Poisoned Soul

By:  Mark J. Hadley

CHAPTER 5:  "Confrontation"

            Blossom hung up the phone in the living room and said, "That was the hospital.  They told me that the professor is going to be fine.  Once he comes to, he'll need to stay there for the night, then he can leave in the morning."

            "Whew," Bubbles said, sinking down onto the couch in relief.  "So now what?"

            "Okay, so here's my plan," Blossom said, rubbing her head wearily.  The cartel had proved to be a much more complex foe that she had realized, and it was taking a lot just to figure out how to approach the problem of shutting them down.  "When Buttercup gets back and finds out what happened to the professor, she'll be mad…mad enough to fly over to the police station and give those thugs a piece of her mind.  Hopefully, faced with an angry Buttercup, they'll be more willing to tell us where their leader is at."

            Bubbles nodded, "Yeah, that'll be good.  I wouldn't wanna lie to Buttercup when she's angry either."

            They both heard the front door open, and Blossom said, "Speak of the devil…"  She turned to look into the other room as Buttercup entered the house.  Her hair was messed up, and she looked tired.  Maybe she's been out fighting, Blossom thought.  She called out, "Hey, Buttercup!"

            "Wha…?  What?"  Buttercup said, slightly startled that they were waiting for her.

            Blossom motioned her into the room, "Come here…something happened to the professor while you were gone…"

            Buttercup froze in terror for a moment as she thought, Oh no…oh no, they know, don't they?  She stayed where she was, trying to decide if she should go in, or run for it…

            Bubbles appeared next to Blossom and said, "Yeah, those drug guys broke in here and beat him up!  We took him to the hospital…"

            Wait a minute, Buttercup thought with some relief…They think the cartel did it!  This is perfect!  I'm saved from blame, and then I can take them to that place immediately so that we won't have time to tell the police or anything, and won't be followed.  But first…  Buttercup gritted her teeth and shouted, "Those…jerks!  If I get my hands on them, I'll…"

            "Easy, Buttercup," Blossom said.  "Don't worry, the professor's okay, and he'll probably be back home by tomorrow, after he wakes up.  We've already taken down their main distribution point…we haven't interrogated their leader yet, so I was thinking maybe you'd like to…"

            Without another word, Buttercup flew out from the house, off in the direction of the police station.  Halfway there, she stopped and smiled to herself…Perfect, they don't suspect a thing.  I'll give them a minute or two before I go back, so that they think I beat it out of this guy or something…

            As she waited, she pondered over what she was about to do.  Leading them into a trap…just for more Eden.  All the Eden I could need, though…it's just too good to pass up.  Besides, the girls are strong, they'll probably get away anyway.  No trap can hold them for long.  So I get the better end of this deal…no problem…

            After waiting long enough, she turned and flew back, getting herself back in-character and setting her expression back to anger again.  When she flew in the front door, the girls were waiting for her, and she said, "Got it.  Follow me."

            "Good job, Buttercup!  I knew you could do it!" Blossom congratulated her as the three of them flew out, but Buttercup wasn't particularly listening.  She was focused on what was going to happen.  Glancing over at Blossom and Bubbles, she thought, Forgive me…just…forgive me for this…okay?

*          *            *

            The Powerpuff Girls arrived at the location after a somewhat longer flight out of town to a small island off the shoreline.  A single white mansion, the place Buttercup had been instructed to bring them, stood out from the thick jungle growth on this island.  She could see armed guards patrolling around the front of the mansion.  All right, here we go, she thought.  "That's the place," she said, pointing to it below.

            "All right," Blossom nodded.  "Let's bust in.  Bubbles, once we get in, you take the eastern wing of the mansion, and…"

            "No wait!" Buttercup said, waving her arms.  The other two looked at her, puzzled, and she quickly explained.  "If he finds out we're attacking, he'll escape.  The guy at the jail told me that their leader is usually in the back part, and if we go in quickly that way, we can surprise him and catch him before he tries to escape."

            Blossom considered this, then said, "Actually, that's a good plan, you're right."

            "Okay, so what do we do?" Bubbles asked.

            "Keep it quiet," Blossom told her, "until we get spotted.  We'll sneak in through the back entrance, as fast but as quietly as we can, then try to find their leader.  Got it?"

            Bubbles nodded, "Got it!"

            With that, the three of them circled around near the back, approaching the rear of the mansion.  There didn't seem to be any guards patrolling around this part, and Blossom smiled, thinking, All right, sneaking in will be a piece of cake!  They approached the rear doors and very carefully, opened them, revealing a darkened hall.

            "Be very quiet…" Blossom whispered, and the three of them hovered into the darkness without a sound.  After only going about five feet or so inside, though, Buttercup stopped, and let the other two continue forward.  They noticed she stopped, though, and turned to look quizzically at her.

            "Buttercup, what's wrong?" Bubbles whispered.

            "Shhh…" Buttercup said, tilting her head towards the door they just came throught, "…I think I hear something…"

            The other girls listened, but said, "I don't hear an—…"  While they were distracted towards the front door, something suddenly ensnared Blossom and Bubbles from around them.  Startled, they tried to break free of whatever it was, but they couldn't.  They yelped out in surprise, and barely a moment later, the lights came on.

            The two-story hall was made of white marble and was very elegantly designed.  What was now binding Blossom and Bubbles was a long, thick length of chain, the other end hoisted up over one of the ceiling rafters.  A circle of guards, armed with automatic rifles, stood on the outside edge of the room.  At the top of a wide stairway heading up to the second story was a man in a gray suit, with slightly graying hair and a smug expression.

            "Powerpuff Girls," he said.  "Allow me to introduce myself…I am Anthony Gorassini…welcome to my home."

            "You're the leader, aren't you?" Blossom asked.  "The one behind Eden?"

            "That's right," Gorassini said as he slowly started walking down the steps.  "Here, right in the mansion's gardens, we grow a plant containing the primary ingredient of Eden, that which gives it it's…appeal.  It doesn't grow anywhere but this region."  He noticed them still trying to break free and added, "Oh, and don't bother struggling…I purchased those restraints from Mojo Jojo.  They're made of Duranium, and you won't be able to break them."

            As she stopped, Blossom shouted, "Doesn't matter, you only got two of us!"

            "Yeah, get 'em, Buttercup!" Bubbles called over to her.  Buttercup just hovered where she was, though, and the girls looked over at her, staring for a few moments.  Bubbles tried again, "…Buttercup?"

            Buttercup looked back at them, but didn't say a word, then averted her eyes.  Blossom was confused, but then it dawned on her.  As one of the other cartel members began pulling on the opposite end of the chain, hoisting the two of them up into the air, Blossom said, "You…you…?"

            Gorassini came down the steps, stopping next to Buttercup and said, "Great job, girl, I'm proud of ya.  You've done a great thing for us…"

            Buttercup looked up at him with a frown and interrupted, "You've got them, now where's my Eden?"  She didn't let herself look at the girls for even a moment…she knew what their expressions were showing anyway…shock, betrayal…

            With a smile, Gorassini produced the box he had promised.  Buttercup snatched it from him and quickly opened it…as he had promised, it was filled with Eden cylinders.  As she inspected the contents, he said, "I think you'll find everything satisfactory…"

            "And you'll replace it whenever I run out?" Buttercup asked.

            "We'll think about it," Gorassini told her.  "Depends on how well you're staying out of our way, or we might need you to perform a task or two for us.  But rest assured, you will always have a chance to get Eden from us…"

            "Buttercup…" Blossom finally managed to say, her voice dripping with a mixture of anger and disbelief, "…how…could you?!"

            "I…" Buttercup started to say, then hesitated.  She closed her eyes and said, "I've…been taking the drug…I'm so sorry, but I had to…"

            "You didn't have to!" Bubbles insisted.  "Just say no, remember?"

            Someone else walked over…Buttercup recognized him as Johnny, and was mildly surprised to see him here.  Johnny looked up at the other girls and said, "She didn't have a choice.  Not after I sprayed her with the drug a while back.  After that, she was ours."

            "Is…is this true?" Blossom asked, staring at Buttercup…she quietly nodded back.  "So that's what happened…why you were 'knocked out' that one time.  I feel so blind that I didn't see it…"

            Finally looking up at them, Buttercup protested, "No, girls, please…you don't understand…I…I had to help them…I had to get more…you just don't understand…"

            "No, but they will," Gorassini said with a smile, and Buttercup suddenly noticed something up by the ceiling where they were being hoisted…another cartel member, standing on a ledge, with several cylinders of Eden in his hands.

            "Y-you mean…you're…" Buttercup stammered.

            Gorassini nodded, "Of course…if I can have one Powerpuff Girl under my control, why not all three?  That way, there'll be nothing to stop us!"

            Buttercup watched in shock as they were finally raised all the way to the ceiling.  The girls gaped at the man on the ledge, who pulled out a cylinder in each hand and aimed them.  Both of them quickly held their breaths as he sprayed the purple gas towards them, and kept their eyes clenched shut.  Johnny grinned at this and commented, "They won't be able to hold their breaths forever…it's only a matter of time…"

            Buttercup watched the two of them, and suddenly imagined what would become of them once they were hooked on Eden like she was.  Struggling to meet the cartel's demands for a few measly cylinders of the drug…doing less and less to save Townsville from their influence…wasting away slowly, each of them turning into a complete wreck, just like she was now…

            I-I can't let them do this, she thought…I just can't…but…all the Eden…I just…but…no, they're my sisters!  I can't let the same thing happen to them that happened to me!

            Clenching her eyes shut, she suddenly launched herself at the guy holding the chain, shouting, "Grrryaaah!!"  This came as a surprise, and the kick struck him head-on.  He released the chain, and the girls fell safely away from the cloud of Eden, landing on the ground below.  The chain was now slackened around them, and they were able to get free.

            "What?!" Gorassini yelled.  "Get them!!"  The cartel members quickly rose their weapons and opened fire, but Blossom and Bubbles were already on their feet.  They brushed aside the first onslaught of bullets, then took to the air.  Gorassini and Johnny quickly ran for the door while the girls were occupied.

            Taking the length of chain with her, Blossom quickly swung it around in a wide arc, using it to clobber a number of the gunmen on the lower floor.  Bubbles dashed in close, working on taking them out hand-to-hand.  Buttercup just stayed where she was, though, watching them, and her gaze followed the two that were running outside.  Frowning, she followed after them.

            They had stopped by the edge of the expansive garden outside, which Buttercup noticed did contain plants with very oddly-shaped leaves…the main ingredient of Eden.  Gorassini growled at Johnny, "I thought you said she was under our control!"

            "Sh-she was!  Honestly!  I d-don't know what went wrong!" Johnny stammered.

            Buttercup caught up with them and exclaimed, "I'll tell you what went wrong!"  They froze, staring at her as she continued.  "You may have had me, but there's no way I was gonna let the same thing happen to my sisters!"

            "We can still make a deal," Gorassini said.  "Let us go…we'll find a way to keep producing Eden, and you'll have your lifetime supply, just as we promised…"

            "Don't be a fool, Buttercup!" Johnny said.  "This is a huge deal you'd be passing up…you want more Eden, and you know it.  And once we're gone, there won't be any way to get more!  You'll have nothing!"

            Buttercup thought over this…they were right.  If she put a stop to the cartel, that would be the end of it…no more Eden…no more of that wonderful feeling she got from taking it…she wondered if she could even survive being away from Eden a day, let alone forever

            Well, she finally decided…time to find out.  She flew forward, grabbing both of them by their shirts and lifting them up.  As they struggled, she said, "I'll have my town…I'll have my sisters…that's all I need."  Without wasting anymore time, she slammed their heads into each other, knocking them unconscious, and dropped them both to the ground.

            Blossom and Bubbles finished mopping up inside, and flew out to where Buttercup was, landing on each side of her.  Bubbles, in a worried voice, said, "Buttercup?  Are you okay?"

            Buttercup stared at the two he just knocked out, then at the box which was tucked under her arm.  She pulled out the box and said, "I…I was about to trade you two…for this…I don't even know what I can say…"  Lowering her eyes again, she added.  "The professor wasn't the cartel's fault…I was the one who hurt him…h-he found out about the Eden, and…and…I just…I'm so sorry…"

            "It's all right, it wasn't your fault," Blossom said, resting a hand on her shoulder.  "You came out doing the right thing in the end.  We forgive you…but there's still one more thing you need to do…"

            Already knowing what she meant, Buttercup looked up into the air…gathering her willpower, she threw the box up high, and once it was at a safe distance, blasted it with her eyebeams.  Wood and metal flew outwards from it, and a dense, purple fog hung in that spot of the air for a few moments before it completely dissipated.

            "We're proud of you, sis," Bubbles said, smiling.  "That had to be tough to do…"

            "That's not all," Buttercup said, taking to the air once more.  She was shaking, and decided just to get it over with…focusing on the garden below, she opened fire with her eyebeams again, sweeping across it until every last one of the plants were incinerated.  The task finally completed, she breathed out and said, "There…now, no one is ever making Eden again…"

            The girls flew up to her…Blossom said, "Come on…let's head back, and let the authorities know where this place is…"

            Buttercup nodded, and said, "Listen…I'm sure there are still some cylinders of Eden floating around out there.  It's…gonna be hard for me not to go after them…so when the professor gets back, I want him to keep me locked up so that I don't go out after the drug anymore, okay?  Just until I'm fine again…"

            "Got it," Blossom nodded.  Buttercup smiled back at her as the three of them took off away from the island.  Buttercup shivered a little…she was feeling cold, but she knew that with her sisters around, she'd be able to handle anything….

*          *            *

            "NOOO! Lemme out!!" Buttercup screamed, throwing herself against the door yet again.  The chamber that the professor had constructed was made of Duranium, however, and just as it did before, the door held fast, with no signs of weakening.  At least the small amount of padding over it was keeping her from hurting herself, even though it was stripped bare in a few spots where she had tried to use her eyebeams to blast out.

            The professor and the other girls watched on a monitor, and Bubbles looked sadly at Buttercup's attempts to escape.  "She's been in there for days," she said.  "How long is it gonna take?"

            "I don't know," the professor replied.  "Going off of a drug cold turkey is extremely hard.  But she doesn't have a choice now.  She's just going to have to ride it out.  However, she's making a little progress.  I think maybe about a week longer, and she'll be fine."

            Buttercup stopped pounding on the door and slumped down to the ground.  She was trembling non-stop now…she had been for the past day.  Her hair was messed up, her dress was torn in spots, and her eyes were all puffy from lack of sleep.  Lying almost flat on the ground, she sobbed," Please…just let me out…I'll be good…I promise…I'm sorry, all right…?  Just...let me go…"  She curled up, trying to stay warm, then screamed at the top of her lungs, "I HATE YOU GUYS!!"

            As they watched, Bubbles looked like she was going to cry too…Blossom hugged her and said, "Don't worry, she doesn't mean it…it's just the withdrawal talking.  She'll be herself again, you'll see…"

            Bubbles nodded, and Blossom returned her gaze sadly to the monitor, thinking, Yeah…she'll be fine…we just need to give her time…  On the monitor, Buttercup was still curled up, shaking, and was now whispering, "…I'm so sorry…I'll never do it again…I promise…I'm so sorry…"