I was six.
I first saw him during the darkest part of my childhood. I was tired, wet, and lost. Blossom saw some boxes to get out of the rain under, maybe catch a few Z's. But before we could rest, from the dark came a gang of green-skinned teenagers. They backed me and my sisters into a corner. It was not a good first impression.
Later that year, I see him again. And again. And again.
He convinced me to trust him, and then destroyed it. It was the first crush I had, and the most scarring. He threw me away like yesterday's trash.
The irony of that was not lost on Blossom, who reminded me constantly. "Get it? Because he lives at the dump?"
I did not think it was clever. Or even slightly funny.
For a six year old, I handled this secret wound badly. I beat any monster or criminal unlucky enough to cross me to a pulp. Several times, it was Ace himself. But I always went a little easy on him. Because no matter how much I regretted my thing for him, my scars, or ever meeting him, I still liked him.
About a year later, I was on patrol. It was pretty boring, because everyone in Townsville was at the unveiling of the Professor's new invention. Impatiently, I finished the sweep and flew to the Townsville Park, just in time to see the huge machine get switched on. Despite a large metal frame and what looked like pounds of switches and knobs, the most interesting part of the machine was the size of a door frame, a dark blue swirling portal. The entire thing was to the left of a stage with The Professor, the Mayor, Miss Bellum, and several other official looking people.
I switched my gaze to my sisters, both looking proud and standing next to the stage.
Landing next to Bubbles, I asked, "What'd I miss?"
Bubbles opened her mouth to respond as Blossom excitedly said "It's a multi-dimensional transporter! The Professor's best work to date. It's very advanced."
"Yeah, that," said Bubbles, not offended at the interruption.
The Professor started a speech about all the good that could come from the invention, yada yada yada. My gaze wandered across the crowd. Blossom's eyes were fixed on the Professor, and Bubbles was watching a butterfly by her leg. Some security force we were. None of us were really watching the machine.
"HEY!" A voice cried out from by the machine.
The Gangreen Gang was standing on the edge of the park by the machine, unnoticed while the Professor made his speech.
Blossom, Bubbles, and I flew over and stood in between the machine and the Gang. The Professor began to race toward us.
"Freeze!" Blossom said, as I ground my teeth. I was more than prepared for a fight, I wanted to… Wait, where was Ace?
There were only four of them. Snake. Big Billy. Lil' Arturo. Grubber.
They did not look take defensive stances, or even start cowering. They were just staring behind us, at the machine.
"Well, as long as you're coming quietly, we won't have to fight you." Blossom said, unsure. "But you have to tell us where Ace is."
Silence. The Professor fought against the crowd gathering around the machine to reach us. Bubbles went to get him.
"Well? Where is he?" I shouted.
Eventually, Grubber raised his hand, and pointed behind us at the machine.
The cops began shepherding people away from the park and a possible crime scene.
Blossom blinked, looking first at Grubber and then the machine, and then gasped. The Professor and Bubbles made it over to us.
"He went into the transporter… but it was off!" Blossom told the Professor. "What does that mean?"
"It shouldn't mean anything. It means that young… um… man is gone."
Ace was gone.