Author's Note: So, I've been busy. Also, when I'm not busy, I'm lazy. By the time I got around to working up the draft for this chapter, I'd figured everyone would have lost interest in this story. But I still get reviews for it, as well as author alerts and favorites alerts. Thank you to anyone who has reviewed, favorited or added me to their alerts list. It's appreciated greatly, and hopefully I can stay motivated enough not to make you wait another year for the next chapter.
"I save the world on, oh, I don't know," Rex pretended to think, "A daily basis."
"I've got you beat," Ben smiled smugly. "I've saved the whole universe."
"Something tells me we're going to regret ever having let those two team up," Gwen commented, rolling her eyes. Kevin grunted and nodded his agreement.
The teens and Bobo were all making their way back to the van with Katrina in tow when Six caught up with them. "Holiday, do you read me?" He spoke into his ear piece and paused. "Come in, come in, Holiday. Doctor, are you there?"
"What's going on?" Rex asked, "Is your communicator out? Let me try," he pressed on his earpiece. "This is Rex to Providence…Doc? Doc, are you there?" He frowned. "I'm not getting an answer either."
"It seems there's been some sort of incident."
"What kind of incident?" Kevin asked, raising an eyebrow. Six shook his head.
"I don't have all the details yet. Just wanted to prepare you for when we get back to Providence. I'm still not certain on what we'll find there."
The drive back was only about twenty minutes, but it felt like hours passed cramped together in that van. No one talked at first, the silence merely heightening the apprehension. There were a few awkward attempts at conversation, primarily trying to ask Six for more details, but he refused to answer any questions. He didn't say a single word the entire trip back to Providence.
"Well, Providence is in one piece," Rex commented when they reached the base, jumping out of the van before anyone else had a chance to.
"Oh, good, I was so worried," Bobo commented, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Home sweet home. Anyway, just cause the outside's okay don't mean there's not something nasty waiting for us on the inside."
"The monkey has a point," Ben said, spinning the dial of his Ultimatrix.
"Wait," Six held a hand up, then put his finger to his lip to indicate for the others to be quiet. He gestured toward the side of the building. "I heard a sound there…"
"I'm on it," Gwen said, her eyes glowing momentarily. "Whatever it is, it's human. I can't tell if it's friendly or not, though."
"One way to find out," Rex said, charging ahead in the direction Six had heard the noise.
"Hey!" Ben called, hastily changing his Ultimatrix to Humongousaur. "Wait for me!"
They both stopped short at the side of the building. "Gwen and Six must both be off today. There's no one -" Ben started, but was cut off when a blond teen jumped out of the shadows, pointing a laser gun at him.
"Keep your hands where I can… Wait.." he lowered the gun slightly, but kept it aimed at Humongousaur. "Rex?"
"Noah? Man, put the gun down. He's harmless, and he's with me." Noah shrugged and pointed the gun at the ground on Rex's instructions.
"I'm not harmless," Ben said indignantly as he returned to his human self.
Rex ignored him. "Noah, this is Ben. Ben, this is my amigo, Noah, who is now going to explain why he pulled a gun on us. And hopefully it'll be one heck of an explanation."
"Oh…yeah," Noah scratched at his head. "Sorry about that. Thought you," he indicated Ben, "Were in cahoots with that squid-headed guy."
"Squid-headed?" Ben repeated.
"Cahoots?" Rex chuckled. "I don't think people have been in cahoots since the eighties. The eighteen eighties."
"What did he do?" Ben pressed. "The squid guy?" He seized Noah by the shoulders. "What did he do? Who was he after?"
"He…he grabbed the Doc," Noah turned to Rex, his voice apologetic. "I tried to stop him. I chased him out here, but I couldn't figure out whether to go after him or Van Kleiss, and while I was trying to decide that, Biowulf got the drop on me -"
"Wait," Rex interrupted. "The Pack was here?"
"Yeah. They took some old guy and ran off."
"Old guy?" Ben asked. His eyes narrowed. "Grandpa Max. …They must have taken him. Was this 'Pack' working with Vilgax?" Noah stared at Ben blankly. "The squid guy. His name is Vilgax. Were they working together?"
"They separated after they nabbed the doctor and your grandfather. They broke in together, though. Rex, I tried to put in a call to your communicator, but there was too much interference. I couldn't get through. I'm sorry."
"Does Providence have security tapes?" Ben asked quietly, his hands clenching into fists.
"Yeah," Rex nodded. "Let's go tell the others what we know."
"I don't get it," Gwen said, shaking her head. "What does this Pack want with Grandpa Max? It couldn't be revenge, Grandpa never fought Evos, and I can't think of anything that he may have that they could want…maybe Plumber technology?" she suggested.
"I don't think so," Ben answered. "I don't think it's tech they're after, but I'm confused about it, too. Maybe it's punishment for us working with Providence?"
"I don't know, Ben," Gwen admitted.
"I doubt it," Rex interjected. "Van Kleiss doesn't do things just for the sake of being annoying. Can't think of what he'd want with your grandfather, though. Six, what do you think?"
Six didn't answer. He was facing the security monitors, playing Holiday's capture then rewinding to watch it over again.
"Six?" Rex repeated. He watched Holiday be knocked out on the screen. "We'll get her back. That's a promise. No one takes the Doc and gets away with it."
"So I guess Ben, Gwen and I will go after this Van Kleiss guy, and -" Kevin started. Six finally spoke up to interrupt him.
"No. Rex has more experience with the Pack, and Ben's fought Vilgax before. We should work together. It'll be far more advantageous for all of us that way."
"Teamwork's all well and good," Bobo said, picking a flea out of his fur and crushing it before tossing it aside, "But who do we go and save first?"
"Comfortable?" Van Kleiss had Max Tennyson trapped in a cage, and then had handcuffed his arms and his legs with energy cuffs. Just to be extra safe, a collar was placed around his neck, securing him on the side of the cage opposite of where Van Kleiss was speaking to him.
"Not so much," Max grunted. "Might be better if you loosened these cuffs. Or maybe the collar."
Van Kleiss laughed. "Now, now, Mr. Tennyson, we both know if I loosen these even the slightest bit, you'll escape and start causing problems. I know all about you. You're still quite good, even at your …mmm…advanced age."
"Your hair's starting to look a little on the gray side yourself, sonny," Max snorted. Van Kleiss merely laughed again.
"Glad to see you're still in high spirits, even at the worst of times. I do hope your grandson takes a while to get here to rescue you. You may even be fun to have around."
"What do you want with Ben, anyways? Never seen you Evos take an interest in aliens before."
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Van Kleiss wagged a finger. "Now, really, do you expect me to just divulge my entire plan to you? This isn't some bad spy movie or children's cartoon. No, you'll sit in your cage and wait to be rescued. Relax, old man, nothing's going to happen to you."
"And my grandchildren?" Max raised an eyebrow.
Van Kleiss smirked, and examined his metallic, claw-like hand. "That, Mr. Tennyson…is entirely up to them."