Buttercup was soaring high above like never before. The wind hurtled past her ear and through her short black bob of hair. Of all her powers, even more so than super strength, she had missed the absolute freedom of flight more than anything else.
She waved and let out an whoop of elation, much to the shock of the passengers on the air plane whose path she had just flown in front of. Subtlety wasn't not in Buttercup's nature and she figured at least one photograph of her flight would grace the cover of Townsville Tribune. But that's what she wanted though, to let everyone know that Buttercup Utonium was back in action and ready to fight any baddy this city had. And she was ready. Buttercup had spent two excruciating years, longing and waiting to fight crime again. Even if she had to do it in nothing but silky green pajamas and a jacket.
Then, almost as if on cue, Buttercup heard a monstrous roar off in the distance and the screams of frightened Townsvillians.
"Finally, something to punch." she said, though no one could hear her.
She could almost picture the PowerPuff Hotline ringing, Blossom picking it up, and the former Mayor, a tiny white-haired man with a monocle, who couldn't so much as open a pickle jar by himself, informing them that Townsville was in trouble. Of course, the Hotline had been disconnected long ago. Even if the Girls hadn't lost their powers, it would've been impractical, because there really was no longer one given place they were together anymore.
While Buttercup and Bubbles both attended the local high school, they had completely different schedules, classes, and teachers. Blossom, on the other hand, was in college, going for her Master's degree in genetic engineering. Buttercup figured it was her way of coping with her lack of powers. That perhaps Blossom was secretly searching for a way to restore her, Bubbles, and Buttercup's Chemical X given abilities. If she was, Buttercup reflected, she was doing a heck of a job keeping mum about it.

Ace's phone rang loudly in his back pocket, disrupting the sounds of explosions, cars, and gun shots the arcade was always filled with. He pulled it out of his pocket, read the name on the caller ID.
"Snake take the joystick. This coulds be important." Ace told his friend.
"Sssir, yess, sssir, bossss." Snake hissed.
Snake took over for Ace, who had been playing a racing game against Arturo. Ace walked out the arcade door, and answered the shrilly ringing cell phone.
"Hullo," he sighed into the speaker.
"Have you seen Buttercup?' a voice asked frantically.
"Not since yesterday. Whassup?'
"She's gone. I-I don't for how long, but when I got up, the bathroom door was locked-and-and when...when I opened it, the place was trashed. The sink was broken, the window was wide open, and there was a vial of Chemical X on the carpet." Blossom said it so quickly that it took him a minute to process what she'd said.
Ace's blood ran cold and he nearly dropped his phone on the sidewalk.
"I-but-she told me to-to hide it. I thoughts- I thoughts-for sure Buttercup would waits fer youse an' Bubbles ta take any." he stuttered.
"You knew she had Chemical X!" the pink PowerPuff shrieked in his ear.
"I-"
"How did you find any? How? We thought it was all gone." Blossom's voice broke.
Ace told her everything. How a mysterious caller had phoned in a tip to the Gangreen Gang about a derelict warehouse, how he and Grubber had searched it, finding box upon box of Chemical X, how he had taken Buttercup there before their date.
"...I didn't know she tooks any, I swears it, Blossom. She said we should hide it until you- all three o' you- decided whats ta do with it. I jus' thought maybe... maybe if she had her powers back, she'd be backs ta normal, ya know how down in the dumps she's been. I thought maybe Buttercup would get better if- An' now, she's gone. I shoulda known better. Green-eyes never did take the transition well. I-" Ace's voice shook.
"It's not your fault. Buttecup was, quite literally, born a fighter. She would have found a way to get her powers back somehow," Blossom's sigh crackled in Ace's ear. "But, I am going to need to analyze a few vials in the Professor's lab. And I'll need it soon. For all we know, whoever tipped you off could have... tampered with it."

Buttercup dealt the giant lizard a devastating uppercut to its scaly chin. Again and again and again. It had been lying there unconscious for five minutes, yet she wasn't done punching it just yet.
"Buttercup, that's enough. You're going to kill it if you don't stop." said a familiar, soothing voice. Ms. Bellum, no, Mayor Bellum now.
Buttercup stopped, panting, and wiped the creature's gray-green blood on her already shredded pants.
"Are you alright? How did you get your powers back? What about Blossom and Bubbles?" Mayor Bellum asked.
"All that matters is that I'm back and I won't leave Townsville undefended again." Buttercup told the elegant red-haired woman.
She made to fly away, but something caught her eye. She could've sworn she saw a large purple and white striped hat in the crowd around her, just for an instant.
"Mojo? But no one's seen him since-" Buttercup muttered.
Something exploded inside her. Pain swirled around in her stomach as she clutched it, trying to stop the blood from gushing beneath her fingers. There were screams; Buttercup screamed. Her vision blurred and then she was falling, falling, falling...

Blossom had answered the phone. Bubbles was at school and the Professor was tinkering in his lab, so they didn't know the terrible news. That Buttercup was in the hospital and she might be dying. Blossom numbly called Ace for a ride over. He was there in ten minutes, on time for the first time in his life.
She was relieved that Ace had shown up in a beat up olive drab van instead of the motorcycle he'd been driving yesterday. Had it really only been the day before?
"A'ight, go get the Professor an' Bubbles an' we'll gets goin'." Ace said.
"They're not coming, at least, not yet. I'll call them... I'll call them when we get there. Dad, the Professor, thinks I'm at college right now, and for all he knows, I passed that calculus test with flying colors. It'll be one less thing for him to worry about." Blossom said. She was tired, so tired of this day already.
"Oooh, Blossom's skippin' class! Blossom's skippin' class! Blossom's-"
"No, actually, I just rescheduled it for Wednesday." Blossom mumbled.
"Well, it's a step forward for ya, stiff." Ace smirked.
Blossom glared at him. She was about to tell him off for trying to crack jokes at a time like this, but she had a feeling that under those sunglasses of his, he was just as scared and exhausted as she was.

They had arrived at the hospital an hour ago and for at least half that long, Blossom had been trying to call the Professor. Cursing enough to make a sailor cringe, Blossom remembered that he left his phone off the hook in the lab because he felt it "interfered with the scientific process".
The most annoying part of this was that the nurse, an elderly woman with beady gray eyes, refused to admit them to Buttercup's room until a parent or guardian arrived. Blossom wished Bubbles was with them. She probably would've started crying and causing such a scene that the nurse would have been forced to let them in.
Instead, Ace and the crotchety old woman got into a fight in the hallway.
"...I don't care if you're Major Glory's new teen side-kick, Pace-"
"That's Ace."
"It's family admittance only."
"She's my girlfriend!"
"Aren't you a little old to be dating a fifteen-year-old, Jace?"
"Ace, it's Ace. An' really, it ain't that many years diff'rence. What's it ta you anyways, ya old buzz-"
"Enough! Look, ma'am, I'm the patient's sister and I think you should let him go in and sit with her. I know she's sleeping and not in very good shape, but Buttercup would appreciate it if she knew Ace was with her. Just for twenty minutes, please?" Blossom begged.
The nurse's tiny little eyes narrowed. "If I get in trouble-"
"Trust me, you won't. If you want to help out, you could try to contact my father or call my sister's- my other sister- school. She goes to Laura Keane Memorial High."

Blossom, Bubbles, and Ace sat in Buttercup's hospital room while the doctor spoke to Professor Utonium.
"...Ingested explosives...bad shape...additional surgeries...she has a very rare blood type, I've never seen it before on record... Chemical X in her system is trying to heal her...still require blood transfusion...Are either of your other daughters a match?"
Bubbles sat at Buttercup's right, sobbing loudly into her beloved stuffed octopus, Octi. It was an improvement from earlier, when she had fainted at the sight of her dark-haired triplet. Ace was seated towards Buttercup's left, clutching her pale hand in his green one. Blossom had never seen him so quiet or still. Blossom sat next to the sobbing Bubbles, patting her on the back and muttering meaningless condolences as she eavesdropped on the adults' conversation.
Blossom had never been as scared for Buttercup at any other time than she was then. Her sister, normally so full of vigor and attitude, was lying pale and sweaty across from her. Every once in a while she'd whimper or stir, but other than that, she was utterly lifeless. If Buttercup died... Blossom dared not finish the thought. She felt as if she did, Buttercup would cease up and enter into oblivion right then and there.
"Blossom, Bubbles, would you mind stepping into the hall?" the doctor prodded, standing in the door way.
Blossom nodded solemnly, her big red bow bobbing back and forth. "C'mon, Bubbles."
"Now, girls," the doctor said in a tone that sounded as though she thought they were quite young or slow. "Your sister has lost quite a lot of blood and she's going to require a transfusion. She does, however, have a very rare blood type and we're hoping one of you is a match. Do either of you know what your blood type is?"
"N-no." Bubbles whimpered. She was terrified of needles, among other things.
"I'm afraid not, ma'am, but if you're going to test to see if we're a match, I'd like to go first." Blossom said.
"Thanks, Blossom." her blond sibling whimpered.
She wasn't though, and neither was Bubbles. It turned out that Ace's blood was a match. Bubbles had tried to hide the relief in her large blue eyes when she realized she wouldn't have another needle stuck in her arm that day, but Blossom saw it clear as day.
Blossom wondered if it was something in his mutated DNA (Ace was, after all, pale green and had fangs that stuck out of either side of his mouth) or if perhaps he had taken the chance and used the tainted Chemical X on himself. If, no, when Buttercup woke up and discovered that he had done so, Ace D. Copular would be in for it.
They pumped Ace's blood into a see-through bag with a straw-like tube, gave him juice and a cookie so he wouldn't become woozy, and hauled the unconscious PowerPuff into surgery.
An eternity later, Buttercup was released from surgery. Her midsection was so covered in stitches and bandages that she looked like a cross between a mummy and Frankenstein's monster. Despite that, Blossom felt that she looked better. There was more color to Buttercup's skin and she was breathing more regularly.
"Don't worry, Buttercup," Blossom thought. "One day we'll find some untainted Chemical X, and whoever did this to you will pay."
Buttercup stirred, as though sensing her sister's thoughts. Blossom squeezed her hand lightly.
"I love you, sis. We've had our differences over the years, but I thought you should know. If you won't wake up for me, do it for the Professor, Bubbles, and Ace, okay?" the red-head sniffled.
"Mojo...Mojo was there...when I fell." Buttercup said softly. Blossom was almost sure she had imagined it.
"I think...he planted the explosives... in the Chemical X."
"That's impossible, no one's seen Mojo since-" Blossom muttered.
"Oh my gosh, Prooo-ffffesss-ooorrr! Buttercup's awake!" came Bubbles's ear-shattering squeal of delight.
Their father jerked awake, rubbing at his stubbly face. He looked almost as haggard as Blossom felt. Professor Utonium rushed to his daughter's side, pulling her into an embrace.
"Thank goodness you're awake." he said into her hair.
"Ow, Professor. My stomach...too tight." Buttercup wheezed.
He loosened his grip, but only slightly. "If you weren't already injured, I would ground you until you were thirty-five."
"Are you alright, Buttercup?" Bubbles asked.
"Yes, Bubbles I feel just dandy after having been partially blown up." Buttercup said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"That's my sister, alright!" Bubbles squealed, wrapping her arms around her.
"Ugh, knock it off." Buttercup grunted.
Blossom, Bubbles, and the Professor all hugged Buttercup and they were silent for a long moment.
"Where's Ace? " Buttercup asked softly. "I woke up a couple o' times and he was here, holding my hand."
"There was a bank robbery and he had to go. I could tell he would've stayed if he could." Blossom told her.
Buttercup nodded quietly. If their roles had been reversed, she would have had to do the same, but still, she wished Ace was there right then.
"How long have I been out?"
The Professor checked his watch. "Only about thirty-six hours."
"Maybe there's still time then. When I- I fell, I could've sworn I saw Mojo Jojo in the crowd." the green PowerPuff said, taking a deep breath.
If her father had been holding anything, it would've shattered on the hospital floor. They all went pale , shocked expressions on their faces.
"But, how? No one's seen him since- since the night Ms. Keane-since the night Laura died." the Professor said.
It had been five years since the Girls' ex-Kindergarten teacher turned step-mother had been murdered at the hands of their furry arch-nemesis, but they still felt her loss acutely. After they defeated him, Mojo Jojo had disappeared and was thought dead...until now.
"I dunno, Professor, but he was there. I could feel it."
"We need to call the police, the FB-"
"No need, I have my powers back. I could find him and wham! Problem solved."
"Not right now you're not. Even with the Chemical X in your system, it could be weeks before you're properly healed. I won't have you go and get yourself hurt again when you're still healing," her creator replied.
"But-but-Professor-" Buttercup complained.
"Wait until you've healed properly, and then you hit that evil little monkey fast and you hit him hard. In the mean time, I've been tinkering with trying make a new batch of Chemical X for your sisters. Once you're ready, we'll show Mojo just how resilient the Utoniums are. I promise." he amended.
"You really mean it?"
"We've talked it over. That monkey has brought enough pain and suffering to our family and to Townsville over the years, it's time he gets his due." Blossom said.
"Bubbles?"
The blond PowerPuff nodded meekly. "We're the PowerPuff Girls, if we can't do it, than no one can."