Disclaimer: Ben 10 and all related characters are property of Man of Action and Cartoon Network; Stoked and all related characters are property of Fresh TV. I am making no money from this story, which was written solely for my enjoyment; please don't sue. Enjoy!
CHAPTER ONE: DEAR MARIA, COUNT ME IN
Surfer's Paradise Resort, Sunset Beach, B.C., June 28, 2010
The noon sun was high over Sunset Beach, its rays glinting off the crystal windows of the Surfer's Paradise Resort, gleaming the blue of a perfect break. On the main floor, guests came to and from the hotel, while the new summer staff scrambled to accommodate them.
As a family of three headed out of the hotel, they passed by a young man of 16, clad in blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a green jacket, carrying a green-black duffel bag over his shoulder…with a green-black watch clasped to his right wrist, its face replaced by the image of a green, black-outlined hourglass-crest. Walking towards the hotel, the young man spotted one of the bellhops, a dark-complexioned young man, around the same age as him, with bright yellow hair in an afro-style, clad in a gold-rimmed, purple t-shirt, with matching yellow-flower-print purple shorts – obviously the staff uniform.
Looking up from his luggage cart, the bellhop grinned. "Check-in's just through there, bro."
"Thanks," the young man answered, "but I'm here for a job interview."
"Sweet," the bellhop said. "Just go talk to Bummer; he'll ring you in."
The bellhop sighed. "Andrew Baumer, the manager; trust me, dude, you'll get why he's called that when you meet him."
"Guess I will." Hefting his duffel bag back over his shoulder, the young man turned to go. "See you around."
"Likewise, bro; hope your first day doesn't suck as much as ours did."
The guy laughed, though it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Trust me, pal; it can't be more of a hassle than my last job."
In his office at his family's penthouse home, 46-year-old James Ridgemount – the owner of the hotel and all others in its chain – frowned to himself as he sat behind his desk, keeping his eyes on the newspaper. "You heard me, young lady," he said sternly. "After this little party of yours, you're cut off; your spa privileges, your credit cards, and your keys to the penthouse are all off-limits until you can prove yourself to me. You'll be working for your spending money, this summer."
Standing across from his desk, in her light yellow sundress, complemented by her necklace and single-pearl earrings, her long, chestnut locks held back by her favourite tropical wildflower hair-clip, her indigo eyes – so very much like her mother's – widened in surprised hurt, his 15-year-old daughter, Lauren – or "Lo," as she'd taken to calling herself – lightly whimpered. "But…but Daddy…" she pouted, "…I…I need the summer off, to decompress from all the studying!" She managed her adorable little smile, the one that had often let her have her way. "Couldn't we all just sit on this and talk about it, tomorrow?"
For a moment, she almost fooled him. 'I'm a bad father,' he reflected, remembering all the times he'd let her practically get away with murder…but that stopped, right now. 'I'm sorry, sweetheart, but this is for your own good.' "There's nothing to talk about, Lauren; you're moving into the staff house, tonight."
Before Lauren could plead further, James' intercom switched on. "Mr. Ridgemount, sir?" came Andrew Baumer's voice. "I hate to bother you, sir, but there's a young man who says he's your 2:00 appointment…"
'2:00…oh, that must be Max's grandson!' "Green jacket and brown hair?"
"That's him, Andrew; send him up." Switching off the intercom, James looked back to his daughter. "This subject is closed, young lady; I suggest you go get ready. You start work, tomorrow." With that, he looked back to his paperwork.
In a mild state of shock, Lo turned around, and started to walk out. 'Okay…I knew it was probably gonna be bad…I'm a Ridgemount, I can handle this…' A terrible thought occurred to her. "But Daddy, I haven't even had time to pack!"
"Already taken care of, Lauren."
That reply came just as the door opened…with her supposedly faithful maid Rosie on the other side, loading several of her suitcases onto a cart. "What?" she screeched. "You…you knew? Why did you let me waste so much time cleaning everything up?"
The plump, dark-skinned woman shrugged. "I don't want to live in a pig-sty."
Practically boiling with fury, Lo was about to let loose when the elevator door opened, and out walked 20-year-old Smug Incarnate Andrew Baumer, his dyed-pale-blond hair cut immaculately short, and with not a thread out of place on his uniform t-shirt and black slacks. Following behind him was his unofficial second-in-command, Johnny, the Front Desk Guy, in his usual uniform shirt and shorts. "Okay," Johnny hazarded, "I'm guessing this is the luggage that needs moving to the staff house."
Andrew nodded. "I'll let you get to it, Johnny," he said, walking into the office, before grinning evilly at Lo. "And as for you, Ms. Ridgemount, I think you'll be needing this." With that, he dropped a gold-coloured name-tag into her hand. "Punch-in's at 7:30 sharp."
Lo went pale. "In…in the morning?"
Savouring every second, Andrew nodded. "You'd better show up 15 minutes earlier, so your supervisor can give you a run-down on the DR."
Lo struggled to speak. "The…the DR?"
Johnny smiled sheepishly. "That's the Dining Room," he supplied. "You know, the pirate ship?"
'I have to work in the Dining Room? In one of those tacky wench-outfits?' Lo mentally wailed. Hearing Rosie start to chuckle, Lo whirled on her treacherous maid. "Shut up, you traitor!" she snapped, walking out of her father's office. "You can just forget about that pedicure!"
Colliding with something in mid-step, Lo let out a mild shriek as she went sprawling, landing flat on her rear. "Oww…" she whined, brushing a few strands of hair out of her eyes to see what she'd hit…or who, she quickly amended.
Her unfortunate target was a young man, close to her own age, maybe a tiny bit older, with a tall, lean-yet-athletic frame, short, dark brown hair, and piercing, emerald-green eyes, wearing blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a green jacket, with the number 10 emblazoned on the left side, right over his heart.
Under normal circumstances, Lo would have labelled the newcomer as a 'cutie'…but she was way too ticked. "Excuse me!" she snapped. "Try watching where you're going!"
Startled green eyes quickly met hers…before narrowing. "Excuse yourself, princess," he shot back. "I'm not the one who needs a sense of direction, around here."
As both the most popular girl in her school and the daughter of the richest man in the province, if not the country, Lo was accustomed to a certain amount of deference, especially from the opposite sex…so getting sassed back was utterly unheard of. "Do…do you know who I am?" she shrieked. "I am James Ridgemount's daughter! I'll have your job!"
The guy snorted. "Yeah, and I'm an intergalactic warlord," he retorted. "Besides, I don't even work here yet, and you're not exactly a selling-point."
Lo was positively dumbstruck at that. "Uuurrggh!" she screeched, standing up. "I am so out of here!" With that, she stormed into the elevator, letting the doors shut behind her.
Rosie chuckled. "Oh, yeah; he'll fit right in."
"Yes, whoopty-doo," Andrew muttered, fixing a stern eye at the newcomer. "Mr. Ridgemount will see you, now," he added, his expression clearly saying, 'You just make one wrong move, buster, 'cause I'm watching you…'
"Why, you must be Benjamin!" James greeted, waving Andrew and Rosie away. "Max has told me so much about you!"
Smiling sheepishly, Ben Tennyson walked over to shake his hand. "Pleasure to meet you, sir!" he replied. "I just hope Grandpa didn't tell you everything…"
James laughed. "Don't worry too much, son; trying to get secrets out of Max Tennyson is like trying to get the Titanic out of the water." His smile grew wry. "I see you've already met Lauren."
Ben blinked. "Wait…that girl really was your kid?" James nodded. "I'm fired, aren't I?"
James laughed. "Over a little accident?" he asked. "Could've happened to anyone, son; besides, my daughter needs a little sense knocked into her." He gestured to the other chair. "Please, take a seat." Ben did so. "Now, Max told me you were looking for a summer job?"
Ben's smile wavered. "That's…not exactly how he put it to me, sir," he said. "I kinda…already had a job, but it was pretty stressful, and the pay wasn't anything to write home about. He figured I should start saving up for college, and asked if I thought I should take a break."
Which had really translated to, "You'd better agree, buster, or I'll guilt-trip you into saying yes…and don't think I won't get your parents in on it, either."
"Smart man!" James agreed. "Well, a referral from an old space-dog like Max is pretty much worth its weight in gold; we still have one bellhop position open. If you want it, it's yours."
"I'd appreciate that, sir."
"Good. I'll have your contract ready by the end of the day," James said. "In the meantime, you should go talk to Jonathan in the lobby; he'll get you up to speed."
"I will, sir," Ben answered. "You won't regret this!" He started to go.
"One last thing," James said, stopping Ben. "You said your last job was stressful; what was it?"
Ben's smile turned a bit strained. "I was a Plumber-in-training."
"Huh," James said to himself. "I didn't know plumbers took apprentices that young."
Ben laughed dryly. "Sir, you don't know the half of it," he replied, before heading out, leaving James to his paperwork.
After emerging from the elevator, Ben found himself back in the lobby. Looking around, he spotted, the dark-skinned, goateed guy that had hauled around that bratty girl's luggage. Walking towards him, Ben smiled. "I'm guessing you're my new supervisor."
The guy smiled back. "New bellhop, right?" he asked. He extended his hand. "Johnny St. James; Front Desk Guy."
Ben shook it. "Ben Tennyson; bellhop, apparently."
"Welcome aboard." Johnny gestured to the lobby, as they walked by the huge fish-tank. "Being a bellhop is kind of a no-brainer; be nice to the guests, be careful with the luggage, room-service, that sort of thing. The hourly wage isn't great, but the tip-potential more than covers it."
"Good to know," Ben answered. "This place get busy?"
"At times, especially when the waves start coming in; with Gromfest coming up, this place'll be packed." He arched an eyebrow. "You a surfer?"
"Nah," Ben said. "Never had the right neighbourhood; might give it a try, though."
"State, actually," Ben corrected. "My grandpa helped me pick up a work visa for the summer."
That was a white lie; Plumbers – and cadets – were granted full autonomy while on patrol or cases. Grandpa Max had just tweaked the rules a tiny bit, or so he'd told Ben.
"Ah, a neighbour to the south," Johnny said. "Well, you won't find a better surf locale on either side of the border, my man." He sighed. "That's pretty much all you need to know, so take the rest of the day; Lord knows you won't be getting many more. I just need to help Ms. Ridgemount get settled into the staff house."
"The big guy's daughter, right?"
Johnny nodded. "Yep; Lo Ridgemount, Mr. R's little princess, until last night."
Ben whistled. "I really know how to step in it, don't I?"
Johnny laughed. "Are you kidding? Up until now, she's had the entire staff running crazy, trying to clean this place up! Half the senior staff has been dying to tell her off! You are officially my new hero, man!"
Ben groaned. "Fat load of good that'll do me when she gets me fired."
"I wouldn't worry about that, man; she'll be too busy in the DR. The big guy's making her work, this summer."
Ben arched an eyebrow. "Why? What'd she do?"
"Threw an end-of-school party that trashed the hotel, annoyed the guests, totalled the penthouse, got the RCMP involved, and put her new Jeep in the pool."
Ben's eyes went wide. "Wow. My mom warned me about girls like her."
"Yeah. Like I said, she's got other things to worry about."
"I guess," Ben agreed idly. Still, he had to admit, bratty or not, she'd been a stone-cold fox…
'Don't even go there, Tennyson; didn't the Julie incident teach you anything?'
As his eyes happened to glance at his wrist, Johnny arched an eyebrow. "Cool watch."
Reflexively sticking his hand in his pocket, Ben grinned. "Thanks!" he said quickly. "It's kind of a…specialty item."
Fortunately, Johnny hadn't noticed his reaction. "Lobby hours run from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM," he said. "We're scheduled two 15-minute breaks, but between check-ins, they can end up being longer, so it can get idle, sometimes…"
Johnny was interrupted as the other bellhop – the guy Ben had met at the entrance – rushed past on a luggage cart, using it as a makeshift scooter, while a guy in a killer-whale costume waddled after him. "Come on, man! I want to try!" the mascot whined.
Johnny covered his face with his hand. "And we all know what idle hands are," he groaned. "You'd better head to the staff-house and settle in; good luck." Exasperated, he turned to the two joy-riders. "Broseph! Wipeout!" he shouted. "Didn't I just say not to use the luggage carts as scooters?"
Walking off, Ben took his hand out of his pocket, taking a look at the watch. He'd almost forgotten about the Omnitrix, he reflected; the alien device had become such a big part of his life, he almost thought of it as part of his arm. Plus, everyone he knew back home had been so used to seeing him with it, nobody noticed, anymore…except Gwen and Kevin, who knew about it. 'I'd better be careful with it, around here,' he thought; it wouldn't do to have locals drawing connections between the newcomer and a bunch of strange creatures that started popping up.
Besides, Grandpa Max had asked him to hold off on using it, if at all possible.
Shaking his head, Ben cleared his thoughts. 'Easy, Tennyson; you're just here to work, relax, and maybe pick up a few surfing lessons,' he told himself, walking off. 'Just a nice, normal summer; that's all. No looking for trouble.'
Of course, he'd never needed to look for trouble, before; it had always known where to find him…
Surfer's Paradise Staff House
A pungent breeze filled the air as a forlorn Emma Mackenzie walked down the patio stairs of the run-down old beach house; clad in her light pink short-shorts and light rose t-shirt, the tall, slim, 16-year-old redhead suppressed a sigh as she lugged her laundry down the stairs, towards the Laundromat. With any luck, no-one would notice…
"Man, what reeks?"
Emma forced down a sob as she saw Fin McCloud – ultra-cool surf-chick Fin – walk out of the beach house, with Reef following, both carrying their surf-boards. Like Emma, Fin was 16, tall and slim, but unlike her, she had a perfect tan, her sunny blond hair cut short, stopping just short of boy-style but still stylish, clad in a yellow-and-violet tankini. Reef, also 16, had opted for his black swim-trunks, the sun catching off his lightly tanned abs, along with his chest-tattoo, as he absently ran his free hand through his red-brown hair…while he and Fin argued over who was the better surfer.
It wasn't Emma, that was for sure.
Glancing up, Fin smiled. "Hey, Alberta, you coming?" she asked. "I could always use a hand showing this kook what's what!"
Reef snorted. "As if, betty!"
Emma managed a faint smile. "Sorry," she replied. "Laundry-duty."
"Bummer." Fin turned towards the beach. "Anyway, catch you later!"
Reef grinned. "Bet I catch more waves than you."
"Oh, you are so on!"
As the two of them headed off, Emma sighed sadly. 'At this rate, I'll never learn to surf…'
"I'm guessing this is the staff-house, right?"
Looking up from her laundry, Emma spotted a new guy, close to her age, standing at the bottom of the stairs. "Yeah," she answered. "You working here, too?"
"Just got hired on," the guy answered, walking up towards her, his hand extended. "I'm…" He stopped in mid-breath, his eyes going wide. "Holy Mother of…what's that stink?" he gasped, tugging his jacket over his nose. "Did a sewer-line break around here, or something?"
Now Emma really wanted to cry. "Worse!" she wailed. "My roommate is a skunk!"
The guy grimaced. "Ouch." He managed a faint smile. "Hey…at least you can only go up from here, right?"
Emma sniffled, trying to smile back. "I…I guess…"
The guy's smile grew, as he extended his hand again. "Ben Tennyson."
Emma shook it. "Emma Mackenzie," she answered. "So, you plan on doing any surfing?"
"I hope so," Ben answered, "as soon as I can figure out how; I'm kinda new at it."
Emma beamed. "Really? Me, too!"
Ben laughed. "Good to know I'm not the only one around here with no idea what he's doing!"
Now it was Emma's turn to laugh. "Hey, maybe we can take lessons, or something!" she suggested, before sighing. "After I get rid of this skunk-stank…"
"Sounds like a plan," Ben agreed. "Good luck."
"Thanks," Emma answered, as she walked down, noticing Ben's wrist as she did. "Hey, cool watch!"
Ben's smile faltered, stuffing his hand in his pocket. "Uh, thanks," he said. "Well, I guess I'd better go get settled in…" With that, he hurried upstairs.
Shrugging to herself, Emma continued on her way; Ben seemed nice…if a little on the weird side. Still, that wasn't her biggest concern; keeping her job was. After today's series of screw-ups, she'd be lucky if she wasn't fired.
That thought quickly brought her down, again. This was supposed to be the best summer ever, now that she had a chance to go surfing…but she didn't even have any money for lessons.
She just didn't know what to do…
"Hey, what's happenin', dude?"
After stashing his stuff in the guys' room at the staff house – the briefs tossed haphazardly on the floor had been a dead giveaway – and changing into his black swim-shorts, Ben had found his way down to the beach, making a brief stop at the Surf Shack, run by the old surf-dude known as The Kahuna. Presently, the 40-something, yellow-haired, yellow-bearded guy in swim trunks and Hawaiian-print hippie-shirt was rummaging through the shop's supply of surfboards, but his head quickly popped out from behind an old wooden one as Ben had walked in. "Uh…just looking for a board," Ben said.
"Oh, a new grom, huh? Far out!"
Ben blinked. "Uh…what?"
"Grom, kiddo; a rookie surfer," The Kahuna explained. He darted back into his stock. "Let's see…hey, how 'bout this one?"
The Kahuna quickly pulled out a large, red-and-blue-striped board with an aft ventral fin. "Hmmm…nah, not my style," Ben thought aloud. "How about that one?"
Following Ben's gesture, The Kahuna took down a neon-green, freestyle board. "Hey, nice eye!" he approved, before casting a more critical eye over it. "Still…it's missing something…"
Ben arched an eyebrow. "…like a black racing stripe and an hourglass decal?"
"Dude, that would be gnarly!" The Kahuna exclaimed. "I'm expecting a shipment of waterproof, eco-friendly design paint in a couple weeks; if you can wait…"
"I can wait; I plan on working at the resort over the summer," Ben answered. "So, how much?"
The Kahuna raised a hand. "No need to worry, little dude; any surfer workin' at Surfer's Paradise under the B-Man's thumb gets a 30-day free trial," he answered, extending his hand. "Just promise you'll shred some awesome waves with her."
Ben grinned. "I'll see what I can do." With that, he shook the offered hand.
The second his palm connected, The Kahuna's easygoing smile vanished, his eyes going wide, before narrowing, as if studying Ben…before widening again. "Whoa…" he murmured, withdrawing his hand. "No offence, little pal, but you got some seriously freaky mojo hangin' around you; your aura's way out of whack. It's like there's ten auras all mixed up with it." The Kahuna looked again. "No…more…"
Ben arched an eyebrow…until he realized that the hand The Kahuna had shaken had been the one with the Omnitrix. He chuckled nervously. "Hey, that's probably just…jet-lag, or something!"
The Kahuna started to relax. "Sure hope so, dude; that kind of funky karma usually means trouble." He smiled again. "You just take care, now, and happy shredding!"
"I will! Thanks!" Taking his new board, Ben hurried out, onto the beach.
Walking towards the shoreline, Ben happened to see another surfer shredding across a huge wave with effortless ease, gliding right up to the whitecap to execute a perfect flip.
Ben gulped. 'Baby steps first, Tennyson; jumping head-first into the deep-end will end badly.' Glancing towards the stand where the surf-instructor was supposed to be, he groaned as he saw that the hours were for earlier in the day. 'Oh, well; might as well give it a try,' he thought, wading into the ocean. 'Okay…just a couple of little baby waves…just to get my balance…' Hopping stomach down onto his board, he paddled out into the blue.
Once he was far enough away, amongst waves just a couple inches high – perfect for trying to find his balance – Ben started to stand up. 'Okay, Tennyson…you used to ride a hover-board when you were 10; this should be like riding a bike…'
Slowly, he planted his feet on the board, starting to inch himself up; he grimaced as a tiny wave passed him, almost making him tumble, but he kept himself aloft. 'I did it! I'm up!' he mentally exulted. 'This isn't so bad…'
He happened to glance over his shoulder…and his good mood instantly died, as he saw a gi-normous wave bearing straight at him. 'Oh, CRAP!' Desperately, he tried to dart back down and paddle away, but it was too late; the wave rushed into him, upending his board and sending him tumbling into the drink, before roaring towards the shore, taking him with it.
Seconds after hitting him, the wave broke upon the sand, depositing Ben face-down on the beach, his board washing up right next to him. Groaning, Ben flipped himself over, staring up at the sun. "Ow."
A feminine laugh answered his pitiful moan. "You okay?" Blinking, Ben tried to sit up…and fell back down on the sand, as a gold-headed female, clad in a yellow-violet tankini, carrying a yellow surfboard, looked down at him, trying not to laugh. "I saw your little wipe-out."
Ben coughed. "Yeah, that was me," he sputtered. "That one snuck up on me."
The girl laughed. "They kinda do that, if you don't know what you're doing."
Ben sighed. 'Great; first day here, and half the beach probably thinks I'm a loser.' "There a surf-term for something like that?"
Ben groaned again. "I'm also guessing there's a term for a total surf goofball."
The girl chuckled. "Right, again!" she confirmed. "Kook."
"Good a word as any," Ben muttered. He extended his hand. "Ben Tennyson, hotel bellhop, and apparent residing Kook on Campus."
The girl smiled as she shook it. "Fin McCloud, hotel maid, and residing surf expert." Giving his arm a tug, she helped him up. "I wouldn't call you a kook, though; just a noob," she corrected. "A noob doesn't know any better, that's all; besides, that wasn't the worst wipe-out I've seen. You weren't doing too bad before that wave hit."
"That was the idea," Ben replied. "I figured I'd just cut my teeth on a couple baby waves, until that monster blindsides me."
"Well, there you go!" Fin encouraged. "A kook wouldn't even have that much sense…"
Another laugh interrupted them. "Nice wipe-out, nerdbag!"
Fin's smile dropped into a scowl, as a tall red-brown-haired guy in black shorts, carrying a dark red board, walked up. "Speaking of which…" she muttered under her breath. "Reef, this is Ben; he's working at the hotel, too. Ben, this is a kook."
Reef barely acknowledged the insult. "Ignore the green-eyed betty, bro; she's just jealous of my mad skills…"
Fin glared at him. "As if!"
Sensing an argument brewing, Ben spoke up. "So, you're both working at the hotel, too, right?"
"Oh, yeah; I'm the hotel's go-to guy for surf-lessons," Reef said, "which a certain someone just can't get over…"
Fin's expression was positively murderous, but she managed to calm herself. "Don't listen to him, Ben; if you ever need lessons, I'd be happy to help," she said. "I think you've been through enough water-based trauma for one week."
Reef frowned. "That supposed to mean something, betty?"
"What do you think, kook?"
"Slackers! Front and center, now!"
Reef and Fin both froze as Andrew Baumer – "Bummer" – marched up to them. "You two are hall-sitting for the Marvin Family's suite, this evening!"
Reef groaned. "No way, man! We were gonna…"
Fin's elbow to his gut shut him up. "Happy to, sir!" she chirped.
"Good." Bummer then fixed Ben with a wary eye. "And why aren't you in uniform, Tennyson?"
Ben thought fast. "I…haven't signed my contract yet, sir!" he said. "Wouldn't want to start without knowing exactly what I'm doing!"
Bummer scowled. "Fine, then," he muttered, "but I'm watching you, buster." With that, he strode off.
Reef laughed. "Hey, nice save, bro!"
Fin sighed. "Guess we'll have to take a rain check on that lesson."
Ben shrugged. "It happens," he replied. "Good luck."
Fin groaned. "Knowing Bummer, we'll need it." She and Reef headed off. "Catch you later!"
Watching them go, Ben took his board, and walked off, trying to find another spot of open ocean…when he heard it.
"…reports are coming in now of a high-speed chase taking place south across Highway 121; two prisoners are reported to have broken out of Sunset Regional Lockup and are fleeing in a black SUV. The police are in hot pursuit…"
Ben went stock-still as the Surf Shack's radio blared that report across the air, before The Kahuna changed to another channel. "Bad karma, man."
"Yeah…" Ben murmured idly, glancing to the Omnitrix…as he made his decision. "Listen, Kahuna, can you just hang onto this for a second?" he asked, leaning his board against the wall by the counter. "I have to go…run an errand."
"No problem, little dude," The Kahuna answered, taking the board. "Just be careful; that funky karma's still hangin' around you, man…"
"Thanks! I'll be back, later!" Ben called, as he quickly sprinted into the woods, getting as far away from the beach as he could. Once he was far enough away, he stopped, pressing the activation knobs on the sides of the control-dial, popping the dial into activation position. 'So much for a quiet vacation,' he thought, twisting the dial to the alien form he needed, the green hologram illuminating the woods around him. His choice made, he raised his hand. "Goin' hero!" With that, he slammed the dial back down.
The very instant the control-dial contacted the frame, it began to glow a luminous green, as the Omnitrix started cycling up, sending a wave of Omni-energy over him, and then deep into him, remaking his very DNA at the molecular level; his legs became thinner, more compact, his feet morphing into three-toed, clawed talons. His lumbar spine started to extend, jutting out and becoming more flexible, until it was a fully prehensile tail with a yellow tip. His chest expanded slightly, becoming stronger and more durable, as his skin pulled inwards, defining gills over his ribs, before turning deep red, becoming leathery. His arm bones became thinner, as the skin over them started to stretch, becoming leathery wings, his hands turning into fearsome claws. His neck began to widen, as his hair sunk into his scalp, his nose retracting into his skull, his face flattening, making his mouth more pronounced, as his eyes turned narrow, glowing green, with two yellow horn-crests jutting up and back from his forehead, completing the change.
Where once had been Ben Tennyson now stood a tall, red-skinned, manta-ray-like creature, with the Omnitrix's control-dial embedded in his chest. Drawing in a deep breath, savouring the salty scent of brine, the new Ben shouted out his existence. "Jetray!"
His lidless eyes narrowing, Jetray spread his leathery wings, taking to the air, before flying south at speeds well over Mach Seven, becoming a crimson streak across the sky. In seconds, he was over Highway 121; he could already see the black SUV speeding down the road, with six police cars after it. In a desperate move, the SUV swerved onto an exit ramp, causing the police to drive past it, before turning left into the wrong lane, forcing innocent motorists to scramble to get out of its way.
Gritting his teeth, Jetray dove straight at the SUV, landing perfectly on its hood, glaring at the two now-horrified crooks. "Pull over!" he shouted, his eerie, almost dolphin-like voice only spooking the crooks further; frantic, they swerved, trying to shake him off, but Jetray dug in his talons, holding on. Cursing, one crook drew his automatic, firing a clip through the windshield, forcing Jetray to scramble onto the front grille. Flaring his wings, Jetray flew behind the truck, flipping his tail forward, and focusing; instantly, a stream of green bioelectric energy surged from the tip, blasting apart one of the rear tires. Focusing again, Jetray fired another neuroshock blast, destroying the other rear tire, before diving at the vehicle, grabbing hold of the driver-side door. "I said, pull OVER!" With that, he punched through the window, grabbed the wheel, and turned, before flying clear, as the crooks crashed into a tree.
Touching down in front of the crashed SUV, Jetray saw the two crooks stumble out, battered and bruised; spotting him, one crook drew his gun and opened fire, but Jetray darted to the side, firing a neuroshock from his eyes and blasted the gun out of his hands. Before the crook could respond, Jetray pounced on him in a flipping double-heel kick, sending him crashing into the SUV, out cold, his face laden with scratches from Jetray's taloned feet. As the second thug rushed him, Jetray spun into a tail-whip, slamming his tail into the crook's gut, knocking the wind out of him and sending him crumpling to the ground.
With the situation neutralized, Jetray looked at the scene with a faint smile, silently thanking his cousin Gwen for those martial-arts lessons. "Guess this holiday is going to be relaxing, after all." Hearing the approaching police sirens, Jetray's good mood vanished, as he took to the sky once more, flying towards Surfer's Paradise as fast as he could.
He didn't have much time…
"Ugh, this is so not fair!"
After she'd moved into the unimaginably grody staff-house, Lo found herself aimlessly walking down the patio stairs, an irritated pout creasing her face; by then, twilight had started to paint the sky a blazing mix of red and gold, but she was in too foul a mood to appreciate it. 'How could Daddy do this to me? I throw one little party, and he acts like…like I sold nuclear secrets to terrorists!'
Taking a deep breath, Lo reigned in her anger. 'Okay, Lo, cool your jets,' she told herself. 'Daddy just overreacted, that's all; he was this mad after George burned down the boathouse, too. All I have to do is just give him time, and he'll come around; Mom's probably already working on getting him to ease off…'
She had just stepped onto the ground when she heard a faint rustle in the bushes. Curious, Lo walked around the back of the beach house. 'It's probably just some of the new workers getting back from a surf-session,' she thought…before her expression brightened, 'or maybe it's Ty coming back from the Office!' If she could figure out where her big brother came from his secret surf-spot, she could blackmail him into helping her get back in the penthouse! "Hello?"
Lo arched an eyebrow at that whisper. "Ty?" she called. "Is that you?"
The snap of a tree-branch sent a red shape tumbling down from the treetops, landing directly in front of Lo. "Okay, Ty, I get that you want to keep the Office's location quiet," Lo muttered, "but I really need…your…help?"
As she'd been talking, the red shape slowly stood up…rising several head-lengths above her – way too tall to be Ty – before turning around…
Standing before her was a blood-red, green-eyed fish-creature, with yellow horns, razor-sharp claws, and deadly fangs. Looking down, it spotted her, its horrible maw opening…
Lo's scream hit an octave usually reserved for calling dogs; grimacing, the creature raised its claws…before the green hourglass symbol on its chest started flashing red. Panicking, the fish-monster turned, and ran off, leaving Lo behind.
Alone again, Lo couldn't move, her feet rooted to the spot with sheer terror at what she'd just seen, as she frantically tried to catch her breath; she didn't dare move or scream again, or else that thing might come back…
"Lo! Lo, where are you?"
Lo kept hyperventilating even as she saw the copper-haired head of her big brother through the foliage; seconds later, 17-year-old Tyler Ridgemount, clad in his usual red swim-shorts, rushed up to her, followed by the well-tanned Aussie named Ripper, and Ty's old friend since grade-school, "No-Pants" Lance, also in their surf gear. "Lo, are you okay?" Ty exclaimed. "Take it easy, sis…just calm down…"
Lo tried to speak. "Muh...m-m-muh…"
Ripper rolled his eyes. "Hang on, mate; remember, this is the sister that's had all of us runnin' ragged, yesterday!" he complained. "She probably just broke a nail."
Lance arched an eyebrow. "I don't know, man; she seems pretty freaked…"
"M-muh…muh…m-m-muh…m-m-m-MONSTER!" Lo finally managed. "There's a MONSTER in these woods, Ty!"
Ty blinked. "What?"
"It's true!" Lo wailed. "I was just walking around here, looking for you, and then the next thing I know, this big, red, fishy…thing drops out of the trees, trying to eat me!"
Ripper rolled his eyes. "Riiiiiiight…"
Ty frowned. "Look, sis, I get that it sucks how Dad's making you work, but making stuff up isn't going to help…"
Lo stamped her foot. "I am not making this up, Tyler! I saw it!" she shouted, pointing behind her. "There was a big, red fish-monster standing right there, a minute ago!"
Lance brightened. "Hey, I'll bet it was a brain-sucking water-beast, like in that movie, Revenge of the Sea Demons from Planet…"
Ripper smacked him upside the head. "Don't encourage her, mate; she'll be whinin' all summer as it is."
Ty sighed. "Whatever, sis," he said. "Come on; you've got a big day, tomorrow."
Frowning irately, Lo could only follow her brother and his friends back to the staff house. 'I don't believe this! As if rats, mould, and skunks aren't bad enough, I have to worry about MONSTERS, too?' she silently fumed. 'Can this day GET any worse?'
After encountering Lo, Jetray had scrambled deeper into the woods, as the control-dial's red warning-flares grew brighter and steadier…and then it timed out, enveloping him with a bright red glow, depositing a perfectly normal, shorts-clad Ben Tennyson in his place. Ben let out a relieved sigh. "That was close."
He hadn't meant to freak that girl – Lo – out so badly; he would have explained he was a good guy, but the minute the Omnitrix started timing out, he'd panicked.
Heading back to the staff house, Ben snuck in through an open back window, before creeping up to his room; after changing back into his regular clothes, Ben let himself flop onto his bed, utterly wiped. As he hit the mattress, he felt something jingle against his chest; reaching under his shirt, Ben fished out the object…and his expression collapsed.
It was a silver pendant, consisting of a Japanese kanji symbol – the symbol for "Together Forever" – suspended on a black cord; he'd completely forgotten about it. He'd had it on ever since Julie had given it to him…
Ben's eyes shut tight as he thought of his ex; Julie Yamamoto, pretty, sweet, as graceful as a ballerina as she glided across the tennis-court; Julie, the one girl who accepted his life as the bearer of the Omnitrix; Julie, the girl he'd thought he was falling for…
Glancing up at that cheery voice, Ben spotted Emma standing in the doorway, all smiles. "You're in a good mood," Ben observed.
Emma nodded. "I didn't get fired!" she exclaimed. "I thought I was going to – I was screwing up all day, today – but I get to stay, and I got some surfing in and Broseph said I was a natural and…"
"Whoa, slow down!" Ben laughed. "I'm happy for you, but I can't listen at 100 miles an hour!"
Emma blushed. "Sorry," she said, calming herself. "Anyway, the other groms and I were going to have a weenie-roast down at the beach; want to come?"
Ben grinned. "Why not?" Getting up, he put on his coat, before following Emma out of the staff-house.
The summer sun was already setting by the time Ben and Emma reached the small campfire, where Fin, Reef, and Broseph were roasting hot dogs, along with one other…
Seeing them approach, Fin smiled. "Hey, there's our resident noobs!" she teased, her tone light. "I know Alberta got her session in, but how about you, States? Any new wipeouts, lately?"
Ben shrugged. "Nah; any more than one face-plant into the water at 25 mph, and I'm up all night," he quipped back, while casting an uneasy eye towards the fourth grom around the fire. 'Oh, crap, it IS her!'
Looking up from the fire, Lo's pale violet eyes narrowed angrily as she saw him. "Okay, what is he doing here?"
Lo's tone took the others by surprise, but Ben sighed, folding his arms. "Last I checked, I was working here, princess."
As Lo huffed angrily, Fin arched an eyebrow. "You two know each other?"
Broseph started to chuckle. "Oh, man, that was you that bumped into her, dude?" he laughed. "Front Desk Guy said there was a double-takedown outside the big cheese's office!"
Emma blinked. "Huh?"
Lo frowned, crossing her arms. "He's taking about the incident outside Daddy's office, today," she huffed. "I was just having the worst day of my life when this…kook plows into me!"
Ben's eyes narrowed. "Excuse me, I plowed into you?" he snapped. "I was just minding my own business when I stepped out of that elevator, lady!"
Reef just laughed. "Okay, first you knock over the owner's daughter, and then you totally wipe out on the same day?"
Fin turned to Lo, one eyebrow arched. "Hey, just be thankful it wasn't one of the regular staff you trampled," she said. "After the cleanup your party had us working, you probably wouldn't be walking away with just a bruised butt."
"Uh, hello? Banished from my home, here!"
Ben rolled his eyes. "Oh, yeah, boo-hoo; you're forced to work like everyone else."
Lo let out a tiny 'hmph' as she sat back down. "Well, it won't be for long; Daddy totally overreacted. I'll be back in the penthouse within the week."
Ben chuckled dryly. "Yeah, hang onto that dream, princess."
"Guys, come on!" Emma piped up. "We're practically living at one of the coolest resorts in the country, and we get to surf on our days off! This summer is any surfer's dream!"
Reef arched an eyebrow. "Girl makes some sense!"
Fin grinned, raising her hot-dog-roasting stick into the air. "To the summer!" she declared. As Emma sat down, Fin glanced to Ben. "You in, States?"
Ben chuckled. "I don't know; you sure a noob like me would fit in?"
"Hey, the more you wipe out, the better it makes me look, bro!" Reef answered.
Fin rolled her eyes. "Not enough bad surfers in the world to do that, kook," she muttered.
Smiling, Ben sat down, picking up a roasting stick. "To the summer!" he echoed Fin's toast. With that, the rest of the groms – his new friends, with the probable exception of Lo – repeated the toast, before continuing the weenie-roast.
With his luck, Ben somehow knew the summer wouldn't be normal…but it was going to be interesting.
Home planet: Aeropela
Abilities: Subject is capable of flying and swimming at significant fractions of lightspeed, exceeding even the land-speed of a Kineceleran. Possesses both gills and terrestrial lungs; can remain underwater, on land, and in the air indefinitely. Advanced nervous system produces neuroelectrical energy in excess, rendering subject capable of projecting a "neuroshock" from the nerve-endings in the optic nerves and the tail; high-intensity bio-electric fields give subject a limited electromagnetic levitation, allowing for "cold starts" directly from standing. Incredibly acute optic and olfactory senses enable for easy tracking of prey; subject also possesses limited electro-motive perception. Highly durable and flexible epidermal and sub-cutaneous layers; subject can withstand repeated impacts from opponents up to and including Highbreed-level strength.
Description: The supreme predator of planet Aeropela, the Aerophibian is a true all-terrain master, capable of foraging for berries on the mainland, flying off to catch small aerial mammals in the upper-atmospheric cliffs, and then diving into the planetary ocean to hunt for kraelfish. Its ability to perceive the electrical fields of its prey, coupled with its acute senses, means that there is little that escapes its talons. Initially solitary creatures, Aerophibians commonly met others of their kind only during mating-season, until the evolution of the neuroshock; with this adaptation came an expansion of its electro-motive perception, allowing each Aerophibian to sense its brethren from even the other side of Aeropela. United by mutual curiosity, the Aerophibians were finally drawn together as a species; development of a common language soon followed, as did the establishment of permanent settlements.
Author's Note: Hey, all! For those that don't know me, I'm The Writer with No Name, creator of the "Last Son" story-series. I've decided to branch out a little, and this idea has been kicking around my cranium for the past few months, so I figured I'd give it a try!
To clarify, this story is an alternate Season 1 of Stoked; it will start off fairly close to "canon" Season 1, but will gradually start to diverge. In the Ben 10 universe, this story starts just after Season 2 of Alien Force, before the start of Season 3; in other words, Kevin hasn't been mutated, and Vilgax hasn't shown his ugly face (yet).
As far as pairings are concerned, as I've said, the main one in this story will (eventually) be Ben/Lo, with some small elements of Reef/Fin mixed in. Ben 10 fans may be somewhat ticked that I've dissolved the "canon" relationship between Ben and Julie, which I can understand; personally, I like Julie's character – she's smart, cute, funny, and level-headed, which she'd have to be in order to handle the craziness life throws Ben's way. However, in order for this story to work, Ben and Julie had to break up.
With regards to updates, I will try to keep a fair pace, at first; for the first few chapters at least, you can all expect 10-14 days between chapters, or so. However, since I am currently in university, as well as working on "Last Son," there may be times when my updates will take longer, so please be patient; I WILL finish this story, of that I can promise you.
Finally, I understand that some of you may not like my work, which is understandable. I would, however, like to paraphrase Voltaire on this subject: the right to free speech means that not all people will like what you say, but they should respect your right to say it. Genuinely constructive criticism I can accept gladly, but flamers should just kindly close their browsers and walk away. I have never and WILL never flame another author; I don't think the same courtesy is too much to ask. If you don't like it, don't read it; nobody's forcing you.
That said, I hope you all enjoy my story! Later!