Every Superman Needs A Lois Lane

By BenRG


'Ben 10' and 'Ben 10 – Alien Force' were created by Man of Action for The Cartoon Network.

The author claims no ownership or rights over the copyrighted and trademarked entities portrayed herein. This is a not-for-profit fan story for free distribution through the world-wide web.

Author's Notes

Boy! Has this story taken on a life of its own! In my initial story planning, this was going to be the last chapter. Now, one last chapter has become two and then four including an epilogue! By way of an excuse, I can only say that Julie demanded that I tell her story properly.

Right – a warning. The story goes firmly AU from here on. I haven't seen Ben 10 – Alien Force; heck, it isn't even shown on any TV channels I can get and I can't find anywhere it is posted (legally) on the Internet. So, I have had to go by the very minimalist episode summaries on Wikipedia. This is thus, how I would have done Pier Pressure based on those few details.

Censor: T

Chapter 5 – Beyond the Walls of the World I Knew (Part 1)

Whilst I was busy trying to work out a way to get closer to Ben and how best to assist in what I feared would be a long, bloody struggle, the dynamics of the group were already changing thanks to the appearance of a young man named Kevin.

I had already heard of Kevin in passing from Gwen. My best friend seemed to have very mixed feelings about this tall, dark and brooding young man and, when she told me the whole story of Kevin Levin and his past dealings with the Tennyson Family, I could see why. It filled me with horror to realise that Gwen and Ben were often having to rely on the assistance of this… creep who had tried to kill them in the past!

"Ben isn't entirely sure about him," Gwen revealed to me. "But he keeps on saying that we've got to judge him on who and what he is now. We can't let our perceptions be moulded by who he was!"

I nodded thoughtfully. "I guess that's fair. We all change with time."

"I guess…"

Gwen's voice was distant and her eyes were not seeing me. I saw the chance for a quick tease. "So… what do you think of him?" Gwen's fair redhead's complexion makes her very vulnerable to a blush and I could see one starting now. I pointed at my best friend triumphantly. "Aha! You've got a crush on the 'bad boy' ex-villain!"

"Julie! I haven't!" Gwen yelped. I raised an eyebrow and Gwen's blush got a bit worse. "Look… at most he's an ally of convenience, right? He feels some kind of debt of honour because we saved his life from this alien psycho called Vulkanus and he's trying to pay that off! Most of the time he's…" Gwen grimaced and growled slightly. "He's such a pain in the butt! He's worse than Ben sometimes! Always so cocksure and smarmy! He just gets me so mad!"

"Really?" I raised an eyebrow. The was a significant number of girls in our class whose boyfriends were initially the guy who 'got them mad'.

"Half the time I don't even know what side he's on!" Gwen added hotly. "I mean, he's only sixteen and he's already dealer in alien weapons! He stole Grandpa's RV a few weeks ago and tried to sell its secret Plumber parts! Then he turns around and says he wants to fight on our side!"

I thought about that seriously. "So, he's dangerous and maybe has his own agenda?" I asked. Gwen nodded. "Yet he has fought alongside you?"

"He takes risks even Ben thinks are crazy," Gwen admitted.

I nodded. "Seems to me that he's got something to prove," I suggested after a moment's thought.

Gwen sighed. "He makes me feel… uncomfortable?" she said at last. "Most of the time he tries to come off harsh and all business. Then as we're going home, I catch him staring after me like… like he's afraid he'll never seem me again! I… I just don't know how to handle it!"

I put a hand on my best friend's knee. "You know, when I was little, I was told to 'watch out for those Tennysons'. Sometimes I guess you've got to look beyond the conventional wisdom to see the real person."

"I guess…" Gwen's sigh held a tone of defeat.

The next day, I was able to make my own observations of Kevin Levin. The young man in question was sitting in the town centre malt bar, Mr. Smoothie's, with Gwen and Ben. I could immediately tell damaged goods when I saw it. The long hair, dark clothes and obvious stoic manner were all obvious signs of that. However, I also saw what Gwen had told me: when she and Ben weren't looking, he would stare at Gwen with this weird longing, hopeful look.

If there was a crush developing, it was clearly a mutual one.

I finished off my Smoothie and walked out. As I passed Gwen, Ben and Kevin, I heard Ben talking. "So, you guys going to the fair?" At this time of the year, Bellwood's town council held a carnival and fair. As well as marking the Thanksgiving holiday, it also climaxed with a grand fireworks display on the anniversary of the founding of the town.

"Nah," Kevin said. "I'm not too much for fairs."

"Why not?" Ben wanted to know. "It'd be fun!"

Kevin sighed. "Tennyson, funfairs are a bit of a sore subject with me. Too many families and too many young couples doing the 'love and together' thing."

Ben opened his mouth but Gwen elbowed him to shut him up. I was as able to interpret Kevin's words easily enough – an orphan of some kind. Certainly currently lacking anything that could be a 'family'. I wondered if Gwen understood the significance of the way that he looked at her when he said 'love and together'. Realising that I was eavesdropping on someone else's conversation, I left the shop.

A little later, I was in the town square, looking at the advertisement fliers for the funfair. I, for one, was looking forward to it. The fair was always fun with rides sure to excite and thrill, lots of games as well as all the unhealthy food you could eat. However, I decided that Kevin was right: It wasn't something that you should attend alone. I wondered if I could talk my parents into taking me.

"Gwen! Let me go! I can do this myself!"

"Would you do it if I wasn't dragging you there?"

"Uh… well…!"

"Ben, trust me when I tell you that she isn't a mind reader. You will have to ask. See, here she is!"

"Oh man!"

I turned around and wondered what exactly was going on to set off the two younger Tennysons. A very dejected and nervous-looking Ben was being dragged towards me by Gwen. Gwen, who had a particularly evil smirk on her face that told me at once that mischief was afoot.

"Hey, Julie!" Gwen called out. "Fancy meeting you here! Isn't it a coincidence Ben?" Ben grimaced before receiving a lethal glare from my best friend and nodding frantically. "We were just talking about you! Ben has something to ask you, don't you?"

I am very proud to say that I didn't laugh. Poor Ben looked like he wanted to shrivel away like a fruit left in the sunlight too long. Gwen pushed him forward and winked at me.

"Hey, Ben," I said neutrally. I wondered what was up.

"Um… h… hey Julie," he responded. "Uh… I see… uh… you're… uh…"

Gwen rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to say something. I shot her a venomous look. "Hey, Gwen, see you later, yeah?" Give her credit, my best friend and blood sister is no one's fool. She nodded reluctantly, waved farewell and walked off. I turned back to my one-time crush and smiled as reassuringly as I could. "What can I do for you, Ben?"

Ben looked right at me and I felt myself captured by those green eyes. I couldn't think of anything to say, so we stood there for a few moments, just looking at each other. "Er… no, it's stupid," Ben said at last, breaking eye contact to look down.

"What?" I asked curiously. "What's wrong? Is there something on my face?"

"No!" Ben responded. "Your face is perfect…! Uh! Oh man! I mean… I mean… er…!" I went bright red and so did Ben as he continued to stutter, looking frantically around himself. Finally he stopped and looked down to draw in a deep breath. I was half afraid that he was about to faint when he chuckled self-deprecatingly and ran his hand through his hair. "Look, of course you don't want to go with me to the stupid fair! It was stupid to even think it and even stupider for Gwen to drag me over to ask! I'm really…"

"Woah, woah, woah!" I protested, waving my hands in a 'slow down' gesture. "Back up, Ben. What was that about the fair?"

"Um… I was wondering… if… if you'd like to go to the Thanksgiving Weekend Fair with me? Saturday night?" Ben said quietly, his face pale. "If… if you haven't got other plans, I mean!"

At that point, I couldn't get my brain to work. A boy… no, not just any boy but my one-time crush who I had been obsessing over for months… was asking me out to the fair! I just stood there, staring at Ben with my lips slightly parted in shock.

Ben mistook my surprise for rejection and panicked. "Look, like I said, stupid idea! I'm sorry, Julie, please don't be mad!" He looked nearly ready to flee, burst into tears or both.

"No! No I'm not mad!" I nearly shouted, attracting a lot of attention from passers-by. I blushed and modulated my tone. "It… it was kind of a coincidence because I was thinking about how it would suck to go to the fair alone!"

Ben grimaced. "I know! Gwen is studying and Kevin says he 'doesn't do fairs', whatever that's supposed to mean!" Ben looked at me, the plea in his eyes very clear. "So… uh…?"

"Ben, I'd love to go to the fair with you!" I think that if I was smiling any wider, I'd have cracked my face open.

Ben's sudden beaming smile made the day seem a bit lighter and clearer. "Really? No kidding?" He shook his head. "Uh… just as friends, of course!"

I nodded, still grinning. "Oh, of course! Can't have the air-heads at school start gossiping, yeah?"

I'm glad that I talked my mom out of trying to get me to dress as it was a formal dance date or something. My white jeans and pink hoodie over a black tank-top was more than sufficient and were both tough enough to handle hot dogs, candy-floss and whatever else came my way (either eaten or sat in – in my experience of the fair, stuff gets messy pretty quickly). Still… she was right about putting on a little lip gloss and my new ear-studs. I'm not an impartial judge but I felt… pretty.

Ben arrived dead on the mark at 6pm to collect me. He endured a glare and some terse questions from my dad as I extracted myself from mom's last-minute fussing over my hair. I was pleased to notice Ben's eyes tracking up and down my legs, clad in my slightly-tighter-than-necessary jeans and mentally thanked Gwen for talking me into buying these high-heel boots. My dad extracted an oath from Ben to get me home by nine and then we were away and clear.

What is there to say? A girl's first date is a special thing and it is that much more special when the boy is like Ben. He's funny, charming and quite considerate really. He spent a lot of time showing off and trying to win prizes for me. We went on lots of rides together (and I enjoyed his tight embrace on the Haunted House ride) and learnt that there was nothing funnier than eating an ice cream sundae together with only one spoon.

The fair was held at the old loading docks where produce would be loaded into barges to be carried up river and then sail up the coast to various cities for sale at their markets. After grabbing a hot dog and a soda each, we went down to one of the old piers to get away from the crowd (not an unusual thing for a pair of teens to do, given the number of shadowy figures we passed). We sat on one deserted pier and ate in silence.

After finishing up, I felt the need to speak. I grabbed his nearest hand and squeezed, looking into his eyes. "I enjoyed this evening, Ben. It was great! Thank you!"

Ben smiled back and I felt my stomach do its familiar flip-flop in response. "I enjoyed it too. Thank you for coming with me." We were now looking at each other and both smiling. We were perhaps just leaning a bit closer together when Ben's 'watch', the manacle-like thing strapped to his left forearm that Gwen had confirmed was alien in origin (but had remained frustratingly evasive as to its purpose), suddenly emitted a loud double-beep.

I looked down at the machine in annoyance, silently cursing it for the interruption. It had been doing this all evening but, in the last hour or so, it had started doing it more frequently. "What is wrong with that thing? Is its battery running down?"

Double-beep. "I don't know," Ben admitted. "I don't think so. It never has before. I don't think it can!" Double-beep. This time I noticed that the green hourglass-shaped illuminated display flashed along with the bleeps.

I sighed. "Well, that's a mood killer," I said quietly, my words partly lost to yet another double-beep.

At that point, the thing happened that irrevocably changed my life. The thing that finally knocked down the walls of my safe, everyday world and forced me to live fully in the far wider, far more wonderful and far more dangerous world that Gwen had told me about so often. The sound of voices from the fair had got louder during our conversation, in fact they had started to sound like screams. I realised why when the roller-coaster reached down and snatched me off the pier.

I'll repeat that because it bears saying again for clarity.

The roller-coaster reached down and snatched me off the pier.

At least it was the roller-coaster when I saw it last. The parts were now all shifting around each other to create a weird, skeletal multi-limbed form that was striding along like something from one of dad's old Godzilla movies. I'd be proud to say that I didn't scream but that would be a lie. I screamed like a damsel in distress in an old black-and-white monster movie and beat uselessly at the weird metal pincer, covered with glowing green lines like circuitry, that was holding me firmly but not painfully.

I saw Ben dancing around the flailing feet of the monster. He didn't seem to be trying to escape; if anything, he seemed to be trying to scale the limbs made up of track sections whilst avoiding other pincers. He was shouting something, probably reassurances to me but just as possibly threats at the monster. The old pier was rattling from side to side from the monster's weight and Ben was suddenly hard-pressed to avoid being tossed in the river.

For some reason, Ben was fiddling with his watch. The display was shining much more brightly Was it some kind of signalling device? Was he calling the Plumbers for help?

Then something happened that I will never forget. Ben barely dodged a flailing metal limb and slammed his hand down on the face of the device. Suddenly, his body was surrounded by a bright halo of green light. As I watched, his head swelled up and took on a chitinous, insect-like aspect. His body seemed to atrophy away and his limbs lengthened and hardened so that they became crab-like claws. Four more leg-claws burst from Ben's hips as his clothing seemed to just melt away.

Ben-crab looked at his pincers and I swear he seemed to sag in depression. "Brainstorm?" it hiss-clicked. "Oh man! Why does this only ever happen whenever it counts?"

The fading of the green light seemed to release some hidden 'pause' button and the monster lunged. However, the descending metal limb was met with a lightning-bright flash of electricity shot from the Ben-crab creature's head. The blast flash-slagged the metal and the limb dropped away. The entire structure seemed to groan as if in pain.

"I don't know who you are and what your damage is, pal, but you've chosen the wrong date to crash!" With surprising speed and agility, the Ben-crab-thing suddenly began to scale the metal framework of the monster, occasionally lashing out with electrical blasts to deflect flailing tentacle-like cables, which had more of the strange green circuitry patterns on them. Suddenly, the creature that had been my date was almost on top of me. Its powerful pincers reached out and with a loud 'click' sound, severed the metal 'fingers' holding me at their base joints. I screamed, braced myself for a fall and realised that I was, instead, floating in an energy field. In seconds, I was in the creature's… pincers, hanging onto its chitinous body for dear life as the energy field enveloped us both in a cool blue bubble. "Hang on, Julie," it advised. "We're on an express elevator, going down!" And so we were. I screamed again but, instead of an impact, we bounced like a pinball twice before the bubble dispersed and we landed on the concrete of the dockside, Ben-crab's six legs absorbing the force easily.

I could be wrong, but the monster seemed to look at us in confusion for a few moments before ponderously moving towards us. Much to my surprise, the Ben-crab looked at me and I could swear it shot me a wink and Ben's mischievous smile before looking back at the monster. "You know, I'm a man of action… but sometimes it's just best to think things through!" At that point, its head opened up, exposing its brains (yuck!) and a bright blue-white storm of lightning emerged, surrounding the monster, which seemed to freeze. After a moment, it just broke apart and collapsed into the river, nothing but scrap metal.

The crab-thing released me and I staggered back, not sure whether I should run or whether I should hug it for saving me. As I watched, it touched a black plate with a grey hourglass-shaped inset on the centre of its thorax. There was a bright red flash and… once again Ben stood before me.

I wasn't so scared that I couldn't see the look of terror on Ben's face, the plea for time and understanding in his eyes. "Julie… please don't be scared!" he called out. "I won't hurt you!" Poor Ben! Still, I can't blame him for being worried. Most girls would run away from him and never stop running after that experience!

However, most girls don't count Gwen Tennyson as their best friend and most girls had not been semi-obsessively analysing him for months, looking for clues to his hinted-at but undefined powers! I actually think I quite surprised Ben when I ran over and hugged him in excitement and glee. "So that's your power! You can turn into… into that crab thing?" Ben gave me a weird look. However, I was so thrilled at this revelation that he didn't have a chance to ask any questions. I broke the hug to grab his arm and stared at his 'watch' in fascination. "Your watch!" I crowed. "You did something with your watch and transformed! How does it work?"

Ben looked a bit like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights. I came down enough from my fear/elation high to get control of myself and remember the situation. "Um… thanks for the save, by the way." I backed off to give Ben some space and tried not to look too nervous as I wrung my hands.

We both blushed. Ben took a moment to gather himself. "Yeah… well, as the secret seems to be out… Julie, I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine. It's called the Omnitrix!"

Ben was quite the story-teller. As we stood on the dockside, he filled me in on the story of the alien tool on his wrist. Yes, tool, not weapon. He explained that the Omnitrix was meant to be a tool of peace, empathy and understanding, to allow people to understand other species by letting them live as them for a short time. He explained how he came to find the Omnitrix and how this was the trigger for his life to change forever. He told me of his adventures that summer of the road trip and, at last, I understood him a little bit better. With his usual fear of rejection, he misinterpreted my thoughtful expression.

"I… I guess you must think I'm a freak," Ben said at last. His voice took on an urgent edge. "Look, you can't tell anyone about this! I'll get you home and never talk to you again if you want but you have to…!"

"Ben! It's okay!" I said. I stepped forward and squeezed his shoulders, trying to put as much sincerity into my face as I could. "Look… you saved me! I'm grateful for that! As for this…?" I looked at the Omnitrix and touched its smooth, strangely warm plastic face. "It's amazing! I guess… I guess I've found out what makes you so… unique!" I grinned. "Why have one set of powers when you can have any kind from anywhere in the galaxy? This thing is amazing! You're amazing!"

Ben blushed and rubbed the back of his neck bashfully. I suddenly lunged forward to hug him again. "Thank you!" I murmured into his chest as his arms reflexively closed around me.

"I… uh… yeah…" Ben laughed nervously. "You'll… you'll be okay!" Suddenly I felt Ben stiffen. "Julie…!" I looked up in the same direction as Ben was and saw something utterly… weird. There was something emerging from the water, a kind of sheet-like mass like a slug or worm with a black upper surface and a white under-surface. What caught my eye was that it had the same green circuitry patterns as the monster! I gasped and instinctively drew closer to Ben. My date's eyes hardened and, in that moment, I knew that I was in the presence of a battle-hardened warrior and hero. "Oh man! Round two!" He looked at me with an urgent expression as he touched the Omnitrix. "Julie, run! I'll keep it occupied!"

"NO! I won't leave you alone!" Ben froze and gave me a weird look. Frankly, I felt stupid having said it. I mean… what could I bring to the fight?

As we hesitated, the thing suddenly tucked itself up into a kind of wheel shape and rolled towards us. "Ship! Shiiip!" it called out in a weird electronically-modulated tone of voice. It rolled towards us but swerved away at the last moment, instead circling around us, still calling out. Every now and then, it would break off its circling to roll off upstream along the bank of the river, away from the town. Finally, it rolled back and, as it passed behind us, it shot two bright green-white blasts of energy at our feet. We both jumped away as the blasts blew fist-sized craters into the concrete.

"Ow! That does it! I'm going Big Chill on your Mechamorphic butt!" Ben shouted, his hand went to the Omnitrix.

I think I've said before that my good nature occasionally gets the better of me. This was one of those occasions. I grabbed Ben's hand before he could set and activate the Omnitrix. "Ben! Wait! Don't hurt it!"

Ben shot me a look of utter disbelief. "Julie! It's shooting at us!"

"No! It isn't! Something isn't right here! Why did it shoot the ground and not us?"

Ben opened his mouth to reply but couldn't. We both back-pedalled away from another volley of shots that, once again, were aimed at the ground at our feet. "You're right, this is weird," Ben said, scowling in thought. "It's driving us in the direction it rolled towards earlier on!"

I then took an immense risk. I stepped away from Ben and jumped towards the creature, holding out my hands. "Hey! Stop! Just let us talk for a moment!"

I suspect Ben was very surprised when it did just that. I know that I was. It transformed into its slug-like original shape and looked up at me with a 'head' marked with a green circle that I found made me think of an eye in the centre of a face. "Shiiip!" it said.

"Hi… er…" I ran out of ideas. The 'eye' frowned and the creature returned to its wheel shape. It began to roll make a series of passes in front of me, slowly driving me back. "It's like a sheepdog, herding sheep!" I realised.

Ben nodded. "Yeah, it wants us to go somewhere, but why? I don't like this Julie! Who knows why it wants us to go that way? It could have been sent by someone after the Omnitrix, bounty hunters, slavers or even game hunters looking to bag a couple of human trophies for their wall!" He shook his head and touched the Omnitrix again. "I'd better drive it off; get away from it!"

I was still pretty determined to solve this peacefully. Besides, somehow I couldn't see this creature as a threat any more. "Hey boy!" It sounded weird calling an alien by such a term, but its dog-like behaviour was making me think of it in those terms. The alien paused and looked at me again. "You want us to come with you don't you?"

"Ship-ship-shiiip!" The creature actually nodded! It flowed around me until it was behind me and then suddenly lashed out with a tentacle that wrapped around my wrist. There was a weird tingling sensation that I ignored at the time. "Shhhip!"

"Hey! Let her go!" Ben said, striding over. Much to his surprise, the creature also grabbed his wrist with a tentacle. It extruded three legs and walked off, tugging forcefully but not too hard on its tentacles. When we dug our heels in, it released us and flowed behind us, shoving at the backs of our legs. Ben couldn't help but chuckle. "Boy! He's insistent isn't he?"

I found myself giggling. "He seems determined that we should go with him! I could swear he seems… desperate?" On an instinct that, on reflection, was pretty stupid, I reached down and rubbed the head-extrusion of the creature. The circle crinkled in a way that made me think of a smile.

"And he is pretty clear about not hurting us in the process," Ben added with a nod. He sighed. "Okay, I'd better check this out!"

"I'm coming too!" Ben shot me a firm look and opened his mouth to order me to go home immediately (that much was pretty obvious). "Look, it grabbed me too! I want to see how this story ends!" Ben folded his arms and glared. I decided to play dirty. I poised coyly and batted my eyelashes at Ben. "Besides, daddy will be mad if I come home without you! You might not get another chance to spend time with me that way!"

Ben grimaced and palmed his face. "Oh… MAN!" he moaned. "You've been spending way too much time with Gwen! Okay, you can come with us but you do whatever I tell you to, okay?"

I nodded ingenuously, my eyes wide with innocence. With a sigh, Ben set off in the direction the little alien had rolled and I followed him. The alien morphed into a weird tyre-shaped object with a fan in the centre and took to the air, leading us upstream and joyfully calling out: "Shiiip! Shiiip!"

So it was that the most life-changing night of my life continued to a conclusion that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Ben identified Ship, for so we decided it should be known, as a Galvan Mechamorph, an artificial life-form made of liquid metal and nanotechnology. The polymorphic alien led us to one of the electricity substations outside of town. Wrapped around one of the transformers was another Mechamorph, a much larger one.

This second alien explained that was trapped by the electromagnetic fields of the transformer. Ben remarked that maybe it should be more careful about where it stopped off for a snack and it actually managed to look abashed. It explained that had managed to extrude Ship and push it outside the electromagnetic fields. It then sent it to home onto the energy emissions of the Omnitrix. Ben demanded to know why Ship had used such… forceful measures. The alien replied in a genuinely embarrassed tone that Ship was young and that fear for its parent had probably made it a bit aggressive. It admitted that maybe it should have been slightly more explicit and clear in its instructions to Ship. The creature then mentioned, with obvious hope in its tone of voice, that the Wielder of the Omnitrix was known to be just and good and would help anyone in need.

Ben went bright red in embarrassment and I felt oddly proud at the praise and the obvious good reputation that he enjoyed in the wider galaxy.

Ben used the Omnitrix to transform into a crystalline life-form that he called Chromastone. He explained that its body had the property of absorbing and redirecting energy. With the Mechamorph's guidance, he was able to redirect the energy fields from the transformer's insulator stacks so that it could slide off. We watched (with a kind of a silly smile on my part) as the alien and Ship had a joyous reunion. Then the larger Mechamorph morphed into what I immediately realised was some kind of space ship!

Ship rolled up to us. "Shouldn't you go with your… uh… parent, boy?" I asked, affectionately petting him on the head.

"Ship!" Ship replied.

"My offspring is too young to engage in interstellar travel," the Mechamorph proclaimed. "It must first learn how to fully control its shape and optimise its systems. This process will take some time. In any case, I think it has bonded with you. I shall leave it in your care." With that, the Mechamorph lifted off. Ben and I watched as the living UFO vanished into the starry winter skies.

Ship didn't react as if it was even slightly upset at the departure of its parent. Instead it flowed up my body and curled around my upper body like a long scarf, calling out happily. Ben laughed. "Looks like you've just been adopted!" He looked at the Omnitrix and gasped. "Oh man! It's quarter to nine already! I've got to get you home or your dad'll skin me!"

I looked at him in some surprise. "It tells the time too?" I asked.

Ben grinned. "Hey, it's the greatest machine in the galaxy! Of course it can!" Ben twisted the dial of the Omnitrix and slapped down the dial, transforming into a creature like a red manta ray with a distinct humanoid head, legs and arms. "Welcome aboard Jetray Air! Please make sure that your seat backs and tables are in the upright and locked position!" Ben… no, Jetray… grabbed me and soared into the air. I suspect that my cry of elation was heard all the way to the other side of town!

We landed in the deserted car park of a small office building, well within five minutes' walking distance of my home. Ben transformed back into his human form. "So…" he said.

"Ben, thanks for the great evening," I said. "I can honestly say that I've never had so much fun in my life!"

"R… really?" He blinked and grinned in pleased surprise. "You mean… even with the aliens and all?"

I nodded and smiled broadly. "Especially with the aliens," I confirmed. "Ben… I always knew you were special. The aliens just make it more so!"

Ben looked amazed and, as I watched, his smile got that broader and happier. "S… So… maybe…? Maybe we could… do it again sometime? The date, I mean, not the aliens and freak-fighting!"

I laughed. "We'll have to see, won't we?" Ben looked puzzled. I leaned forward. "First, you have to ask!"

We were briefly illuminated by the beams of a small truck's headlights as it drove past, Ship leapt off of my shoulder and morphed into his wheel form. "Hey! Where are you going?" I called out.

Ship extruded a psuedopod and waved as he rolled off after the truck. I looked at Ben who shrugged. "Well… the parent did say that he had to learn before he could go back to space! I guess he's off to do that!"

I nodded, feeling strangely disappointed. "Well… At least that saves having to explain my new pet to my folks!" Ben and I both laughed. "Okay, sir, there is enough time for you to walk me home!"

Ben nodded and gestured for me to precede him. Instead, I grabbed his hand and tugged to show we should walk together. Ben blushed but looked very pleased. That was all the confirmation that I needed that this was only the beginning. If, as we walked down the street to my house, I tucked myself in against Ben's side rested my head on his shoulder, well I'm sure that you will forgive me the impulse.

To be continued…