[Two warnings.  First, this is a sequel to one of my other fanfics, "Immortality Syndrome".  It is vital that you read I.S. first, or else you won't know what's going on in this one.  Secondly, as was the case with I.S., this fic contains a lot of graphic violence and blood, and includes the death of some major characters.  If this bothers you, don't read!  But then, if it bothered you, you wouldn't have read I.S. either, and so you shouldn't be reading this in the first place.  Ok, warning over…so that said, enjoy!]

Immortality Relapse By:  Mark J. Hadley

*        *          *


            Bubbles gripped her chest tightly…the pain shot through her like a burning iron spike and wouldn't stop.  It was so intense that it made her vision seem red and blurry, and she could barely see through it, but she could still see her surroundings.  She was floating in the middle of nowhere, a fiery sky all around her, like lava, burning like the pain that she felt.  The brightness of it stabbed through to the back of her eyes, and she couldn't take it anymore.  Yet, she seemed oddly distanced from it all…like it wasn't really happening…

            Everything slowly started to recede, and she saw something else amongst the bright 'sky'…a dark shape was forming, a small patch of black with no light whatsoever.  It grew steadily, until she saw that everything around it was being drawn towards it, like a swirling vortex.  The fires in the sky streaked across, drawn into the void and vanishing, as it grew larger and larger, until it seemed to fill the sky.

            Her pain diminished even further, and she knew that this was the final release from her suffering.  It was Death…of that she was certain.  It had come for her, and as the fires of her pain were drawn into it, she felt herself being drawn in as well.  Despite the relief from the pain it offered her, she was afraid, and didn't want to go…she turned and started to fly away.

            But no, she couldn't!  Its pull was too strong, like a powerful vaccum, and it was growing bigger and stronger by the moment.  She panicked and tried everything to escape…she could feel that it was doing no good, that she kept getting even closer to it, towards that awful nothingness…she screamed for help, but there was none, not anymore.

            It finally enveloped her.  It was all over…she couldn't do anything…not move, not breathe, not think…nothing.  All she remembered was the pain she had felt before.  She almost felt happy that she would never have to feel the pain again.  But she also felt sorrow in that instant…sorrow to everything else in life, that it would have to endure that suffering, where she was free from it at last.  All life existed only for this suffering…of that, there was no doubt in her mind now.  If only she could show that to everything…but that was impossible now.  Afraid as she was, she stopped struggling and gave into the darkness at last…

*          *            *

            Bubbles awoke with a gasp, sweating heavily and clutching the bedsheets to her chest.  As she regained her bearings, looking out into the darkness, she realized she was dreaming again.  She put a hand over her chest and tried to calm herself back down.  She felt her heart pounding, and took some comfort in that…it was the ultimate sign to her that she was still alive.

            A hand reached out from the darkness next to her and ran through her hair consolingly.  It belonged to the professor, who was seated next to the bed in a chair.  He softly said, "Shh…it's all right, Bubbles.  You were dreaming again.  Everything is just fine."

            "Thank you, Professor," she whispered, settling her head back down on the pillow.  She turned her head slightly and looked at the bed next to her.  The spots that Blossom and Buttercup usually occupied were still empty…each time after waking from her dream, she had a dim hope that maybe perhaps the whole thing would have been a dream, that it had never happened.  That was never the case, though…she felt the sadness all over each time, as she was forced with the truth, that she would never see her sisters again.

            It was a whole week since the incident, and this dream plagued her every night.  Memories of Death…memories of what had happened to her.  Memories that she wished she could get rid of, but couldn't push them out of her mind.  At least the professor was still there, by her side.  He stayed with her every night so far, to ease her when she woke.  The depths to which he cared for her was comforting in itself.  It made her happy just to know he was there.

            She slowly closed her eyes, and said, "G'night, Professor…thank you…"  She saw him smile just before her eyes closed, and as she drifted back to sleep, she smiled as well.  At least one thought always reassured her: the nightmare was over, for good…

*          *            *

            The City of Townsville…that very same night, in Townsville Park, everything was quiet.  After the terrible events from a week ago, the park was still in bad condition: burnt trees and grass covered the small piece of landscape, and a large crater was near Townsville Volcano Mountain where an explosion had obviously taken place.  Because of the state of the park, no one visited it even during the day, except for cleanup crews.  Now that it was night, all was still, and there was not a soul to be found.

            The silence was broken by a brief rumbling sound coming from the ground.  In a small eruption of dirt and soil, a hole opened up from the ground, and a lone figure emerged.  Placing aside the crude drill he had constructed, he stretched his arms out, as though happy to be free at last.  He glanced at the prison uniform he wore, grimy from the dirt he had just tunneled through, and grunted to himself.  He decided he needed a change of clothing, and luckily, his home was nearby.

            Without further ado, Mojo Jojo hurried up the steps alongside the volcano, to the observatory that sat above it.  As he swung open the door, though, his eyes widened in shock.  The place was a mess…a large hole had been carefully cut in one side, and most of his equipment was missing.  Actually, he noted that a lot of his scientific equipment still remained, but his entire arsenal of weaponry had been stolen.

            "What?!  Who would dare steal from the lair of Mojo Jojo?" he growled.  "If I find out who has done this, they will pay dearly for their transgressions!  But for now, I must attend to a change of attire…"

He headed into the back room, removing his prison garb and taking one of his spare outfits from his closet.  As he changed, he examined the bandages secured around his chest, head, and arms…he was still sore from his injuries, but they had otherwise healed, so he removed the bandages as well before completing his costume.

            A week in intensive care, he thought.  Never before had the Powerpuff Girls injured me quite to that level…well, it was worth it, for I remember the outcome of my actions.  He grinned to himself.  That was one thing that had given him solace all throughout his recovery: that he had finally defeated one of the Powerpuffs for good, and that there was no hope of their recovery either.  Blossom lay dead, while Mojo remained very much alive, and he was now confident that he could do the same to the other two.

            As he finished putting on his helmet, he narrowed his eyes gleefully.  If only I could have had access to the news programming on television during my recovery period, he thought.  To see the city's fearful reaction to the death of one of their beloved heroes, that would have been priceless.  This suddenly led him to another thought: Perhaps this fact is still on the news.  The death of a Powerpuff Girl is not something those accursed people would have taken lightly…

            He strode back into the other room and clicked on his television, still thankfully present and not stolen like his other equipment.  He was often appreciative of one of Townsville's TV stations, which replayed news events from earlier in the day during the late hours of the night.  Such a broadcast was now being replayed, and he sat down in a chair to watch.

            Stanley Whitfield was shown standing before the charred remains of Townsville Park as he spoke, "…and as people are still recovering from the horrific tragedy of last week…"  Mojo grinned to himself and thought, Ah, yes…Blossom's demise, of course!  I was correct…

            The camera panned past more images of the park, and of people uprooting burned trees to make room for the planting of new ones eventually.  Whitfield's voice continued, "…the cleanup crews are working to restore Townsville Park to its former condition.  Meanwhile, citizens everywhere continue to grieve over those who were lost, and although many have accepted Professor Utonium's and Powerpuff Girl Bubbles' account of what had occurred, they still mourn, yet they also continue to give Bubbles their heartfelt condolences for the loss of her sisters, Blossom and Buttercup, whose part in the tragedy was described as 'misguided'…"

            Mojo gasped at this latest piece of news.  Loss of sisters, plural? he thought.  Something has happened to Buttercup as well?  Perhaps the injury to her arm that she had taken proved fatal through mistreatment or infection…

His smile broadened evilly, and he steepled his fingers in front of him in thought, "Perfect…now is my chance to strike," he said to himself.  "With only one Powerpuff Girl remaining, I cannot be stopped…I will take my rightful place as ruler of Townsville, and then the world!"

He shut off the TV and got up, pacing slowly around the room, "I must not squander this opportunity.  Bubbles will still be grieving for her sisters, and she might make a mistake.  The plan I will concoct must be so diabolical that it is certain to work, so that there is zero chance of her survival as well, and thus she will fail and I will succeed!  But what…what to do…"

            He froze in mid-pace, as a sudden idea came to him.  He clasped his hands and said, "Of course!  Why did I not think of this sooner?  The perfect plan…and I can begin to put the plan into motion tonight!  Rest well this evening, Bubbles, for your downfall is tomorrow!"  He threw back his head and cackled evilly, the laughs echoing out of his lair and across the park…

*          *            *

            Townsville police station was quiet this evening, almost as quiet as the park.  A few of the night beat cops had just checked in, and had nothing to report.  Not a single crime was reported, and the mood was relaxed in the station.  So relaxed were they, that they didn't notice Mojo, who was sneaking up stealthfully to the building, unseen in the shadows.

            He stopped against the side of the station, peering in each direction at the different entrances/exits…they were all well guarded, but none could see him from this position.  Decided that he had to make his own entrance, he pulled a small, palm-sized laser from his belt and started to cut a hole in the brick of the building.  It was silent, save for a slight high-pitched whine from the laser itself, yet he still cast glances back at the edges of the building, in case anyone would happen by and notice him.

            Mojo made it through the wall with little difficulty, and slid the large section of brick out from the building carefully, so as not to topple it over and make any noise.  He slipped in through the opening.  As he expected, it opened up to a back hall of the station, right next to the room he was looking for.  The door to this particular room was locked, but a quick zap of the laser broke the lock off.  He swung the door open without further ado.

As the light filtered into the sizeable room, he gazed up at the shelves that lined the walls…tons of items, from weapons to other random implements, were all carefully indexed and tagged.  It was all the police evidence that had been collected from the criminals of Townsville, a rather large collection.  Examining the shelves, Mojo knew he would find what he was looking for here.  Eventually he came to it…a box, labeled with his name and a date.  He lifted the box open, and his grin grew wider as he laid eyes on its contents.

"Yesssss…" he whispered softly.  "Now nothing can stop me…where this plan had failed once before, there is now only one Powerpuff Girl left to face it…and one has no hope of defeating three…"  He laughed very softly, so as not to be heard, and lifted out one of the three plastic evidence bags from the box, holding it up to the light to view its contents: snips, snails, and a puppy dog tail…

*          *            *

            The following day was Monday…at Pokey Oaks Kindergarten, Bubbles flew quietly into the room, and her classmates turned to watch her enter.  She felt the strange stares from them, a mixture of compassion and maybe a little fear.  She could hardly blame them…all last week, she had been excused from school, so that she could help deal with the aftermath of the crisis, and this was the first time her classmates really saw her since then.  Not many of them knew what exactly had happened—their parents didn't want to expose children so young to those kinds of details—but they knew it was something terrible.

            Bubbles hesitated at the door.  The whole room was quiet, and Miss Keane spoke up calmly, breaking the silence, "Bubbles…thank you for joining us once again.  Are you feeling all right?"

            "I'm…fine, Miss Keane," Bubbles said.

            Miss Keane was aware of what had happened before and didn't want to press the matter any further, so she simply said, "Please, take your seat, and we can get started…"  Bubbles nodded, and hovered towards the desk where she usually sat.  All the kids' gazes followed her as she crossed the room…she felt a little conspicuous, but didn't say anything.

            As she came to her desk, she stopped before she reached it.  She stared at the three chairs that were behind it and bit her lip, holding back tears.  When she finally found her voice, she said, "M…Miss Keane?  Can I sit someplace else?"

            "Of course," Miss Keane replied, fully understanding.  "Go ahead."

            Bubbles nodded a thank-you and looked around the class, looking for an empty seat.  She spotted one next to Mary, so she flew over and landed in the chair.  Miss Keane cleared her throat and decided to start teaching to alleviate the uncomfortable silence that still hung in the room.

            As she did, Mary looked at Bubbles and whispered, "Bubbles…what happened?"

            "I…" Bubbles began, then closed her eyes.  "I don't…want to talk about it…"

            "Are they coming back?" Mary asked.  Bubbles knew she meant her sisters, and she opened her eyes, looking back at her sadly.  She didn't say anything, but Mary understood just the same.  Still whispering, she said in a broken voice, "I'm s-so sorry…"

            "Don't be," Bubbles said, fidgeting a little.  "I'm okay, really…"

            Mary reached over and put a hand on her shoulder, "Listen…if you feel like talking sometime, I'll listen…okay?"

            Bubbles sniffed and smiled, "Okay…"  Mary smiled back, and then both of them turned their attention back to Miss Keane.  Bubbles wasn't really paying attention to her, though…her thoughts were still elsewhere.

            As the lesson went on, a phone rang from around the corner.  Miss Keane stopped her lesson and said, "Excuse me, I'll be right back, children."  She walked over to where the phone was and picked it up, "Keane speaking."  After a brief pause, she said, "All right, I'll put her on, just a moment."

            She leaned back around the corner and said, "Bubbles?"  Bubbles looked up from her desk in surprise, and she continued, "You have a phone call…"

Curiously, Bubbles flew over, joining Miss Keane and picked up the receiver, saying, "Hello?"

            Professor Utonium's voice came from the line, "Bubbles…I need your help for a minute, it's important.  Can you fly over here right away?"

            "But I'm in the middle of class…"

            "It's all right, sweetie," the professor said.  "I'll explain everything to your teacher later."

            "Okay, I'll be right there!"  Bubbles quickly hung up the phone, and turned to the confused Miss Keane, telling her, "I hafta go, it's an emergency…I'll be back as soon as possible!"  Without waiting for a reply, she flew from the room quickly and out the front door.  Miss Keane watched her leave and thought, She's been through so much…and now she's the only one left to handle any crisis that arises…I hope she can handle it; it's so much responsibility for one little girl…

*          *            *

            Bubbles found the professor down in his lab…he was going through a pile of equipment.  "What is it, Professor?" she asked.

            "Bubbles, thank goodness you're here," the professor replied.  He set down the junk he was going through and said, "Can you use your x-ray vision and look around my lab?  I'm trying to find something, but I can't…"

            "Sure," she said, scratching her head, "but what am I looking for?"

            "Any flasks or beakers containing Chemical X," he said, motioning towards the supply he had on the table next to him.  "We're missing some, and I wanted to be absolutely positive that it's not just lost somewhere in the lab…"

            Bubbles blinked, "Missing?  What about the ones that Bl--…that the girls took?"

            "It's all accounted for," the professor explained, "yet we're still missing a decent amount."

            "Oh," she said.  She narrowed her eyes and gave the room a scan, carefully looking from one corner to the next.  Although she saw many flasks and beakers, none of them contained Chemical X.  "I don't see it, Professor…"

            "Hmm, something's not right," the professor said, scratching his chin.  "You see, I went out to get some groceries just after you left for school, but drove back after I was half-way to the market because I forgot my list.  When I came back, I noticed the front door was unlocked, and that my lab door was open…I thought maybe I had just forgotten to close and lock them in my haste, but then I noticed that some of the Chemical X was missing…"

            "You think someone stole it?" Bubbles asked.

            He nodded, "I'm certain of it, now."

            "But who would do that," she wondered, "and not steal anything else?"

            "I don't know, but Chemical X is dangerous in the wrong hands, so we need to find out soon," the professor told her.  "Who knows what they could be doing with it.  I guess we can't do anything right now though, you had probably better get back to school.  Listen…"  His voice softened, "…how are you holding up today?"

            "I think I'm all right," Bubbles answered, "But…all the other kids, they look like they want to know…and I don't really wanna tell them…"

            "You don't have to," the professor told her.  "Just be strong, okay?  Everything will work out fine in time, you'll see…"

*          *            *

            Mojo had gathered all the necessary items at his lair.  His plan was coming together, and he could hardly wait.  Emptying the contents of the three baggies together into a bowl, he set the baggies aside and picked up the final ingredient, sitting next to it on the table.  He lifted the flask of Chemical X and smiled…it had been so easy to obtain.  Easier than he'd expected, since the Professor left the front door to his house unlocked by accident.  It was child's play to get what he wanted from his lab.

            Now, it was all ready at last…he carefully added a few small drops of Chemical X into the bowl, and quickly retreated to a safe distance.  "Now, arise, my creations," he said aloud, "and live once again!"

            In a bright flash of light, the mixture exploded…Mojo shielded his eyes from the glare and watched carefully.  As the glow faded, his expression changed to one of triumph, as he saw what he had expected to see.  Hovering above the bowl were the Rowdyruff Boys…alive once again, and completely undamaged.

            What he didn't expect, however, was their expressions.  Instead of appearing in their confident pose like the did the first time, they were floating there quietly, their faces showing confusion.  Ah, Mojo thought, no doubt they are wondering how they managed to survive…

            The red one, which he remembered was named Brick, said, "Wha…what's going on here?"

            Scratching his head, the green one—Butch—said, "I dunno…where are we?"

            Mojo spoke up, striding forward, "You are in my hideout, boys.  I have restored you to life once again, so that you may enact your revenge on Powerpuff Bubbles for what the Powerpuff Girls did to you!"

            Boomer spoke up, the one in blue, "Who are you?"

            "What?" Mojo said, not understanding.  "I am Mojo Jojo…I am your creator!  You do not recognize your own creator when you see him?"

            Brick looked down with some surprise and said, "Hey…am I floating?  How am I doing that?!"

            "Me too," Boomer said, wavering unsteadily and managing to land on the ground.  Butch landed next to him, and Brick joined them as well.

            Mojo watched the three of them staring around the room with uncomprehending stares, and he lifted the edge of his helmet up slightly, scratching part of his exposed brain underneath.  Why are they acting this way? he thought.  It makes no sense to me that they should be doing this…unless…  "Boys, what are your names?" he asked quickly.

            All three of them gave him a blank stare, then glanced at each other, and shrugged.  Snapping his fingers, Mojo said, "Of course!  Amnesia!  Perhaps a latent side effect of your recreation…you have no memory of your past life, as this is a new life, and your recollections would not be carried over from one life to the next, but instead you would begin a new set of memories from which you have no access to your past experiences…"

            "So…" Butch said, "…so…who are we?"

            "You are named Butch," Mojo told him.  Pointing a finger at each of the other two, he said, "You are Brick, and you are Boomer.  Make note of these titles, for they are your identity and are the names by which you are called.  Together, you are known as the Rowdyruff Boys.  I, as previously stated, am called Mojo Jojo, and I am the one who created you…"

            "Ok, got it," Brick said.  "I think.  So…why did you create us?"

            "For one sole purpose, my friends…" Mojo said, spreading his arms out wide to emphasize his point, "…to help me take over the world!  And to defeat the ones known as the Powerpuff Girls!"

            "Who are they?" Boomer asked.

            "They were the trio once consisting of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup," Mojo said, "but by my own hand, Blossom lies dead, and by some happenstance which I am unaware of, Buttercup has perished as well.  So now, there is only one Powerpuff Girl left, and you three should have no difficulties in sending Bubbles to join her sisters…they defeated you once before, but now it is three against one!"

            "They…defeated us?" Brick whispered.

            Butch looked even more confused, "How did they do that?"

            "I had often theorized that myself," Mojo said, "and I believe I know the answer.  My substitution for the Chemical X that was required to bring you to life was unstable, and thus, you had a weakness, one that the girls did not have.  They were able to trigger it in you by bringing your worst fears to light…" He grumbled slightly and rolled his eyes…he still couldn't believe how pathetically easy of a flaw it was to exploit.  "…they kissed you."

            The Rowdyruff Boys stood silently.  Brick ran his hand over his cheek for a moment, and thought, Kissed me?  Eech…that's nasty…if a girl kissed me, I'd…I'd…  His thoughts trailed off, and he took a sudden sharp intake of breath.  Boomer and Butch both gave similar expressions.  Mojo peered quizzically at them, unaware of what they were thinking…or what they were experiencing…

            Memories flooded back into Brick's mind, as well as the other Rowdyruffs.  They remembered the girls hovering towards them, each of them planting a kiss on their cheek.  They remembered feeling their internal energies becoming unstable from it, and their screams as an almost electrical surge ran through their entire body, every cell overloading with its intensity.  They remembered how it felt, their own energies building to such a high level that their cells literally ripped each other apart in a massive explosion…

            The three of them screamed.  "Huurrgh!" Brick bellowed, grabbing his chest with both hands, stumbling forward…Boomer fell onto his back, twitching and shaking, trying to make the pain stop.

Butch landed on his knees, arching his back and holding his head tightly, "AarrGGH!! Make it STOP!!"

            Mojo was concerned…What is happening to them?! he wondered.  He took a step forward, but a moment later, their screams stopped, and they sat still where they were, breathing heavily, and tears rolling down their face.  "Boys…?" Mojo said hesitantly.

            "We…" Brick stammered, "We remember…e-everything…"

            Boomer gazed up at Mojo and added, "We were dead…weren't we?"

            Before Mojo could answer, Butch rose back to his feet, looking upset, "You did this to us…you brought us…back again…"  His rage was gradually building.

            Mojo took an involuntary step backwards and said, "Listen to me…the Powerpuff Girls, they did this to you, you must make them pay for your deaths…"

            "Why?" Butch shouted, ignoring him.  "Why did you bring us back to life?!  Why?!"  In a flash of green light, Butch flew directly at Mojo, slamming a fist into his chest and pushing him all the way back against the wall of his lair.  The wind was knocked out of him, and he felt like one or more of his ribs were cracked as well, but he didn't have time to focus on that.  Still with tears coming from his eyes, Butch started pounding him repeatedly, shouting at the top of his lungs, "WHYYYYYYYY?!"

            Mojo's helmet was shattered in the first sets of blows, and as Butch's attacks continued to pummel him mercilessly, his injuries grew worse and worse, until he was in as bad a condition as the girls put him in the week before.  But he didn't stop there, and just kept hitting, over and over.  Mojo didn't even have time to realize his error…by the time Butch's attacks had slowed, there wasn't much of him left.  Every bone in his body had been completely shattered, his face was almost completely unrecognizable, and his exposed brain was mashed to a bloodied pulp.

            Butch stood over what was left of Mojo, panting, tears still falling from his face.  Brick looked up at him, and said, "You…you guys remember too…don't you?  Being dead…"

            "Yes…" Boomer said, trying to pull himself together.  "All of it…"

            Butch looked back over his shoulder and said, "Yes…the pain…everything…it was terrible…"

            "This…goes beyond good and evil…" Brick said.  "This is…it's…we…we can't let this continue…does…every living thing suffer this way…when they die?"

            "They have to!" Butch exclaimed.  "I know it…"

            "Me too," Boomer added.  He wiped the tears from his face, his expression fading, "It has to stop.  What good is life, if it just brings about pain?"

            Brick hesitated, then nodded, "Yes…yes, you're right…life is suffering…"

            "And we have to put an end to it…" Butch agreed.  Boomer nodded…they knew what they all must do…all of them knew…and they also knew that they couldn't let anything—or anyone—stand in their way…