Star Blazers, Space Battleship Yamato, and all related names and elements are copyright © 1998 by Voyager Entertainment, Inc. and Leiji Matsumoto. Star Blazers is a registered trademark of Jupiter Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Nota Bene: This work of prose is inspired by the original North American Star Blazers series, and is also inspired by Uchu Senkan Yamato to a lesser degree. However, some events and character depictions may deviate from the accepted standard. This is a work of fanfiction by “Wicked Good Grrrl” and is her property.
“Darkest Before Dawn”
by Wicked Good Grrrl
The evening was a rousing success. Venture and Wildstar were just shy of the legal drinking age, and looked old enough to pass. That and they had temporarily changed back into their standard “blues” meant that most anyone would buy them a drink and few would ask for their ID.
Wildstar wanted to go back to Alex’s old apartment for the night. Venture tried to coax Wildstar into his own bed (two futon on the floor from his Traditionalist period), but Wildstar refused. “Alex’s,” he said, jabbing a finger at the next room.
Alex’s room was nearly as bare, though with slightly better furniture. Venture half-dragged, half-toppled Wildstar across the bed. “Tim-berrrr!” he sang, and pleased with his drunken wit, began to giggle.
Wildstar laid face down, half-on, half-off the bed, fully clothed, in his stocking feet. “Don’t puke on my bed,” he warned.
“Don’t puke on your brother’s bed,” Venture chuckled. He started to laugh so hard he leaned heavily against the door jamb and slid down to the floor. Minutes later he realized Wildstar was sobbing quietly.
“I can’t feel him any more. He’s really gone now,” he wept. He clutched at the quilt covering the bed and scrubbed at his face with it. “Alex. Mom. Dad. My grandparents, all my aunts, uncles and cousins…. They’re all gone!”
Venture pulled himself over and clumsily pushed the lower half of Wildstar’s body onto the bed. He took fifteen minutes looking for a blanket, returned, and realized Wildstar was sound asleep.
When he’d managed to spread most of the blanket over Wildstar, he stumbled off to crash on the futon.
IQ-9 was dark and quiet while he was recharging, plugged into a wall socket in Nova’s bedroom.
Nova Blackwell was sleeping fitfully after . She’d been so exhausted from a day of breaking up with Will and going where she was needed at the hospital, that she’d made supper from a glass of strawberry milk and fallen into bed at seven.
Nova stirred, and shifted the pillow so she had a cool spot. She hugged her stuffed-toy white cat and kicked off half her covers in an attempt to get comfortable. Momma had left for a shift at her job; she was the CEO of a boutique telecommunications company. She’d peeked into Nova’s room before she left. Nova pretended she was still asleep.
She stared at her clock, the white cat (a repeat of her stuffed toy) sitting atop a pink-white-and-yellow teacup, a translucent plastic “lemon slice” that lit up for a nightlight. Twelve-thirty.
IQ-9 started softly blinking. I left him patched into the Net, she thought. He’ll keep cycling like that if I don’t shut off the connection.
Nova got up and padded over the soft, pink rug to IQ. When she took the jack out, IQ protested. Nova, irrationally overcome, knelt and hugged IQ. “I’m very tired, but I’m not sleeping well. I can’t have you blinking and keeping me up. I’m sorry.”
To his credit, he didn’t pull up her nightie, but patted her gently on the back. “It’s-OK. I-can-do-your-searches-later.”
Nova sat back on her heels for a moment. “Are you trying to help me with my exam-cramming?”
She smiled and went back to bed. That IQ said he was helping her provided the comfort she needed to sleep the rest of the night.
An alert intelligence officer in EDF forensics noticed some funny pings in the system.
Officer Kobe Makeba lifted his rimless half-glasses from where they hung on a braided red cord and put them on. It was oh-one-hundred, and he’d been on since fifteen-hundred the previous afternoon. Makeba had been running a diagnostic on the audio of a conversation between Earth Commander Charles Singleton and Captain Abraham Avatar. There was a click or a hitch at one point he could hear, very faintly. It had taken him listening a dozen times before he could make it out, and even then he wasn’t sure. He’d been a jazz fan for twenty years, and had an ear for minute differences in tone, pitch, meter and tempo. Even then, he might have missed that anomaly in the recording.
There had been, however, another equally alert and intuitive officer on duty. Jesse Cho had noticed unusual reference-seeking activity on the Net, dealing with what military personnel called “the Old Wreck” and “the Big Twist”. The entirety of available information on the `Net had been scanned and all three-million-plus hits available on “the Old Wreck” had been read. Those sites with a particular relevance had been downloaded while Singleton’s and Avatar’s conversation was still taking place.
In the space of seventy-five seconds.
The “ghost” or whatever it was had then looked around for information on “the Big Twist” and found nothing at the time. Then there had been another search at twenty-, twenty-three and zero-hundred-and-thirty. It found the only five hits it was going to find, and downloaded the files from the supposedly-unhackable military sites.
Makeba squinted at his computer screen. He was dead cert there was the positronic signature of the mystery info-thief.
“`Hol-ee Smoke, Amos’,” he swore. “There’s our ‘haint’.”
A little more comparison of the signature with those on file, they would know the make, model and series of the computer. Then the National Ration Board records would reveal who owned it….
Several miles away, at Blackwell Telecommunications, Barbara Blackwell had overheard some bad news.
She was in a restroom clutching at the white porcelain of a wall sink, trying to will away the rubberiness of her legs and the sudden metallic taste of panic in her mouth. At last she knew she was fighting a losing battle, began to cry, and sat hard on the cold tiled floor. Her brioche up-do caught on the lip of the sink, and her hair went into disarray.
Mrs. Blackwell’s company geeked the tenuous connections to the fragile remaining communications satellite network. Most of her company’s work was to provide “scoop” conferences for the major news networks, and to facilitate international business meetings. She was the only one with a military clearance and handled the satellite conferencing for the EDF. Tonight the subject of the conference had been a far-traveled alien message with the promise of technology that could save Earth. Yet all Mrs. Blackwell could take in was what one of the military scientists had said: the radioactive materials dispersed by the planet bombs were in such abundance that Earth was dying. It had become increasingly impossible to protect the dwindling water supply from irradiation. Deadly dusts sifted into airlocks, solar and communication shafts and transportation bays, there to waft or be tracked into the underground cities. A good sand storm and a surface breach could be a death sentence.
“A year,” Barbara Blackwell sobbed. “My daughter only has a year!” She cupped the nape of her neck on the front edge of the sink. If I could buy safe passage for you off this planet, Nova, I would, she thought. But who could I give everything I own, just to buy you time? She was seized with the necessity of finding a way, calling in favors and finding out who needed their palm greased. First, she had to leave the ladies’ room.
“Pull! Yourself! Together!” she scolded herself aloud. She banged her fists on the floor. She didn’t care that she might scratch or bruise her hands. No one ever caught her crying. She was too professional.
Venture woke to a prize-winning hangover and the faint odor of rice and tea. It was five-thirty in the morning but he couldn’t sleep for the activity he sensed in the kitchen. He caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror as he went to relieve himself: awful! There was a damp towel neatly hung over the shower rod, further evidence that Wildstar was up.
The prayer-alcove in the main room already had in it Wildstar’s favorite statue of Amaterasu Omikami and a photo of Alex, beribboned in mourning. Venture imagined Wildstar had been up for several hours with his chronic insomnia. When he shuffled into the kitchen, he found Wildstar looked, if possible, worse than himself. Wildstar’s eyes were glazed, red and narrowed. He looked stringy and vulnerable in g.i. boxers and sleeveless undershirt, his hair tied back in a tiny chomage. Venture registered it but didn’t understand why Wildstar would have his hair in a “samurai topknot”.
Wildstar had been spooning rice out of the cooker. He poured a bowl of pale green tea and handed it to Venture. The tea had something else in it, something that smelled vaguely unpleasant.
Venture took a sip and nearly gagged. His gorge threatened high in his throat. “Euw, what’s in this?”
Wildstar gave him a baleful look. “You don’t want to know. It’s good for what ails us. Finish it.”
“You trying to make me sick?”
“If you do throw up, you’ll be over the hangover that much faster. Besides, you need to rehydrate and eat something if we’re going to…”
Venture clued in to the gym duffel and the long, narrow over-the-shoulder carrier propped neatly by the door.
“You can’t be serious! You probably have a bigger headache than me and you want us to go practice kendo? I want to go back to bed and sleep ‘til about fifteen-hundred!”
“The Academy gym’s been open since oh-four-hundred. Time’s a-wasting, soldier.”