By: Mark J. Hadley

* * *

Part 9: "Savior"

The sun rose in the sky, and Bubbles opened her eyes slowly. She got up from her bed and stretched, then got dressed, putting on a tank top and gray sweat pants. She left the greenhouse and headed for the Great Meadow, as she liked to call it, over the hills outside Townsville. It was time for the flowers' daily checkup, although she knew that, just as they had been for all this time, they would be perfectly fine. They are always so perfect, Bubbles thought. But still, I must be sure that everything is just right.

She reached the edge of the meadow and landed, smiling as she gazed out across it. For as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but a seemingly endless field of flowers. All of them were in their eternal bloom, their leaves and petals held high, just as Bulba's had been when she first saw it. The field was and always would be one of the most beautiful things Bubbles had ever seen.

Flying low across the field, she looked for any sign of problems with any of them. It was a long task, but after a while, she completed it. As usual, there were no problems. This was always amazing to her. After weaning them off of her care slowly, she had stopped directly taking care of them for a year now, and they were still flourishing just the same. She had made them self-sufficient, and they probably evolved in the process. Seeing the fruits of her labor filled her with happiness every time.

Of course, it had been a long time. Twenty years since the incident…during that time, Bubbles worked diligently on another labor as well: the alteration of the Time Portal. She had completed her studies, and had finally learned enough that she could start to redesign the portal. Although this had proven to be even more difficult than she had originally thought, she was confident that she could complete it.

This was her next task for today, so she headed back towards the greenhouse to get to work, giving the meadow a final glance over her shoulder as she went. It was so beautiful, like a great testament to the strength of life, and something that still brought her great joy.

* * *

It had taken forever, but she had found the flaw in the Time Portal's design. The professor had been preoccupied with creating a more or less stable gateway between time periods that he failed to take other aspects of time travel into account. A paradox, such that would be created by going back and making any kind of change, is something that had to be avoided at all costs, as it could cause irreparable harm. However, the universe seemed to have a built-in system to protect itself.

A timeline goes where its actions lead themselves. If one of those actions is the creation and use of a time machine, it is nonetheless part of the timeline still. Going back in time and making 'changes' results in no change at all…since such a change would result in a new timeline, what actually occurs is that the new timeline is still the old. In order for any future changes to still occur, the past will have to have remained the same; therefore, any changes that would be made in the future have already happened in the past.

This gives the appearance to the ones in the future that the future cannot be changed, and technically, it can't. The risk of paradox (in this case, the origin of the change being changed as well) prevents it, almost as though the universe had some built-in safety to keep it from happening. The effect of the changes happen first, then the changes themselves come second. The key to making an actual change to the future is to make sure that no paradox occurs, something that proved to be nearly impossible.

Bubbles had gotten quite knowledgeable and imaginative, and so she came up with a solution. The idea was not to open a portal to the past, but rather, to cause a displacement. By physically removing herself from her own timeline and doing a sort of 'cut and paste' into the past, she would become a permanent part of that new timeline. Her own origin wouldn't matter anymore, since for all intents and purposes, wherever she placed herself in the new timeline would be her new origin point, as though she just came into being at that point. Thus, she could make changes safely, and the risk of paradox becomes completely null.

This required a major overhaul to the Time Portal. Previously, it acted as a mere conduit to the past, but now, it needed to do much more. Her modifications were nearly complete, though. Now, the portal window was widened, and was horizontal instead of vertical. She added a small platform beneath it that she would be able to stand on, such that the ring of the window surrounded her. Theoretically, it would project an energy field around her and displace all the matter within it to the new point on the timeline.

She also had to add in a ton of redundancy checks for safety. If the displacement didn't work, she'd effectively be separating herself from her own origin, which could cause her to cease to exist, as a worst-case scenario. These safety systems prevented that. Another problem was the fact that displacement required even more power than the portal used before. Thanks to the alien energy source, that still wouldn't be a problem, but a new problem arose because of it. Due to the intense field of energy, it could cause unpredictable effects during displacement, and no amount of safety systems in the world could hope to cover them all.

Thus, there would still be a risk involved, but Bubbles didn't care. Succeed or fail, she would never return to this time again, but even if she failed, the world she left behind would still prosper. Life was growing again, and it wouldn't be long before the flowers would cover the entire planet, at the rate they were going. She was confident that they wouldn't need her anymore. Her solitary vigil had ended, and it was time for her to move on…

* * *

Bubbles made a few final adjustments to the Time Displacement device. It powered up, and she was able to set the coordinates. There would unfortunately be no way to test its operation beforehand, because if she sent anything to the past, no matter how small, it could disrupt the future, perhaps in ways worse than it was now. The only thing she could do was run a few final tests from this end.

"Temporal scanners are active," she said. "Time-space coordinates set. Power levels at maximum. It would appear that everything is working according to plan so far." She looked over at the single inhabitant left in the greenhouse, Bulba, and said, "I agree, the temporal drift margin should be set to as minimum level as possible, but the power it will require…I want to make sure I arrive in one piece, you know. But I can adjust it a few milliseconds anyway."

She made another adjustment, then stepped back to do one last status check. "Everything is set," she declared. "I can go whenever I'm ready now." She took a deep breath and turned back to face Bulba, "Are you sure you don't want to come with me? If I succeed in landing in the past, this future will be erased…at least if you're with me, you'll still exist…"

After a pause, she smiled and nodded, "I guess you're right. You were a part of Blossom, anyway. Don't worry…I'll see to it that you stay that way, for as long as possible, all right?" She waited, then laughed, "How true…Bulba, you don't know how much I can't wait to see them again…to save their lives, and bring everything back to normal…"

She had thought about something else…since nothing she did in the past would endanger her future, that meant she would be able to see herself, the Bubbles of the past, like she was a completely different person. She wondered if it would be possible that they could be friends…especially since she was so different now than she used to be.

Kneeling down next to the flower, she said softly, "Bulba…listen…you've been the greatest thing to happen to me throughout all of this. I…I don't know what I would have done without you. You gave my life meaning and purpose for so long, it's…it's so hard to say goodbye…" Her eyes started to shed tears as she continued, "I…I want to say that…whatever happens, you'll always have a special place in my heart…and that I'll never forget you, as long as I live…"

Bubbles brushed her hand across the flower's petals gently, straightening them out for the last time. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she stood up and said, "Goodbye, Bulba…" She turned and walked towards the Time Displacement device, picking up the only other thing she was bringing with her: a written account of everything that had happened in this timeline. Tucking that away, she stepped onto the platform and lowered the ring around her.

She looked at Bulba one more time, and managed a smile, waving, too overcome to say anything else. Finally, with a flip of a switch, she activated the machine. A shimmering field of energy surrounded her, pulsing with great power, until finally it vanished, along with Bubbles, into the past…

* * *

The shock was unexpected. The intense energy from the transfer must be having an effect, as I thought, Bubbles guessed. Another shock struck her, and she clenched her teeth. It wasn't really painful, just not expected. She focused on watching the transfer instead…the energy field around her carried her through the fifth dimension, but the trip was rocky, with sparks of electricity surrounding her.

I hope everything comes out all right, she thought. I didn't expect it to be this rocky. Too much interference from the energy! What if I end up off-course? I could show up far too early…or maybe too late…or in the wrong place…

She spotted the destination ahead, but then a sudden surge of power ripped through the field. She tensed up as it passed through her, and passed out from its intensity…

* * *

A strong thud woke her up again. As she opened her eyes and looked around, she realized she was in the center of a small crater on the ground. Judging from its depth, she had been pretty high up, wherever the displacement had dropped her. So it was off in space, she thought, but hopefully not in time. This should still be a whole week before Mojo used his Robo-Jojo.

Picking herself up out of the crater, she saw that she was on the outskirts of Townsville, ironically not far from where she had used the Time Portal once before. She slowly felt herself to be sure that she was still there, and whispered, "Wow…it…it worked…I'm actually here! It worked!"

She was excited, and started to fly, but didn't get very far before she hit the ground. As she recovered, she thought, The surge of energy that hit me must have temporarily shorted out my powers. Ah, but I feel them coming back. I'll be okay pretty soon. She glanced up at the sky and noticed that it was dawn. The sun rose over the horizon, rays of light shining across the intact Townsville. She took a deep breath of the morning air, and smiled again.

"Well," she said, starting to walk towards the city, "it's time to pay Mojo a visit…"

* * *

About an hour had passed. She made her way further into the city, and her strength was almost fully returned. She still didn't want to fly until it was entirely back, so that she'll reach her full strength faster. Only about a mile from Townsville park, it had entirely come back to her, and it was time to hurry the rest of the way.

She took off towards the park, making a beeline for Mojo's observatory. It's still intact, she though, spotting it. That's good, it means I showed up before all the trouble like I expected. So far so good…now to find Mojo! Without so much as a formality, she burst right through the roof and landed on the ground inside, calling out, "Mojo! Are you here?"

There was no answer. She tried to remember if Mojo had been in prison or anything during the week before all the troubles began…it was so long ago, she had forgotten. She whispered, "Well, I know he'll be back this way, so maybe I should just sit and wait…but actually, while I'm here…"

She flew quickly over to a file cabinet and thumbed through it. They contained all kinds of different plans for weaponry designed to destroy the Powerpuff Girls. She passed over plan after plan, until she finally found the one she was looking for. It had a note attached to it, and reading over it, there was no question. This was the one.

"Neutrino Intracellular Neutralization Wave Emitter," she read aloud. "That's it…well, guess what, Mr. Mojo? Not this time." She held the plans up, and with a quick blast from her eyebeams, they were incinerated. She smiled confidently…now, no matter what else happened, the people of the world would be safe, at least from this device. Now she just had to make sure that nothing else would happen to them.

She turned to start walking back to the center of the observatory, when something caught her eye on a table. A set of plans were already unrolled on the table, plans for the Robo-Jojo. Hmm, that's odd, she thought. How long ago in the past did he make these plans? Had he been sitting on them for a whole week? I wonder what made him wait so long before he built it…that's not like him…I would have expe--…

Bubbles gasped, staring in wide-eyed shock at the blueprints. There, she spotted an addition onto the plans: sawblade launchers, with 'Duranium Sawblades' scribbled next to it. "But…" Bubbles said. "But that means…I've been here already…on that one trip…and…"

She looked around feverishly for a clock or something. She spotted one above the telescope that listed both the time and the date, and paled when she read it. No…no, I'm a whole week off! It's…today! Mojo's probably over there right now! She stared at the time and tried to remember… Wait, he probably just got there, I still have time to stop him! Yes, but I have to hurry! Without wasting another moment, she flew right out through the side of the observatory, flying as fast as she could back for home. Hang on! Oh please…let me make it in time…don't let Blossom die again, please!!

Her heart jumped into her throat as she saw, even from a distance, that the Robo-Jojo was already by their house. It's back was to her, but she could see her past self tugging on one of its arms…she couldn't see the other arm from this angle. Listening in with her ultrasonic hearing, she heard Buttercup's voice calling out, "Hang on, Red!"

Oh no, Bubbles thought furiously. Oh no!! I've got to get there faster! There are only seconds left! She put all of her energy into her speed, moving faster than ever as she approached the house quicker than ever. Before she could get close enough to use her eyebeams, though, she heard Mojo saying, "Farewell, Blossom!" and the unmistakable sound of a sawblade being launched…

Bubbles' mind screamed, NOO!!! She didn't slow her charge down at all…everything seemed to move in slow motion as she passed the side of the Robo-Jojo and saw the blade already halfway towards the arm. It held a struggling Blossom, who was now screaming at the top of her lungs. She was travelling faster than the blade, but not by much…it was going to be close, but there was only one way to stop it…

Screaming, Bubbles dove between Blossom and the blade, trying to knock it away. The blade ripped across her chest and up across her neck, from the angle she had been flying, and she fell out of the air with a cry. The blade was nudged just enough so that it barely missed Blossom, actually trimming a few loose strands of hair from the side of her head.

Buttercup and the Bubbles of the past both stared in shock at the new arrival, and Blossom looked down shakily as well. Bubbles lay on the ground far below, a small pool of blood forming around her. Mojo was taken by surprise as well, and in his distraction, the Robo-Jojo's grip loosened ever so slightly from around Blossom. That gave her enough leeway to move, and she broke free, tearing the claw off from the robot's wrist.

"No! I was so close!" Mojo shouted, but before he could say anything else, he was attacked from three sides by the Powerpuff Girls, who were punching stronger than before, smashing the robot apart easily and blasting Mojo clear from the cockpit. He struck the ground and was knocked cold. The robot tottered, then fell over, exploding.

The girls gave Mojo a quick glance to make sure he was unconscious, then the three of them slowly approached Bubbles. Professor Utonium, watching from the door of the house, came out as well. Blossom rolled her over on to her back…the wound was awfully deep, and Bubbles strained to take in each breath.

"Who…are you?" Blossom asked.

"I…I…" Bubbles gasped, having difficulty managing a response. They probably don't recognize me…I'm so much older…

"Blossom," Buttercup remarked, pointing. "Look at her eyes…is that…?"

Blossom gasped, "…Bubbles? But…" She glanced over at the past Bubbles, then back down at her.

Despite how bad she looked, Bubbles was smiling. She softly said, "It's…it's finally over…used the…professor's…ti…time…machine…"

The past Bubbles finally spoke up, saying, "…Are you…me?"

Bubbles managed a nod, but then closed her eyes. The girls leaned over her in concern, and she whispered, "Don't…bring me back…don't ever…bring any of…them b-back, Professor…leave them…to their…et…eternal…slumber…"

"Hang on, " the professor said, examining her wounds. "You'll be all right, just hang on…"

"Profes….Professor…" Bubbles wheezed. He looked her in the eyes, and she continued, "Take…this…it will explain…everything…" She managed to pull the book out from where she had tucked it away, and held it out weakly towards him. He slowly took the book from her.

Blossom looked up at the professor, asking, "Can you save her?" The professor gave her a sad look back, and she knew the answer. Looking down at Bubbles in tears, she cried, "No!"

Her voice barely audible, Bubbles said quietly, "I…lo…ve…you…all…" Her last breath escaped, and she went limp. Her last thoughts ran through her mind were, Bulba…I did it…wherever you are, I did it…A moment later, she started to glow, and in a flash of light, had broken back down into sugar, spice, and everything nice…

* * *

Bubbles looked down at the pile of components, then up at the professor in tears, "What…h-happened?"

"She's gone…" the professor said, hanging his head. "I'm sorry…"

"She…she saved my life…" Blossom said. "She saved me…but she gave her own? I don't…understand…"

"Me either," Buttercup said. "What's going on?"

The professor held up the book that the older Bubbles had given him, and said, "I have a feeling we'll find all the answers we're looking for in here. You girls take Mojo to the police…I'll take care of…of our visitor…" The girls nodded, and reluctantly flew off to clean up the broken robot and haul away Mojo. The professor, in the meantime, scooped up the components from the ground and went out back behind the house.

He found a patch of earth, and carefully dug a hole, burying the components. He covered them up with the dirt, and thought, I know that whatever the reason for your sacrifice, it was for the good of everyone, and to save all our lives. I thank you…for saving my girls, and giving them a second chance.

The professor got back up and walked around to the front of the house again, opening the book and starting to read. He would soon discover the truth, about what had once happened, but what would now never happen…about how the spirit of one withstood and overcame even the hardest of struggles…and how, even faced with the bleakest of situations, life would forever flourish and survive…