Summary: A random encounter between two airborne aliens marks the beginning of a friendship.
Location: The Sky over the New York Countryside
Where once the skies were the sole province of the birds and rumbling machines that served as testaments to man's engineering prowess, the last decade or so has seen an rising trend of mortal beings taking to the air under their own power. One of these is the green-skinned superhero known as the Martian Manhunter. His fists are out in front of him as he zips through the air, flying to a destination unknown, with his blue cape billowing behind him.
One of those days when the gloom of the clouds overrides what should've been a normally bright and sunny day in the city. And so, inconspicuously, Karolina has risen into the sky, and is now pushing up past the clouds to - quite literally - soak in the sun. A flying 'hero', or person might not be all that surprising or different to the eyes of one who works with the heros that J'onn works with.
But, none of them glow, like Karolina. And, none of them have the contrail of cosmic-like energy that seems to infuse the entirety of her being - hues of soft reds, greens, blues, and yellow interspersed with the very twinkle of starlights that you'd find in the center of a galaxy once out past the planet's horizon is the makeup of her body, and the contrail of her hair.
And, as if that weren't odd enough? She's dressed in street-clothes.
It doesn't take long for the Martian's keen eyes to spot the glowing girl. He blinks and slows a bit as he realizes he does not recognize her, nor is she wearing one of the costumes that proclaim one as a superhero. He swerves slightly and zips right up beside her, keeping pace as she rises. "Hello," he says in a deep, calm voice, trying not to startle her too badly. He's not exactly a normal sight.
So much had Karolina been enjoying the absorbtion of solar radiation that she certainly didn't notice J'onn - the voice startles her, and causes her to 'jump' which, in flight means you actually lose your concentration for a moment - if only a brief half-second. But, just as quickly, her hands move into a self-defensive posture, though she doesn't attack. And, J'onn would easily sense a mixture of fear and bravery in her. She doesn't want to attack, but she's not one to back down, either.
She watches the green one for a long moment, then relaxes when she figures out he's not after her. She smiles, sheepishly, "Um. Hi?"
J'onn just watches her tolerantly as she recovers from her momentary surprise. "Hello," he says again, inclining his head slightly. "Forgive me if I startled you. I merely came to investigate the rather impressive light show. I'm still not entirely used to seeing humans flying under their own power, you see." The Martian smiles faintly. "There was once a time when I could fly from one end of the country to the other and never encounter a soul with the same gift."
Well, it is pretty clear that J'onn is no human, and his words cause Karolina to smile, a bit wider, then she exhales, as if she weren't certain of a few things in her life. She admits, "I'm no human. I thought I was, for a time. But, I'm not." She shrugs, "I'm sorry. Am I bothering people up here? I just came to look at the sun." Which is true enough. But, she's not telling anyone about her dependancy upon it that she doens't know very, very well.
"Not at all," J'onn replies, with a shake of his head. "Though men may piece up and wall off the land, no one has yet figured out how to do the same to the sky." He looks closer at the girl. "Not human, you say? Well, I shouldn't be too surprised. Are you of extraterrestrial origin, or simply a non-human Earth species?"
Yeah, ask her the difficult questions, J'onn. "I'm Majesdanian. But, I've never seen my homeworld. I - don't even know where it is," she admits. "And, even if I did, I really doubt I'd belong. It's a long story." She tries to smile, then. "I - it's not important. But, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one here."
"Ah, I see," J'onn says, a hint of sympathy is normally even tone. "We have something in common, then, for I am, to my knowledge, the only Martian on Earth. The only Martian anywhere, in fact." He closes his red eyes briefly and shakes his head. "But though I bear much love for my homeworld, I have come to love Earth as well. It is a remarkable planet, with a great deal of room for stellar immigrants like us."
"Yeah." There's some sincerity, as well as doubt, in Karolina's voice. It's clear the girl is a bit mixed up, which is likely understandable. She's not half as old as J'onn is, and she carries the knowledge she's here because her parents basically sold her planet and people out as interstellar criminals. "I've made some good friends here," she finally admits. She pauses, "I'm Karolina." But, that's all she gives. No codenames, no last name.
"A pleasure to make your aquaintance, Karolina" J'onn replies. "I am called the Martian Manhunter, but it's something of a mouthful for casual use so you may call me J'onn. I'm glad to hear that you have made friends. I can tell that something in your past is bothering you, but I will not inquire further. I'll simply state that no matter what you feel, now and in the years to come, you are not the first, and you are not alone. Perhaps you can take some small comfort in that."
"I sure feel alone, sometimes," she admits, without really knowing why she's admitting things she hasn't even told Nomad - her newest friend and companion, yet. "I don't know which world I belong in." She frowns, brushes her flowing, flaring, and swirling contrail of energy hair back from her face. "For sixteen years, I grew up thinking I was a normal, everyday, average girl. Then I find out - by accident, I'm not. It changed everything." Boy, did it ever.
J'onn listens attentively, a quiet and contemplative presence at the girl's side. "You found out your true heritage, and it alienated you," he says, more a statement than a guess. "You were no longer who you thought you were, with new problems that no one could truly relate to, or so you felt. Torn between a powerful secret heritage and the desire to simply live a good life." He turns to face her, smiling faintly. "Am I close?"
"You forgot the parents that were sacrificing people to Old Gods to take over the world," comments Karolina, quietly, again not knowing -why- she's telling J'onn this. "But. Yeah. That's close enough."
She looks down, at the clouds below her feet. "We stopped them. They're all dead." Which are two different facts, the telepath might realize. It wasn't Karolina or her friends who dealt those blows. "Most teenagers just say their parents are evil. Think it. My parents wrote the -book- on it."
The Martian shakes his head. "A sad tale, indeed. I am sorry for both the circumstances, and your loss. But I think you are carryng far more of the burden than is your due. Your parents sins are not your own." He pauses for a moment, as if debating something, then asks, "Do you know why I am the last Martian? The true story is not one I tell lightly, though everyone knows that the surface of Mars is now barren and bereft of life."
Pausing, Karolina shakes her head. "I don't," she's forced to admit. "I've been - well, unable to watch too much of any TV or anything, to know what might be going on, in stuff like that." She offers an apologetic smile. Then, she exhales, "I'm sorry, J'onn." She considers him a long moment. "Do you find it easy, to be a hero? I just - I know there are people who worked for my parents. The Pride. And they still might be after me. I - I'm scared," she admits. "Especially without my friends."
"No need to apologize," J'onn says. "I don't bring my my people for pity, but to make a point that we all have tragedies in our lives. What makes a hero is the ability to face that tragedy, survive, and carry on. I dearly miss my people, our culture, but I cannot let my brother's sin weigh me down. I yet live, and will likely continue living for a very long time, and it would be ungrateful of me to spurn that gift by allowing remorse to crush me." He smiles gently. "Life is never easy, and doing things that are worthwhile is likewise difficult. Even for one as powerful as I, it can be hard to do the right thing, and there are things that even I fear. True heroism is knowing that, and doing it anyway. You have enemies, and your allies cannot be by your side at all times. It's only natural to be afraid. A perfectly normal reaction," he adds, with a hint of humor. "But fear is a tool. Master it, let it guide you but not rule, and you'll do fine."
"Thanks," says Karolina, meaning it emphatically. "It's - I haven't talked this much about anything for a long time. I - was feeling like I was all alone," she admits. "And, really didn't think anyone else would ever understand me." Then, her smile turns sad. "I'm - sorry that you do. But, I'm glad, too." Self-consciously, she moves one arm to grip the other. "A friend of mine has me going with her 'on patrol'. We've helped here and there. But it still feels - I don't know. Odd."
But, she isn't saying she doesn't like it.
J'onn chuckles quietly. "Sometimes it can help, just to have someone to talk to. And anytime you feel the need, I'll be more than happy to lend an ear." He grows his ears out abnormally large for a split-second, letting them flop in the wind as they fly before returning them to their usual size. "It can be a hard and dangerous life, fighting crime. But nothing else is as rewarding as the smile on someone's face when you use your powers to save them or their loved ones, when you stop some criminal from victimizing others. It is a large responsibility, should you choose to follow that path, but I think you can handle it."
"I don't want anyone else to hurt," she agrees, "Like I have. It's just a hard choice." She smiles again, hesitantly. "I don't even have a cool costume or a codename, or anything."
J'onn laughs softly. "They're more or less optional. My own codename was given to me by the press, after I mentioned my original occupation back on Mars as a Manhunter. They were our police officers. As far as the costume, it somehow seems to put people at east. If a large green man wearing briefs and suspenders lifts a car over his head, it's just another superhero putting on a show. If a middle-aged man wearing a trenchcoat and hat does the same, it's frightening. I think that's one of the reasons for the backlash against mutants. Most of them look just like everyone else."
"The best I could come up with is Lucy In the Sky. You know. Like the Beatles song?" She gestures, causing the solar energy to drift in disspating contrails from her even slightest movements. "But, thank you, J'onn. I think I have at least some things, clearer in my head. You're right. I can't live my life in what-if's, and in fear. And it helps, too, that you've succeeded, and aren't alone."
"You're very welcome," J'onn replies. "And I was very fond of the Beatles. I never actually met them, but I think they'd love having such a lovely young woman using that name." He chuckles again. "Just keep that feeling, remember it when you're feeling your lowest. You're never truly alone, and there are those who understand. It was an absolute pleasure making your aquaintance, Karolina. Do not hesistate to seek me out if you need help, or just someone to talk to."
That, too, seems to bolster the young woman, "Thank you, J'onn," the says, earnestly. "If you ever want to talk, too, ... I mean, I know you don't know me well, but ...," she trails off. And then manages to finish, "Fair's fair, afterall."
"Indeed, it is," J'onn confirms amiably. "And should I feel the need, rest assured I will seek you out with all due haste. But for now, regretably, I have business to attend to," he says, with a hint of regret in his tone. "Take care, young lady. Until we meet again." With that, he puts on a burst of speed, zooming through the sky into the distance.