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. Enjoy!
CHAPTER ONE: FAMILIES, PHANTOMS, AND FREAK-OUTS
The Office, July 27, 2010
"Whooohooo! Let's ride, dudes!"
As the afternoon sun rose high over the idyllic beach known as the Office, the silence was broken by five surfers as they raced along the sand, charging into the breaking surf, lining up for the incoming wave. In seconds, the wave started to crest, and a gold-haired girl in a yellow-purple tankini was the first up, racing along the blue, before darting up and leaping off the whitecap in a perfect 360 spin. A red-brown-haired young man was next up, working the whitecap like a pro as he twisted into a sideways somersault, landing on the wave perfectly.
The next surfer, a red-haired, ponytailed young lady in a pink bikini, didn't fare quite so well; managing to ride out into the wave, she started to cut back, but quickly lost her balance, tumbling into the water as her board upended. Following her was a young African-American man in a blue-orange wetsuit, and he didn't fare much better; he hadn't even gotten into the wave when he was knocked into the drink. The last one was a dark-complexioned youth, his gold hair in a poofy afro-style, matching his swim-shorts. Racing into the blue, he executed a flawless double-cutback, before launching into a backwards flip off the whitecap, before letting the wave take him to shore.
As the wave broke against the beach, Emma Mackenzie coughed as she picked up her board. "Am I ever going to get the hang of those cutbacks?"
Laughing as she walked up out of the surf, Fin McCloud turned to her fellow grom. "Hey, don't feel too bad, Alberta; it's just got a bigger learning-curve." Glancing to her side, she smirked. "Just look at Kooksville, here."
Walking out next to Fin, Reef rolled his eyes. "Whatever, betty."
Coming to a stop next to Emma, Johnny St. James smiled gently. "I'm sure you'll get it soon, Emma."
"Thanks, Johnny," Emma answered. "Maybe I just need an instructor or something."
Johnny's smile softened, as he scratched the back of his head. "Hey, I'd be happy to help."
"Really?" Emma exclaimed. "Then could you ask Ty if he'd help me?"
At the mention of Emma's crush, Johnny's expression imploded. "Sure. I'll get right on that."
Walking next to Reef, Broseph chuckled. "Dude, that is just painful to watch," the afro-headed grom said.
Reef nodded. "Bro is neck-deep in the Friend Zone."
Glancing back at the waves, Fin's smile only grew. "I still can't believe States is missing out on this killer sesh," she said. "I mean, how can anyone with the blood of the Madcap pass up such sweet waves?"
Emma giggled. "The same reason Lo isn't here!" she said. "She and Ben are probably back at the hotel, smooching by the pool-side!"
Fin grinned. "I still can't believe we're hanging with a guy who saved the whole universe," she said. "Twice."
Reef scowled. "I still can't believe he won't let me borrow that…that watch thing! You know; the…what was it? Oh-me-Trick?"
Johnny rolled his eyes. "Omnitrix, dude. Learn to spell."
Fin scoffed. "Yeah, like Ben's gonna hand the most powerful device in the whole freakin' universe to somebody who mixed up board-wax with floor-wax!"
"That happened once!" Reef protested. "They were in the same-sized jars! The labels were practically identical!"
Broseph laughed. "Dude, you were flying off your board every time you got on!" he chortled. "Still makes me laugh, bro."
As the laughs of the other groms filled the air, Reef could only frown as they headed back towards the hotel, leaving the Office behind, their surf-sesh done.
"So, how exactly does this thing work, again?"
At the Surfer's Paradise Resort and Hotel, all was quiet on the pool-deck, since practically all the patrons had opted to go to the beach to enjoy the afternoon sun…which made it the perfect spot for a newly-hooked-up couple to be alone.
Sitting at the pool's edge, his legs in the water, a young man of 16, tall and athletically built, with short brown hair and green eyes, clad in green-black swim shorts, with a green-black, high-tech wristwatch on his left wrist, smiled at his girlfriend's inquiry. "I don't know the scientific details, Lo; that's a question for Azmuth," Ben Tennyson answered. "All I know is that I just hit the buttons, pop the dial, twist, and slam it down; the Omnitrix does the rest."
Sitting happily in his lap, the 15-year-old slender, sun-caressed, amethyst-eyed, long-chestnut-haired beauty, in her usual white-pink bikini and floral hair-clip, nuzzled closer, resting her head against his chest. "I still can't believe it," Lauren "Lo" Ridgemount cooed. "I'm actually dating a guy who's saved the universe…twice!"
Ben chuckled. "Hey, but who's counting, right?"
Curious, Lo took hold of his left arm, lifting it up to look at the Omnitrix…which Ben took as an excuse to draw his left arm in, pulling her closer and earning a delighted squeal from her, before she looked at the watch. "So how many aliens are on this thing?"
Ben shrugged. "I'm not sure," he replied. "Azmuth never gave me an exact number, but I'm pretty sure it's at least 10,000."
Lo's eyes went wide. "10,000?"
"Yep," Ben said. "Plus, it can repair damaged DNA – that's how I healed all the Highbreed – and it can regenerate individuals from DNA samples stored in it; Azmuth had also intended to use it as a genetic "Noah's Ark" for species destroyed by the Highbreed. Not only that, it has a kind of "Master Control" that lets me turn into any alien at will!" He sighed. "Not that he'd ever tell me how to activate it, again…"
Smiling, Lo touched the two buttons. "So, you press these?"
Nervous, Ben nodded. "Careful – one wrong move, and you'll have to explain to your dad why there's a giant, telekinetic crab in his pool!"
Lo laughed. "Oh, come on; I've seen you do this before! I'll be careful!" Pressing the buttons, she activated the dial, causing it to raise up, projecting a green hologram of a moth-like creature. "This is that moth-guy Emma saw at the Office, right?"
Ben nodded. "Big Chill."
Lo twisted the dial, changing the hologram to one of a massive dinosaur-like creature. "And this is that dinosaur you used to save Emma."
Twisting it again, Lo changed it to the image of a big-headed crab. "And this is that guy we thought was a mascot."
Lo twisted it once more, changing it to the image of a more rotund creature. "And this is that guy you used to save me."
"Cannonbolt." Ben chuckled. "He's actually pretty fun to use."
Lo's expression saddened. "I never said thank you," she murmured. "You…you saved my life, and I acted like a total bitch…"
"You were scared," Ben soothed. "The first time I ever used the Omnitrix, I changed into this fire-based alien called Heatblast, and I freaked out!" He chuckled. "Besides, that kiss you gave me the next day was a pretty good thank-you!" He hugged her closer. "Thanks for stopping me from leaving."
Blushing, Lo twisted the dial again, changing it to a tall humanoid with a curved fin on his head. "Okay, who's this guy?"
Ben grinned. "That would be Way Big."
Lo blinked. "What does he do?"
Ben chuckled again. "Lo, he's called Way Big; it's kinda self-explanatory."
"Oh. Duh." Lo smiled. "So, he's big enough to lift a house?"
Ben shook his head. "More like big enough to bench-press Godzilla," he corrected. "He's not exactly subtle, but when you're over 100 feet tall, you don't need to be; when you need a guy who's ultra-large and in-charge, Way Big's your guy!"
Lo nodded. "So he's your most powerful alien?"
Ben's smile wavered. "Way Big's the strongest one I know of, but not the most powerful." He twisted the dial, bringing up the image of a humanoid creature, with a three-pronged crest in its forehead. "That would be Alien X."
"Okay," Lo said. "What does he do?"
Lo arched an eyebrow. "So…he can be strong, or fast, or big, or whatever?"
"No, Lauren," Ben said gently. "I said he can, literally, do anything; Alien X can warp reality any way he sees fit. He can make it rain real cats and dogs; he can spontaneously turn the water in this pool into green jelly, just for the heck of it." He chuckled. "He can even turn the planet Uranus into…"
"Okay, I get it!" Lo interrupted. "Wow, why didn't you just use him to clobber those Knights?"
Ben sighed. "Because he's also the most useless alien in the Omnitrix," he muttered. "Alien X is governed by two opposing personalities: Serena, the Voice of Love and Compassion, and Bellicus, the Voice of Rage and Aggression – think of a one-man United Nations, and you'll have some idea of what Alien X's head is like. I turned into him once, and almost got stuck; as the Voice of Reason, they expected me to be the tiebreaker, and they'd been deadlocked on a lot of stuff – we're talking millions of years, here! Everything Alien X does needs a motion, and then a second, when we don't have time to waste on psychological red-tape!"
Lo laughed guiltily. "Okay, that kinda sucks."
"Tell me about it," Ben agreed. "I don't plan on using him, anytime soon; not when I have over a dozen other heroes that can do the job just as well!"
Lo smiled. "Between that watch and your pals, bad guys beware!" she exclaimed. "So, you said they're coming back, right?"
Ben nodded. "After the debacle with the Knights, Gwen and Kevin decided to take a little road-trip across Canada; they should be back today to check on me before they head home."
Lo sighed. "Your cousin hates me."
Ben's smile turned wary. "I wouldn't say that, Lo; she's just…never gotten your best impression," he defended. "Remember, the first time she heard about you, you had just sank your jeep in a pool, and then the next time she saw you, you almost broke her cousin/best friend's heart. Once she gets to know you, she'll mellow out!"
Lo chuckled wryly. "Nice try, baby, but girls can feel girl-hate a mile away," she said, before frowning. "Gwen's been giving me the stink-eye since she met me; I bet half the time she and Kevin called you to help them, she was doing it to keep you away from me."
Ben half-frowned. "Okay, now you're kinda exaggerating," he chided. "Yeah, she and Kevin called for backup a couple times when they were road-tripping, but that's just the stuff I've been responding to on Sunset Island, this past week!"
"Yeah; in the middle of our dates."
Ben sighed. "Lo…"
"I know, I know; people need your help," Lo muttered, rolling her eyes. She smiled her sweet smile. "You're still on for the movie tonight, right?"
Ben grinned. "You bet, beautiful." At that, Lo beamed, before her eyes fluttered closed, leaning closer to her boyfriend, her lips parted…
Startled, Lo craned her neck to look over Ben's shoulder, and gasped. "T-Ty?"
Standing behind them, 17-year-old Tyler "Ty" Ridgemount, tall and lean, in his usual surf-shorts, frowned, his arms folded, and his eyes narrowed behind the few wisps of short, copper-red hair that fell down in front of them. "Hey, sis," he greeted flatly. "I was just wondering if you guys wanted to head to the Office, but I see you had other plans."
As she and Ben stood up – with Ben discreetly retracting the Omnitrix's dial – Lo looked stricken. "Tyler…"
Ty interrupted her. "Does Dad know?"
His expression grave, Ben shook his head. "We…haven't told him, yet…"
"…because we didn't need to!" Lo insisted, glaring at her brother. "We've only been dating for about a week!"
"Uh-huh," Ty muttered. "Ben, I think you need to go, now."
Lo's eyes narrowed. "No, he doesn't!" she snapped, before her tone softened as she turned to Ben. "Baby, you don't have to go anywhere."
Smiling sheepishly, Ben shook his head. "Actually, Lo, I kinda do; I've only got about 5 minutes left in my lunch-break – you know how Bummer's been watching me like a hawk."
"Oh. Right." Lo smiled shyly. "See you after your shift?"
Ben smiled back. "I sure hope so." Beaming, Lo gave him a quick, chaste kiss on the lips, before he turned to go. "I'll…see you later, Ty."
Ty's eyes were narrow. "Yeah. You will." As Ben walked off, Ty turned to his sister. "What are you doing, Lo?"
Lo was irate. "What are you doing, Tyler?" she snapped. "You had no right to try and scare off my boyfriend!"
"I'm your brother," Ty countered. "And when were you going to tell us about this?"
"It's only been a week, Ty! We wanted to make sure there was something to tell!" Lo answered, before smiling as she remembered. "And it's been great, okay? We were going to tell Daddy soon! Ben's even asked if we should tell Daddy!"
"And in all that time, you didn't think I needed to know about this?"
Lo's eyes narrowed. "You're my brother, Ty; not my father!" she shouted. "Just…uurrgghh! I'm actually going to go back to work, because I cannot deal with you, right now!" With that, she stormed off, heading back to the locker room, leaving her brother behind.
"So now Ty's onto you and Lo being hooked-up, bro? Bummer."
As he and Broseph, in uniform – tacky purple t-shirts, and painfully bright yellow-purple board-shorts – pushed their room-service cart through the hall, Ben nodded. "Yeah, and he was not happy about it," he agreed. "I knew Lo and I should've come clean, earlier."
"Hey, it's all good, bro. Ty's cool – once he sees how happy you make his baby sis, he'll be chill." Broseph's smile turned strained. "And trust me, bro: he'll see it. You can see it from orbit."
Ben chuckled. "Yeah, I guess she and I have been kinda syrupy at times, haven't we?"
Broseph held up his hand. "I'm all for treatin' a special betty right, dude, but seriously, my stomach is getting way unmellow from watching you two, and I'm normally chill 24/7."
Ben sighed. "I know, I know," he relented. "It's just that my relationship with Lo is only getting started, and I know she's not 100 percent okay with me having to dart off to stop bad-guys, yet. I feel like I have to be as good a boyfriend as I can, as fast as I can, because the very next minute, I could have to run off to stop a bank-robbery, or rescue a bus that's falling off a bridge!"
Broseph nodded sagely. "The call of duty is a tough mistress, Hero Dude," he agreed. "But Lo's cool; she'll come around."
"I sure hope so, Broseph," Ben said, as they came to a stop by a door. "Well, we're here." He knocked on the door. "Room service!"
A voice came back. "It's open!"
Ben blinked as he opened the door. 'I know that voice…'
As they walked in, Broseph looked around. "Hey, at least these guys keep clean; kinda like how your Madcap Grandpa did!"
Ben's eyes went wide as he made the connection. 'Oh, no…'
As the voice sounded again, Ben barely had enough time to turn as 42-year-old Sandra Tennyson, fairly tall and slender, with mid-length blonde hair and hazel eyes, in a white tank-top and khaki shorts, hugged him. "It's so good to see you, honey!"
Ben was stunned. "M-Mom?"
Seconds later, his father, 46-year-old Carl Tennyson, tall and of average frame, with Ben's brown hair and green eyes, clad in a red Hawaiian-style t-shirt and navy shorts, walked into view. "Hey, son."
"Dad?" Ben exclaimed. "W-What are you guys doing here?"
Sandra sighed. "Well, that's a fine way to greet your parents!" she admonished. "We heard how your grandfather said this was the place to be, so we decided to come up for a little holiday!"
Carl nodded. "Dad said that Sunset Island was some kind of surfing Shangri-La, so your mother and I figured it was the perfect place to learn!"
Broseph laughed. "Dude, Reef's gonna be teaching your folks how to surf!"
'Thank you, Silas," Ben thought, while putting on a smile. "It's just…this is such a surprise!" he said. "I kinda thought you'd call ahead!" 'So I could brace myself…'
Carl shrugged. "We thought we'd surprise you," he answered, "and speaking of which, your grandfather was going to stop by again in the next day or two…"
Broseph brightened. "Does that mean there's another sick wave on the way?"
Sandra blinked. "How would he know?"
"Grandpa's some kind of legendary surfer, Mom," Ben explained. "It was a surprise to me, too."
Broseph chuckled. "Not as big a surprise as your folks are gonna be to Lo, once she hears about this, bro."
Ben flinched. "Broseph, shut up!"
But he was too late. ""Lo"?" Sandra asked, a smile forming on her face. "Who's that, Benjamin? Did you meet someone..?"
"Wow, look at the time!" Ben exclaimed, nudging Broseph out the door. "Gotta get back to work – busy, busy, busy! You can call the front desk once you're done with the room-service cart! Talk to you later! Bye!"
With one last nudge, Ben pushed Broseph out the door, shutting it behind them both. Broseph just grinned. "Freakin' out much, bro?"
Ben arched an eyebrow. "Would you want to be on the receiving end of your folks grilling you about your new girlfriend?"
Broseph's grin dimmed. "Good point, bro."
Ben sighed. 'As if I don't have enough to deal with.' "Guess we'd better get back to work." With that, he and Broseph headed back to the lobby.
"Urrgghh! Can you believe Ty?"
In the hotel locker-room, the setting sun peeking orange-gold eyes through the windows, Lo and Emma had just finished changing out of their wench-uniforms and back into their regular clothes – Lo donning her usual light yellow sundress, and Emma donning her regular light pink t-shirt and pink shorts – as Lo lamented her troubles with her brother, growing more annoyed as she saw a sugary smile cross Emma's face. "Aw, I think it's kinda sweet that Ty's worried about his sister…"
"Are you serious?" Lo cried. "Would you want any of your brothers trying to tell you who to date?"
Emma's smile faded. "Huh…when you put it like that…"
Fin had just walked in as she said that. "What's up, sisters?"
Lo sighed. "My stupid brother's all bent out of shape 'cause I'm dating Ben, that's what!"
Fin raised a hand. "You're preaching to the choir on that one, Lo; I've got four older brothers. I feel your pain."
"I know! I mean, did he even bother to notice how happy I've been, this past week?" Lo smiled dreamily. "Ben's, like, the best boyfriend I've ever had! We've gone to movies, had dinners together, taken walks on the beach, watched sunsets out on the water…and the kisses are just dynamite! I swear, I can actually hear music when we make out!" She giggled. "I may have been exiled from the palace, but at least I get my very own knight in shining armour who treats me like a princess; he makes me feel so special!"
Fin's expression was a cross between annoyed and nauseous. "Okay, it's amazing I could keep my lunch down after hearing that," she muttered. "Seriously, Ridgemount, I'm happy for you, but you and Ben have got to cut out all the lovey-dovey stuff! It's bad enough I have to clean up other people's messes – I do not need to worry about my own heave!"
Emma's smile was also a little forced. "Yeah, Lo; I absolutely love romance – especially when it happens to my BFF – but one uninterrupted week is kinda pushing it."
Lo blushed. "Sorry!" she said. "But what can I say? Ben's a total Type Three!" Her smile dropped. "When he's here, anyway."
Emma smiled gently. "That's the price of dating a superhero, Lo."
Lo sighed. "Too bad I can't tell Ty that; then he'd lay off."
"Ty giving you and Ben trouble?"
Turning, Lo spotted Johnny at his locker, gathering his stuff. "Uh, yeah!" she said. "I mean, who does he think he is?"
Johnny's expression was apologetic. "I can see why you'd say that," he began, "but just let me play Big Brother's Advocate for a second, okay?"
Fin blinked. "So what makes you an expert on the subject?"
Sighing, Johnny fished a photo out of his locker: one of him pushing a little African-Canadian girl in light blue shorts and a t-shirt, with tiny blue ribbons in her pigtails, on a tricycle, smiling while the little girl giggled happily. "She does."
Walking over, Lo saw the photo, at which point she – and her two coworkers – instantly melted. "Awwwwwwwwww!"
Johnny grinned. "Yeah, I know," he agreed. "Meet my baby sis, Melanie; she just turned 5, this year."
"She's adorable!" Emma gushed.
Smiling, Johnny nodded. "This must have been taken last year, the year after Dad…" He froze. "On second thought, never mind…"
Emma looked nervous. "No, it's okay, Johnny!"
Fin nodded. "Yeah, man; go ahead."
Johnny sighed. "Two years ago, my Dad was in the army," he whispered. "He was in Afghanistan when…when he was…"
Emma gasped, her hands flying to her mouth as she realized. "Oh, my God…oh, Johnny, I'm so sorry!"
"It's okay, Em; I've dealt with it…or at least as much as I'm ever going to," Johnny replied. "It's been tough, though; even with Dad's military benefits, Mom still has to work, so I have to be a big brother/substitute father-figure to Melanie…which can be a little scary." His smile came back, but was a little wistful. "But I think we do okay; the rest of the year, I worked part-time here, which helped the bills. When summer came, Mom suggested I work full-time to save up for college, so I moved up to the staff-house for the summer." He sighed again. "Melanie was not happy; the day I moved, she went full-tantrum, crying for her Jon-Jon…"
Emma looked ready to cry, herself. "Oh, the poor little thing…"
"Okay, as interesting as this is, "Jon-Jon,"" Fin teased, "how does this relate to Lo's problem?"
Johnny frowned. "First of all, Fin, only my sister gets to call me Jon-Jon," he warned. "And second of all, I may not agree with what Ty's doing, but I get why he feels that way." His expression darkened. "If any guy ever tried to hurt Melanie, the cops would never find his body." He calmed. "Big brother-feelings may not make much sense, but they're there; now, I know that may sound dumb…"
Emma smiled. "It doesn't sound dumb at all, Johnny," she said. "You're an awesome big brother; Melanie's so lucky to have you!"
Lo sighed. "Okay, maybe I can get why Ty's bent out of shape, but I am not a baby! He doesn't get to have a say in who I date!"
Johnny chuckled. "Oh, so you'd be okay with Captain Ron's youngest daughter crushing on George?"
Lo bristled with fury. "Caitlin Stanhope? That screechy little booger-chomping nightmare?" she shrieked. "She'd better not be crushing on him if she knows what's good for her!"
Johnny arched an eyebrow.
Lo flushed. "T-That is SO different!"
"Sure it is."
Emma laughed. "It'll be okay, Lo; Ty's cool, and you said yourself how awesome a boyfriend Ben is! Sooner or later, Ty'll figure it out, and he'll lay off!" With that, she turned to go. "Anyway, I'll catch you guys at the Office! Enjoy your date, Lo!"
As Emma walked off, Fin smiled. "Nice going, Johnny!"
Lo nodded. "Seriously, that whole story about you looking after Melanie was perfect!" she agreed. "Hearing that a guy acts like a stand-in dad for his baby sister is like the perfect storm of being good with kids! And that part about how your sister actually threw a tantrum when you were leaving? Nice touch!"
Johnny sighed, as he followed the two of them out of the locker-room. "That wasn't a story, Lo; Melanie really was upset to see me go."
Lo gave him a conspiratorial wink. "Riiiight. I gotcha," she replied. "Keep it up, and with Fin and I working on her, Emma'll be yours before the month is out!"
As they were about to reach the door, they saw Ben, Reef, and Broseph heading in. Seeing Lo, Ben smiled. "Hey, gorgeous."
Lo beamed. "Hey, baby."
Spotting Fin, Reef smiked. "'Sup, shipwreck."
Fin stuck out her tongue. "Your hair, Casanova."
Ben chuckled. "And they're flirting, again."
Fin frowned. "Not even remotely funny, States."
Reef chuckled. "She wishes."
Fin rolled her eyes. "Oh, yeah; how on Earth have I controlled myself, this long?"
Broseph laughed. "Burn, dude!"
Reef snorted. "Whatever."
By then, the six of them had emerged into a corridor of guest-suites, heading towards the exit. Glancing to Lo, Ben grinned sheepishly, looping his arm over her shoulders. "Hey, listen…I had an…interesting encounter, just now."
Lo arched an eyebrow. "Anything I should worry about?"
Ben sighed. "Yeah," he admitted. "Apparently, my folks decided to take a mini-vacation here, since Grandpa said it was the place to be." He fixed Broseph with a stern eye. "They're probably gonna want to meet you, since somebody let slip I was seeing someone."
Broseph chuckled nervously. "My bad, bro."
Lo blinked…and then giggled. "That's all?" she asked, laughing. "God, baby, you actually had me worried for a second!"
Fin arched an eyebrow. "Wait…you're not freaked-out by Ben's folks wanting to meet you?"
Reef nodded. "Are you mad, woman? Meeting the 'rents is your worst nightmare come true!"
Lo shrugged. "What can I say? I just don't think they'll have any problem with me!" she said. "I mean, I'm cute, I'm sweet, and I come from money! The mothers of every teenage boy in this continent probably go to bed praying their boys will bring home a girl like me!"
Ben chuckled. "Wow, and you're so modest, too! I feel better already!" he joked. "So, you ready for that movie, tonight?"
"You know it!" Lo cooed. "I was ready halfway through my shift; Kelly had me cleaning up a post-Marvin-twins chowder-blast! I was afraid I'd never get my nails clean, ever again!"
"Yikes," Ben murmured. "Well, you don't have to worry about her, right now; for the rest of the evening, I am…"
Ben finished his sentence by reflex. "…screwed." His eyes scrunched shut as he reached into his jacket. "Not now; please, please, please not now."
No such luck; as Ben withdrew his Plumber's badge, bearing the same hourglass crest as the Omnitrix, he sighed, confirming that it was beeping.
Lo was quickly starting to hate that badge.
Tapping the crest, Ben opened the badge into a radio-transmitter. "Hey, Gwen."
"Hey, Ben," came the voice of Ben's cousin. "Kevin and I just got off the ferry; we should be by, pretty soon."
Ben breathed a relieved sigh. "Oh, okay; I'll see you in a few minutes, then?"
"Yeah, sooner than you think!" Gwen finished, dashing Ben's hopes. "We were just leaving the wharf when we got an alert: there's a mini-tsunami on its way here from an earthquake a few miles off of Sunset Island's east coast! The local authorities haven't even picked up on it, yet; there's no way the coast can evacuate in time!"
Ben's expression was firm, nodding his reply. "I'm on it, Gwen; my ETA's two minutes – get there when you can! Ben out!"
As Ben flipped his badge closed, Lo let out an annoyed huff. "You're leaving now?" she cried. "But the last Whale-Bus to town leaves in five!"
Ben sighed. "Lo, if that wave hits, a lot of people could get hurt, or worse," he reasoned. "This is…"
"…what you do. I know, I know," Lo finished, folding her arms in a mild pout.
Ben smiled wearily. "I'll make this up to you, I promise," he said. "Tomorrow morning, we'll have a sunrise picnic-breakfast out on the beach; just you and me, okay?"
Lo started to smile. "Okay."
Reef chuckled, as he leaned towards Ben's ear. "Nice recovery, bro!"
"Thanks." Leaning over to Lo, Ben gave her a quick peck on the cheek, earning a faint blush from his girlfriend. "Be back before you know it!" he promised, before he darted off, racing outside; seconds later, Lo could see a green flash of light flare outside the window, as a red, manta-ray-like creature shot into the air at supersonic speeds.
Her smile fading, Lo sighed to herself. "Okay, as much as I like Ben, that is kinda getting annoying!" she complained. "I swear it's like that cousin of his is calling him up just to keep us apart!"
Johnny frowned. "Okay, paranoid much?" he said. "You heard Gwen, Lo; if that wave hit the other side of the island, it'd take out a lot of the coastal communities, including Captain Ron's resort…" He paused. "Okay, maybe if it was only hitting Ron's place, it might be okay, but still, you can't fault him for saving people."
Lo huffed. "Fin! Explain it to him!"
Fin chuckled. "Lo does have a point, Front Desk Guy; from what I gathered, Gwen's not fussy about her cousin's choice of date," she said, "although, you do have to remember, Lo: you almost broke her cousin's heart."
"Hello? I was freaked! I apologized! Ben accepted!" Lo declared. "What do I have to do? Make a confession to the freaking Pope?"
Broseph shrugged. "So I guess you guys aren't heading out, bra?" he asked. "Bummer."
Lo sighed. "So, what am I supposed to do, now?"
Spotting a vending machine, Reef grinned. "Leave it to the Reefster, Lo – one snack, and I'm a thinking-machine!"
Fin snorted. "Yeah: a lever," she quipped, causing Lo to giggle.
Popping a few coins into the vending machine, Reef made his selection…and scowled as the candy got stuck. "Oh, come on!" he shouted, pounding the side of the machine, but the candy stayed stuck. Irate, Reef moved to the side of the machine, and started shaking it.
Fin rolled her eyes. "Wow; the thinking-machine in action…"
Fin's remark died in mid-breath as Reef tipped the machine a bit too far, sending it toppling over on its side. Reef paled. "I didn't do it!"
Fin frowned, but then her expression turned surprised as she saw what was behind it. "Whoa…guys, check this out! There's another room, back here!"
Sure enough, standing behind the vending machine was another suite-door. "Huh; that's weird," Johnny mused, looking over the door. "I don't remember this suite being on the – HOLY!"
As Johnny leapt back from the door, his face going pale, Broseph blinked. "You okay, bro?"
"The number!" Johnny screamed, pointing at the suite number. "C-Check the n-number!"
Fin arched an eyebrow. "One thousand, three hundred thirteen," she said. "So?"
"No, Fin! Thirteen-thirteen!" Johnny cried. "That's Room Thirteen-Thirteen!"
Reef blinked. "Again. So?"
"Didn't any of you hear the stories?" Johnny exclaimed. "It happened a couple of years ago: this pair of newlyweds rented Room Thirteen-Thirteen, one weekend, and then were never seen again!"
Reef chuckled. "Uh, dude; they were newlyweds!" he said. "Of course they wouldn't be leaving the bedroom!"
"You don't get it!" Johnny wailed. "For three days afterwards, nobody heard anything from that room – not even Room Service! Finally, the staff had to check on them!"
Broseph's eyes went wide. "Whoa, wait a minute, bros; I think I heard about that!" he said. "When…when they went in..?"
Johnny nodded. "Two people checked into that room…but the pieces that were found didn't add up to nearly that much."
Lo flinched. "Oh, GROSS!"
Johnny kept going. "Ever since then, there were dozens of complaints made about Room Thirteen-Thirteen: eerie moans, appliances and furniture moving, slime coming from the wall – you name it, that room had it!" he finished. "It got so bad that the hotel had to close it off – I'd thought the room had been demolished or walled up…but there it is!"
Lo rolled her eyes. "You mean, you actually believe that?" she asked. "Come on, Johnny; Daddy told me that the real reason he sealed it up was because of mold, or something." She paused. "I thought he was having it renovated, but I guess he never got around to it."
"Yeah, because it's haunted!"
Fin shook her head. "I'm with Lo, Johnny; there are no such things as ghosts!"
Johnny frowned. "You used to say that about monsters, Fin."
Reef grinned. "A haunted room? Sweet!" he declared. "Dudes, we just found a way to kill that boredom! We gotta check this out!"
"Are you serious?" Fin asked. "Lo just said there's mould in that room; I'm not going in there!"
Reef smirked, as he waved his arms like chicken-wings. "BAWWWK, buck-buck BAWWWK!"
Fin glared at him. "Okay, fine! I'll go in just to prove there are no ghosts!"
Broseph gulped. "I don't know, bros; this is majorly bad karma…"
"Please. The scariest thing about that room is probably the interior decorating!" Lo said. "Johnny, you in?"
"No way!" Johnny declared, backing away. "I saw some of the photos of what happened in there; you couldn't get me in that room with a tractor!"
Fin snorted. "Fine. Whatever, Captain Scaredycat." With that, she grasped the doorknob.
Johnny paled. "For the love of God, Fin, don't do it!"
Ignoring him, Fin turned the knob, and pulled open the door…and a gust of stale air rushed out into their faces.
Screaming with terror, Johnny raced off.
Fin groaned. "It's just a little pressure-change, Johnny!" she called after their fleeing friend, before she walked in. "See? I'm perfectly fine!"
As she and the others walked in after her, Lo frowned as she took in the sights. "Okay, floral wallpaper? Tacky much?" she asked, before waving her hand in front of her nose. "And what stinks?"
"That, bra, would be the stench of death," Reef said, smirking at Fin. "Scared yet, betty?"
"As if, kook."
Broseph looked nervous. "Dudes…I'm getting one serious rush of bad mojo," he murmured. "We shouldn't be in here."
"You, too?" Fin asked. "Okay, fine; we were here, and we didn't see any ghosts. Let's bounce…"
And then the door suddenly slammed shut, blanketing them in darkness…as a bloodcurdling scream cut the air.
Sunset Island East Coast
The Pacific Ocean was a pure, pristine blue as Jetray shot over it, racing towards the epicenter of the undersea quake…and paused as he saw it. "Whoa…"
Just as Gwen had said, a big wave – easily a thirty-footer – was surging towards the island, gaining force as it went – when it hit, it wasn't going to be just a mini-tsunami.
Turning, Jetray raced back towards Sunset Island; once he was over the beach, he rapidly climbed, darting up through the clouds. Out of sight, he tapped the control-dial on his chest, turning back to Ben Tennyson. As gravity's tyranny regained its hold on him, Ben popped up the Omnitrix's control-dial, made his next choice, and slammed it down. "BRAINSTORM!"
Seconds after the emerald flare lit up the clouds, an orange, crab-like creature dropped out of the sky, heading towards the beach at crushing speeds; concentrating, the crab surrounded itself with a golden aura…and stopped its fall, mere millimetres from impact.
As the handful of beach-goers fled in terror at the sight of him, Brainstorm skittered towards the water. "Very well; no time to be subtle!" he remarked. "This should be too difficult: nothing but mind over matter!" Snapping open his skull-shell, Brainstorm grinned as his synapses crackled. "And fortunately for this island, I have a great deal of mind!"
With that, he focused his TK, forming another golden glow around himself that spread into the water. Concentrating harder, Brainstorm lifted his arms; at once, the ocean rose high into the air, matching the amplitude of the approaching tsunami perfectly. Satisfied, Brainstorm brought his claws down, sending the wave surging out to sea; by then, the tsunami was fast approaching the coast, but it was just as quickly stopped when Brainstorm's wave – out of phase with its crest – collided with it, cancelling both waves out completely.
With the crisis averted, a tired Brainstorm skittered back onto the beach, heading for the brush, but he stopped as a pair of helpless screams drew his attention. Turning, Brainstorm spotted two kids, a boy and a girl, both around 8, on the nearby metal wharf…which was on the verge of collapsing from his wave. Frantic, Brainstorm tried to lift the kids clear with his TK, but he couldn't – that wave had taken more out of him than he'd thought.
He couldn't save those kids as Brainstorm.
Darting out of sight behind a nearby refreshment stall, he tapped the control-dial, returning to normal. Grimacing, Ben popped the dial back up again, cycling through his available forms. 'Okay, Jetray's not built for lifting, Humongousaur and Fourarms are too slow, Big Chill's too cold, Way Big's too BIG, and XLR8 could lose traction…' He stopped as he came to the newest guy. 'Huh; never gave this one a try, before.' He gulped. 'No time like the present!' With that, he slammed the dial down.
The instant the dial contacted the frame, the Omnitrix activated, spreading green Omni-energy over him as it cycled up; the energy surged inwards, remaking Ben from his DNA out. As the Omni-wave engulfed him, it started to charge him, imparting an electrostatic charge to his DNA – instantly, the charge's magnetic field began to pull metals and mineral ores to him, coating his entire body in a shell of living rock, turning his frame taller, and slightly stronger; his legs became thicker, stockier, while his arms lengthened, his hands morphing into two-pronged claws, resembling tuning-forks, his shoulders extending, while his head was swallowed completely, before a large clump of silvery metal hovered over it, between his shoulder-spikes, as it started to morph…
…and when the green light faded, in Ben's place was a tall, strongly-built creature with yellow-and-black rocky skin, and a small, metallic head suspended between its large shoulder-spikes. "Lodestar!"
His change complete, Lodestar was astounded by what he now experienced: his conventional vision was gone, replaced by a staticky world-view of dark blues and pale greys. Confused, he walked out from behind the stall. "Okay," he muttered, his voice now tinny, and metallic, "now what does this guy – OW!"
His remark was cut off as a metal spoon spontaneously flew from the picnic-set it had been placed in, and smacked into his face, sticking there…before it was joined by every other piece of cutlery on the beach, followed by watches, radios, car-keys, and long-buried pieces of metal that littered the beach. "Ow, ow, ow, OW!" Lodestar shouted. "Okay, cut it OUT!"
At that shout of anger, Lodestar suddenly saw a dark-blue wave resonate from his claws…which instantly sent the metal sticking to him flying away. "Huh," he remarked. "Looks like I'm a walking electromagnet. Okay, this could work…"
Glancing towards the trapped kids, Lodestar aimed one of his claws at the section of the wharf the kids were trapped on, concentrating hard; slowly, the section started to tremble, until it finally broke free of the rest, hovering above the water while the rest collapsed into the sea. Their terror dispelled by confusion, the kids were awed by the floating metal, which shot back over the beach…to crash into Lodestar.
Knocked flat on his back by the metal, Lodestar was momentarily dazed, just able to see the kids flee to their parents out of the corner of his eye…while bewildered tourists started to inch back onto the beach. 'Uh-oh; time for me to go.' With that thought, Lodestar got back up, and hurried into the forest – getting assailed by every piece of metal cutlery in range as he went – before the control-dial on his chest started to flash red.
Seconds later, a crimson flare of light shone from the woods, leaving a pile of metal cookware in Lodestar's place, as a completely normal Ben Tennyson walked out of the forest by the road. "Okay, I'm gonna have to practice with that guy a bit," he murmured. "Definitely gonna take some getting used to."
As he spoke, a familiar green, black-striped muscle-car pulled up in front of him, its driver leaning his head out of the front window to smirk at him. "So the new guy picks up metal stuff, huh? Wish I'd known that when we were visiting that museum; saw a few choice "souvenirs" we could've…"
Leaning over to playfully swat her boyfriend's shoulder, Gwen Tennyson smiled at her cousin. "That was great work, Ben…no matter what Kevin says."
Ben chuckled. "Don't worry, Gwen; I think I know by now how to spot a Levin-scam."
Kevin grumbled self-deprecatingly as Ben got in the back seat, before he drove off. "Terrific; I drive you guys around and get no respect. I might as well be a chauffeur."
Gwen giggled. "Somehow, Kevin, I don't think a chauffeur would include this in his fare." And with that, she pressed her lips to his cheek.
Kevin's eyes widened momentarily, before he calmed himself. "Huh. Guess not."
Ben mimed gagging. "Aw, come on, guys; can't you do that when I'm not in the car?"
Kevin smirked. "Who says we don't?"
Ben clapped his hands over his ears. "I didn't hear that, I didn't hear that!"
Gwen laughed. "Oh, and this from the guy who's been locking lips with Lauren Ridgemount for the past week?"
Kevin groaned. "Here we go."
Ben sighed. "Gwen…"
"I get it, Ben: you like her," Gwen continued. "I'm just saying that I think you're expecting her to be like…you-know-who, when she's not! For starters, Lo is way more high-maintenance than…her!"
"I know, Gwen; trust me, I do!" Ben defended. "So Lo's still a bit of a shopaholic; that doesn't make her a bad person."
Gwen sighed. "I'm still just worried that you're setting yourself up for a fall."
By then, they had arrived at Surfer's Paradise, just as the sun had started to paint the sky red. After parking the car, the three of them walked into the lobby, and found a nervous-looking Johnny at the front desk. "Johnny? Everything okay?" Ben asked. "Where are Lo and the others?"
Johnny gulped. "T-They're not in a cursed hotel suite being stalked by ghosts!"
Gwen blinked. "Okay…that was oddly specific."
Ben frowned. "Seriously, Johnny; what's up?"
Johnny cracked. "Lo, Reef, Fin, and Broseph are in Room Thirteen-Thirteen!"
Gwen arched an eyebrow. "And that would be..?"
"Room Thirteen-Thirteen is a Surfer's Paradise legend; a couple of newlyweds were murdered in there, and now the room is being haunted by their ghosts! Reef dared Fin to go in!"
Kevin was silent…and then smiled. "Cool."
Ben frowned at Kevin, and then turned back to Johnny. "Are they still there?"
"I don't know!" Johnny wailed. "I got out of there the second they opened it up!"
Ben's eyes narrowed. "Okay, you need to show us this room, now." Johnny flinched, but reluctantly nodded, hurrying further into the hotel, followed by Ben, Gwen, and Kevin.
Room 1313, a few minutes earlier
The door suddenly slammed shut, blanketing the four of them in darkness…as a bloodcurdling scream cut the air.
Her eyes going wide, Lo looked around, just barely able to see three more pairs of eyes, two of which were close together…with one pair looking annoyed. Fin's dryly angry drawl cut the silence. "Reef. Get off of me now."
Taking out her cell-phone, Lo switched on the internal light, using it as a flashlight to reveal an unnerved Broseph, and a sour-looking Fin…who was holding a trembling Reef. "W-Wow!" Reef laughed nervously. "Where'd that scream come from?"
"Yeah, I know." Fin's voice was flat. "It sounded like a little girl." With that, she dropped Reef ingloriously onto the floor.
Looking around, Lo gulped. "Okay, this room is seriously creepy, and that's not even mentioning the tacky wallpaper."
Glancing at the furniture covered by sheets, Broseph paled. "I hear that, bra; this place is spooksville, big time." He hurried to the door, grabbing the knob…but it wouldn't move. Nervous, Broseph tried again; likewise, sip. "Uh…bros?"
Fin huffed angrily. "You got us locked in here, kook?" she snapped, swatting Reef's head. "Nice going!"
Lo tried to keep calm. "Really, Fin, it's no biggie; I'll just call Johnny and tell him to let us out." She switched on her phone…and got nothing. Checking it, she frowned. "Darn it! We must be in a de…"
She paused, nervous, her brain finishing that statement. A dead zone.
Moving to the door, Fin tried the doorknob, getting no more luck than Broseph; irate, she pounded on the door. "Hello? Anyone out there?" she called. "Help! We're locked in, here!"
As something hit the floor, Reef screamed again. "Ghosts!"
Fin rolled her eyes. "Oh, for the love of…it's just a bunch of books, you wimp!" she scolded, walking towards the fallen pile. "They got knocked over by my pounding on the door!" Starting to stack them back on the shelf, Fin paused as she grasped a cardboard box. "Huh; get a load of this."
Lo blinked. "What?"
Fin held out the box. "It's an old Ouija board; it was the top thing on the pile," she observed. "The people in here must have been using it."
Broseph froze. "They were using it on their last night alive, bra…" he murmured. "They probably called up something from the grave…"
"Ugh! Enough, already!" Fin cried. "That's it, I'm putting an end to this, right now!"
Watching Fin sit down on the floor, taking the Ouija board out of the box, Lo spoke up, her eyes wide. "F-Fin? What are you doing?"
"We're gonna have a little powwow with these so-called ghosts!" Fin muttered. "That way, when they don't show up, you can all quit being a bunch of total fraidy-cats!"
Broseph was visibly spooked, now. "No way, bra; you don't mess with that stuff."
Nervous, Reef nodded. "Yeah, betty; we'd better just put it back…"
Fin smirked. "BAWWWK, buck-buck BAWWWK!"
Reef glared at her. "Oh, you're so on!"
As Reef sat down across from Fin, Lo and Broseph slowly did the same, with all four of them placing their hands on the board. "Okay…are there any spirits here with us, now?" Fin asked aloud. Nothing happened. "There, you see? Nothing! Now can you all just drop…"
And then the board quivered.
Fin sighed. "Real funny, Reef."
Reef wasn't laughing. "Hey, don't look at me, betty."
The board kept moving, stopping on one of the simple, one-word answers.
Fin rolled her eyes. "Oh, sure, it's not you, Chowderhead," she muttered. "Let me guess: you're the spirits of the couple who died here, right?" The board moved again, but its answer was a surprise.
Lo gulped. "You're…not?"
Fin's eyes narrowed. "Okay, this isn't funny, Reef! Quit it!"
Reef was shaking. "Fin, I swear I'm not doing that!" he cried.
Fin kept glaring at him…but his panicked expression caused her annoyance to vanish, her own expression going nervous. "If…if you're not the couple," she asked the board, "then…then who are you?"
The board began to move, spelling out a word. Z…S'…S…
When the board was done, Fin arched an eyebrow. "Zs'Skayr?" she repeated. "Okay, what kinda name is that?"
Broseph grimaced. "It's a ghost's name, bra!" he cried. "Oh, man…we gotta get out of here!"
Lo was just as nervous, now. "Oh, God…Ben had to pick now to go save someone else, of all times..!"
Her remark was cut off, as the board suddenly jerked, spelling something out.
Now Lo was really scared. "Y-Yeah," she murmured. "Ben Tennyson; h-he's my boyfriend…"
Again, the board jerked, roughly dragging their hands around as it spelled.
Get him here.
Reef was trembling. "Huh?" he murmured, prompting the board to jerk in reply.
Fin gulped. "Why? Are you a friend of his?"
The board's response was a hard jerk to a single word.
Lo could barely keep from quivering in terror. "Then…then why do you want him here? What do you want him to do?"
The board moved one last time, spelling out a word that made their blood run cold.
At that, the Ouija board suddenly flipped over.
Reef screamed, again. "GHOSTS!"
Fin's eyes were wide. "Okay…okay…there's…there's gotta be an explanation," she murmured. "It was…probably just a draft, that's all…"
The sudden shift of a floorboard drew their attention towards the bathroom. "That was no draft, betty!" Reef wailed.
Just then, the doorknob started to rattle, as something was pawing at the door…like it was trying to get out. Broseph paled. "Oh, man…we are so toast, dudes!" At that, the door swung open…
"You guys need a hand?"
Lo's terror quickly turned to joyful relief as she saw Ben's face waiting behind the door. "Ben!" she squealed, all but flying into his arms and wreathing her arms around his neck. "My hero!"
Seconds behind her, Reef, Fin, and Broseph all poured out of the room, the latter quickly shutting the door and shoving the vending-machine back in front of it. "Dudes, there's something in there!" Broseph cried.
Johnny grimaced. "I told you not to go in!"
Fin looked shaken, but managed to keep her voice calm. "Guys, we still don't know what all that was…"
"Are you serious, betty?" Reef exclaimed. "It was ghosts! Any kook could see that!"
Fin's eyes narrowed. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
Ben chuckled. "And she's back."
Gwen laughed. "I hate to break this to you, Reef, but nine times out of ten, phenomena that appear to be ghosts are actually something else," she said. "Ben and I should know: we've seen a lot of them."
Kevin shrugged. "Not that that makes it any better, mind you."
Fin grinned. "See? Even the experts think you're wrong!"
Reef scowled. "Yeah, like I can trust a betty to say another betty's wrong…"
Gwen's eyes narrowed, momentarily flashing mauve. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
Fin sighed. "Save your breath, Red; I've wasted weeks tilting at this windmill," she said, as a sly grin crossed her face. "Besides, it's much more fun to just kick his butt on the waves."
Reef glared at her. "You're on!"
Broseph sighed. "Here they go again, bros."
Johnny nodded. "Somebody ought to sell tickets."
As Reef and Fin both headed off, Gwen suppressed a laugh. "Is it wrong that I want to see Fin kick Reef's butt?"
Kevin grinned. "Hey, if cheap laughs are wrong, babe, I don't wanna be right."
Watching his teammates head after Fin and Reef, Ben grinned. "You guys wanna…watch?"
Johhny and Broseph had already headed off…leaving only Lo, with a feline smile on her face. "I think I have a much better idea," she purred. "After all, I never thanked you for saving me…again."
Before Ben could protest, Lo grabbed his hand, and started leading him away, leaving Room 1313 behind.
Had Lo lingered just a moment, she might have heard the faint, raspy whisper coming from that room.
"Lo, where are we going?"
As his lasciviously-smiling girlfriend led him through the hotel's hallways, Ben felt a goofy grin cross his face. "Seriously, Lo; I'm dying to know…"
Lo looked back at him, batting her eyelashes. "We were going to a horror-movie tonight, right?"
Ben's grin grew. "That was the plan."
Lo stopped in front of a supply-closet. "We both know how those work, right?" she cooed. "Boy and girl go to scary movie; girl gets scared; boy holds girl to protect her; girl gets turned on; boy and girl take round-trip to make-out city!"
Ben hoped his shrug looked casual. "I…may have heard something like that."
"Good," Lo purred, "because you just saved me from some actual danger, buster. I was really scared, just now."
At that, Ben's eyes went wide, as he realized just what his girlfriend was articulating…
Lo's expression turned apologetic, as she opened the closet. "But first, could you just check inside this closet for me?" she asked. "I think I might've dropped my favourite tube of lip-gloss, and it rolled in there, today; I was going to get it earlier, but being in that room still has me spooked, and I don't want to be in the dark…"
"You don't even need to ask, beautiful; Ben 10 is on the job!" Ben said suavely. Stepping into the closet, Ben knelt down, looking around, frowning as he saw no sign of any lip-gloss. "Are you sure it was this closet, Lo? I don't see any…"
As the door swung shut, blanketing him in darkness, Ben stood up. "Lo, what gives – MMPH!"
Ben barely had time to realize he wasn't alone in the closet before Lo sealed his lips with her own, her arms curling around his neck, her leg hooking around his knee as she pressed herself to him. Initially, he was startled, but very quickly reciprocated, his arms moving around Lo's waist and between her shoulder-blades, holding her close as he took the next step in their tongues' dance, amazed as Lo somehow reached all the way to his wisdom-teeth…no, his tonsils…
After several blissful minutes, Lo pulled her lips from his, parting enough to find his gaze in the shadows, a smile in her voice. "Did you really think I'd pass up my fave lip-gloss just 'cause a dark closet spooked me?"
Ben laughed. "You sly little minx!" he declared, quickly spinning them both around so that now Lo was the one trapped against the wall. As Ben playfully pinned her, Lo let out a squealing laugh of delight, which was quickly silenced by Ben's lips as they recaptured hers, his hands exploring the silky skin of her upper back, holding her close. Lo sighed happily through their kiss, before breaking away to playfully nibble on Ben's earlobe, but her teasing nips were quickly stopped as Ben's neck craned lower, to trail kisses along the side of her neck, turning Lo's giggles to soft, sensuous moans…
The two were so lost in each other they didn't even notice when the closet door was pulled open.
Her eyes blissfully closed, Lo found the energy to lazily open one…and froze, standing stock-still as she saw who had walked in on them. "Oh! Uh…uh…h-hi, Daddy!"
Ben paused his ministrations for a moment. "Not funny, Lo."
Lo gulped. "Not kidding, Ben."
That was enough to make Ben freeze; slowly releasing Lo from his embrace, he turned around…and saw the tall, well-muscled, black-suit-clad form of 46-year-old, ex-Army Ranger, hotel-chain-owner James Ridgemount, staring at the both of them, his fists clenched, and his eyes narrowed.
Ben gulped, somehow managing a smile. "Oh! Uh…g-good afternoon, sir!" he greeted. "F-Fancy meeting you here!"
James was dead silent, his glower only intensifying.
Lo giggled nervously. "D-Daddy, there is a really good explanation for this…"
James' right eyebrow started to tick, as he pointed towards the elevator. "You two. Back to work. NOW."
Ben chuckled nervously. "Y-You got it, sir!" he agreed quickly. "Lo, shouldn't we both get back to work? You know, to our separate jobs?"
Lo's giggle was just as nervous as Ben's laugh. "Uh…y-yeah!" she agreed. "I-I'm sure Kelly can spare an extra shift for me!"
"Exactly! Just like I'm sure Johnny has an extra hour or two for me! We're wasting time!" Ben exclaimed. "Thank you for reminding us, sir! We've got to get moving!" With that, Ben and Lo sprinted towards the elevator, taking it down to the main floor.
Once they emerged from the elevator – and out of Mr. R's sight – Lo let out a cry of dismay. "Oh God, that had to be the most embarrassing moment of my life!"
""Embarrassing"?" Ben repeated. "Lo, your dad's eyebrow was twitching! He was furious!" Panic gripped hold of him. "Oh God…a multi-millionaire, ex-Army Ranger just caught me making out with his daughter! I'm a dead man!"
Lo looked stricken. "Ben, I'm sure Daddy wouldn't do anything like that…"
"Lo, he's probably calling in an air-strike on my butt, right now!" Ben cried. "No, wait, he's probably fishing out his old sniper-rifle; I'll probably go out surfing, and then "fall off my board!" You know those guys: one shot, one kill..!"
"Ben!" Lo wailed.
Hearing Lo's distress, Ben forced himself to calm down. 'I'm okay, I'm okay; I faced down space-warlords, so I can handle this.' "Alright, Lo; I'm okay," Ben said. "We can fix this; we both just need to talk to your dad and tell him that we are dating, and that we really care about each other." He gulped. "We just…have to do that in front of witnesses; lots of witnesses."
Lo started to calm down. "Good," she said, "because Daddy has never approved of any of the guys I've dated; every time I've brought a boy home, one meeting with him was enough to send said boy running." She sniffed. "If he stays flavoured like that, he might try to break us up."
Ben paled. "Okay…that's a little tidbit I probably would've liked to know a little earlier."
Lo smiled guiltily. "Like I said the day after our first kiss: I was trying not to scare you off."
Slowly, Ben's smile came back. "Well, I guess that just means I'll have to beat the odds." He shrugged. "I think I can do that."
Lo's smile brightened. "I was hoping you could."
Ben grinned. "I guess we'd better get to work, before your dad gets any madder, though." With that, they turned to go…
At that ghostly whisper, Ben paused, turning around…and finding nothing. "Lo? Did you hear something?"
Lo blinked. "No…why?"
Ben looked around again, and then relaxed. "Never mind; it was probably the wind." Turning back, they both headed off…
…but as he walked, Ben just couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong…
Home planet: Polintia III
Abilities: Subject is capable of generating magnetic fields in excess of 1500 tesla; upper limits of subject's magnetic field-strength is not known. Subject has exhibited the ability to overload electrical circuits and magnetize any and all known types of ferromagnetic material; subject's magnetic field has no effect on paramagnetic and diamagnetic materials. Subject also possesses the ability to fly via magnetic levitation, project defensive shields via magnetic repulsion, and project stun-bolts via magnetic hyperstimulation of target organism's brain. Subject is capable of repolarizing and self-regenerating following concussive blasts; disruption of subject's magnetic field can neutralize this ability.
Description: The children of the metal-based planet of Polintia III, the Biosovortian race was, literally, forged by their homeworld; born from the magnetized, liquid-metal core of the planet, these silicon-based organisms were natural electromagnets from the outset. Beginning as little more than silicon molecules, the progenitors of the Biosovortians magnetically attracted other metals, incorporating them into their alloys, gradually gaining sufficient mass and charge to attract themselves to the metallic crust of the planet, leaving the core behind. Alone on an inorganic planet, these alloys were in a state of constant chemical reaction, attracted to nearby metals, and absorbing electrons via redox reactions on contact; as time went on, the internal electron-transfers of these bio-alloys became more and more complex, until they mirrored the neural pathways of organic brains, and the Biosovortian race was born. In the millennia that followed, the Biosovortians began to control their own magnetic fields, their alloys gradually becoming bipedally-humanoid in shape, culminating with the modern Biosovortian as is known today.
In modern times, these "living robots" are naturally equipped for deep-space exploration, since they require no oxygen or food, finding natural sustenance via cosmic rays. In addition, their magnetic fields make Biosovortians highly skilled metallurgists, as well as interpreters, since their ability to interpret electromagnetic fields allows them to bypass most language-barriers.
Author's Note: Hey, everyone! I'm back, with the next part of the Hanging Ten Saga! This story – and likely most of the ones that will follow it – won't be as long as the first instalment; I figure that this one will run only about 5 chapters. That said, I'll do my best to make sure that each and every story is just as thrilling as the original! Hope you all enjoy!
With Ben and Lo's relationship now on the boss' radar, our two lovebirds have got some major damage-control on their hands…
…but when the hotel staff starts to see an eerie apparition, the groms realize that they've got another problem on their hands.
Can Ben and the groms solve this zombie-mystery?
And is something far more sinister lying in wait?
Find out, in "Dead Fish Walking," coming to your computer soon…