The cold air tore past their faces the moment that they shot into the darkening sky. Each one of them possessed a look of trepidation on their faces, but none of them would back down from their duty. Blossom headed up the group, feeling the chill grow around her body and knowing that soon she would adjust. Their battle dresses were not made for colder months, so she had instructed all of them to wear thermal socks and undershirts so that they could at least stay somewhat warm. And if it got hot and exhausting wherever it was that they were going, they could at least roll their socks down to their ankles to cool off. She felt that her bow was barely keeping up with the speed at which she was flying. Sometimes she wondered whether wearing the bow was necessary, for apart from decoration, it did little else. She used to use it as a throwing weapon before a rather unfortunate incident involving a cement truck left her thinking twice about where to throw her beloved headpiece. She wanted to wear at least a jacket but that would become cumbersome when flying upward at such a velocity. Thick jackets became like parachutes. The sooner the Professor came up with some winter gear for the girls, the better. Perhaps something with a turtleneck. Blossom's nape was feeling iced-over. She held her arms to herself and wished that the bright pink streak she left behind was some sort of heat source. Sadly, it was not, and as night crept in, things would only get colder. Dexter couldn't Transys them up there because his readings of the ship were too faint, as though it was immersed in some sort of cloak. So instead, they flew upwards into the night, the Professor having anxiously sent them off not long ago. Blossom closed her eyes, feeling the air rush past and enjoying it despite how frigid it was. It may be her last chance to feel such a thing. There came a time when all things had to end. It would be sad if this was the end, but Blossom didn't let her sadness show. She needed to turn that emotion into passion for the one thing she does best: saving the planet.
Beside her, Bubbles was shivering, her eyes cold but her trajectory still well aligned with the others. The poor girl was whimpering and trying her best to stop her teeth from chattering. Her blonde hair fluttered as the ribbons in her hair tried their best to keep her pigtails in shape. If she wasn't sucking in all the air she could just to avoid thinking about being cold, Bubbles would probably be crying. She hated the cold, although not as much as Buttercup did. What she hated more was the danger ahead. Ever since Breannin's death, she had never wanted to see Barasia's face again. But now she would be forced to. She didn't understand why Barasia couldn't just leave them all alone.She felt sick to her stomach that she was going up there to come face to face with that raven and the sickness only got worse when she recalled what was at stake. Her home.. her friends... her family. That had been the case on so many occasions in her life, but it would only take the death of a loved one so close to her to make her realise just how high the stakes truly were. She didn't want to get blown up. Not after all this. Not after all their hard work. Just before Christmas, too. Fate sucked. At least there was no prolonging it further. The anxiety of facing this sort of event again had been eating her for so long that sooner or later she would have wanted it. After seeing those photos from the picnic, Bubbles wanted to set things right. Whether that meant avenging Breannin's death or joining her in it, it didn't matter. So long as it was over. And if there was a way to meet Breannin in the afterlife and it meant giving her life up to do so whilst facing the impossible, then she did not desire to live much longer. She didn't really know the difference between destiny and fate. But little Bubbles did know that she'd be coming face to face with one of them very soon.
Buttercup swore beneath her breath, fervently rubbing her hands over her arms in a pathetically hopeless attempt to warm them. Her ebony hair travelled as a shimmering black velvet trail from her scalp, fluttering like a small cape. It had grown longer over the years and she didn't want to cut it too short, although she had wanted to spike it up with a truckload of hair gel for some time. Apparently that sort of thing was popular nowadays, and Buttercup wanted to be with the times. She trailed her sisters slightly, staring up into the cold and darkening sky as the sun set behind them across the bay. Sunsets were beautiful in Megaville, after rising in the morning over the mountains, it cast a warm orange glow across the bay and the city before finally sinking below the horizon, leaving patterns of the afterglow shining in the water. Several areas around the bay were hotspots for young romantic couples to observe the sunset in its full glory whilst sharing a special moment with that special someone. Buttercup longed to be at any one of those places right now, rather than speeding up toward a ship she had never seen, toward a battle she could not predict, and a foe she could not possibly fight alone. She didn't like to admit her weaknesses (despite her weakness to the cold being frightfully obvious by now) but Barasia was something that nobody had ever faced before. It was light trying to outfight your own shadow, and that shadow happened to pack the extra punch that you didn't. Buttercup and Barasia looked somewhat similar in terms of height, hair and most definitely attitude. She didn't care about outcomes anymore, be it life, death, win, lose... All she cared about was that, if her fist ever crashed into Barasia's face, she would never stop feeling it. She glanced at Bell. No doubt she wanted the same thing Buttercup did.
Bell was silent.
Buttercup, glancing further behind her, slid to a stop for a moment. She hovered at a good 5,000 feet now above Megaville, its expanse seeming to stretch on forever below until the sea of lights met the sea of water. She shook her head, entranced for a moment. That city was their home. That enormous urban landscape with its many peninsulas sticking out into the bay like fingers were what she and her sisters were tasked to defend. It was so huge, and yet... today it was not just about Megaville... it was about the whole world - a landscape immensely more large than the beautiful nighttime sight she saw below. She forgot the chill of the night air for a moment as she stared down. Normally, the Powerpuffs had no problem with extreme temperatures. They could dive into lava and submerge themselves in glacial ice for a short time, no problem. However, the cold night air tearing past their bodies at a time at which they would normally be snug in bed was something quite unfamiliar to Buttercup. The air above would only get thinner, which would mean the girls would grow exhausted faster. Dexter had said that the ship they were looking for was in the upper atmosphere where there was still air to breathe but not by much. They had to be quick. Buttercup grit her teeth, unable to take her eyes off her new hometown. There was a beauty in it that even she, a hardened fighter with little concept of aesthetic pleasure, could not deny. She was almost too lost in her own thoughts to hear Blossom's calls from above.
"Come on, Buttercup, don't fall behind!"
Buttercup shook her head, "How can we let go of this.... just... just leave it all behind? If we don't come back from this, then at least we need one last look at what we leave behind..."
Blossom, above, paused in her ascent and glanced down, "It... it is beautiful..." the chill was getting to her voice, and her jaw quivered ever so slightly. There were few clouds in the sky tonight, and the stars glowed high above. If there had been an overcast night, the girls would have had to deal with the unfortunate honour of getting totally soaked on the way up.
Bubbles rubbed her arms subconsciously, "Do you think that... people down there are relying on us?"
Buttercup scoffed, a grin of sad realisation on her face, "They wouldn't have a freakin' clue..."
Bubbles turned to the silent fourth member, "Bell?" she asked. Bell closed her eyes and shook her head, her hair floating around her body mystically. She still wore the standard colour-and-stripe outfit instead of the modified outfits with extra decoration that the other girls had donned. She still did not speak.
Blossom whispered, "D-Dexter?"
The tiny black communication chips on their shoulders crackled for a moment, before the boy's accented voice came over, slightly filtered but very much understandable, "If I could fly up there right now, I would..." his sigh came over slightly crackly, "Girls... you need to concentrate. Enjoy this, I guess, but remember what's at stake. Don't forget your main focus."
Blossom's eyes narrowed. In her mind, the face of a gorgeous little sapphire-eyed girl with a radiant smile was firmly fixed, for that was the only way she could see it, nowadays, "Oh trust me... we won't forget." She paused, contemplating everyone down there who she knew and everyone in her life that she hoped to one day meet in that enormous metropolis. All that could be stolen from her in one swift green flash. A shiver travelled down her spine, and she suddenly recalled how freezing it was. Doing her best to resist the urge to let her teeth start chattering, she spun and started to rise, "Come on girls... we gotta get this over with." Very shortly the others followed her. Bell stuck beside Blossom the entire way, never venturing further ahead or behind her as though every movement was precisely calculated to coincide with Blossom's. She still wasn't talking, her sugar eyes staring forward blankly, their pupiless irises glinting in the half-light. She was the angel slowly rising back toward heaven on her little wings, toward paradise, toward redemption. But they both knew that paradise had died a long time ago. And if they won here today, it still would not be paradise. But, if anything, it would be better...
Again their night flight sunk into silence, each girl doing their bit to avoid noticing how cold it was getting. Bell was emotionless, as though the cold was unnoticeable and she was growing more and more bored. Blossom still envied her, for many reasons. But she would never give up who she was to be like Bell. To be like Bell was to experience hell of its own unique kind... and Blossom didn't want that. Bell had nearly killed herself once, and Bell was one of the most strong-willed girls she knew. If it had been Blossom in Bell's position, she might have succeeded in what Bell had failed to do. They protected the weak and gave hope to the public, but when they couldn't defend one of their own.... Blossom sighed. Again, she was linking their own inability to Breannin's death, which was a freak case that nobody could have anticipated. She hated it when something so horrible could be brought back to themselves, and Blossom knew very well that her own emotions had clouded her judgement a few times because of that. But the one person who helped her through all that and who understood what she was going through was the girl who flew side-by-side with her. Without Bell, thing would have been different. She didn't know if it would have been better or worse... but at least it would have been different. Blossom didn't want it that way, though. She cursed softly. She was getting sentimental now. If this was the way things would go for the entirety of their trip to Barasia's orbital stronghold, she'd either grow bored or weary from her own mental tedium. So she opened her mouth, deciding that the best thing to both cure the silence and raise morale was a good conversation.
Unfortunately, the first thing to come from her mouth wasn't the best line in the world, "Holy crap, it's cold..."
Buttercup scoffed, "You only JUST noticed?"
Quickly thinking of something else, Blossom asked, "Any idea what we should do when we finally get to her?"
Bubbles blinked, "Aren't... you the one who is supposed to decide that, 'cause you're leader?"
"Well... I guess, but... so far, nothing I thought of ever worked." she sighed.
Bubbles smiled a little, "Blossom, cheer up a little... every time something like this happens, you're so serious about it, and you always think that things will go bad. What if they don't? Why can't we be happy about our chance to end this fighting?"
Buttercup grit her teeth, "Cos we're probably gonna get fried, that's what!"
Bubbles sneered, "And you too! Stop acting like there's no hope! We're Powerpuff Girls! We can do anything if we put our minds to it."
It wasn't Blossom or Buttercup who spoke this time. "Did we save Breannin?" Everyone glanced at Bell, and there was a grim silence. Once she realised the impact of her rhetorical words had on the other three, the little gynoid lowered her gaze and hid her eyes partly by her thick dark lashes, "I'm sorry..."
"Don't be." Blossom told her. "We weren't ready for that. We had no idea what was going to happen, back then. But now we do... and since we're ready for the consequences of what we're about to do... then we should be able to do everything in our power. If we work together... as a group... as sisters... we can do it, girls."
"What if our combined power ain't enough?" asked Buttercup. The night air was getting colder and colder but their chatter took their minds off it.
Blossom smiled a little, "All these times we've bounced back from her attacks, alive... yes, we lost one... but the rest of us are still here... and that means we still have a chance. Barasia's going to want to sway Bell to her side once more... so maybe Bell can work some of her own magic... in the end, we might be able to avoid getting ourselves hurt."
Bell shook her head immediately, "I won't give in to whatever mind tricks she tries to play... even if she killed all three of you before my eyes, I would still say no... so a girl like her, with a future that is bright in its own way ahead of her... why would she have any reason to back down? She's not scared of us..." Bell looked up at the darkness ahead and above, "We're going to war, girls..."
"So it's hopeless, then, is it?" Buttercup asked. "Never thought I'd be scared to jump into a fight..."
"We'll fight together." Blossom told them. The sun had vanished and the blues around them were fading to black. Still no sign of the ship they were looking for. How big was it meant to be? Megaville grew smaller and smaller beneath. Dexter was silent, only emphasising the distance between them. A lot of California's coastline was visible now, lit up similarly by sea upon sea of vivid lights from city upon city. Earth, covered in darkness, stretched on toward the horizons either side, meeting space at an ambigious point that was indeterminable because of the night. The air grew thinner and thinner, very gradually, as they reached altitudes that intercontinental airliners would reach, where weather balloons sailed and where no bird could possibly soar. Their skin, riddled with goosebumps, started to grow numb. Depressing talk was no way to avoid gradually freezing. Blossom knew of something that would cheer the girls up, and at the same time spur them onward a little. In times of sadness, it was always she who first tried to lift their spirits. After all, she was the first of the three girls to speak upon their birth, which was why her name was Blossom: because her inner radiance was always bursting forth. Bubbles was always cheery (well, not always, but often) and Buttercup, well... Buttercup started with 'B'. Blossom glanced to her side. What was the meaning in 'Bell'? It could have been many things. She wanted Bell to hear what she had to say, too. "Hey..." she trailed off for a moment, briefly lost in thought.
Bubbles tilted her head, "Hmm?"
"Our birthday's coming up in a month..." Blossom muttered, her cheeks going a little pink. Their birthday was the best time of the year.
Buttercups' face started to light up, "Hey, yeah..." a smile etched its way onto her lips and her eyes, those which had seen so many battlefields, sparkled with her youthful glee. "And when that day comes, we'll each be proudly able to say that we're 8 years old..."
"Only this time..." Bubbles glanced sidewards, smiling too, "We'll have someone special to share it with..."
Blossom nodded, "And after that... we'll keep having birthdays as a family. And each one we'll celebrate together. Celebrating life and being alive."
Buttercup chuckled, "That's a bit sappy, right there..." As she talked, her breaths started to freeze into a cloud of ice crystals.
Blossom giggled, "But it's true! Life goes on just as constantly as the sun rises..."
"Nothing will stop the sunrise." Bell's eyes narrowed, "Nobody can."
It seemed that every word Bell gently spoke was calming, for the girls had nothing to add to what the gynoid had just said, instead allowing those words to sink in. The cold didn't seem to bother them anymore. Why complain about the cold, anyway? It wasn't going to last forever. They had the rest of their lives ahead of them and yet they were worried about a small chill. Blossom thought it childish, in retrospect. Far more important things to worry about. She couldn't see anything ahead. Was Barasia here? Were they in the wrong place? Blossom was worried. If Barasia had set some sort of deadline and they couldn't even find her, what was the chance of reaching her before she blew something up? It was growing darker and darker around them but the glow of the atmosphere lit their bodies as though the world below were one big lamp. The Powerpuffs had ventured this far up before and out even further with the use of special suits designed by the Professor. There would be no dress-ups this time. He wanted them to rely on each other. In the end, the victor was the one who was stronger on the battlefield. Barasia didn't take kindly to cheating, anyway. Blossom didn't want to paint a target on her chest. She and her sisters were equal. So too would they fight as equals. And should they live or die, they'd know that as a unit they gave it their best, and if that wasn't enough then at least they stayed true to each other. Buttercup was right. That was kinda mushy. Bell's words about the sun... the sun that had just slipped below the horizon and dragged the solar terminator with it. Nothing lit Earth except the glow of the atmosphere's cyan hue and the many stars beyond them. Below, the cities were now a wash of light with no distinction between them, like patterns on a cave wall made by gloworms. The girls had seen it before. But as Bell stared over her shoulder at what she saw, despite falling from space one time and being upon an orbital battleship another time, she had never gotten a good view of it before. Her bone-white eyes sparkled. Such beauty she had never witnessed before. Blossom noticed that reaction as well, and she felt happy for Bell. In spite of everything, she had come this far. Now, maybe, she could set things right again.
"You're lucky, Blossom..."
"Am I, Bubbles?"
"Dexter's staying over at our house tonight... and... I know you two like each other and spend a lot of time together... but wouldn't it be great," azure eyes met strawberry eyes, "if we got back and the first thing you do is run into his arms?" Blossom didn't know if Bubbles was discreetly teasing her or not, but her cheeks suddenly felt warm against the frozen high-altitude air. "I think that'd be the best gift for Dexter right now... to see you come back."
Blossom kept her voice soft, "B-Bubbles... he can hear us, you know..."
Bubbles cocked her head toward her right shoulder where the micro communications chip was placed. She heard nothing. Was Dexter busy? Surely he had something to say about this. "That's weird... he's not responding..."
Buttercup, flying with her arms crossed and eyes closed, grunted, "Nyeh, he's probably thinking of OTHER sorts of gifts Blossom could give... and swimming in a pool of his own drool."
Blossom scowled, "You're gross..."
Silence some more. Blossom was discouraged at the fact that they could not hold a conversation. Ahead, something glinted in a way that stars did not. The shape was distant and tiny but at the same time she could see that it was something out of the ordinary. Her eyes narrowed and she sped up a little bit. That was her destination. The air was starting to get harder to breathe, and she found herself taking deeper, longer breaths just to stop getting tired. The gradual change in air pressure and density would cause them to fatigue much faster. But it was fortunate that such a change of pressures was not sudden. To suddenly lose it all at once would be catastrophic, and despite being in the upper atmosphere where some air still existed, the instant change would, at the very least, damage if not destroy even a healthy set of lungs. The shape glinted again. Yes. That was where they needed to go. She tried not to make her urgency apparent, because to charge headlong toward it was an unnecessary waste of both energy and adrenaline. They had to save it, she knew, for when such a thing was needed most.
Amongst the silence that was only penetrated by the thinning air rushing past, Bell's gentle voice reached their ears, "Girls... I...." her cheeks were red, but it didn't seem like a blush of shyness. She glanced sideways at Blossom before taking her eyes off her, the red deepening, "I wanted to thank you..." she said very softly. Her hair was like a cloud flowing off her head. She seemed to belong up here, so free.
Bubbles tilted her head, "Bell?"
Bell closed her eyes for a moment. For so long she had wanted to say this. Now, at a moment such as this, she finally could. "I... I wanted to thank you... for being the wonderful family that you are." She didn't want to shed any tears, not only because she'd be a bit embarassed to cry so openly to all three but also because the tears would freeze against her cheeks and become very uncomfortable, "Because of you.... I finally know the happiness Breannin felt... and what it must have been like for her to live with three beautiful older sisters..." 'There,' her mind reassured her, 'now you have said it.'
Bubbles' own cheeks were a rich pink, and her smile could make flowers bloom, "Bell..."
Buttercup nodded, "You know... I never really said much to you, Bell... all this time, we'd been so distant... I knew that you were tough deep down and you could definitely kick some ass when you wanted... it was scary, sometimes, watching how you reacted to things... but all this time, I never got the chance to say..." she met Bell's eyes and smiled, "You're really something, Bell... even if you are a different kind of person than we are... it doesn't matter what kind of ingredients go together to make our bodies. We're family all the same." she told her. Bell smiled, the broadest smile that had crossed the angel's face in quite some time.
Blossom was close to tearing up, "Buttercup... that was so sweet..."
"Yeah, I know. I'd better wash my mouth out..." she chuckled.
"That thing ahead..." Bubbles muttered, "that's not the ship, is it?" she pointed, the mere motion of her arm and hand making her limb go numb. Her chest rose and fell with steadily deeper breaths. They were in the ionosphere by now. Below, the continents had vanished into black, and the swilf of lights were so distant that they couldn't tell where their home was anymore.
Blossom growled, "It... looks weird... like a cartridge of somekind."
Bell's eyes widened a little, "That's not a ship, it's a satellite... and it looks like it's a global positioning beacon..." the machine ahead was an arrangement of whites, blacks and silvers stuck together in almost piecemeal fashion to become an orbital object. The central mechanism was a group of three white cylinders joined together at the sides to form the bulky centre, an underhanging sensor of somekind was directed toward the Earth below, and out the sides sat two standard-looking solar panels. There was an emblem on the front written in green writing. Bell's rapid-zoom vision spotted it first. 'Optus'. "What's that doing right in our w-" her eyes widened further, "GET CLOSE!"
The girls instinctively bunched together on reflex as the sky behind the satellite suddenly lit up with a string of reddish flashes. Something soared past them, downward, toward the surface, resembling some sort of globular silver particle with sparkling red energies trailing off it like a comet, narrowly missing the four and no doubt striking Buttercup if she had stayed where she was. A second object of identical appearance whizzed down on the other side, trailing the same tail of sparkly cinders like a roman candle. A high pitched scream of "SHE'S SHOOTING AT US!" followed by "NO SHIT!" accompanied the strange howling noises the blasts made as they burned through the sky. As they tore past, the girls felt an immense and split-second burst of heat across their bodies before the freezing cold of near-vacuum engulfed them again, making Buttercup growl loudly in frustration. Bell looked up again and gasped. The girls did not need to ask why. The third flash of red was the most vivid and this time it hit. The only thing standing between the girls and the source of those deadly shots was the satellite, its old yet sturdy chassis ripped asunder as though detonated from the inside out. Pieces of metal spiralled away, caught fire and began to fall, turning black. The solar panels shattered into shards and the fragments all let the momentum of the blast push them into gravity's hold.
"Don't worry, that satellite was probably miles away, given the size of it..." Buttercup told them. She darted aside moments later as a falling, burning fragment nearly tore right through her skull. Her emerald eyes widened at the severity of her misjudgement.
Bubbles glowered, "Miles, huh?"
Blossom hissed, "Come on, we gotta dodge those burning bits. At least we know what we're looking for now."
Bell squinted, "I can see what we're looking for..." She pointed forward, her arm stinging as it moved through the iced air, "T-There..." she stuttered, but not from the cold.
Blossom cursed, "Dammit, that stuff's coming this way! Dodge!" she cried out, darting aside as flaming wreckage started to fall like burning rain. As they fell toward them, the pieces grew faster and faster as they were left to gravity's hold, accelerating toward terminal velocity. Blossom sidestepped another as it came crashing toward her, sprinkling her with tiny fragments of incinerated metal. Bubbles, too, ducked aside frantically, yelping as she did so. Buttercup drew back her fist and punched aside one of the bits of debris, but swore loudly a moment later and glanced at her hand where a gash had opened on her knuckles. Bell gracefully flew around every piece that came her way like a child dancing in raindrops. She stared ahead through the thinning cloud of smoke before turning to glance over her shoulder.
"Hey, are you-" she froze suddenly, her eyes wide and staring at the planet below.
Blossom panted a little, feeling a slight burn across her arm where a flaming chunk of metal had nearly struck, "Yeah... yeah, we're ok, just... Bell?"
Bell's wide eyes reflected nothing but sudden shock, and for a moment none of the girls knew what it was that caused it. Bell hung there, entranced and not speaking. What was it that had suddenly distracted her? The cloud of dust from the ravaged and doomed satellite was dissipating into the air rapidly, clearing the path beyond, in which a sleek silver object began to creep closer. No longer focused on what lay ahead, the girls instead stared at Bell, who stared downward. Her eyes were full of confusion and terror as though witnessing something awful. The girls followed her gaze, wanting to know just what was going on. Bell mouthed a few words that took on no sound, and her fingers twitched a little. She looked almost sick. Blossom could only see, below, the burning fragments of the satellite slowly disintegrating as they fell deeper and deeper into the atmosphere, none of them big enough to hit the ground intact. The flames trailing off each piece fizzled and burnt out, leaving a dirty smear across the dark skies as they fell lower and lower toward some unpredictable landing place below. "That.... that...." she blinked again, her eyes showing nothing but horror.
Buttercup, clutching her sliced knuckles as the blood dripped from them and ignoring the pain completely, blinked, "What is wrong with her?"
Blossom shook her head, "I... don't know! Bell! Talk to us, Bell!"
Bell watched the burning fragments getting torn apart ruthlessly by the atmospheric friction and suddenly her body felt colder than it had before. A series of chills ran down her back as she saw, in her mind, her vision filling with flames as the world spun and spiralled before her eyes. She was back there... back when she had no control... back when her body had been all but destroyed, "That..." Back before she had been found... back when the last thing she saw was the world on fire as her mangled body was engulfed in flame, "That was... me..."
Blossom heard those words, those frightened words, and stopped breathing for a moment as the last burning fragments disappeared below, their glow so faint and their distance so great that they could no longer be seen. Perhaps they would be seen below... or perhaps not. Each one of those slabs of wreckage... Bell saw each of them as she saw herself when she had escaped the time rift with a hole blown through her chest. Now she was haunted by it... because it was something she would rather forget. Bell seemed paralysed even after the pieces had vanished. Bubbles and Buttercup were staring at her, confused and the slightest bit short of breath. Bell had told her nothing of what she remembered, if anything, from that moment when her life was nothing but a burning flash falling to the Earth, spinning end over end so dizzyingly fast that she had probably felt twice as sick, before being mercifully spared any further agony when she lost all awareness before her final impact. But no matter how hazy those memories had been before, Bell recalled them clear as day now. Blossom flew up to the girl and floated right before those horrified eyes. Her own face was panicked as she brought it close to Bell's and stared at those ghostly oculi, "B-Bell, snap out of it! You're... you're scaring me, now..."
The flames burning inside her head started to die away. Bell blinked a couple of times as the vision of fire and falling was replaced with Blossom's face. Everything seemed to calm down almost instantly but she maintained her blank and hypnotised expression a moment longer as, this time, Blossom's face painted vivid pictures in her head that kept her from fully coming back to reality. Those eyes... those beautiful eyes... if she could choose one colour her eyes could be instead of quartz-white, she wanted pink. That face had always been the face Bell wanted to turn to for help and comfort and now, on the eve of destiny and the stage of the apocalypse, she still had that one special girl to rely on. Blossom's face was so close to hers... almost close enough to-
The moment Blossom raised her hand upward to deliver a sense-restoring slap, Bell blinked and yelped, the pictures of burning and tumbling through the atmosphere well and truly evacuated from her mind. She retreated slightly, frantic, her eyes wide and her voice coming in stammers, "B-B-B-Blossom! N-No! I'm okay, really! Just... uh... d-don't slap me!" Her cheeks had gone bright red. She hoped Blossom hadn't noticed, but it was really hard to hide what was probably the only colour on her mostly-monochrome body. "I'm ok..."
Blossom lowered her arm, "You really worried me there for a moment. You looked real frightened. We haven't even gotten to Barasia and you're already acting like you're staring her in the face."
Bell's eyes narrowed, suddenly serious, "If I stared her in the face... I would NOT be frightened." Deep down she knew she would be, but she never let anyone know. Not Barasia, not the girls. She only wished that she, herself, didn't know it either.
Blossom sighed, "Well, like I said... we haven't even gotten to her yet..."
Buttercup's emerald eyes seemed wider than usual. She quickly offered to explain why by raising her finger. She wasn't scared. She was hardly ever scared. But that look in her eyes, it seemed to say... that she was extremely impressed. Maybe even awestruck, "W-Well... I think we know where we need to go to do that..."
All girls turned around and looked up, and in the thin atmosphere collectively gasped, the trace amounts of air going into their lungs making the gasps last about five seconds each. New chills ran down their spine, no thanks to the freezing air, but because of the absolute monstrosity they saw before them. Up here, so high, they felt next to weightless, but as this... beast of a machine hung before them, they felt as though whatever mass they normally had was negligible. What bore down on them was nothing less than a looming metallic colussus seemingly staring at them through a circular forward aperture formed by a series of five flat rings arranged adjacently, each easily the width of a football field. Its polished silver surface gleamed many metallic hues against the distant starry backdrop, hovering silent above them and basting its shadow like a predatory shark over the four tiny morsels. Below the clouds were amassing and blocking the view of lights, as though the world was becoming a lifeless black abyss that blended in perfectly with surrounding space. The starship's enormous maw gaped at them, daring them to fly closer and discover the ship's true lethality. The main weapon seemed silent and unused, yet the ship had just obliterated a satellite and narrowly missed doing the same to the girls. A turret, like some sort of ancient war cannon from back in the trench days, was stuck to the side of the ship, swivelling around as though seeking the next target to atomise. If that had been what had fired, then there was no telling what the enormous weapon the girls saw before them could do to them or the planet they were sworn to protect.
"Shit... that's big..." Buttercup muttered.
Dexter's voice filtered over those small comm chips and his chuckle was not a happy one, "I can't see it from your angle, but... from what I have seen on the blueprints... you're looking at the Bismarck of space warfare right in front of you..."
Blossom's fists clenched, her knuckles almost blue from the freezing cold, "There's gotta be a way to break that thing..."
"Yeah..." came Dexter's voice, "From inside." he paused a moment, then returned, still crackly but audible, "The ship's still giving off a disruption field that is turning its signal into the size of a small bird... kinda like radar-avoidance technology on a stealth aircraft. You'll have to get inside on your own, because I'm no help whilst its deflectors are up..."
Bubbles's face had gone slightly blue, and her breaths were ragged, "W-Whatever we do... we can't stay up here forever... I can't stand the cold and the thin air all at once..."
Blossom grit her teeth, "Bell, do you know what to do? Bubbles probably won't last much longer!"
Bell narrowed her eyes, staring at the behemoth as though it were some common enemy returning for another round at continuing some sort of bitter rivalry, "If I remember correctly... the ship has an underside fighter bay. That's the only way inside the vessel apart from airlocks but those would all be closed..."
"So why would the fighter bay be OPEN?" questioned Buttercup, steadying Bubbles with a firm grip on her shoulders.
Bell swung around and glared into Buttercup's eyes piercingly, "Because she wants us aboard. Otherwise we'd be just like that satellite right now." She floated like a tiny cloud toward the ship, which loomed ever-nearer as if begging for the girls to come aboard. Bell had no idea how Barasia could procure such a megalithic machine but, no matter how she did, what DID matter was that it was here and that it was dangerous. They had destroyed a battleship twice this vessel's size, before, and possibly one or more of Barasia's friends. If they did not leave the ship with Barasia's deactivated body ready for serious overhaul, then they would need to destroy her along with this fearsome futuristic flagship. She glided under its two-pronged forward hull, to which both ends of the accelerator rings connected and protruded like some sort of utensil or industrial tool. The ship was primarily cylindrical with windows and viewports dotting the galvanised hull. Unrestricted by the cold or diminishing air, Bell looped beneath the ship and past another two-barrelled turret, which was motionless as though deactivated. Blossom lugged along behind, finding it hard to even stay aloft. If any of them fell, it'd be a LONG way down. She was not shooting at them. That was good. She wanted them to come aboard. At least they were doing the right thing. Bell glanced over her shoulder at the trajectory of the weapon's aim. The rings acted like a giant crosshair, and centred within it was the exact point they had risen from. Ahead, she saw, a large opening in the bottom of the ventral hull. Her assumption about the fighter bay was correct. She hoped it would be warm inside.
"Hey," came Blossom's voice. Bell blinked and turned her head to meet Blossom's eyes. That strawberry gaze made Bell feel so good inside, like ice cream you could look at and feel content without eating. Eat Blossom? Bell blushed a little at the thought. "Remember, girls..." she said aloud for everyone to hear, "when we do this... we do it for Breannin above all else. She wouldn't want us to feel disheartened and frightened just cos she died the way she did... I know it didn't help any but she would want us to fight for her. And like I told Bell... it's what we need to do, because she did the exact same for us and kept going right to the end. We're gonna do this okay?" she glanced at Bubbles who was still pale but able to smile and nod in response. "Now we can finally say that this is for Breannin."
Buttercup nodded, "For Breannin!" she called out, motivated. The lacking air made her voice sound a little distant and when it echoed off the hull of the silent monster it seemed to come from very far away.
"For little sis..." Bell murmured, "You're dead 'cause I did nothing to help... so I'll make it up to you by doing something this time. Something big... something you'd be proud of..."
Blossom looked up toward the open fighter bay, "Bell, you'll need to guide us. There's a good chance that we could get lost on this thing and waste precious time. Do you have a schematic of this thing?" Blossom knew that, like the Matriarch before it, Dominatrix would be more than just the inside of DYNAMO. It was like a whole different world inside those ships.
"There'll be an energy screen between the inside of the fighter bay and here. It'll let us through but it's designed to keep the interior of the ship at a constant environmental setting without exposing it to the exterior. There'll be more air. And it'll be warmer-"
"I'm SO THERE!" Buttercup called out, rushing forward and dragging the weakened Bubbles with her. She came to a halt below the fighter bay and then rocketed up inside, passing through a thin blue screen that glowed around her body as it pervaded.
Blossom blinked, "She's awfully eager to fly toward our biggest foe."
Bell ignored the observation and, as she floated toward the fighter bay with a little less vigour than Buttercup but just as much commitment, she said to herself, "And so... like a thousand other soldiers on a thousand other battlefields... I await the dawn. And like the sun in the sky... soon my vengeance shall come full circle..."