Author's Note: This version pays homage to Supergirl, the TV show with Melissa Benoist. The part that really got my interest about the show was the backstory that Superman dumped his cousin on a scientist dad/ superannuated D-List actress mum and an ugly duckling teenage daughter. Would an alien girl from 2000 light years away really be a perfectly beautiful Earth girl, who already speaks English with an American accent and who automatically knows every tiny thing about etiquette in her town without having had anyone to teach her about Earth ways? Wouldn't Krypton make better sense if it were a parallel Earth instead of simply another planet?
Just like Melissa Benoist's Supergirl, this takes place in its own parallel universe.
I envision Kora when in her human disguise as resembling Malina Weissman who played the young Supergirl. When Kora is in her real (alien) form, she is bright green, cold and slimy and her face is like a deformed clay mask.
Aliens Are Welcome Here
It was a fine November morning and the air was crisp and chill when Josh took out the trash. When he returned to the warmth of the kitchen, the digital TV was blaring away and his mother was chopping vegetables. The news was on and Josh smiled to see that it was about his idol, the super-heroine Teramaiden – known to her friends as Leonie, or more commonly as 'Leo.'
"This was the scene an hour ago," said the news anchor. The focus shifted to Leo. She was in a bank and there had clearly been a hold-up. There was a robber with a woolen hood over his head standing in front of her and pointing a gun.
Teramaiden was speaking in her low, husky voice – "You are better than this. I know I don't have to fight you…" she held out a gloved hand as if to ask for the gun and Josh caught his breath. What was she thinking? But unbelievably, it worked. The robber was actually handing her his gun...! Josh exhaled in sheer relief.
She was such a cool lady, that Teramaiden. Want to know why? Because she was from another planet. She really looked the part of an alien. She was very tall for a woman and when fighting crime, she wore a one piece silver suit that fit her tightly. Her face was a very bright yellowish green and looked wet and shiny. Josh knew that her skin secreted a weird sort of slime.
She had told Josh that she was from a parallel universe. She had been put in a rocket as a baby and it had been fired through a wormhole. Her alien family had done this because their world was dying. When she landed on Earth, she had been found by a terrestrial farmer and his wife and they had raised her. In adulthood, she had learned to use her latent psychic powers that were her birthright and in the end, she had decided to become a super-heroine. Last summer she had rescued Josh from an evil scientist and now they were friends.
"Leo's good at PR," said mum.
PR meant public relations. Mum was saying that Leo was good at making other people see that she was a heroine. Josh thought that this should have been obvious to anyone, whether or not they had seen the news today.
At that moment, Josh's iphone rang. He grinned to see that the call was from Leo.
"Guess who, darling." There was no mistaking that husky voice.
"Leo!" he exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear.
"Hang in there, darling. I'll be round in a tick."
Leo came round shortly after that. She cut a larger than life figure in their kitchen, still dressed in her one piece silver suit and towering over them all, even dad.
"And how is my favourite boy?" she demanded, pulling Josh into a hug.
He grinned up at her and her features moved underneath all that green goo on her face to form a broader grin.
"Always welcome, Leo," said mum.
Having accepted a root beer, Leo told them she had something important to tell them and they all sat around the kitchen table. Josh sat next to Leo and mum and dad sat at the other end of the table. Leo flicked a strand of her long, shiny, green-tinged hair away from her face. The sunlight streaming through the window shone off her green cheeks and the broad bridge of her green nose. She bit her lip.
"My dears, something's happened. I have new family. A young girl has just arrived from the world of Aetherium. The world where I was born."
She chewed her slimy lip as if unsure what to say and paused dramatically before she spoke again. "Even though I've got no memory of ever being there, that's where all my blood relatives were. But they only left me those recordings that were in the rocket that brought me to Earth. I understand that the people of Aetherium were really advanced, but they were insular as well. They lived on this world that was a lot like Earth. Perhaps it was the Earth of their alternate reality."
Leo rubbed her cheek pensively, leaving fingermarks in the green slime that covered her face. "It was a lot like Earth, but it was different in some ways. It orbited a star that was smaller and oranger and gave out less heat than the sun. Their seas were just a network of shallow lakes."
She grimaced, her features contorting weirdly underneath their layer of green slime. "It's actually quite painful to think of."
Josh gently laid a hand on her arm. She beamed at him and got on with talking about the subject that was painful to think of.
"Their world was dying, but they still wouldn't lay off it. They kept exploiting Aetherium's natural resources until they went way way way too far... They tried to harness the planet's core for power. That is what made the planet blow up. I already knew they sent me off in a rocket when a wormhole to this solar system opened, but what I didn't know was that they sent my older cousin through the wormhole soon after to protect me. But wormholes are somewhat counter-intuitive. It turns out they dilate time somehow. My big cousin was shot through soon after me, but she emerged much, much later. Just a few days ago as it happens. It looks like time doesn't really go by in the wormhole, but things happen and events keep moving on in space outside. So now I have a cousin on Earth who is much younger than me. Her name will be Kora. Kora will do for her Earth name I think. Her Aetherium name is very difficult to pronounce."
Josh felt a thrill of excitement. "You have a cousin. One just like you? That's so cool, I'd love to meet her."
Leo grinned and flicked a strand of her sea-weed coloured hair over her shoulder. "I can grant you your wish, darling."
Then she gazed at each of them in turn, her dark eyes piercing. "You are the best people I know to help her. Kora needs the start in life on Earth that I had. She needs to be raised by a nice Earth family, just like I was."
Wait! What was Leo saying?
Leo turned to mum. "Robyn, your study of exobiology will come in very useful. And Kora ought to have a brother like Josh. I wish I had done."
"You can rely on us," said dad solemnly.
"Thank you, Cedric."
"We will help the poor mite in any way we can," said mum.
Take an alien girl into their home? Were they all serious? For how long and what exactly would it involve? Josh was determined to get to the bottom of this and he accompanied Leo to the front garden ready to confront her about it, but then she turned and knelt so that they were face to face and then she placed her gloved hands on his shoulders.
"Darling, I put my faith in you most of all." Her dark eyes were wide and intense in her slimy green face. "I trust you with my only blood relative. I – I admit…" she stammered… "I – I know it is a lot to ask. It hasn't always been easy, being a super-heroine. My critics used to really upset me." She gave a dramatic sigh. "But knowing that there are boys as pure of heart as you are gives me the hope I need to keep going. Kora cannot do better than have you as her brother."
Josh could not bear to disappoint her.
"Y – you can rely on me, Leo."
"Here." She reached into her pocket and withdrew what looked like a pearl that shone with a silvery-blue iridescence. "A token of my love. It will help you in a time of greatest peril… Be seeing ya, sweetie."
Leo could talk her way out of anything. Even a bank robbery or Josh's confrontation.
Next week when Josh came back from school, Leo was already there, accompanied by a girl like herself, but a lot younger. Probably a bit younger even than Josh. She was dressed in a one piece silver suit like Leo's Teramaiden outfit and she had Leo's long, dark green hair and definitely her broad nose. Her face was also covered in a thick layer of bright green slime. All in all, quite a strong family resemblance.
Leo grinned at him. "Ah, Josh darling, this is Kora."
"Hey Kora," said Josh extending a hand.
Kora just gazed at him, her dark eyes wide in her shiny, green face. The whites of her eyes looked faintly green tinged, like Leo's.
"Aw, she's shy," said mum.
"Now Kora," said Leo, "I disguise myself on a regular basis. Whenever I'm not being a super-heroine I have to work, hang out with the girls, see cute guys... Look, can you do this?"
Pale human skin seemed to extend from the sides of her face, enveloping her slimy countenance completely and sure enough, she was skinned over. Her seaweed coloured hair turned black. She looked just like an Earth lady. Josh thought it a shame that she had to disguise herself all the time. She was only really herself when she was being a super-heroine. What was wrong with the world, that she had to hide who she really was?
"Can't," said Kora. Her voice was low and husky for a girl's, rather like Leo's, but she had this weird accent that was very thick. Judging by her accent, Josh thought the Aetherium language must sound very guttural.
"Well it'll come with practice," said Leo. "Anyway, you have a big brother to take care of you now. I understand you never did on Aetherium."
Kora gazed at Josh with those wide dark eyes. Josh smiled awkwardly.
When Leo was gone, mum suggested that Josh play Draughts with Kora. Fair enough. It was an easy game. She should pick it up.
Kora didn't seem to enjoy the game. She just gazed blankly at him through most of it, moving the pieces mechanically.
He decided to let her have an easy capture, but she did not take his piece, just stared at him. The pale November sunshine streaming through the window shone off her green nose and cheeks.
"OK, you did not take my piece when you had the chance, Kora," said Josh. "So I get to 'huff' you. You lose a piece."
Abruptly she leaned forward over the board, so close that she was almost breathing down his nostrils. Her slimy face smelled like damp earth. "I saw my world end," she mumbled.
"S – Sorry…?" he stammered, completely baffled as to how to answer.
"It exploded in a great fireball," she said and her dark eyes glistened with tears.
Mum appeared at that moment. "Is the game upsetting her? Can't you play well enough, Josh? Never mind. Let's make some popcorn."
But Kora didn't take well to that either. The minute the corn started popping in the microwave she gave a hoarse cry and dived under the table.
"Oh dear. Just get her out, Josh," said mum.
Josh suppressed a groan and knelt down. Kora was crouched under the table, gazing at him with wide, unblinking eyes. One of her silver gloves seemed to have slipped off somehow.
He forced himself to smile reassuringly. "It's just the microwave. Nothing to be afraid of. Just a silly old microwave oven."
She stared at him blankly.
He thought of Leo's words earlier. "I'm going to be your brother now. I'll defend you." He gritted his teeth. "Didn't you hear what Leo said? I 'volunteered' for it. Out of all the boys on Earth, I'm the lucky one."
"Brother?" She held out her slimy, ungloved hand. Great. Thanks Kora. He took it. It felt like a hand caked in squishy clay. Her green slime got all over his fingers, but she consented to being drawn out from under the table.
She wouldn't let go of his hand when they sat down to the popcorn, just kept it in her cold, squishy grip. And when the popcorn was put in front of her she wouldn't eat any, she just stared at it forlornly.
"Perhaps you'd prefer to play outside?" suggested mum.
Kora shook her head. "Please, no. The sun is too bright here."
"Is it yellower here?" asked Josh, curious. What would orange sunlight be like? Cooler? More citrusy?
She smiled slightly. "It's brighter and hotter here. Please… I'm tired. So tired and alone, except for my brother."
"Fine. Both of you go upstairs," said mum. "Josh. Show your sister how to run a bath."
Great. Just what Josh wanted. It wasn't as if Kora could have just gone to bed and left him in peace for the rest of the evening.
Upstairs in the bathroom, he demonstrated how to turn the hot tap. "It's really simple. This one's hot, the other is for cold water…" He gave a little start as her cold, slimy hand brushed his cheek.
"On Aetherium they brought up heat from the heart of the planet," she croaked.
"Really?" He wasn't sure why she was telling him this. Leo told the story of Aetherium's tragedy so much better than Kora could.
"That's why the heart of the planet broke." There were tears in her eyes again.
How could he even begin to console her about something like this? Her whole world had literally shattered and it seemed she had seen it happen, presumably just after she left.
"It really is something that is too horrible for the rest of us to imagine," said Josh gloomily. "Even Leo can't begin to imagine what it's like for you. She has no memories of Aetherium."
For the first time Kora grinned. "No, she can't. And Leo wasn't her real name. But you get it, brother. You get that none of you get it." To his relief she seemed in better spirits after that. And he was more relieved that he got to bathe first, before she messed up the tub with her slimy body.
But his relief didn't last long. Mum would soon drop her final bombshell...
She told him that Kora would be sharing his room. His room was like his own private sanctuary! Having to share it with a girl… an alien girl. He gritted his teeth and remembered his resolve not to disappoint Leo.
"You heard how alone in the universe she feels. She's lost everything. Her entire world."
"I know that as well as you do mum."
"Don't be cheeky."
And so it was that he had to go to bed early, and then Kora came creeping into his room, dressed in a pink dressing gown made of plastic, her sea-weed coloured hair hanging limply around her. She had a really ugly doll under one arm. What was it supposed to be? It looked like a hairless silver monkey, with three eyes and six limbs.
Her dark eyes alighted on the shelf of his dinosaurs which he had arrayed in chronological order: the Triassic ones to the left, the Jurassic ones in the middle and the Cretaceous ones to the right. She'd better not mess them up.
"Earth used to be ruled by these great beasts," said Kora, running her fingertips over the Tyrannosaur and to his annoyance, getting her green gunk on it. "Scary."
With an effort, Josh stopped himself from snapping at her. "You know a lot about Earth. And about our language. Where did you learn?"
"We got your radio and then your global TV signals in bits and pieces down the wormhole. Some of us wanted to study them. I wanted to. I used to play at being an Earth girl." She gazed at the Tyrannosaur. "The only scary ones left on Aetherium were criminals. They were sent to space prison. A space station prison on the far side of our sun."
Josh decided to curtail any further conversation.
"We've got to sleep now. It's a big day tomorrow." Not that he thought it really was, but he needed a break from the weird alien. Was that so hard to comprehend?
He tried to shut his eyes and pretend she wasn't there. But that turned out to be difficult. Why should it be difficult? Because she couldn't even let him sleep in peace... He had a dream that he was in the clutches of a great, slimy octopus, its strong, clammy arms wrapping around him with an awful, gripping strength... He suddenly awoke to find something in his bed really clutching him in its cold slimy embrace. Yes, that's right, the alien girl had crawled into bed with him and was getting her slime all over him. This was too much. She had her own bed! He sat up, about to speak angrily, but then he heard her whimpering and sniffling.
"Hey, it's alright," he said, sitting up and taking her cold, skinny form into his arms. She stared blankly at him. Her green, clay face looked even weirder in the near darkness. Quite ghostly in fact. "Well, I know it's far from alright, but you're alive. We're together. And you've got Leo too, so that's a cousin as well as a brother..."
"Leo loves you more than me, Josh. She doesn't even understand me."
"No! I mean, she barely even knows you. You should both just give it time. Leo's a heroine, so she's usually busy, but she'll love you if you wait long enough." He was speaking at random trying to comfort her.
She put her arms round him tightly and whispered right into his ear so that her warm breath tickled: "She is a heroine. She worked out how to use her psychic power with no one to teach her. The peoples of our solar system have been able to do it for generations. The good and bad among us could all talk to each other in thought and send out pictures from our imaginations. Um… Psychic projections, is that the word?"
"Well yes, that's how Leo can guess that things like the bank robbery will happen. She gets premonitions about them. Although I don't think she can do a psychic projection."
Kora brought her face close to his and he stopped himself from shrinking back. He didn't want her green mud on his face and he hoped she would realise that without him spelling it out.
She smiled at him. "They look like whatever we want them to look like. I can send a psychic projection that looks like a happy and bright moon face." She grinned, as if she were proud of that.
Really? If she wanted to send a weird face, wouldn't her own do just as well?
She did not seem to mind that he made no reply. She just rambled on; "but bad people who had ugly thoughts would send horrible images. The evil people sent things from nightmares."
Then Kora did it. She leaned close to him, so that her cheek touched his with a squelch. He didn't yell at her, even then. Didn't that speak volumes for his self-control?
"Can you be with me, Josh?"
"We can go on an ... what's the word... an imaginary journey if we join thoughts. Please?"
Josh shook his head emphatically. "I don't know how."
"I can show you if you hold my hands."
Suppressing a sigh, Josh took her gooey green hands in his. Kora closed her eyes so he did the same. And then…
He was aware of Kora's presence with him, but he felt them both shoot up into the ether, far above the bedroom. Millions of stars, cold and jewel bright, surrounded them. He could hear Kora's whisper… "Joined in thought, we can fly…"
With a giddy sensation, he realised they were hurtling over the neighbourhood. The twinkling lights of the houses and streetlamps were laid out far below them, like a velvet blanket studded with stars, mirroring the sky above them. Then suddenly, out of the night, something terrible loomed. A demonic visage like a skull, composed of a million points of blood red light.
A terrible hiss lanced through their minds. "I see you. You cannot hide. There's no escape."