The Alpha Wave Emitter
Mum grabbed a branch and whacked the Xarkron-controlled pile of debris hard. It exploded and twigs and rancid fish scales flew in all directions.
The hollow voice of the Xarkron echoed in their minds:
"Back in the cove where no one ever goes,
We'll grind your skin and make them into clothes.
Deep in the cave where light can't even reach,
They'll find your remains scattered on the beach."
More of that morbid Xarkron poetry. This fragment of verse sounded as though it might be pirate themed.
"None of these blokes are trying for poet laureate," observed Rod.
"From the icy oceans of Xarkron, to the currents of space, we'll wreak havoc," giggled the Xarkron. Another of his puppets emerged from the swamp, a construct of fishbone and fragments of rusty metal. Kora waved her gloved hands frantically, her slimy face contorted in effort. The monstrosity halted and then staggered backwards, twitching and flailing – undoubtedly the Xarkron, wherever he was, was struggling to regain control. Josh's heart sank as yet another arose from the swamp.
"I'll get this one," said Mum. She strode forwards and Josh made an uncertain step forward too.
"Stay back!" yelled Kora and Mum, both turning their faces towards him and glaring.
"You let 'em push you around, Josh?" said Rod, taking a swig from his hipflask.
"Ignore your grandpa, he's full of bad advice," said Mum coolly. The Xarkron's debris-puppet swung a rope with a rusty hook at her, but she ducked and struck it hard with the branch, knocking it flying. Kora gave a hoarse cry and the other puppet burst apart from the conflicting psychic forces.
Then Josh saw the outline of another Xarkron arising from the fetid swamp. The twisting, blurring outline of another Xarkron who seemed to distort the very air around him. A ring of debris-monsters arose around him in a circle.
Kora yelled again, her misshapen mask of a face stretching as her mouth went wide. The debris piles began to twitch, their metal, wooden and bony limbs flailing as the she and the Xarkron tried to wrest control from each other.
Mum flung her branch hard at the Xarkron standing in the swamp, but it stopped short, as though it had it an invisible wall.
"Help, now!" she yelled at Rod, her pale cheeks flushing pink and her eyes bright with anger.
"Someone ought'a do something about the Xarkron," remarked Rod quite casually. "Something like this?"
He held up something that looked like a pen and pointed it at the Xarkron. At once, the Xarkron's yell exploded in all their minds and the alien collapsed. The debris-monsters all fell to pieces. The air around the alien ceased to shimmer and blur. Now the Xarkron in his true form was revealed.
Josh saw a spindly, grey, humanoid creature, with a disproportionately large, egg shaped head, swathed in a cloak of some shimmering, silvery metallic cloth. The Xarkron looked up at them. He had no mouth, but he did have shimmering, translucent eyes. In the eyes, mists swirled like storm clouds. Rod pointed the pen at him again and he collapsed.
"Amazing!" said Josh.
"Thanks, Josh, I'm proud of this bad boy," said Rod. "It's an alpha-wave emitter. Sends concentrated blasts that disrupt neural patterns of aliens that are psychically powerful."
Kora stared at Rod, her dark eyes wide, then she went over to Josh, clutching at him with her gloved hands and going through that routine of checking him over for signs of injury, just like she had done at the Zoo.
"You could have used that all along and you let us struggle?" said Mum, angrily.
"Well, it was pretty funny," said Rod, and he took another swig from his hip flask.
"You are dangerously irresponsible," stormed Mum.
"Don't wanna disappoint," said Rod, belching at her.
Kora gripped Josh by the shoulders and peered into his eyes. Her glistening mask could not move as much as a human face, so it was sometimes difficult to guess what she was thinking just by looking at her. Her gunge tinged, dark eyes just had that oblique, staring expression they usually did.
"I wasn't frightened this time," he said testily.
"I know, I know." Her eyes went misty for a moment and her slimy face creased into a smile, making a slight squelchy sound as her features moved. What was she thinking about that made her smile?
Later, the Xarkron was imprisoned in the basement with a metal collar strapped around his head. Josh thought that his cell looked like a cylindrical cube made of glass, although knowing Rod, that "glass" must be bullet proof at the very least.
"Her kind are extinct! She's a slimy fossil," screamed the voice of the Xarkron in their minds. "And the rest of you are just monkeys! Do you suppose apes in suits can keep me fettered?"
Rod took a swig from his hipflask. "The slime girl's gotta do her stuff." He hiccoughed.
Mum narrowed her eyes. "I'm warning you, Dad, you are talking about my daughter."
"Alright, alright, sheesh. Kora's got to try and probe the Xarkron's mind."
"Keep that creature of slime away!" screeched the Xarkron telepathically.
"Do you really think you have a say in it?" said Rod.
Josh squeezed Kora's gloved hand. Mum patted her on the shoulder. "You can do it, dear."
Rod pressed a few buttons on a panel on the wall and the front of the Xarkron's glass prison slid aside. The Xarkron's headband, whatever it was, glowed. Josh supposed it kept the Xarkron from moving, although he didn't understand how that could work.
Kora advanced on the Xarkron and removed one of her gloves. "So sorry… I'm afraid this may hurt." She gritted her teeth and reached out with her green, clay fingers.
"Keep that creature away!" Shrieked the Xarkron.
"I'll be careful." Kora touched the other alien's forehead and gave a little cry.
Immediately images flashed through Josh's mind. Rough, storm tossed seas and icebergs. Tentacled monstrosities reared up through the towering waves and in the sombre sky, Josh recognised Aetherium's sun from the images Kora had shown him of her world with her special locket. Only in this sky it shone coldly and was less than half the size and brightness it had had in Aetherium's sky.
Then Josh saw a ship made of gnarled, twisted, black wood… The towering figure of Null, distorting and blurring the air around him. "We'll smash those slack brained yokels!" screamed Null, waving his obsidian Sword of Spite in the air.
The gnarled ship ran aground on a stony beach where there could be seen the spindly forms of grey and black Xarkrons gathering ghostly grey kelp. The pirates swarmed ashore, whooping and yelling, cutting everyone down with their swords…
The vision faded and then Null's blazing, red eyes filled Josh's vision. "Our plan is forbidden knowledge, alien scum!"
Kora gave a cry and released the Xarkron and the strange visions faded.
"Null has put a mental block in him," said Kora. "I can't break it without killing him."
"Then do it anyway," suggested Rod.
"Just shut up," snapped Mum. She placed an arm around Kora's shoulder. "Alright dear. We'll arm you with the alpha wave emitter. That'll be enough for school."
"I could see what you saw in the Xarkron's mind," said Josh as he and Kora started packing. "Why was that?"
"Could you, Josh?" she gazed at him. "If we shared thoughts, that means you're letting me in." She was probably struggling to find the right English words. "You're beginning to love me back? I hope so. I understand you were not completely happy on the first day with me here."
Kora had expected it then?
"You just saw random scenes on the planet Xarkron? That's all I saw."
"Yes. Just one of the pirate's memories."
"Xarkron has big oceans, I suppose? Like Earth."
"A bit. Xarkron's ice caps are larger and there are icebergs near their equator. And war. And ruthless pirates. But anyway…" She scrunched her nose, moving her slimy features weirdly. The sunlight shone off her green nose, cheeks and forehead. "I'm glad you're letting me in. Giving me some love back. We can share nicer thoughts than the pirates now. My Akhtorrsh loved me, but a Grakk'knarooll cannot share all my hopes and dreams. We can do more. Although…" she leaned close to him, her cold breath tickling his ear. "Akhtorrsh liked it when I cleaned him. You can clean a Grakk'knarooll with your slime. You put slime on him and when it flakes off, he is cleaner. I kept my little Akhtorrsh clean."
"Well humans don't like that."
"Hmm. Never try, never know." Kora shrugged. "I could clean you."
"I can keep clean without it." He didn't need her doing anything gross.
She gazed out of the window. "I hope the alpha wave emitter works as well as it did today. A storm is coming."
The next morning they walked together back to school again, Kora back in her human disguise and sucking on another pink lollipop to stain her tongue pink.
"Is the alpha wave emitter safe?"
Kora was still holding the lollipop in her mouth. She nodded and patted her pocket. Rod's invention had certainly been effective against the Xarkron invader yesterday. Surely that meant Null and his crew were no longer a threat? At least, Josh hoped so…
Kora was in Josh's math set. They had a tiny desk to themselves in one corner. Josh remembered how embarrassing he would have thought this was when she first arrived, but now he knew it was for the best. They put their heads together, murmuring about the simultaneous equations. It was just as well that this type of equation is a lot easier than the ones that become before and after in the syllabus. Kora thought so too, and managed them fairly easily, although at one point, she forgot herself and started writing in weird, Aetherial numerals instead of Roman ones.
Sam, another boy at a desk in front of them turned and muttered loudly, "E.T. phone home." Undoubtedly he thought himself brilliantly witty, insinuating that he thought they were like aliens. Little did he suspect that Kora really was.
Kora looked up. "I did not get that."
"Don't talk," said the teacher.
Kora could not take part in gym class. Even if she played something like dodgeball, it would be much too conspicuous; she was so much stronger than the Earth kids. And then there was the fact that they would be doing a swimming class instead of gym, later that term. If she jumped in the pool, the results would be very conspicuous indeed, not to mention really gross. So Mum had given her a note that excused her from gym class in perpetuity. It was convenient that as a doctor, Mum could give a paediatrician's and a parent's permission at once. Josh wished he could be excused gym, but no such luck. Kora had alien privilege.
Kora preferred to watch the gym class instead of her alternative option of doing her homework in the library. She sat quietly on a bench and watched, her pasty human face as still as her mask-like alien one.
Josh really disliked dodgeball. For one thing, it gave Nob the bully an excuse to pick on him and make it seem allowed. He flung a ball at Josh so hard that it knocked him on the head with enough force to send him staggering to the floor.
The sound of a whistle and Kora's raspy voice from nearby. "You should not have done that." It seemed she had got up off the bench and strode straight onto the gym floor.
Someone yelled at her to get off the floor, but Josh could hear Coach suggesting that she try to compete with Nob at dodgeball one on one. Coach was weird. Josh struggled to his feet.
Really this was no contest. Kora dodged a ball with lightening swiftness and then flung a ball so hard that Nob collapsed onto the floor amidst laughter and jeers.
Nob retreated into the bathroom after the embarrassing fiasco in the gym. Kora Cooper had made him a complete laughing stock a second time – by flooring him yet again. He did not admit even to himself that he was afraid of her. He just about grasped that she was unnaturally strong… but then why was she excused from gym?
Nob could not piece it together, but he would have help…
"Look up!" An icy hissing voice coming from nowhere. "Look up now!"
Nob looked up dully. There were two glaring red eyes staring out of the bathroom mirror.
"You would like to get the Cooper's, wouldn't you Nob? I want that too. She has found a way to defeat us. She is too powerful for us to stop by force, but listen! There is another way. You are going to help us, Nob, and get your revenge. Listen! Revenge is at hand!"