Gwendolyn stepped back, frozen as she looked at the older version of herself. She didn't even notice as two of the guards approached and pulled her arms behind her back, cuffing them together as her younger selves were grabbed.
"Tsntpsble," Younger Gwen said as she struggled to get free, looking at her sixteen year old self as she was also held. "It just cannot be possible," Gwendolyn finally said, "We cannot all be mmmdgsmdgm" Her voice was silenced as a thick cloth was tied into her mouth, pulled back so that the corners of her mouth were pulled against her cheekbones.
"Get the three of them out of here," Eon said as she stepped forward, "I will decide what to do with these three doppelgangers of myself in due course." The three redheads were led off, struggling as Eon turned back to a monitor.
"Who was right?"
Ben looked at his grandfather as they both backed out of the Rust Bucket, having reverted to his human form, his eyes fixed on the young being that was floating in front of them, following their every move. "Being" was the right word she had looked like Gwen, but now had become a golden skinned beast with yellow eyes, her hair flowing behind her as she was surrounded by a light purple glow. Her form was feline, graceful, but the claws that were extending from her fingers showed this was not Ben's cousin.
"I had a... Look, can we discuss this later? I think we need to deal with..." Max's words were silenced by a purple energy blast that Gwen was firing at them, hitting the ground between them as both Ben and Max dived to each side. Hitting the ground, she dived forward towards Ban, snarling as she did so.
"Ben DUCK!" Max shouted as he fired a plasma blast at Gwen, knocking her to one side as she leapt to attack Ben. Taking the advantage, he turned the dial and slammed his hand down, the air around him shimmering as his body turned into a crystalline structure, the change to Diamondhead taking only a moment.
"Down, kitty," he said as he fired a swathe of crystal darts at Gwen, forming a cage around her as she tried to attack him again. She prowled round, snarling at Ben and Max as they walked over and looked at her.
"Who what is she," Ben said as he looked at his grandfather. Max rubbed his head as he looked into the yellow eyes of the beast that just a few minutes previously had been his granddaughter.
"I don't know, Ben," Max finally said, "except that I was told this would not be Gwen."
"Yeah it said this would happen, and what we both needed to do."
"Great who sent us this letter, anyway?"
To Ben's surprise, Max closed his eyes and said "Gwen did..."
Ben and Kevin were looking at the charred and blackened body on the bed.
"What the hell..." Kevin said as he ran his hand through his hair. "What have you done to Gwen?"
"I told you, she's not Gwen, she's..." Ben stopped himself as he saw the body start to rise from the mattress, the charred ropes falling away as it started to glow and catch fire again. "Dammit," Ben said as he stepped backwards, "I was afraid of this."
"What the heck is this, a bad zombie movie," Kevin said as the glowing form flamed brighter, until the flames cooled and a bird/human hybrid stood there, the golden plumage flowing down from the arms as it looked at the two young men.
"Animo," Ben said as he turned the dial on the Omnitrix again, "At least this time I have a chance of dealing with this creature." He slammed his hand down, and began to undergo another transformation.
The three Gwens looked up from the seats they had been placed in as Eon walked in, the two guards stepping out of the room as the door closed behind them. Each was sat in a wooden chair with armrests, their arms strapped down to the wooden rests and their ankles to the front legs.
"Whtduwnten," Gwendolyn mumbled through her gag as she looked into the face of the older woman. She thought she caught a look of regret in her eyes, before she stepped back and looked at her captives.
"Why, can't I have a word with my guests before I have them removed," Eon said as she started to smile. "You know, I remember when I was as young and innocent as each of you, Had I known now what I had to do well, I may have had a happier life."
She pulled over another chair and sat down. "In my world, Ben was a great hero, until the day something happened our grandfather was killed by one of the Forever Knights, and he he went mad. I had to bring him down in the end the first of many regrettable things I have done since then."
She looked over at the three young women, staring back at her. "I resolved then that I had to save the world, to make good on the havoc he wreaked. So I embraced my heritage, and did what had to be done. After I had succeeded, I swore to save the multverse from the risk of my cousin, and so I began to search out those worlds where Ben was still active, before eliminating the risk.
"I have looked at each of the worlds you three have come from, and in each I saw the capacity for Ben to do what he did on our world. Therefore, I removed you and sent my creatures in your place."
Older Gwen started talking. "Hwdsnmftntds?"
"I'm sorry did you want to ask something?"
She reached over and pulled the cloth out from her mouth, waiting as Gwen worked her jaw. "How does Animo fit into all this?"
"Oh him he allowed me to make use of his notes. Actually, allowed is too strong a word he had no choice, and I killed him afterwards. Each of those clones has been designed to kill each of your Bens, thus saving your world from the menace. Then, you will be returned, and your three worlds will be safe."
Gwen looked over at Eon. "Our..."
"Udntmnt," Gwendolyn shouted through her gag, making Gwen stop in her tracks. "Urgngtkls."
"Please," Eon said as she stood up, "I said that for the guards. Good henchmen are so hard to find, and so disloyal if they think there will be no blood. I will release you back to your times once they have been cleansed."
She stood up and walked to the door. "For now, forgive the restrictions you have proven yourselves to be as resourceful as I am, and I do not want any further interruptions." She walked out, the door closing behind her, as older Gwen looked over at Gwendolyn.
"She thinks we are from three different parallel worlds, right?" She watched as Gwendolyn nodded. "But if we were from three different worlds, we would not have recognised each other, which means..."
"Which means," Younger Gwen said as she finally worked her gag out of her mouth, "she has made her first and last mistake. How much wriggle room do you have?"
She watched as her older self tried to form an energy disk. "Not much not for direction, anyway. What do you have in mind?"
"Can you form enough to loosen your wrist? We need to get free."
"Efwd," Gwendolyn mumbled as she watched Gwen form a small band of purple energy, "thnihfapln."
"I found the letter the day before I left to pick you and Gwen up," Max said as he and Ben sat in the Rust bucket, listening to the snarling sounds behind them. "I had just fitted it out, went out, came back and there it was, lying on the table,"
He handed the sheet of paper to Ben, who opened it and read
If you are reading this, then I've managed to foil her plans, and get a warning to you. I hope I you are reading this, because if not...
I know you're collecting me and Ben tomorrow, and I know what is coming. It's an adventure beyond - but I can't tell you. For now, please read and understand.
At some point, Ben is going to come and tell you I have disappeared in a vortex, and then I will return. Whoever - whatever it is, do not believe it. Stop it in any way you can, and I will return soon enough to explain everything.
I love both of you, even if I don't say it often enough, and something tells me I won't be able to explain this for years to come, but trust me - when I tell the tale, you won't believe it.
See you tomorrow.
Ben folded the letter and looked back at his grandfather. "I don't get it - Gwen warned you before we even started this trip? What's going on?"
"Your doom," the creature said from within the cage, "I will kill you and cleanse this earth. I will...."
"Oh, put a sock in it," Max said as he pressed a button, sending a cloud of gas over the creature. He watched as the eyes slowly closed and the creature slumped to the floor.
"What are we going to with her - it, anyway?"
"I've called some friends from the Plumbers - they will be here in half an hour," Max said as he stood up. "Now we just wait, and hope wherever Gwen is, she's safe."
The three Gwens made their way slowly down the corridor, checking each corner as they went, before slipping into the communications room.
"Right," Gwendolyn said as she looked at the console, "I don't think we can send ourselves home from here - and something tells me neither of you want to go anyway."
"No we don't" Older Gwen said as she looked at a camera on the wall. "So what are we going to do?"
"Defeat Eon, and then get a warning to Ben for the first two times."
"What about the third - what about you?"
Gwendolyn looked at younger Gwen, putting her hands on her shoulders. "That, my dear, is going to be for you to do. That camera - is it what I think it is?"
"Yeah - transmitter with chronal circuits. Why?"
"Point it at Gwen - I'm going to type the spatial co-ordinates for the Sanctum just after I left. With luck, Ben and Granddad will be there, looking for me. If I'm right - Gwen, do you know what to say?"
"I think so," younger Gwen said as her older self pointed the camera at her. "But won't this bring Eon here?"
"I'm counting on it - right, here goes nothing." Gwendolyn pressed a button, a low hum filling the room as a red light appeared on the top of the device. Younger Gwen swallowed and started.
"Hi Ben - Grandpa. It's me - Gwen, only a little younger than you might think.
"I don't have much time, so listen carefully - Gwendolyn is here with me and - well, me. We've been captured by someone called Eon, who is sending a creature that looks like me to kill you both.
"Be ready, and trap it. When I - when older me gets back, she'll explain everything.
"I love you both so much," she finished as the camera light went off. The sound of running feet could be heard through the doorway.
"Magic up to scratch," Gwendolyn said to her younger self.
"You bet - what are you thinking?"
"Shield," Gwendolyn said as the door was kicked from outside. Two minutes later, the door was forced inwards and two armed guards held their weapons towards Gwendolyn.
"You got me," she said with a smile as she raised her hands, "Take me to your Eon."
Kevin ducked behind a wall as the creature flew overhead, firing purple heat rays at Ben in his Jetray form. He turned and fired a beam back at the creature, hitting it square in the chest and bringing it crashing to the ground, unconscious.
"What the hell do we do with this now," Kevin said as he looked at the golden bird-like animal, "and where the hell is Gwen?"
"You heard her - or rather, older her. It's not where - it's when."
"All right - but that was her? She looked - more mature."
"It's her - I met her once," Ben said as he changed back to his normal form. "Anyway, I called the Plumbers - someone is coming to get her."
"And after that?"
"We do the most difficult thing any of us can do - wait."
"My dear Gwendolyn - I had hoped we would be able to end this in a civil manner, but I see that's not possible."
Eon looked at Gwendolyn, her hand running through her greying hair as she sat in her seat of operations. "Where are the other two - I would so hate them to miss this moment of triumph."
"Don't know - I told them to go and make as much trouble as possible. Surprised you haven't heard anything yet."
Eon stood up and walked down the stairs to where Gwendolyn was standing, held on both sides by guards. "You may leave us - she is going nowhere," she eventually said with a wave of her arm. The two guards bowed and released Gwendolyn, backing out of the room as the door closed silently after them.
"Funny, I never figured myself for the gloating type."
"I'm not you - just a different universe version. You have no idea of what I have been through, what I have done to others, the loss I have felt?"
"Even so - life is sacred to us, to all of us, and you willingly admit to taking it."
"If some must die so that the others survive, so be it. Would you not do the same?"
"No," Gwendolyn said as she crossed her arms in front of her, "I would not - and neither would the other two."
"How can you be so sure - you do not know each other."
"Oh, but we do," Gwendolyn said as she smiled, "we know each other intimately. Girls?"
Eon stared to the side of Gwendolyn as the air seemed to shimmer, and she saw the two younger Gwens appear as if out of thin air. "Concealment spell, very nice," Eon said with a smile, "but how can you hope to defeat me - you're little saplings compared to me."
"You know what the Romans said," Older Gwen replied, "A twig on its own will break, but bind them together..."
Gwendolyn reached out with her hands, gripping those of her two younger selves as a purple glow started to form around them. "You made one mistake," Gwendolyn said as she looked at Eon, "when you snatched the three of us. Would you like to know what that is?"
"We're not three different Gwen Tennysons," younger Gwen said as she felt the power growing in her for the first time, "we're the same one, and if one of us cannot defeat you..."
".. .Then all three of us together can," Gwendolyn said as her eyes burned a deep purple, the energy cackling round them as she smiled. The energy seemed to coalesce in a ball before she shot it out, the bean hitting Eon and stripping the armour off her as she was lifted into the air.
"This is not possible," she called out as the three girls walked forward, "I am Eon, I am invincible, I am..."
"Going to shut up," Gwendolyn said as a band of purple energy closed over Eon's mouth, while more went around her arms and legs. As she was lowered gently to the floor, the energy formed into bands of material, holding the older woman tightly as the three girls released hands.
"What a rush," younger Gwen said as she stood there, panting. "Do I ever get used to that?"
"Not really, no," older Gwen said, but her reply was cut short by the sound of explosions, and the floor rocking.
"Dammit - there was a self destruct mechanism, wasn't there?" Gwendolyn said as she looked at Eon. The woman said nothing, but her eyes flashed with triumph as she lay there.
"You're coming with us," older Gwen said as she gestured, a band of energy picking up the struggling woman as the three of them ran into the corridor, past the guards and towing Eon with them as they made their way to the control room.
The doors were lying open, and small fires were erupting from the consoles as Gwen examined the controls.
"Dammit - there's only enough energy to get two of us out of here," she said as she looked up. "We've no time to argue - you get into the tubes."
"But we can't leave you here - it's certain death!"
"Yes, I know - but if you don't get back, this has been for nothing, right?"
"She's right," Gwen said to her younger self, "It would take a miracle for us all to get out."
"I believe that's my cue," a voice said from behind them. It was male, British, and one that Gwendolyn had heard before, though not for some considerable time. Older Gwen turned round, not noticing the flames that seemed to be frozen in place, and said "Who are you?"
"Me," the man standing there said, standing in a lab coat over his shirt and trousers, a bow tie around his neck. "I'm glad I made it in time - Ben would be most upset if I was too late."
"Never mind that - who is this?"
"Ah, but I am forgetting we have not met yet," the man said as he took younger Gwen's hand. "Call me Paradox, for I am one. I was led to believe you ladies may require some assistance, and it would appear I was informed correctly."
"You were indeed," Gwendolyn said as she hugged the new arrival. "How much do you know of what's happened?"
"Most of it - I must admit, the idea of a Gwen Tennyson as Eon intrigued me. Perhaps, when this is done, she and I can have a nice, long chat in her confinement."
"Never mind that - can you get us out of here?"
"Of course I can - but I believe you have something else you need to do?"
Gwendolyn looked at Paradox, nodding as she did so. "The warnings," she finally said. "We need to prepare the warnings."
"What," the two younger Gwens said as they looked at her.
"Paradox, get us to my home - we can take care of things there."
Ben and Max turned and shielded their eyes as the bright light shone for a moment, fading to reveal the four woman and one man there.
"Gwendolyn," Max said as he ran forward and embraced his granddaughter, "You made it safely home."
"I did," she said as she looked at Ben, "as you probably knew I would."
"I did, but don't ask me how - except I knew old friends would help." He shook Paradox's hand as he stepped forward. "Thank you for the rescue - and who is this?"
"This," Paradox said as the older woman sat herself up, "Is Gwen Tennyson, aka Eon - well, one of them anyway."
"What are we going to do with her," young Gwen said as she looked at her alternative self, her eyes wide as she looked round.
"Allow me," Paradox said as he squatted next to her. "she is a very fragile woman, and I think with the right counselling she may come to see the error of her ways. For now, however, I need you to watch her Ben - I have some errands to run, once these three charming ladies are ready?"
"I need two hours," Gwendolyn said as she and older Gwen walked to the doorway. "How about you get the youngster here some Ice Cream - and that's all!"
"What do you mean, that's all - can't she..."
"Spoilers," Paradox said as he helped Eon to her feet. "Come dear lady - let me begin to show you the error of your ways."
The day before the Omnitrix arrived
"There, that should do it," Max said as he closed the bonnet on the Rust Bucket. "All I need now is to get the last few things together."
As he walked away, he failed to notice the shimmer as Paradox and Gwendolyn stepped out of a portal, the woman looking at her grandfather as he walked off.
"Do you think he would have done anything differently, if he had known?"
"I doubt it - the Tennyson breed is a brave one. You had best leave the note - we need to go onward."
He watched Gwendolyn walk to the old vehicle, wondering what she would say if she knew what the future still held for her. "Not my job to tell her," he said to himself as she stepped in, returning a moment later and joining him.
"Let's go," he said as they stepped through the portal, the shimmering ceasing as Max came back to the van. As he stepped inside, he looked at the letter, his eyes widening as he recognised the handwriting.
"Now that's strange," he said to himself as he put the letter to one side, looking at the picture of his grandchildren on the side.
As Ban and Max waved off the van, they failed to notice the air shimmer behind them, and Gwen step through the portal, the air steadying behind her as she did so.
"Hey dweeb," she called out, "What did I miss?"
"Gwen!" Ben shouted as he turned and ran to his cousin, hugging her so tightly she said "Hey careful - you might break something."
"You're all right," Max said as he embraced both of them. "What happened? Where did you go?"
"I... I can't remember," Gwen said as she stared forward. "It's all becoming a blur. All I have is this - and a promise."
She handed Ben a small, silver disc in a clear plastic box. Inside was a note, which Ben read.
"If I ever disappear like that again, play this." He looked at his cousin. "What does that mean?"
"I don't know," Gwen said with a shrug. "Hey - why don't we go and get some dinner - I'm famished."
Gwen stepped out of the portal behind Ben and Kevin, as they stared at the creature on the ground.
"What's that," she said quietly as she walked up behind them.
"That? Oh just a creature pretending to be you, Gwen," Ben said without turning. She watched for a moment before he raised his head, turned slowly and stared at his cousin, Kevin following suit.
Her question was answered by a huge hug from Kevin, and a look of relief on Ben's face.
"Where did you go? What did you do? And who the hell was that on the DVD we watched?"
"Spoilers Kevin," she said with a smile as a large truck drew up. "one day I'll tell you, but not today. For now, be assured we saved the world again - all three of us."
"All three of you?"
"Did I just say that?" Gwen smiled as she took the other two by the arm. "Do you know what I rally fancy now?"
"A shake - I'll even watch you eat those revolting Chilli fries if you pay."
"Just what happened here tonight," Kevin said as they climbed into his car.
"Believe me, I don't know myself," Gwen said as she shook her head. "It's all a blur - all I know is that we won."
As Paradox led Eon into the chamber, she stared at the high stacked rows of seats. There were hooded figures in them, looking down as he stopped in the spotlight in the centre of the room.
"Remove her bonds," a female voice said, and as the bands disappeared from Eon's body and mouth she breathed a sigh of relief.
"So I am to be judged," she said as she looked round the room, focusing on the lone figure in front of her who had given the command. "And what gives you the authority to judge me? How can you know who I am?"
Silently, the figure removed her hood, Eon's eyes widening as she did so. She looked round the room, seeing the others removed their own hoods, as the woman said "You once said that there was an infinity of Eons, and we could not guess that one of them would be Gwen Tennyson. Did it never, ever occur to you that there may also be an infinity of Gwens, waiting for you to make your move?"
Eon stared at the faces, some with red hair, some with grey, before her mouth opened in a silent scream.