"Come on, you dweeb Grandpa will be waiting for us."
Gwen Tennyson laughed as she ran after her cousin towards the Rustbucket, the old camper van that her grandfather had been using to drive them around the country all summer. When she had first heard about the trip, two things had upset her more than anything. Firstly, been stuck in a vehicle that looked like it was been held together with duct tape and not much else. Secondly, having to spend the entire summer not just with her grandfather, but also with the idiot that was her cousin, Ben Tennyson.
She was dressed in her usual clothing a light blue top with darker blue sleeves that came to just over her elbows, white Capri pants and trainers, with her red hair held back by a single clip. The top had her favourite cat motif on the front. As for Ben, he was wearing that shirt and shorts combo again.
The holiday had started badly, and had threatened to get worse until that night the meteor had fallen out of the sky, and Ben had found that strange watch. At least, he had thought it was a watch, but it had turned out to be something far more than that. It was something called an Omnitrix, and it had fastened itself to Ben's wrist, giving him the ability to transform into fantastic aliens.
That had been six weeks ago, and their lives had literally not been the same since. They had been attacked by aliens and more human people, wanting to get this device for themselves, and as they had criss-crossed the country that had also discovered Grandpa Max was more than just a plumber. He was actually a former secret agent of a sort, and the Rustbucket had a lot of hidden potential.
Now they had a rare day just to be themselves, camped by Lake Eire, and as the two of them ran back to the barbecue they could see Grandpa cooking something on the grill.
"Who's for one of my world famous burgers," he said a he looked up at them and smiled. The two took one smell of the aroma, and shook their heads. "Your loss," he said as he turned back to the barbecue, smiling as Gwen turned on her laptop.
"Do you have to do that now," Ben said as he watched Gwen looking at her computer screen. "Yes, I do there's a magic exhibition in the next town along, and Grandpa's taking us to see it tomorrow."
"Oh great every time that happens either Lucky Girl decides to make an appearance, or that old guy and his creepy niece show up and we have to fight them..."
"Who are you calling creepy," a female voice said from behind them. They turned to see a young girl, slightly taller than them with long white hair held back in a ponytail. She was wearing a purple duster coat, with darker purple leggings visible underneath, and had a small pouch held on a belt around her waist.
"Charmcaster," Gwen shouted as she stood up. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I was in the area, and I thought I'd just take you two nuisances down," she said as she pulled something from her sack. The two ducked as a number of small glowing balls were thrown at them, exploding as they hit the ground.
"Time to go hero," Ben said as he turned the dial on the Omnitrix and slammed his hand down. There was a blinding flash of light as his physical form changed, becoming larger and bulkier as a second pair of arms seemed to grow from him. As the light faded, in the place of the slim ten year old was a giant, four armed red skinned being, who stared at Charmcaster with anger in his yellow eyes.
"Where's your friend, Helix," he boomed out as he started walking towards her.
"Not here this is personal time, and not with you. I want your little friend over there."
"Grandpa, get Gwen out of here," Ben shouted back, but it was too late. Gwen had already dived into the UV, coming back out with a small leather coloured notebook in her hand and chanting some Latin phases.
"Do you think your little book of weak spells can save you, little one," Charmcaster shouted as she drew out a small wax figurine from her bag, throwing it towards Gwen. As it travelled through the air, it increased in size and mass so that by the time it landed a fully grown, fire breathing dragon was facing the ten year old.
"Er a little help here," Gwen shouted out as she dived to avoid a sheet of white hot flame that was aimed at her, striking instead the ground she had been standing on. Max ran forward with what looked like a fire extinguisher, aiming it at the dragon, but instead of foam a sheet of liquid nitrogen shot out, enveloping the creature and freezing it on the spot.
This lasted for about a nanosecond as the white block glowed red, and finally exploded out as the creature roared. "Hang on, Gwen," Ben shouted as he turned and ran towards his cousin, grabbing the creature around the neck and pulling back as far as he could. "Grandpa, get her out of here," he shouted but when he looked round he saw Max Tennyson lying on the ground, shards of the frozen ice round him.
Gwen ran over and checked his pulse. "He's all right, just stunned", Gwen said as Charmcaster floated through the air towards her. "Don't even think about it," she shouted as she turned and chanted a spell, holding the white haired opponent in midair as if she was in the grip of some invisible being.
"What on earth have we done to you this time," Gwen said as she looked at her opponent, hanging helpless in the air. "Who says you need to do anything,"! Charmcaster sneered, but a moment later her eyes widened.
"Oh come on, you expect me to fall for that," Gwen said, but there was something about her look that made Gwen turn round. "What the..." was all she managed to say as she looked at the spinning vortex that had appeared behind her, before a pair of black clad arms reached out and grabbed her by the arms, pulling her through the vortex before it vanished with a soft "pop".
"GWEN!!" Ben shouted as he released the dragon and ran forward, grabbing Charmcaster as she fell to the ground. "What have you done with my cousin," Ben snarled as he shook the girl, but all she could say was "Not my fault, this was not my fault." A beeping sound could be heard as Ben released her, returning to his ten year old form with a blinding flash.
Charmcaster used this opportunity to retreat, the dragon vanishing in a puff of smoke as she did so. Max pushed himself up, rubbing his head and saying "What happened?"
"Grandpa," Ben said as he ran forward, "something just grabbed Gwen and took her."
"Took Gwen? Who was it who did it Ben?"
"I... I don't know," he said, a look of real fear and concern in his eyes.
Gwen slowly opened her eyes and looked round. She was in a large room, lit with pale blue light coming through windows that ran around the walls. As she looked down, she saw that her trainers had been removed, and her white ankles socks were clearly visible.
She also saw the orange bands that encircled her ankles, as well as her legs above her knees. As she stretched her legs out, she could feel the binding tugging at her skin, so she concluded it was some form of tape and the fact she could feel something similar pinning her wrists together behind her back confirmed her suspicions.
Looking down her body, she saw that her arms were also held to her side, around erg shoulders and her waist, with more of the tape. She felt something pulling at her mouth as well, and her attempts to speak met only with an "mmmhg" sound.
"Great," she thought to herself, "Helix must have grabbed me and taken me hostage. Although, come to think of it, she was as surprised as I was. What's going on?"
"Do not attempt to struggle," a metallic voice said from nowhere that filled the room. "You are the first others will come."
"Others," Gwen thought as she tried moving again. "What others?
Gwen Tennyson sat on the large rock, looking out over the placid water to the tree on the far side. She hadn't moved for hours, her mind thinking over the events of the last few days.
"Penny for them?"
She turned to see Ben standing behind her, while Kevin was waiting by the car. A small smile crossed her face as she got up and walked over to join them.
"What can I say? It's not every day I meet my grandmother, find out I'm a human-Anodite hybrid, and that what I do is a natural ability and not magic at all. All in all, I should be glad I'm not heading for a stay in the bughouse."
"Well, look at it this way," Ben said as he walked beside her. "Given I can turn into one of a number of aliens, Kevin can absorb the properties of anything, and you weren't fazed by that, why should this be any different?"
"It doesn't bother you that you can't do what I can do?"
"Nope what bothers me is finding Grandpa and making sure he's alright." The two fell silent as they walked up to the car.
"Are we good, then," he said as he opened the car door for Gwen to climb in.
"As good as we're going to get," Gwen said as the two boys climbed in the front. "Can you take me home there's some work I need to get done for school tomorrow."
As the boys watched her walking to the house, Kevin turned to Ben and said "Are you sure she's going to be all right?"
"Sure," he said as they drove off, "After all, she's a Tennyson."
Letting herself into the house, Gwen went straight to her room and looked at herself in the mirror. She was still wearing her school uniform the blue v-necked jumper over the white blouse, grey skirt and tights, and plain Mary Jane shoes.
"I wonder if Ben will ever understand," she said to herself as she finally sat down at her desk and picked up a book. "It's different for women even those whose grandmother is a being of pure energy." Turning her mind to the mysteries of trigonometry, she tried to apply herself to her studies.
The peace only lasted for about ten minutes before she heard something rapping on the glass of her bedroom window. Sighing as she put down the book, she walked over and opened it to see Kevin standing in the garden.
"I know you wanted to work, Gwen," Kevin said, "but Ben called he's got a lead on your grandpa, and he wants us to meet him at the mall."
"All right," Gwen said quietly. "I'll meet you out front."
As they drove to the mall, Kevin said "Look, I do know how you're feeling. It wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs for me when I found out about myself. If you ever want to talk..."
"Thanks, but not yet," Gwen said as she stared straight ahead. "I want to find grandpa it'll take my mind off a few things."
"Whatever you say," Kevin said as he turned into the deserted car park. He stopped outside the entrance to Penny's and looked around, the concrete surroundings silent and dark.
"I don't like this," Kevin said as he turned to the rear of the car. "Ben should have shown up by now. Stay here while I have a look round."
"Yeah, like that's going to happen," Gwen said as she followed Kevin out of the car. They walked across the parking area, the dim lights from the roofs of the building the only illumination as they looked round.
"It's quiet," Gwen said in a whisper. "Too quiet," Kevin said quietly, but that was soon shattered as blinding lights burst into life all round them.
"What the..." Gwen said as the sound of heavy boots marching reverberated around the lot. Kevin stood for a moment, before reaching down and touching the tarmac, his body turning grey as he absorbed the properties of the asphalt and adapted to the strength of the material.
"Forever Knights," he said as the armoured foes came into view, brandishing what looked like spears before them. "Some guys just cannot take a hint. Ready?"
"Oh yeah I was ready to kick butt," Gwen said as she rose in the air on a platform of purple energy. "Let's do this." Two bands of energy shot forth from her hands, knocking over a dozen of the armoured attack force before they had a chance to begin their assault.
"Knights, Attack!" a loud voice boomed out as four more flanks of the men approached, only to be met with a fist of hard rock and tarmac as Kevin ploughed into them, scattering them to and fro as he approached the crowned leader of the Knights.
"You really cannot forget, can you," he said as he grabbed the man by the tabard that covered his upper body. "I don't work for you anymore, so I have no problem with..." He looked at the cold, impassive face of gold, and noticed it seemed to be looking over his shoulder.
"Hey, what could be more interesting than my fist," Kevin sneered, but the sneer left his face when he heard Gwen shout "Kevin! He..." He turned to see her legs disappearing into a vortex, which snapped closed with a soft popping sound.
"GWEN!!!" he shouted as he looked at the air where she had been floating, then turned back to his captive. "What did you do to her, you little maggot?"
"This was not of our doing," the Knight said before Kevin's fist connected with him. As he watched the other scurrying away, he reverted to his normal form and ran to his car, dialling a number on his phone as he did so.
"Ben? We have a problem, somebody or something has snatched Gwen.
"A vortex? Yeah, she got pulled into one, why?
"You're kidding? I'm coming over I think we need to compare notes."
As he sped off from the lot, Kevin had two things on his mind. Who had taken Gwen? And what did Ben mean when he said "Not again?"
Gwen grunted as she was dropped unceremoniously on the hard floor. She had no idea what had happened, only that something had grabbed her and then blackness until a few moments ago. From the way her legs were feeling, whoever it was had bound them together.
She tried shrugging and moving her arms, only to find that they do seemed to be secured to her sides. Probing with her fingers, she felt a smooth surface that was encircling her wrists, which confirmed her worst fears.
"Great," she tried to say, "Another couple of hours as a hostage." What actually came out was "grtnfrcplhrshste," as she quickly realised that something was covering her mouth and holding her lips together.
As the hood was pulled off her head, Gwen blinked and waited for her eyes to adjust to the pale blue light that filled the room. She could hear somebody else, but it took a moment for her to see the young girl sitting against the wall, bound in orange tape and staring at....
"Tcntb," Gwen mumbled as she realised the girl was her younger self.
"One more to go," a metallic voice said as the two young girls tried to make sense of the situation...
Gwendolyn stood on the shoulder of the Ben 10,000 statue, looking over the teeming streets of the city below. It had been two weeks since the business with Dr Animo, and the visit by her and Ben's younger selves, and the two of them had started to come to some sort of accord with each other. Maybe not full friendship, not yet, but it was a start after so many years.
There had been so many things she had wanted to tell herself, but she knew that time was a fragile thing, and she had held her tongue. If she had told young Gwen about what was going to happen, the events and trials she would face, would it have made any difference to the way things turned out?
"Probably not," she said out loud to herself. "After all, how could I have...?" Her thoughts were interrupted by the buzzing coming from her belt. "Great here we go again," she thought as she pulled the light blue cowl over her head. "What is it this time, grandpa," she said into her radio.
"Temporal disturbance in sector 205-A," Max said through the receiver. "Is this what I think it might be?"
"Could be cover for me until I get back, will you?" she said as she sped into the distance on a purple disk. She was wearing her standard outfit tight black leggings and a black top with a pale blue body that matched her hood, with white ankle boots on her feet.
"Be careful," Max said as she sped off.
"Run that past me again," Ben said as he sat opposite Kevin in the malt shop.
"We were fighting the knights when I heard Gwen shout. I turned round to see her been pulled into a purple vortex, and then wham she was gone. Have you got any idea what is going on?"
"Not a clue but it's not the first time it has happened."
Kevin looked up. "When did it happen before?"
"Six years ago she disappeared for a few hours, and then came back. She had been hurt, but she said not to worry, and there was something I had to do if it ever happened again?"
"Oh what was that?"
"Wait for six hours, and then go to a certain address. Honestly, Kevin, there's not a lot we can do at the moment except wait and hope."
"The thing I hate about time vortices," Gwendolyn thought to herself as she approached sector 205-A, "is just how much unintended trouble it can cause. By the looks of things, this could be the worst of the lot."
She stopped above a purple vortex, spinning rapidly as it sucked a number of loose items of furnishing from the park it was hovering over. As she held her hands on high, the purple energy cackling as she did so, she started to chant in a quiet, even tone, reciting the words that would close the hole in the fabric of time.
The energy blast shot into the centre of the whirlwind, closing it with a silent "pop" as the seats fell to the ground. Gwendolyn descended, the motions of her hands returning the fallen items to their rightful places, before she stood on the ground and looked round.
"That was almost too easy," she said to herself as she looked round. "It's almost as if..."
She heard rather than saw the sound before she turned round. A swirling purple vortex had again appeared before her, but this one was smaller and there were a pair of blue armoured arms reaching out and grabbing her by the arms.
"Oh no you don't" she screamed as she tried to conjure a spell, but the grip was too strong, and she found herself been pulled through the swirling maelstrom head first. She was blinded for a moment, and felt nauseous as she was pulled through to what looked like a small room.
"Who the hell are you," she screamed at the man standing in front of her, holding her by the arms, and how did yoooooo..." Her words trailed off as she inhaled the gas that was slowly filling the room, her eyes closing as she slipped into a deep sleep.
The man kept hold of Gwendolyn as the gas dispersed, before looking up as a side panel opened and a second man in armour joined him. They laid the young woman on the floor and picked up two rolls of orange tape. As one rolled Gwendolyn onto her stomach and started to tape her wrist together, the other removed her boots and fixed her ankles tightly to each other. The tape covered the cuffs of her leggings, sticking them down to the pale tights she was wearing underneath.
They worked quickly, silently, as her legs were taped together above and below her knees while her arms were taped to her side above and below her chest. Finally several strips of the material were fixed over her mouth, the men taking care to ensure her spiked red hair was not caught in the gag.
They picked her up and carried her down the dimly lit corridors, taking care to be as gentle as they could, before stopping before a door that opened silently. Depositing her on the floor, they ignored the two younger girls sitting there and left, the door closing silently behind them.
As Gwendolyn slowly opened her eyes, she looked at the two redheads sitting next to her, before saying "hgd, tsnw." She looked down at her own body, wondering what she had forgotten as the tinny voice said "Now we have you all, the master will see to you soon."
"Well, there has been a temporal rift here, but where it emanated from is anybody's guess." Max looked over at his grandson as they sat at the Plumbers resource centre. "Is there anything you haven't told me yet?"
"No, grandpa we were fighting Charmcaster, the portal opened and Gwen was pulled in, and then the purple swirl..."
Max looked at his grandson. "Purple? You're sure it was purple?"
"Back to the RV I have something to show you."
They made their way back to the Rustbucket, and as Ben sat down his grandfather opened a drawer and took out a letter.
"This this kind of fell into my lap just before we set off. I wondered what it was about, but now I think I understand."
Ben looked at the envelope, on which was a scribbled note in Gwen's handwriting. "Do not open until the purple swirl takes me."