Checkmatrix

By: Mark J. Hadley

* * *

CHAPTER 6 – "SHUTDOWN"

The Advanced Combat Agent turned to face the window. Standing there, over the pile of broken glass that now lay strewn across the ground, were the other two Powerpuff Girls, Blossom and Buttercup. As he had calculated, they arrived to rescue their sister. He looked back at Bubbles, still held in the restraints, and said, "You came for Bubbles, did you not?"

"Let her go," Blossom said, frowning. "You might have bested us before, but we're prepared this time." She gave a hurried glance at Bubbles. She looked afraid, and a little shaken, but other than that, seemed okay.

Buttercup nodded, "Yeah. This time, we're gonna whoop your sorry digital butt right back to the drawing board." She punched one fist into her other for emphasis.

The ACA did not seem impressed. He casually removed his sunglasses, tossing them aside onto a table, and said, "Yes, indeed. I can appreciate the need for deception, as that is the whole purpose of the Matrix to begin with. However, I feel the need to clear up this little...delusion of yours. The one where you think you are going to do anything to 'liberate' anyone."

"That's enough," Buttercup said. "We came here to fight, not talk."

"Of course," he replied. Raising one of his hands, the fingernails suddenly grew out to around six inches in length each, and looked razor sharp. "You have not yet begun to see what kind of power I possess. But I will not bore you with the details. You are right; you came here to fight. That is why we lured you here in the first place. So, there being no further use for the bait..."

Before the girls could even react, the ACA spun around, driving his claw-like fingernails into Bubbles' chest. She gasped, but she couldn't cry out, as her breath was seized up in her chest. Her eyes widened in alarm and pain. Blossom shrieked, "NO!" and started to fly forward, but a quick snap-kick from the ACA knocked her back towards the window again.

He pulled the claws free, and Bubbles fell limp in her restraints, her eyes closing. Turning back to the girls, he raised his other hand, a similar set of claws emerging from them, and said, "I will enjoy watching the two of you perish as well."

Buttercup couldn't believe what she had just seen...her anger started building, and a strange, green aura seemed to glow around her. The ACA was confused by this for a moment, and suddenly, with a cry of rage, Buttercup stretched out her arms, and a beam of pure green energy leapt out from them. It struck the ACA, pushing him back clear through the rear wall and out of the building entirely.

Regaining her balance, Blossom looked at Buttercup in shock and said, "How did you do that?"

"You know what..." Buttercup said, looking at her arms. "I think we really can do anything...so let's do it, and make this guy pay..." She dashed forward through the hole where she had knocked the ACA, in pursuit. Blossom flew right behind her, and cast a sad glance at Bubbles as she passed. Don't worry, we'll stop him, Bubbles...for you...

* * *

Out on the street, Daedalus brought down both arms of the Robo-Jojo, trying to smash the two agents below. They jumped up to avoid the fists, each of them landing on an arm, and they quickly charged up the side towards the bubble cockpit on top.

Daedalus was prepared, however, and triggered one of the robot's defensive mechanisms. The outside of the robot was suddenly electrified, and the two agents jolted, both of them tossed into the air from the shock and landing back on the pavement. The electricity continued to course through them, only greenish now, until the bodies resumed the shape of two military personnel. Daedalus kept his eyes open; the agents had likely transferred to a new control point, and he had to make sure he didn't let his guard down.

They appeared from behind. With a giant leap, one of them jumped up and landed right on top of the Robo-Jojo's cockpit, while the other clung to its back. Daedalus pitched the robot from side to side in an attempt to shake the agents loose, but they were hanging on tightly.

The one on top punched the glass strongly, and despite how reinforced it was, the glass cracked and started to shatter. Thinking fast, he reached up with one of the robot's arms and grabbed hold of the agent, prying him off before he could do anymore damage. He threw the agent straight up into the air and unloaded a pair of missiles from the robot's shoulders, which streaked up and impacted, blasting the agent into pieces.

The one on his back had ripped open the rear armor plating, however, and was started to yank out pieces of the internal machinery. The robot's power supply started to fade, and it tottered, on the brink of collapse. Daedalus cursed to himself and hit the eject button, throwing him clear of the robot just before it toppled over and exploded.

He landed on the street, rolling back to his feet, and saw the agent approaching him...and a few seconds later, he was joined by the other agent, which had transferred again by that point. Daedalus drew the weapons in his coat and started to open fire, even though he knew it wouldn't do any good. I hope the Powerpuff Girls are okay, he thought. I could really use their help right about now...

* * *

The ACA had regained his bearings, hovering in the air behind the building, and saw the other two Powerpuff Girls fly out after him. Buttercup looked intensely angry, and yelled, "I've had it with you! You're goin' down this time!"

Allowing himself a small smile, the ACA crossed his arms over his chest, and then simply vanished. The girls looked around in confusion...Blossom exclaimed, "Where'd he go?"

She suddenly reeled back as something struck her, and for a moment, the air wavered in front of her, in the shape of the agent. Buttercup growled, "He's invisible!" and started blasting with her eyebeams. The ACA dodged, but immediately became visible again as he fired his own eyebeams back at her.

"Yaah!" Butterup shouted, swinging her arm and striking the eyebeams, deflecting them away like someone had just thrown a pillow at her. "I don't care how powerful you are! You're still just a machine, and you've got your limits!"

"You're still just an organic," the ACA countered, "and you have far more limits."

Before anything else could be said, Blossom streaked towards him from the side, pulling her fist back for a punch. For a moment, the air around her fist seemed to glow, taking on the shape of a huge, fiery eagle. She slammed her punch into the side of him, causing an explosion on contact and sending him hurtling down onto a rooftop below.

"This is getting easier," she said. "It's like we're making up powers as we go..."

"Yeah, but so's he," Buttercup pointed out.

The ACA shot out from the side of the building...as he did, his movements became a blur. He started swinging a fast flurry of punches at both of the girls at the same time, his fists moving so quickly that it looked like there were a dozen of them. They were struck repeatedly and couldn't do anything to defend. Both of them were driven back by the attacks and reeled dizzily.

He's just...too powerful, Blossom thought. We...we've got to do something...if we don't, all is lost...Bubbles, I'm sorry...we're trying our best to avenge you...but we can't keep this up... She hoped for some kind of miracle that could help them...

* * *

Bubbles opened her eyes slowly, blinking them. What happened? she thought to herself, looking around in confusion. I...I should be dead...why am I still alive?

Glancing at herself, she realized why at that moment. The Matrix...it's whatever we make it out to be. If our minds die in the Matrix, we die in real life, because we think we're really dead...but we have the ability to make the Matrix whatever we want to be. And I didn't want to die...

She tried to move, but noticed she was still in restraints. Without so much as a second thought on the matter, she yanked her hands free from it, ripping through the restraints like they were paper. She hovered in the center of the room and looked around. The girls were nearby; she could tell, somehow. She knew they were on the other side of the building, fighting that agent.

Staring at the nearest wall, and without so much as batting an eye, the wall exploded outwards, providing her a way out. She hovered out through the hole, finally aware what she must do...what she could do...

* * *

The ACA held both of the girls up, one in each fist. They were powerless in his grasp, weak now from the pummeling they had received. Buttercup clenched her teeth and tried to break free, but it did no good; his grip was ironclad.

"And so now it ends," the ACA said. "We had such high hopes for you. At least it was not a complete waste, as they now have me. Once all agents are upgraded with my design, your 'rebellion' will be no more..."

He blinked, cutting off his speech as something grabbed him from behind. His hands reflexively opened, and the girls immediately hovered back. In the next instant, he suddenly went flying, straight towards the ground like a missile...except, they could tell he was out of control, that he had been thrown. And now that the agent was in the way, they could see who had thrown him...

"Bubbles?!" Buttercup said incredulously, starting at her sister, who was just floating there, looking down rather passively where she had thrown the agent.

Blossom was equally shocked, "You're...alive?"

Bubbles looked back up towards them and spoke, her voice seeming to have a strange echo to it, "I'm okay. Everything's gonna be okay now..."

Buttercup bit her lip and pointed at Bubbles' chest, "Um, Bubbles...you're bleeding..."

Looking down in surprise, Bubbles noticed that Buttercup was right...the wounds that the ACA had made on her were still there, and bleeding heavily as well. "Huh," she said, nonchalantly, like it was no big deal, and as the girls watched in amazement, the wounds sort of shimmered, and vanished entirely. Even her outfit in that spot had been repaired, with no visible tears.

"How..." Blossom began to say.

"We can control the Matrix," Bubbles answered. "Everything in the Matrix. We can even add whatever we want." Looking off into the distance, a skyscraper suddenly materialized near the edge of the city, where none had been a moment ago.

The girls were astonished, but then they began to realize that they had the power as well. Looking down at her hands, Blossom focused, and she was suddenly holding a bouquet of flowers. Buttercup looked up at a passing cloud overhead, and the cloud gradually took the shape of an airplane.

They looked at each other wordlessly. There was no need for words...they all understood what was happening. They were finally reaching the potential that they had been told they could reach. Complete control was theirs, and nothing was beyond their grasp anymore.

All three of them glanced down at the same time. The ACA was coming back up from the street again, flying towards them. The girls watched unconcerned as he approached. Blossom and Bubbles both looked at Buttercup and nodded...Buttercup nodded back, and in a flurry of motion, she disappeared.

The ACA came to a halt as Buttercup materialized in front of her. For a moment he was confused as to how she had moved so quickly, but then ignored it and simply attacked. Buttercup dodged his punch and was behind him in an instant, grabbing him by the back of the neck. He struggled, but couldn't break free.

Buttercup's eyes seemed to glow for a moment, and as they did, streamers of green electricity surrounded the agent. He protested, "No...that is impossible..." In the next instant, he shattered like glass, shards of green energy flying outwards in an explosion. Each of the shards broke up and dissipated into the air like they were made of dust.

"Not bad," Blossom said, her voice echoing now like Bubbles' was. "I don't see any trace of him..."

"Yeah," Buttercup said, with the same echo. "You think you're dealing with kids or something?" She smirked a little.

Bubbles looked off into the distance and said, "Daedalus needs our help."

"I noticed...let's hurry," Blossom said. The three of them flew together and joined hands. The air shimmered around them, and they disappeared...

* * *

Daedalus dropped his weapons...not a single bullet had struck either of the two agents, which were now charging towards him. He turned and ran...it was the only thing he could do.

Now what? he thought. There's no way out...

The Powerpuff Girls suddenly appeared above the street. The two agents stopped their pursuit and looked up at them curiously. Before they could act, Blossom looked directly at them, and the agents simply dissolved away. No explosion, nothing left behind...it was almost as though they were never even there.

Daedalus stopped and looked back at them, saying, "Girls?"

"Everything is fine now," Buttercup said, her voice booming, and sounding like it came from all directions at once. Everywhere in the city, people stopped what they were doing to listen. "We've won."

"That's right," Blossom added, her voice booming along with Buttercup's. "It's time to play our final card...today, the world wakes up. And today, the machines will be defeated at last."

"It won't be easy for everyone," Bubbles told him, "but they'll be okay. People are strong...they'll survive, and grow, just as they'd done for years."

Daedalus smiled and said, "Good luck, my friends. Mankind owes you a favor it may never be able to repay..." He knew he was right...the girls, although they had spent their entire lives saving the wrong world, still remained true to their ideals and had become the saviors of mankind that they were truly destined to be.

Blossom looked up in the sky and said, "Bubbles, if you would do the honors..." Bubbles nodded and hovered up high above the city. Taking in a deep breath, she unleashed a loud scream, like her usual sonic scream, but much more intense. Waves rushed out from her, ripples in the air, revealing glowing green numbers for a moment as they passed. The waves spread far and wide, across the entirety of the Matrix. All around, everywhere, people heard it, and the process began...they would awaken from this fantasy world, thrust back into the real world. Mankind would be free once again...

THE END