* * *CHAPTER 1: "Silver"
The city of Townsville, much like the rest of the world, continued about its normal way of life. People going to work, doing their taxes, going to the movies, buying groceries… even the criminals went back to their daily routine, and the Powerpuff Girls went back to theirs as well. One almost couldn't tell that anything unusual had happened, but the shadow of recent events was still present in their minds. They wouldn't easily forget what was, to them, the near destruction of the Earth, even if that day had faded to memory long ago.
To the girls, however, it was a different experience altogether. They would always remember the sight of the Earth's destruction, how it forced them into space, the different alien species they encountered, the moments of happiness, of peril, and of sheer amazement. Most of all, however, they would always remember Xianea, the alien who had shown them so much kindness, even though they were strangers to her. Xianea had given them the hope and guidance needed to restore the Earth, and had ultimately even given her life to save Buttercup's. To all the girls, she was one of a kind.
The only thing they had to remember her by was her ship, the one they had used to return to Earth. Thankfully, they were able to keep it, because word of its presence on Earth did not spread to other cities. It didn't take Professor Utonium long to build an underground storage bay for it, attached to his lab, where he could study it at his leisure. It was a tricky mater, seeing as its technology was far advanced, but he kept at it anyway. Though the specific workings of the vessel were a mystery to him, he learned a great deal just examining the components themselves, enough info to develop several new technologies eventually.
This is where he was, spending at least a few hours daily, hoping to find a major breakthrough or discovery. But sometimes, one can be so close to a discovery that they aren't even aware of its presence…
* * *
Blossom approached the ship where it sat in the launch bay, like a gleaming, silver teardrop on its side. She poked her head inside through the main hatch, glancing around for a moment before calling out, "Professor?"
"Over here," came a reply from up ahead, towards the front. Blossom flew inside and made her way down the center of the ship. As she did, she couldn't help but smile a little… this had practically been their home for a couple weeks, and it held so many memories during that time. Her thoughts turned to Xianea again… I wish she could have been able to see the Earth, to have a chance to meet the professor and everyone else, and to see the world she helped save…
When she got up to the cockpit, she found the professor lying on his back beneath the main console, examining some components from an open panel underneath. He had a tool belt around his waist, and was currently using one of the tools to extract some of the components to examine them. Blossom landed not far from him and asked, "So, what are you working on today?"
"Not much," the professor told her. "Just trying to figure out where the guidance system links up to the singularity generators. I'm hoping it will give some me some idea as to the level of control needed to stabilize them."
Blossom nodded. "Any luck so far?"
Shaking his head, the professor said, "I'm afraid not. The system is just so… complex. I can't even begin to understand the physics behind the procedure; the idea that a singularity could accelerate a ship to faster-than-light speeds safely is mind-boggling. It shouldn't work, and yet it does. I wish I could just ask how it works, but… well, you know."
"Yeah," Blossom said. They had tried several times in the past to contact some of the other populated worlds out there, or at least the nearest space station, but Earth was apparently out of range of whatever communications grid they used. The professor compared it to cell phone coverage: a planet like Earth, that was comparatively out in the middle of nowhere, wouldn't be covered by the grid. Even though they were cut off from the rest of the galaxy, though, he decided it was probably better if he learned the answers for himself anyway.
Noticing the small pile of removed components lying on the ground next to the professor, Blossom looked concerned and said, "Are you sure you're putting it back together correctly when you take it apart like that?"
"Of course," the professor said, stopping for a moment to pick up one of the components to show her. "I've fixed these little tags to them, so I know exactly where each part needs to go back. I've got everything covered."
Blossom nodded, "Okay… I just wanted to make sure. I mean, it sounds like the engine is knocking a little, and I thought something might have been put back wrong…"
The professor looked a bit confused at this, "Engine knocking?"
"Um," Blossom shrugged, "I don't know, that's what it sounds like. Don't you hear it?"
Stopping to listen for a moment, the professor said, "I don't hear anything."
Blossom scratched her head for a moment, and then realized she had picked it up on her ultrasonic hearing. "It's really faint, but there's something making knocking sounds back there," she told him.
"Blossom, the engines are turned off," the professor told her. "They shouldn't be making any noise right now. The only power that's turned on in this whole ship, in fact, is this console I'm working on."
"Really?" Blossom asked. She tried to focus on the sound some more… it was definitely some kind of tapping. With the professor following her, she flew towards the back section of the ship, trying to zero in on the sound and figure out where it was coming from. They went down the main corridor in the center, towards the chambers in the back.
The search took them to Xianea's old quarters. Like the other sleeping chamber, the one that the girls had used while aboard the ship, this one was fairly simple, geared more towards utility than comfort. There was a simple bed, and a desk with a computer. There wasn't anything else of note, but the sound was coming from nearby. Blossom carefully approached one wall of the chamber and put the side of her head up to it, listening as best she could. The professor did, also, and he remarked, "I hear it now, too… you're right, what is that?"
Blossom looked around at the wall to see if there was a panel or anything she could pull away from it. There was a set of symbols up against one portion of the wall that she couldn't read, and what looked like a locked storage unit, sort of like a small locker. One more listen confirmed that the sound was coming from inside. "Now what?" she asked.
"One moment," the professor replied, pulling a tool from his belt. He carefully use it to loosen the panel safely to take it apart, so that it could be put back together later on without trouble. The panel came free, and he lifted it off, setting it aside. The two of them inspected the contents of the storage unit, both perplexed.
The unit was empty, save for a small, featureless metal sphere, held in place by a clamp affixed to the center to keep it from rolling around. It looked as though it had been designed specifically for holding the sphere, since the curvature of the clamp ran perfectly along its edge. The professor reached over and picked up the sphere, removing it carefully from the clamp and holding it in his hand. It wasn't very large, around the size of a softball. Although it looked like solid metal, it felt much lighter, as though it were mostly hollow. Now that he was holding it, he could feel slight vibrations as the barely-audible knocking sounds emanated from it…
* * *
They took the sphere back to the professor's lab. As it sat on the top of a small pedestal, the professor started running scans on it, the various imaging beams crossing over its surface. As it did, Blossom watched with interest, along with Bubbles and Buttercup, who had come down to the lab when they heard about the discovery. "What do you think it is?" Bubbles asked.
"I'm not quite sure," the professor said, scratching his chin as he examined the readouts. "My scans are having a hard time penetrating the surface. Ultrasound is delivering an image, but it's all fuzzy due to some kind of interference. Probably to protect sensitive components inside."
"Maybe it's a bomb," Buttercup wondered.
Blossom shook her head, "Couldn't be. Centraxians are peaceful, remember? Why would she be carrying a bomb?"
"It looks too hard to play catch with," Bubbles remarked. "Maybe it was just something special to her?"
"You mean, like an heirloom or keepsake?" Blossom asked. "That could be. She certainly kept it well-protected. But that still doesn't tell us wha—…"
"Look!" Buttercup said suddenly, pointing at the sphere. A small seam had suddenly appeared around its hemisphere, going all the way around and dividing it into two equal halves. This sudden change put everyone on guard… If this is some kind of device, Blossom thought, who knows what it could do when it activates? They watched it carefully as the knocking sounds became more audible than before, and the sphere began to visibly move.
Bubbles was concerned, "What's happening to it? What's it doing?"
"I dunno," Buttercup said. "I don't like this…"
Blossom started drifting towards it cautiously. The professor warned her, "Be careful!" She nodded and approached it, leaning in slowly to take a closer look. As she did this, the sphere gave a few loud *clunk*s, and on one of them, it bucked from its resting point, rolling off the side of the pedestal. Reflexively, Blossom dove around to the side it fell from and caught it in her hands.
"Bloss?!" Buttercup exclaimed.
"I've got it," she said, getting back to her feet. Before she could say anything else, though, the sphere separated at the seam, the top part lifting just for a moment on one of the knocks before shutting again. It was startling, but then she realized, as well as everyone else, that something was trying to get out from the inside. With extreme caution, she grasped the top half of the sphere and lifted it open just barely to get a peek at what was inside. Her expression showed amazement, and she opened it up the rest of the way so that everyone else could see.
There was a small creature curled up inside the lower half of the sphere. It looked vaguely like a lizard, with a scaly, reptilian hide and a long tail. The skin was metallic, however, and the eyes had a soft, blue glow. Upon being exposed to the bright light in the lab, it squinted and yawned, one of its tiny hands rubbing its eye. Even though none of them had ever seen it before, there was just too much familiar about it, and the girls knew instantly what it was: a baby Centraxian.
Everyone moved in closer to get a better look. "Awwwww!" Bubbles squealed. "It's so cute!"
"Wow," Buttercup said, smiling at the sight of it. "You mean that thing was an egg? I didn't know they hatched from eggs…"
Blossom nodded, and added, "It's adorable! What do you think, Professor?"
The professor gave a warm smile, but it barely masked the scientific intrigue that showed in his eyes. "Amazing… so this is a Centraxian? It looks a lot like you described, a biomechanical life form… no wonder the shell was metallic as well. Fascinating…"
"Can we keep it, Professor?" Bubbles asked with a smile.
"It's not a pet, Bubbles," The professor told her, watching as the little Centraxian looked up at them with blinking eyes. "It's a sentient being. One day, this little baby will grow up to be a highly intelligent full-grown adult. It'll take a lot more to care for it during that time… much like raising a human child, I would imagine."
"Yeah," Blossom agreed. "I can just imagine what we can learn from her, too. I mean, him… I mean…" She hesitated, and said, "Um, is it a boy or a girl?"
The professor blinked, looking down at the Centraxian and said, "I… can't really tell. It's an alien species, after all. Its biology is different than ours. Still…" He picked up a small pair of tweezers from a nearby table and very carefully got a tiny skin sample. The baby didn't even seem to notice, it just continued looking up at the girls. Once he got the sample, he took it over to the microscope to study it.
"It reminds me of Xianea, especially those eyes," Buttercup remarked, reaching out to tickle the baby under the chin, "Hello, little fellah!" The baby closed its eyes and made a soft, high-pitched noise that sounded something like a laugh.
"I wonder if this is Xianea's child," Blossom wondered. "The egg was in her room, I mean…"
Bubbles glanced up, "I wonder why she never said anything about it."
"Probably for privacy," Blossom guessed. "She probably didn't… well, didn't expect that she wouldn't be coming back…"
"Yeah…" Buttercup said, sadly.
The professor spoke up from where he was studying the skin sample, "Absolutely amazing… the cells are actually little microscopic robots, just like you described. They're duplicating the functions of an organic cell down to every last detail. I'm even seeing what looks like artificial chromosome activity in the center. A quick scan, and I think…" He glanced over at an adjacent monitor to watch the scan's results
After a few moments of silence, the girls said together, "Yes?"
The professor grinned at the results and said, "Congratulations, it's a boy!"
Beaming, the girls looked down at the baby, who had wriggled the rest of the way out of his shell and into Blossom's arms, giving a triumphant squeak when it did so. Blossom set the shell aside and held the baby, asking the others, "What should we name him?"
"How about Shiny? 'Cause of his silver skin?" Bubbles suggested.
"Nah, that's no good," Buttercup said, shaking her head.
Blossom looked down at the baby, and he looked back directly at her. With a smile, she said, "How about just 'Silver' then?"
"Hmm…" Buttercup said. "Actually, I like that!"
"Me too!" Bubbles agreed, then hopped up and down, "Silver, Silver, Silver, whee!"
Blossom grinned, and watched Silver as he gave a small yawn before falling asleep. The four of them headed for the exit to the lab together. Wow, Blossom thought, we're going to raise a Centraxian! I hope we can figure out how to do it right. I'm sure we will… he may be an alien, but as far as I'm concerned, he's like family, like a little baby brother. But also, it's like a final gift from Xianea. Wherever you are, Xianea, thank you…TO BE CONTINUED…