Alice glanced over the top of the wall, searching the area. She made a small noise of displeasure in her throat when she saw a mob of Ultramagno Beetles wandering around below. She had hoped the K.N.D. Training Area would be empty, but the monsters were invading the area. It wasn't all that surprising, considering that the perimeter wasn't completely closed, but it was still disappointing. Alice wanted an empty space, free of people and monsters, to try out her powers.
Alice disappeared back down on her side of the wall, pulling up the notes app in her communicator. Just before she had studied the directory of known Fusion Monsters, she had typed up everything she knew about her powers.
Protective energy sphere/ball/bubble
It wasn't a very long list.
Alice looked over her list, frowning in thought until she felt the hair on her neck stand up. The girl whipped her head around to see an Ultramagno Beetle hanging over the wall, a hair's breadth away from her. The monster released an unearthly screech, and tried to headbutt her. Alice yelped and tumbled backward off the box crates, landing unceremoniously on the ground. The Ultramagno Beetle screeched again, beginning to crawl down the wall on its pursuit after her. Alice shifted to her knees, staring at the monster advancing on her.
Do something, do something, do something!
Alice raised her hand, hoping to move a wooden crate or form an energy ball in her palm to be shot out at the monster. However, nothing happened. Alice stared at her hand in shock, distressed nothing had happened. Another screech from the Ultramagno Beetle told Alice it was much closer to her, and rearing back for an attack. Alice closed her eyes, raising an arm to protect herself from the hit that was to come.
It never came.
Opening her eyes, she found that she was in an energy dome, protecting her from the monster's attack. From out of nowhere, a pair of pink laser beams hit the monster, not letting up until the creature turned into a puddle of Fusion Matter. The dome that had been protecting her disappeared, leaving Alice to stare at the puddle in a mixture of surprise and disappointment.
"You okay, Alice?"
Alice twisted her upper body around to stare at Blossom, who was hovering a foot off the ground just behind her. The Powerpuff leader touched the ground and extended a hand, helping Alice to her feet. The Puff gave the girl a quick look over for any injuries, smiling lightly when she found nothing concerning.
"What brings you over this way?" Blossom asked, jerking her head just slightly in the direction of the training ground.
"I..." Alice tried to get out, but finding the words difficult to form. "I..."
Blossom waited patiently for Alice to explain herself, but the other girl couldn't do it. Alice dropped her gaze to her shoes in shame, unable to look Blossom in the eyes. The Powerpuff smiled in understanding, and laid a hand on the other girl's shoulder.
"Practicing your powers, right?" Blossom supplied.
Alice nodded, keeping her mouth shut. She wasn't even shocked that the Powerpuff would know; she hadn't asked the Professor to keep it a secret, so of course he'd tell his daughters.
"I guess it didn't go as you expected, huh?" Blossom questioned. She knew the answer, but she wanted to get Alice talking.
Alice nodded her head again.
"I...I don't know what to do," the girl finally admitted out of distress. "I don't know how to get them to work."
Blossom hummed in thought, her pink eyes wavering over at the two Ultramagnos that were attempting to creep up on the girls. A quick use of her ice breath had the creatures encased in a pillar of ice before they could even go "Boo!" Blossom returned her attention to their conversation, not commenting on the surprised look Alice wore.
"I'm going to take a stab at this, but I'm guessing the first time you used your powers, it was just by instinct, right?" Blossom asked, her voice nothing but understanding. She continued after Alice gave a nod of confirmation. "That's understandable. When my sisters and I were created, our powers were as natural to us as breathing. And that's what's happening to you right now. Your powers are instinctual, involuntary, like when we sweat because it's too hot, or shiver when it's too cold."
Alice nodded, following along with the lesson.
"You just have to take that involuntary action and make it voluntary. You have to focus and concentrate on your power," Blossom continued. "Think about what you want to use, and harness that power. If you don't, things could get out of control." Blossom's eyes drifted off in memory, an embarrassed smile flitting across her face. "Townsville sure didn't appreciate an epic game of tag by three little girls."
Alice nodded along, recollecting the time the Powerpuff Girls had a game of tag using their super speed. The result had been total devastation of Downtown Townsville. Thankfully, the girls had learned their lesson and downplayed their property damage.
"So let's practice," Blossom suggested, her eyes sweeping the grounds again because she thought she saw an Ultramagno getting close to them again. "We won't start off with an attack, but how about that dome you made. Try forming it again. Make it as big or small as you want."
Alice took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. First, she imagined the dome. She imagined its color and its shape. Then, she imagined that it was surrounding her, protecting her from the air to the grass. Then, she imagined - she willed - it into reality.
Blossom's compliment had Alice opening her eyes, just to check. Sure enough, a dome was once again surrounding Alice protectively, and her body was outlined in the same blue light as her dome. Alice kept the dome up for a second more, before willing it away.
"See, you're a natural. You just needed a push in the right direction," Blossom stated, grinning ear to ear. Her smile halted and she turned her head slightly to the right, as if she was listening for something far away.
"Is everything alright?" Alice asked after a moment, when Blossom's attention continued to be put elsewhere.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, no worries," Blossom reassured the girl, flashing a grin at her. "Someone's just looking for me at the treehouse."
Alice blinked twice and looked over the red-head leader's shoulder. "The treehouse?"
The treehouse belonged to the Kids Next Door, and it was hard to miss. To keep the base safe, Sector V worked with DexLabs and Mandark Ind. to create anti-gravity technology that lifted up the treehouse from ground, well out of range from the Fusion Monsters on the ground. The only thing keeping it from floating off into the stratosphere was metal chains anchoring the island to the ground.
"Yeah, Dexter's sending kids this way to search for Major Glory," Blossom answered. "He was last seen at Pokey Oaks Junior High before..." Blossom paused, glancing worriedly in Alice's direction. Seeing the way the girl's skin began to lose color, Blossom hurried on, "Anyways, his last known appearance was somewhere out here in the Suburbs. I'm sending the kids out to look for any sign of him."
"Has anything been found?" Alice asked.
"Nothing yet, but we'll find him," the Powerpuff leader answered. Her eyes shifted, looking off towards the mountains. Alice followed that line of sight, and above the houses, Alice could make out holograms peeking up above the rooftops. Buttercup's hologram, in particular, looked like it was staring at them. "We'll find all our missing heroes."
"Do...Do you think she's still out there?" Alice asked cautiously, understanding that this was a touchy subject.
"I have hope," Blossom answered, her tone confident. "Buttercup is a fighter. She's somewhere out in the world; I just have to find her."
Alice dropped her gaze away from the hologram; the longer she looked at Buttercup's image, the more ashamed she felt. When the search had been called off, Alice had been among the many that believed Buttercup was gone for good. Alice believed all the heroes that were missing could not be found. When did she lose hope?
Blossom shook herself from her thoughts, mentally scolding herself for letting her thoughts wander. Turning to look back at Alice, the Powerpuff spotted a small Ultramagno attempting to sneak up on the two of them. A blast from her eye beams left a gooey mess behind. The attack shook Alice from her thoughts, turning her head to look at the spot where the monster had been.
"They're especially active today," Blossom commented lightly. "Hey, would you mind doing me a favor? I planned to have a picnic with the Professor today, but he hasn't shown up, and I can't get in touch with him. Would you be willing to go and get him?"
"Okay," Alice agreed with a nod.
"Thanks! He mentioned this morning that he was going to Genius Grove, so he may still be down that way," Blossom explained. "Check DeeDee's house first."
Alice frowned. She remembered DeeDee had given her the address, but she hadn't looked at it since the day of her mother's funeral, so she didn't have a clue where in Genius Grove DeeDee resided.
Luckily, Blossom picked up on Alice's confusion and clarified further, "It's across the street from Mandark's old house. You know, the giant eyesore." Alice's confusion cleared, and she nodded. "Thanks! It really means a lot to me. Give me a call if there's any problems."
Alice nodded her head in agreement once more, and then left the training area. Blossom followed Alice's movements until the other girl was out of immediate sight, and then shifted her gaze back inward toward the KND Training Area. Two Ultramagno Beetles that had been skirting around the area suddenly lost interest and turned away, wandering over to a group of its kind further away. Blossom frowned in confusion at their odd behavior, but kids were waiting for her at the treehouse, so she filed away the monsters' behavior for later and took to the sky.
It was easy to find DeeDee's house. Since Mandark had a not-so-secret laboratory behind his former house that was as tall as the mountains, it could be seen anywhere in Genius Grove (even when inside the containment field). All Alice had to do was head in the direction of the black and red building, which was actually close to the line that separated Pokey Oaks South from Genius Grove. Even from the corner, Alice could tell that DeeDee's house was different from the many cookie-cutter homes that existed throughout the Suburbs. It was pink, and had rainbows, Pony Puff Princess from the wildly popular Pony Puff Princess cartoon, and a simplistic portrait of DeeDee herself painted over it.
Out on the front lawn of the home was the man she was looking for, holding a conversation with the owner of the house and Numbuh Five. DeeDee was the first person to spot her as Alice approached the residence.
"Alice!" the ballerina enthusiast greeted the girl, waving a hand wildly in the air to catch her attention.
"Oh, hello Alice," Professor Utonium greeted, looking frazzled. "What brings you to Genius Grove?"
"Hello," Alice said as a greeting to all three, getting a tip of the hat nod from Numbuh Five in return. "Blossom sent me to see you, Professor. She set up a picnic, but she couldn't get in contact with you."
The Professor's eyes widened in realization and slapped his palm to his forehead.
"Oh no, did that already happen!?" the man questioned. "I didn't think that much time had passed. She must think I skipped it."
Alice frowned, noticing that the Professor's normally nice lab coat had some tears and spots of dirt scattered along the coat. His usual neatly combed hair had loose strands and looked a mess.
"Professor, did something happen?" Alice asked.
"Unfortunately, yes," the Professor answered. "My lab was attacked by Gravel Golems, and those ruffians destroyed my communications equipment. I was already coming out this way to check on the house, so I went into Dexter's old lab to see if it might have something, but none of the wires are quite right."
"Maybe the Gravel Golems still have it," DeeDee suggested. "You could always try getting it back from them."
"I haven't participated in a fight in years," the Professor lamented. His eyes brightened for a moment as an idea popped into his head. He turned to the kid of the group. "Numbuh Five, maybe you-"
"Sorry, but Numbuh Five can't," Numbuh Five interrupted, holding up a hand to stop the man's request. "Numbuh Five was tasked here to make sure those nasty creatures can't get into the lab and get their claws on some fancy tech." The kid operative glanced over at Alice, noticing the communicator resting at Alice's waist. "Say Alice, is that your communicator?"
Alice startled at being addressed, but nodded, glancing self-consciously at her communicator. DeeDee and the Professor looked at the device too, noticing that it wasn't the standard white. The Professor's eyes doubled in size, surprised to see that Alice was in the possession of the new communicator.
"You joined?" the Professor asked.
Alice nodded, continuing to feel self-conscious. She hadn't exactly told anyone about her decision.
"Oh! This could work out in your favor, Professor," DeeDee stated. She hopped over to Alice's side, invading the girl's personal bubble. "Alice, do you think you could get the Professor's wires from those mean Golems?"
Alice tensed at the request. She hadn't been able to use her offensive attack back at the training grounds, but Blossom's lessons had enabled her to create that energy dome. All she had to do was apply that same method onto her offensive attacks, and it should work. At least in theory. She only had one way to find out.
"Yes," Alice answered, nodding her head in agreement.
"You're sure?" the adult questioned, eyeing her curiously.
"Okay then," the Professor said, his face morphing into relief. "They're in Pokey Oaks South. You'll need to recover three wiring fragments in order for my device to work. Bring them back when you have them."
Alice had consulted the Fusion Monster directory as she travelled through Pokey Oaks South, identifying what the Golems looked like and the area they typically frequented, which was the southeast corner of Pokey Oaks South. The Gravel Golems, taller than her by a whole other body, wandered around the houses, looking to have no real aim than to cause mayhem and damage property. Alice didn't feel confident taking on a mob, so she waited for her opportunity to take on just one. She was in luck when a lone Golem wandered close to her hiding spot.
Alice closed her eyes and concentrated on calming her nerves. She couldn't let her nerves fail her now, not when she had accepted the task. She had to do this. She had to learn to use and control her powers. Taking in a deep breath, she moved from behind her hiding spot and faced the Gravel Golem head on, her hand raised up and aimed at the monster. The Gravel Golem had only a second to release a furious roar, but Alice concentrated hard on forming an energy ball in her palm. She successfully formed the energy ball and fired it at the monster, hitting it in what Alice assumed was its gut. The monster stumbled from the hit, catching itself before it could fall. Alice didn't hesitate, and fired off three more energy balls. All successfully connected with the Fusion Monster, and it dissolved into Fusion Matter, which was then collected by Alice's communicator.
The girl frowned in disappointment that the felled Gravel Golem didn't have the items she needed. She surveyed her area once more to see where the next Golem was, but was struck from behind, sending her falling forward. Rolling onto her back, she caught sight of the Golem's fist descending on her. She rolled out of the way, narrowly dodging the hit. She moved to her knees, trying to get her footing again, but the monster had recovered faster. It swung at her, scraping her arm as she dropped back to the ground. Alice rolled onto her back and created a dome to cover her, forming it fast enough to block the hit the Golem aimed at her. The Golem roared in anger and began pounding on the dome, attempting to break it. Keeping the energy dome in place, Alice forced it to expand, pushing the Golem back.
While the monster continued to attack the dome, Alice glanced down quickly at her arm, to check on it. Despite the monster striking her, her sleeve didn't have a tear in it. Her choice in clothing was pretty pedestrian compared to the armor that the K.N.D., Dexbots, Mandroids, and more were selling, but DexLabs' nanite technology could be used to coat any piece of clothing. These nanites were a substitution to armor, protecting the wearer from hits and scrapes. It had taken up almost two months of her allowance, but given how her sleeve held against the attack, she considered it money well spent.
She did a fast survey of her surroundings, and found a rock just several feet away. She started to lift it, but stopped when a hit from the Fusion Monster weakened her shield. She focused back on her shield, keeping it strong. Throwing an object from the safety of her dome hadn't worked out as planned, so she needed to do something new. Thinking fast, Alice pushed her shield back further, sending the monster tumbling back. She then dropped her shield and thrust her hand in an arc sweep, sending the rock she had been trying to lift before at the monster's head. It made contact with the monster, but didn't seem to hurt it. It just made it angry. Panicking, Alice got to her feet and moved backward, looking for another item to throw at it. A park table and attached benches were close by. Forcing herself to concentrate, she lifted and threw the entire table on the creature. Thanks to its weight, the monster was dropped to the ground, giving Alice an opening. Instead of sending out energy balls, Alice tried another technique. Focusing, she sent an energy beam at the monster, not letting up until it dissolved into Fusion Matter that her communicator collected.
Her adrenaline running in her veins, and her heartbeat pounding in her eats, Alice walked over to the broken park table and looked under it, finding a wiring fragment. She couldn't help smiling in relief, but was disappointed to see that it was just the one, not three. She'd have to take down more of the monsters to get the other two.
Five Gravel Golems later, Alice was reentering Genius Grove with the Professor's three wiring fragments being kept in her communicator. Approaching DeeDee's house, Alice found that only Numbuh Five was out in the yard; Professor Utonium and DeeDee were missing.
"Hey Alice," Numbuh Five greeted. "Back already?"
Alice nodded her head.
"Is the Professor still here?" she asked.
"He left about ten minutes ago," Numbuh Five answered. "He went back to his house. Asked Numbuh Five to let you know when you showed up since he doesn't have any form of communication."
Alice nodded in understanding. "Okay. Thank you."
She turned to leave, but Numbuh Five stopped her. "You doing okay?" The K.N.D. operative tilted her red cap up, inspecting the blue haired girl. "You look pale."
"I'm just a little exhausted from fighting the Gravel Golems," Alice answered, not elaborating that she was exhausted from fighting the monsters because she had used her powers. After yesterday's outburst from Eddy, she was cautious on revealing her actual heritage.
"You going to be alright?" the operative asked.
"I'll be okay," Alice answered, attempting to reassure the other girl's concerns. "I have to get going. The Professor needs the fragments."
Numbuh Five frowned, but nodded. "Right. See ya later."
The Utoniums' house wasn't very far from DeeDee's house, so it didn't take Alice long to arrive. The house's lower level windows were broken, probably from the Fusions that broke in. The door, on the other hand, was still intact. As Alice was walking up to the door, it opened suddenly, and the Professor exited, wearing a new coat. His eyes widened in surprise when he saw her.
"Oh, Alice!" the Professor greeted with a relieved smile on his face. He examined her, looking for any sort of scratch she might have received. "Are you doing alright? Are you hurt?"
"I'm okay," Alice answered as she pulled out the wiring fragments from her communicator. She handed them to him. "The Gravel Golems had them."
The Professor's eyes widened in surprise, taking them out of her hand and pocketing them. "You managed to get these from them? Did you use your...?"
Alice nodded, watching as his eyes brightened in scientific enthusiasm.
"That's incredible! What do you have? How do they work? How powerful would you say they are?" the Professor asked, moving through his questions rapidly.
"I think you should call Blossom, Professor," Alice reminded him, instead of answering his question.
"Oh, yes, of course," the Professor replied, flushing in embarrassment for getting carried away. He turned as if to go back in the house, but paused in thought. He then spun around so he was facing Alice again. "Actually, could I ask for another favor?"
"More items were stolen?" Alice asked, assuming he needed her to fight more Fusions.
"Nothing like that. Although a few of my inventions were wrecked," the Professor replied. "No, I was wondering if you'd escort me to Sector V? I don't have anything to fight off the Fusions if I were to get cornered by them, so it'd be safer if you would walk with me. Would you mind?"
"I don't mind," Alice answered.
"Thank you," the Professor said to her, beginning to walk away from the house. "If my Powerprof. Suit wasn't destroyed, I would have equipped it and those Fusions wouldn't be a problem, but those Golems wrecked it when they raided the house. I'll start fixing it back up when I get back from the picnic." He released a sigh. "I have a few things I have to fix thanks to them."
Alice didn't comment on his statement, primarily because she didn't know what he'd have to fix. Aside from the suit and communication equipment, she didn't know what else the Golems had wrecked, but they were probably important. Weird that the Fusions knew what to destroy.
"Sooo," the Professor began, trying to establish small talk. "Does your aunt know about this?"
Alice didn't need clarification on what he was referring to, but she also didn't want to say the answer out loud because it felt like a betrayal of her family. So, instead of answering, she continued to remain silent, keeping her eyes straight ahead. The Professor nodded knowingly.
"I understand," he said.
"Do you think I made a bad choice?" Alice asked, looking at him from the corner of her eyes.
"Do you?" the Professor questioned back.
"I don't know," the girl answered after a moment of silence, dropping her eyes to her feet. "I don't know how I feel."
"I can't answer that," the Professor advised her, falling into his dad role with ease. "This was a choice you made, and only you can decide if you feel you made the right choice or not." He reached out a placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "But for whatever it's worth, you have my total support."
Alice smiled lightly. She didn't get the answer she was looking for, but it sounded like something her mother would say, so that made her feel just a tad better about her decision.
"And I won't tell your aunt," the Professor continued, removing his hand from the pre-teen's shoulder. "That's something for you to do when you're ready."
"Thank you," the girl said.
The two fell into a comfortable silence for only a few seconds before the Professor asked, "Sooo, what can you do?"
The walk over from Pokey Oaks South to Sector V consisted, primarily, of what Alice's powers entailed. She answered his questions to the best of her ability, since she still didn't know how much she could do. She did give him a demonstration on her powers, since she had to use them a few times on the trip. She made a shield for the Professor when a Pesky Pony made a swipe for the man's head, and had to blast away a couple Ball-Peen Meanies that got close. For a man who had created three superpowered little girls, the Professor seemed enthusiastic to see her powers in action. She chalked it up to him being a scientist.
Once they stepped within Sector V's boundaries, Alice had sent out a message to Blossom on behalf of the Professor, letting her know to meet him at the picnic site. As they passed the treehouse, Alice noticed movement going on down underneath the floating island. She looked, but didn't see any Fusion Monsters gearing up to attack them, so she brushed it from her mind and focused on protecting the Professor.
"I can continue on my own from here," the Professor stated once the two of them were only a block away from the picnic area.
"Will you be okay?" Alice asked, warily eyeing the Caterplugs that slithered along the ground. They weren't clumped together in groups like other monsters, but the Professor was unarmed and wouldn't be able to fight off even one of them.
"Of course. It's only a few steps away," he reassured her. "Besides, there aren't many Caterplugs around, so I'll sneak around them. I can probably out run them."
Alice frowned in worry, not entirely trusting his plan, but she spotted the red hair of the Powerpuff's leader. Instantly, her worry went away. Even if the Professor was to get into trouble, Blossom was within the vicinity to save him. She wasn't needed anymore.
"Okay," Alice said. "Goodbye, Professor."
"Goodbye, Alice," the Professor returned, waving his hand. "Thank you for helping my daughter and me."
Alice gave the Professor a brief wave in goodbye, watching him make his way to the picnic site. When he drew closer to where Blossom was waiting, Alice turned and headed further into Sector V. With nothing to do and no favors to fulfill, she found herself passing the treehouse on her way to Heroes Square, the life-like holograms of missing heroes beckoning her to them like light beckons moths.
As she passed the floating island, that same movement from before caught her attention. She looked, but instead of finding nothing, she found a small shape sitting at the base of the chains that kept the floating island occupied by Sector V's treehouse in one place. Bending down, Alice was able to get a better look. It was a round shape, almost looking like a bomb, and a strange face was painted on it. It wasn't making any noise, and didn't seem to be breathing, further confusing Alice on what it could be. Was this from the Kids Next Door? Was this from a Fusion? Out of curiosity, the girl reached out to see what material it was made of.
"Don't touch that!" a voice warned from the left of Alice.
Alice retracted her hand instantly and brought it to her chest. Turning, she watched a young pink pig-tailed haired girl run toward her. In the other girl's hand was a small pistol weapon, shaped like a hair dryer. The girl raised up her weapon and fired off a shot at the bomb with the face paint, dissolving it into Fusion Matter in one shot.
"Did you happen to see the Soulo that dropped this?" the girl asked.
"Soulo?" Alice parroted, rising from her crouched position.
"So you didn't see it," the girl replied, a disappointed frown settling on her face. "Darn."
"Yoo-hoo! Cherry! I got another Soulo Shell!" an exuberant voice called from behind the girl.
The girl, Cherry, turned to the new voice, and Alice looked to see who was calling as well. The girl looked to be only a year older than Alice, and she had the exact same shade of pink hair as Cherry did. Some of the girl's hair was pulled into a braid, and her stray cowlick flicked back and forth as she ran over to the two girls. She carried a book in her hand, which was surprising. Although DexLabs (and Mandark Ind, sorta) was making leaps and bounds in technological advancements in a short time, almost everything was turning digital. Books were still in circulation, but not to the same extent they had been ten years ago. Was the girl using it as a weapon?
The newcomer paused as she got nearer, glancing at Alice in curiosity. Alice shrunk under the gaze.
"Oh hey, I've never met you before," the newcomer commented. "Did you already make a new friend, Cherry?"
"We just met," Cherry retaliated. "I was busy stopping her from touching a Soulo Shell to ask for her name."
"Cherry, what have we talked about? You can't just go up to random people without introducing yourself!" the older girl scolded, wagging her finger in Cherry's direction. Cherry swatted the finger aside, her freckled cheeks turning a soft shade of pink in embarrassment. The older girl twirled around so that she was facing Alice, a gloved hand outstretched toward Alice. "Hi! Please accept my apology on behalf of my sister's rudeness. My name's Peach Blossom, and this is my sister, Cherry Blossom."
"Our parents are botanists," Cherry added in, like she felt the need to explain the origin of their names. "They took one look at our hair color and thought it would be fun to name us after flowers."
"Who might you be?" Peach asked, her hand falling back to her side when Alice didn't reach out and shake it.
"Alice Spacebyte," Alice answered.
Cherry frowned momentarily, her brows creasing together like she was trying to remember where she'd heard that name, but Peach didn't miss a beat.
"Were you sent here by Numbuh Two to help catch that nasty Soulo?" the older girl inquired. "If we don't catch that thing, we can't stop it from dropping its Soulo Shells. And if those things go off, the treehouse will probably float up into the sun."
"That's not going to happen," Cherry corrected.
"Of course not! That's why we're here!" Peach cheered, pumping a fist up into the air.
"No, I don't mean just that! The treehouse wouldn't go floating off into the sun," the younger sister argued.
"That's what we're trying to stop," the older sister reasoned.
Whilst Cherry and Peach bickered back and forth, Alice caught something moving in her peripheral vision. She looked over her shoulder, to see what it was. Moving up the hill toward the chain was a Fusion Monster that Alice remembered seeing in the Fusion Monster directory, but she couldn't remember its name. However, given that it was headed for the chains that kept the treehouse tethered down, Alice assumed this was the Soulo that the two sisters were talking about.
"Is that the thing?" Alice broke in, cutting through the sisters' bickering.
The girls looked in the direction Alice was pointing, and spotted the Fusion Monster on its way to the chains.
"Yep," Peach chirped, raising her book up.
"Do you know a containment spell?" Cherry asked her sister.
"Unfortunately, this book doesn't have it," Peach answered, her face morphing from cheerful to serious. "But it's got some offense spells."
"Fine, that'll have to do. Let's get it!" Cherry declared, raising her pistol-type weapon and charging at the Soulo.
Her sister followed after, the book in her hands glowing brightly. The sight was strange to Alice, especially the fact that they casually mentioned spells. Then again, she had two classmates who knew and could even control the Grim Reaper, so perhaps she shouldn't be so surprised by the casual mention of magic. Regardless, something Cherry said had Alice focused entirely on it. A containment spell would probably work a whole lot like her energy dome, right?
Keeping her sight focused on the Soulo, she raised both hands and directed her palms in the monster's direction. A moment later, the Soulo was encased in an energy bubble. The monster hit the side of the bubble, surprised by its sudden appearance. It roared out in fury and knocked into the bubble again, attempting to break it. The bubble held strong, and only forced the Fusion Monster back. Putting her complete and total focus on the bubble, Alice began to shrink its size. The bubble kept getting smaller and smaller, and it started squishing the Soulo. It continued to shrink, despite the monster's efforts to escape its prison, until the monster popped and became Fusion Matter. The energy bubble disappeared, and the liquid matter was sucked up into Alice's communicator.
Alice fell to her knees, drawing in deep breaths. The effort to keep the bubble from breaking and to shrink its size had been taxing on her, not to mention her use of her powers over the course of the day. She probably couldn't make an energy ball or dome even if she really wanted to.
Two shadows descended on her, and a quick glance up revealed them to be the Blossom sisters leaning over her, both looking concerned.
"Are you good?" Cherry asked when the two made eye contact.
Alice nodded. "I just need to catch my breath."
"That was incredible! I didn't know you can do spells, too," Peach gushed, her concern turning into admiration now that she knew Alice would be okay. "Do you go to Toadblatt's? I haven't seen you in any of my classes, but you look a year younger than me, so that's probably it. Though with your skills, I'd totally expect you to be in Gunderstank with me, so I can't believe I haven't seen you in the common area."
"Toadblatt's?" Alice asked in confusion.
"Toadblatt's School of Sorcery," Peach explained, puffing out her chest proudly. "It used to be a summer school, but recently went into full term since Dean Toadblatt left. I'm in Gunderstank House." Peach pumped her fist into the air. "Go Gunderstank!"
Alice blinked in confusion, mildly surprised by the cheer Peach gave at the end. Cherry crossed her arms and rolled her eyes at her sister's antics. She was used to the older girl's antics, but it was embarrassing to have her sister acting out in public.
"She's a witch," Cherry explained to the confused girl, pointedly ignoring Peach's offended "Sorceress!" claim. "She can perform magic, but she's still a beginner, so she needs to carry around that spellbook."
"Your containment spell was amazing! Do you think you could teach me?" Peach asked. "None of my classes have discussed the subject, which is a real bummer considering all the good it could do."
"No," Alice answered. When she saw how fast Peach's face fell, she hurriedly explained. "It wasn't a spell. I don't know spells. I'm not a magic person."
"Oh. So you're an E.V.O. then?" Cherry asked, sounding more curious than judgmental.
Alice shook her head, diverting her eyes to her feet. She picked at the end of her bolero shrug's sleeve to ease her nerves. Peach and Cherry shared a look of confusion, concerned that maybe they had pushed too much. Peach reached out and put a hand on Alice's shoulder, giving it a gentle pat in comfort.
"Hey, it's okay. If you don't want to say, you don't need to," she assured the girl, smiling brightly. "You were a big help today, so I just want to say thanks."
"We've been after that Soulo all morning. If you hadn't stopped by, we would probably still be after it," Cherry added in. "You did us a huge favor by taking that thing out."
"It's alright," Alice replied. "I don't mind helping."
She had said it without really thinking, but she found that she meant it. Helping out had just been an instinctual action.
"We could use that attitude finding those missing heroes," Peach stated sagely, nodding her head in the direction of Heroes Square. Her eyes suddenly lit up like a light bulb. "Hey! Why don't we trade contacts? That way we can be in touch and totally help each other out later on."
The younger sister nodded along with the idea, finding nothing wrong with it. Alice wasn't too enthused by the suggestion, but she kept that to herself and traded her communicator with Peach. Peach's communicator was blue, the color for Dexter. Her statement on finding missing heroes made more sense. Cherry's communicator, on the other hand, was yellow, the color for Double D.
"I'm putting my friends' numbers in your list, too," Cherry said. "They're good friends of mine, and I'll give them your number later. If you need any help with anything, you can rely on them." She handed back Alice's communicator. "They would have been here to help, but they're filming for a web show in Prickly Pines right now. I'm supposed to be meeting them over there to help."
"We'd better go," Peach pointed out, shielding her eyes as she looked up at the sun. "Based on the position of the sun, I'm guessing it's getting close to noon. We promised we'd be up there before two."
"We'll stop somewhere and grab food. We could have a nice lunch out in the forest," Cherry suggested, getting a nod of agreement from her sister. "Talk to you later, Alice."
"See ya next time, Alice!" Peach said, walking down the street with her sister at her side. "Keep up the good work!"
Alice waved goodbye at them, dropping her arm when they could no longer see her. Left alone, and no longer detoured by the Soulo Shells, Alice continued to her previous destination: Heroes Square.
Once just a regular, unassuming open spot for families to picnic and hold community events, the place now housed a monument meant to pay respects to fallen or missing heroes. It was built just after Buttercup's disappearance, and for a while, only her hologram (courtesy of DexLabs) was at the monument, which is when it used to be called Hero Square. Now it was Heroes Square because more missing heroes occupied the space: Major Glory, Supercow, Monkey, and Captain Melonhead and his sidekick Splinter.
Alice sat cross-legged at the base of the monument, having been there for hours. She could have probably done something more productive, maybe see if someone else needed help, or check her emails to see if Ben was going to send her somewhere, but she didn't do any of that. She felt compelled to be with the holograms.
Inches from her were offerings of flowers, candles, and cards all scattered and addressed to the five different heroes. A large, white banner that read "MISSING BUT NOT FORGOTTEN! WE WILL FIND YOU!" in blue text was hung up above the offerings. Various names were scribbled all over the banner, and Alice recognized that a few were fellow students of Pokey Oaks Junior High, but she couldn't picture faces to the names.
She'd been to Heroes Square twice, back when it was only known as Hero Square. Once was when it was in the middle of being built. Her mother had brought her along so they could watch the Dexbots and construction workers build the monument. The second time had been when it was finished, and a ceremony for the fallen hero had been held. Once again, her mother brought her. Her mother had brought a bouquet of white lilies, rosemary, and aspen, and Alice had brought a green apple flavored candle. Both visits had made her uneasy.
Now, sitting at its base, Alice could identify what that uneasiness really was: guilt. Unlike Blossom, or Dexter, or Double D, or her mother when she had been alive, she had given up hope. She didn't like it. She didn't like feeling this aching sense of hopelessness. It wasn't fair to everyone who loved these heroes for her to just give up on them. It wasn't fair to the heroes themselves who protected the weak and offered assistance to those in need for her to just abandon all thoughts that they could be alive. She didn't like the awful feeling it produced in the pit of her stomach; she wanted to make things right.
"Wherever you are, I hope you're alright," she prayed, closing her eyes and dropping her head. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry for thinking none of you could be found. I'm sorry for losing hope. I'm sorry for giving up. Opening her eyes from her prayer, Alice lifted her head and stared at the holograms. "I hope we find you. All of you," she continued. "The Earth is in trouble, and we need you."
She prayed that they would be found. These heroes were needed, now more than ever, to help the Earth repel the forces of Planet Fusion. In the meantime, she would do whatever she could to help lessen the burden. That would be a good way to honor them.
It was the least she could do.
Thank you all for coming back! I meant to have this chapter posted back in May, but time got away with me. My goal is to try a chapter a month (if I'm lucky, maybe two a month).
As you can see, some of Alice's favors are based on actual missions from the game. The two favors Alice does at the beginning are based on the two missions: "Blossom's Picnic Panic (Part 2 of 4)" and "Blossom's Picnic Panic (Part 3 of 4)." I almost used Part 4 of the saga, but didn't want to just yet, since it required Alice to go into an Infected Zone, and she can't do that just yet. Her encounter with the Soulo is based on the (infamous) mission "Sector Defense," which was Nano Numbuh Two's mission after the Academy update.
DeeDee's house is based on the design that was planned for FusionFall: Legacy (as you're all aware by now, FFL has been shut down). I liked the idea that once her parents moved in with Dexter, she'd color her house to better express her nature.
Cherry and Peach are a mix of canon and my own headcanon. In the video "FusionFall Legacy Intro," the character creation set up was shown, and in it was a pink haired girl created for the video. Later, in Picture of the Day's Season 3, that same girl was used. I didn't want to keep referring to her as pink haired girl, so I named her Cherry Blossom. The two friends she was talking about were Pic of the Day hosts Allison and Prince King Morbucks (the latter of whom was a banker in the game). I loved the Pic of the Day trio so much, so I wanted to include them in the story. As for Peach, she's the magical girl, the one holding the spellbook, that was in some FusionFall promotional art. She was never in the game proper, but I always liked her hair design and the fact that she was implying we could do magic, so I decided to bring her in and make her Cherry's sister, giving her the name Peach. Their names and status as siblings (as well as Peach going to Toadblatt's) was not canon to FusionFall, FusionFall Retro, or FusionFall Legacy. That is all unique to this story.
Speaking of Toadblatt's, in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, the school is referred to as Toadblatt's Summer School of Sorcery and is a summer school only thing. However, in the school's last appearance, the Headmaster Toadblatt left to marry Squidhat, so for this story, a new headmaster took over and changed it from operating only in the summer to operating like a normal school year. Gunderstank House is a parody of Harry Potter's Gryffindor House.
At some point in its time, the space in the top left corner of Sector V has been referred to as Hero Square and Heroes Square, so I decided to use both and explain its evolution from one name to the other. From here on out, it's only ever going to be referred to as Heroes Square. The holograms of the missing heroes is the same from FusionFall Legacy. That doesn't mean these five are the only heroes missing, it's just the ones the Suburbs considered to be the most important to show. More references to missing heroes (and people) will be shown as the story progresses.
Once again, thank you all for reading this story. I hope you come back for the next chapter!