Disclaimer: Thought I'd try something new. I really own nothing on this site, save any original characters. And no, sorry to say I have yet to see the new Ben 10 series, Ultimate Alien – is that right? I haven't even finished Alien Force, so forgive me if some of my information is archaic and mayhap wrong. That's what makes life fun, right? Being behind in the times?
The small craft shook violently as the torpedoes hit another ally ship. Although there was no sound to accompany the bright display of explosions, all aboard could imagine well enough. The captain gave another yell as the ship rocked again, this time the collision too close for her comfort.
"Skipper! Incoming transmission!" The shout came from the navigation bench – barely heard over the battle cries in the starboard Gun Well. Scarcely a nod was needed before the message played, the hologram broken up and fuzzy.
"Captain – Advance to Ear – Retrieve the Omni – Code Bravo Echo November – Immediately. Over." As jumbled as it was, the dark eyes of the captain filled with anxiety at the mission. The salute was swift and practiced, a motion perfected over time.
"Aye aye Admiral. Tick! Input coordinates E-40.704234 November E-73.917237 Whiskey; we continue with the current mission. Diggs, you better be ready to cover our ass."
Aye Skipper was all that came from the Gun Well as the captain slipped back into the cockpit, the controls once again in hand. With the complete trust that Diggs was ready at the guns to defend the small ship, she diverted all power from the shields to the hyper drive. It was risky, especially in the middle of an epic space battle, but the captain had the utmost faith in her tiny crew – in Diggs manning the torpedoes and in Tick at Navi-Bench. Which left her to her own element, the helm.
"Alright boys, we're heading home." A cheer arose from one of the men – she would bet her bottom dollar it was Diggs, the sarcastic little shit – mere seconds before yet another explosion rocked the ship.
"I know, I know! I'm sorry; let that one get a little too close for comfort."
"Sorry guys, looks like I'm not the Idiot this time."
A pair of groans echoed through the parking lot as the young raven haired woman set down her last card – the two of Spades – on the hood of the green '70 GTO, eyeing the entrance to Mr. Smoothie. Her dark orbs landed on a black haired youth seated comfortably with a perky red head – a little too close for her liking – and two other teens. One was obviously Ben Tennyson, the famed Omnitrix handler, while the other was another woman, short dark hair brushing her light, soft face as she laughed with her companions.
"HA! Village Idiot!" a sudden cheer erupted her rapidly changing thoughts, and she turned back to her comrades, smiling as one held his hands high in victory, the other with his head hung in shameful defeat.
"Pen . . ." he whined, and she had to laugh at the pair, doing their best to make light of the situation at hand. They always thought of her. Always.
"Come on, Diggs, cut Tick some slack. He's always the Idiot."
"That's cause Diggs always cheats."
"Hey! What the hell do you think you're doin on my car?!"
The three heads turned immediately, and in complete unison, causing Ben to laugh and suck up his smoothie simultaneously, resulting in nothing but a choking hazard. These kids must either be really brave, or really stupid in order to dare sitting on Kevin's car like that. Everyone knew you didn't touch Kevin's car without explicit permission, and expect to live.
His threat, meanwhile, died on his lips as Kevin met eyes with the young woman. Her own black hair was just as short as Julie's, but instead of being fine, straight, and elegant, it was a mass of frizz and little ringlets held out of her face by a thin metal headband. Her eyes were just as dark and fierce as his, her face just as defiant. The zipped-up leather jacket – an heirloom he recognized quickly – used to be too large for her, but she had grown into it well. Tight, navy pants sprouted from the hem of the jacket and disappeared in black combat boots; a uniform of some kind but he couldn't wrap his brain around what it meant. Still, there was no way it wasn't her.
"Chameleon." He hadn't wanted the nickname to slip past his lips; wanted to look stoically beyond her, to scare her and her little friends off his baby and drive away. But it did, so he can't, never mind the fact that it had been a long time. Too long.
"Hey Sparky." She smiled back, and for a minute it was as if it was once again just the two of them, fighting off the world on the streets of New York. But it was gone in a flash.
"I don't absorb that anymore, you know that Penny." He snapped suddenly, and in the instant she smiled, she looked so much like his mother it startled him.
"And I do know that, Kevin. But you'll always be my Sparky, just as I'll always be your Chameleon." Her pleasantries didn't win much favor in his eyes, and his entourage looked on in shock while hers snickered behind their backs.
"What're you doin here Pen." It wasn't a question; she knew it would be less than wise to badger him with frivolous small talk.
"There's been big talk about you lately Doll, in both our old circles and my current ones." Careful and graceful she slid off the hood, arms crossed before her. Gwen – in her silence – simply eyed this newcomer with a mixture of curiosity and hostility; this action was not unnoticed by the strangers.
"I'm a Plumber now, Penny. I don't run with them anymore."
His response garnered a laugh – full-throated, head back laugh – and a smirk spread across the young woman's lips as her companions snickered again. Kevin wanted to punch them into oblivion.
"Boy do I know that, too. I'm in on a lot of information regarding you and your team. In fact, I was sent here to collect the Omnitrix – and by extension the kid who wears it."
That seemed to be the catalyst needed to set off the high tension within the parking lot. Gwen's palms lit up with the power that flowed through her, as Ben spun the face of the Omnitrix and stood with a steady hand over the hologram of Swampfire, while Julie went for the first position of Karate she could think of. Only Kevin remained still, even as Penny laughed again.
"Whoa whoa whoa, put down your dukes. This is legitimately official." It was then she proved her point by turning her arm to show the group her uniform badge. The cloth patch was a near exact replica of the mechanical Plumber's Badge, except for thin metallic bars arranged in a vertical arch. She beamed with pride as the four gasped in wonder.
"What kind of badge is that?" the hologram disappeared as Ben's arm dropped back to his side, the curiosity taking hold.
"Here's the deal, you come with us willingly and my report will be a good one. But know I do have clearance to take you by force if necessary, don't make it come to that."
It was quiet for a moment, before Gwen lowered her hands and glared skeptically at the young woman.
"Where do you plan on taking him?" Penny let loose an aggravated sigh as a loud beeping erupted, a bright flash coming from the hip of the brown haired boy on her left. He cursed, and instantly Penny's attention went from the group of four to her navigator.
"T-3 minutes to exposure." His statement garnered the response he was expecting, as Penny immediately began issuing orders.
"Tick bring me that ship, I want her here immediately." As soon as the words left her lips, the kid with the brown hair was ripping the beeping device from his hip and rapidly speaking into it.
"01010100-01101001-01100100-01100101-01110111-01100001-01110100-01100101-01110010-00100000-" he continued to rattle off 1s and 0s as quickly as he could, much to the amazement of the four before them.
"Is he speaking binary?" the male Tennyson - who Penny was quickly recognizing as a nerd - couldn't keep the mixture of awe and self-loathing out of his voice as he watched the navigator. Any response, other than that of Penny's laughter, was cut short by the sudden loud roar of a pair of engines. Gwen, Julie and Ben all fell into a crouched position, covering their ears with as much force as their arms could handle. The remaining four stood stock-still, the energy of the engines whipping the air around them violently.
"AFTER YOU!" Penny shouted over the wind, her arm extended out toward Kevin as she laughed in the face of being rushed. His option for a response was taken from him when a light surrounded him and his friends – a light so bright he couldn't distinguish it white from any other color. The feeling of being disconnected from his body, like the instant right before the loss of consciousness, flooded him. He recognized paralysis when he couldn't move his arms, and he couldn't speak. The seconds ticked by.
When Kevin's sight finally returned, he found they weren't in the Smoothie King parking lot anymore, but on the bridge of a space craft at least fifteen years old. The captain's seat was large with wrap-around mechanisms that served as the helm. To his left was the navigator's bench, dedicated to the wall of lights and screens and direct contact with the ship's computer. On the right, although there was very little room after the captain's seat, there was enough space for a moderately sized bench. And before him, through the immense windows he could see nearly all of Bellwood, the flashing lights of the police cruisers headed their way; and beyond. Where the town ended and the country began.
Penny shot passed him just then, sliding into the cockpit and pressing a button on her headband. A mouth piece unfolded as she began initiating the take-off sequence. The sandy haired boy sat at the Navi-bench, rattling off readings as their final crew member took off down the corridor without saying a word.
"Diggs!" the captain – Kevin was now painfully aware she was the captain – shouted into her headset as he ushered his friends onto the bench. Not needing instructions, the four passengers strapped themselves in, watching in awe as the crew worked together like a well oiled machine. Something must have been spoken into her comlink, because Penny nodded with a flurry of curls, pressing even more switches and lights as the atmosphere became even more charged with excitement.
"Takeoff trajectory is clear of all traffic. Up is go on your command Skipper."
There was a cheer as the other crew member – Diggs if Kevin caught it right – returned to the bridge and strapped himself into the empty seat next to Gwen. With a charming smile he held out his hand as the ship began to the tremble with pre-takeoff energy.
"Ensign Diggs, weapons specialist." Kevin leaned over and took Diggs' hand in place of Gwen's, a sharp smile on his lips.
"Gwen Tennyson, my girlfriend." His tone was light, with an edge that had Gwen groaning in her seat as Ben and Julie shared a look. For what it's worth, Diggs kept smiling.
"Ah, awkward. Well, buckle in, Skipper's takeoffs can get . . . bumpy." Strapping himself in, he took extra care in making sure his shoulder and waist belts were tight. Kevin was already tied down, but Gwen and Julie watched the crewman closely, mirroring his motions. Only Ben was oblivious, ohhing and awing over every little detail he could take in from his seat.
"PEOPLE OF EARTH!" the declaration came from the captain's helm, and all eyes looked to her as Penny readied for takeoff, "Later." With that she pulled back on the controls, and the ship's throttle rocketed them up into the sky. Everyone was jerked in their straps, bruises no doubt forming where the bondage met skin.
The craft shook violently, Ben went flying out of his seat, and while Julie tried to grab for him she missed miserably and he went rolling across the bridge. At first, it was like driving over a poorly paved road – but then it grew stronger, until, when they reached the final levels of the atmosphere, the shuddering was so bad no one could speak, or even focus. Julie shouted with joy as Gwen thought she was going to be sick.
"DON'T WORRY!" Diggs shouted over the chaos as passengers tried and failed to gather their bearings, "I DIVERTED ALL POWER FROM THE SHIELDS TO THE ENGINE THRUSTERS! WE'LL BREAK THROUGH THE OZONE WITHOUT BLOWING UP, BUT WE MAY GET BASHED AROUND ALONG THE WAY!" Almost as soon as his speech was finished, a small piece of technology went flying from Diggs' seat, across the bridge, and then hit Tick square in the back of the head. The other man turned around to glare, but didn't do anything else other than mutter a few words under his breath. Although Kevin thought he heard something like every single time, it was covered by Penny's shouts of triumph and the roar of the engines.
The shaking continued to get worse, and Julie's laughter was cut short when she was pushed painfully against her belt. Just when Gwen thought she was about to lose consciousness, the shaking stopped. Hazarding a glance out the bridge windows, she noted that they were no longer in the Earth's atmosphere.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have broken from Earth's gravitational pull, and will be making the jump to light speed momentarily. Please remain seated with your seatbelts fastened, and your trays in the upright position. Thank you."
Another unexpected jolt of power, and Kevin had to close his eyes to stave off the motion sickness that powered through him at the sight of the stars speeding past. Ben, still rolling around unsecured on the deck, grabbed onto older boy's leg, trying his hardest to stay in one place lest he roll into something really dangerous. A few more bounces, and the craft suddenly stopped, in the middle of outer space. Without warning Ben started levitating, floating a few feet off the metal flooring and grinning like an idiot. Two loud bangs and he dropped straight down, his crash echoing around the bridge.
"Gravity Belt is up and operational Captain." Tick announced from his bench, and Penny nodded as she rotated her cockpit to face her passengers.
"Why is he on the floor?"
Julie laughed as Kevin and Gwen shrugged innocently. Diggs laughed, but when he tried to speak all that came out was high pitched noises, as if he were wiggling his tongue. Penny groaned as she removed her safety harness.
"Tick, translator." The young man nodded and unstrapped himself, picking up the small mechanism that pegged him the head. Blowing on it quickly, he marched over, opened Diggs' mouth, and shoved it behind the other man's bottom teeth and beneath the tongue. Both men laughed as Diggs adjusted the device, standing up and popping his joints.
"Well that was embarrassing." Was the test to make sure everything was functional, and he smiled at the sound of Earth English coming out.
"We're going to have to make the journey in short bursts of the hyper drive." One look at what they were wearing and she smirked. Skirts and space don't get along. "You're going to freeze in those clothes; we have a few extra thermal suits in the crew barracks. Tick, take our guests and get them suited up, please." Somehow her orders never actually sounded like orders, but her crew obeyed anyway.
"Aye Captain. Follow me." Ben, Julie and Gwen made to follow him, but only Kevin remained seated. At the look of curiosity on Gwen's face, Kevin nodded his head – she raised an eyebrow but followed the group anyway. Diggs, feeling the growing agitation in the room, excused himself with some line about checking on the main power converter. Which left Kevin and Penny, staring each other down and waiting for someone to make the first move.
"So, Captain huh? When did that happen?" his tone was nonchalant, and she laughed as she leaned back in her seat, arms crossed in what he easily recognized as a defensive position.
"Shortly after I graduated from the Academy." Her smirk was infectious, and he couldn't fight off the one growing on his own lips.
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
"Well what was I suppose to do Kev? I was ten and alone in New York because you had to go play cops and robbers in the Null Void. I couldn't go back to mom, not after the way we left her that last time." Her voice was soft, and Kevin could now, with stark clarity, see why his mom had always told him to keep an eye on her. No matter how tough she played it out, she was still his little sister.
"So how'd you get into the Academy?" here her smirk morphed into something far more genuine, and he wondered how she had grown up so much in only the few short years they'd been separated.
"I stowed away on a tug in the New York Harbor, who's Captain later hired me as a deckhand. Turns out he was a retired Faulkan General that served with dad in the Rebellion; when he saw the natural way I handled that little tug, he recommended me to the Academy. Two years later I graduated with high marks and honors, and have been clawing my way through the ranks ever since." She looked incredibly proud as she announced her accomplishments, and he had the sinking feeling that he was the first family member she had ever told who was still alive. That realization hurt. Standing up, he walked over to the windows and looked out at the passing stars.
"What do your commanders want with Tennyson?" he asked as she spun her chair again, checking a few sensors before standing and moving beside him.
"An anarchist group calling themselves the Warriors of the Empire has been striking our military bases and civilian settlements; Vilgax is one of their head honchos. Now while I'm not cleared for this information, I have my suspicions that that bastard is at the battle we were engaged in, which is why I received orders to retrieve the Omnitrix." Footsteps echoing along the corridor broke off the conversation, and the pair turned to see Kevin's comrades enter the bridge, followed closely by Penny's crew. Ben, who was carrying an extra suit, tossed it over to Kevin, watching as the older teen caught it easily. Gwen was struck with how much the two standing by the helm resembled each other. Any doubts she had of them being related were nearly gone when they both raised an eyebrow at the group's entrance.
"Tick, set a course for Sesharrim; Diggs, convert power from the thrusters to the hyper drive. I want to get there as fast as possible." Both men saluted their captain, and then went out to follow her orders.
"Nice little crew you have here; where'd ya find them?" she laughed, unzipping her jacket and tossing it into the cockpit, revealing her own thermal suit.
"Well, Diggs was a wandering Thermian I picked up while making repairs on Alpha Prime and Tick is a Galvanic Mechamorph I hired when stranded on Galvan B." Diggs came back onto the bridge, holding a steaming mug of something. He handed it to Penny with a smile as he reported.
"The power core is stable, and we should have just enough juice to make it to the Fleet. Transfer all power to the boosters?" she nodded, letting the warm liquid warm her hands.
"Yes. Take Tick with you, I want him to perform a full diagnostics on the engines. She took longer than normal to break through the atmosphere. Let me know when we're in the green, and I'll make the jump."
"Aye aye Skipper."
The bridge fell quiet as Diggs left, and Penny turned her attention to the expanse of space before her. Gwen, feeling slightly out of place, stepped forward and held out her hand in a friendly gesture.
"We haven't actually been introduced yet. I'm Gwen, my cousin Ben, and his girlfriend Julie. I see you know Kevin, although I'm not quite sure how yet." Penny took her hand without the slightest bit of hostility, smiling as she shook the hand of her brother's girlfriend.
"I know who you are. I'm Penny, Kevin's sister."
"Captain we are in the green. Repeat we are in the green. Engine room secure."
Suddenly the room was in a rush, Penny throwing on her jacket and sliding into the Captain's chair while her guests strapped themselves in on the bench. The bridge was chaos, yet as soon as Penny engaged the thrusters, time slowed. The stars, once singular lights in the distant blackness, stretched until there was nothing but light. Kevin looked to his sister, the determination on her brow and the fire in her eyes – he realized something that he should have told her long ago.
She was more like mom than she realized, but there was quite a bit of dad in her too.
Happy Star Wars Day! And may the fourth be with you.