PPGAlteredDestiny

PowerPuff: Altered Destiny

By: Mark J. Hadley

**********

The City of Townsville...a happy city, where even strangers you meet on the street will greet you with kindness and generosity. And at the center of it all, the most beloved members of the city...the PowerPuff Girls! These three lovable little superheros have kept the city safe from all forms of danger, from monsters and supervillains to petty crooks. The city is one of the safest places in the world to live, thanks to Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup.

And helping the girls through their lives as superheros is their creator, Professor Utonium. His own kind-heartedness guides the girls to listen to their own hearts, and as a result, they want nothing more than for the people of Townsville to live free. The professor is their guardian as much as they are the city's guardians.

As always, the professor still continues his work, not only in developing the girls into full-fledged superheros, but also his own research and invention. Despite having created the PowerPuff Girls, he still feels that there is more he can contribute, something to produce not only worldwide scientific reknown, but also help humanity as a whole. Thus, his work always proceeds, and no one is able to tell what breakthroughs he will achieve next...

**********

"Eureka!"

Professor Utonium finished attaching the last of the components to the side of the device. His eyes lit up, the same way it does every time he finishes one of his inventions. His basement lab was a bit cluttered because of the work he'd been doing the last couple of weeks, but now it was finally done. "Girls!" He called out up the steps, "Come here! I have something to show you...but be careful when you come in, because..."

The girls flew in suddenly from the steps. Unfortunately, one of the professor's apparatus' was near the steps, and they ended up crashing into it. It collapsed into pieces on the ground. Buttercup cringed a little, "Oops..."

"Girls," the professor said, a little angry, "how many times have I told you to be careful when flying into the lab?"

"We're sorry," all three of them said together

"Never mind, I'll have to clean it up later." They really need to learn to be more careful down here, he thought. It seems like every time they come down here, they break something. "Anyway, the reason I called you down here...have a look at this!" He held a device up in the air proudly. It was slender, like the remote control for a television, but covered with several dozen flashing lights, and a mini radar dish on one end. "It's the Hyper Conduit Manifestation Device, or HCMD. Oh, I've been working on this for a very long time! Isn't it great?"

Bubbles scratched her head, "What does it do?"

The professor grinned, "Why, the HCMD can force open a stable wormhole leading into an alternate universal planes of reality..." Still seeing confused looks, he clarified, "It opens up portals into other dimensions!"

"Whoa..." Buttercup remarked.

Blossom smiled, "Way to go, Professor! How does it work?" She reached out to touch it.

The professor yanked it back just in time, "Be careful! The settings on it are very delicate!" He aimed it back towards his lab, and said, "You need to tune it in to the proper coordinates, then press this button, and..." As he pressed the button, a spark of electricity jumped out from the HCMD, stopping in midair. At that point, a large, swirling vortex appeared, about ten feet across, and hovered there.

The girls stared on in amazement. "Cool!" Buttercup exclaimed. "Where does it go?"

"Well, that's what I'm going to find out." The professor stepped up to the vortex, "Now, don't worry about me, I'm just going to pop in and have a peek, then I'll used the HCMD again and come back."

Blossom looked uneasy, "Well...if you think it's safe...just be careful, Professor!"

"Of course I will! I'll see you in a few minutes, girls, just try not to break anything while I'm gone, okay?" And with that, the professor stepped into the vortex. The lights swirled around him for a few moments, and he vanished. Moments later, the vortex sealed up behind him.

"I sure hope the professor knows what he's doing." Buttercup remarked.

"Me too, Buttercup," replied Blossom. "Me too."

"Me three," added Bubbles. As they flew out of the lab, Bubbles accidentally bumped into a rack of test tubes and beakers. It crashed to the floor. She cringed a little, then whistled aimlessly as she left the lab.

**********

Professor Utonium stepped out from the vortex. Everything was dark, except for the HCMD in his hands and the vortex itself, which slowly closed up behind him.

"Hello? Is anyone here?" Not receiving a reply, the professor felt around in the darkness, until he felt a wall, and his hands crossed over a light switch, "Ahh, good...now, let's see what we can see." He flipped the switch.

A single light came on. The light, suspended from the ceiling, was hanging down loosely by the cord. Several other similar lights were nearby, but they were cracked and broken. In the dim light, he saw several worktables, and piles of broken glass containers and other old, dusty pieces of equipment. It almost looked like...

"...my lab!" the professor exclaimed. "It's my lab...but what happened to it?" The place was a complete mess. Overturned beakers, spilled chemicals, books torn from the shelves. It didn't look so much like it was ransacked, but more like an earthquake had hit it.

"Well, I'd better come back later to get a better look at this place. Right now, I should get back." He held out the HCMD, tuned it back to his own dimension, and pressed the button.

Nothing happened.

He pressed it again. Still nothing.

"What's wrong with this thing?" He hit a few buttons and looked at the readout. It read:

BATTERY SUPPLY DRAINED

TIME TO RECHARGE:

23 HOURS, 42 MINUTES, 12 SECONDS

"A whole day?!" he exclaimed. He suddenly felt worried. The girls are expecting me back in a few minutes! he thought. Well, it looks like I'll get the chance to look at this place now. I just hope the girls don't get worried about me being gone. With that, he climbed up the dusty steps and opened the door back to the house.

He was momentarily startled. There was no house, only a large pile of rubble. Only the small part of the house he in was still standing, but just barely. As he closed the door behind him, there was a brief tremor, and the rest of the house collapsed behind him. Maybe we moved, he thought, or maybe we don't even exist in this universe. Wait, of course we exist! That was my lab, I know it...so what's going on?

It was getting dark outside, but he could still see fairly clearly. There didn't seem to be any other houses left standing in the neighborhood either. For a moment, he thought that something terrible had happened, like the city had been demolished, but then he spotted the familiar rise of buildings in the distance. Most of Townsville was still standing, at least, that was a relief. Maybe he would be able to find out what happened there...

**********

The city was a terrible sight. When he had eventually finished his trip down the road and reached the heart of Townsville, he continued to be shocked at what he saw. The buildings were run-down, and many of them abandoned. Old newspapers fluttered about in the wind, and trash was piled up in different places. There was hardly anyone up and about. What few people he did see darted quickly between buildings, as though they didn't want to be outdoors for too long.

Something's wrong here, the professor thought. It looks like people are afraid to come out of their homes. Why? Is there something dangerous out here? If there is, why aren't the girls here to stop it?

As he continued walking, he tripped over a cardboard box sticking out of an alley. There was a small man underneath the box, looking like he was sleeping, but when the box was knocked off he scrambled backwards. "Aagh! I didn't mean to do it! I was just looking for a place to sleep!"

"I-I'm sorry, sir, I..." Professor Utonium began. Then he broke off as he suddenly realized who he was looking at. "Mayor?! What are you doing here?"

It was the Mayor all right. He was still wearing the same outfit as always, but now it was wrinkled and torn, and covered in dirt and grime. The monocle over his left eye was slightly cracked. His hair was also tangled and unkempt. "Please, take my watch, anything, just let me go! Miss Bellum! Save me!"

From deeper in the alley, Miss Bellum appeared. Her own hair and clothes were in a condition similar to the mayor's. "I'm here! I'll protect you, Mayor! Hang on!" She only got a few steps out of the alley when she froze, staring at the professor. "P--....Professor Utonium?"

The professor didn't even get the chance to respond, when someone further down the street shouted, "Look out!" There was an explosion from around the side of one of the buildings, and a large cloud of dust poured out onto the street. Miss Bellum grabbed the professor's hand and said, "Quickly, we have to get out of here!" They both ran down the street the opposite way.

"Miss Bellum! What about me?" the mayor called out. Miss Bellum froze for a moment, but then continued running. She pulled the professor into a side alley. The professor leaned out of the alley to get a better look at what was going on. He gasped at what he saw.

The PowerPuff girls were standing in the street, but they looked different than they had before. Blossom was no longer wearing her bow or hairpin; her long hair hung out freely. Bubbles's hair also hung freely down to her shoulders, instead of in pigtails as usual. Buttercup was covered with large scars, like she had been through some tremendous fight. What were most different, though, were their outfits; all three of them wore black, with a single stripe of color across the waist.

"Gir--" the professor began, but Miss Bellum threw a hand over his mouth to keep him quiet. He just watched as the spectacle unfolded before him.

Everyone had cleared off the street except the mayor, cowering near the cardboard box. Blossom floated over, "So it's you again. What are you doing out here? Go home, citizen."

"I-I don't have a home, r-remember, girls?" the mayor stammered.

"Just as I thought." Blossom frowned. "You know sleeping in the alleys is against the law. But that doesn't stop anyone, it never does. Too bad for you."

Buttercup spoke up, "I'll take care of him." She punched one fist into the other.

"No, Buttercup, not this time," Blossom replied. She scooped the mayor up and floated over to Bubbles. "Bubbles, take him to Lockup, okay?"

Bubbles said nothing, but silently nodded. She picked up the mayor and flew off into the sky. Blossom glanced around, looking at the other alleys. Miss Bellum yanked the professor back into their own alley and whispered, "Quietly...this way..."

"But," the professor whispered back, "what's going on..."

"Shhh...I'll explain, just come with me..." The two of them disappeared into the alley. Blossom and Buttercup surveyed the area for another minute or so, then took off into the darkening skies.

**********

"Okay, what's going on around here?"

Professor Utonium was in a small room, all run down and ramshackle, seated at one end of an old wooden table. Across from him, Miss Bellum was seated tensely at the other end of the table, "First, I'd like to ask you something, Professor...what are you doing here? You shouldn't be here, you know..."

"Look, I know this is kind of hard to swallow, but I'm not really from your dimension," the professor replied, holding up the HCMD, "I traveled here with this. I'm from a parallel universe."

Miss Bellum relaxed a little, "Well, that would explain it, then. At first, I thought I had seen a ghost." She hung her head slightly, "After all, you're...well, you're supposed to be dead..."

"What?!" exclaimed the professor.

"Let me explain," she continued, "It's been a while since the incident, almost a year...I don't know if it happened in your world, but there was a man by the name of Harold Smith..."

"Mr. Smith?" the professor said with a frown. "How could I forget that? The crazy fool held me hostage...but luckily, everything turned out all right."

"No, it didn't."

"It...didn't?"

"Apparently, Mr. Smith suddenly snapped, and the next thing you know...it was all over. The girls were powerless to do anything about it. When the police got there, they found Harold Smith in critical condition...but it was too late to save you."

The professor bit his lip, and kept listening.

"You have to realize how hard they took it", Miss Bellum continued, "Especially when you consider what they've been through. They save the city from unimaginable disasters, only to have an average nut destroy the one thing most dear to them. They were devastated. That's when everything changed; they vowed revenge on the criminals of Townsville and began taking the law into their own hands. Any criminal they found was locked up permanently in a building they call Lockup. Even the smallest of crimes was punishable by lockup, and larger crimes truly brought down their wrath. The citizens are afraid to even set foot outdoors anymore."

"How could this happen?" the professor said incredulously, "It's hard to believe they would do such terrible things..."

"They changed a lot. Blossom is more of a tyrant now than a leader. After kicking the Mayor out of City Hall, she basically started running the whole city. She was the one that started the movement against the "criminals" of Townsville. Buttercup has become very cruel...after single-handedly hunting down Mojo Jojo, Sedeusa, and Fuzzy Lumpkins, she left them barely alive as she shoved what was left of them into lockup. The battle left her scarred and beaten, but it proved to the city that nothing would ever be able to stop them."

"What about Bubbles?"

"She slipped into a depression early on...she hasn't even spoken a single word since the incident. She does whatever the other girls say, but you can tell that her heart really isn't in it."

The professor fought back a tear, "Those poor girls...I wish I could do something to help them..."

"They're beyond that, now," Miss Bellum replied. "They won't listen to reason anymore, we've tried. But I am glad to see you, Professor, because maybe you can help us..."

"How?"

She stood up, "By helping us destroy them."

"What?!" The professor exclaimed. "I'm not going to hel--"

"Listen to me, Professor!" she interrupted, "This city is a tomb. The people are desperate. It must be done! I understand that you know the formula for Antidote X. We need you to make some for us..."

"I won't do it...there must be another way."

"There is no other way!" She slammed a fist on the table. "We've tried everything, and the girls won't stop...don't you see? I don't want to destroy them any more than you do, but we have no choice now!"

The professor stood up, "Miss Bellum. I don't care what you say...there's nothing in the world that would ever make me turn against my own girls!" With that, he turned and strode out of the room.

Miss Bellum sighed, as she watched the professor leave. She muttered to herself, "Very well. With or without your cooperation, it will be done. There's still someone else that knows the formula for Antidote X..." With that, she unrolled a map on the table, diagrams of Lockup with an intricate escape plan, the arrows pointing to a single cell...

**********

Professor Utonium walked along the streets once more. As he looked around, he saw dozens of people huddled together in the alleys, closing and locking their doors and windows, and getting off the streets. It's incredible...I never would have imagined the girls would be capable of reducing Townsville to this. He didn't need to see any more; he knew he had to do something. With that, he started heading deep into the heart of the city, towards Lockup.

He approached the building. It was huge, several stories tall, and from what he could tell, there were no windows to the outside, not even the standard small barred windows. It looked very dismal, and run down, yet the walls were strong. He headed for the door, but then froze, as he saw something up on the roof.

A group of people, including Miss Bellum, had climbed up onto the roof and were going into the building through an outside air vent. What are they up to? I'd better find out...He made his way around the back and located a place where he could climb up. As the group went into the building, the professor stayed close behind, though he made sure he was out of sight. The group disarmed several security systems, passed down a hallway, and finally stopped at one heavily barred door. It's a rescue attempt, all right, the professor thought. Maybe they're trying to free the Mayor...He heard voices coming from the cell, of Miss Bellum and it's inhabitant talking.

"Stay calm...we're here to rescue you."

"Rescue me?"

"Yes...listen, you're the only one that knows how to make Antidote X. That's why we want to free you."

"So...if I do this for you, you set me free? These are the terms of the bargain, that which I must abide by?"

"Will you do it?"

"Of course...lead the way, 'partner'!" This was followed by an evil laugh.

As the professor listened, he thought, I know that voice! A few moments later, Miss Bellum emerged from the cell, followed by...Mojo Jojo. They're making a deal with Mojo? How could they? Do they really want to get rid of the girls that badly that they would free one the most dangerous villains that Townsville has ever known? Slowly, the professor began to understand...to the citizens of Townsville, the risk of Mojo taking over was a small price to pay for their lives...

All of a sudden, alarms started to go off. Miss Bellum shouted, "Let's go!" and the group started to leave. Suddenly, the wall on the side of the corridor crashed open. Floating there, like an ominous shadow, were the girls. People in the group drew pistols and started opening fire on them, which naturally bounced off of them with no effect...the girls flew over and began unleashing a flurry of blows against them. The professor, from his safe hiding place, cringed. I'd better get out of here, he thought.

Mojo tried to escape through the hole in the wall, but Buttercup grabbed him by the back of the neck and slammed his face into the ground. She kicked him hard in the back with a loud *KRAKK*. Blossom stepped forward towards Miss Bellum, and said, "You really thought this would work, did you? You should know by now that nothing escapes our watch! Now, you're going to pay the price, like any other common criminal trash." Bubbles nodded. Before Miss Bellum could say a word, she was shoved into the open cell, and the door slammed with a *CLANGG*.

The professor, in the meantime, was trying to quietly sneak away, but his foot accidentally crossed an infrared beam that was still active. A buzzer when off, and the girls spun around. "There's one more! After him, girls!" shouted Blossom. The professor took off as fast as he could, making it back up onto the roof.

Running to the edge, he saw that he had no where to go. He turned around as the girls emerged from the building. "No place to go now, it's all over," declared Buttercup.

Then, as they got closer, the girls suddenly froze, and gasped...for the first time in the dim light, the professor was fully visible to them. They stared at him for a few moments...Blossom was the first one to speak, "P--...Pr--....Professor?"

The professor looked back at them. They looked shocked, and he didn't know how they would take seeing him again. "Yes...it's me..." he finally said back.

"But," Buttercup exclaimed, "But you can't...no, it's a trick!" She narrowed her eyes, "Blossom, they're trying to trick us!"

Blossom hesitated, then her own stern expression returned, "We know you aren't who you say you are...and whoever you are, you'll pay dearly for toying with us like this!"

"Wait," the professor said hastily, "Give me a chance to prove it!"

Buttercup folded her arms. "Okay, if you are the professor, then how did you make us?"

"I mixed sugar, spice, and everything nice," he said, "then, accidentally dropped Chemical X into the mix."

"Very clever, whoever you are, but it's not good enough," Blossom replied. "Mojo knew the recipe too, and you probably learned it from him!" She thought for a moment, and asked, "I know! Each of us gave you something when we came back from our first day of school. You kept them on a table in your lab for a week before putting them away. This was before we even started fighting any criminals, so only the real professor would know this."

The professor smiled a little at the memory, "Blossom, you gave me an apple...I remember, because you were supposed to give it to the teacher, but you were still a little shy back then. Buttercup, you gave me a note from Ms. Keane, telling me about how you came into the classroom through the roof instead of the through the door."

Blossom and Buttercup became silent again. After a moment, Blossom asked, "And...and Bubbles?"

"A crayon drawing of all three of you...she didn't have a red crayon, so she had to draw Blossom using orange instead. She drew me standing behind you three, but drew my head too big. Finally, on the back, she wrote a message that you two probably didn't see, that said, 'love you prof, xoxox, bubles'. She even misspelled her name."

The girls looked over at Bubbles, who nodded slowly. They all looked back at him, and Blossom, tears welling up in her eyes, said, "Professor...?"

"Girls..." he said, choking back his own tears at the sight of them. A few more moments passed, and the girls flew over to him, embracing him, tears now streaming down all three of their faces.

"Professor! It...it is you! I...don't believe it..." cried Buttercup. She clenched his arm tightly, and didn't let go, "But how...why...."

"Shhhh..." the professor whispered, "Everything's all right...everything's fine...I'm here..." The girls fell silent, overcome by seeing the professor again. He stayed there comforting them for a long while after that...

**********

"So you came here from another dimension?"

The girls had taken the professor back to City Hall. It was as run down as the rest of the city, but it provided them a quiet place to talk. The professor had filled them in on the details of what had happened, and how he ended up in their dimension. They had listened intently to his story, and their faces still showed signs of both happiness and grief together. Bubbles, through she smiled along with the rest of them, stayed as silent as she always had.

He answered Buttercup's question, "That's right. This, " he said, holding up the HCMD, "is the Hyper Conduit Manifestation Device I used to come here."

"Wow," Blossom remarked, "Professor, you don't know how happy we are to hear you talking about your inventions again. It brings back so many memories. We really thought...well, that we'd never get the chance again..."

The professor put the HCMD away, and said, "Girls, listen...what happened here? Why did you do all of this to Townsville? Don't you see that what you're doing is wrong?"

"Professor, when you left us...I mean, when our professor left us...it was so awful. We couldn't take it anymore; something had to be done!"

"Yeah," added Buttercup, "We couldn't just stand by and do nothing...that kind of crime should never happen again, ever."

Blossom nodded, "We immediately set out to round up the criminals. Locking up Mojo wasn't a problem; Fuzzy Lumpkins and Sedeusa were also easy to find. Princess Morebucks left town; good riddance, I say. We still haven't gotten the Gangrene Gang yet; they went into hiding as soon as we started rounding everyone up. We never caught Him, either...he hasn't tried anything at all recently."

"That's all well and good, but locking up people even for small crimes?" the professor asked.

Blossom answered, "If you let one crime go unpunished, that person will just commit another, then another, then another, until the next thing you know, someone you love is..." She swallowed, and continued, "We didn't want to go through the same thing again..."

"But look at you! You've become the very thing that you're fighting against!"

"It was for the good of Townsville!"

"Take a look around you," The professor waved his hands in the air. "The city's a mess. You're doing more to hurt this city than any monster or villain has ever done. Then you split up families and send fine, hardworking people into Lockup. And for what? Littering? Jaywalking? Even accidental, at that? Does this deserve them the horrible cells you lock them into?"

"But..." Buttercup began.

"You know why they tried to break Mojo Jojo out of that cell tonight?" the professor continued, "They wanted to know how to make Antidote X, so they could destroy you. They risked their lives, their freedom, for the good of the town. You aren't any kind of saviors to them, not even protectors anymore. You're villains, just like Mojo. Worse than Mojo."

Blossom looked sadly out of the window at the city. It was still dark out, and almost no lights were showing. The city looked bleak, but even more than that, it looked dead. Out there, all the people they were trying to protect hated them. Buttercup, next to her, looked like she was thinking the same thing, as she spoke softly, "What have we done?"

Blossom looked back at the professor and said, "We only wanted to best for the city...I swear it. We never thought that it would come to this..."

"You can set things right," the professor said, "There's still time."

As Blossom thought about this, Bubbles reached over and took her hand, smiling. Blossom smiled back and said, "We'll do it...I don't know if they'll ever be able to forgive us, but we'll try."

A voice suddenly rang out. "I DON'T THINK SO."

The girls looked around trying to find the source of the voice, which seemed to come from all directions at once. The voice continued, "Ahh yes...once my most hated enemies, now my favorite three girls in the world. I won't let you just turn around and go back to being sweet again. I'm not about to let my favorite show come to an end."

"That sounds like...Him!" Buttercup exclaimed.

"Right you are, Buttercup!" Suddenly, he materialized in a cloud of fire and smoke, and grabbed the professor from behind. The girls gasped and leapt into the air, battle-ready. "Surely, you've wondered where I've been all this time," continued Him, smiling widely. "Well, I've been watching you, and all the suffering and misery you've been bringing to Townsville. Absolutely delightful!"

"Let him go!" Buttercup warned.

"Nonsense, girls!" He held a claw at the professor's neck, "It was fun to watch your own sorrow at the loss of your dear professor, but imagine my surprise when he returns, from another dimension. This is much too good of an opportunity; I'm going to enjoy watching your sorrow all over again..."

"You...can't!" Buttercup exclaimed.

"No! Please....not again..." Blossom begged.

"Yes! That's what I want to hear...and now, the three of you will..." He hesitated, glancing around for a moment, "Hmm? Where's Bubbles?" Bubbles was, indeed, no longer floating next to the others. All of a sudden, the floor beneath Him broke open...Bubbles poked her head out from the hole and grabbed his legs, yanking him backwards. He lost his grip on the professor, who tumbled forward and was caught by Blossom. Bubbles flew up, still holding Him by the ankles, and swung him around, throwing him through the window, and out into the river, several miles away.

"Careful, girls!" Blossom quickly ordered, "He'll be back...keep your guard up!"

They waited by the window, watching the river way off in the distance. A few moments passed, then suddenly the giant, towering form of Him rose out of the water. He had grown larger than a skyscraper, and was surrounded by flame. His voice thundered, "YOU WON'T DEFEAT ME THAT EASILY!" He started walking back, crashing through buildings as he went.

"Come on! We've got to stop him! Let's move!" Blossom ordered.

The three of them shot out of the building, flying quickly towards Him. As they passed over the city, Buttercup pointed at something below, "Look!" The people were coming out of their buildings, watching Him heading towards the girls all set to destroy them. But they weren't running in fear...they were cheering. The girls stopped flying to watch them.

"They're cheering for Him?" Buttercup asked incredulously.

"I think I know why," Blossom answered sadly. "The professor was right...they hate us."

They didn't have long to think over this, as suddenly, a giant claw swung out, smacking into Blossom and knocking her from the sky. She smashed into a building, and for a moment, the cheering in the crowd actually got louder. In the next moment, Bubbles was suddenly grabbed by Him, his claw tightening around her. Bubbles struggled, but didn't cry out.

"That's it!" Buttercup shouted. She suddenly shot forward, punching Him in the face. Bubbles managed to break free, and gave a strong kick to his chest. Blossom flew out from the side of the building and opened fire with her laser vision. The three of them surrounded Him in a flurry of attacks, while he waved his claws around feebly, trying to swat them away. Finally, all three of them together uppercutted Him in the jaw, launching him into the sky. He disappeared over the horizon.

As the dust settled, they looked back down at the people. The citizens' heads were hug sadly, and they returned to their homes. Blossom was no longer surprised by it. She said, "Come on girls, lets get back..."

They flew back into Town Hall, back into the Mayor's office, where the professor was still waiting. "Are you all right, Professor?" Buttercup asked.

"I'm fine, girls...thank you..." They all gathered around him, and he said, "Don't worry about me right now, you have a job to do...you have to return the city back to the people." The girls nodded, fully understanding, and each of them flew off in separate directions into the city. The professor smiled as he watched them go. They may have done some terrible things here, but I know they'll do their best to make things right again...

**********

By the next evening, the city was looking a lot better. Everyone had been released from Lockup, and were heading back to their homes. The mayor was returned to City Hall, as was Miss Bellum. People started to get back to their regular lives once again.

The girls stood with Professor Utonium outside of the city, near the remains of the house. They no longer had their old outfits, so they were still wearing their black ones. Despite this, their faces showed signs of happiness once again. As they watched the city, Blossom asked, "Do you think they'll ever fully accept us again?"

"I think they will," the professor replied, "But it will take a lot of hard work. Don't expect them to trust you again in only a day. Do what's right, and follow your hearts, and I know they'll be able to forgive you."

"Professor, I can't thank you enough for steering us back onto the right path." she said. "I can't imagine what would have happened if we kept acting the way we did."

"Do you have to go?" Buttercup asked. "We don't want you leave us again..."

"I'm sorry, girls, " the professor answered, "but I have to. Right now, you're waiting for me back in my dimension, and probably worried sick about me."

"Right," Blossom said, smiling, and fighting back a tear, "Well, we'll really miss you...I promise we'll remember everything you told us. Thank you for everything."

The four of them embraced one last time. Then the professor stood up and activated the HCMD. As before, a spark of electricity jumped out, and the swirling gateway back to his dimension opened up. As he prepared to step through, he looked back at the girls, who were waving to him. Bubbles watched silently for a few moments, then whispered softly, "Goodbye, Professor..." as he disappeared through the gateway...

**********

The professor reappeared back in front of the house, only it was still standing, not a pile of rubble anymore. The flash of light and sound as the gateway closed flashed through the windows on the second floor. A moment later, the girls' heads appeared at each of the windows to see where the light had come from. Their faces lit up as they saw the professor, and in the next moment, they were through the front door.

"Professor!" Bubbles shouted. "You're back!"

"Hello, girls!" the professor said, "It's great to be back...I'm sorry I took so long..."

"We were worried about you...I thought you were only going to be a few minutes..." Blossom said.

"I wasn't worried, I knew the professor could take care of himself." Buttercup said confidently.

"Um, Professor?" Bubbles' eyes dropped slightly, "Just after you left, I sort of accidentally knocked over your scientific chemical thingy on the way out of the lab...I didn't mean to break it..."

"That's okay, Bubbles," the professor reassured her. "Better it than Townsville."

"What?"

"I'll explain later. Right now, I'm just glad to be back home!" the professor replied. Together, the four of them went back into the house. It's amazing what I've just been through, he thought, but not as amazing as the girls...we're all so lucky to have them just the way they are...

THE END