AN: I've had this idea in my head for such a long time, and I finally thought of how to write the first line. It just went on from there! Reviews would be really appreciated. I don't think I've seen an SJA story like this, so I'm trying it out, but I'm not overly confident it's going to work. But enough from me! Enjoy! ;)

Chapter One

Until I was twelve years old, they were just stories. Wonderful stories, yes, but still stories. Mum used to sing me to sleep with the Lullaby of Arcateen, and Dad told me tales of the Abomination and the Veil, when he wanted to scare me. I didn't mind, though. I was a curious kid, always asking questions, and I loved being scared.

But it wasn't real. It was just a fantasy world, Mum and Dad's made-up tales about aliens and monsters. They were stories. I never saw any of it, and when my parents were at work I'd stay with my Granddad, so to me it was just an imaginary game.

And then, one day, I came home from school to find my Mum talking to a cactus, and nothing was ever the same again.

Before I go any further with my story, I suppose I'd better introduce myself. My name is Alana Jane Smith. I'm now almost thirteen, am still very short for my age, with curly brown hair and dark brown eyes, which I inherited from my mum. My grandma always says I look exactly the same as my mum did when they first met.

My grandma is Sarah Jane Smith, and she is one of my favourite people in all the world. She lives in a big house, across the road from my best friend Jake, so I see her nearly every day. I love my grandma's house, it always seems so full of secrets. When I was little, I spent many hours exploring it, every hiding place in every room, and every time I went there seemed to be something different to discover.

There was one place, though, I was never to go in. And despite my inquisitive, inquiring mind, I never did. I never understood why, either, until now. But I'll get to that part soon.

For now, I'll need to fill you in on my mum and the talking cactus.

I was late home from school, because Jake had detention for being cheeky to a teacher, and we always walk home together, no matter what. Grandma says Jake gets his mischievous side from his dad.

The front door was unlocked, and I was taking my school bag off my shoulder, ready to go upstairs and get changed, when I heard an unfamiliar voice, coming from the kitchen.

"Thank you, Mrs Smith. Without your help we would never have been able to obtain the rest of the fuel. We hope that our visit has not been…inconvenient."

Next came my mother's voice. I began creeping through the living room to listen at the door as she said, "Not at all, Mr Varn. Will you be able to commence take-off soon? Only I'm not sure how long we can keep UNIT off the crash site."

"Immediately." came the voice again.

The door was open just a crack, and I could just catch a glimpse of a tall, thin man, standing in front of my mother. And he was green. With spikes.

I couldn't help gasping out loud.

"Who's there?" my mum asked. "Ajay?"

She knew I was there. There was only one thing for it. I opened the door, entered the room, and took a proper, long look at my mum's visitor.

It didn't look like a costume.

"Mum," I asked slowly, "What is happening?"

The cactus coughed. "I suppose I'd better be going. Goodbye, Mrs Smith."

And put his hands together, pressed something on his wrist…and was gone.

He vanished, leaving the two of us just staring at each other, wondering who was going to speak first.

"Maria?" the sound of my dad's voice as he came down the stairs reached my ears, and he entered the room. "Maria, what's happened?"

Mum looked at him, dumbly, then said, "She knows."

"Who does?"

They both looked at me.

"Oh." said Dad, and I couldn't understand his tone, or expression.

"Excuse me?" I said, "Can somebody tell me what is going on? There was a cactus standing in front of me, just a minute ago, I think I deserve some explanations."

"Vinvocci," said dad slowly, "He's a Vinvocci. 'Cactus' is racist."

I was angry at first, angry that they'd kept it all from me. I wasn't a child any more! I felt like they'd lied to me all these years, telling me all those aliens and creatures were just stories.

And then they explained, and I began to understand.

"We were always going to tell you, one day," said Mum. "But not while you're so young. Things…could have happened."

"It's dangerous," said Dad, "The universe is a big place. There's a lot of evil things out there, things that don't care if they destroy a whole planet, let alone one little girl."

"I'm not a little girl," I said stubbornly.

"We know." said Mum. "We only wanted to protect you."

"You could still have told me," I argued, "I wouldn't have gone off and fought aliens on my own, you know."

"Wouldn't you?" they both said at the same time.

"Well…yes," I said, and I had to laugh.

They smiled too, and for a little while, it was enough. But there was still something they were hiding from me, I could sense it.

I was quiet all day the next day at school, and Jake noticed. But because he's Jake, he didn't really ask me about it, just kept on trying to make me laugh, which got him into even more trouble than he already does.

Jake is my best friend in all the world. He's the same age as me, only taller, and with dark skin, as his dad's family's from Africa and his mum's is from India. He loves sport, and is always telling me I should play football too, only I'm terrible at it. His other passion is cooking, only he made it quite clear when we were ten years old that if I ever told anyone at school that, he'd never talk to me again. He doesn't mean it, though. We're inseparable.

He's always laughing at me for using long words like 'inseparable', too. I might look very like my mum, but my grandma says I get my brains from my dad. When started school, the teacher asked me to do an IQ test, and I scored 186, which means I'm a genius, but no-one at school knows that, except Jake of course. I tell Jake almost everything, and he tells me everything too.

Only that first day though, I didn't tell him anything about what I'd found out. It was like some big shadow looming behind me, and if I talked about it I was scared it would swallow me up.