CHAPTER 5

            "We… we can't stop it… can we?" Buttercup finally said.  "W-we're really all gonna die…"  It was so difficult for her to keep from just going into a total panic, seeing Bubbles lying lifelessly nearby and knowing that it was only a matter of time before she would be dead as well, powerless to do anything but wait for it to happen.  She wanted this all to be some terrible dream, for Bubbles to still be all right…

            The professor finally stood up, lifting Bubbles' body with him in his arms, and regained his composure enough to say, "No, I… won't let it happen.  We can still stop this.  The Antidote-X…"

            "B-but…" Blossom sobbed, "But… but it's too l-late… for Bubbles…"

            "But it's not too late for the rest of us," the professor said.  "We need to hurry now… I don't want to lose either of you as well…"  The girls nodded and flew over, picking up the professor so that they could start flying back home.  The professor, in the meantime, cradled Bubbles' body tightly, closing his eyes and trying to keep the rest of his tears at bay.  They lifted into the air and made a beeline for home.

            On the way, Blossom said, "This is all my fault… I s-should never have… I shouldn't have gone in to see the fortune teller in the first place… I-I don't even believe in that junk, wh-why did…" She clenched her eyes shut for a second and continued, "How could I be so stupid…"

            "Bloss, no, you didn't know," Buttercup told her.

            Blossom ignored her and said, "Even if the Antidote-X works, it's not going to bring Bubbles back… she paid for my stupidity, Buttercup.  She did, and Mitch, and Robin… and everyone else.  No, I'm not going to let it happen to anyone else, no matter what.  Not one more person is going to die because of me…"  Her last statement hung by itself as they continued the rest of the way home in silence.  Blossom was still thinking, though… she knew if it meant sacrificing herself, she would do so, but if it had to come to that, she would never forgive herself for not doing it immediately, before everyone else had to suffer for it…

*          *            *

            They opened the door to the house, and went inside.  The professor went into the living room and laid Bubbles down on the couch, while the other girls hovered nearby.  Even now, they still couldn't believe it… they expected something from her, a cough or some movement, but nothing came.  The professor kept her eyes on her, but spoke, "Blossom, the Antidote-X is in the lab.  Go on ahead, I… I want to stay here for a moment…"

            "But…" Blossom started to protest, still not wanting him to leave her sight as long as the curse was on them… Buttercup took her arm, though, and shook her head, and Blossom realized that he just wanted some time alone to say a few last respects, especially since if this didn't work, this may be his final chance to do so.  She reluctantly nodded and started towards the lab, Buttercup following behind her.

            As they descended the stairs, Blossom said, "It's just not going to be the same, is it?"

            "No, it's not…" Buttercup agreed.  They entered the center of the lab and started looking around for the necessary chemical.  As they did, Buttercup remarked, "So you're really going to go through with it, then…"

            "Why wouldn't I?" Blossom asked.  "My powers don't mean as much as…"

            "No, I mean what you said before," Buttercup interrupted, examining a rack of test tubes as she spoke.  "About if this doesn't work."

            "Oh…" Blossom replied.  She fell silent and continued looking for the chemical, but eventually added, "Yes… of course I would… I mean, if it doesn't work, I'm going to die anyway, so why let it take the two of you down also?"

            Buttercup flew over to search the contents of some shelves and nodded, "Good point…"  She spotted a large beaker that read, 'Anti-X Concentrate' and pulled it down from the shelf, "Got it."

            Flying over, Blossom took the beaker down and said, "How much do you think we need?"

            "Does it matter?  Just splash a little on," Buttercup said.

            "No, we have to make sure," Blossom told her.  "If it doesn't get rid of my powers entirely, it might not work.  The professor usually dilutes this stuff, and that's why it never got rid of our powers completely.  It was really simple for him to bring our powers back…"

            "Right," Buttercup nodded.  "So, all of it then?"

            "Better to be safe then sorry," Blossom said.  "It's not toxic or anything, so the excess shouldn't make me sick."  She looked down at the beaker and hesitated.

            After a second, Buttercup asked, "What is it?"

            "Nothing, I just…" Blossom said, then took a deep breath and continued, "I just wonder… this curse was just supposed to see how people were going to die.  Not cause them to die…"

            "What about it?" Buttercup said.

            "Well, maybe the visions aren't fate," Blossom wondered.  "Maybe they're just… I don't know, like, really good chances of what will happen.  Maybe there is a way to stop them if we try hard enough."

            Buttercup shook her head, "We've been over that.  That lady said…"

            "That lady is the perfect example," Blossom pointed out.  "Before we left, Judith said she had seen her own death, remember?  She was going to die because of a stroke, that's what she said she saw."

            "Yeah, but then your own curse changed that," Buttercup said.

            "Exactly my point," Blossom nodded.  "If these visions are fate, and they were so unchangeable, then how could I have changed it?  Whatever I have, it's just changing people's fates… it's not definite that it'll happen to them.  For her curse, it was definite, but for mine… I'm beginning to think it's maybe not…"

            "But Bubbles… and the others…" Buttercup said.

            "I know…" Blossom said, looking back down at the Antidote-X, "I know… I guess what I'm trying to say is, if this doesn't work, maybe… maybe I should still give constant defense a try.  We know we can prevent it for a little while, right?  Maybe if we keep preventing the deaths from happening long enough, the curse will… I don't know… wear off or something.  Returning back to our original fate, whatever that is.  If that's true, and removing my powers doesn't stop anything, I should probably just get my powers back with some Chemical X… that way, I can help out you guys a lot easier until you're safe from it."

            "Instead of killing yourself, right?" Buttercup said.  "Yeah, I definitely think that's a better idea.  Do you think it'll work?"

            "Only one way to find out, isn't there?" Blossom said, gripping the beaker tightly.  She started to raise it up so she could drink from it, but Buttercup put her hand on her arm suddenly to stop her.  "What?" Blossom asked, startled.

            "Blossom, I just had a horrible thought," Buttercup said, concerned.  "What if this is the first step of your own death?  You're gonna be vulnerable after this… if it doesn't stop things, this is what could make whatever it is that's gonna kill you still affect you…"

            Blossom pulled her arm free from Buttercup's grasp and replied, "I've got to take that chance, Buttercup.  Worse comes to worst, I can always just give myself the Chemical X as soon as we see any sign of trouble.  Okay?"

            "Okay…"  Buttercup agreed.  "Well… good luck."

            Blossom nodded, and carefully lifted the beaker to her lips, drinking the contents slowly.  She grimaced a little at the bad taste of it, but made it through the entire beaker.  She set it down and coughed, "Ugh… that stuff tastes terrible…"

            "Is it working?" Buttercup asked.

            "Yeah, I think so…" Blossom nodded.  Without even moving, she said, "Yeah, don't feel my powers anymore.  We may have to wait until this stuff disperses through my system, though, 'cause if there's even one cell that still has power, it could be enough…"  She cringed a little, rubbing a hand across her stomach and saying, "Ughhhh… maybe it's not toxic, but it sure feels funny…"

            Buttercup frowned, "You're not sick, are ya?"

            "No, I'm fine, I…" Blossom started to say, then gripped her stomach, taking in a sharp breath through her clenched teeth before saying, "Owww!"

            "What?  What's wrong?" Buttercup asked worriedly.

            Blossom took a step back, leaning up against the wall and said, "My stomach… feels like it's on fir—AAGHH!!"  She cried out and grasped her midsection, doubling over in pain.  Buttercup was shocked, and didn't know what to do… she watched as Blossom grunted, "…I-it won't… s-stop… hurting… nnnng!!  Oh g—GAAHHH!!!"

            "Professor!" Buttercup called towards the stairway, "Quick!"  But it looked like it was already too late.  Blossom fell to the ground on her side, her arms pulling away from her stomach as she arched her back in pain… her hands, which had still been gripping her dress, ripped part of it free, exposing her midsection.  Buttercup could see the skin had melted underneath, and she knew in an instant that it had to have been the Antidote-X… in such a high concentration, it was practically like an acid to their Chemical-X-infused cells.  She recoiled in horror, and finally turned her back to the gruesome sight, covering her mouth and trying not to cry as she continued to listen to Blossom's screams, knowing there was no way to save her now…

*          *            *

            There was a particularly large gathering at the funeral the next day.  This wasn't surprising, since it was the funeral for so many people.  All the victims had friends and family at the ceremony, and extra condolences were given to Professor Utonium and Buttercup, both of whom were in attendance as well.  They were still alive, even after a day, without anything odd happening to them, so they realized they were safe… as horrible as Blossom's death was, it must have changed their fate as they thought it would.

            There was a long line of closed caskets up front, including a number of smaller ones for the Pokey Oaks kindergarten class, as well as Bubbles and Blossom.  People came up one by one to speak about their loved ones lost, a lot of touching memories and feelings conveyed to everyone.  The professor had a chance to say a few words, so he went up front and addressed the gathering.  "Words cannot describe how I feel about the loss of my daughters, Blossom and Bubbles," he said.  "Even though they were created in my laboratory, I loved them as much as any of you would love your own children.  To see them met with such an early end is… saddening beyond mere words."

            He closed his eyes for a moment before continuing, "But it has given me a lot to think about.  Whether we die tomorrow, or in a hundred years, it is still our fate as mortal beings to have an end.  We are all fated to meet this end, whenever it may eventually come upon us.  It's what we do in the time we are here that defines us.  I like to think that even though Blossom and Bubbles' times were cut short, they still accomplished much, and for that, I think their lives were not wasted.  They were bright stars in our world, and though they were taken from us, their light will continue to shine."

            Reopening his eyes, he looked out across everyone and added, "I have also learned, then, that while our fate is definite, our life itself is not set in stone.  We should not try to avoid death, or change it, but we should accept it.  We should not need to see how it happens, or why, but instead, we should do what we were meant to do: work, play, live… not to squander our time, but to grasp it, take hold and try to make a difference.  It is all we, as mortal beings, can hope for, and it is our actions that will define where we go, and what ultimately becomes of us."

            With that, he stepped down and returned to his seat next to Buttercup.  She in turn took hold of his arm and hugged it tightly, staying that way for the rest of the ceremony.  It was hard on them both, as it must have been for everyone else in attendance, but they knew they had each other to help them through the ordeal…

*          *            *

            Buttercup flew down in the professor's lab… in the days following the funeral, both of them had tried to get along with their lives, but Buttercup found it difficult to be anywhere except nearby the professor.  He felt the same way, and the two spent most of their time together, either in the lab or working on things in the house.  She flew over to where he was working at one of the desks and said, "Hey, Professor…"

            "Buttercup," he nodded, acknowledging her as he continued scribbling some notes as he observed a mixture in one of the test tubes.

            Sitting down on a stool next to him, she looked at his experiment and said, "What are you working on?"

            "Nothing important, just a more efficient fuel source to replace gasoline," he said, then looked over at her, "How are you doing?"

            "Fine, I guess," Buttercup said.  She hesitated, and the professor could see it in her eyes that she was thinking about something, so he gave her a questioning glance.  Taking a deep breath, she asked, "Professor, is there… is there anything you would have done differently back then?"

            The professor looked back at his experiment, and said, "Probably not… we did everything we could, and that's what I would have done in any case."

            Buttercup shook her head, "No, I mean, knowing what you knew now…"

            "But I didn't," the professor said.  "and if I had, yes, things may have changed… for the better, or maybe for the worse.  Or maybe nothing would have changed.  We can look back at the situation in regret, thinking that maybe if we had done something differently, we could have saved everyone… or, we could be thankful that things didn't happen the way we thought they would happen.  What we knew then, that we were so certain we were going to die, was unimportant, so perhaps what we know now is equally so.  Things happened the way they did, and that's that."

            "Maybe…" Buttercup agreed.  "But I can't stop thinking that there was still something we could have done…"

            The professor added the contents of a second test tube into his main mixture and watched it bubble, recording the results and saying, "You're right in thinking that way, but you should be thinking about the future, not the past.  There is still something that can be done about the future."

            "What's that?" Buttercup asked.

            He turned his head slightly to look at her and said, "You can live it.  We were given an extra chance, you and I, and we shouldn't waste it.  I could be spending the rest of my life living in regret of not having done things differently, but then, the world would probably never get a new efficient fuel, would it?  We've all got to do what we've got to do."  He grinned slightly.

            Grinning a little as well, Buttercup said, "Yeah…"

            "How about after I'm through here," the professor asked, "I go and order some pizza for us?  It's getting close to dinner."

            "Yeah, that sounds g—…" Buttercup began, but she was interrupted as the mixture the professor was working on abruptly exploded.  The force of the surprising blast sent her flying, smashing up against the side of a large apparatus on one end of the lab.  Lying on her back, she shook her head and recovered pretty quickly, but when she opened her eyes and looked up, she saw that the explosion had thrown the professor as well… his face was burned from the proximity of it, and the force of the blast had impacted him against the wall.  At first, he looked unconscious, but the back of his head was cracked and bloody, half-smashed from where it hit the wall…

            Oh my god!! Buttercup thought in a panic, remembering that it matched Blossom's vision of the professor almost perfectly… W-we're not safe… it… i-it really is unavoidable, isn't it…?  She barely had time to acknowledge this fact, because a shadow crossed her… looking back up, she saw that the heavy apparatus she had been thrown up against was toppling towards her, a sharp corner aimed directly at her chest, with no time to dodge or even fully realize the danger before the metal slammed down hard on her like a guillotine…

THE END