CHAPTER 6

            Bubbles crossed the skies above Townsville quickly, but not so quickly that she didn't notice all the people that were up and about at this time of night.  The emergency crews were still helping people.  Why? she wondered.  Why are they trying to protect life?  It's hopeless…they're all hopeless.  Life should be destroyed; life should never even have been created…  Her mind was awhirl with emotions and feelings that seemed to bombard her as surely as if she were being attacked by a physical foe.

            Get a hold of yourself, Bubbles! she told herself.  You've got to save everyone!

            You don't have to save anything…you don't have to do anything at all but watch…

            Never!  They're people!  They're living creatures, and they're suffering…they're dying…

            LET THEM DIE!

            Bubbles came to a stop and held the sides of her head.  NO, I'll never stop trying to save them!  They're the world; if I let them die…

            If you let them die, the world will forever be at peace…

I can't just stand by and do nothing!

Then do something…help put an end to life.  It's easy, so much easier than it is to create it.  Think of it…no more suffering…life is suffering, Bubbles…

            No, life is good!  LIFE IS GOOD!  And nothing will change that!  Nothing at all!

            Do you truly believe that?  Look at the people below…all you see down there is turmoil and pain.  You can relieve them of that pain, and you know it…

            Bubbles looked down at the people, and for a moment, she actually contemplated it.  It seemed so easy, to just fly down and help them.  To put an end to them with her bare hands.  To crush the life from them, removing it from their bodies like the poison it is…

            She felt herself starting to drift down for about a foot and froze in terror.  What am I doing?! she thought.  No!  Life has to survive!  There's too much good that it brings…love, joy, expression…I can't let them just disappear forever!  Life does contain suffering, but it makes up part of who we are, and we can't just remove all of life just to avoid it…it's not worth the loss!  Life is, always was, and always will be good!  And that's final!!

            When Bubbles came to this conclusion, it was as though a giant veil had been lifted from her eyes.  Life was indeed good, and it needed her help now more than ever.  She was filled with confidence…but also with fear, because if she didn't act soon, it wouldn't matter anyway.  Gathering her strength, she resumed her journey back to the warehouse, now completely sure of her goals.

            As she approached the warehouse, she wondered for a moment if she might be too late.  There was nothing there when she checked inside…not the boys, not the machine, not even any bowl or chemicals as they undoubtedly also had.  It was though they had just packed up and left again.

            She felt rising fear…the time it took to find their new location might be too late.  They could be anywhere in the city, and unless she got lucky, she knew there was no way to find them in time.   Not even flying as fast as her powers would allow…

            Power, she thought, slowly recalling something that one of the boys said.  Power…they said that they had to charge up the machine from city power.  It must be…the power plant, of course!  Without a moment to spare, she left the docks and flew off towards what she hoped would be the last place they would run to…

*          *            *

            The professor had driven down to the one of the research facilities that he often visited when he needed to borrow scientific equipment that he didn't already possess.  He found it difficult to get close, however, because emergency personnel had barricaded it off.  No doubt the Rowdyruffs had already visited.

            He obtained permission to enter from the police that were present at the site.  They were more than willing to let him through if it meant helping out, although they cautioned him that it wasn't a pretty sight inside.  The professor didn't mind…he had seen worse.

            Going inside, he headed straight for the lab that held the final piece of the weapon he carried with him.  There must be a magnetic guidance array in here somewhere, he thought…I remember seeing one before, when I was here last.  He traveled down the hallway and opened the door to the main lab.

            It was a mess…several scientists lay dead around the lab, some of whom the professor recognized and respected.  Stepping over them, he tried to ignore the images around him and focused on locating the hardware he needed.  They may be beyond help, he thought, but as long as there's still a chance to save everyone else, I have to take it.

            He located the equipment he sought for on one of the tables.  Picking the small metal disk that made up the guidance array, he set down the weapon and got to work fixing the component into place.  It was a modified launcher with a rotating stock of barrels, each holding a separate canister, resembling something used to launch tear gas.  It was now complete, and he slung the weapon back over his shoulder.

            The lights flickered a few times, and the professor blinked in confusion.  For a moment he thought that perhaps the electrical wiring was bad, but then he realized that the flicker wasn't consistent with that.  It was more the kind that came when there were fluctuations in the source of the power, maybe an enormous load being thrown somewhere else, or…

            The professor suddenly recalled the device that the Rowdyruffs were building.  Something with the capability of sending a wave capable of disrupting intracellular energy on a global scale wouldn't require a tremendous amount of power, but it would still require more than what one could obtain just by plugging it into the wall…they'd need a richer energy source.  They're probably charging it up…maybe even from the power plant directly, since it'd be the easiest way.  That also means…that also means they're almost ready to use it!

            He hastily made his way back out of the building.  Perhaps I can still get there in time, he thought…it's not far from here…I've got to hurry!  Once outside, he immediately got into his car and started driving towards the power plant.  Luckily, the roads were still mostly empty, since it was still the middle of the night.  He only hoped he would make it before it's too late…

*          *            *

            The generators hummed as they fed power to the device that had been attached to them.  Now completed, the enormous round sphere that made up the center of the device glowed softly from the energy it collected and steadily grew brighter with each passing minute.  Boomer watched it carefully…the power would build until it reached its maximum level, and then all it would take was a mere pull of the lever to accomplish their goal.  He waited, ready to activate it the moment this happened.

            Brick held both of his bloodstained swords out in front of him, in a ready position.  He would not let his guard falter, now that they were so close.  Just a while longer was all he needed to wait.  He glanced around coldly at the workers in the power plant—some had foolishly tried to stop them, and some had tried to escape to warn others—but either way, it didn't matter.  They were dead, one and all, just the same.

            "How much longer?" he asked, returning his gaze to watch the hole they had blasted through the wall in order to get in.

            Boomer checked the gauge, and reported, "It's coming slowly.  Maybe a few more minutes…"

            It was a few minutes that weren't about to be given to them, however, because at that instant, Bubbles crashed in through the roof unexpectedly.  Brick had been so sure that she would try to come in through the same entrance that they had used, that he had let down his guard.  As he turned towards the sound, Bubbles descended directly towards him…she clung to a piece of the roof she had just burst through, and threw it as hard as she could.  It slammed into brick, driving him into the ground.

            Boomer looked over in surprise and immediately started to draw his sword.  Bubbles' eyes darted around quickly, and she saw both Boomer and the device.  Gritting her teeth, she powered up her eyebeams, preparing to blast the device into a million pieces…

            "I wouldn't do that if I were you," Boomer called out.  Bubbles hesitated just long enough for him to continue.  "Right now, its power is building up and focusing, almost like a bomb…if you were to just blast it, the explosion would probably destroy all of Townsville.  Do you really want that?"

            Bubbles stopped before firing her eyebeams and let them power back down.  "No," she said vehemently, "but you're not gonna use that thing!  I'll just shut it down…"

            The rubble that had piled on top of Brick shifted, and Brick climbed out of it, saying, "You'll have to get by us first.  But you don't have any kind of weapons…how can you possibly expect to win?"

            "I've got all the weapons I need right here," Bubbles replied, shaking her fists.

            Boomer was about to move, and Brick waved one of his swords, "No, let me handle this.  I'll kill her myself."  He raised both of his swords and flew for her.  Bubbles' expression grew determined, not showing the slightest sign of fear…only anger.  She stood her ground as Brick approached, thinking, This is it!

            Brick took two swings at Bubbles, one with each of his swords.  Bubbles ducked under the first one and hovered back quickly to avoid the seconds.  Brick continued his advance, thrusting the point of one of the blades forward…Bubbles flew towards him, leaning to one side so that the blade passed harmlessly by her side, and landed a punch to his jaw.  Brick was knocked back a few feet from the blow, and Bubbles immediately flew forward again, on the offense.

            Brick swung both swords at the same time, coming in from the sides towards Bubbles, but she thrust her arms forward quickly, grabbing both of Brick's arms and stopping the swings.  Brick struggled to push the blades further…Bubbles held them back the best she could, but it was taking all of her effort.  She clenched her teeth, doing her best just to hold him at bay.

            Finally, she swung her body around, bringing both of her feet up, and kicked him in the chin.  He grunted from the blow, and his push slackened.  She didn't let go of his arms, though, and promptly swung him around in a circle, throwing him into the nearest wall.

            Brick recovered and shook it off angrily, then punched his hand into the wall he was up against, pulling a chunk of metal from it.  He hurled it at Bubbles as hard as he could as a surprise move.  It clipped her in the head, and although it didn't hurt her, she flinched, and that was all Brick needed.  He shot forward, clasping both of his swords flat against each other and swinging them both at once.

            Distracted by the chunk of metal, Bubbles spotted Brick approaching almost too late, and tried to dodge back, but the very tips of his blades grazed her cheek, cutting a pair of scratches across it.  Bubbles yelped and fell back, clasping her hand over the wound.  It's not bad, she told herself…just ignore it and keep fighting!

            Brick followed it up with another swing, but Bubbles dashed away quickly, towards the wall behind her.  When she hit it, she kicked off from it, changing directions back towards him instantly.  She charged him shoulder-first…he saw it coming and had just enough time to slip to one side, out of the way.  He tried to slash her as she passed, but she was moving too fast…she stuck out her foot, kicking the sword from his hand before it could hit her.

            Bubbles spun around to face him again, and as she did, she watched the sword she kicked away spin through the air.  With alarm, she noticed it was heading straight for the machine.  Oh no, she thought…what if it hits something wrong and causes it to explode?!  She cringed as the sword struck the machine…but thankfully, it lodged hilt-first in the side, the blade sticking out safely away from the energy core.  She gave a brief sigh of relief.

Brick gripped his remaining sword with both hands and said, "You're fast, but you can't hurt me.  And you're still unarmed.  Face it, Bubbles…you will die, and there's no way you can stop us…"

            "But I can…" came a voice.  Everyone, including Boomer, looked over at the sound of the new voice.  Professor Utonium had just entered the generator room from the set of doors down below.  He was holding his weapon, aimed directly at Brick, and Bubbles backed a further distance away from him just in case.

            Brick frowned and was about to fire his eyebeams at him, when the professor fired.  A small metallic canister with four claw-like arms shot out of the weapon, and it was heading straight for Brick.  He made a *hmmph* sound, and easily moved aside before the canister was even halfway to him.

He was about to make a comment about relying on a weapon that fired so slowly, when the canister did an odd thing: it changed directions, heading for his new position.  This took him by surprise…he tried to duck, but the canister ended up striking him in the forehead.  It immediately latched itself on with the claws, and Brick tensed up.  He didn't move a muscle, but just hovered there, frozen.

            While the others stared, surprised, the professor shouted, "I injected him with Sedative X…hurry, Bubbles, while he's paralyzed!"  Bubbles took the cue and flew over to Brick…Boomer started to fly up as well, but stopped when he realized that she was going to make it there long before he did anyway.  Prying the sword from Brick's hands, Bubbles gave him a quick slash to the neck with it.  His head and body fell from the air, landing on the ground far below.

            The professor nodded grimly and swung the weapon around, facing it towards the last remaining Rowdyruff.  Boomer grasped his sword defensively as the barrels on the professor's weapon rotated to the next slot, loading another canister into place.  He launched the guided projectile towards him, but as it approached, Boomer expertly swung his sword, slashing it in two out of the air.

            Quickly, the professor started firing more canisters, one after another.  Boomer moved quickly from side to side, slashing each one as it approached…not a single one got close enough to him to strike.  "Bubbles!" the professor called.  "This isn't going to work…you'd better attack him!"

            "Right!" Bubbles called out, diving towards Boomer with her sword at the ready.  He raised his own sword up to block…the two blades struck each other, giving off a brief flash of blue sparks as they struck.  The two immediately began swinging blow after blow at each other, their blades clashing on each attack.  The sparks continued to fly from the blades, illuminating the metal surroundings in flickers of blue light.

            Boomer was quicker than she was, though…his swings kept coming faster and faster, until Bubbles had to stop making her own swings and focused just on defending herself against the barrage of attacks.  She flew further back and higher to gain some distance, but he didn't let up.

            She finally thought she saw an opening, and took it, thrusting her sword forward at his chest.  He leaned to one side, the blade passing near his head but missing, and swung upward with his own sword…his swing struck Bubbles on the arm, drawing blood.  She cried out, and her sword fell out of her grasp, falling towards the ground below, as she clutched the wound in pain.

Boomer held the sword out, pointing it at her throat, and Bubbles froze in fear.  The professor stood by helplessly…his weapon was out of ammunition, and he could do nothing but watch.  "Too bad," Boomer said.  "Now, you won't be alive to witness the death of the world…"

Before Bubbles could protest, a humming sound came from the device below.  Boomer looked out of the corner of his eye at it, and added, "…or maybe you will.  The device is at full power now…a simple pull of the lever, and life will be forever terminated.  Farewell…"  He backed up a foot or so, then turned and started flying towards the device.

Bubbles knew that if he reached it, it would mean the end of everything.  She took off after him, although she had no idea what she could do.  If only I still had my sword, she thought furiously, but I don't have time to get it!  No…no!  I can't let him reach it!  I've got to do something!  She fired a blast from her eyebeams…they struck him in the back, but Boomer clenched his teeth, bearing the brunt of the blast, unfazed.  His full focus was on reaching the device.

            "NO!" Bubbles screamed, and all seemed lost…then she spotted Brick's other sword, the one she had knocked from his hand, still lodged hilt-first into the machine.  This was her one chance…she saw an opportunity to end it, but she also knew what would happen to her.  She didn't care, though…this was far more important than anything else.  Summoning up the last of her courage, she dashed forward as fast as she possibly could, with barely a second to spare.

            Yelling at the top of her lungs, "YAAAAAAAAAAAA!!", she reached Boomer, slamming into his back and grabbing hold, pushing him towards the device faster.  He didn't have time to struggle…in an instant, they reached the sword, and in the next, there was a loud *chlunk* as Boomer was impaled upon it…but since she was right behind him, so was Bubbles.  The sword stuck straight through Boomer's chest, emerging out from Bubbles' back…both of them cried out in pain from the fatal wound…

            "Bubbles!" the professor shouted, dropping his empty weapon and making his way over as fast as he could.  Bubbles struggled to free herself from the sword but couldn't.  The professor reached her and carefully slid her off from the end…Bubbles gave another groan of pain when he did this, and he set her down carefully on the ground, a pool of blood slowly building around her from her back.  Boomer, in the meantime, gave a few final kicks, then fell limp.

            Bubbles gasped for air, looking up at the professor, "Is…is he…"

            "Yes, sweetie," he told her, fighting to keep his tears under control.  "You saved us all.  You did it…"

            Bubbles managed a smile, and said, "Good…Professor, I-I…"

            "Don't worry, I'll…"  The professor's voice faltered a little.  "I'll…get you to a doctor…and…and…"

            "S'ok, Professor…" she whispered, her smile actually growing a little wider, "Everyone's safe at last…everyone's…s-safe…"  Her voice faded until he couldn't hear it anymore.  She took a final breath, and no further breaths came…the Professor knew it was over, and gently closed her eyes.  Barely a few seconds later, her body glowed brightly, and broke down into its base ingredients; sugar, spice, and everything nice.

            Wiping a tear from his eye, he looked back at the machine.  Yes, he thought.  You saved us, Bubbles…I only wish you didn't have to die also.  You were strong throughout all of this, and you deserved to live, probably more than any of us…a heart so pure as to make a sacrifice to save the rest of the world…

            He looked to the side and noticed that the Rowdyruffs had brought everything with them here from their hideout…even the chemicals and equipment.  On top of a smaller bank of machines, he saw the mixing bowl, and the unmistakable vials of Chemical X next to it.  He looked back down at Bubbles' components again.

            No, I won't let her die, he thought.  She was able to see the good in life…I can bring her back safely!  He quickly gathered up her components and walked over to the machine that the chemicals were sitting on.  He put them carefully into the bowl and mixed them together.  As he did, he picked up the vial of Chemical X, examining it carefully.  It's amazing, he thought, that this chemical was not only the cause of all this trouble, but also its salvation.  If only Mojo hadn't killed Blossom, this might have never happened…if only he hadn't resurrected the Rowdyruff Boys from their ingred—…

            He suddenly trailed off, just as he was beginning to tilt the contents of the vial towards the bowl.  Wait a minute…Rowdyruff ingredients…Boomer should have broken down by now, but…he hasn't…so that means…  He turned suddenly to look at the device where Boomer was impaled.  He was still on the sword, but he was moving…one hand reached slowly and weakly towards the lever, tugging on it.

The professor dropped the vial, which crashed into the bowl, and bolted for the device…too late.  The switch was pulled, and instantly, a bubble-like wave blasted forth from it.  Like a tremor, the foundations of the building were shaken, and as the wave passed through the professor, he didn't even have time to cry out…he just collapsed on the spot.  Boomer had also stopped moving, now that the wave had passed through him as well.  With his intracellular energy disrupted, his cells even lacked the power to break back down into their base elements.

            Outside the power plant, the wave spread outward, building in speed until it was crossing miles in a mere second.  Every living thing it touched fell lifeless, be it plant, or animal, or even single-celled life.  People all over never even knew what hit them…they just crumpled to the ground where they stood.  But the tremors from the wave also kicked in…buildings collapsed, and other smaller structures were shaken to pieces, and even many electrical devices were shorted out by the sheer intensity of the energy.  In less than a minute, the wave had crossed the entire globe, and finally faded out.  And in that moment, a silence seemed to hang in the air, a silence unlike anything heard on Earth before…a silence that was still unheard, as no one was left to do so…

*          *            *

            The silence outside was broken by an explosion…the Chemical X had leaked from the vial in the bowl and reacted with Bubbles' ingredients, and in the next moment, she was reborn once again.  She hovered above the bowl, blinking and trying to remember who she was, or where she was.

It didn't take long, only a few seconds.  She cringed as the memory of being impaled upon the sword returned to her, as did her other memories before and after that.  Still, she remembered the conclusions about life she had reached, and was happy it had been returned to her, instead of despairing at the futility of life as she had felt before.

            The professor must have brought me back, she thought.  Great!  But where…is he…  Her thoughts trailed off as she suddenly saw him, and she gasped.  He was lying crumpled up on the ground, and wasn't moving.  In a flash of light, she darted to his side and shook him gently, then with more force, "Professor?  Professor?!"

            There was no response.  She rolled him over onto his back, and saw the cold, lifeless expression on his, locked in an expression of shock.  Tears filled her eyes, and she said, "N-no!  No, what happened?!"  She glanced around feverishly, trying to find what the source of his death might have been, and her eyes fell on the machine…Boomer was still impaled up on the sword, and his hand was still grasping the lever…

            She fell silent in utter disbelief, for what was probably a few minutes.  She finally spoke, in a small voice, "No…he didn't…dear god, no…"  Without another word, she flew up from the ground and through the hole in the roof of the power plant that she had made, to get a better look at the outside.

            The power lines coming from the plant had been shaken down, and as a result, there were no lights visible in Townsville.  If it weren't for the light of the full moon above, she wouldn't have been able to see much of anything.  But what she did see filled her with dread…Townsville was barely a ghost of itself.  Skyscrapers were knocked over, buildings were reduced to rubble, and worse, she saw no movement, no signs of life anywhere…

            "No…" she said, not wanting to believe it.  She flew into the city, as fast as she could…as she flew over the streets, she could see scattered people lying on the ground, in a similar state as the professor had been.  She saw birds that had fallen from trees…stray cats and dogs in alleys…all of them were dead, every living thing.

            As Bubbles stopped above the center of the city, trembling, the horror of what had happened fully dawned on her, and she shrieked, "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"  In a frenzy, she dashed from building to building, looking for people, hoping that maybe she was wrong, but everything she saw only confirmed the awful truth.  "No!" she cried, continuing her search, even though she knew it was hopeless, "No no no no!  Oh god, oh god!!  Not everyone!  Please, not everyone!!"

Her search was fruitless…she finally ended up in Townsville Park, descending wearily and landing on the ground, falling to her knees.  She grasped clumps of grass from the ground lifting it up.  Even the grass felt cold in her hands, devoid of life.  As she looked at the grass, tears filled her eyes again.

            She released it, and it drifted down, back to the earth, joined a moment later by her falling tears.  "No…no…no…" she repeated, over and over like a mantra until she finally fell face-first into the ground, continuing to weep.  Th-they're all dead, she thought.  I'm the…the o-only one left alive…billions of people…trillions of animals…everything…g-gone…

            Bubbles didn't know what to do.  What could she do?  All of her efforts had been in vain…there was nothing left for her now.  Nothing, except to live out the rest of her life alone…more alone than anyone could possibly be.  No, I can't, she thought.  There's no reason for it…no purpose…what good can I do?  I should just end it now.  They've won anyway…life is destroyed.  What's one more?  What good can one life do?

            She lifted up her head, eyes still filled with tears, and something caught her eye in the moonlight.  She thought at first that it was nothing—just a row of dead flowers planted in the park nearby—but then she saw something unusual.  She wiped the tears from her eyes and flew over to get a closer look.

            Amongst the dead, droopy flowers in the flowerbed was a single flower.  It was in bloom, and its petals and leaves were still held high.  She didn't know what kind of flower it was, but its petals were a brilliant white.  She carefully reached down and touched it…the feel of it was different, and she knew that in some way, somehow, it was alive.

            Maybe it was immune, she thought, or maybe something else…but it's alive!  Despite all the death that surrounded her, she smiled, tears of joy falling from her eyes.  It was just one flower, but it was something else alive.  Something that could grow and prosper.  Perhaps one day, in hundreds of years, it could grown and evolve, and spread across the rest of the world…bring life back to the planet once again.

            This small, delicate white flower was like a ray of hope.  Bubbles knew what to do, now.  If this flower was life's last chance, then it was up to her to make sure it survived.  She needed to nurture it, protect it from the elements, and see that it would flourish.  It wasn't much, but it gave her a sense of purpose.

            Bubbles sat down in front of the flower.  She was its new guardian now.  She said aloud, "It's just you and me now.  Time for us to save the world…"  She smiled…life would be a difficult and lonely journey from this point forth, but at least it would prevail…

THE END