It's a sad fact in the life of superheroes that vacations come rarely and last briefly. When chances were good that if you spent a weekend away from home you'd come back to find that a smoking crater ringed with a few crumbling buildings was all that remained of your city, it didn't take long to decide that it just wasn't a risk worth taking.

In twelve long years of crime-fighting the Powerpuff Girls had never gotten to take a real vacation. That wasn't to say that they never got a chance to relax, but those chances were always spent on things like day trips to the nearby lake or a night spent camping in the woods as far away from Fuzzy Lumpkin's territory as they could get without leaving the treeline; always short, always in the area immediately around the city, always ready to fly straight back to Townsville the second the Mayor got in touch to let them know disaster had struck the city for the umpteen-billionth time.

It wasn't as though it really bothered them. It was all they'd ever known. Sure, they might sigh and daydream a little when their friends came back from their summer vacations bursting with stories about all the things they'd seen and done, but they'd always get over it quickly and happily go on with their day. In some ways they were better off than their friends anyway; even if they never got to spend a full week at Disneyland, they could fly out for a few hours of fun whenever it seemed like it would be safe to leave the city for just that short a time. If things had gone on that way forever they'd never really have felt bad about it.

But that didn't mean that they didn't immediately jump on the chance to have a real vacation the first time it was possible.

It was all thanks to E-Male. Just a few months before summer began he moved into Townsville's closest neighboring city, although they hadn't realized it until his feats of daring-do became renowned enough in his new home for news of them to spread all the way to the girls' local news. With a new superhero nearby--and a hero whose incredible speed would make getting to Townsville in a pinch no problem for him at all besides--suddenly all kinds of options opened themselves up to them.

Being good, responsible superheroes they didn't take advantage of this right away, of course. There were many things that needed to be taken care of first. Letting E-Male actually know about what they wanted and getting him to agree with it (with a few pointed reminders that he and the rest of the AWSM still owed them big time after they'd saved their butts twelve years before) so that they could come up with a schedule for when he could take over during their summer break well ahead of time, for one. Then there was providing him with a spare hotline phone so the Mayor could contact him, picking a place they all wanted to go, and the very important but almost forgotten step of letting the Professor know about their plans.

Bubbles wanted to go see the wild ponies of Assateague. Blossom argued for Washington DC, extolling the virtues of the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, and maintaining that since they'd spent their lives upholding the law they should see the spot where it was made. Buttercup insisted that the most awesome thing they could possibly do would be going on a whitewater rafting trip, the toughest one they could find, but the Professor quickly shut that idea down with a reminder that while they didn't need to worry about turning into a giant walking bruise from being banged around by rapids he wasn't so lucky.

For the amount of time they spent arguing over it the place they ended up going wasn't really that big a deal; it was only a nice beach on the ocean not very far from Townsville. But they'd rented a cabin there for a whole week, a week of sun and sand and never once being interrupted by a call saying that someone from Monster Island was trashing the business district, or that the grocery store nearest to the Mayor's house was out of his favorite kind of pickles and he needed them to pop across town to find him a jar.

So of course on their first morning there they were greeted by a giant robot barreling towards their cabin as soon as they stepped out the door after breakfast.

"Mojo," the three girls groaned in chorus, immediately recognizing the distinctive signs of his handiwork in the simianesque design and purple detailing.

Blossom looked down at the swimsuit she was wearing and sighed. "Come on, girls. The ocean will have to wait." They were in the air and flying towards the robot in a shot. When they were close enough to be heard she called out, "Seriously, Mojo? I thought you gave up on the robots years ago when you finally realized we'd always be able to beat them!"

A panel slid open on the robots 'face', revealing a speaker hidden beneath it and letting the sound of evil laughter clearly fill the air. "Foolish Powerpuff Girls, that is exactly what I, Mojo Jojo, wanted you to think! All this time you've thought 'Ah, we don't need to worry about robots from Mojo anymore, just lasers, and death rays, and other weapons of incredible destruction that he was able to invent with his incredible intellect' while all along I was biding my time, waiting for you girls to become complacent while I created my more powerful robot ever! A robot so perfect that even you Powerpuff Girls would be helpless against it, because with so many years of work put into it it couldn't be anything less than extremely powerful, not moderately powerful or somewhat powerful like those robots which only had weeks or months of development instead of years, but extremely--"

"Oh, shut up and stop ruining our trip already!" Buttercup cut in, breaking formation to shoot forward and attack when she got sick of listening to him ramble.

There were five large guns of some type attached to the weapon; one attached to each hand, one at each shoulder, and on sticking out of the top of its head. Each tracked her movement as she came closer, and she kept a close eye on all of them as close to at once as she could while she got closer. She was so focused on them that she didn't even notice another panel, small and unobtrusive in the center of its chest, slide open. In the shadows behind it only the tip of the muzzle of a gun could be seen, so small and plain compared to Mojo's usual flashy ray guns that even if she'd noticed it Buttercup would probably have scoffed at the idea that such a simple-looking thing could hurt her.

But when it fired the discharge was massive. Buttercup's entire body was engulfed in a bright violet light and she was blasted away from the robot, shooting out over the ocean until she was just a speck in the distance.

Again the sound of Mojo's laughter rang out from the speaker. "At last. Now you see the might of my greatest invention, The Powerpuff We--"

Bubble's foot slammed into the head of the robot before he could get any further, taking advantage of his momentary distraction to get her attack in. "Hey!" she yelled, "Don't hurt my sister when she's supposed to be on vacation!"

"Bubbles, watch out, ten-o'-clock!" Blossom called out to her as she joined the fight, nodding towards another panel which had just slipped open.

For a so-called 'most powerful robot ever' it didn't take them long to take down Mojo's newest creation between the two of them. Now that they knew what to watch for it wasn't hard to keep an eye out for the movement of new guns being revealed. Apparently they were the only real weapons the robot had; the big obvious blasters never shot once, but the smaller ones were hidden all over its frame. If Buttercup hadn't flown ahead he might actually have managed to get all of them at least once by using three different guns in that first sneak attack. But the problem with a sneak attack was that once the target became aware of it it lost most of its effectiveness.

"Curses!" Mojo shouted as the robot crumbled around him.

Blossom and Bubbles laughed and high-fived, ignoring the robot's cockpit and the monkey within it for the moment as it vanished under crumbling metal. "Some 'perfect' robot," Blossom gloated happily. "We've had tougher fights against ones he made when we were five! I bet Buttercup won't even be too disappointed that she missed out on the fight when it was that easy."

"Um," Bubbles said, looking out over the ocean with a small frown, "how far did she go anyway? Shouldn't she be back by now?"

Blossom frowned and tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Well, this is a strange place and we haven't had enough time to learn the area yet. Maybe she's having trouble finding the right stretch of beach?" She drifted down towards the ground as pieces of the broken robot began to shift from the spots they'd settled in, indicating that Mojo was starting to dig his way out of the wreckage. "I'm sure she'll be back before we're done getting Mojo locked up."

Bubbles looked out over the ocean one more time, then smiled and started to follow Blossom down. "You've gotta be right. I mean, it's Buttercup; no way Mojo could ever really hurt her!"

o 0 O 0 o

She'd never really known what people were talking about when they warned about strong currents. It was water, water wasn't even hard for normal people to move quickly through. As a girl who could probably swim through solid concrete if she put a little effort into it, and was someplace where nobody would mind her tearing up their road, any difficulty water might have posed was wiped out for her.

She understood now. The ocean held her tightly and tore her forward no matter what she tried to do. It shouldn't have been able to, she was sure of it, but somehow it didn't seem to matter.

She was a Powerpuff Girl! And it was just a little water!

But every time she tried to fly out of it a wave would close over her head before she'd lifted more than an inch or two into the air and force her back down, no matter how hard she tried to force her body to just pass through it.

She was Buttercup! She was too tough to be forced anywhere against her will!

But when she tried to use her superstrength to swim against the current she didn't seem to get anywhere at all. Even if it felt like she was moving forward, when she turned her head and looked towards the shore she could see that she was still being swept in the opposite direction, and with every second she had less energy to keep trying.

She could survive in space! She shouldn't have any problem doing the same underwater, should she?

But when she changed her tack and tried swimming downward instead--sure that if she could just reach the ocean floor she be able to walk along it to get back to the shore, or at least out of the current--her eyes stung so badly from the salt water all around that she needed to close them tightly and couldn't see where she was going, and her lungs began to burn from lack of oxygen before she even brushed the bottom. She forced herself to keep going until she hit it, managing to twist around and stand unsteadily on her feet, but before she'd taken more than two wobbly steps in what she hoped was the right direction she could no longer hold back the urge to gasp for air. Immediately she began to choke at the water flooding into her mouth and she started scrambling to get back to the surface, losing almost all control of herself as her body was overwhelmed by the type of mad panic she'd rarely ever felt in her life.

When she finally reached the surface the current had pulled her into a rocky stretch of water, but the mindless instincts which were currently controlling her were too busy trying to somehow manage to gasp for air and vomit up ocean water at once to spare any attention to avoiding the stones as her body shot towards them. Before she was even fully aware of what was happening she'd slammed into the huge rocks with just their tips sticking out of the water with her arm, her hip, then once, twice, with her head.

It shouldn't hurt so much! She was...

She was...


And then there was no thought left in her.