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 inspired by Uchuu Senkan Yamato to a lesser degree. However, some events and character depictions may deviate from the accepted standard. This is a work of fan fiction by “Wicked Good Grrrl” (a.k.a. Andrea “Ande” Lyon) and is her property.
O-BON FESTIVAL DAYS
By Andrea "Ande"
On that August day in 2199, when the Earth Defense Fleet was to go into battle against the Gamilons at Pluto, Captain Abraham Avatar came up with a haiku that was almost satisfactory:
Good land and water.
For these necessary things
I shall fight while I live.
A member of the press had asked Avatar “what you’re fighting for” just before Avatar had taken off on the Plutonian Armada. He’d answered, “Good land and water”. A forty-some-odd year career in the military had pressed his thoughts and speech into a kind of bone-crunching immediacy and economy. He’d brooded for a decade over images of shrinking seas and blasted continents; what else really mattered?
Yet it was Avatar’s economy-of-words that made him a man given to thinking, and sometimes speaking, in haiku. He heard himself verbalize that five-syllable phrase, and then found himself puzzling over it in odd moments as he tried to come up with the next two lines. But haiku usually contained an element of transience or death, and Avatar would not write about a dead Earth.
What did it say that the solution to finishing the haiku was to implicate his own mortality?
I shall fight while I live..., he thought. Grim. How long a time would he fight and live?
It was during O-bon, when the Japanese honored and feted the dead. Avatar missed his late wife Sarah even more around this time of year. Sarah had been the sort of woman who liked her beer straight from the can, even when she was dressed up. She had been the better card player of the two of them, and Avatar had a long, successful career at card-playing. But these were only two of her amusing qualities, and not among her best qualities. She was very brave and smart, and he thought she would have liked to serve in the military; she would have been good at it. Yet the custom of military equality--women and men serving equally, alongside each other--had eroded by the time Sarah and he were young. So much progress had been undone in the years of global warfare. Now that warfare had gone from global to interstellar, would women even want to serve?
Ironically, Sarah might have been alive today if she’d served...
Although it had been a sorrow to lose her, there was the mercy she’d died before the Gamilons began their campaign on Earth. She’d been gone even before they blew up the tenth planet, Minerva, as an example of their obscene might. She would have known how far away Minerva was, and would have understood the attendant danger.
Her headstone, grave site, even her ashes had been vaporized and scattered in the planet-bombings of 2189.
The senior officer-on-deck stood and rapped out, “Captain on the bridge!” as Avatar came out of the ready room. All hands stood in their places and saluted briskly.
Avatar returned the courtesy and replied, “At ease.” The in-flight, pre-battle chorus resumed as the crew turned back to their work.
The bridge was lit here-and-there with the green glow of various view screens. Chimes, cheeps and “quiet alarms” punctuated the background hum and growl of the ship in motion. There was the low human chatter of his bridge officers taking and giving reports, and the slightly tinny murmur of disembodied voices coming over the intra- and inter-ship comm’ links.
Avatar shivered. Why was he so cold of late, and more tired than usual? Shipboard temperature was usually very comfortable, but he’d suffered a chill, now, for about a month. Normally he disliked the ascot that was part of the higher officer’s uniform, though he’d never let on. The ascot was a damned affectation, made him look neckless, and it fought with his beard, which pilled the silk. Now he was grateful for the extra layer.
“Location, please,” he requested.
“We’re coming within range of Pluto, sir. Enemy has not yet made their presence known.”
“Three-hundred mega-meters per hour, sir.”
“ETA at Gamilon airspace?”
“We’ll be there in about half-an-hour, Captain.”
“Nearest EDF vessel?”
“Missile Ship 17, the Yukikaze, commanded by Captain Alexander Wildstar, sir.”
Captain Alexander Wildstar. Avatar had been grooming hotshot Alex Wildstar for his own captaincy as if it was a way to make up for the past. Wildstar’s parents had died ten years ago, when he was eighteen. Something about that had struck a chord with Avatar, perhaps his guilt about not being much at home. As if in gratitude, Wildstar and Yukikaze clung to Avatar’s ship like a faithful hound.
Alex had a younger brother who was now about eighteen, and was also a recent Academy graduate…Darwin? Darrell?
Ensign Song, the communications officer, piped up and interrupted Avatar’s thoughts. Said ensign was one of those jug-eared, boyish men who always looked a trifle too young, until they hit the half-century mark. “Would you like to talk to anyone? I can open up a private channel.”
The good-hearted and discrete ensign knew that Avatar’s son was within hailing range. Avatar had spoken with Abe, Jr. the night before. The conversation had been stiff, not as a father talking to his son, but as a superior officer talking to someone he commanded. Abe, Jr. was accustomed to knowing him as a military officer before really knowing him as a father, and that had forced both of them into roles.
Avatar decided he didn’t need to talk to Captain Wildstar either.
“No thank you, Ensign. I’ve already said what needs to be said. Maybe later.”
The Earth Defense Fleet intel' had suspected that the Gamilon planet bombs were being launched from a base on Pluto. This sortie was intended to put Earth ships where they could infiltrate to the surface and find that base. Trouble was the resources and manpower were stretched very thin. In some instances there had been as little as three days to prepare and repair ships and get thousands of men ready.
“Within captured Gamilon airspace about Pluto, Captain Avatar.”
“They’ll scramble their ships very shortly, people. Keep a sharp eye on the face of that planet.”
“Activity spotted in orbit around the Plutonian equator, sir,” the radar operator reported.
“Gamilon fleet is already in the air.”
“One hundred ships in the near approach. Gamilon fighters…innumerable…”
“Good God!” someone cried. “The rest of the Pluto-Gamilon fleet is coming about from the other side of the planet!”
“I asked for estimated numbers, ensign! How many does that make now?” Avatar barked.
“Sorry, sir! One-hundred-fifty ships…two hundred…they’re still coming!”
“Estimated five-hundred small fighter craft already debarked, sir,” the assistant radar chief reported.
Already one plane for every two of our ships, Avatar thought. “How many Gamilon carriers?”
“There are currently five Gamilon carriers in the air, sir.”
“Estimated number of planes they’re carrying?”
The ensign in charge of crunching the numbers turned in Avatar’s direction, looking sick. “Those carriers hold up to two hundred small fighter craft apiece, sir.”
Avatar’s stomach twisted. He took a couple of deep breaths. It already looked like the EDF was outmanned and outgunned.
Into the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred…
Inopportune piece of poetry to remember right now…
“Get a scan on their power levels. Figure out where they are in their firing cycles.”
“Yes, sir…Gamilons are ready to commence firing.”
“Closest enemy carrier five mega-meters away, at a stop, sir. Preparing to discharge complement of small fighter craft.”
“Open channel to all EDF carriers!”
“Attention, all carriers! Commence debarkment of all EDF fighters!”
The EDF had put most of its energy into building and maintaining ships instead of planes. There were fighter squadrons here and there under EDF command, but the top brass were more concerned about having the larger ships. Avatar had argued for, and lost, a greater complement of warplanes within the Fleet. He’d read enough history to know that one couldn’t assert any naval superiority without plenty of small fighter craft. Someone had forgotten their history. A raft of someones…
“Captain, Gamilons have trained their guns and ordnance at us. We are within firing range of their battleships.”
“Gunnery, ordnance…at the ready,” Avatar commanded.
At the gunnery battle station he could hear the creaking and ticking of controls being set, and weaponry being trained on the Gamilons. If things on Earth had been different, they would have had computer systems instead of all this manual crap. God knew that the Gamilons had no shortage of computer systems…and the Gamilons had destroyed Terran abilities to keep their own systems. From communication satellites to Avatar’s old laptop, electro-magnetic pulses from planet bombs regularly “murdered” Terran electronics.
“Aim carefully, men. The Gamilons won’t let us have a second chance.”
There was a chirpy hail-chime from communications that indicated a message coming in from a Gamilon ship. Ensign Song reported the same and added, “Switching on translator, sir.”
Of course, Avatar thought grumpily.
After listening to the transmission, Song reported. “Sir, the commander of the Gamilon fleet has just called for our immediate surrender. They remind us that we are outnumbered and they know we are the last of the remaining Earth Defense Fleet.”
The ensign hesitated before he continued. “What shall I tell the Gamilons, sir?”
Avatar knew immediately what he’d like to say to the Gamilons. He squelched what he wanted to say in favor of something that wasn’t obscene.
“Tell them they’re idiots.”
“I said, ‘Idiots’!”
Within seconds the opening salvo was fired into the midst of the EDF ships. A battleship, the Ararat, manned primarily by Turks and Armenians, was the first vessel to flame and shatter into nothing.
Apparently the Gamilon translating devices caught all the nuances of his reply, Avatar thought. One last chance to denounce the enemy was as good as they would get.
Several minutes into the fray, it was apparent the enemy was going to knock them out of the sky.
At the same time, radar began picking up signals of a large craft--neither EDF nor Gamilon--streaking towards the battle-site.
“Coming in very fast, sir!” the radar operator said.
Moreover, the approach of said craft spooked the Gamilon fleet into some unprecedented behavior. Where several enemy battle- and missile ships were lined up for clean shots at EDF vessels, they threw themselves to port, starboard, and even abaft...and re-trained their weaponry on the incoming ship.
“No recognizable markings,” someone reported. “A ship of this kind has never been seen before, at least in this part of the galaxy.”
“Its speed and size says it comes from outside our galaxy, ensign,” Avatar judged. “We’ll inspect any available footage later...”
...if we survive...
“...and make a record of anything that could identify it. Radar! Analysis!”
“Have you any reading on its trajectory and bearing?”
The unidentifiable stellar craft streaked through the midst of the EDF and Gamilon fleets. EDF held their fire and tried to keep out of the way. The Gamilons were not so cautious or courteous.
Avatar watched the barrage of enemy fire peppering the stellar craft as it whizzed past. All of the Gamilons were bombarding that craft...
What is it about that ship that has the Gamilons scared? Avatar wondered.
“Captain Avatar!” reported analysis. “Discordant readings on flight path of that ship. Closest we can figure, it was on a course for Earth. Gamilon bombardment has forced it into a possible collision course with Mars!”
“Relay a warning to all Martian bases, then!”
The stellar craft held up through the Gamilon barrage, but was clearly wounded. Part of its hull was beginning to burn and come apart.
One Gamilon battleship which was flying backward kept up a steady rain of fire even after the stellar craft howled past it. That Gamilon ship--fortuitously for the Gamilons, not so for the EDF--was in line with Avatar’s Biwa-ko. The latter was to be on the receiving end of the unintended Parthian shot.
Avatar’s ship was dealt a crashing blow on the starboard side. Avatar’s balance was shifted so quickly, it was if he’d walked on a slick of ice. He’d flung his right arm up and out for balance but couldn’t right himself. He did a sort of half-gainer in the air before he landed hard on the deck. There was a nasty, popping crunch somewhere near his right shoulder joint. Dislocated or worse? It would explain why he couldn’t move that arm now...
He got up and looked around the bridge. Several people had been knocked down, but were struggling to their places even now. “Everybody all right?”
“Yes, sir,” echoed around him, even from Ensign Song, now bleeding freely from a forehead gash. Face plant into his console? His crew would deny even serious hurt just to be able to keep fighting. This was, militarily speaking, just as it should be...
A medic approached Avatar, who was by now holding up his injured arm with his left hand. “Let me take a look at that arm then get you down to sick bay...”
“Nothing doing!” Avatar barked. “See to Ensign Song--blood’s running into his eyes. Make sure he’s not concussed. I’ll be all right.”
Avatar watched as hundreds of Earth Fleet ships popped and exploded all around. There was no color in the fires but the harsh glare of nuclear white. Each dying ship seemed to provide its own O-bon light. Large hunks of Fleet scrap started to drift everywhere, as candles floating on a river...
“We’re pulling out now...”
...before this debacle becomes a tragedy, Avatar thought. Yet such thoughts couldn’t be spoken aloud. “There’ll be world and time enough to fight another day. Let’s go home.”
He wondered how the reclamation of Yamato was progressing.
Yoshida Mitsuru, of her crew, had been able to record her last horrific moments in a sort of after-the-fact diary he’d kept two-hundred-fifty years ago. Yet he was also able to report humorous, beautiful, spiritually uplifting incidents that happened even as Yamato sailed to her death. Avatar smiled inwardly, just a little, at seeing his jug-eared ensign at his post, two new butterfly closures above his eye and a trickle of dried blood down his temple, very seriously taking reports from all survivors. Now if Avatar could pull the imaginary short-knife out of his shoulder, he might even be able to laugh at himself. How he must have looked making that deck-dive..!
Eventually, the EDF-Space Navy fleet was reduced to just Avatar’s ship Biwa-ko and Missile Ship Seventeen. Avatar hailed the latter. “Captain Wildstar, this is Captain Abraham Avatar. Come in, Wildstar!”
“Captain Wildstar reporting. How are you, sir?”
One of the medics standing behind Avatar had managed--rather dexterously--to get a strip bandage wound once around Avatar’s right forearm and tie the long tails around his neck: a temporary sling. “I’ve had better days, and I suspect you have, too. Be ready to beat a retreat.”
“Ready, sir, but one caveat...”
“As long as there are only the two of us, we need to retreat in a formation where one of us can guard against the Gamilons. I’ve got a smaller crew but a better range of firepower...”
Not entirely true, but Avatar wouldn’t argue that point with some of his systems damaged or off-line.
“...so you should go on ahead. If it comes to that, you will bring home more souls than I, should you survive.”
“We leave together or not at all!” Avatar commanded. Wildstar was a stubborn one, and if he just spoke with enough authority... “The Gamilons are just toying with us right now, and we play into their hands if we split up.”
“There’s no one protecting your rear, Captain! And you’ve got four-hundred-seventy personnel on your ship compared to my twenty! The Gamilons will catch up any minute now!”
Alarmed, Avatar barked at Wildstar, “You can’t reduce your strategy to a mathematical equation! Repeat, we leave together, and that’s an order!”
“Can’t talk now, Captain Avatar. I’ll catch up with you later!”
Wildstar was determined to his course of action. He’d killed the radio connection between the Yukikaze and Biwa-ko before Avatar could completely get out the words, “Good luck, Wildstar.”
Avatar still felt as if he’d been bayoneted near his right shoulder joint, and it was growing difficult to breathe. Was he having a heart attack, or was it the shock of watching the young officer go to his death, or both?
The Yukikaze drifted further behind, and the Gamilons fell into ring formation around it.
Why would the enemy go after a smaller ship?
The Gamilons were cowards! Bullies! Damn them!
Maybe there would be four-hundred-seventy survivors to tell of this Gamilon contempt for Earth’s warriors.
The Gamilon ships opened fire on the Yukikaze, and they left the Biwa-ko alone. Avatar watched the doomed ship open fire with all available weaponry... How magnificently it flared before its brief candle died!
Namu amida butsu, Avatar prayed.
Yukikaze had foundered to nearly a dead stop and began falling, falling in a decaying orbit near Saturn. The hull had been thoroughly strafed.
He imagined he could see someone on the bridge saluting...
But a ship wasn’t supposed to fall like that...
A brighter flare erupted. The concussion followed as that ship exploded...
Avatar steadied himself on the edge of one of the instrument consoles, and strained his eyes for some evidence someone had survived...
He remembered the old tradition of the captain going down with his ship. During WWII, Japanese officers would lash themselves to their posts so they would not float away to the surface above their sinking ships...
Such and like, Yoshida-sama reported, had happened on Yamato. And he, Abraham Avatar, was the one who’d been tapped to take out another convoy on that refitted ship. Would he survive the Plutonian Armada only to meet death on Yamato? Was the pull of history so ingrained that he was sure to die in its repetition?
He would have taken along Alexander Wildstar to crew her, and his son Abe, Jr...
Dear God! How could he have forgotten! Abe, Jr. was on Yukikaze!
The medics summoned earlier to the bridge had hung back at Avatar’s insistence, but were there to catch him as he fainted.
Two ensigns stationed on Mars went out on a reconnaissance mission concerning a ship of unidentifiable origin. Said ship had crashed on Mars within range of Polar Cap B Base. Messages broadcast from an observer between Pluto and Saturn said the ship looked as if it had been harried for hundreds of astronomical miles, and maybe for thousands. The two ensigns suited up and took out one of the sled-planes that was in common use around that polar Martian base. They’d been trash-talking about women when the alien craft wrecked on Mars, and going out on reconn’ barely interrupted their one-upmanship.
Or rather, the reconn’ mission hardly interrupted Marc Venture as he gloated in front of his best friend Derek Wildstar.
“Are you still sulking over last night, Dare?” Venture said. “If you are, stop it. You know I’d never let you take sloppy seconds.”
“Some days I wish the clap still existed so some floozy could give it to you,” Wildstar said. Wildstar, who piloted the plane while Venture navigated, envied Venture’s ease around women.
“You’d be praying said floozy would spare the opportunity you could catch it, Wildstar,” Venture replied easily.
Wildstar made a disparaging remark about whether Venture’s father was really his father. Venture grinned. Both of them enjoyed slapping each other around verbally, and had done so since their earliest days as bunkmates and friends at the National Academy of Defense (Aerospace Division).
Even if the joke about his parentage had been true, Venture had been sired by a handsome man. Venture was fairly tall, with curly, nearly-black hair and dark-brown eyes. He was a Japanese national, though ethnically Brazilian, and rather disingenuously credited his “South American sex appeal” for keeping him in female company. Wildstar had brown hair that leaned to reddish, brown eyes, and was merely average in height. He looked the typical Asian with latent North American tendencies, and he knew he was as easy on the eyes as Venture. Wildstar did pretty well for himself when he had a mind to go after a girl but expected women to overlook him in favor of his best friend. Maybe his only problem was he was too shy when it really mattered, for otherwise any man in uniform was a big score in those days when Mother Earth might curl up and die.
He’d conceded Venture’s most recent victory, but was still angling to get back at him. He came into the crash site a little too fast and hard. Navigate that, you himbo, he thought, knowing full well Venture could do it.
“Take it ee-ea-sy, Wildstar!” Venture said, alarmed.
They approached the crash site to find two crafts: one large enough to be suitable for interstellar travel and a much, much smaller life pod. The latter looked like some Chesley Bonestell “pregnant space needle”, and its hatch had burst open. The sole occupant of the craft had stumbled out, only to collapse in the snow. She was a lithe, doe-like creature in a sumptuous lavender-rose-colored dress, with long eyelashes and extravagantly long, honey-blonde hair spilling everywhere.
Wildstar was the one who checked for vital signs. The touch of his gloved hands was sensitive enough that he could check for a pulse. He wished he could take off the glove of his pressure suit, though, and touch the fabric of the dress she was wearing--how luscious it looked in color and texture! Was it a kind of velvet, and would it feel, as it looked, like the skin of a peach?
This woman was regal enough that he had made a one-eighty from irreverence to awe, and he suspected Venture felt it too. What garbage had they been clacking about?
Whoever this beautiful, foreign woman was, she didn’t seem to have a pulse.
“Is she..?” Venture trailed off.
“I’m afraid so.”
They started to move her while doing a more accurate assessment with a bio-scanner, and a capsule fell out of her hands. Venture and Wildstar both inhaled sharply, but the capsule didn’t do anything suspicious. When they turned a scanner to it, the capsule turned out not to be a weapon. And it appeared to carry some sort of message…
TO BE CONTINUED.....
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