Mika's husband was Hank Gunderson, a sweet man who worked at a local tax firm and in his off time enjoyed painting. He only ever painted three subjects.
The first was cuckoo clocks.
The second was birds.
The third was his family.
Hank and Mika had met when Mika was getting her taxes filed by him. It was a relationship that suited both of them well. On their first date they saw Beverly Hills Cop II, and ate Italian. Mika and Hank quoted the movie and laughed. She fell in love with him when he pretended his bread stick was a cigar. He fell in love with her when she walked past strangers with confidence. They had been married for 23 years at this point. Mika and Hank had one daughter, Zoyna. You know her already. That was mostly their lives.
Hank was in his studio, and Mika was getting dinner ready. It was a casserole, nothing fancy. She was not the greatest cook in the world, what with her busy life.
"Zonya, could you get the door?" she said, as the door rang.
"Sure thing," Zonya said.
Zonya answered the door.
"Hi. You're the only person in the universe I know that I haven't sent to the hospital," said Joss, in her suit which had now become distinctly ratty, which wasn't supposed to happen because it was made of near indestructible material, but definitely had happened. Zonya panicked for a brief second, inaudibly. Dogs could hear it, but not people. So could Joss. And then she said, "Hey mom, can I have a friend over for dinner?"
"When?" Mika said.
"No," said Mika.
"Please?" said Zonya.
"I guess," said Mika.
Zonya ran over to the coat closet and got a coat for Joss to hide over her suit, so now she only looked like she was wearing a ratty dress.
To Mika this situation seemed irregular. It wasn't just irregular. It was weird and odd, and also, did Zonya have friends? That was something she wasn't entirely sure of. She went out to the entrance way to introduce herself to Zonya's new friend. She was a nice enough looking girl, with red hair. And ratty beat-up clothing. Something was off. Then it hit her that maybe she should let go of the suspicion and think more positively. Zonya has a friend. Oh, my God! She has a friend. This is the best thing in the world! Why was she suspicious?
She saw the girl staring around at their home. She should hug her! This is great. So, she didn't hug her, but she really wanted to.
"Hi. I don't believe we've ever met," Joss said.
"Josh?" said Mika.
"No, Joss. J-O-S-S."
"Oh! Okay. Hank?" said Mika.
"Yes, yes, my darling?" said Hank, who was shrouded in his studio, working desperately on what surely would be his masterpiece - a bird painting, number 36.
"Zonya made a friend who wants to have dinner with us." Hank rushed out quickly to greet Joss.
"What a pleasure it is to meet you," said Hank, who was a late 40's, early 50's North Dakota gentleman. Joss spied around the room a little bit more. Presumably the house, even though it was cheap, was nice, she thought. This is what people in this universe lived like. Interesting, it's a lot like the other universes, like the one she was from. she did never really grow up in a conventional house. When she first got to earth, you know, the normal earth, the one with superheroes, and aliens, and monsters, and stuff, she lived in the woods for a small period of time, about two months, trying to find Tomorrow Man. He had then invited her to live at his base.
"Thank you," said Joss.
"No, I thank you," said Mika.
The oven went off. "Let me get it," said Hank.
"So are you in Zonya's class?" said Mika.
Joss and Zonya looked at each other the way card counters look at each other when the deck is hot. "Yea, let's go with that," thought Zonya and Joss.
"Joss is a recent transfer student from Fargo," said Zonya.
"Ah honey, the dinner is getting overcooked," said Hank.
Mika quickly ran off, leaving the two girls alone together, and well, it was honestly not that long since they had known each other. It had been like a day, but you know, it was still a while.
"So, I've been hearing reports of a UFO flying around at times and I'm wondering if that was you," said Sonya.
"Yeah? You know what, I'm going to say yes. It's a weird privilege to be a UFO. I'm going to check that off the list," said Joss.
"You've always wanted to be a UFO?" said Zonya.
"No, I have been a UFO, and now I remember. When I was traveling the universe, there was a planet right outside of the Rineon system and they've never made contact with any aliens. It was a weird time I have to say," said Joss.
"It was ... I was gonna say fun, but it was not fun, it was scary and terrifying and they almost killed me."
"I'm sorry," said Zonya.
"No, I mean, it's okay. So Zoe, do people call you that?" said Joss.
"I think my friends would call me that in general, if I had any," said Zonya, er Zoe.
A long awkward pause happened there. It was weird. Both felt uncomfortable.
Joss hugged Zoe hard. She had a friend and she was traveling the universe and seeing all the splendor and wonder. A lot of people tried to get her killed. Although Tomorrow Man was the greatest person in the world, Joss thought, he was not exactly the most open person in a lot of ways. Joss always kind of knew that.
Mika came back into the living room. "Dinner is served, girls."
"Hey, thank you," they said in tandem.
The table was the nicer table, not the table they sat at every night. Inexplicably to Zoe, her family decided that tonight would be the night they all ate at the really fancy table. The meal was meat loaf. They all sat in silence for a few minutes. This family, man, is one of the most awkward ones. Even before this thing, it was a weirdly silent family. Mika finally broke the silence.
"So Joss, how is school going?"
"Um. Okay," said Joss.
Yeah, despite all the things that Joss had seen and was capable of, you have to remember one thing, she was still a teenager in a lot of ways, and okay doesn't mean truly okay, but in some instances it means exactly that. Mika didn't want to press, and neither did Hank. They both were aware that something was up, and not just because it was a school night and Zoe's only friend showed up in the middle of it.
"So ... what do you two do?" said Joss.
"Oh, I'm an accountant and the Missus over here is a ... works as a state trooper."
"Really?" Joss said. Her interest peaked slightly.
"Yeah, it's a fun job," said Mika.
"So you're a police person," said Joss.
"Oh, yes, very much so. I mean It's not fun ... there was this grizzly murder that I got."
"MOM!" said Zoe.
"What?" said Mika.
"Murders and food? Like no, please," said Zoe.
"Okay, okay. Okay." said Mika.
"I'd like to hear about it," said Joss. As she pushed her fork hard on the meatloaf, it seeped through the tangs.
"Shocking case. Two people were shot and there was over 30 thousand dollars on the scene."
In about an hour she was going to get the call about Bev's.
Joss was thinking to herself that Tomorrow Man's best friend had been a detective type by the name of Doc Night Owl, considered by many to be the best detective ever, and after years of destroying his body to fight crime, he had written many how-to books on the subject. Joss read anything about superheros, but she found them to be mostly full of raving about the Illuminati. However it did peek her thoughts about the detective side of the superheros, and so she found this conversation with Mika neat.
"Huh, interesting, very interesting," Joss said.
"So Joss, what is your family like?" said Hank.
"Oh, they're dead," said Joss.
Mika's heart broke. She was a trained police women and she was used to people dying, but it still broke. She wanted to hug the kid.
"I'm so sorry," said Mika.
"I wouldn't worry about it; it was a long time ago," said Joss.
"So, uh, who are you staying with?" said Hank.
Joss let out a big sigh, and rolled her hands in a broad motion. "The woods," she said.
Hank laughed a little bit. He thought it was a joke. Mika didn't.
"Hank, could I see you alone for a minute?"
"Of course, my dear."
They went into the kitchen to talk about Joss. Something was up; they knew that. They assumed that Joss had run away from home, and they had an extra room, so they quickly decided to let her stay with them. While they were talking about this, Joss brought up to Zoe the one time she to had to fight a giant irradiated meatloaf.
"Really, what does a giant irradiated meatloaf even want?" said Zoe.
"To take over the world," said Joss.
"You would be shocked. 8 to 10 times something gets powers they think they are a god and then try to take over the world," said Joss.
Bevs all American. The Hour Erstwhile
"Miss, miss," said Maryam Green in a very quite yell. He had been trying to make eye contact with anyone, but no one noticed him. However they did notice the temperature dropping.