SING YOU HOME
A Star Blazers Fan Fiction
By Margaret Noel-Whitten
November 15, 2201
Nova Forrester shifted uncomfortably in her seat. With a sigh she rubbed a hand over her tired eyes. Lack of sleep and the events of the past twenty-four hours were beginning to take a toll. Taking a sip of lukewarm water from the glass in front of her she attempted to focus on the proceedings going on before her. What had started as a debriefing with the Earth Defense Council on the events leading up to the destruction of the Comet Empire had deteriorated into a shouting match. The din of raised voices talking over each other was making her head pound. Glancing to her left she noted that Derek Wildstar was also having trouble concentrating. Seeing her expression he reached for her hand under the table and gave it an encouraging squeeze.
Nova smiled him. It was at that moment she was struck with the thought, “He asked me to marry him. Derek Wildstar is my fiancé. I am going to marry this man.”
If she was being honest Nova had not expected them to make it back to Earth at all. Less than forty-eight hours before, Nova had boarded the Gamilon ship in search of Derek. He had gone aboard to confront Desslok. She found him just as he had dropped his weapon and collapsed from the loss of blood from a serious wound in his upper arm and shoulder. Without thought to her own safety she had run to him, shielding him from Desslok with her body. She had been certain it was going to be the end of them both. Her unselfish act of love had somehow made the Gamilon leader see the error of his ways. To her shock he had handed her Derek’s weapon. He had also told her to attack the White Comet at its weakest point, the bottom. When they made it back to the Argo, even though Dr. Sane had ordered her to get some rest, she had refused to leave Derek’s side. She had even assisted in the surgery to repair the injuries to his shoulder.
When he came out of anesthetic Wildstar had refused to stay in the medical bay. He was back at his post in tactical when the Argo joined the ships of the fleet in their stand against the White Comet at Saturn. The battle had not gone well; the majority of the Earth’s fleet was all but destroyed. In a final message, Admiral Gideon, commanding officer of the Andromeda had confirmed Desslok’s suggestion to attack the comet at the bottom. The Star Force had done just that. They had succeeded in destroying the comet, what they had not known was it was only camouflage. Hidden in its interior was a massive space battleship armed with a siege canon. The resulting damage to the Argo, loss of life and injuries suffered by the crew had Wildstar order the crew to abandon ship. Determined to do whatever he could to save the Earth, even at the cost of his own life, he had locked the controls of the final ship to auto pilot and jumped out as the doors closed and returned to the deck of the Argo. He had planned to use the ship as a weapon, ramming it into Zordar’s ship. What he had not known at the time was Nova had ignored his order to leave the ship, deciding instead to stay with the man she loved. They had been a couple since returning to Earth from Iscandar but having been separated for a year while he was on deep space patrol she had kept the depth of her feelings to herself. When he finally returned home they had planned to discuss their future but with the threat from the Comet Empire, and Wildstar’s subsequent decision to reunite the Star Force and steal the Argo that had not happened. It was when he discovered she was still on the ship that she had finally confessed her love for him. He had asked her to marry him. At the time neither of them believed they would ever set foot on the Earth again. As they made the final preparations and started the countdown to send the Argo on its final voyage, Trelana of Telezart had appeared on the deck of the ship with a wounded Mark Venture in her arms. She begged them to take Mark and go back to Earth. She would deal with Prince Zordar. She destroyed him and his ship, giving her life in the process.
When they had finally gotten the Argo back to Earth and had Mark Venture placed in an ambulance Derek and Nova were hustled into a waiting staff car by two burly Marines and taken directly to Earth Defence Headquarters. They had been given no chance to speak to anyone or ask any questions. As they had driven through the city the extent of the devastation became clear. Whole sections of the city had been destroyed. Nova’s fear as to the fate of her parents and the Argo’s crew grew steadily. She had no idea where they were or if they were even still alive. Unanswered questions flooded her mind, “Where are my parents? What’s happening with Mark? Did the rest of the Star Force make it back safely?” She swallowed hard to dislodge the painful lump that had formed in her throat.
Derek snapped her out of her reverie as he whispered, “Earth to Nova.”
Startled she blinked. “Sorry, lost in thought.”
“You were a million miles away there for a minute,” he replied. With a slight tilt of his head he indicated to the members of the Defence Council, “They clearly have no interest in anything else we have to say and I don’t know about you but I am exhausted. In fact I’m so tired I’m actually lightheaded. If this keeps going on much longer I swear I am going to just put my head on the table and go to sleep.”
Leaning back in his chair Wildstar winced slightly. Raising his hand to his wounded shoulder he gingerly touched the bandaged area. The resulting pain from the touch caused him to pull his hand away. He was dismayed to see blood on his fingers. He suddenly felt very dizzy. “Nova…”
Still shaken by thoughts of what had become of her parents, Nova did not immediately realize there was anything wrong. At the sound of her name she turned in time to see Derek struggling to remove the pea coat he had been issued before they had entered the conference room. While hers had fit, his had been a little snug. Not wanting to delay the debriefing he had shrugged it on and said nothing about the fit. Nova was horrified to see blood staining his uniform shirt beneath. Kneeling before him she did a cursory examination. The bandage on his shoulder was soaked through. “Derek it looks like you ruptured the stitches in your shoulder. It must have been bleeding for a while you’ve lost a lot of blood. I need to get a better look at this.”
Wildstar shook his head. “I’m ok let’s just wait until this is finished. Then you can take care of it.”
“Oh this is finished right now” she answered getting to her feet and turning to face the group. ”Excuse me.”
Aggravated when they ignored her Nova slammed her fist on the table, “GENTLEMEN ENOUGH!”
All sound in the room ceased as eight pairs of eyes turned on her. General Jackson Stone, a large burly man with a mean disposition and a permanent scowl, was the first to react to her outburst. He had a reputation for bullying people to get his way and he had no love for the Star Force. He believed they were nothing but a bunch of mutineers. If he had his way they would be court marshalled for stealing the Argo and disobeying orders. Their commander, Derek Wildstar, would be rotting in a jail cell. The fact he was being called a hero and the majority of the council felt his decision to act against orders was justified was intolerable. He glared at her. “Lieutenant you have no authority to speak here unless you are asked a direct question.”
Nova was not intimidated. Returning his cold stare she responded. “I could care less about protocol right now. For the last hour I have sat here and listened to you all talk over each other. Enough already! Commander Wildstar has reopened the wound in his shoulder. He is bleeding and needs immediate medical attention.”
General Charles Singleton, Commander of the Earth Defence Forces, was around the table and at her side before General Stone had a chance to reply. “How can I help?” he asked. Other members of the Defence Council followed suit, gathering around them.
Embarrassed at the fuss Wildstar started to get to his feet. Nova stopped him with a look. “Don’t even think about it,” she warned, “You just stay put.”
Looking from one young officer to the other Singleton chuckled, “Commander I would do what she says if I were you.”
“Yes Sir,” he replied.
Focused on the situation with Derek’s shoulder, Nova slid into triage nurse mode. “General is there an emergency first aid station on this floor?”
He nodded. “At the end of the hall, turn the corner, third door on the left. I’ll go with you. I will have to unlock the door anyway.”
Nova smiled in appreciation, “Thank you sir.” Turning to Derek she asked, “Do you think you can walk that far?”
Wildstar wanted to roll his eyes at her but quickly decided not to push his luck. Getting to his feet he took a step forward. He was about to say he was fine when he was hit with a wave of dizziness that forced him to grasp the chair back to steady himself. “I’m a little dizzy,” he admitted.
Moving to his uninjured side Nova slipped her arm around his waist. “Put your arm around my shoulders. If you need to you can lean on me.”
As they headed toward the door General Stone grabbed Nova’s free arm forcing her to stop. “Wait!” he demanded, “We are not finished. When you get him patched up I expect you to report back here.”
Yanking her arm free of his grasp Nova looked at him in astonishment. “You cannot be serious.”
“As a heart attack little girl,” he replied with a smirk, “as serious as a heart attack.”
General Singleton had quietly watched the exchange. When he spoke there was a steel edge in his tone. “Stone do I need to remind you Lieutenant Forrester is not only an officer but a lady and you will treat her as such. Quite frankly I am appalled at your behaviour, grabbing her arm…referring to her as “little girl” is completely unacceptable especially from an officer of your rank. She would be well within her rights to lodge a formal complaint against you for behaviour unbecoming an officer.”
Stone attempted to interrupt. “Now wait a minute.”
Singleton cut him off. “I’m not finished. I would like to remind you that I am the Commander of the Earth Defense Forces and as such these officers are under my command not yours! We have sat here for more than four hours. If it had not been for the actions of the Star Force we would not be sitting here having this conversation. They have answered our questions. They were willing to give their lives for us. We owe them our thanks so I say we are done.” Staring at the members of the Defense Council he asked, “Does anyone have a problem with that?” There was silence in the room. “I thought not.”
Reaching for the handle he pulled open the door of the conference room. Nova was about to follow but stopped and turned back, “General Stone is your family safe?” she asked.
If her question surprised him he gave no indication. “Yes they are. The families of all the council members are safe.”
Turning back toward the door she replied, “Good… I’m glad for you. I have no idea if mine is.”
In the hallway with Derek her control broke as tears slid down her cheeks. Turning her in his arms he pulled her into an awkward embrace, as he favoured his shoulder. “Shhh, it’s okay,” he murmured placing a kiss on the top of her head. “I’m sure your parents are fine.”
Glancing back over his shoulder, General Singleton smiled. “Finally,” he thought, “Their relationship seems to be growing.” Giving the couple their privacy he continued down the hall.
By the time Derek and Nova caught up with him, he had already opened the door to the first aid station and turned on the lights. After ensuring Nova had everything she needed and helping Wildstar get up on the exam table the General prepared to leave. “Lieutenant, I believe you have everything under control. If there is nothing else, I have to get back to my office. There are reports on the damage, the number of wounded and the fatalities that require my attention.”
“General, about that, I hate to ask… but Nova, Lieutenant Forrester… she has no idea where her family is or if they are safe,” Derek quickly explained. “Sir is there any way you might be able to enquire…”
“Of course,” he replied. Seeing the tears in Nova’s eyes he took her hand. “Lieutenant I cannot make any promises but I will do my best to see what I can find out. As you can imagine things are a little crazy right now. When you are finished here come to my office and I will let you know what I find out.”
On impulse, in a complete breech of etiquette, Nova kissed his cheek, “Thank you sir.”
Blushing slightly the General quickly left the room.
Going to the supply cabinet Nova gathered the equipment she required. Walking back to the table where Derek was seated she laid the supplies next to him. Picking up a large pair of scissors she tucked them in the end of the sleeve of the pea coat.
His eyes widened. “What are you planning to do with those?”
“This,” she replied cutting open the sleeve from wrist to shoulder, “I have to examine your shoulder which means I need you out of that coat.”
As she explained what she was doing she quickly cut through the other sleeve enabling her to pull it down around his waist. Undoing the buttons she pulled the offending garment off. She then repeated the process with his uniform shirt leaving his chest bare. As she feared the bandage covering his shoulder was completely soaked through with blood. Pulling back the top of the bandage she peered at the wound. Her assumption was correct he had ruptured the twelve stitches it had taken to close the gash. It was still oozing blood.
She knew there was no way she could restitch Derek’s shoulder without a local anesthetic. Picking up a syringe she filled it with a numbing agent. She injected it into his shoulder. “It’ll take a couple of minutes to completely deaden the area.”
Ripping open a gauze pad, she placed it on top of the first bandage. Taking his hand she guided it to the pad. “I need you to hold this in place. Press down but not too hard,” she instructed.
Shaking her head in disbelief that he had reinjured himself and not noticed she asked, “Derek how on Earth did you do this?”
“I think it happened when I was carrying Venture off the Argo,” he answered. “At the time I felt something pulling but I never really gave it much thought.”
Nova turned away from him not wanting him to see the tears in her eyes. “No you never do,” she whispered.
He was completely baffled. “Have I done something wrong?”
She shook her head but did not turn to face him. “No… not a thing... It’s just you being you.”
From the way her shoulders were shaking he knew she was crying. “Nova please, talk to me, I have no idea what’s gotten you so upset.”
Whirling around she grabbed a handful of gauze pads off the table and flung them at him. “You never think about yourself! You’re injured and yet you didn’t give it a thought. You carried Mark off the Argo! How could you do something so stupid? I want to know the future father of my children is going to be around to watch them grow up.”
Dropping the gauze pad he had been holding against his shoulder he held out his hand to her. “Come here.”
"Derek, your shoulder!"
"Forget about that right now. You are more important."
"I don't know what's wrong with me." She whispered, rubbing the tears from her eyes. “The destruction in the city… so many wounded or killed… it’s awful…”
Taking his hand Nova allowed him to pull her close.
"You're exhausted you have been so busy taking care of everyone else you haven’t given a thought about yourself... Sound familiar?" Leaning forward he kissed her. "Face it Nova, we are meant for each other."
Unable to stop herself Nova smiled. "I guess you're right." Pulling out of his embrace she said, "As much as I love being held by you, I have to take care of your shoulder." She gingerly pressed on the skin around the wound. “Can you feel that?”
“No, not at all,” he replied, “My whole shoulder is numb. It’s a good thing too because it has been aching like a son of a bitch.”
“Honestly I don’t know how you managed to squeeze yourself into that pea coat.” She said with a shake of her head. “On a positive note, it was so tight around your shoulders I think it actually slowed the bleeding.”
Derek chuckled, “That’s almost too bad. If I had passed out we might have gotten the council to stop talking much sooner.”
Nova laughed. Picking up the sutures she set to work. Thirty minutes later Wildstar’s shoulder wound was closed and bandaged with his arm in a sling effectively rendering it immobile.
“How does that feel?” she asked studying his face for any sign of pain.
“Its fine but I do have a question,” he answered. “With my arm strapped into the sling like this, I can barely move it. How am I supposed to put my uniform shirt back on?”
“You’re not,” she replied.
“Nova be serious, we have to report to General Singleton’s office.” Looking down at his bare chest, “I cannot show up like this.”
“Even though I think the injured hero is sexy like he is, I suppose you’re right,” she said blushing slightly, a shy smile on her face. “Your uniform shirt is out of the question. I cut it off you remember. Let me see what I can find.”
Walking back to the supply cabinets Nova pulled open the door. She quickly scanned the shelves until she found what she was looking for. Opening a package containing medical scrubs she pulled out the shirt. Taking the scissors she cut it down the front so it opened like a jacket. “This will have to do until we can get you a new uniform shirt.”
Derek put his good arm through the sleeve and with Nova’s help draped it around his injured shoulder covering the sling. Pulling the two pieces of fabric together she closed the shirt with a safety pin.
Sliding off the table to his feet Wildstar held out his hand. “We should go the Commander will be waiting.
A short time later Derek and Nova arrived at General Singleton’s office. His adjutant escorted them into his office. “The General was called out of the office but he should be back momentarily. He instructed me to have you wait here. Is there anything I can get for you while you wait?”
“Not for me, thank you,” Derek replied, “Nova?”
“I’m sorry…What? No… Thank you.” She answered blushing with embarrassment.
As the door closed behind the officer Nova turned to Derek. “I’m sorry I’m so distracted. I can’t get everything that has happened out of my mind. Up until now there has been so much going on around me I could push it to the back of my mind but now…” her voice trailed away. “I can’t get my parents off my mind. I don’t know what I’ll do if something has happened to them. I know my mother makes me crazy sometimes but she’s still my mother.”
Taking her hand Derek led her to the sofa. Taking a seat he pulled her down beside him. Reaching out he gently wiped away the tear sliding down her cheek. It killed him to see her cry. “We don’t know anything yet but whatever happens you won’t have to face it alone. I will be by your side every step of the way.” Placing his arm around her shoulders he pulled her close.
With a shuddering breath she leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder. With his arm around her she felt instantly better… safe. “I love you,” she whispered.
As they sat together Wildstar studied the young woman in his arms. He had not known it was possible to have such feelings for another person. That she returned his feelings astounded him. He still could not believe she loved him enough to have put her own life at risk to protect him. He wondered how he had gotten so lucky. He had proposed to her on board the Argo because he had wanted her to know how much she meant to him and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He had fully expected them to die in their final attempt to stop the Comet Empire. Trelana of Telezart’s intervention had saved their lives. They had been given a reprieve and he planned to make the most of it. He wanted to marry her as soon as possible. He was about to say as much when the door opened and General Singleton entered his office.
‘I am sorry to have kept…” The General stopped abruptly at the site of the couple huddled together on his sofa. Seeing him they jumped apart.
Flustered at having forgotten where he was and being caught in a compromising position Wildstar hurriedly got to his feet. Forgetting that his arm was strapped into a sling he attempted to salute his superior officer adding to his embarrassment. “Sir, I’m sorry about this. I know it is a breach of regulations.”
“General it’s my fault. I was upset. Derek was just trying to make me feel better.” Nova explained.
“Stop, both of you, no explanation is necessary. Please sit” he said indicating to the sofa. Taking a seat in the wingchair opposite them he continued, “If I have learned anything in the past few years it is make the most of every moment because tomorrow is not guaranteed. It has been obvious for some time that there was something between you two. I am delighted that you seem to have finally figured that out for yourselves. And Captain, as for your concern about regulations, I didn’t see anything so there is no problem.”
Wildstar was confused, “Captain Sir? I was just the acting Captain of the Argo and Deputy Captain of the Star Force.” He did not want to correct his commanding officer but at the same time he did not want to answer to a rank that was not his.
“You heard me Captain, it is not a mistake. Much of the fleet was destroyed at Saturn and many of our senior officers were killed. We do not the luxury of waiting around until the fleet is rebuilt. We have no idea what other threats are out there. We need our best officers in positions of authority ready to act should the need arise. That is why I was not here when you arrived. I wanted to make sure personally that your promotion was put through immediately,” he explained extending his hand in congratulations.
Wildstar was stunned. When he and Nova had been whisked off the Argo and brought directly to the EDF Headquarters he had fully expected to find himself behind bars. It took a moment for what he had been told to sink in. “I don’t know what to say Sir,” he said shaking the General’s hand.
The General’s adjutant tapped on the office door as he opened it. He came in carrying a garment bag over his arm. “As you requested sir,” he said handing the bag to Singleton. “Is there anything else you will need General?”
Taking in the state of Wildstar’s uniform and the sling on his arm, he nodded. “I am going to need you to go back to uniform supply. The Captain is going to require a larger size in the white shirt for the time being.”
“Of course Sir, I will take care of it right away.” Turning on his heal the adjutant left the office closing the door behind him.
Taking a seat again in the wing chair the General looked at Nova, “Lieutenant I have news about your parents.”
Nova desperately wanted to hold Derek’s hand for support, still embarrassed at being caught in his arms she refrained from doing so. As if reading her thoughts Derek took her hand. She gave him a grateful smile. Her heart was racing. “Are they safe?” she asked. She could not control the tremor in her voice.
Squeezing her hand in silent support Wildstar prayed she would not receive bad news. He knew all too well what she was going through. Waiting to hear the fate of your family was stressful in the extreme. Being told your family had not survived was life shattering. Even years later, he was haunted by his parents death and still suffered from nightmares. When the General smiled he immediately felt Nova relax as she sagged against him.
“Yes Nova, your parents are safe, in fact, they’re here.”
Her eyes widened in shock, “Here… at headquarters… but how?” she asked.
“When we received the message from Dr. Sane that the Argo had been evacuated and that the surviving crew was returning to Earth in two medical transports we knew the fatalities were high. The decision was made to try and bring the families of the Star Force here, any that we could contact that is.” he explained. “During the attack the communications grid was damaged so getting in contact with anyone was sketchy at best. You saw that yourselves when you tried to get a message to Earth.”
“But if the families are here why didn’t you tell me that before?” Nova asked. “I’ve been so worried…”
“I couldn’t tell you because I didn’t know for certain if they were here. Family members were still arriving while we were in the debriefing,” he answered. “I didn’t want to build up your hopes.”
“I understand but why bring the families here?” she asked.
“I think I can answer that question Nova,” Derek said, his expression grim. “The Defence council had no way of knowing how many of us were still alive but they knew it was bad. By bringing the families here, once the crew members who had been killed were identified, the council could tell them in person.” Shifting his gaze to his commanding officer he continued, “It’s what I would do.”
“He’s right. We knew from the doctor’s message that the Star Force had been all but decimated. We did not want families to hear it on the news,” Singleton said. He suddenly felt very tired. Rubbing his forehead he took a deep breath and got to his feet. “I am actually going to meet with the families’ right after I take you to see your parents.”
Derek got to his feet. “It should be me General,” he said, “They were under my command. It has to be me who talks to their families.”
Nova was about to protest that he was hurt and needed to rest but she knew it would be pointless. Derek Wildstar was a man of honour who cared deeply for the people under his command. It was one of the things she loved about him. She knew there was no way he would let anyone else break the news when he felt it was his duty to personally inform the families of the loss of their loved ones.
It seemed the General also knew it would be pointless to argue. “Since I know I can’t convince you otherwise, I will take you to speak to the families but you might want to change first,” he said, handing Wildstar the garment bag his adjutant had brought in. “Let me see if my aid has returned with the other shirt I requested.”
Having only one hand free Derek held the bag out to Nova, “Can you help me with this?” Opening the zipper she pulled back the sides of the bag revealing the black Captain’s Pea Coat inside. She was about to tell him how proud she was of him but was interrupted by General Singleton’s return.
“Here you go, “he said holding out a crisply pressed white uniform shirt. “This one should be large enough to fit around your arm. You can drape your new pea coat on top. Much more appropriate than medical scrubs wouldn’t you agree.” Striding across the office he stopped at the door, “I will wait outside while you get changed. Lieutenant Forrester I am sure you can give the Captain any assistance he may require.”
Nova did not miss the twinkle in his eye but blushed none the less. “Yes Sir.”
A few minutes later, the trio stepped into the stairwell, heading to the ground floor. General Singleton led the way. “I apologize about having to take the stairs but repair crews are working on the power grid, trying to stabilize it. I don’t want to get stuck in the elevator.”
“I don’t mind taking the stairs,” said Wildstar, “it feels good to stretch my legs.” As they continued down the stairs he thought about what to say to the families. There was no way to make the news easier to take. His thoughts on the friends he had lost he did not hear Nova when she spoke to him.
“I’m sorry Nova, I wasn’t listening, what did you say?”
“That’s okay, I know you have a lot on your mind,” she said. “What I said was I’m going with you when you speak to the families.”
Whatever he had been expecting to hear, his expression told her that was not it. “No! Your parents are here. They’re waiting to see you.”
Nova stopped on the stairs. Turning to face him she folded her arms across her chest. “I am going with you. My parents are safe and they know I am safe. They have waited this long to see me, they can wait a little longer. The General is going to send a message to them explaining where I am.”
“But nothing… I told you before Derek Wildstar, the Star Force is a team. If you think I am letting you do this alone well you can just think again because that is not going to happen!”
Derek turned to his commanding officer for support, “Sir are you going to let her…”
Singleton threw his hands up in surrender, shaking his head, “Sorry Captain, you’re on your own. I know when I’m beat. She has already given me my marching orders.”
“That’s right Captain,” she said, a satisfied smile on her face, “just accept that you do not have to do everything by yourself. You are no longer alone.” When he nodded she turned and started back down the stairs. “Good, shall we go?”
Two hours later Nova was no longer smiling. Emotionally she was drained and physically she was exhausted. “I don’t know how Derek managed to keep himself together.”
The family members of the Argo crew were gathered in a large lecture theatre. When they entered the soft murmur of voices ceased and the room fell silent. He had introduced himself. “I’m Derek Wildstar. I am Captain of the Argo and commanding officer of the Star Force.”
There was a sudden flurry of questions from all around the room. “Please, I will do my best to answer your questions but I can only answer one at a time.”
An elderly gentleman seated in the front row got to his feet in an attempt to calm the group. “Let’s give the Captain a chance to speak.” The group once more fell silent. “I apologize Captain Wildstar but we have been here for some time now and have not been told anything official. All we have heard is rumors: that the Comet Empire has been destroyed… that our fleet was wiped out…” Sinking back into his seat he took the hand of the young woman seated next to him. She was quietly sobbing. She had a little girl seated on her lap. He looked expectantly at Derek, “Anything you can tell us, no matter how bad, is better than sitting here not knowing.” A murmur of agreement rippled through the group.
Wildstar’s heart twisted as he looked at the group. He knew the news he was about to deliver would change their lives forever. Taking a deep breath he began to explain the events that had led to them being gathered in this room. “As you know when the Star force reunited and left Earth it was to investigate what I felt was an unknown threat to our planet which turned out to be the Comet Empire disguised as a white comet. I can confirm that the majority of the Earth’s fleet was destroyed in a serious battle at Saturn/Titan. The Argo sustained serious damage as well. On the advice of Desslok of Gamilon and Admiral Gideon we attacked the bottom of the white comet. While we were successful in destroying the comet, we did not know the core was hollow, hiding the space battleship that attacked Earth. What I am about to say is going to be very difficult to hear. The damage to the Argo was extensive and loss of life extreme. I ordered the crew to abandon ship. I know you have all been waiting to learn the fate of your loved ones. When the Argo left Earth there were one hundred thirteen crew members aboard, only eighteen members of the Star Force survived the battle. I regret it is my duty to inform you that your family members were not among the survivors. I am so very sorry.”
The stunned silence, that followed his announcement, quickly gave way to sounds of grief, disbelief and anger. “You survived!” came one angry shout from a middle aged woman at the back of the room. At that point General Singleton had urged Derek and Nova to leave stating there would be grief counselors available for those who wanted their services.
Derek had flatly refused to leave, instead responding to the angry accusation. “Yes I survived but only through the intervention of Trelana of Telezart. I stayed aboard the Argo after the crew was evacuated but that doesn’t matter. It was Trelana who destroyed Prince Zordar and his ship. She gave her life in the process. She is the reason we are all sitting here.” He gave the group a moment to let what he had told them sink in before he continued. “Right now you don’t know what to feel, shock, pain, anger. I am sure you want someone to blame. I was their commanding officer so ultimately their deaths rest on me, so blame me if you have to. I do understand.”
The woman in the back of the room glared at him as tears of grief rolled down her cheeks, “How could you possibly understand how we all feel. What do you know of loss?”
“Quite a bit actually,” he replied quietly. “I know it sounds like I am placating you when I say I know what you are going through, but I really do. I lost my entire family during the Gamilon planet bombings. Until I joined the Star Force I was completely alone. They became my family and today I feel like I have lost most of my family all over again. If you want me to leave I will but I would be happy to stay and answer your questions.” No one responded.
Bowing to their wishes Wildstar prepared to leave. Following the General and Nova to the door he stopped when he felt a tug on his sleeve. Derek was surprised to see a child behind him. It was the little girl who had been seated on her mother’s lap. He guessed she could be no more than six. With her dark hair and dark eyes the thought came unbidden to his mind that if he and Nova had a daughter one day this was what she could look like.
She grasped his sleeve tightly in her small hand. “Wait… Don’t go…”
Unprepared for this turn of events Derek reacted on instinct. He knelt down so he was at her eye level. “I won’t leave. Is there something you wanted to ask me?”
As she nodded the gentleman who had addressed the group earlier approached. “Keiko, the Captain does not have time for your questions,” he said holding out his hand. “Come back to your seat please.”
“Yes he does Grandfather… he said so,” she replied tightening her grip on Derek’s sleeve. “I want to ask him about daddy.”
The last thing Derek wanted to do was get the child into trouble with her grandfather but there was something about the way she looked at him with her big brown eyes that pulled at his heart strings. “I would be happy to tell Keiko anything I can about her father, with your permission of course, if you could tell me his name.”
The older man finally nodded, “Her father’s name was Akio… Akio Kitamura. He was one of the fight mechanics on the Argo. He was my son.”
Getting to his feet Derek held out his hand in sympathy, “I am so sorry for your loss. I knew your son well; he looked after my Cosmo zero.”
After the two men shook hands Wildstar knelt down once more. “Okay Keiko, what did you want to know about your daddy?”
“Well I was wondering if you could tell me a story about him and the Star Force so I can tell my baby brother when he gets bigger. He hasn’t been born yet. Mama is sad because he won’t know Daddy. If I had a story to tell him he’d know our Daddy was a hero.” Pausing she gazed intently at Derek. As if to confirm what she had been told she asked, “My daddy was a hero wasn’t he.” When she finished speaking there was not a not a dry eye in the room.”
Wiping the back of his hand across his eyes Wildstar nodded, “Yes sweetheart your daddy was a hero. They all were and we will honour them. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
“And a little child shall lead them,” Nova thought. Keiko’s simple request had opened the flood gates. For the two hours that followed Derek spoke with each family individually, answered questions and shared stories that ran the gamut from humorous to heart wrenching. For the families the healing process began. For Nova it was bittersweet. She was thankful to have been included in the sharing of stories about the crew it was painful to think she would never see them again. She could not get the comment, “You survived” out of her mind.
General Singleton had said little letting Wildstar take the lead. He was pleased the Captain had given the families some sense of closure but he could see his two officers were fading fast, Nova was yawning behind her hand and the look of pain on Derek’s face was becoming more pronounced. Coming up behind Derek he placed a hand on his shoulder. “Captain I think we need to wrap this up.” To the assembled group he said, “As you can see even Captain Wildstar did not make it through the battles unscathed. He and Lieutenant Forrester have not slept in over thirty-six hours. I think you will agree they have earned a break. On a personal note I want you all to know how very sorry I am for your loss. I want to echo the Captain’s promise that the sacrifice of the brave men and women of the Star Force will not be forgotten starting with a public memorial at Heroes Hill as soon as it can be arranged.”
Once in the hallway Derek sagged against the wall. Immediately concerned Nova placed her hand on his forehead, checking for any signs of fever, “How do you feel?” she asked.
“If I said I was fine you’d know I was lying,” he replied drawing a hand wearily over his face. “Nova that was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. I feel like I’ve have been shot out of an airlock.”
“I am so proud of you. You were wonderful. I don’t know how you got through it.”
“I think they helped me as much as I may have helped them. I needed to talk about the crew who were killed. It helped me process everything that has happened.” Leaning down he kissed her.
Wrapped up in each other they forgot they were not alone. The General cleared his throat in an attempt to get their attention.
Stepping out of Derek’s embrace Nova blushed scarlet. She was about to apologize but Singleton stopped her.
“I was young and in love once. I do understand. That being said your parents are waiting for you in the atrium. From my first encounter with your mother she does not strike me as someone you want to keep waiting. Follow me.”
As they approached the atrium through the open double doors Derek could see a middle aged couple seated on a sofa at the far end of the room. The woman was slim dressed in a pink sweater, black pencil skirt and black boots. She had dark hair that was pulled back in a tight bun. From that distance it was difficult to tell for certain but he thought she bore a resemblance to Nova. The man was more heavy set. He had a round face, dark hair and a bushy mustache. He was dressed in a brown business suit with a white shirt that was open at the neck.
Spotting them Teri Forrester, Nova’s mother, sprang to her feet. “Nova!” she cried rushing toward her daughter. “Thank God you’re safe. I have been so worried! Rushing off like that… on that ship… What were you thinking?”
Inwardly Nova cringed. “Oh here we go,” she thought. She had not missed the subtle change in her mother’s expression, the narrowing of her eyes and slight pursing of her lips, when she noticed Derek holding her hand.
“Hello Mother,” she said. Letting go of Derek’s hand she stepped forward to hug her mother.
If Derek thought Nova’s greeting with her mother seemed reserved the same could not be said about her father. She ran into his embrace. He gathered her into a crushing bear hug lifting her off the floor. “I am so glad you’re safe. I was so scared.” She whispered as her eyes welled with tears.
Setting Nova back on her feet, he kept his arm around her waist as she introduced the two men with her.
"I believe you have already met General Singleton."
"Yes we met earlier today,” the General confirmed. “If you'll excuse me I have to get back to my office. Captain when you are ready to leave I have arranged for a staff car to take you and Lieutenant Forrester back to your quarters."
"Thank you sir, for everything," Nova said with a smile.
"Mama, Daddy, this is Captain Derek Wildstar." To Karl Forrester it was immediately apparent his daughter had fallen, and fallen hard for the handsome young captain and from his expression it was clear he felt the same way about her.
The two men shook hands.
"It is nice to finally meet you Mr. Forrester."
"Captain thank you for bringing our little girl home safely."
Indicating to his injured arm, "If it hadn't been for your daughter I might not have made it home at all. She saved my life."
Karl Forrester looked as his daughter, his face glowing with pride. “Really… what did you do?”
“It was nothing Daddy… really… any member of the crew would have done the same thing,” she replied, desperate to downplay her encounter with the Gamilon leader.
“She defended me from Desslok of Gamilon. He could easily have killed us both but her actions made him see things in a different light. He handed her my weapon, gave us advice on how to defeat the white comet. He took his fleet and left. He is no longer a threat to Earth.” Derek explained.
Nova’s mother was utterly horrified at what she was hearing. “Nova how could you have put yourself in danger like that? You could have been killed!”
Stepping away from her father Nova moved to Derek’s side. Sliding her arm around his waist she faced her mother, “I did it for the same reason I stayed on board the Argo when he ordered the crew to abandon ship… because I love him.”
Teri Forrester’s eyes widened. “You love him? But how? Since when?” she repeated, not believing she had heard her daughter correctly.
Nova was so far beyond tired that the ability for rational thought had deserted her. She found herself blurting out things she had not planned to tell them so soon. “Yes Mama, I love him and he loves me too. As for how, that’s easy, he’s honourable, caring and wonderful and since when, for quite some time actually.”
Derek suddenly felt very uncomfortable. This was not how he had planned on telling Nova’s parents about their plans for the future. “Mr. and Mrs. Forrester I am sure this is the last thing you were expecting to hear tonight. I do love your daughter but it’s late and we are all tired. Nova and I have had very little sleep in the last 48 hours. I think we should call it a night. It might be better to talk about this in the morning.”
Stifling a yawn Nova readily agreed, “I think that’s a good idea. We can come by the house in the morning if you want and finish talking then.”
For the first time since they had entered the room Karl Forrester noticed just how tired they both looked. “Come by around nine and I will have breakfast waiting.”
“Thank you Daddy,” said Nova as she hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Mama I’ll see you in the morning.” She had been about to hug her mother when Teri Forrester stepped back shaking her head.
“No… you have to come home with us now.”
Letting out an exasperated sigh Nova gazed at her mother. She was about to reply when her father spoke, “Teri, Nova is a grown woman with a place of her own. After everything she has been through I am sure she would like to go back there and sleep in her own bed. The last thing she needs is an overprotective mother hovering over her. Let’s just say good night. We will see them both in the morning.”
“But…” she began to protest taking a step toward her daughter.
“No buts… Just say good night.”
“Good Night,” she said automatically.
“Good girl.” Patting his wife’s arm, saying a final good night, he led her from the room.
Standing with her back to him Derek could see Nova’s shoulders shaking. Fearing that she was crying, coming up behind her, he placed a comforting hand on her arm. When she turned to face him he was surprised to see she was laughing. “Oh my god Derek I am so sorry to have put you through that. Now that you’ve met my parents do you still want to marry me?”
Gazing into her deep brown eyes he felt the familiar pull of desire. Pulling her more tightly against his chest he bent his head claiming her lips in a deep searching kiss, leaving her breathless. “More than ever,” he whispered. “Let’s get out of here.”
November 16, 2201
EDF Officers Quarters
Pulling up outside the sentry post at the entrance to the officer’s quarters Derek and Nova waited for the guard on duty to verify their identification.
“It was nice of the General to let us take the staff car for the night,” said Nova.
Seated in the passenger seat Derek nodded, “He agreed with me when I suggested it would be easier for us to take the car and not have someone drive us here and have to come back in the morning. I explained that we were going to meet your parents for breakfast before I go back to Headquarters to make my recommendations for upgrading the Argo.”
Derek got no further with his explanation as the Sentry approached. The young man was clearly awestruck as he saluted the superior officers. “I’m sorry for the delay Sir, Ma’am; there have been issues with the power grid since the attack.” Addressing Nova he continued, “I’m afraid there is no power in C block right now and I have just been informed there has been a water main break and maintenance has had to shut off the water in that section as well. You can still stay there if you want but I don’t think you’d be very comfortable. ”
“No probably not. Thank you Private, I guess I will be staying with my parents tonight after all,” Nova replied with a sigh, “I will just drop Captain Wildstar off at his apartment.”
Without her having to say anything Derek could tell she was unhappy at that prospect. “Nova I have a suggestion. It’s really late and it’s a forty minute drive to your parent’s house. I know how tired you are and I really don’t want you driving that distance at this hour of the night.”
“I know but what choice do I have?” she asked.
“Why don’t you just stay with me tonight?” he suggested. Seeing her eyes widen in surprise and a slight blush rise on her cheeks he quickly added, “In my spare bedroom I mean.” Even though they had been a couple for some time they had not yet taken the final step in a physical relationship. The last thing Derek wanted was for Nova to think he was trying to take advantage of the situation.
Leaning over Nova kissed his cheek. “I think that is the best offer I have ever heard in my life. Right now my tired is tired. I think I would have stayed in my cold, waterless apartment rather than have to drive any further tonight. I would love to stay with you.”
Derek smiled. “Let’s stop at your apartment so you can get a change of clothes for the morning and anything else you need for tonight.”
“Good idea,” Nova agreed.
Thanking the Sentry they drove through the open security gate. Twenty minutes later Nova pulled the air car in to the parking space in front of Derek’s apartment. Leading her up the steps of the walkway to the entrance Derek pulled a key card from his pocket. Sliding it in to the lock he held the door open for her. Stepping into the apartment she suddenly felt an overwhelming shyness. Following her inside Derek flipped the light switch on the wall illuminating the room. The layout of his apartment was the twin of her own, standard officers’ quarters. The door opened directly into the living room. At the far end of the room a breakfast bar separated the kitchen from the main living space. To the right of the kitchen was a hallway that led to the two bedrooms and the bathroom. The room’s furnishings consisted of a dark brown leather sofa with matching end tables, a coffee table and a battered recliner that looked like it had seen better days. Under the window was a desk containing Derek’s laptop, a videophone, a small lamp and a framed picture of Nova. Mismatched stools lined the breakfast bar. It was definitely the dwelling of a single male officer.
Nova was familiar with the apartment, having been there on numerous occasions. That fact did little to calm the nervous butterflies that had taken up residence in her stomach the moment Derek had suggested she stay with him. There was no denying her attraction to him and she knew the feeling was mutual. It was electric. Every time he kissed her she felt the familiar pull, a heat that rose in her very core, leaving her weak kneed and yearning for more.
Unaware of where her thoughts were leading her he took her hand, heading down the hall. “Come on, let’s go to bed.”
Opening the first door on the left Derek reached in and flipped the switch on the wall then stepped back so Nova could precede him into the room. The room contained a twin bed with a nightstand that held a lamp and a digital clock. “I know it’s kind of sparse but the bed is comfortable and the sheets are clean.” Stepping back into the hallway he paused in the doorway, “You know where the bathroom is. I’ll let you go first. Good night Nova.”
“Derek wait,” she cried rushing toward him suddenly overwhelmed with the need to feel his arms around her. The fact she had almost lost him twice in forty eight hours made her reluctant to let him out of her sight. He turned just in time to catch her as she flung her arms around his neck. Putting his good arm around her waist he pulled her close. He could feel her trembling.
“Hey… you’re shaking, are you okay?”
It was several minutes before Nova spoke. “I just wanted to say I love you,” she whispered, gazing into his eyes.
“I know,” he murmured in reply kissing her tenderly on the lips, “I love you too.” Reluctantly stepping away from him she walked back into the bedroom and closed the door.
Laying the small bag she had brought from her apartment on the bed Nova opened it and pulled out the sweater and skirt she planned to wear the next day and hung it in the closet. She pulled out her toothbrush and nightshirt. Changing into the nightshirt she then took her toothbrush and headed out of the room.
Stepping into the hallway, from the bathroom, Nova stopped abruptly when Derek came out of his bedroom. The sight of him in navy pajama pants that hung low on his hips and nothing else made her heart pound. His chest was bare except for the sling she had placed on his arm earlier. There was a strap that went around his back holding his arm immobile. He was struggling to get the clip undone.
Until then Nova had never considered what she wore to bed revealing. Standing in the hallway in her cotton nightshirt with spaghetti straps that fell to mid-thigh, leaving her long legs bare, she suddenly felt very exposed. With the heat in her cheeks she knew she was blushing. She had no doubt her face was a brighter pink than her nightshirt.
"Can you help me with this?" He asked indicating to the sling. "I can't quite get it undone and I don't think I will be very comfortable sleeping with it on."
Flustered by her wayward thoughts it took her a moment to reply. "Of course," she said taking a step toward him, "turn around." Coming up behind him she quickly undid the strap.
Nova was not the only one feeling the effect of their mutual attraction. Little shockwaves of electricity ran up Derek's spine where her fingers had brushed his skin as she helped him out of the sling. Derek drew in his breath. “God she is beautiful,” he thought. He was not sure how much sleep he was going to get that night knowing she was just down the hall.
Seeing her standing in the hallway dressed for bed gave him a glimpse of what their future held and it felt right. He had meant it when he said it felt like he had lost his family again with the death of so many of the Star Force. He had a deep regret that he had wasted so much time before telling her how he felt. He had believed they had lots of time. The events of the past few months had shown him just how fleeting life could be. After everything they had gone through there was nothing he wanted more than to scoop her into his arms, carry her into his bedroom and bury himself inside her. To that end he pulled her close his lips claiming hers. Deepening the kiss his tongue slipped between her parted lips.
As the familiar heat rose in her body, Nova clung to him, pressing herself closer. Derek slipped his hand beneath her nightshirt running his fingers along the silky skin of her spine causing her to moan. Nuzzling her neck he whispered in her ear, "I want you so much."
Overwhelmed by the sensations he was causing the ability to think clearly was becoming difficult. Pulling away from him Nova took a shaky breath. “Derek wait… please,” she pleaded softly, “before this goes any further… we go any further… I have to tell you something.”
“Nova if this is about my shoulder,” he said. Her expression and the deep blush that ran from below the neckline of her nightshirt to the top of her head told him it was not. It was clear that she was having a difficult time telling him whatever was on her mind. Facing her he loosely placed his hands around her waist, “You can tell me anything, you know that.”
His concern warmed her heart but she was so embarrassed that she could not look at him. Head down she stammered, “It’s just that I’ve never… I haven’t…”
Suddenly Derek understood what it was she was trying to tell him. Slipping his hand under her chin he gently raised it so he could see her face, “Nova, are you a virgin?”
She nodded, “I know that must seem really odd to you, being my age and never having had sex. I’m sure you’re not a virgin are you?”
“No I’m not,” he admitted. Taking her by the hand he led her back into the living room. Taking a seat next to her on the sofa he turned to face her. “Nova you have nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“Maybe I don’t but I still need you to understand. While I was going to college I watched a lot my friends jump into physical relationships with their boyfriends. And I watched those same friends get their hearts broken. I promised myself that was not going to be me. I decided then my first time would be with the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with, on our wedding night. That was before I met you,” she added shyly.
“And I respect that,” he said, his expression earnest. “There is something I hope you know, what happened just now in the hallway that was not my intention when I asked you to stay here tonight. I won’t lie to you, I really want to be with you physically but I will never ask you to do anything you are not ready to do.”
“I know that,” she said peering at him through downcast lashes. “It really doesn’t bother you that I don’t have any experience or that I want to wait?”
“What kind of a man would I be if I wasn’t willing to respect your wishes?” Sliding to the floor he knelt in front of her. “I love you. You are going to be my wife. Waiting to make love to you for the first time on our wedding night will be my honour.”
“Not all men feel that way,” she said quietly, “some don’t like to take no for an answer.”
Taking his seat on the sofa once more he noticed her hands nervously clenching and unclenching the fabric of her nightshirt. Studying her expression he knew there was more to her story. “Nova did something happen to you?”
“My mother, in her unending quest to find me a husband, had set me up on a blind date with one of many young men she was sure would be perfect for me. His name was Scott Foley. He seemed nice enough. We went out a couple of times. I think it was our third date when he decided it was time to get physical. I told him no and he was not happy. He mocked me for still being a virgin and having old fashioned values. He told me I had to give it up sometime and he tried to force the issue.”
Derek felt a pit form in his stomach. “What happened?”
“We were in his car. He wanted me to go to his apartment with him. When I told him to take me home he pulled on to a side street. He grabbed me and tore open my blouse. He tried to pin me down on the seat.”
Derek’s hands clenched into fists, the thought of any man trying to force himself on a woman infuriated him. “Did he hurt you?”
She shook her head in response. “You’ve sparred with me. You know I can take care of myself. I told him he was right, I would give it up sometime but it was not going to be that night and it was not going to be with him.” Nova smiled, “and then I broke his nose.”
“That’s my girl,” Derek said with a grin giving her a quick hug. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
Nova giggled, “Not nearly as sorry as he was.”
Getting to his feet he pulled her up. Pausing outside the bedroom she was using he kissed her. “Good night Nova. Sleep well. I’ll see you in the morning.”
November 16, 2201
Derek Wildstar’s Apartment
Opening her eyes Nova glanced at the clock on the nightstand. She was having difficulty sleeping. Every time she closed her eyes images of death and destruction assailed her. The words “you survived” and the face of the woman who had said them haunted her. Not only had she survived, she had been given the chance for a wonderful future, a future others would never get to have. Rolling over she closed her eyes again in hope of finally falling asleep when an agonized cry shattered the silence. Startled she sat bolt upright.
Another scream followed. She was out of bed in an instant. Racing down the hall she flung open the door to Derek's bedroom. The room was dark, save for the light coming in through the window. Even in the dimness she could see Derek thrashing about on his bed. She knew he suffered from nightmares but he had told her that they had become less frequent. It was obvious recent events had dragged old ghosts to the surface.
Sinking to the bed she placed her hand on his arm and gently shook him, “Derek, wake up, you’re dreaming.”
Like a frightened child he pulled away from her scooting to the far side of the bed. He pulled his knees up to his chest wrapping his arms around them. The horror of what he had seen in his dream reflecting in his eyes as he stared at her as if he did not know who she was. For a moment Nova didn’t know what to do. She could see him shaking. Every fibre of her being was screaming for her to put her arms around him and comfort him. Not wanting to make the situation worse she just sat with him on the bed. She could see him gradually relax as the effects of the dream passed. She tentatively placed her hand on his arm.
“Are you okay?” she asked softly.
Covering his face with his hands Derek quietly began to cry. "Oh god Nova it's my fault. Just like my parents. They all died because of me." Shifting his position on the bed he clung to her, his body racked with sobs."
"Derek you can't believe that," Nova exclaimed, “because it’s just not true. It was the Comet Empire who killed the members of the Star Force and as for your parents it was a planet bomb that killed them”
He was so upset he did not respond. She held him as he cried whispering soft words of comfort, rocking him like she would a small child.
Taking a deep breath and rubbing a hand over his eyes Derek moved so he was seated with his back against the headboard of the bed. Patting the mattress next to him, he indicated for Nova to move up beside him. Placing his arm around her, he pulled her against his side.
Fixing his gaze on a point straight ahead he began to talk. “The day my parents were killed I was visiting Alex at the flight training school. I missed him so much. I stayed longer than I should have and missed the bus that was supposed to take me home. I should have called home to let my mother know I was going to be late but I didn’t… I didn’t. They went to meet the bus that was when the bomb struck. If I had called, they would have stayed home… they would not have died that day.” For the first time since he had begun to speak he looked at Nova. “You’re right, it was a planet bomb that killed them, but it was my fault they were there. They died and I survived, just like now… so many of the crew of the Argo. They followed me when I was not even sure where we were going or if there was a threat. They put their careers and their lives on the line. And they paid for it…”
Nova knew she was hearing his darkest fears. “You survived because it was not your time to go. There were things you had to do. You led the Star Force home from Iscandar when Captain Avatar got sick and what would have happened if you hadn’t disobeyed orders three months ago? How many more people would have died? Would we even be having this conversation? As for the Star Force, we all knew the risks when we signed up. My heart aches for the friends we’ve lost. I will miss them every day for the rest of my life but I will remember them,” Tears slid down her cheeks, “We both will.”
How long they sat there side by side, Nova didn’t know. Emotionally exhausted it was becoming a struggle to keep her eyes open. Sliding to the side of the bed she said, “We have to be at my parent’s house in few hours. We should really try to get some sleep.”
As she rose to leave Derek grasped her hand. "Don't go… stay with me… just for a little while. I don’t want anything I just need to hold you. I want to feel you lying here beside me. I need to know I’m not alone."
She hesitated for only a minute before slipping into the bed beside him. The simple truth was as much as Derek needed to hold her, she needed to be held. Lying on her side, facing the window, Derek spooned into her, placing his arm around her waist, drawing her close. Closing her eyes she was suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of guilt that she was alive and being held by the man she loved. Many of her friends had not been so fortunate. She wanted to honour those lives that had been taken too soon. She just had no idea how.
November 16, 2201
Derek Wildstar’s Apartment
Dazzling sunlight streaming through the bedroom window greeted Nova as she opened her eyes. For the first time in days she felt safe and relaxed. "Just five more minutes," she thought closing her eyes and snuggling more deeply under the covers. The warm body beside her stirred and wrapped his arms more tightly around her. Her eyes popped open as she remembered where she was.
"Derek's bedroom.... Derek's bed... Derek… oh God,” she thought. When she had given in to Derek’s request to stay with him, she had planned to lie down with him only for a few minutes and then go back to her room. Not only was she still there, she was snuggled against him, her legs tangled with his and her head resting in the curve of his shoulder.
“Good morning,” he murmured yawning and stretching beside her, placing a kiss on the top of her head.
“Good morning,” she stammered blushing furiously. “I must have fallen asleep. I should go…” Derek made no move to let her go. “Have you been awake for long?” she asked.
“Long enough,” he answered, “I’ve been watching you sleep.” Waking up that morning Derek was convinced opening his eyes to the sight of her in his bed with sleep tousled hair and no makeup was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Brushing back a strand of blond hair he stared intently into her face. “Waking up with you in my arms was incredible.”
Moving away from him she quickly sat up unaware the
straps of her nightshirt had slid from her shoulders and down her arms exposing
a significant amount of cleavage. Derek’s intake of breath brought it to her
attention. Mortified she yanked the straps back into place. Flinging back the
covers Nova swung her legs over the side of the bed. Derek caught her wrist before she could get to her feet.
"Nova stop... Please... Please get back in here with me. I want to ask you something.”
Holding her nightshirt in place she got back into the bed beside him.
“I know you're embarrassed but don't be. Why do you think you fell asleep here with me last night?” he asked.
“I was tired,” she replied. After a slight hesitation she added
honestly, “but that’s not the only reason. Being here with you, being held by
you, was the first time I have felt truly safe in months. And because I trust
“Will you trust me now?” he asked. The truth was she did trust him. She knew he would never try to take advantage of the situation. When he had said he would never push her to do anything she was not ready to do, she knew he meant it. He was the most honourable man she knew. He had promised her he was willing to wait until they were married and she believed him. She had fallen asleep in his arms and he had done nothing but hold her. Not at all sure what he was going to do, her heart hammering, she nodded her consent. She had been holding her nightshirt in place with her arms folded across her chest. Moving her hands away Derek slid the straps from her shoulders down over her arms exposing both breasts. He did not touch her. His eyes never left her face. "You are so beautiful;" he said softly, "don’t ever be embarrassed, you never have to hide from me."
Her cheeks were burning but Nova never broke his gaze even as he pulled the fabric back into place covering her.
"Before long we will be seeing each other undressed every day for the rest of our lives." Getting to his feet Derek crossed the room to his dresser. Opening the top drawer he withdrew a small box. "Waking up with you this morning made me realize that I don't want to spend one more day alone."
Walking back to the bed he sat down so he was facing her. "You deserve a better proposal then the one you got from me on the Argo." He opened the blue velvet box, “Nova Forrester I love you. Will you marry me?”
All she could do was nod. Finding her voice once more she answered, “Yes… yes I’ll marry you.”
Removing the ring from the box his hand trembled as he slipped it on her finger. It was a perfect fit. Lifting her hand to his lips he kissed it. The ring had a three quarter carat round cut diamond surrounded by a circle of diamonds set in a white gold band. It was exquisite. The matching wedding ring was a simple white gold band set with diamonds. Nova had been stunned when he pulled the ring box out of his dresser. "When did he do this?" she wondered.
As if reading her thoughts Derek explained, "They were my mother’s. After we returned from Iscandar I went to my parent’s house get them. I loved you even then, I wasn’t ready to tell you then but I knew that one day I was going to put that ring on your finger. I'm just sorry it took me so long. We’ve wasted too much time already. I want to marry you as soon as possible." Taking her hand he ran his finger over the circle of diamonds that surrounded the centre stone. "This is called a halo which makes this the perfect ring for you. You have been my guardian angel and every angel needs a halo."
He studied her face for some sign of what she thought. "Do you like it?"
"It's beautiful," she whispered.
"I wanted you to have the ring on your finger before we see your parents this morning. It’s too late to ask your father for your hand in marriage but I do want to ask your parents for their blessing."
The mention of her parents made Nova jump as she checked the time. “We had better get a move on if we are going to be at my parents by 9:00. The first thing I need to do is take the dressing off your shoulder and check your stitches. You were thrashing around pretty badly when I came in here last night. I want to make sure you didn’t reopen the wound.”
As Nova finished examining his shoulder Derek glanced at the clock on his dresser. It was almost 7:30. If they were going to make it there on time they would have to be out of his apartment by shortly after 8:00. “If you wouldn’t mind making some coffee, I’ll go first and grab a quick shower.” With a suggestive grin he added, “That is unless you want to join me. It would save time.”
Nova tried to sound stern but could not help laughing. “I think you have seen quite enough of me already this morning Captain Wildstar.”
After Derek left the room Nova sat on the foot of the bed. So much had happened in the last twenty four hours that she was feeling a little overwhelmed. Staring at her hand she studied the ring he had placed on her finger just minutes before. “How did I get so lucky?” she wondered. “Do I deserve to be this happy?”
Once more the voice in her head whispered, “You survived,” It gave her no peace.
Trying to come to terms with the mixture of conflicting emotions she was feeling was taking a toll. Guilt gnawed at her. Her love for Derek and her joy at the future they would share was tinged by deep feelings of grief at the loss of so many people she cared about. She could not get the anguished faces of the families who had lost loved ones out of her mind.
“You survived,” whispered the voice in her head.
Shaking her head Nova got to her feet, “Get your ass in gear Forrester, sitting here is not going to change anything. Yes you survived now deal with it.”
Forty-five minutes later they were showered, dressed and out the door with two travel mugs of coffee. Derek was once again in the passenger seat. With his arm still in a sling it was difficult to drive. He was just thankful that Nova had let him put his shirt on after she bandaged his shoulder again before putting the sling back on. It did give him a little more freedom of movement.
Lost in thought Nova was quiet as she drove toward her parent’s home. She wanted to ask Derek about his parent’s house but was not sure how to broach the topic, not wanting to upset him. Finally she said, "Derek I didn't know your parent’s house survived the planet bombs not very many did."
“It might as well have been destroyed,” he replied, a note of sadness in his voice. “The day I went to get my mother’s rings was the first time I had set foot in it since the day they were killed. I couldn’t face going there alone. I convinced Mark Venture to go with me. I haven’t been back since.”
Not wanting to drag up painful memories Nova was going to let the subject drop when Derek said, “It really is a shame it’s been standing empty for so long. It is a beautiful house.”
“You said the house is empty. How is it possible your mother’s rings were still there after all these years? How did you know they would be?”
“Everything is still there for the most part. Alex was in the EDF and I wasn’t old enough to stay there alone so the house was closed up. Nothing was removed. There has been a management company looking after it ever since.”
Glancing at his face Nova could see unshed tears in his eyes. It was clear some ghosts had not been laid to rest. Reaching over she squeezed his hand. “Derek have you ever thought about moving back into house?”
“Until recently, I would never have considered it. It was just too painful to think about but now… maybe… with you,” He replied softly.
Nova smiled. She was glad he was willing to consider it. “I would never push you to do something you are not ready too.” Her choice of words and the parallel to what he had said to her earlier was not lost on him.
“It would make a wonderful family home,” he said. “We were happy living there. I had some great memories there before…” His voice trailed away leaving the thought unfinished.
“Yes it would,” she agreed. “One day you could share those memories with our children.”
The prospect of Nova having his children made Derek’s heart swell. It also brought him back to his desire for them to start their life together as soon as possible. “When I said this morning that I don’t want to spend one more day alone I meant it. I know I said I would like us to get married soon as we can arrange it but I never asked you what you wanted.”
His concern for her feeling was touching. “I don’t need a big fancy wedding to make me happy. All I need is you,” she replied. “Now my mother on the other hand, she may have an issue with that. I’m pretty sure she has been planning my wedding since the day I was born.”
“I have to tell you, your mother is a little scary,” Derek admitted with a chuckle, “But how long could it take to plan a wedding?”
Nova couldn’t help but laugh at his honest admission. Struck again with a pang of guilt at her happiness her smile faded. “I don’t know. With the way things are right now, so much destruction and so many people killed...” She couldn’t stop the tears that rolled down her cheeks.
Concerned that she was suddenly so upset Wildstar had her pull over and stop the car. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to her. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I feel guilty for having survived when so many others didn’t,” she blurted out, “and I feel guilty for being this happy.” She poured her heart out to him, “All those families at the meeting, I can’t stop thinking about them. The woman who yelled at you, I hear her in my head, she keeps whispering, you survived.”
“Oh sweetheart, please don’t cry,” he whispered hugging her tightly. “It’s just like you said to me, you survived for a reason. Did I ever tell you when I was little I loved sailing ships? I was fascinated by them. My father took me to see a flotilla of tall ship replicas that came into the harbour near our home. They were incredible. One of the Captains told of a legend associated with the ancient wooden vessels. It was said when a ship was lost, if the crew were valiant and honourable, the gods of the ocean would send one crew member back from the deep. It was then the responsibility of that sole survivor to honour those lost by telling their story. Maybe that’s what you need to do; find a way to honour them.”
“That’s a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it with me,” she said wiping her eyes and smiling at him. “How do you always know the right thing to say to make me feel better?”
Wildstar grinned at her, “It’s just what I do. I’m a full service fiancé and right now this full service fiancé wants to drive so slide over.” He was out of the car before Nova could protest about his shoulder. Knowing it was pointless to argue with him she moved over to the passenger seat.
“Now let’s get a move on. The last thing I want is for us to be late. I need to make a good impression on my future mother-in-law,” he said easily pulling the car back into traffic. Even though he had said it in a joking manner Wildstar was serious about making a good impression on Nova’s parents. Driving helped him relax.
November 16, 2201
The Forrester Family Home
Arriving at the Forrester family home, a neat brick faced two story house with a white picket fence, Derek felt a pang of anxiety. Walking around the car he took Nova’s hand as they headed up the walkway together. When they entered the house Karl Forrester called out, “We’re in the kitchen, come on back, breakfast is almost ready.”
The main entrance of the house opened into a spacious foyer with a large mirror in an ornate frame hung above what Derek thought to be an antique half-moon table. French double doors opened into a hallway with dark hardwood floors. The walls were the same soft blue as the foyer accented with white crown moldings. On the left side of the hall was the staircase leading to the upper level of the house. As they proceeded down the hall he noted the formal living room and dining room to his right. On the walls were several large paintings. There were no family photos anywhere in sight. His first impression was one of surprise. What he had seen of the house did not fit Nova’s personality at all. It felt a little too formal, almost stuffy. Entering the kitchen his impression changed immediately. The room was bright and cheerful. The cabinets, placed on either side of a large window, were oak with brushed metal fixtures. The sink was below the window. The backsplash was black and white check and the countertops were dark grey granite. There was a large oak table and chairs in the far corner. Everything in the kitchen was accented with shades of red. Nova’s father was flipping pancakes on the island in the centre of the room. Her mother was seated at the table a coffee mug in her hand.
Nova walked up to her father and kissed his cheek. “Good morning daddy.”
“Good morning sweetheart. I trust you got a good night sleep last night when you finally got home,” he said hugging her. He did not notice the slight blush that coloured her cheeks at his question.
Holding out his hand he approached Derek, “Good morning Captain. It’s good to see you again.”
Shaking the older man’s hand Wildstar smiled, “It’s good to see you again too Mr. Forrester and please call me Derek.”
Teri Forrester’s eyes narrowed as she looked from her daughter to Wildstar. She did not miss the slight reddening of his face either. Laying her mug on the table she got to her feet, “Nova could I have a word with you in private please.”
“Now what,” Nova wondered. She had no desire to be interrogated by her mother. “Mom we just got here can’t we have breakfast first? We can talk later.”
Teri Forrester was already on her way into the family room that was off the kitchen.
Derek raised an eyebrow in question. Nova gave him a small shrug in response and followed her mother out of the room.
Watching the women leave Wildstar knew this was the perfect opportunity to talk to Nova’s father alone. “Mr. Forrester there is something I would like to discuss with you sir.”
Turning back the heat on the griddle and laying the spatula he had been using to flip pancakes on the counter he gave Derek his full attention. Even though he was sure the conversation had something to do with his daughter he asked, “What’s on your mind.”
Not knowing how long Nova and her mother would be out of the room he got directly to the point, “I don’t know if you were aware that Nova and I have been a couple for some time. We kept our relationship quiet when we returned from Iscandar because of the paparazzi and because I was gone for almost a year on a deep space patrol. When I got back everything happened with the Comet Empire. I love your daughter.”
"I've suspected for a while Nova had someone in her life she cared for a great deal,” Karl Forrester replied with a smile, “there were moments when she would get this far away look in her eyes and she would smile. Am I correct in assuming you wanted to talk to me about marrying my daughter?"
"Yes Sir," Taking a deep breath Derek tried to settle the nervous butterflies in his stomach. “I actually proposed to Nova on board the Argo. If things had been different I would have come to ask you for her hand in marriage but circumstances being what they were at the time that was not possible. Things were going very badly. I had ordered the crew to abandon ship. I stayed aboard. It was my intention to use the Argo as a weapon and ram it into Zordar’s ship. I was on the bridge of the ship when I discovered Nova had ignored my orders and stayed aboard. You have to believe me when I tell you the last thing I wanted was for her to be any danger. It was the second time in as many days that she had put her life on the line for me. I had no idea if we would make it back to Earth but I needed her to know just how much she meant to me and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.”
“I am guessing Nova has agreed to this.”
Wildstar nodded, “I asked and she said yes.”
Derek was surprised when Nova's father began to laugh. "Thank god, now Teri can stop with her infernal match making. Nova hated her mother constantly trying to set her up on blind dates with every Tom, Dick or Harry she thought would be good husband material.”
Derek frowned slightly remembering the story Nova had told him the previous night of what had occurred on one of those dates. “I know, she told me.”
Karl Forrester held out his hand to shake the younger man’s hand but changed his mind and pulled him into a fatherly hug. “Welcome to the family Derek. I have to warn you, Teri will probably drive you mad planning the wedding."
Stepping back Wildstar’s face mirrored his concern, "Actually Mr. Forrester Nova and I don't want a big fuss. I hope that’s not going to cause a problem. We are hoping to be married before Christmas."
“Not to worry Nova can handle her mother,” He said. "As for me, I’m delighted. All I have ever wanted is for my daughter to be happy."
Derek sighed, "I'm afraid that's something Nova is struggling with right now. We lost so many friends she feels guilty for being happy."
“Nova is a very caring person so I am not surprised she is having a difficult time right now. She hasn’t had time to process how she is feeling. Just give her some time I know she will find a way to work through whatever she is feeling.” Turning the heat up once more on the griddle Mr. Forrester glanced toward the family room. “Whatever those two are discussing, I hope they do it quickly, breakfast is almost ready.”
Nova followed her mother into the family room. Unlike the formal living room this room was warm and inviting. There was a brown leather sofa with a matching love seat and two ivory wing chairs. The mantle above the fireplace was lined with family photos.
"Mother what could possibly be so important that you couldn't wait until after breakfast to talk to me?"
Teri Forrester took a seat on the sofa. "I ran into an old friend of yours the other day. He is a reporter now. He said he would love to see you again, maybe do an interview." She patted the cushion beside her, indicating for Nova to take a seat.
Folding her arms across her chest Nova continued to stand. "I don't remember any friends who are reporters."
"He was still in school when you met. I'm sure you'll remember him you went out a few times."
Nova frowned, she didn't like where the conversation was leading. "Mother please tell me you didn't drag me in here so you could play match maker. Maybe it escaped your attention but I didn’t come here alone this morning. "
Her mother began to look slightly uncomfortable, "I just thought if you and Scott reconnected maybe..."
"You're not talking about Scott Foley I hope," Nova felt a shiver ran down her spine at the mention of the name.
Teri Smiled, "I knew you'd remember him."
“Oh I remember him!” Nova was shaking. "Mother I am only going to say this once I wouldn't go out with him again if he was the last man on earth. Now if you'll excuse me I am going to go have breakfast."
Walking past her mother Nova headed toward the kitchen.
"Wait I'm not finished." Teri Forrester grabbed her daughter's wrist. "I want to know what exactly is going on with you and that man! I saw you blushing when your father asked if you had gotten a good night sleep." Her eyes widened when she saw the ring on Nova's hand.
"That man, as you called him, has a name, it's Derek. As for what's going on, I love him and I am going to marry him." Nova pulled her hand away. “As you can see your services as a matchmaker are no longer required.”
For a moment her mother was too stunned to speak. Finding her voice she asked, “But when did this happen? You weren’t wearing that ring last night.”
“Derek asked me to marry him while we were still on board the Argo. He put the ring on my finger this morning. It was his mother’s. He wanted me to be wearing it when we came here this morning. He planned on asking you and Dad for your blessing but you had to drag me in here. Unless I miss my guess Derek will have already spoken to him about our plans. It’s unfortunate you missed that conversation.” With that Nova walked back toward the kitchen.
Seeing his daughter enter the room Karl Forrester handed Derek the spatula, “That’s the last of the pancakes. Give them one last flip and then just add them to the stack under the cover.” He quickly walked around the island. “Derek told me your news,” he said giving Nova a hug. “I could not be happier.”
Stepping out of her father’s embrace she moved to Derek’s side taking his hand. “And you don’t mind that we don’t want a big fuss?”
Mr. Forrester grinned, “All I want is for you to be happy and it’s pretty clear the Captain here makes you happy.”
Nova looked tenderly at Derek, “Yes he does, very much.”
“Mr. Forrester, like I said to you earlier, I know this is a lot to do in a very short span of time. I hope that is not going to be an issue.”
Teri Forrester walked back into the kitchen just in time to hear Derek’s comment. “What has to get done in a short span of time?”
As they had been talking Karl Forrester filled four plates with food. “Everyone take a plate before it gets cold. We can discuss everything while we eat.”
Finally seated at the table Teri Forrester asked again, “So will someone please tell me what has to get done in a very short period of time?” She immediately noticed the uncomfortable look that passed between her daughter and her fiancé. “You’re not talking about the wedding are you? Why on Earth would you need to get your wedding planned…,” She abruptly stopped speaking, her face taking on the expression that she had just bitten into something unpleasant. “Nova Forrester are you pregnant?” she demanded.
Derek choked on the mouthful of coffee he had just swallowed and began to cough.
“MOTHER!” Nova was utterly horrified. “How can you even ask me that?”
Teri threw up her hands, “You announced last night that you love this man and then you arrive here this morning and tell us you’re getting married and that you want it to be as soon as you can arrange it. What do you expect me to think?”
Unshed tears sparkled in Nova’s eyes. “I expect you to see me as the daughter you raised, with your values and morals,” she replied softly. “There are no guarantees in life. Tomorrow is not promised and no one knows what the future will bring. That’s why we want to get married sooner rather than later, so we can start our life together and make the most of each day however many that may be.” The tears overflowed and slide down her cheeks.
“How can you even think like that?” Teri asked, sorry to have upset her daughter. “You and the Captain have a long life ahead of you.”
“You don’t know that,” Nova replied, a hint of anger in her voice. “It’s a miracle we made it home. So many of our friends didn’t... Why did I deserve to survive; to even be here planning a future none of them will get to have?” Sensing Derek’s presence behind her, Nova rose from her chair and into his embrace.
With a twinge of sadness Karl Forrester watched his daughter being comforted by her future husband. As a child she had always come to him for comfort when she was upset or troubled. He realized his little girl was not a little girl anymore. Like Derek he hated to see her cry. “Nova do you think any of your friends who died would want you to feel bad about surviving?”
“No probably not,” she replied, “but I just can’t help it.” Stepping away from Derek and wiping her eyes she once more took her seat at the table. Wildstar and her father followed suit.
“Nova do you have plans this morning? Are you expected to be with the Captain when he reports to EDF Headquarters?” Karl asked. He had an idea he thought would make her feel better.
“No I am actually off today. I do have to check in with Doctor Sane later this afternoon to get my assignment at the hospital,” she answered, “Why?”
“Perfect, you are going to come to choir practice with me after breakfast,” he replied with a grin.
“Choir practice, Daddy what are you talking about?” Nova asked. His unusual suggestion peaked her curiosity. “I haven’t sung in a choir since I was a child.”
It was Teri who replied. “When the StarForce left Earth and it became clear the there was a real threat to our safety people flocked back to the underground cities. It was really hard on the children. Your father thought of a way to help them pass the time. He started out offering music lessons piano and guitar. The kids who came started sticking around. We heard them singing along with their friends. He decided if they wanted to sing he would encourage them. He stared a children’s choir.” She looked fondly at her husband the pride she felt reflected in her eyes.
“Derek I don’t know if you have ever heard Nova sing but she has a beautiful voice. She plays the piano and guitar as well. She definitely inherited her father’s musical ability,” Teri said.
“I knew she played the guitar. She had with her on the Argo. I didn’t know she plays the piano and I have not had the pleasure of hearing her sing,” he replied.
Slowly warming to her future son-in-law Mrs. Forrester asked, “So what about you, do you play?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. I play the piano. My mother was an accomplished pianist, she insisted that I learn.”
“You never told me that,” Nova said looking at Derek in surprise.
“I guess the topic of music never really came up.” He smiled at her before turning serious. “I stopped playing for a while after she died, no piano in the orphanage, but even if there had been I don’t think I would have played it. She always sat with me when I practiced. The thought of playing without her was just too painful.”
Teri Forrester found herself moved by his story. “What made you start playing again?”
“It was actually my brother Alex. He was home on leave. I was staying in the barracks of the EDF flight training school. He came to visit me. We were in the common room. There was an old upright piano up against the wall. We had been talking about our parents, just reminiscing. He went over to the piano and said, come on little brother play Mom’s favourite piece. I refused, told him I was rusty and didn’t remember the music. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He said it was like riding a bicycle, once you learn how you never really forget. Finally, just to shut him up, I sat at the piano. I played Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. Playing made me feel like she was there with me, like I was honouring her memory. It made me feel better. I have been playing ever since.”
Reaching over Nova placed her hand on top of his. “I would have loved your mother,” she whispered softly. “That’s one of my favourite pieces of music as well.”
He squeezed her hand. “She would have loved you too.”
The breakfast conversation passed to discussing the wedding.
“While I admit I am not thrilled at a having to plan my daughter’s wedding in a matter of weeks, I always imagined I would have months to plan a grand affair,” Teri said, “I will do my best to make it work.”
“You also thought you’d be the one to pick out the groom and that didn’t happen either,” Nova replied rolling her eyes. “I would be perfectly content to get married by a justice of the peace. We don’t want a fuss.”
“I know, you have made that abundantly clear but have either of you considered the fact you are public figures?” Teri asked. “Do you remember the attention you got when you came home from Iscandar?”
Nova groaned, “I remember, I couldn’t go anywhere without being followed by reporters.” Looking at Derek she added, “You were fortunate to have missed most of it, being gone on deep space patrol.”
“What do you think will happen when the press learns you’re planning to get married?” Teri asked. “Like it or not you two are news.”
It was decided that her mother would make inquiries about possible venues while Nova went with her father to the children’s choir practice.
Wildstar glanced at his watch. “I’m afraid I have to get going,” he said pushing his chair back from the table and getting to his feet, “Mr. and Mrs. Forrester thank you for breakfast.”
Nova walked him out. Stopping in the entry way Derek put his arm around her waist drawing her close. “Whatever you and your mother decide about the wedding is fine with me as long as it makes you happy. Don’t let your mother push you into anything you don’t want.” Leaning down he kissed her. “Why don’t you come meet me at headquarters when you’re finished meeting with Dr. Sane. We can go see the Commander about our plans to get married.”
“It’s a date,” she said with a smile. Her attention focused on Derek when she opened the door Nova did not notice the group of reporters gathered on the front lawn. The cat calls, whistles and questions shouted from the group when she gave him a final quick kiss goodbye alerted her of their presence. The photographers in the group snapped picture after picture. She blushed scarlet, “Oh God that’s not good. Those pictures will be everywhere in no time. Derek what will the Commander say?”
“We knew this was bound to happen sooner or later, don’t worry about it. I’ll speak with the Commander as soon as I get to Headquarters.” Derek said reassuringly, “Just ignore them for now. I love you. I’ll see you later.” He dashed past the reporters without acknowledging their questions quickly getting into the car. Gunning the engine he drove away from the throng. In the rear view mirror he saw Nova retreat into her parent’s house and shut the door.
November 16, 2201
Great Island Community Centre
When Karl Forrester entered the music room of the community centre he was greeted with a chorus of “Mr. Forrester, Mr. Forrester.”
Nova followed her father into the room. She was surprised to see how large his children’s choir actually was. She guessed there were twenty children in the room ranging in age from six to twelve or thirteen.
“Okay everyone please take your seats,” Karl called to the children. When the room became quite he said, “Before we start today I want you to meet someone, this is my daughter Nova.”
“You’re in the Star Force.” It was a statement, not a question. Nova looked in the direction of the voice. A young boy with dark hair was looking at her intently. He looked familiar to her. It took her a moment before she realized who he was.
“I am,” Nova replied, “You’re Jordy Venture aren’t you, Mark’s little brother.”
Jordy nodded, “Yes I am. My big brother is the hospital right now. He got hurt fighting the Comet Empire. He’s very brave.”
“Yes he is Jordy,” she answered. “I am praying that he will get better quickly.”
“He will,” Jordy stated with the absolute confidence of a child, “and I am going to sing for him when he comes home.”
As Nova looked around the room she realized he was not the only one who had family members in the Star Force.
For the hour and a half that followed, Nova listened to the children sing. Her father had not exaggerated when he said they were good. It became apparent that singing was only part of the choir’s function. The children had the opportunity to interact with others who understood what they were going through. Her father started the practice by asking if anyone had anything they wanted to share giving them an outlet to express their feelings. Keiko Kitamura, the little girl she had met the night before at the meeting with the Star Fleet families, raised her hand.
“Keiko did you have something you wanted to share?” Karl asked.
“My Daddy is not coming home,” she said. Her bottom lip quivered and two large tears rolled down her cheeks. “He’s a hero, just like Jordy’s brother.”
Nova watched as Jordy got out of his seat and put his arm around the little girl. “Yes he is and we are going to sing for him too aren’t we?”
Keiko nodded, “Okay.”
She listened as the children sang and shared their feelings. It was obvious that singing made them feel better. She thought about her own feelings and grief and the things that gave her comfort. From the time she was a child she wrote down the things she could not say out loud usually in the form of poetry. It was something she did for herself that she rarely shared with anyone. A poem began to take form.
invades my soul
there’s comfort in a prayer, I find
though these candles honor you
they burn for those you left behind
As the words came to mind she wondered if they could be set to music. By the time the practice was over Nova was eager to get back to her parent’s home and sit at her piano.
Karl Forrester groaned as he approached his house it was clear not only were the reporters still there but they had in fact increased in number. He and Nova had been able to get into his car in the garage and drive past them on the way out that morning. They were not so lucky this time. A group of the reporters had lined themselves in front of the garage door making it impossible for them to enter. He had no choice but to stop the car in the driveway. The car was quickly surrounded by reporters and photographers. Nova covered her face with her hands, “They are like vultures. Why can’t they just leave us alone? I really don’t have anything to tell them.”
Karl looked sympathetically at his daughter, “I know sweetheart. Let’s just get this over with. The quicker we get out of the car the quicker we get into the house and away from them.”
Taking a deep breath Nova put her hand on the handle of the door, “Okay I’m ready when you are.”
In spite of her best effort as she exited the car Nova found herself surrounded by reporters. “I really can’t tell you anything,” she told the crowd keeping her head down in an attempt to avoid having her picture taken as she tried to get to the house. “If you have questions you will have to address them to EDF Headquarters.”
“We’re not interested in what happened with the Comet Empire right now, there is an official press conference being held later this evening to answer those questions,” explained the reporter who was blocking her attempt to get past them. The voice was familiar. Nova looked up to see who was addressing her. She froze; standing directly in front of her was Scott Foley.
“Hello Nova,” he said.
Ignoring him she addressed the other reporters, “I know you're only doing your job but I really don't have anything I can tell you. You clearly know more than I do right now. I didn't even know about the press conference.”
“People want to know what it was like to fight the Comet Empire,” explained a female reporter, “They want to know about you. You're a hero.”
“I'm not a hero, I was just doing my job and I got lucky, I survived.” Nova replied as the familiar sadness filled her. “If you want people to know the real heroes, tell them about the officers and crew members who didn’t come home.”
“Oh I’m sure they’ll do that,” said Scott, “but right now I am much more interested in the personal side of the incident, like what exactly goes on aboard ship between the male and female crew members.”
“What do you want from me Scott?” she asked struggling to keep her temper in check.
“Honest answers would be nice because based on this picture it must be something pretty intimate,” as he spoke he held up a copy of the Japanese Sun, the paper he worked for. Emblazoned across the front page was a picture of her kissing Derek good-bye that morning.
As Nova reached out to take the paper he was holding the sun glinted on the diamonds in her ring. He grabbed her wrist. "Just doing your job huh, what part of the job description gets you a rock like that?"
Nova was shaking as she yanked her hand away. It took all of her self-control not to punch him in his arrogant face. “My personal life is none of your business.”
Foley turned to the gathered reporters. They had all been watching the exchange. "I think the real purpose the female crew serve in the fleet is pretty obvious. I guess some are better at it than others."
“God Foley you’re an even bigger pig than I thought!” It was the same female reporter who had spoken earlier. “I’m sorry Lieutenant Forrester that really crossed the line. My name is Amelia Wicks I work for The Daily News.” She glared at Foley, “some reporters have no scruples at all and they make the rest of us look bad.” At her statement the other reporters moved apart allowing Nova and her father to enter the house.
As she moved toward the house Foley stepped in front of her. “This isn’t over,” he whispered. “I will get the story.”
“You’re right Scott, it isn’t,” Nova agreed, “I do have a story to tell and once again it won’t include you.” Recalling the story Derek had told her that morning she made a decision. Calling out to the reporter from the Daily News she asked, “Amelia when I am given clearance to talk about what happened, if you’d be interested, I would be happy to talk with you. Maybe I can share some of the stories of the crew who didn’t survive with you.”
Surprised by the offer Amelia quickly accepted. “That would be fantastic,” she replied with grin. “When you’re ready just call the paper and we will set something up.”
Turning away from the crowd Nova followed her father into the house. When the door closed she leaned against it. The encounter with Scott Foley had left her feeling unsettled. She could not shake the feeling he was going to be trouble. Karl Forrester felt the same way.
“Who was that really unpleasant reporter, the one who made all the nasty comments?” he asked, “he acted like he knew you.”
Nova chuckled, “believe it or not Daddy, he is one of the men Mama tried to set me up with. She actually mentioned him to me this morning, hoping we could reconnect.”
“Enough about Scott Foley,” she said linking her arm through his as they walked down the hall to the kitchen. “I have a couple of hours before I have to go see Doctor Sane at the hospital and then go meet up with Derek. I think I have an idea of how I can honour the fallen members of the Star Force. I want to work on it alone right now but I may need your help later.”
Karl Forrester smiled. When the need to create took hold of his daughter she was single minded in her purpose. “Sweetheart you know I will do whatever I can to help.”
“Thank you Daddy.” Kissing her father on the cheek Nova proceeded into the family room. Walking to her piano she lifted the seat cover on the bench. Reaching inside she removed several sheets of music manuscript paper and a battered leather journal in which she wrote her poetry. Taking a seat at the piano she set to work. Two hours later Nova had put her feelings on paper and had composed a basic melody. It was a start to the vision she had in her head. She called to her father. Handing him the music and words she looked at him in anticipation. “What do you think?” she asked.
Tears sparkled in his eyes. “Nova this is really wonderful.”
“I know the music needs some work. I was hoping you can help me with that,” she replied. “Do you think it’s good enough to be performed in public? There is going to be a memorial service at Hero’s Hill and I thought maybe the Children’s Choir could perform it with me.”
“I can’t think of a better idea,” he answered taking Nova’s place at the piano. “I can work on the music; maybe add some harmonies, while you’re gone.”
“I will talk to General Singleton about his plans for the service and about my idea while I’m at Headquarters.” No matter what the General decided, Nova felt better, lighter is spirit, since she had gotten her feelings on paper.
November 16, 2201
General Charles Singleton’s Office
Earth Defence Headquarters
Arriving at General Singleton’s office Nova was greeted by his Adjutant. “Good afternoon Lieutenant, it’s good to see you again.”
Nova smiled at the young officer. “It’s nice to see you again as well.”
“The General and Captain Wildstar are expecting you,” he said rising out of his chair, “if you’ll follow me.”
When she entered the office the two men were deep in conversation their expressions serious. They did not immediately notice her approach. Derek looked momentarily surprised when he noticed her.
Nova could tell whatever they were discussing was important. “If you need more time to talk I can wait outside. I don’t want to interrupt.”
“Nonsense Lieutenant, the Captain and I were just discussing proposed changes to the ships of the fleet.” General Singleton got to his feet. He indicated to the sofa, “Please have a seat.”
Derek got up from the wing chair he had been seated in and took a seat next to her. Not knowing how much Derek had told the General about their plans, or his reaction to the photo in the paper, Nova felt the flutter of nerves in her stomach.
The General quickly put her worries to rest. “Allow me to be one of the first to congratulate you on your engagement. The Captain told me about it when he arrived this morning. He also told me about the incident with the reporters and photographers outside your parent’s home.”
Nova found herself blushing. “I’m really sorry General. I should have been more observant this morning. I had forgotten what the press could be like. I guess I wasn’t expecting them to turn up at my parent’s home this morning.”
“As I explained to the Captain this morning there really aren’t any regulations to prevent you from getting married. I have already filed the required paperwork. The one catch right now is married couples are not permitted to serve on the same ship but as you are both members of the Star Force I am working on changing that.”
Derek looked at the General in surprise. “I fully understand the need for such a regulation, to maintain discipline and order in the ranks, why would you want to change it?”
“Because the surviving members of the Star Force are an elite unit that I do not wish to see split up especially when they will be training the replacement crew,” he explained.
The young couple looked at each other in astonishment. They could not quite believe what they were hearing.
“Thank you sir,” was all Nova could think to say.
“Now that the press have let the proverbial cat out of the bag about your relationship, I am going to need you both to attend the press conference that is scheduled for 18:00 hours this evening. We need to get out in front of the rumours, confirm your relationship and your plans to get married. Captain you can explain what occurred aboard the Argo and how you made it back to Earth. You can announce your engagement. I think the people could use a little good news right now. Your wedding could be just the thing.”
“General Singleton, if you don’t mind my asking, are you still planning to hold a public memorial held on Hero’s Hill.” Nova asked.
“Yes I am. It is going to be formally announced tonight as well,” he answered.
“Sir I hope this is not out of line but I would really like to be a part of the service. I have been struggling with the loss of so many friends. I’ve written something to honour the fallen members of the Star Force that I would very much like to share. I don’t know if you are aware of the fact my father formed a Children’s Choir when everyone moved back to the underground city to get away from the Comet Empire. They are really good and some of the children are family members of the Star Force and some of them have lost loved ones. I would like to perform with them.”
“Lieutenant I would be very happy to have you and the choir as part of the memorial. My Adjutant is organizing the ceremony. I will have him add you to the program. You can let him know what you will require.”
Derek smiled with pride, “So am I finally going to get to hear you sing?”
Nova smiled back, “Yes I guess you are.”
An hour later the young officers found themselves seated on a dais lined with microphones facing a group of reporters. Scanning the crowd Nova noticed Scott Foley standing at the very back of the group.
Stepping up to the podium General Singleton raised his hand to silence the group. “I am not going to speak for too long. I do have a prepared statement that I would like to read and then I will take some questions.” He explained everything the Defence Counsel knew about the fate of the Comet Empire. He told them of the plans for the renewal of the fleet and the accelerated training that would be provided for current cadets and new recruits. He provided statistics on the number of deaths both civilian and military.
“In closing I want to acknowledge the loss of officers and crew. They were heroes all and to honour their sacrifice there will be a memorial ceremony that will take place two weeks from today at Hero’s Hill.” For the next twenty minutes he answered questions from the press.
"I won't be taking any more questions. I am going to turn the floor over to Derek Wildstar, Captain of the Argo and Commander of the Star Force.” Singleton indicated for Derek to join him at the podium.
Derek acknowledged his commanding officer, “Thank you sir.” The clamour of shouted questions was deafening as assembled group all started talking at once.
Standing silently he waited for the group to settle down before he spoke again. “From the flurry of questions I know you all have things you want to ask. I will do my best to provide what answers I can. Before I open this up to your questions I would like to ask Lieutenant Nova Forrester to join me.” As Nova walked to the podium the gathered reporters once again erupted with questions.
“Before we take your questions there is something we would like to address.” Unfolding the newspaper Nova had handed him Wildstar held it up to the crowd. It was the picture that had been taken of them that morning. “I am sure by now you have all seen this.” There was shouted acknowledgement of his statement.
“Kudos to the photographer for catching the shot too bad he didn’t get my good side,” Derek stated with self-deprecating humor. His statement had the desired effect as laughter rippled through the group. “Lieutenant would you like to share our news with everyone.”
“It’s very simple really. I love the Captain very much, enough to ignore his orders to abandon ship. If he was determined to go down with his ship then I was equally determined that I was going to go down with him.” Nova explained.
Derek took up the story. “I was not happy that she had ignored my orders. I wanted her safe. She had risked her life to save me from Desslok of Gamilon not twenty-four hours earlier and she was willing to die with me when I planned to ram the Argo into Zordar’s ship. I came to the conclusion if she cared about me that much I needed to marry her so I asked…”
Nova held up her left hand showing off the ring on her third finger, “and I said yes.” Their announcement was met with applause, cheers and shouts of congratulations. Nova did not miss the fact Scott Foley was not smiling. He scowled at her then turned and walked away.
When the press conference finally came to an end Nova was exhausted. It had been a long busy day and the lack of sleep from the night before was catching up with her. Saying goodbye to the Commander they walked hand in hand to the parking lot. By the time they reached her car she was openly yawning. Stopping by the car Derek put his arm around her waist facing her. “You look tired,” he observed with concern. “If you want, you can ride home with me and pick your car up in the morning.”
“As tempting as that sounds I’m actually going to stay at my parent’s house tonight,” she replied.
Derek looked at her in surprise, “Really, what made you decide that?”
“Dad was going to work on the music for the memorial piece while I was here. I told him I’d come back and look at it with him when I was done,” she explained. “I’m tired and it’s a long drive back to the officer’s quarters from Dad’s. It’s better for me to just stay there.”
“I know you’re right but I was really hoping to convince you to stay with me again tonight,” he responded with a wink and a grin, “you can trust me.”
“I know I can trust you. It’s not you I’m worried about.” Her honest reply caught him completely off guard. “Don’t look so shocked. I may not have any experience but I know what I want.”
Wildstar could not help but laugh. “Well this will just have to do for the time being. Consider it a down payment on what’s to come.” Pulling her tightly against his chest he kissed her. The familiar pull was stronger than ever making her heart race. Wrapping her arms around his neck Nova pressed herself closer winding her fingers through his hair. They jumped apart at the sound of a camera shutter clicking and the accompanying flash.
“Don’t stop on my account. I’ll get a bonus for pictures like this,” sneered the photographer.
Wildstar cursed himself for a fool for not paying closer attention to his surroundings and for once again getting caught in a compromising position. He attempted to appeal to the photographer, “Everyone knows now Lieutenant Forrester and I are a couple and that we are planning to be married so how much value can they have? The only point in publishing them would be if you want to embarrass us.”
“Derek don’t waste your time trying to reason with him there’s no point. He wants to embarrass us or me at least.”
“She’s right, so save your breath,” he stated grinning at Derek. “Come on Nova where are your manners? Aren’t you going to introduce me to the Captain?”
Wildstar looked expectantly at his fiancé, “Nova do you know this person?”
She nodded, “This is Scott Foley.”
Immediately recalling the story Nova had told him the night before it took all of his self-control not to knock the man on his ass. Taking a deep breath Wildstar clamped down on his temper. “So tell me do you want to embarrass her because she wouldn’t go to bed with you or because she broke your nose?”
Foley was startled by Derek’s question. Seeing the look on his face Wildstar said, “Don’t look so surprised I know all about that incident.”
Recovering quickly from his initial surprise Foley quietly studied the couple before speaking. “It is obvious you don’t want these pictures published. I understand they would be embarrassing not only for you but for the EDF as well. I am not an unreasonable man. I have a proposition to make. Nova I don’t know if you are aware that I was talking to your mother the other day. She thought it would be nice for you and me to reconnect. She also suggested that maybe you would agree to an interview with me. Here is what I propose, you agree to meet me tomorrow and do the interview and I won’t give these pictures to my editor.”
“Absolutely not,” Derek replied. He could not believe the gall of the man to even make such a request.
“Derek wait, I’ll do it.” Nova placed a hand on his arm. “I don’t want the Commander or the EDF to be embarrassed again because of us.”
“Listen to the lady Captain, she makes good sense.” Foley was practically gloating he was so pleased with the unexpected turn of events. “So where do you want to meet tomorrow?”
“Nova could I have a word with you in private please,” Wildstar was quietly fuming that she had agreed to give Foley what he wanted. Taking her hand he led her to the other side of the car. “How could you agree to meet with him?” he snapped, “especially after I said no!”
Nova refused to lose her temper but when she spoke there was an edge to her tone. “I am only going to say this once Derek Wildstar so listen well, we are not on board the Argo right now so I do not have to take orders from you. I am going to be your wife and in future when there are decisions to be made on things that affect both of us we will make the decision together is that clear?”
He had not expected that reaction from her but he knew she was right. Raising his hand he gently stroked her cheek. “I’m sorry, you’re right I should not have spoken for you. When you said who he was I wanted to beat the crap out of him. He is so arrogant that it made me angry and I reacted without thinking.”
“Thank you, I appreciate that.” Nova placed her hand on top of his pressing his hand to her cheek, “I still think I should meet with him tomorrow. Derek General Singleton has done so much for us that I don’t want to repay his kindness with further embarrassment.”
“Nova I don’t trust him at all. I agree you have no choice but to meet with him but I do have one condition of my own. I do not want you to be alone with him under any circumstances, promise me.” His concern for her safety was touching.
“I promise,” she replied giving him a quick hug, “let’s go get this settled so we can get out of here.”
Returning to where they had left the reporter standing Nova quickly said, “I will meet you tomorrow morning at 9:30 at Coffee Matters. I know you’re familiar with it it’s the coffee shop down the street from my parent’s house.”
“I thought somewhere more private would be better, like my office,” he answered, “We would be less likely to be interrupted.”
Glancing at Derek Nova knew he was not happy with that suggestion. “Scott either you meet me there or we don’t meet at all.”
“Suit yourself,” he said with a shrug, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
As they watched Foley walk away Derek asked, “Nova are you sure about this?”
“No,” she relied honestly, “and I will be very glad when it’s over.”
“You and me both,” he answered frowning slightly.
Nova stifled a yawn. “I should really get going.” Giving his a quick kiss good-bye she got into her father’s car. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
When she finally arrived back at her parent’s house she went directly to the family room. She was not surprised to find her father still seated at the piano.
“So how did you make out with the music?” she asked, “I hope my simple melody gave you something to work with.”
“Sweetheart, your melody was lovely and yes it gave me a place to start but it was the words that really moved me,” he replied. “I wrote the piece for piano and guitar. Take a seat and I’ll play the piano piece for you.”
As she listened to her father play and sing Nova’s eyes filled with tears. She could not have been happier. The piece captured everything she felt and everything she wanted to say to the friends she had lost. It gave her comfort. “I can envision the performance. I see the children holding lit candles as they sing and the stage lit with them as well.”
“I think that would be so appropriate given the lyrics. I have identified a couple of sections that could be solos for two members of the choir.”
Getting up from her chair Nova took a seat on the piano bench beside her father, “So do you have any thoughts on who could do the solos?”
“I do but before I say who I would like to ask them if they would be willing to do it. Singing with our little group is one thing but singing in public before a large crowd is something else entirely.”
Stifling a yawn behind her hand Nova kissed her father on the cheek and got to her feet, “I will leave that decision in your capable hands because right now I need to go to bed.”
November 17, 2201
Forrester Family Home
After the first good night sleep she had had in days Nova got dressed and made her way to the kitchen in her parent’s house.
Karl Forrester, seated at the table, looked up from the newspaper he had been reading as she entered the room.
“Good morning Daddy,” Nova greeted him as she poured herself a cup of coffee. Mug in hand she leaned against the island in the centre of the kitchen. “Where’s Mama?”
“She went to Coffee Matters to pick up some pastry for breakfast,” he replied without taking his eyes from the paper in his hands.
Noticing the odd expression on his face she asked, “Is something wrong? You seem distracted.”
He hesitated before answering. Making a decision he indicted to the chair beside him, “I have something I think you need to see. You might want to sit down.”
“Surely it can’t be as bad as all that,” she said taking a seat beside him at the table. Even as she said the words she could not shake the queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Taking the newspaper from her father, Nova looked at the article he had been reading. It was a column entitled, The Secret Purpose of Nurses in the Earth Defense Force Fleet. It was written by Scott Foley. Nova looked at her father, “Anything he has to say can’t be good.” With a sigh she began to read. By the end of the article she was shaking with rage. “My god I can’t believe they actually printed that! He actually said the primary role of the nurses was to provide physical comfort to the male officers. He makes the female officers and medical personnel look like we are nothing better than space going prostitutes! Listen to this: He said the senior officers had first choice among the females and were unwilling to share their favourites. He goes on to say some of the nurses were so skilled the men actually wanted to marry them. He is not coming right out and saying it but he is referring to myself and Derek.”
Karl Forrester nodded sympathetically. “I have to agree with you. It’s a pretty nasty article. Reasonable people are not going to believe it.”
“That’s just the problem there are people who will believe it. I can name one senior officer who will happily believe it and use it ti cause trouble. Hell he would probably take advantage of the situation if it was true.” Nova was so agitated she did not hear the front door open or the voices coming down the hall.
“I think your mother is back,” said Karl. “It sounds like she is talking to someone.”
Nova looked toward the hall in time to see her mother enter the kitchen followed closely by Scott Foley. She could not believe her eyes. She rose slowly from her chair, “You unimaginable bastard! What the hell are you doing here?”
Foley was completely unfazed by her outburst. “I ran into your mother at Coffee Matters. I told her I was meeting you there for an interview and that I was not happy about the location with its lack of privacy. She was kind enough to suggest we could do the interview here.”
Nova was astounded. “Mother how could you bring him here especially after what he wrote in the paper this morning.”
“Yes he told me about all about his article on our way back here from the coffee shop.” Teri Forrester frowned at her daughter. “Didn’t I warn you the EDF was no place for a respectable young woman? I am only surprised no one has made this accusations before now.”
“That’s because reasonable people would never believe it!” Grabbing the paper from the table Nova shook it in front of her mother, “are you telling me you believe this garbage?”
“No I didn’t want to believe it, not at first, especially not when my own daughter is one of the women in question. When Scott told me you spent the night you came home with Captain Wildstar I didn’t know what to think.” Opening her purse Teri pulled out a small manila envelope, “Pictures don’t lie.” Opening the envelop she handed Nova the photos. There were pictures of them outside Derek’s apartment the night they arrived home, shots of them entering the apartment and of them leaving there the following morning. At the very bottom of the pile were pictures of them in an obviously passionate kiss that Foley had gotten the night before.
“You can deny it if you want Nova,” Scott stated, “but I have a signed statement from the sentry on duty that night. He swears he heard the Captain ask you to stay with him and that you agreed.”
“No I am not going to deny it. I will say this, if the sentry heard Derek ask me to stay then he also heard him say in his guest room. There was no electricity or running water in C block where my apartment is located so I stayed in Derek’s apartment and that is very different from staying with Derek.”
One look at her face told Scott that she was wavering, that she wanted to believe her daughter’s story and that he could not tolerate. He saw Teri Forrester as shallow and superficial, interested in keeping up appearances at all cost. He knew exactly what to say to pull her back to his side, “Tell me Nova isn’t it true you were the lone female to go to Diamond Island on Iscandar with a group of eight men?”
Nova was reeling. How had he found out about that incident? It had been one of the most terrifying experiences of her life. It had not been made public to protect not only her reputation but that of the officers involved as well. As none of the men had survived the earthquake and resulting tidal wave it had been decided to spare the families of the men the embarrassment of their dishonourable actions.
Foley prided himself on his ability to read people. It was clear his accusation had struck a nerve with her. “I find it interesting how none of them survived.”
Teri Forrester was visibly horrified by what she was hearing and it was obvious to Nova that she believed every word. “God Mama is that what you really believe; that I serviced half the men on the ship?” she asked quietly. Her heart was broken and she was on the verge of tears. “I know you didn’t ask, and Scott I know you don’t care about the truth, but I am going to tell you what happened. Those men didn’t believe we would make it back to Earth. They wanted to stay on Iscandar and start over. I did not go with them voluntarily. I was drugged and kidnapped. They were warned that Diamond Island was geologically unstable but they didn’t heed the warning and do you know why? Because they were fighting over who would get to rape me first. I was able to get away while they were arguing. That’s how I survived.”
Scott could see once more Teri Forrester was unsure what to believe. He sneered as he said, “Well as you are going to marry the Captain I guess what you did or did not do is a moot point.”
Relief flooded over her, “Scott is right Nova you are going to marry the Captain so no harm done.”
Karl Forrester had been quietly listening to the exchange. He had heard enough, “What do you mean no harm done? Teri have you actually looked at your daughter since you came in here? Have you heard nothing that she has said? Can’t you see how upset she is?”
Nova placed a restraining hand on her father’s arm, “it’s okay Daddy at least I know what Mama really thinks of me now. If you’ll excuse me I think I need some air.” Struggling to keep from breaking down Nova quickly walked across the kitchen and down the hall. The last thing on earth she wanted was to give Scott Foley the opportunity to see her cry. By the time she reached the front door tears were rolling down her cheeks. Yanking open the door she dashed down the walkway.
Nova ran without thought of where she was going she just knew she had to get away. She ran as if the darkest demons of hell were chasing her. She eventually slowed her pace when she realized where she was. Opening the gate in the rod iron fence she walked up the cobblestone path. Pulling the handle on the ornate red wooden doors Nova stepped inside the cool interior of the small stone church. Walking up the centre aisle she slipped into the pew her family always occupied when they attended Sunday services. In the peaceful silence of the church she privately and completely fell apart.
Entering the small stone building
Wildstar walked down the centre aisle. Nova was sitting curled in the corner of
the third pew. Her head bent, she did not see him approach. Slipping into the
pew behind her he gently placed his hand on her shoulder. When she looked up he
was dismayed to see she had been crying.
"Your father told me I would probably find you here."
She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "I just needed some time alone. It's peaceful here."
"I heard what happened with that reporter. Are you okay?"
Her eyes filled with tears once more. “I can handle anything Scott Foley sees fit to throw at me but to know what my own mother thinks of me hurts more than I can say.”
Standing up Wildstar stepped from the pew behind her and into the one she was seated in. Sliding over on the seat Nova made space for him to sit down beside her. Putting his arm around her shoulders he pulled her close. Resting her head on his shoulder she sobbed quietly.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked gently.
“Daddy showed me the article that Scott had written in the morning paper. He claimed the primary role of the female officers, in particular the nurses, was to provide physical comfort to their male superiors.”
Having come directly to the church after receiving Karl Forrester’s phone call Wildstar had not seen the article. He was shocked. “How could anyone believe that? It’s completely ridiculous not to mention there are regulations against that kind of fraternization.”
“Scott writes for a scandal sheet so I am not surprised that they would print it but this was in The Daily News. They picked up the story which means they believe it and so does my mother.”
“But for them to believe it, Foley has to have something to substantiate the story. I can’t see a reputable paper like The Daily News just taking him at his word.”
“Well I can’t speak to the newspapers and I don’t know how but he had pictures of us going into your apartment the other night and leaving in the morning. The sentry on duty told him he heard you ask me to stay with you.”
“Then he must have heard me say in my spare bedroom.”
“That’s what I said but it didn’t make any difference. That’s not all, he knows about the incident on Diamond Island on Iscandar but of course he put the spin on it that I went with Sparks and the other men voluntarily. Derek how did he find out? Where is he getting his information?”
“I have no idea but I am certainly going to try and find out. Don’t worry about it right now,” he answered.
“The worst part is my mother believes him. She did try to put a positive spin on her disappointment in my behaviour by saying that at least I am going to marry you. I have done nothing, not even when I woke up in your bed yesterday but I have been judged and found guilty.” Nova took a deep shuddering breath. “If that’s what people are willing to believe then I don’t want to wait any more. I want to be with you… tonight.”
Derek had not expected her to say that and it took him a moment to reply. “Nova there is nothing I would love more than to scoop you into my arms, carry you back to my apartment and make love to you but I won’t.”
She could not believe he would refuse her. Nova could not hide the look of hurt in her eyes. "But if they think we already have then what difference does it make?"
"No listen to me, before we ever met you made a very personal decision to wait to have sex until you were married. In spite of incredible outside pressure you have kept that decision. I never want you to look back on the first time we make love with regret." In an attempt to lighten the mood he indicated to the sling on his right arm, "besides right now I wouldn't be able to carry you anywhere. I want my arm healed so I can pick you up on our wedding night and carry you over the threshold."
She knew he was right. Pulling herself together Nova glanced at her watch. It was 10:15. She had been sitting in the church for more than an hour. “Aren’t you supposed to be at headquarters right now?”
Derek nodded, “Yes I am. I was actually with General Singleton, several council members and a group of engineers when your father called. He told me what had happened. He said you were really upset when you left the house. He was getting ready to go look for you. He said you often come here when you need to be alone. I told him not to worry and that I would come here myself.”
“I’m sorry Dad called and interrupted your meeting.”
“Don’t be, I’m glad he called.” He looked around the small church. The building was constructed entirely of stone. There were twenty pews in total, ten on either side of the centre aisle with two small side aisles on either side of the pews. The sun shining through three large stained glass windows above the altar created an intricate coloured mosaic on the slate floor. There were three smaller stained glass windows in both side walls. The large red wooden doors opened directly to the centre aisle. “I can see why you come here, it’s beautiful.”
“Yes it is,” Nova agreed. “This place is
very special to me. I came here a lot the year you were gone on deep space
patrol, when I was worried about you and missing you. It’s the one place that I
can always find comfort. Like your parent’s house this was one of only a
handful of structures that survived the
Gamilons and the Comet Empire.”
“Nova I know it may not be as grand as what your mother might want and it won’t hold a lot of people but what would you think of getting married here?”
For the first time since she had entered the church Nova smiled, “I would love that.”
At that moment the door to the sanctuary opened and a young priest dressed in a black cassock, white surplice and a white stole stepped out. He looked as if he was prepared for a service. Seeing the couple seated in the pew he approached them. Recognizing Nova he smiled at them. “Nova it is good to see you again. I am sure your parents must be glad you made it home safely.”
“Father Jonathan it is nice to see you too. I hope you don’t mind my being here. I was having a bit of a rough start to the morning and I just needed some time alone.” Taking in the young priest’s dress she quickly added, “You look like you are preparing for a service. I hope we are not interrupting.”
“Actually I am preparing for another funeral. There is one here at 11:00.” he replied with a look of sadness. “There have been quite a few over the last little while and I’m sure there will be more to come. Sadly the Comet Empire’s attack claimed quite a few victims and even now we are seeing the long term effects of the planet bombs. Cancer caused by the radiation is claiming more victims every day.”
Nodding sadly Nova said, “I know I am actually starting a rotation on the Pediatric Oncology Ward at the hospital today.”
Changing the subject the young priest spoke to Derek, “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Jonathan Rowe, the parish priest here.”
Nova quickly made the introductions, “Father Jonathan this is my fiancé Derek Wildstar.”
The two men shook hands. “It is nice to meet you Captain. We are all in your debt.”
Not comfortable in the role of the hero Derek downplayed the priest’s thanks, “Not at all, I was just doing my job.”
“Nova your mother must be delighted that you getting married.”
Unaware he had stumbled into a sore topic the priest was a little surprised by Nova’s comment. “Father Jonathan I am not sure delighted is the term I would use to describe my mother’s feeling but that is a long story for another day. Actually Derek had just asked how I would feel about getting married here. I would love it but I realize with the things the way they are getting a date may be difficult.”
Father Jonathan beamed at the couple, “A wedding, a celebration of life, would be a wonderful change right now. Did you have a date in mind?”
It was Derek who replied. “We don’t have a specific date in mind but we were hoping to be married before Christmas. I realize that is a rather small window of opportunity but after everything we have been through we don’t want to wait any longer than is necessary to start our life together.”
“I can certainly understand that. Let me go look at the church calendar to see what dates might be available.” He hurried back to the sanctuary returning several minutes later with a day planner calendar. “I had a quick look before I came back out. The one available date that I think might work is December tenth. That is only three weeks away. It does not give you much time to plan.”
Nova took Derek’s hand and squeezed it. He smiled at her in return. Nova eagerly confirmed the date, “Father Jonathan that’s perfect and if Derek has no objections I would very much like you to perform the ceremony.”
“It would be my honour. Give me a call next week and we can discuss the details,” he replied, “now if you will excuse me, I have to go finish preparations for the funeral.”
As they walked from the church Nova was smiling happily. The staff car Derek had been assigned that morning was parked out front.
“I know you need to get back to headquarters,” she said giving him a kiss on the cheek. “My shift at the hospital is not until 16:00. I am going to walk back to my parent’s house and then go to the choir practice with Daddy. We don’t have a lot of time to rehearse before the Memorial Service.”
Not at all sure how Nova’s mother would react to the fact they had set a wedding date without her input Derek was reluctant to let Nova face her alone. “Let me call General Singleton. I will let him know I won’t be back until after lunch and then I can drive you back to the house and we can talk to your parent’s together.” Pulling his cellular phone from his pocket he quickly dialed the number.
The call lasted much longer than Nova had thought it would. From what she could gather from the one sided conversation and the look on Derek’s face it was obvious something had happened in the time he had been gone from headquarters.
Her curiosity was peaked when she heard him say, “Yes Sir, I’ll discuss it with Nova and let you know. Thank you Sir.” Ending the call Wildstar stood for a moment staring at the phone in his hand. “You’re not going to believe this.”
“What is it? Don’t keep me in suspense. It’s pretty obvious something has happened.”
Moving toward the car he said, “Get in and I’ll explain everything on our way to your parent’s place.”
As soon as she was in the car and Derek had pulled into the road she said, “So tell me!”
“We are being given a house.”
Nova was stunned. “What do you mean we are being given a house? Who’s giving us a house?”
Derek recounted the conversation he had just had with the EDF Commander. “Apparently it was decided this morning that all surviving members of the Star Force are going to be given a house and a piece of land as a thank you from the people of Earth.”
“Wow,” was all Nova could think to say.
“I know and that’s not all. General Singleton has offered us the use of the Officer’s Mess for our wedding reception. He said they will make it available for us on whatever date we choose. He felt the interest in our wedding is going to be great enough that security could be a concern. With the Officer’s Mess being part of the EDF complex they can control who has access.”
“So not only have we booked the church but we have a venue for the reception as well. All we need now is to find a caterer and we are set.” Nova was thrilled.
“Actually that is being taken care of as well. The mess staff offered to cater the meal.” Seeing the person he loved most in the world looking so happy after seeing her so upset just a short time ago made him smile.
Pulling up in front of the Forrester home Derek stopped the car. “Before we go in and see your parent’s I just want to make sure you are happy with everything we discussed on the way back here.”
The look of sheer joy on her face told him he had nothing to worry about. “In just three weeks’ time I am going to become your wife. How could I be anything but happy?”
Entering the house they could hear the piano. The sound grew louder as they walked down the hall. Walking in to the kitchen they found Teri Forrester seated at the table an empty mug on the placemat in front of her. She was staring out into the garden through the French doors. She did not acknowledge them when they walked in. Ignoring her mother Nova followed the sound of the piano and headed into the family room. Karl Forrester was playing the music he had written for her memorial piece. She could hear slight variations from what he had played for her the night before. “Daddy,” she said softly not wishing to startle him.
Karl stopped playing and looked over his shoulder. Seeing Nova standing there he got up from the bench and hugged her. “I’m sorry about this morning. I threw that fool reporter out of here right after you left, I called Derek about what had happened and then I had a serious discussion with your mother. She is currently not speaking with me so I came in here and have been working on “Sing You Home” ever since.
“Sing You Home?” Derek asked a puzzled look on his face.
“It’s the poem turned song that Nova wrote. She had a basic melody. I have been adding some harmonies. She is going to perform it at the memorial ceremony with the children’s choir.” He picked music up from piano and handed it to Derek.
When he finished looking over the music Derek gazed at Nova with a mixture of awe and pride. “You wrote this yesterday morning, after I left.”
“I did. What do you think?” she asked blushing slightly at the intensity of his gaze.
“I think the woman I am about to marry is more than just a pretty face,” he replied. “This is incredible.”
“I know I’m biased because she is my baby girl and but I have to agree with you.”
“Okay that’s enough you two, you’re making me blush,” Nova said with a smile. “Derek and I actually came here to talk to you and Mama.” At the mention of his wife Karl Forrester rolled his eyes. “Come on Daddy don’t be like that. I may need you to be the grownup in this conversation.”
When they entered the kitchen Teri Forrester was standing at the counter pouring hot water into a mug, "So you decided to come back."
Nova refused to rise to the bait. "Yes Mama I came back but I am not planning to stay long. We wanted to tell you and Daddy that we have set a date for our wedding. It's going to be Saturday December tenth at The Kirk."
"But that is only three weeks from now and that church is far too small,” Teri stated dismissively shaking her head. “No I'm afraid that just won't do."
"Mama I wasn't asking your permission."
"But I haven't found a suitable venue for the reception yet. How can you have booked a church without talking to me?"
"Actually Mrs. Forrester, it was my idea to get married in that church so please don’t criticize Nova.” Derek stated. He was rapidly beginning to understand why Nova had such a hard time with her mother. She was easily the most overbearing individual he had ever met. “I should tell you that we do in fact have a location for our reception as well. General Singleton has offered us the Officer’s Mess."
“What exactly is an officer’s mess?” Teri asked wrinkling her nose in distaste. “It sounds like some kind of cafeteria for the military. The EDF headquarters is not at all suitable for a wedding reception.”
“Don’t judge what you haven’t seen Mother,” Nova warned. “The Officer’s Mess is part of the EDF complex but it is a separate building from Headquarters. It has a full gourmet kitchen with a staff of chefs who could rival the finest restaurants here in the Megalopolis and they have graciously offered to cater the reception. It has a formal dining room with seating for one hundred people and a ballroom. It is used for all EDF formal functions. It is more than suitable for a wedding reception. It also has the added bonus of built in security so we won’t have to worry about unwanted intrusions by the press.”
“So that’s it then, you’ve made your plans without any help from me,” Teri said folding her arms across her chest. Her expression made it clear she was not happy at being excluded from the decision making process. “Tell me Nova what do you want me to do?”
“What do I want you to do?” Nova’s voice quivered with emotion. “I want you to treat me like an adult and not a little girl. I want you to trust me to make my own decisions. I want you to be proud of me. I want you and Daddy to come and dance at my wedding. But mostly Mama I want you to be happy that I have found a wonderful man who loves me so much.” In a silent show of support Derek came up beside her slipping his arm around her waist.
Unwilling to see Nova upset again Derek addressed his future mother-in-law. “Mrs. Forrester we did not mean to exclude you from helping with our plans but we did tell you yesterday that we wanted to set a wedding date as soon as we could. We also told you that we did not want a big fuss. When the opportunity to book the church and the reception space came up this morning we could not let it pass. Besides from what Nova told me about the events here this morning I’d have thought you’d be delighted she is getting married so soon.”
The only sign that his words had an effect on her was the slight reddening of her cheeks. “Fine you have that much taken care of but what about the other details? What about the flowers, the bridesmaids, the wedding rings? What about invitations and a guest list? What about your dress Nova? Have you considered trying to get a dress in just three weeks? What about your honeymoon?”
In spite of the fact she was irritated with her mother Nova started to laugh. “Okay Mama slow down, take a breath. Most of the things you are asking me about I have not even thought about.”
“You see this is why I am telling you three weeks is not enough time in which to properly plan a wedding. It is completely ludicrous.”
Nova quickly went from being amused to being annoyed once more. “Be that as it may Mama that is when we are getting married. As for all the other details you just threw at me that you seem to need immediate answers to here is what I can tell you off the top of my head. I am going to ask Natalie Fisher and Sophie Genge to be my bridesmaids. They can look for dresses the same time I go look for my wedding dress. As for getting one in three weeks, I do not need some poufy princess dress, I have no desire to look like a cake topper. A simple white dress will do. Derek already has my wedding ring. It was his mother’s. We will go out together to pick out his ring. Invitations and a guest list is something that myself and Derek will have to sit down and discuss. As you pointed out the church is small so the guest list will be as well. I don’t know about a honeymoon. I don’t know if we will be able to get time off. Are you satisfied? Does that answer your questions? Did I miss anything?”
“Flower’s,” she replied, “What about flowers?”
“You have got to be kidding. Okay fine…Daisies!” Nova snapped completely exasperated. “I want daisies.”
She was about to disagree with her daughter’s choice in flowers but seeing the look on Nova’s face Mrs. Forrester thought better of it. She asked instead, “I assume you will want me to accompany you when you go dress shopping.”
Given her mother’s outrageous behaviour Nova was sorely tempted to say no but changed her mind. “Yes Mama I would like you to come with me when I go looking for my dress but I am just giving you fair warning you have to behave. If you give me a hard time about the dress I select or the bridesmaid dresses my friends decide on I will ask you to leave. Is that understood?”
“Perfectly,” Teri replied.
“Good…” Nova smiled sweetly at her mother, “Natalie and Sophie are working with at the hospital tonight so I will ask them to be my bridesmaids. I will let you know when we are able to go dress shopping but right now Daddy and I have to get to choir practice and Derek has to go back to work.”
November 29, 2201
Nova Forrester’s Apartment
Hurrying up the walkway Nova swiped her key pass unlocking the door to her apartment. Before entering her apartment Nova turned and waved at the small group of reporters and photographers gathered outside the security gate. They followed her everywhere. She had gotten used to them and while she wished they would just go away she did not want to be rude. Stepping inside she flipped on the light switch and dropped her packages on the sofa. After taking off her coat and kicking off her shoes Nova walked into her kitchen and turned the heat on under the kettle. As she waited for the water to boil she took one of the remaining mugs that had yet to be packed from the cupboard dropping in a tea bag. Opening the fridge she pulled out a container of left over pasta which she popped into the microwave to warm. Placing her meal on a small tray she carried it into the living room and placed it on the coffee table. It was the first time in over a week that she had an evening off. Derek had invited her to join him for dinner but she had declined explaining that she had some errands to run after work and then she was going to go home do some more packing, have a bubble bath and try to get to bed early.
The truth was she just wanted an evening to herself. She had quickly learned that trying to plan a wedding in three weeks was crazy in and of itself but adding to that the daily rehearsals with the children’s choir for the memorial service and working full time at the hospital was utter madness. In spite of everything and her mother’s constant nit picking at every turn things for the wedding were all but complete. Organizing the bridal party had not been without its challenges. Natalie and Sophie had eagerly agreed to stand at her wedding. Derek had not been sure what to do about his best man. Mark Venture was his best friend and the closest thing he had to family. He had been in the hospital since the Argo had returned to Earth. Even when Venture had come out of the coma he had been in Dr. Sane was still not sure he would be well enough to even be out of the hospital by that time. It was Derek who had broken the news to Mark about Trelana’s death. Nova had been with him. They had been amazed when he told them he already knew. He did not know how but even while he was unconscious Trelana had been communicating with him. He knew everything that had happened. While he was saddened by her loss Mark understood her sacrifice. By destroying Zordar she had moved into a new realm of consciousness that was beyond death. She wanted him to move on with his life. He knew she would always be with him in spirit. He had been happy for them when they told him they were planning to get married. Smiling at his two closest friends he had vowed to be out of bed in time to attend their wedding. Derek had said if he was going to be there then he had better be prepared to be his best man. Venture had happily accepted. Nova had gone to visit him every day since during her breaks. Making good on his promise not only was Venture out of bed he was back on his feet and amazing the rehabilitation staff at his progress. Dr. Sane had even agreed to let him attend the memorial service.
Nova could hardly believe they would be performing the following night. She was so proud of the choir and how hard they had worked. She knew the families of the two children who had been chosen to sing the solos would be in for a wonderful surprise. They had decided to keep details of the performance a secret. She had not even allowed Derek to come to any of the rehearsals. The thought of having him hear her sing for the first time gave her butterflies in her stomach and made her smile at the same time. Working on the performance had also helped her through her feeling of guilt and sadness at having survived. The words of the song summed up everything she wanted to say to her fallen friends.
Picking up the small package beside her Nova removed a small brown leather box. Opening the box she looked at ring it contained. It was Derek’s wedding band. Removing the ring from the box she studied it. The band was yellow gold with a Celtic pattern etched around the band. She had been surprised at his choice.
“Are you sure that’s the ring you want?” she had asked, “Your heritage is Japanese and that ring has a Celtic pattern.”
“I’m sure. The jeweler says it’s one of a kind,” he replied kissing her, “just like the woman I am going to marry.” She had blushed scarlet at his words.
Tipping the ring into the light she read the inscription she had had the jeweler engrave on the inside of the band. “When you wish upon a star.” She had not decided if she was going to tell him about the inscription or if she would wait for him to discover it on his own. She knew beyond any doubt that he would understand the reference and remember the incident. During the voyage to Iscandar, one evening he had found her alone on the observation deck. When he had asked what she was doing she said she was wishing on the Voton Star which she had informed him was also called the wishing star. When he had asked what she was wishing for she had refused to tell him, that it was a secret. The star turned out to be a trap set by the Gamilons that had almost stopped them from getting to Iscandar. When the incident had passed he found her once more wishing on the star. He had given her a hard time but undeterred she had told him she believed the power of her wish would find the right star to make it come true. He had again asked what she was wishing for. She told him that she wanted a certain someone to fall in love with her. When he asked who, she told him that was the secret. The memory brought a smile to her lips.
The headline on the newspaper she had dropped on the sofa with her packages caught her attention causing her smile to fade. Nurses in Fear as More Attacks Occur. Even though she knew there were things she had to get done Nova continued to sit. She could not stop thinking about the scene she had witnessed that morning at the hospital. She had stopped at the emergency department before her shift to remind Natalie they had dress fittings that afternoon after work. She had been there when the ambulance arrived. The young woman on the stretcher was a nurse. Nova did not know her well but had seen her around the hospital and spoken to her a few times. She had been raped and her face had been slashed. In the past two weeks four other nurses had been brutally attacked. The fact the nurses who had been attacked were also EDF officers and that the attacks had started right after Scott Foley’s article on the true purpose of nurses in the EDF had been printed the authorities had concluded pretty quickly it was probably a contributing factor to the attacks if not the catalyst. The female staff at the hospital not just the nurses were all on edge. It had reached the point that every time an ambulance pulled up to the emergency department they were afraid it could be another nurse. Wildstar was concerned enough for her safety that he had taken to driving her to and from her shifts at the hospital. When she had tried to object he had flatly refused. “If anything were to happen to you that I could have prevented I would never forgive myself.” He had told her.
Slouching back on the sofa Nova stuck her feet up on the coffee table and sipped her tea. Surveying the empty shelves, bookcases and moving boxes scattered around the living room she wondered again how she would get everything packed and ready to be moved into her new home by the end of the week. Even though she was not thrilled at the prospect she had agreed to move back into her parent’s home for the week prior to the wedding. Derek was moving into their house on Saturday. They would get as much unpacking done before their wedding as possible. After some serious discussion they had made the decision to postpone their honeymoon until the new year. Derek was busy with assessing personnel files for possible new recruits for the Star Force and with the number of people wounded in the attack by the Comet Empire the hospital was so short staffed that Nova did not want to leave. Placing her mug on the tray Nova got to her feet. “These boxes are not going to pack themselves.”
After carrying her tray back into the kitchen and rinsing the dishes Nova spent the next two hours removing the pictures from the walls and wrapping them in a protective shrink wrap. Aside from her clothing, a handful of dishes and some toiletries everything else had been packed. Most of the furniture had been in the apartment when she moved in. There were a few pieces she wanted to bring to the new house but most of the furnishings would be new. She had gone furniture shopping with Derek the week before, after they had been given the keys to their new home. It had made the fact they were starting a life together very real. She remembered laughing with embarrassment when the sales clerk had suggested they try out the mattresses to see what they liked best. Nova was well aware of the fact she blushed easily but in that one instance she was certain Derek’s face had been even redder, something akin to the colour of the red trim on his Star Force white uniform. Giggling at the memory she walked into her bathroom. Turning on the water in the tub she added some bubble bath. As she waited for the tub to fill she lit some candles, went back to the kitchen and poured some apple juice into a wine glass. It was something of ritual that she affectionately referred to as the total bubble bath experience. Finally she went into her bedroom and got changed.
After her bath Nova was seated on the sofa in the living room with her feet tucked under her reading a book when there was a knock on her door. Glancing at the clock as she got to her feet Nova wondered who would be at her door at 10:30 at night. Checking the video feed from the outside camera she was relieved to see it was Derek. As she opened the door she wondered what had happened to bring him there unannounced at that hour. Taking in her appearance as he entered it was obvious to Derek she had not been expecting anyone. Her hair was damp and she was wearing a pale pink silk kimono that reached her ankles. The way it clung to her body made it clear she had little or nothing on underneath.
Closing the door she turned to face him. “What’s wrong?”
“Let’s sit down and I’ll explain.” Removing his pea coat he tossed it on the chair by her desk before taking a seat on the sofa.
Sitting down beside him Nova looked at him expectantly.
“Do you know a nurse named Charlotte Clancy?” he asked even though he already knew the answer.
“You know I do. I introduced you to her at the hospital. Charlotte, Natalie, Sophie and I all did our basic training together when we joined the EDF. She is one of my closest friends. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding last year. I was going to ask her to stand at our wedding but she wasn’t sure if she was going to be here. They have plans to visit John’s parents in Boston.” Nova felt a cold chill run down her spine. “Derek has something happened?”
“Natalie Fisher called me about half an hour ago. Another nurse was attacked tonight,” he said taking her hand. “It was Charlotte.”
A vision of the nurse she had seen that morning, with her face slashed, flashed thorough her mind. “Did Natalie say how badly she was hurt?”
“I’m so sorry sweetheart, she didn’t survive.”
Her lip quivered. “No…! No… oh god no…,” she whispered. She began to sob.
Suddenly feeling very cold Nova began to shiver. She instinctively moved closer to Derek, huddling against him for warmth. Wrapping his arms around her Derek pulled her on to his lap. Not knowing what he could say to comfort her he just held her as she cried, rubbing her back and whispering soft words of comfort.
As her sobbing gradually ceased Nova asked, “Did Natalie have any details? Did she know where the attack happened or who found her?”
Derek hesitated, wondering if the truth would upset her again but he had never lied to her and he did not intend to start then. “Apparently she was attacked in her own house. It was her husband who found her when he got home from work. I can’t even begin to imagine what that poor guy is going through. I had to come here, not just to tell you what had happened, I had to see for myself that you were safe.”
“That is very sweet,” she murmured as her eyes filled with tears once more. “But there is something you don’t know. Charlotte told me yesterday she was pregnant. That’s why they were going to visit his parents, to tell them. John lost his wife and his child tonight.”
Derek swallowed hard. The thought of losing her was something he could not bring himself to think about. It terrified him. As if reading his thoughts Nova asked softly, “Do you suppose when they woke up this morning either of them thought it would be their last day together? I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to you.”
As she snuggled closer to him Derek was acutely aware of his body’s reaction to how little she had on. There was no denying the attraction between them. It was electric. The very air around them seemed to crackle. He could feel the heat from her body under his hand through the slight fabric. Unable to resist the urge he kissed her. Parting her lips in response to the kiss Nova wrapped her arms around his neck. Sliding his hand up her body Derek cupped her breast through the silky fabric gently stroking her nipple. It hardened at his touch. The feel of Derek's hand on her breast through her robe made her shiver. She wanted him. Making a decision Nova placed her hand on top of his lifting it from her breast. With only the slightest hesitation she slipped his hand under her robe placing it on her bare flesh.
He needed no more encouragement. Trailing kisses down her neck he pushed her robe aside exposing the breast he was cupping. Moving his hand away his lips closed over her nipple. A moan escaped her lips as she arched her back. She clung to him.
"Stay with me tonight," she whispered, "I need you. I don't want to wait any more."
Getting to his feet with Nova still in his arms he carried her into the bedroom.
Setting her on her feet beside the bed he stared into her eyes. “Are you sure about this?” he asked softly wanting to give her the opportunity to change her mind.
In response she untied the belt on her robe letting it fall open. “I’m sure.”
Drawing her back into his arms his hands moved beneath the opening in her robe roaming over her body. He could feel her heart pounding. Overcome with the need to see all of her he pushed the robe from her shoulders. It slid from her body forming a silken pool at her feet. The sight of her clad only in white lace panties made him draw in his breath. Her skin was like porcelain. He was certain he had never seen anything more beautiful in his life. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered in awe.
The intensity of his gaze made her blush. She suddenly needed to see him as well. Stepping back she pulled his shirt from the waistband of his pants pulling it up over his head dropping it to the floor. For a moment she studied his bare chest. It was lean and well-muscled. Reaching out her fingers traced his abdominal muscles stopping just at his bellybutton.
Scooping her into his arms Derek laid her on the bed. Stopping only long enough to kick off his boots he lay down beside her. Unlike in his apartment where he had a double bed in his bedroom the bed in Nova’s room was narrow, no bigger than a twin size. He didn’t mind it meant she was pressed against him her naked breasts crushed against his chest. The intensity of feeling her body pressed against him, flesh to flesh, left him breathless. Lowering his head he nuzzled her neck. Trailing kisses over her shoulder he worked his way down to her breasts suckling her nipples before continuing his way down to her navel. The familiar pull in her abdomen had given way to an ache centered in her groin. Her hips rose off the bed urging him lower. Winding her fingers through his hair she pulled him closer.
Nova explored his bare chest revelling in the feel of his muscles and the way they rippled beneath her hands. She ran her finger along the vivid red scar on his shoulder before gently placing a kiss on it running her tongue along the raised edge. As her hand slipped lower she paused for a moment before undoing his belt, and the button on his pants. With trembling hands she slid down the zipper. Suddenly feeling very shy and unsure of herself Nova hesitated.
Swept up on a tide of desire Derek wanted nothing more than to feel her fingers slide beneath the waistband of his pants. Her sudden hesitation and trembling hands jolted him back to his senses. Pulling out of her embrace he moved to the edge of the bed and sat up in an attempt to get his breathing and heart rate back under control. “What was I thinking? I can’t do this.”
Thinking she had done something wrong Nova sat in stunned silence staring at his back. Pulling her knees up to her chest she wrapped her arms around them to cover herself. She struggled to keep from crying. She had been afraid her lack of experience would be an issue but she thought he had wanted her as much as she wanted him. She thought he was happy that she was still a virgin. When she finally spoke her voice was barely more than a whisper, “I’m sorry I disappointed you.”
The look of hurt on her face would haunt him for a long time. He had not thought how his ill-considered words would affect her. He was instantly sorry. Moving closer he tried to put his arms around her but she resisted pulling away. “I’m the one who’s sorry. You didn’t disappoint me, you never could. I’m disappointed in myself. You were upset and vulnerable and I was willing to take advantage of that.”
“I asked you to stay remember,” she reminded him. “I told you I didn’t want to wait any longer. I wanted to make love with you tonight.” Refusing to cry she ground her knuckles into her eyes.
Derek cursed himself for making things worse. “I’m doing a terrible job of explaining this. When I said I can’t do this I didn’t mean that I can’t or that I don’t want to because I do… I really do…” he indicated with a slight blush. The strain on the fabric of his pants made his desire for her apparent and gave credence to his words. “I have never wanted anyone more in my life.”
“I thought I had done something wrong,” she replied, “because I haven’t…”
“Nova when I told you it would be my honour to wait until our wedding night to be with you I meant it. I never want you to look back on the first time we make love with regret.”
When he moved to slip his arms around her she again pulled back suddenly conscious of her nearly naked state. She blushed furiously. “Would you mind handing me my robe?”
Smiling at her modesty he retrieved the robe from the floor handing it too her. As she slipped it on he said, “Remember what I told you before, you are beautiful and you never have to hide from me.” Picking up his own discarded shirt he pulled it back on. Taking her hand he helped her to her feet. “It’s getting late and you have a big day tomorrow. Come on walk me to the door, kiss me good night then come back in here, get into your bed and dream about me.”
November 30, 2201
The morning of the Memorial Service had dawned grey and cool with a definite hint of rain in the air. Concerned about the choir and other dignitaries getting wet General Singleton had arranged for a large mobile trailer to be parked at the site. There were also large canvas canopies set up over the chairs where the people attending the service would be seated. When Nova had expressed her concern about the weather to Derek he had laughed. “Think about it, have you ever been to a service at Hero’s Hill when it’s rained? Nova do you really believe Captain Avatar would let it rain on us tonight?” He had been correct the weather had cleared and by the time people began arrive for the service it had turned into a lovely evening.
A small stage had been erected at the site. At Nova’s request it had been decorated simply with red and white roses, white carnations and lit candles. The effect in the growing twilight was both beautiful and peaceful. There was a piano in the centre of the stage, an empty stool and microphone to the right. As General Singleton approached the podium on the lower left side of the stage a hush fell over the assembled crowd.
“We have assembled here tonight to remember our fallen comrades,” the General began, “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. As the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.”
“We will remember them,” echoed the crowd. It was a fitting start for the tributes, speeches and stories that followed.
Nova was seated beside Derek with the other surviving members of the Star Force. Knowing how much the death of so many Star Force members had affected her he held her hand the entire time. Dr. Sane had even agreed to let the officers who had not been released from the hospital to attend. Other EDF officers and the invited dignitaries, including the families of the fallen Star Force members were seated on the opposite side of the aisle. Initially the choir had been scheduled to open the service. General Singleton had asked if he could attend a practice to hear them sing. After hearing “Sing You Home” he had changed the program putting them on last. He felt it would be the perfect ending to the ceremony. As the speeches began drawing to a close Nova left her seat and moved to the trailer where the children were waiting for her. As she was going to be on the stage with her father at the start of the song she had wondered how she was going to be able to get the choir organized and moving toward the stage at the right time. She could not have been happier when her friend Natalie had volunteered to help out.
Outside General Singleton addressed the crowd. “I want to thank you all again for coming here tonight and sharing in this service of remembrance. We can never repay the debt owed to the brave men and women of the Earth Defense Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice. All we can do is honour their memory. In a final tribute tonight it is my privilege to introduce Lieutenant Nova Forrester, who is a member of the Star Force, the Forrester Children’s Choir and their choir director Mr. Karl Forrester in a very special performance of a song written by the Lieutenant especially for tonight.
“That’s my que.” Picking up her guitar Nova moved to the door of the trailer. “Wish me luck,” she said smiling at Natalie.
“You don’t need luck. You will be amazing,” Natalie replied giving her friend a hug. “By the time you and the children are done there won’t be a dry eye in the place.”
Walking on to the stage Nova took a seat on the stool adjusting the height of the microphone in front of her. Karl Forrester was already seated at the piano. He smiled at his daughter. Looking out over the sea of faces Nova felt butterflies settle in her stomach. She was not normally nervous during a performance but this piece meant so much to her, summing up everything she wanted to say, she felt the pressure to get it right. As she scanned the crowd her gaze fell on Derek. His encouraging smile and wink made her feel instantly calmer.
“I tried to come up with something to say to you all tonight, especially those of you who have lost family members. I think the song we are about to perform for you says everything much better than I possible could. It’s called Sing You Home. Her father played the opening notes. Joining in with her guitar she began to sing.
We're born unto this earth
Generations one by one
Ash to ash and dust to dust
There is nothing left undone
As she sang the children’s choir processed down the centre aisle in two rows carrying lighted candles. The boys were dressed in black pants, a white shirt, a red tie and black shoes. The girls wore dresses with a black top and white skirt. Around their waist was a red sash tied in a bow at the back. On their feet they wore black patent shoes with white ruffled ankle socks. On stage the two rows separated going in opposite directions forming two lines with Nova and her father in the centre. Nova beamed with pride at the children as she continued to sing.
When grief invades my soul
there’s comfort in a prayer, I find
Though these candles honor you
They burn for those you left behind
When she reached the chorus the children joined in the singing.
I'll sing for you because I need to
Right now this is all I know
I’ll sing so we will not forget you
I will sing you home
I will sing you home
As she sang Nova tried to gauge the reaction of the audience. The sight of people dabbing their eyes with tissues told her the words were reaching them.
Know that you will live
On the lips of those who knew
What it was you had to give
And what it was they learned from you
This is my prayer for you
And maybe someday I will know
If it helped your journey home
Or if it helped me let you go
Seated with the Star Force Mark Venture was stunned when his little brother Jordy sang the chorus that followed the two verses Nova had sung. Glancing across the aisle at his parents he saw tears rolling down his mother’s cheeks.
I'll sing for you because I need to
Right now this is all I know
I’ll sing so we will not forget you
I will sing you home
I will sing you home
Nova and her father sang the final verse together.
We're born unto this earth
Generations one by one
Ash to ash and dust to dust
There is nothing left undone
The next chorus was sung by Keiko Kitamura. It seemed right that there should be a child who had lost a family member as well as a child with a family member who was injured in the battle with the Comet Empire.
I'll sing for you because I need to
Right now this is all I know
I’ll sing so we will not forget you
I will sing you home
I will sing you home
The final chorus was sung by the entire children’s choir. Natalie’s prediction was correct. When they finished singing there was hardly a dry eye to be seen. The applause was thunderous as the crowd rose to their feet. Getting to her feet Nova encouraged the children to take a bow. As she was about to hug her father she caught sight of a woman in the crowd. It was the woman who’s shouted words, “you survived’ had haunted her. With tears streaming down her face she stared at Nova. Taking several steps toward the edge of the stage Nova wanted to try and speak to the woman. She did not get far as she was rapidly surrounded by people wanting to congratulate her on the performance.
Still in his seat Derek watched the throng of people moving to the stage eager to share their feelings with Nova.
“That was an impressive performance,” said a voice from a seat behind him.
Wildstar turned to see who had addressed him. “Yes it was,” he replied politely. He did not recognize her. “I’m sorry but have we met?” he asked.
“No we haven’t Captain. My name is Amelia Wicks. I work for The Daily News,” she replied extending her hand. “I really need to talk to you.”
Ignoring the gesture Wildstar frowned. He had had his fill of reporters. “I don’t mean to be rude Ms. Wicks but I have nothing to say to the press. Now if you’ll excuse me.” Turning away he got to his feet.
“Captain wait… please. I’m afraid Nova… Lieutenant Forrester… may be in danger.”
Derek stopped, turning back to face her, “You have my attention but I warn you if this is some ploy on your part to question us you will regret it.”
“I assure you Captain, this is no ploy.” Looking around at the crowd that was still milling about including other reporters she said, “Maybe this is not a good place to talk.”
Wildstar reluctantly agreed. The last thing he wanted was for another reporter to overhear what she had to say. Scanning the area for a private place where they could talk his gaze fixed on the trailer. “We will meet you at the trailer as soon as I can get Nova off the stage.”
Nodding her understanding she hurried away. Derek watched until she disappeared into the crowd. He wanted to dismiss the reporter’s warning as a ruse but there was just something about her that made him feel her concern was genuine. The truth or not the simple fact was he would never put Nova at risk.
Unwilling to worry Nova until he knew there was something to worry about Derek put his concerns aside. He did not want to diminish the success of her performance. Nova, her father and the children deserved all the words of praise and congratulations they were receiving. Pushing his way through the crowd he finally reached her side. “I am so incredibly proud of you,” he said sweeping her off her feet as he hugged her. “You and the choir where just incredible.”
General Singleton approached followed by a group of photographers. “I have had a request from the press for the opportunity to take some official photos of the choir, the Lieutenant and her father. I told them I would permit it only if Lieutenant Forrester agrees.”
Wildstar had been about to refuse but remembered his promise that he would not make decisions for Nova without talking to her first. Scanning the group of photographers he was relieved that Scott Foley was not among them and that Amelia Wicks was. She discretely nodded when he caught her eye.
Nova smiled at the Commander. “Sir I don’t mind but that should really be up to the children.” Turning to the choir she asked, “Well what do you think? Would you like to have your picture in tomorrow’s newspapers?” The response was an overwhelming yes.
For the next thirty minutes they posed for pictures. By the time they were finished the crowd had all but dissipated, mostly only the families of the choir and a few reporters remained.
Mark Venture and his parents had been patiently standing at the edge of the stage while the pictures were taken. Once they were finished Mrs. Venture rushed forward to hug her youngest son. “Jordy you were wonderful.” Looking to Nova and her father she added, “You all were. I know it’s probably not my place to ask but have you considered recording the song?”
Nova was surprised by her question. “No it’s not something we have even considered. To be honest with you we have spent all of our time just trying to get the performance ready for tonight.”
“I just thought if it was recorded it would a beautiful lasting tribute to those the song was written for. I am sure people would purchase copies. The funds raised could go to charity or maybe be set up to help the families who lost loved ones.” Mrs. Venture suddenly turned very red in the face. “Forgive me; it’s not my place to be making these suggestions. It’s just being here tonight I realized how fortunate we are that Mark made it home to us. Others were not so lucky.”
Before Nova could respond a voice off the stage added her agreement, “Please consider it.”
Nova moved to the edge of the stage to see who had spoken. She could not believe it. Standing there alone was the woman she had seen earlier, the same woman who had been at the meeting of the Star Force families when Derek had informed them of the deaths of their loved ones. “Lieutenant I owe you and the Captain an apology. At that meeting I was upset and I was angry and I wanted to blame someone for the death of my son and I took it out on you and the Captain. I ask your forgiveness.” Sinking on to the chair behind her she began to cry.
Hopping off the stage Nova moved to the woman’s side taking a seat in the chair next to her. “I’m very sorry about your son. What was his name?”
“He wasn’t an officer. He was no one important, just a cook.” Grasping Nova’s hand she said, “What that woman was saying about recording the song, please consider it. It would mean so much to me to have a copy. It would mean so much to everyone who has lost a loved one, not just the Star Force.”
“I have to be honest it was you who inspired me to write it. It was the words you survived. I felt so guilty for having survived. I had to find a way to honour them.
The woman smiled, “You did so much more than honour them you reminded us all that as long as we remember them they are never truly gone.” Getting to her feet she squeezed Nova’s hand. “I want to thank you again for what you and the children did tonight. I was not going to come but I am very glad I did.” Releasing Nova’s hand she turned and walked up the aisle into the darkness.
The group on the stage were silently watching her. “We have to do this,” she stated simply.
“I agree,” replied the General.
“That being said it will have to wait until after the wedding,” Karl Forrester added gazing at his daughter “As the wedding is a week away there is no way you have time to take on anything else.”
Walking up the stairs Nova rejoined the small group still on the stage. “Your father is right,’ Derek said.
“I know,” she agreed. “This will give the General time to find someone to take on responsibility for the charity.”
General Singleton turned to Mark’s mother, “I believe I may have the perfect candidate right here that is if she will agree, after all it was her wonderful idea in the first place.”
“I would be delighted,” she answered her face beaming with pride.
“Well now that it’s settled I will bid you all a good evening. I have to get back to headquarters.” Saluting his officers the General walked off the stage. The others quickly followed suit.
Suddenly feeling very tired Nova yawned and leaned against Derek. “Let’s get out of here.”
“I’m afraid we can’t leave just yet. There is a person waiting to talk to us, a reporter with the Daily News.”
Nova could not hide her surprise. “Since when do you talk to reporters?”
“Since she told me that you may be in danger.”
“Me? Why would I be in danger, I mean aside from the fact I’m an EDF nurse?”
Derek shook his head, “I have no idea but we’re going to find out. Come on.”
As promised Amelia Wicks was waiting for them inside the trailer. Nova had not expected to see a familiar face. “Amelia, I didn’t know it was you we were meeting.”
Derek was astonished that the two women had already met. “And I had no idea you two knew each other.”
Nova quickly explained. “The first time we met was after a rather unpleasant encounter with Scott Foley in front of my parent’s house. It was the day after we got home.”
Amelia continued the explanation. “The Lieutenant offered to tell me the stories of the officers and crew who didn’t make it home, if I was interested. I jumped at the opportunity.”
“That’s right, you told me about the interview,” Derek said smiling at Nova, “I just didn’t realize it was with Ms. Wicks.”
“Amelia, Derek says you think I’m in danger. Why do you think that?” As much as she wanted to make light of the issue with recent events Nova could not ignore the small kernel of fear.
“Maybe we should sit down and I will tell you what I know.” Once they were all seated Amelia asked, “Nova how well do you know Scott Foley?”
“Not that well actually,” Nova replied, “we went out a few times when I was in college but I ended it. That encounter outside my parent’s house was the first time I’d seen him in years.”
“The other night at Sherlock’s Pub, it’s a local bar a lot of the press hang out in, I overheard him telling a bunch of his cronies about a highly placed contact he has in EDF Headquarters who has been feeding him information. He said his source hates you both almost as much as he does. Nova you and the Captain have an enemy in the EDF.”
Reeling from everything the reporter had said Nova did not know what to say. “Why would he be bragging to other reporters about his connection in the EDF? Wouldn’t he want to keep that secret?”
“Most reporters would, yes,” Amelia agreed, “but this is Scott Foley we’re talking about. He has a big ego and an even bigger mouth, not a good combination in this line of work.”
Derek had had enough. “I still don’t see how any of this puts Nova in danger.”
“One of the men he was with made the comment it was too bad Foley didn’t know who was attacking the EDF nurses because if he did he could arrange for Nova to be next.” Pausing for a moment Amelia pondered how to proceed. “Foley said given the chance he would do it himself. That’s why I wanted to warn you. From the look on his face I don’t think he was joking. Can you think of any reason why he would have such a grudge against you?”
Nova’s expression suddenly became guarded. “I’m not sure.”
“The man is a pig but I don’t think he’s a rapist.” Amelia did not miss the look that passed between the couple after her comment. Instantly she knew she was on to something, “I know there’s a story here. Does one of you want to share it with me?”
Getting up from his chair Derek knelt down in front of Nova. Taking both her hands he looked intently at her. “I know I’m the only person you’ve ever told about what happened between you and Foley that night but I think maybe you should tell Amelia.” Nova did not look convinced. “Sweetheart the man is making threats against you and no one knows about his past behaviour. Think about it, if anything was to happen to you, someone else needs to be able to confirm what I am saying.”
“Nova, I swear whatever you tell me is off the record,” Amelia assured her. “I am not here as a reporter right now.”
Even though she was reluctant to share the story Nova told the reporter everything that had happened with Scott Foley.
When Nova finished speaking there was complete silence. The reporter in Amelia was busting with questions but she refrained from asking them. “I’m glad you told me. I can certainly see why he has such animosity toward you now. A man like that is not going to take kindly to being bested by a woman. His ego was certainly bruised.”
“I bruised more than his ego,” Nova replied with a smile. “He was so determined I don’t think he realized that I am very capable of taking care of myself.”
Derek smiled at his fiancé with pride, “and that was before all the formal self-defence training you have received as part of your EDF training.”
His statement caught Amelia’s attention. “You just raised a really interesting point, all the nurses who were attacked are EDF officers, and they would have all had extensive self-defence training. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the attacker was able to overpower them all?”
“Now that you’ve mentioned it that is odd,” Derek agreed.
Nova nodded her agreement. “I have been in some pretty scary situations but I have always been able to take of myself.”
“A little too scary for my liking but I can’t say too much because that training has saved both our lives.” As proud as he was of Nova’s undeniable ability to take care of herself sometimes it scared him, she could be a little too brave for her own good.
“Well the police are keeping the details of the attacks released to the public to a minimum so who’s to say what they are not telling us,” Amelia observed. “I just hope they catch the perpetrator before anyone else gets hurt.”
Thinking of what had happened to her friend Charlotte Nova shivered. “I certainly hope so.” Unwilling to go where that train of thought would lead her Nova changed the subject. “Derek I just had an idea but you need to agree. You know we have been dealing with the increased press attention especially with the wedding coming up. I know you and my father are concerned about some of the reporters trying to gain access. What if we invited Amelia to the wedding as the official representative of the press?”
“I think it’s brilliant. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it myself,” he replied. “So what do you say Amelia, interested?”
The reporter couldn’t believe her good fortune. An exclusive invitation to cover their wedding was the last thing she had expected. “Are you kidding, of course I am. Thank you both so much. If it’s not too presumptuous on my part can I make a suggestion?”
“Of course,” Nova replied.
“If you want to respond to anything that is said in the press come to me, let me be your voice.”
The two officers looked at each other and then at the reporter. Wildstar held out his hand, “Ms. Wicks we accept your offer.”
After exchanging contact information they left the trailer together. Walking toward the parking lot they did not see the figure watching them from the shadows of the stage.
December 7, 2201
Hurrying to the nurse’s station Nova glanced at her watch. She was running late. Derek would be outside waiting for her. As it was only three days to the wedding they were going to their house to get the last of the boxes unpacked. She didn't want to keep him waiting. With two more nurses having been attacked everyone was on edge. Derek flatly refused to let her go to the hospital alone. The nurses at the hospital had taken to going everywhere in pairs. Because she had been helping Dr. Sane change a feeding tube for one of the oncology patients the shift change was already complete by the time she got back to the nurses station. The nurses she been working with were already gone. She quickly reviewed the patient status with her night replacement.
“Nova isn’t this your last shift before your wedding,” asked Kia Sato, one of the nurses on the night shift.
“It sure is,” Nova replied with a smile, “Derek is waiting for me downstairs. I’d better hurry or he’s going to be wondering what happened to me.” She headed toward the elevator to a chorus of congratulations and well wishes.
In her haste Nova did not see the figure standing in the shadows of the locker room as she entered and made her way to her locker. Turning the combination she quickly opened the door. Picking up her cell phone she briefly considered calling Derek to say she was running late but decided against it. It would be quicker if she just got changed. Reaching inside she pulled out black yoga pants, a white t-shirt, a pink hoodie and her sneakers. She also grabbed her make up bag. Crossing the room she laid her clothing on one of the empty benches. A wide shelf ran almost the full length of the wall. Above the shelf was a row of mirrors. The nurses used the self as a make shift vanity.
The attack, when it came, happened so quickly, Nova had no time to react. A hand shot out and grabbed her arm, twisting it behind her. She was slammed up against the shelf with such force that it knocked the wind out of her. Her assailant used his greater height and weight to keep her pinned down, across the shelf, her face pressed against the surface. Determined not to be another victim Nova began to struggle.
"Don't fight me," he hissed in a low guttural voice, "it will only go badly for you if you do."
Nova fought back tears. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because I can."
Desperate and terrified she began to struggle even harder. Her attacker yanked up hard on the arm he had pinned behind her back increasing the pressure. Nova cried out in pain as she felt it snap. She cried out a second time when she felt the sharp prick of needle being jabbed into her thigh. It did not take long before Nova felt her heart rate increase. She suddenly felt very dizzy and it was becoming more difficult to breath.
"I warned you what would happen if you struggled. I am only taking what you have been freely giving away to fleet officers but refused to enlisted men. It’s all over the news you nurses are nothing but whores. "
"You're wrong about the nurses. That story is a lie.” There was still a part of her that hoped she could reason with her attacker. “Please don’t do this,” she pleaded, “I've never been with anyone."
"I don't care," he whispered. "If what you say is true I hope you enjoy your first time. I know I will." Grabbing her hair he yanked her head up and slammed it back into the table leaving her dazed. Grabbing the end of her nurses’ uniform he shoved it up around her waist. As her senses became fuzzy Nova could feel his hands on her underwear. She tried to struggle but her muscles refused to cooperate. She was helpless. Roughly grabbing the delicate silky fabric he tore them off leaving the most private part of her body exposed to his touch. Hot scalding tears slide down her cheeks as she felt his hand grope between her legs. Shaking and dazed she was certain she was going to be raped just three days before her wedding.
At that moment the door to the locker room opened. "Nova are you in here?"
Her would be rapist stopped abruptly. Leaning over her he whispered in her ear, "This is not over. I’m going to finish this. I will be back." Slamming her head into the vanity shelf a second time he let her go. Suddenly free of his grasp Nova tried to straighten up. Shaking so badly her legs refused to hold her up. She slid to the floor her head striking the cold tile with a sickening thud. Everything went black. She never saw her attacker.
It was Natalie Fisher, Nova’s best friend who had called out ending the attack. She had been in the emergency department when Derek entered the hospital. He looked worried. Spotting Natalie he had hurried toward her.
"Hey Derek I thought you and Nova were going to your house tonight."
"We're supposed to be but I've been waiting for her forty minutes and I'm starting to get worried. It's not like her to be late and if she's going to be she always lets me know."
"Then she has to be here somewhere. Come on." Together they had headed to the nurses locker room.
Getting no answer Natalie decided to check the room anyway. Walking down the row of lockers she paused when she saw the door to Nova's locker was ajar. "She must be in here. Nova wouldn't leave her locker open."
"Nova," she called again. There was still no reply. Growing more concerned Natalie increased her pace. Dashing past the remaining lockers she stopped abruptly. Nova was lying in a heap, face down, on the tile floor her uniform was pushed up and she was naked from the waist down. "Oh no." She was certain her friend had been raped.
Rushing to her friend's side she checked her vital signs. Nova’s pulse was rapid and her breathing shallow. Lifting an eyelid she was concerned to see her pupils were dilated. Nova showed all the outward signs of having been drugged. It was only after she finished her cursory exam of her friend that she noticed the odd angle of Nova’s left arm. It was obviously broken. The bruising on the arm suggested it had been done forcibly by whoever had attacked her. Absorbed in examining Nova she jumped when Derek called to her from the door. "Natalie did you find her?"
Before responding, wanting to protect her friend's modesty and Derek from the shock of seeing her exposed like that, she gently smoothed Nova's uniform back into place. "Derek she's in here, back past the lockers. Hurry!"
The tone in Natalie's voice told him something was seriously wrong. His heart in his throat, he sprinted through the locker room. Reaching her side Derek dropped to his knees beside her. "Oh my God Nova!"
"Derek I am going to go get help. If she comes too don't let her move too much. I'm afraid she may have a concussion or worse. I think she hit her head." Knowing she couldn't leave without telling him what she feared she said, "There's something I need to tell you. When I found Nova her uniform was up around her waist. Her underwear is gone.”
Derek's eyes widened in horror when he realized just what she was telling him. He looked at Natalie, his eyes filled with pain, "She was raped."
"I don't know for sure but it certainly looks that way." Natalie got to her feet. "I'm so sorry Derek. I'll be right back."
Derek was too stunned to reply. All he could do was nod as he watched her walk away. A faint moan and a flutter of movement brought Derek's attention back to Nova. She was beginning to stir.
Her vision blurry as she slowly regained consciousness Nova knew only that there was a man kneeling beside her. Fearing her attacker had returned she was immediately on the defensive. When he raised his hand to push a lock of hair back from her face she cried out in alarm raising her arms in defence. The pain from the sudden movement of her left arm was excruciating leaving her nauseous and on the verge of blacking out. In spite of that she was determined to defend herself.
"Nova, it's okay, it's me."
She had never been happier in her life to hear his voice. "I think my arm is broken," she whispered attempting to sit up.
"No just lie back," he said shifting his position so she could rest her head on his lap. "Do you remember what happened?" he asked gently. As much as he dreaded what he was going to hear he needed to know what happened.
"I was hurrying. I was late and I knew you were waiting. I came in here to get changed. I didn't see him. He grabbed me from behind. He slammed my head on the vanity. I think he drugged me. I couldn't move. I tried to fight but he was bigger than me. He... He..." She burst into tears.
“It’s okay,” he said wrapping his arms around her as she shook with terror. “It’s over now.”
“No it’s not,” she whispered back. "He was going to... He was about to... but someone called my name. He stopped. He said it isn’t over. He is going to come back to finish it. He slammed my head into the vanity again and let go of me. I must have blacked out. I don't remember anything after that."
There was no easy way to ask but Derek needed to make sure he understood what Nova was telling him. "So he didn't... You weren't..."
The relief he felt was short lived. Nova buried her face in his shoulder. Unable to stop them the words tumbled out. "but he put his hands on me… shoved his fingers inside me.”
She had not been raped in the most technical sense but she had been horribly violated. The fact he had not been there to protect her tore at him.
The door opening and the sound of voices alerted Derek that Natalie had returned. She entered the room followed by two EMTs and two security guards. Natalie watched Derek as he got up from the floor. He scooped Nova into his arms, carried her to the stretcher and gently laid her on it. Taking the blanket from the end he covered her with it. Leaning down he brushed back her hair and kissed her forehead. "I love you," he whispered. The tenderness on his face when he looked at Nova it was obvious just how deeply he loved her.
Derek spotted Nova's clothing neatly folded on the bench. It was obvious she had been about to get changed when she was attacked. He was about to gather them up when he remembered the room was a crime scene. Scanning the room for anything he may have missed he noticed a crumpled ball of fabric beneath the vanity shelf. Stooping he picked it up. In that moment he knew given the chance he would kill the man who had attacked her. In his hand were the shredded remains of Nova’s underwear. Closing his hand he crushed them into a ball. He knew they would have to be given to the police as evidence of what she had been through.
Straightening up Derek turned to Natalie and held out his hand so she could see the contents.
Nodding her understanding Natalie motioned for the EMTs to move the stretcher out of the locker room.
It was a short walk from the locker room to the Emergency department. When they arrived they were met by Dr. Sane, two ER nurses, and the police.
The older of the two officers announced to the room, "I am Detective Yamakazi. I am in charge of the investigation into the attacks on EDF nurses. We were informed there was an attack here tonight." He approached the stretcher, blocking it from going any further. "Is this the nurse who was attacked?"
"Yes it is and she needs medical attention so move out of the way," Natalie snapped.
Taking control of the situation Dr. Sane quickly gave directions to have Nova taken into exam room one.
Yamakazi moved aside to let the stretcher pass. Recognizing Wildstar as the Captain of the Star Force he caught him by the arm, "Could you tell me what happened Captain?"
As he stepped aside the group moved toward the exam room. Derek was torn between the need to speak to the police and his desire to stay with Nova. "Lieutenant Forrester was attacked in the nurse’s locker room. Hospital security has the area locked down. They are waiting for you. Nothing has been moved except for this," reaching into his pocket he handed the detective the shredded fabric. "I didn't know what it was until I picked it up."
Realizing what Wildstar had given him, he looked at the young officer with compassion. “The young woman who was attacked, she’s your fiancée isn’t she?”
He nodded, “We are getting married on Saturday.” He had been about to explain what he knew when Nova’s panicked cry took his attention.
“I’m sorry, she needs me,” he said to the detective as he sprinted to her side.
As the medical team was about to push the stretcher into the exam room Nova realized Derek was not with them. She was struggling to sit up when he reached her. "Derek!"
"It’s okay, I'm right here," he said softly, hugging her “but you need to lie down.”
“Okay,” she whispered grasping his sleeve. "Don’t leave me."
"I'm not going anywhere," he assured her.
Dr. Sane frowned at Wildstar’s words but refrained from saying anything until they had Nova in the examination room and transferred from the gurney to the exam table. As the two EMTs left the room he stood staring at the Captain with his arms folded across the chest. When Derek made no move to leave the room he finally said, “Wildstar I need to examine my patient.”
“I know that. What are you waiting for?”
“Before I can do that we need to get her out of her uniform and into a hospital gown.” Dr. Sane shook his head in frustration. Grabbing Wildstar by the arm he yanked him into the corner of the room. “Are you being intentionally dense? I have to administer a rape kit and photograph her injuries. That is going to uncomfortable enough for Nova without you being here.” In his agitation Dr. Sane’s voice had gotten louder and louder to the point that everyone in the room heard what he was saying.
While the two men had their backs turned Natalie had managed to get Nova out of her uniform, into a hospital gown and settled more comfortably on the examination table. Studying her friend’s face for any sign of pain she asked, “How are you feeling?”
“My head hurts,” Nova admitted, “my left arm hurts even more. I’m pretty sure it’s broken. I felt it snap when he twisted it up behind my back.”
After what she had just been through Natalie was astonished at Nova’s calm demeanor. “I’m sorry I didn’t get there sooner, maybe I could have stopped him.”
“Natalie you did stop him; at least I think it was you who called out to me.”
“Yes it was me who called out but what do you mean I stopped him? Are you telling me you weren’t raped?”
Nova didn’t know exactly know what to call what had been done to her. Since she was still a virgin she supposed she couldn’t call it rape but she didn’t feel clean any more. She shook her head, “If you had been a minute later I think it would have been very different.” Nova shuddered at the memory of the man’s hands on her. The feel of his body pressed against hers as he struggled with his zipper. It was a feeling she did not think she would ever be able to forget. She refrained from telling her friend she felt violated and afraid.
They got no further with their conversation when the door to the exam room opened and a female technician entered pushing a portable x-ray machine. Dr. Sane approached with Wildstar right behind him. After telling the technician what x-rays he needed he turned back to Derek. “It’s time for you to leave.”
It was Nova who replied. “No Dr. Sane, please… I want him to stay.”
Not wanting to upset her any more than she already was he grudgingly agreed. Grabbing a stool Derek pulled it up beside the table. Taking her hand he sat with his back to the doctor. During the examination Nova never made a sound, she didn’t have too; the tears sliding silently down her cheeks said it all. Derek could tell every time the procedure was uncomfortable or caused her pain by the increase in pressure in the grip she had on his hand. After a thorough examination Dr. Sane confirmed to the detectives that she had been assaulted but not raped. The bruises and abrasions on her inner thighs, her arms, her ribs and the side of her forehead were photographed as evidence of the attack. She had suffered a concussion, bruised ribs from being slammed into the shelf and her left arm was in a cast.
Two hours later Nova was huddled in the passenger seat of Derek’s air car as they drove toward her parent’s house. She had managed to keep her composure when the police had interviewed her. The fact she hadn’t gotten a look at her attacker was very upsetting. She felt she had somehow let down all the nurses by not being able to give the police more to go on. She felt utterly wretched. Looking down at her hands folded in her lap she was struck by the fact she was not even wearing her own clothes. It was just too much. She burst into tears.
Pulling to the side of the road Derek put the car in park. Gathering her into his arms he could feel her shaking. He let her cry something she had done very little of at the hospital. As her sobs decreased to a few shuddering breaths Derek pulled back so he could look at her. The sight of her bruised and tearstained face was a knife in his heart. It was all he could do not to cry himself.
“We’re almost to your parent’s place,” he said softly. “Are you ready to go?”
“I don’t want to go there. Can’t we go to our house? My mother is going to blame me for this.”
Derek was appalled at the very idea that anyone would believe she was in any way responsible for what had happened. Nova was one of the strongest most determined people he knew. To see her looking frightened and defeated at the prospect of facing her mother was disturbing. What he wanted to do was take her to their house but he was unwilling to risk a run in with the press.”
“What if I stayed with you tonight?” he asked.
For the first time since she had gotten in the car he saw a ghost of a smile flicker across her features. “Would you?” Her smile faded as quickly as it had come. “My mother will never agree to that.”
“You let me deal with your mother.” Starting the engine he pulled the car back on to the road.
Karl Forrester was looking out the window of the living room when Derek’s car pulled up. He watched as Derek got out, walked to the passenger side, opened the door and helped Nova to her feet. She’d taken only a few steps when she stumbled. Derek scooped her into his arms. “Teri,” he called as he rushed to the entrance pulling open the door, “come here quickly, something’s wrong.”
Derek had almost reached the house when Nova’s father stepped outside. “What happened?”
“Mr. Forrester I’ll explain everything after I take Nova up to her room.” Entering the house and crossing to the stairs Derek took them two at a time. He stopped at the top. Never having been in this part of the house he had no idea which room was Nova's.
Nova turned her face into his chest so he wouldn't see her smile. "It's the third door down," she told him. "You can put me down if you want you. I can walk."
Derek tightened his grip on her in response. "Not a chance," he replied with a grin, "this might be the only time I will ever get the opportunity to carry you into your bedroom in your mom and dad's house." To his delight she giggled.
Opening the door he carried her into the room. He had just laid Nova on the bed when her mother rushed in followed closely by her father.
Taking one look at her daughter Teri stopped abruptly. "My god Nova what did you do to yourself? Arm in a cast.... Bruises on your forehead... You do realize you're getting married in three days?”
Nova's gaze shifted from her mother to Derek. "See, I told you so."
"Mrs. Forrester that's enough! How can you stand there and bully Nova like that? Don't you even want to know what happened to her tonight?"
"Well with the bruises and broken arm, it looks like she must have fallen!"
"I didn't fall Mama," Nova stated, her voice flat. She did not elaborate.
“Nova was attacked at the hospital.”
Shocked and horrified Karl Forrester sank down on the bed beside his daughter. “My god honey are you okay?”
“I’m fine Daddy. Just a little battered and bruised.”
“What do you mean attacked?” Teri demanded glaring at Derek. “Are you telling us Nova was raped?” Derek’s grim expression and the tears in Nova’s eyes seemed to verify her question.
Nova was in no mood to deal with her mother’s hysterics. “Calm down Mother, Natalie Fisher and Derek came looking for me they interrupted the person who attacked me. He never got to finish.”
“But how could this have happened in the first place? I don’t understand how did he get you alone? I thought the nurses were not supposed to go anywhere alone?”
“I got caught up helping with a patient. I knew Derek was waiting. I was rushing so I was alone so I guess it was my own fault Mother, is that what you want to hear?” Nova asked bitterly.
Teri Forrester gaped at her daughter. “Well it’s no wonder then. How could you have been so careless?”
“You’ve made your point, I get that I have disappointed you again,” Her head pounding to the point she feared she would throw up Nova had no fight left in her. “Please Mama just go, I can’t do this anymore.”
Derek could barely contain his anger. "Mrs. Forrester I know you and Nova don't always see eye to eye and I know you don't approve of her career choice but she is your child, don’t you have any compassion or do you enjoy being cruel?”
"I am never cruel but I won't refrain from pointing out she does something careless either."
“No you never refrain from pointing out to Nova when she does not meet your ridiculously skewed view of morality do you Teri?” Up to that point Karl Forrester had said very little. “Nova wants you to go and I don’t blame her.”
“FINE!” she snapped stomping across the room. She stopped at the door. Turning back she said, “Not that any of you care but I think you are making a mistake getting married on Saturday. How can Nova walk down the aisle looking like that? It should be postponed.”
“You’re right Teri, no one cares,” her husband replied. Kissing Nova on the cheek he got to his feet. Crossing the room he stopped at his wife’s side. Taking her arm he opened the bedroom door, “Come on, let’s leave these two alone.”
Derek stopped them as they were heading out the door. “Mrs. Forrester can I have a word with you please, outside.”
“If you must,” she answered with a sigh. Turning to Karl she asked, “Are you staying for this?”
“If Derek wants me to,” he answered, his tone clipped.
“Yes Sir, I would like you to hear what I have to say.”
Karl Forrester nodded and watched as Derek helped Nova up from the bed.
"Do you think you can manage to get changed while I'm gone?"
"I think so. You are going to come back." There was a note of apprehension in her voice.
"I promised you I would,” he assured her. “If you need help just wait for me to come back. I won't be long." Placing a soft kiss on her lips he followed her parents out of the room.
Stepping into the hall Derek closed the door behind him. Fixing his gaze on Teri he did not mince words. "Nova didn't want to come back here tonight when we left the hospital. She wanted me to take her to our house instead. She said you would find a way to blame her for what happened. I didn't believe her. I should have known better."
“Being part of that damned group has made her reckless. If the nurses had conducted themselves more appropriately they wouldn’t be getting attacked now.” She spat the words at him.
Karl Forrester stared at his wife as seeing her for the first time. He was completely taken aback by her words. “Are you actually saying you believe these women, our daughter among them, deserved what happened to them, that they brought it on themselves?”
“Yes that’s exactly what I’m saying!” Teri stared defiantly at the two men. She jabbed Derek in the chest with her index finger. “If it hadn’t been for you she never would have run off with the Star Force this time. No one would be questioning her behaviour or her honour.”
"Mrs. Forrester it seems to me the only person judging Nova is you. There is something you need to know even though she will probably be furious with me for telling you. Nova and I have not been together physically and do you know why; because she wanted to wait until we got married.” Teri could not hide her surprise. “You weren’t expecting to hear that were you? Your daughter, who you’ve judged and condemned, has done nothing to be judged for. She is still a virgin."
Derek was correct; it was the last thing she expected to hear. She was not used to being wrong. It was not a feeling she enjoyed. She did not know how to respond so she said nothing.
“Son you have accomplished the impossible.” Karl could not help grinning as he patted Derek on the back. “I didn’t think I’d ever see the day when Teri was actually speechless.
With everything that had occurred and the horrible things Nova’s mother had said Derek was having a hard time finding his sense of humour. He smiled at his soon to be father-in-law. “Thank you Mr. Forrester. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
When he reached for the doorknob Teri slapped his hand away. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
"I’m going to check on Nova.”
"No you're not. It's time for you to go,” she said, blocking the door.
"There is no way I am going to leave Nova here alone with you. She wants me to stay and I'm going to stay."
“Teresa, move away from the door…NOW!” Karl Forrester had the look of a man who would brook no argument.
Glowering at her husband she shoved past him. Reaching her bedroom she disappeared inside, slamming the door behind her.
“Good night Derek.” Turning away Nova’s father started down the hall.
“Mr. Forrester, wait a minute sir.” The older man stopped and turned back. “I just wanted to make sure you don’t have an issue with my staying with Nova tonight.”
“The respect you have shown my daughter just confirms what I already knew, you are an honourable man. She could not be in better hands tonight. Go look after her, I’ll see you in the morning.”
Nova was seated on the edge of her bed still fully dressed when Derek came back into the room. He was immediately concerned.
"I tried to take the sweatshirt off but I couldn't lift my arm up enough to get it over my head. It hurt too much," she explained softly.
Derek was across the room in three strides. He sat down on the bed beside her. Aside from the car ride to the house, during which she had said almost nothing, it was the first time they been alone together. She had not said anything about being in pain.
For a moment he just sat there studying her face. The bruises that ran from her hairline to her cheek where more pronounced. She was clearly suffering he could see it on her face.
Needing the comfort of his strength Nova moved closer to him resting her head on his shoulder. Derek instinctively slipped his arm around her drawing her even closer. Just how long they sat there Derek couldn't say, it didn't matter she needed him and he wasn't going anywhere. Finally unable to ignore the pain in her ribs any longer Nova raised her head.
"I'm not feeling very good right now. I think I need to go to bed." She hesitated, her cheeks turning red, "would you help me?" She pulled on the sweatshirt she was wearing, "I can't get it off by myself."
"Of course I'll help you." As much as he hated to Derek felt he had to offer, "I can go get your mother to help you if you would prefer." With everything she had endured in the past few hours the last thing he wanted was to make her feel uncomfortable.
"No, not her. Please."
Nodding his agreement he helped her to her feet. Taking hold to the hem he carefully pulled the sweatshirt up over her head. For the first time he saw the vivid purple bruises across her ribs. Reaching out he gently touched one of the marks. "I'm so sorry this happened Nova."
"Me too." She whispered. She turned so her back was to Derek. "I'm going to need your help with this as well."
Without a word he stepped behind her and unhooked her bra. In spite of everything he smiled. For all the times he had seen her in various stages of undress this was the first time he had performed that simple intimate act.
Keeping her back to him she slipped it off. Reaching for the nightshirt she had laid on her bed when had tried to get changed earlier, she quickly pulled it on. Nova paused with her hand on the waistband of the yoga pants she was wearing. As she took them off the memory of hands groping her hit her like a physical blow. She sank to the edge of her bed, her eyes filled with tears.
Derek knelt down in front of her, taking both her hands, "tell me what's wrong."
"When they released me at the hospital and I was allowed to get dressed I had everything I needed, thanks to Natalie, except my underwear." Tears slid down her cheeks. "He tore them off me. I can feel his hands on me."
Picking her up he pulled back the covers on her bed and laid her on it pulling the covers back up over her. He then lay down beside her, on top of the blankets, gathering her close.
As she snuggled against him she asked softly, “Will you promise me something?”
“No matter what happens, or what my mother says, we are still going to get married on Saturday.”
“I promise.” He made a silent vow to himself, he would keep his promise they would get married but as for the actual consummation of their marriage, that would depend on her. He had no intention of doing anything until she was ready.
Settling himself more comfortably on the bed Derek looked around the room. It was decidedly feminine. The furniture was white and the walls were a soft pink. The bed itself was a four-poster canopy with a white eyelet comforter trimmed with pink. The canopy itself was white with pink accents as well. “Nova this is a very girlie room.”
She smiled, “Yes it is. What can I say, I like pink. Don’t forget I haven’t lived in this house for a long time. During the reconstruction Mama said she wanted the house put back exactly as it was. I was living in the officer’s quarters by then. This is what my bedroom looked like when I was in high school. She didn’t change anything.”
“Nova thank you not painting our bedroom pink.” She giggled in response.
Rolling to his side he propped himself up on his elbow so he could see her face. “Are you comfortable?”
“I’d be more comfortable if you would get under the covers with me.”
“Are you sure? I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”
When she nodded Derek got up pulled off his sweatshirt and slipped under the blankets beside her. Nova immediately moved closer. She was thankful to be able to lie on her side tucked snuggly against him. In his arms she felt safe.
For Derek the knowledge that in just three days he would spend every night for the rest of his life with woman in his arms was life altering. He would no longer be alone. Closing his eyes he drifted to sleep with a smile on his face.
The end of Part one
This story was inspired by the song Sing You Home by the Ennis Sisters. It was written as a tribute to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. The morning of the battle 812 soldiers went over the top the following morning only 68 of those soldiers made it to roll call. Attached is the link to the song being performed by the Ennis Sisters and the Shalloway Youth Choir.