certainly!" the professor said.  "I spend a lot of late nights working in my lab, so feel free to call me from work if you'd like."

            Ginela smiled, "I think I'll take you up on that."  Both Blossom and Buttercup smiled in response also, but Bubbles still seemed troubled.  Something's weird, she thought.  She's not afraid of the dark, and now she's not afraid of monsters?  Either she's really good at not being scared, or something's not right…but what?  Either way, she kept the rest of her thoughts to herself as the dinner progressed…

*          *            *

            Barely a couple hours later, as the girls were just falling asleep, Bubbles stirred…she was thirsty, and got up to get a glass of water from downstairs.  As she was heading back for the staircase, she glanced out of the front window of the house, and saw the front door opening across the street.  She curiously floated over to the window to look out.  It was Ginela, of course, probably getting ready to drive into town to her job.

            There was something different about her, though…Bubbles couldn't quite figure out what it was, until she realized that Ginela had changed into an all-black dress, instead of the blue ones she was wearing the last few times she saw her.  That's a weird dress to be wearing, she thought.  Unless…black makes criminals harder to see at night.  No, wait…Ginela's such a nice lady, why would she be a criminal?  But…what other explanation is there?

            Ginela glanced around a few times, as though making sure no one was watching, then got into her black sedan and started to drive off.  Bubbles narrowed her eyes and headed for the front door.  That's it, she thought.  I'm following her…if she goes to her job, then I guess everything's all right, but if not…  As the car pulled away, she slipped out the door, nightgown and all, and flew up into the air, following her from a distance, unseen from above.

            The car headed into Townsville, making a few turns at various streets.  It took Bubbles a moment to realize that she wasn't heading anywhere near the Globalsys building.  I knew it!  Where are you heading, Ms. Kimball?  Planning a late-night robbery of the bank?  Or the museum?  Betcha didn't know someone was following you, huh?  You won't get away with it, whatever you're doing!

            Bubbles kept up her pursuit, even though the path Ginela was taking through the city seemed to become more and more random.  This started to confuse Bubbles even more.  Finally, after about fifteen more minutes of following, Bubbles spotted an alley up ahead that some woman had just turned down, probably on her way home.  Ginela quickly parked the car on the side of the street and got out, heading for the same alley.

            She's just looking for people to mug? Bubbles thought.  It just didn't make any sense, but Bubbles decided to follow just the same.  She flew silently over to the edge of the alley, and peeked in.  Both of them had already disappeared around a bend in the alley, so Bubbles drifted forward, staying quiet and listening for any sign of trouble.

            It didn't take long…there was a very brief, short scream, and it didn't sound like Ginela either.  Gritting her teeth, Bubbles thought, That's it, and quickly flew around the corner, shouting, "All right, stop right th—…"

            Bubbles stopped, and gasped.  Ginela's back was to her, but she was leaned over the woman that had run down the alley, holding her in her arms.  Her head was bent down, against the side of her neck, yet the woman wasn't struggling in any way, like she was paralyzed.  As Bubbles watched, Ginela lifted her head, and partially turned to face Bubbles…her face no longer carried the friendly expression she had been wearing before, but instead, it looked darker, more menacing.  A trickle of blood ran from the corner of her mouth, and she glared at Bubbles with a chilling, evil stare.

            "Wh…wha…" Bubbles started to say, but Ginela dropped the woman in the next second and charged.  Before she could say another word, Bubbles was slammed up against the side of the alley, face-to-face with her in shock…she was so strong!  As Bubbles tried to make out something else to say, Ginela pulled her away from the wall, ramming her face down into the ground.

            Trying to regain her strength so she could get away, Bubbles started to get up, but couldn't, as the grasp on her was unbreakable.  She looked out of the corner of her eye in fear as Ginela leaned down, lowering her head next to Bubbles' and speaking in a low, quiet hiss, "So you don't like the night?  Now, you will learn to love it, as it will be your only refuge…"  She moved lower, smiling, and Bubbles caught a brief glint of light from a pair of fangs before she cried out at the top of her lungs…a cry that lasted only a moment before being silenced…

TO BE CONTINUED…