TOURNAMENT IS FAIR PLAY

TOURNAMENT IS FAIR PLAY

By: Mark J. Hadley

The city of Townsville…is not featured in this tale. Instead, our story begins many miles away, at the world-renowned Hero's Arena building, where millions of people have gathered to watch the twenty-third annual World Superheroes Tournament. Once a year, superheroes gather from across the world to this single location, to compete and see who is the strongest of them all. Old favorites, like the famous Justice Friends, always make an appearance, but there are always many new faces to show up as well.

This year's tournament is particularly special, as for the first time, the PowerPuff Girls will be entering, setting a new record for the youngest superheroes to fight in the World Superheroes Tournament. As the Utonium family car pulled up to the Hero's Arena, they couldn't be more excited.

"All right! I can't wait!" Buttercup exclaimed, looking out of the car window at the huge arena building. "Just think…in a few hours, we'll be fighting against some of the best heroes on Earth! Man, this'll be great!"

Blossom nodded, "I'm just eager to see how our own powers stand up against theirs. So far, all we've fought are villains. It'll be a nice change of pace, whether we win or lose."

"Yeah, whatever, Red," Buttercup said, waving it off. "All I know is, that championship is mine! Right, Bubbles?"

"I think you could win," Bubbles agreed, "but one of us could win, too."

Professor Utonium pulled the car into the parking lot, and said, "Now, girls, I'm sure you'll all do just fine in the tournament. But remember, winning isn't everything; it's how you play the game that counts."

They all got out of the car, and headed into the building. Inside, a large group of heroes were lined up at the registration booth. People of all shapes, sizes, and costume designs were signing up at the desk, and receiving their number for the tournament. Most of them the girls had never seen before, but they spotted one or two familiar faces. "Hey," Blossom remarked, "isn't that the Crimson Raven? The guy in the red over there?"

"You mean the one from Citiesville?" Bubbles said. "I thought they put him in jail for illegal use of superpowers…"

"He's on parole right now," Blossom pointed out.

"Ohh, that's right," Bubbles nodded. "Poor guy."

As they waited in line, someone behind them asked, "Excuse me, miss…but this is the line for registration, right?" Turning around, they saw a tall superhero, dressed in vivid red, white, and blue colors. His cape bore the design of the American flag, and a gold mask adorned with wings covered the top half of his face.

"Major Glory!" Blossom exclaimed. "Wow, it's an honor to meet you, sir!"

Flashing a smile, he replied, "Of course it is. So…what brings you little tykes to this tournament? Ready to watch some of your favorite heroes do battle?"

"Nah," Buttercup answered. "We're gonna be in the fight."

"You three?" Major Glory laughed. "You're joking, right? This is too dangerous for little kids to participate in…"

Buttercup frowned angrily, "Whaddaya mean? We're not 'little kids', we're the PowerPuff Girls!"

Major Glory's expression suddenly changed, "Stars and stripes! Not the PowerPuff girls?"

"That's us!" Bubbles smiled.

"Well! It seems I owe you three an apology," he said, smiling. "I've heard good things about you. Perhaps one day, when you grow up, you'll become world-famous defenders of good ol' American justice…like me!"

"Thanks," Blossom said, "We'll do our best!"

Buttercup just continued to frown as they waited in line, and thought, I hope I get to fight this guy in the tournament. It'll be fun wiping that smile off his face…

* * *

The girls waited with the other heroes in a large staging area, just outside of the main fighting ring. They could see out into the ring from there, and noticed that the stands were already beginning to fill up with people. They spotted Professor Utonium off to one side and waved…he smiled, and waved back.

"How long before it starts?" Bubbles asked.

"Not long," Blossom said. "They're setting up the chart right now. I wonder who I'm going to be fighting first…" She glanced around at the others in the room. A lot of them really looked like easy pickings, but some of them could prove to be a challenge. In one corner, she noticed another familiar face and, trying to suppress a snicker, she pointed him out, "Hey, look who's here…"

The girls looked to where she was pointing. "Hey, is that…" Buttercup began.

"Yep…Major Mann," Blossom replied. "What's he doing here?"

"Probably looking for a fast path to fame and glory again," Buttercup said. She smiled, and added, "I give him one fight before he goes down. Two, if he gets some pushover."

Bubbles giggled, "Yeah! Like a stuffed doll, maybe!" All three of them laughed at the joke. They resumed looking around at the people that were still showing up. A moment later, something small and glowing bright white flew into the room and landed. The glow faded out, revealing…

"Monkey!" the girls said together. They could hardly believe their eyes. One of the most powerful superheroes in the world was standing right there, a mere ten feet from them. His bluish-black outfit was adorned with the golden 'M' symbol in his forehead, confirming that he was indeed Monkey.

Buttercup nudged Blossom, "Hey, why don't you go say something to him?"

"Me? Like what?" Blossom asked.

"I don't know. Anything."

Blossom thought about it, but while she did, Bubbles walked right over. Monkey looked at her, and said, "Eek, oo eeek?"

Blossom smiled, and said, "Eee, eek eek ook, ah ah ooh eek!"

Monkey tossed off a little salute, then glanced behind her, at the other girls. He pointed at them and asked, "Ooh eee?"

"Aah eek ahwaa," Bubbles replied. "Eek ah ahhoh Eekahwaa…eek ah ah eek ahhoh Ohaawoo." She smiled and added, "Aaah ah ah oooo eeka ah!" Both she and Monkey started laughing, while Blossom and Buttercup just glanced at each other, confused.

Bubbles waved goodbye to Monkey, and flew back. When she got back, Buttercup asked, "What was that all about? What was so funny?"

"Nothing, nothing…" Bubbles said, still trying to suppress a snicker.

Before Buttercup could say anything else, they heard cheering outside in the arena. A large screen on one side of the arena had come on, showing the face of the Earth Forces Commander. He spoke, "Ladies and gentlemen…on behalf of everyone here, I'd like to welcome you to the twenty-third annual World Superheroes Tournament!"

The crowd cheered some more; he waited until it died down before continuing. "We have sixty-four entrants in this year's competition, which will be conducted as a standard elimination tournament. Five rounds of combat will be fought between the competitors, narrowing their numbers down until finally, only two remain for the sixth and final round. The winner of that fight will be declared this year's Grand Champion. Now, without further ado, let the tournament begin!"

The crowd roared, and the heroes in the staging area also applauded. The Commander's face disappeared from the screen, and it was replaced by the chart, showing the progression of the tournament and the initial pairing of each of the competitors. The chart appeared on similar, smaller monitors in the staging area, and the superheroes all gathered around to see who they were fighting first.

Buttercup spotted her name on the list, and said, "I'm fighting some guy named the Human Worm. Sounds easy enough…"

"Hey," Blossom said, "I'll be fighting the Crimson Raven first! What about you, Bubbles?"

After a moment, they located Bubbles' name. "Water Boy?" Bubbles said. "Okay… "

As they looked on, a small boy suddenly pushed his way past them, to get a better look at the list. He had red hair, and was wearing a black outfit and mask, with a belt that was adorned with a golden 'D'. In a thickly accented voice, he said, "Ah, yes! My first opponent will be Captain Slug! Shouldn't take more than a minute to beat him…"

Blossom tapped him on the shoulder, and said, "Hey, I didn't expect to see any other children here…I mean, we're still the youngest, but…"

He glanced at her nonchalantly, and said, " For your information, I am no mere child…I am Dextarr, Boy of Wonder!"

Bubbles said, "Nice to meet you, Dextarr…we're the PowerPuff G—"

"Fine, fine," he interrupted. "It makes no difference, as I will be winning the tournament this year." He turned and walked back into the crowd.

Buttercup scowled, "Man, what a jerk! Is everyone here full of themselves?"

"Don't let it get to you, Buttercup," Blossom said. "We'll show them what we're made of out there…"

As they talked, Bubbles glanced back over to the monitor. One particular person out of the crowd caught her eye…a short man, dressed in black, almost like a ninja…except, on his head was a large glass bubble, showing off an exposed brain. He ran a finger down the names on the monitor, stopping at the name, "Brainstem", then turned and disappeared into the crowd. Bubbles shrugged, and went back to what she was doing, waiting for the fighting to begin…

* * *

The fighting began. Each pair of competitors stepped out into the ring, one group at a time, and did battle with each other. The rules were simple: you lost if you were knocked out, you fell out of the ring, or you gave up.

The very first round of combat proceeded rather quickly. Most of the more powerful heroes were able to defeat the lesser ones in seconds. This really helped to weed out the dregs from the group, although there were still a number of them left. Blossom herself had no difficulties whatsoever with the Crimson Raven, sending him out of the ring with one good kick. Bubbles was soaked by Water Boy…other than that, he didn't do a thing to her, and she was able to easily pick him up and toss him out. Human Worm tried to burrow underground to sneak up on Buttercup, but she spotted him, and knocked him out with a simple slap to the back of the head.

As they gathered back together in the staging area, Buttercup said, "That was easy. I hope they get tougher than this."

"They will," Blossom reminded her. "All of the Justice Friends made it to the next battle; at this rate, we'll probably have to fight some of them."

Buttercup kicked a loose pebble on the ground, "Not yet, though…my next fight's gonna be against someone called CyberCat. He just barely won his fight against Easily-Defeated Man…"

Outside in the ring, two fighters were just leaving the ring, and the Commander appeared on the screen announcing the final two fighters of the first round, "Brainstem vs. SuperParrot." The black-dressed Brainstem stepped calmly out into the fighting ring, while the brightly-outfitted, 8-inch-tall SuperParrot flapped over, landing on the ground in the ring across from him.

The Commander signaled the start of the fight. SuperParrot flew into the air, diving at Brainstem's head, but he leapt to one side, drawing a weapon from his backpack. It launched a sticky substance out, which gummed up the parrot's wing's, causing him to plummet to the ground. The parrot quickly squawked, "I give up! I give up!"

Brainstem put the weapon back into his backpack, and turned back to the audience, bowing with a flourish. The crowed cheered him on. From the staging area, Blossom remarked, "Hey, he's pretty good!"

"Nah, he was probably just fighting some pushover," Buttercup said.

"I don't think so," Blossom said. "I've heard of SuperParrot before; he's a big crimefighter down in Florida. Brainstem, though, I've never heard of him…he's a newcomer. He must be pretty good, though, to beat an established hero that easily."

"All I know is, there's only thirty-two people left, now." Buttercup smiled confidently. "And, in five more fights, you'll be talkin' to the new Grand Champion!"

"We'll see," Blossom said.

* * *

The second round of combat went almost as quickly as the first. Some of the fights lasted a few minutes, but most of them were over in about ten seconds or so. The most interesting fight was between the Infraggable Krunk and the Unmovable Block. Krunk pounded on him repeatedly, but Block was attached firmly to the ground, and didn't give. Eventually, Krunk just ripped up the ground he was clinging to, and threw him not only out of the ring, but also completely out of the stadium. The crowd applauded this, particularly the other members of the Justice Friends.

All three of the PowerPuff Girls won their fights, and they noticed that so did Dextarr…and Brainstem. Now that the number of competitors was reduced to a mere sixteen, the remaining heroes were getting more anxious to start the real fighting.

The Commander appeared on the screens, and said, "Round three will begin shortly, after a brief rest period. The pairings for the upcoming round will be: Infraggable Krunk vs. Living Bullet…Tiki Torch vs. Blossom…Agent Honeydew vs. Val Halen…Dextarr vs. Brainstem…Buttercup vs. Capital-G…Monkey vs. Sam-Are-I…White Tiger vs. Bubbles…and finally, Major Glory vs. Major Mann…"

Blossom rolled her eyes, "Sheesh…I can't believe Major Mann made it this far. Talk about luck!"

"Well, they were kinda easy so far," Bubbles reminded her.

While Blossom and Bubbles talked, Capital-G approached Buttercup and said, "Hey, I watched you fight, Buttercup, and lemme tell you somethin'…you've really got some moves. I'm lookin' forward to our fight next round."

"Me too," Buttercup said, grinning, "Finally, some good fights! This is what I came here for!"

As all the conversations between the heroes continued, off to one side, Brainstem stood silently. He spoke not a single word, but gazed across the room at everyone, his eyes shifting from person to person in quiet contemplation…

* * *

"Infraggable Krunk…vs…Living Bullet!"

The crowd roared as Krunk stepped into the ring. He waved to the audience as he took his position. Living Bullet shot into the arena, landing instantly on his own starting spot. The Commander, who had introduced them from the screen, looked to make sure both of them were ready, and said, "Fight!"

Krunk immediately hunkered down, and yelled, "Krunk smash!" He charged across the ring towards Living Bullet, who immediately dodged to one side, too fast for Krunk to catch. Instead, he had to dig his hands into the ground to stop himself before accidentally charging clear out of the ring. Spotting an opportunity, Living Bullet immediately charged him from behind, striking him in the back. Unfortunately, all he did was rebound off of his tough purple hide.

Krunk, still with his hands in the ground, ripped up a large chunk of rock, and hurled it at Living Bullet…he was struck, and knocked down from the air, but was able to shoot away from underneath the rock before it smashed him against the ground. He immediately charged Krunk, heading for his head, but Krunk reached out, grabbing him right out of the air. Living Bullet smiled sheepishly, and Krunk brought his free fist down "gently" on his helmet, knocking him cold. He dropped Living Bullet to the ground, and clasped his hands above his head in victory, as the crowd cheered him on.

* * *

"Tiki Torch...vs...Blossom!"

On cue, Blossom flew out onto the ring. As she landed, she heard the professor call out from the audience, "You can do it, sweetie!" She smiled and waved, then turned to focus on the coming fight. A few moments later, the tiki-headed Tiki Torch flew over and landed on the other side of the ring in a burst of flame.

The Commander nodded and said, "All right then...Fight!" Blossom hovered up into the air, and waited to see what her opponent was going to do. Tiki Torch grinned and said, "Let's heat things up a bit! Torch on!" He suddenly ignited, surrounded by fire, and flew towards Blossom, swinging a flame-covered fist at her...Blossom responded by ducking under the punch, and giving him a kick square in the chest. Tiki flew backwards, but managed to land on his feet.

By this time, Blossom gained some height, and attacked with her eyebeams. Tiki was hit head on, but wasn't hurt by it. He laughed, and said, "The heat from your beams will only make me stronger!" He absorbed the heat from the blast, and immediately held his hands out, creating a giant fireball between them, "Then, I can channel it, and sent it right back!" He wound up, and threw the fireball directly at Blossom...she tried to dodge, but it struck her anyway. She fell to the ground, landing a few feet short of the edge of the ring.

As Blossom struggled back to her feet, wiping the ash from her face, Tiki surrounded himself with flame once again, and leapt at her, fists out, prepared to try and knock her out of the ring. Blossom quickly took a deep breath, and blew a blast of her ice breath at him, freezing him solid. Tiki blinked a few times from inside the block of ice...before he could do anything, Blossom casually nudged him, and the ice slid across the ring, right off the edge.

The crowd cheered, and Blossom waved to them. This is great! she thought. I can't wait to see how well I do on the next fight...

* * *

"Agent Honeydew...vs...Val Halen!"

The slender Earth Forces Agent stood on one end of the ring, weapon at the ready. On the other end, Val Halen, the Viking God of Rock, took his place...above him, dark storm clouds were rolling in, lightning crossing the skies. They waited, as the Commander made sure they were all set...finally, he gave the order, "Fight!"

Honeydew armed her laser pistol, and aimed it at Val Halen, who rose his guitar and said, "Be prepared, oh bodacious babe, to face the awesome force of my mighty axe!" With that, he began playing, and his guitar glowed brightly with energy. Honeydew crouched, preparing to leap...Val Halen lowered the neck of the guitar, and a bright white beam of energy lanced out at her.

She bounded quickly to one side, rolling back up to one knee and firing several shots from her laser at him. "If I can just hit that guitar of his," she said to herself, "I can take away the source of his power!" The shots came close, but Val Halen quickly jumped up over the blasts, hopping onto his guitar and riding it like a surfboard. He flew across the ring quickly, and rammed into Honeydew, knocking her backwards...she reached the edge of the ring, and tottered precariously, then fell off.

Val Halen lifted his mighty axe into the air in victory, as the crowd chanted, "Val Halen! Val Halen! Val Halen!"

* * *

"Dextarr...vs...Brainstem!"

The two competitors faced off against each other in the ring. Dextarr watched Brainstem coldly, and said, "I have seen how you fight...so, this will be a battle of genius versus genius then. May the best genius win...me!"

Brainstem remained silent, not answering him back. The Commander said, "Ready? Fight!"

Immediately, Dextarr pulled the 'D' emblem off of his belt, and hurled it quickly towards his opponent. Brainstem, however, brought his arm around, which had a device mounted on it...punching the button on the device, a small curved shield made of energy sprang up, and the 'D' rebounded harmlessly off of it. Brainstem immediately lowered the shield and raised his other arm, firing laser blasts from an arm-mounted weapon.

Dextarr jumped up high, clicking a button on his watch. From a small pack on his back, a large robotic suit unfolded out. The suit landed on the ground with a *THUD*, going into a battle pose. Brainstem responded by charging forward, still firing with his arm-mounted blaster. Dextarr held the arms of the robot out in front of him, reflecting the blasts away from him. As he did this, though, he was unable to see Brainstem, since the robot's arms were in the way. Brainstem slid underneath the robot, ending up behind him, and fired backwards, striking it dead center in the back.

The suit sparked from the hit and malfunctioned. Dextarr unhooked himself from it, and dropped free, but Brainstem was already around on the other side. He had another weapon in his hand, and opened fire with it, creating a barrage of soundwaves that slowly pushed Dextarr back...he struggled to move against it, but eventually, it picked him up off the ground, knocking him out of the ring. He bounced a few times, then skid across the dirt to a halt.

Brainstem put his weapons away, and bowed to the crowd once again, which cheered him. Dextarr picked himself up from the dirt and groaned, "Ugh...stupid Brainstem..."

* * *

"Buttercup...vs...Capital-G!"

Buttercup flew out as fast as she could, taking her position in the ring, "Yes! I'm ready for some action!" Capital-G leapt out onto his own position in the ring. He gave an OK sign to the Commander, who nodded, and shouted, "Fight!"

Buttercup wasted no time in charging Capital-G as fast as she could. G, though, swung a punch early, catching Buttercup in the jaw. It was enough to knock her off-course, but not enough to do any damage. She swooped around, and prepared to attack again, but by now, Capital-G had already begun to change size. He grew a hundred feet tall, and exclaimed, "Get ready...'cause now, Capital-G is large, and in charge!"

Buttercup stopped her advance, and looked up. Capital-G immediately brought a foot down on her with a *SMASH*. Lifting his foot back up, he saw that he had driven Buttercup into the ring floor...she looked at first like she had been knocked out, but then her eyes flew open, and she flew up, giving his ankle a good strong kick. G tottered, but didn't fall, much to the relief of the audience that he might have landed on. He immediately said, "Nice try, little lady, but now you've got bigger problems!"

Buttercup just grinned back, flying up, and said, "The bigger they are, the easier it is to hit 'em!" With that, she began throwing punches and kicks at his chest. In his large form, it wasn't enough to really hurt him, but it forced him back a step...and because he was so tall, that one step put his foot right out of the ring.

G glanced down and noticed this...he hung his head, "Aw, dang." The crowd roared happily at Buttercup's victory. She did a little victory dance in the air, to the crowd's amusement. Oh yeah, she thought, they love me.

* * *

"Monkey...vs...Sam-Are-I"

The crowd really went wild as Monkey flew out onto the field. He had been last year's winner of the tournament...plus, he was a crowd favorite. The blue-armored Sam-Ar-I got into a battle position at the other end of the ring, raising his gleaming metal sword. The crowd slowly began to chant, "Mon--key! Mon--key! Mon--key!"

Seeing that everything was set, the Commander said, "Ready...fight!"

Unfortunately for Sam-Are-I, the fight was over in barely a few seconds. Monkey crossed the ring in less than an instant, grabbing him by the arm and flinging him directly off the edge. He landed back in the center of the ring, and clapped his hands over his head, giving a victory cry, "Aaa ooo! Aaa ooo!" The crowd cheered him on...

* * *

"White Tiger...vs...Bubbles!"

Bubbles carefully took her position in the ring. She glanced over at Professor Utonium in the stands, who gave her a confident thumbs-up. Turning back to the ring, she watched as the savage White Tiger leapt into his own position and crouched, ready to pounce. Bubbles smiled and waved, shouting, "Good luck!"

The Commander nodded, "Good luck to you both. Ready? Fight!"

Bubbles was just about to start flying, when White Tiger jumped forward with amazing speed. She was instantly pinned to the ground by him. Bubbles cried out in surprise when it happened, but then fired her eyebeams, knocking him off of her. She hovered up off the ground, and held her fists out, ready for battle once again. They slowly circled each other, and Bubbles said, "Here, kitty kitty..."

White Tiger pounced forward again, and started swinging slashes with his claws. Bubbles nimbly dodge left and right, avoiding the attacks, but the onslaught was still forcing her back slowly, towards the edge of the ring. She noticed this, and quickly caught White Tiger's paw on his next swing. With her other hand, she gave him a good punch to the jaw. He was knocked across the ring, sliding towards the opposite edge, but he dug his claws in the ground, slowing himself and leaving long claw marks in the ring floor. He stopped only a foot from the edge of the ring.

Bubbles quickly took a deep breath, and unleashed a loud scream, so forceful that the soundwaves pushed White Tiger back just far enough that he toppled off the edge. She panted, and smiled, waving to the audience, which now cheered. She thought, That was close! I can still win this, though, if I keep going...

* * *

"Major Glory...vs...Major Mann!"

The two of them stood across from each other, standing tall and proud, and giving each other a strong glare. The Commander obviously saw that they were ready, so he said, "Fight!"

Major Glory was somewhat shocked, "By Washington's Wig...this superhero is even more handsome and photogenic than even I! How can this be?"

Major Mann rose an eyebrow and said, "You'll have to face the music, flag boy! The crowd loves me more than you! Why don't you just give up?" He struck a pose and flashed a smile, the sunlight glinting off of his teeth.

"Now, listen here, Major Mann," Glory said, narrowing his eyes and shaking a fist out in front of him. "You think you've won the hearts of the people? Let me tell you a little something about the difference between you and I. You may be more of a pretty-boy, you may have the brightest smile on the planet, you may even have a higher price for your autograph, but let me tell you one thing that you don't have, mister!" He brought his hand back, placing it over his heart, "The great American spirit! Or," he added hastily, "a long-term endorsement contract. And it is because of this that--"

A voice that sounded like Buttercup called out from the staging area, "Start fighting, already!"

Major Glory shrugged, "Well...give the people what they want, I always say!"

"Now wait a--" Major Mann began, but Major Glory had already flown across the ring and, with a single uppercut to the jaw, knocked him right out. He adjusted his glove, and said, "Now, let me show you how it's done..." He struck a superheroic pose, with a salute, and his cape flapping in the wind behind him. The crowd cheered, as hundreds of cameras flashed, taking his picture. He sighed, "Ahh, my fans..."

* * *

As the third round came to a close, the remaining competitors received a brief rest period, to gather their strength before the next set of fights. The girls had gathered back together, and they were overjoyed. "I can't believe we made it this far!" Bubbles exclaimed.

"That was cool!" Blossom agreed. "I can't wait until the next round...we're really showing our stuff today, aren't we?"

Buttercup nodded, "You bet! We're the best out there!"

"I dunno," Blossom said, "Monkey's gonna be a tough fight if one of us gets him..."

Nearby, Brainstem was leaning up against the wall, by himself. Bubbles looked concerned, and hovered over to where he was. She said, "Hey, Brainstem? You did really well out there..." Brainstem glanced at her, then stared away. She continued, "You're so quiet, though...if you're looking for a friend, you know, I--"

Brainstem suddenly whispered, softly, "No. I will not have you as a friend." He turned and walked away, to the other side of the room. Blossom watched him go, sadly, and wondered what could be wrong...she decided not to ask, but rather, returned to where the other girls were. Round 4 was about ready to begin, and she wanted to get ready...

END OF PART 1