STAR BLAZERS, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, and all related names and elements are copyright by Voyager Entertainment and Leiji Matsumoto. Star Blazers is a registered trademark of Jupiter Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Huge shout-out to Annie and Eva, who gave me the courage to let strangers read my writing!
August 18, 2202
The late-summer sun was warm that Wednesday, the sky over
New Tokyo a clear, deep blue. It had
been nine months since the Comet Empire had threatened to take over Earth, and
the citizens of
It all seemed to happen so quickly. The first alert came through from the Commander’s office late in the afternoon. Lt. Carina Clark was reviewing the requirements for a new project with her boss when a pop-up appeared on her computer screen. “Colonel, a message from HQ. Communication with the bases on the outer planets is out. They want us to check the network, make sure nothing on our end is interfering with the regular frequencies. They’re trying the emergency frequencies now.”
Colonel Okajima didn’t seem too concerned. “Why don’t you take a look, Lieutenant? It’s getting late, anyway. We can continue this in the morning.”
“Yes, sir.” She
saluted the senior officer as he left her office and logged into the network,
systematically checking the connections and traffic for each base. It was tedious work, and she wasn’t finding
anything that would cause a communication breakdown. She had just begun to check the
*Turn on your personal phone. I’m about to call you.*
Her heart still leapt a little every time she heard from Mark Venture. She dug out her phone with a smile and messaged him back. *Done.* He knew she never used her private phone when she was at work – it must be important.
The phone rang almost immediately. “Hi, sweetie. What’s up?”
“Carina, there’s a UFO heading toward Earth. Fast. Wildstar was talking to Mars, and he lost communication when the UFO passed the base.”
“What? What’s –“
“Listen to me, Carina.
I just called Mom and told her to get the kids ready in case they need
to go underground. Call your family in
A knot formed in her stomach. “Sure, OK. What’s going on, Mark?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t like it. I’ve got to go – call your Dad right now. I love you.”
The situation must be serious, for him to say that while he was in the office. They always checked their personal relationship at the door of Earth Defense Headquarters. “I will. I love you, too.” She hung up and blinked, stunned, before quickly placing a call to her brother. Georgie would take care of the rest of the family, and he wouldn’t ask too many questions. “Just keep an eye open, and if something happens, don’t worry if you don’t hear from us for a while. Mark’s mother has Kate with her. She’ll be safe.” Or at least I hope so. As she spoke, she watched a volley of missiles launch from HQ.
There was a pause before he answered. “OK. I’ll update Richie and Dad on the situation. Be careful.”
“You, too. I’ll call as soon as we can.” She sat still for a minute after hanging up, then hurried to the colonel’s office. “Colonel?”
He looked haggard. “The missiles we just fired were ineffective against the incoming craft. It’s headed directly for the city.” They stared at each other.
The sun was setting, casting the city in delicate shades of pink and blue, when an alarm began to sound. Earth Defense was on red alert. Col. Okajima’s emergency line rang, and he picked up, indicating to Carina that she should wait. His side of the conversation was short and tense. When he hung up, he turned back to her. “That craft is a missile. It’s hovering over the city. We need to work up an analysis ASAP to determine its point of origin.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll get the analysis team together and we’ll send the data over to HQ.” The trajectory, speed and radiation levels of the missile would help the science team to determine where it came from.
“Lieutenant, be careful. I also found out that the base on Mars has been wiped out. No survivors, but also no damage to either the bodies or the structures. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.”
“Sir.” She saluted, then ran to gather the junior staff into the analysis room. They worked feverishly to feed what little raw data they had into the main computer. As the sky darkened, the colonel came in to check on them.
“The missile has moved – it’s landed over the site of the old HQ. The soldiers we’ve sent to investigate have been repelled. People are starting to run for the entrance to the underground city.” Carina tensed, hoping the Ventures had already brought Jordy and Katie to safety underground. The team looked out the window, watching the arrival of the next wave. They glowed like fireflies, but as they drew closer it became clear that they were humanoid, paratroopers bent on invasion. The analysts watched, frozen, as the alien troopers opened fire on the city. The colonel slammed his fist on a desk. “Come on, move. We need to get all information to Earth Defense Headquarters ASAP.”
Carina hesitated for a moment. “Colonel, with your permission I’d like to go and help at the hospital. They’re going to need every hand, and the team can handle what needs to be done here.”
He considered her, then nodded. “Mmm, OK. Be careful, Lieutenant, and check in with us when you can.”
“Yes sir. Thank you, sir.” She saluted and ran for the exit. At the door, she paused and looked around tensely. The paratroopers hadn’t reached this area yet. Crossing herself, she hurried across the plaza to the hospital. The lobby was chaotic – teams moved to transport the existing patients into the underground hospital as quickly as possible, while others rushed to triage the newly wounded, those who had made it to the hospital. Carina searched frantically for a doctor. Finally spotting one, she ran to him. “Dr. Russo, how can I help?”
The man glanced at her.
It was a bloody scene. Everywhere she turned were wounded, victims of the alien paratroopers’ rifles, and more were pouring in every second. The smell of death and blood hung heavily in the air. A lucky few made it to the hospital on their own volition; most were carried in by loved ones. Carina couldn’t imagine where they would find the bandages and painkillers to help all these people. She found the nurse who seemed to be in charge and followed her orders.
News was coming in fast and furious from HQ, broadcast in the hospital lobby over an emergency frequency: the enemy had taken the airport, the missile silos, decimated the police force, destroyed communication with the government and surrounded the president. The Earth Defense complex was the only spot that remained free, and the aliens were on their way here.
The invaders began to attack the city in earnest, using tanks and fighter planes that looked for all the world like something out of H. G. Wells. The energy beams shot from the enemy vehicles were powerful, able to destroy a tank or a building with a single shot. The air in the city burned red once again. When she heard cries coming from outside, Carina looked up from her work. A chain of explosions lit the night sky. That couldn’t be good. As she watched, a group of enemy planes flew overhead. She followed them with her eyes as they approached the fleet control tower and fired on it, destroying the tower’s observation and control area. Her heart lodged itself in her throat. Mark. For several minutes she tried to concentrate on her work at hand, but she wasn’t going to be able to focus until she was sure he was alive. Finishing with her current patient, she ran back to find Dr. Russo again.
“Doctor, the control tower has been hit. Request permission to assess the situation. I can make it over there undetected.”
The doctor cursed. “Granted. Watch yourself, Lieutenant. Hopefully they had enough sense to evacuate. If not, send a signal over your walkie and we’ll send an ambulance.”
“Right. Thank you, sir.” She saluted and ran off, slinging a first aid kit over her shoulder. Please, let him be safe. Let all of them be safe, she prayed as she surveyed the wreckage between the hospital and the tower. There was plenty of rubble to hide behind – the amount of damage that had been done in such a short time was remarkable, the entire city in flames. She thought she could make it across the several blocks if she used the damaged buildings and vehicles as shields. Taking a deep breath of super-heated air, she sprinted away from the hospital, hyper-aware of any movement around her. She had made it about halfway to the tower when she saw a figure advancing toward her and drew her weapon, ducking behind a section of a wall that had been blown off a building.
A second look told her that this wasn’t a single figure, but two men coming toward her, one supporting the other. After a few seconds, their faces were revealed in the light of the burning city. Pat Orion… And he was supporting Mark Venture, who seemed to have a hard time walking. Carina holstered her gun and ran toward them. “Mark! Pat, are you all right?”
Mark tore his arm from Orion’s shoulder and fell toward her. “Carina! Thank God you’re all right!” They spoke at the same time as their arms wrapped around each other. “What are you doing here? You should be underground!”
“I saw the tower get hit. I was so worried.” There was a nasty looking gash on his arm. “You’re hurt – let me take care of that. Is anyone else –“
“No, I had everyone evacuate while I launched the defense
“Find the Star Force? How –“
“Chief, I think she’s right.” Carina had almost forgotten that Orion was there. “You should let the lieutenant bandage your arm. It looks bad. I’ll scout the way and make sure it’s safe, and be right back.”
Mark hesitated, then nodded. “All right. Hurry back, Pat.” Carina smiled at Orion gratefully as he walked away, while Mark glared at her. “You shouldn’t be out here. You need to take cover.”
“I’ll make it back OK. And you won’t be of any use to anyone if your arm gets gangrenous and falls off,” she scolded him as she removed a piece of metal from his arm and sprayed the wound with disinfectant. He still looked angry, but she saw the corners of his mouth twitch.
“You’re a very strange girl. You know that?”
“You know, I’ve never heard that before. Thanks, pal.” More quietly she asked, “Where are you going to go?”
He touched her cheek with his good hand, then turned away to avoid looking at his wounded arm. “Heroes’ Hill. The Star Force will gather there – I’m sure of it. We’ll take care of this.”
Carina nodded, wrapping a bandage around his wound. “Mark,” she asked in a shaky voice, “what if you don’t come back?”
“Hey,” he said, “no crying, soldier. Of course I’ll be back.” When she didn’t answer, he turned toward her, lacing his fingers in her hair and speaking tenderly. “Carina, listen to me. God didn’t bring us together like this just to tear us apart so quickly.” After another pause, he tried again. “You know I’m right.”
It was easier to go along with him than to face the other possibility. She took a deep breath, slipping her arms under his coat and around his waist. “I hope so.”
His left arm held her tightly to his chest while he stroked her lower back with his wounded right hand. After kissing the side of her head he whispered in her ear. “Nothing in the universe will prevent me from coming home to you. I promise you that.”
His embrace gave her the strength she needed to believe him. She kissed him deeply. “I’ll be here waiting for you. Always. I love you, Commander Venture.”
“I love you, too. So much.” He kissed her again, holding her until the sound of approaching footsteps made them step apart, hands poised over their guns. It was Orion.
“Sir, we should be able to get to the memorial without too much trouble. I’ll help you along.”
“That’s great, Pat. Thanks. Carina, get back to the underground city.”
“Right. Make sure Nova or Dr. Sane takes a look at your arm ASAP – what I did will just hold you together until you can get real treatment. Orion, keep your eyes and ears open.”
“Yes ma’am.” He saluted as he transferred Mark’s weight to his own shoulders. They began to hurry away, Mark giving Carina’s hand a final squeeze as they pulled apart. “We’ll see you soon,” he said, and she nodded.
She watched them for a moment before running back toward the hospital. A few seconds later another fighter plane flew over, firing randomly on the already-destroyed area. She turned back to the two men. “Be careful! Both of you!”
Mark looked back at her and shouted angrily, pointing toward the hospital. “Go! Get underground NOW!” He and Orion disappeared behind a building and Carina felt her eyes fill with tears as she ran in the opposite direction. She couldn’t go back to the hospital in this state. Coming across a sheltered area where a wall had fallen at an angle against another building, she stopped to pull herself together, breathing deeply. After a few moments, she pressed on.
By the time she got back to the hospital, the outer defenses of the Earth Defense complex had begun to crack. Wounded civilians were no longer able to get past the enemy, and the focus had shifted to transporting patients to the underground hospital facilities. Carina’s thoughts turned to her sister. Surely Dr. Russo would understand if she left to check on her. She tracked him down. “Doctor, Cdr. Venture was the only one hurt in the attack on the control tower, and his wound was minor. He had the rest of the staff evacuated before they were hit.”
The doctor nodded. “Good. Did you happen to see Sane while you were out there? I haven’t been able to find him.”
“No sir, but Cdr. Venture was headed for the war memorial. He felt the Star Force would gather there. Dr. Sane is probably with them.” Russo grunted. Carina went on. “Sir, my baby sister should have been taken to the underground shelter. Things seem to be under control here – if it’s all right with you, I’d like to go and find her. I’ll be back when I’m sure she’s safe.”
He gave her a piercing look. Russo was a gruff old bachelor who didn’t always have patience with people who put family before duty, and Carina wasn’t sure how he’d react. She was relieved when he nodded at her. “Take your time, nurse. We have plenty of coverage for now. We’ll regroup when things settle down.”
“Thank you, sir.” She rode with a group of wounded down the transport into the underground hospital, then exited the building and headed toward the shelter. She was surprised by how easily she got her bearings, after being away from the underground city for a year and a half.
Most families had maintained their underground homes, stocked with clothing and emergency supplies, when the Gamilon War had ended, in anticipation of an emergency such as this. The government kept the buildings in a state of repair, with the proviso that no one would be allowed to occupy an apartment before checking in with officials. In the chaos of the emergency, Carina knew it would be hours before anyone was cleared to leave the shelter. She threaded her way through the crowd and presented her ID at the main desk, asking for the location of the Venture family. The soldier at the desk directed her down the hall, and she wound a path through harried parents and crying children to the area of the shelter reserved for the families of servicemen. She didn’t find the Ventures in the first two rooms she checked, but in the rear corner of the third room, she finally spotted them. Mr. and Mrs. Venture were holding hands, talking quietly; Katie was sitting on the floor, crying, Jordy Venture beside her with his arm around her, trying to comfort her.
When Anthony Venture spotted Carina making her way toward them, he tapped Kate on the head and pointed toward her. The girl looked up, blinked and jumped to her feet, wiping her face. “Cricket!” she wailed, waiting until Carina had gotten through the crowd before running to her sister and throwing her arms around her. After a moment, she jumped back in horror. “What happened to you, Cricket? Are you hurt?”
Carina hadn’t realized how much blood stained the front of her uniform – it almost looked as though she had been shot in the stomach. She knelt and stroked her sister’s hair. “No, honey, I’m fine. I was working at the hospital, that’s all. We’re all fine.” She pulled Kate into her arms as the Ventures approached them.
Maria Venture’s face was worried. “Carina, dear, we’re so glad you’re all right. Have you seen Mark?”
She nodded and told them what she knew of the Star Force’s plan. “I’m afraid that’s all I know, but I’ll head back over to Earth Defense after you get settled and find out what I can. Mark is fine, though – I’m sure of it. I would know if something happened to him.”
Mr. Venture nodded, accepting this declaration without question. “I’d like to help in whatever way I can. Will there be opportunities for civilian volunteers, do you think?”
“I’m sure there will be. Thank you. I’ll keep you up to date.”
Jordy spoke up. “Katie was really worried about you. But I told her you’d be fine.”
“Thank you, Jordy.” Carina pulled the boy into a quick hug. “You’re a good friend to Kate.”
Katie finally pulled away from Carina’s side and took Jordy’s hand with a shy smile. “Thanks, Jordy.” Tears stung Carina’s eyes as she watched the children together. They had grown very close this summer, and seeing the way they looked at each other reminded her of a conversation she’d had with Mark less than two weeks ago.
They had taken the kids to the beach for the day. After Mark and Carina smeared their skin with sunscreen, the two had run toward the waves, deliberately bumping into each other and laughing at some private joke. Mark and Carina had spread their blanket on the sand; he was sitting behind her, rubbing sunscreen into her back (and taking his time, too, she noted as she began to feel warmer than the day’s temperature warranted) when he asked her a question.
“Do you think we need to worry about them?”
She knew what he was asking. She had been keeping an eye on the situation, but they were only ten years old, and Kate still told her everything. If there was something to worry about, she would sense it. She shook her head. “Ask me in a few years and I might have a different answer, but no.” Giving him a sly grin over her shoulder, she added, “They’ll be fine as long as your brother keeps his hot little hands off my baby sister.”
He wrapped his hands around her waist. “Maybe if your sister were less of a little temptress, it wouldn’t be an issue.”
“Hey, it’s not her fault. We can’t help it if the Venture boys find us irresistible.”
Mark chuckled and pulled her toward him. “We do. We really do,” he said, nuzzling her ear, sending a delicious shiver through her body. She began to relax against his chest when suddenly he slipped his arm under her legs and scooped her up off the ground. She shrieked and threw her arms around his shoulders as he carried her to the ocean to drop her in – he knew she preferred to get wet gradually, and it made him impatient. “But right now, I’m afraid you’re the enemy. Jordy! Come over here! As soon as Carina gets over her fear of the cold water, you and I are going to take her and Kate down in a game of chicken.”
Carina smiled at the memory even as she blinked back tears. The day had been perfect, but here they were, a week-and-a-half later, neck-deep in the hell of war with such days behind them – possibly forever. Stop it, she told herself. Mark would be back, the Star Force would defeat the enemy and they would all be fine. Three or four years from now they would sit on the beach and revisit their concerns about Kate and Jordy’s relationship. If she stopped believing that, the war was lost already.
“Carina?” Mr. Venture interrupted her thoughts. “Do you have any sense of how long it will be before we’re allowed access to our apartment? The kids are awfully tired.”
She thought for a moment, rubbing her sister’s back. “I might be able to get you in. I want to make sure you’re all safely there before I head back to Earth Defense, anyway. Would you mind watching Katie until I can get into my own place?”
“No!” Katie clung to her. “Cricket, don’t go back. Stay here!”
“Kate, they need everyone to help so we can end the fighting as soon as possible. Nothing bad will happen to me – I promise. We’re safe here underground.” She knelt and hugged her sister. “And I’ll come back as soon as I can. By the time you wake up tomorrow, I’ll be there to pick you up.”
Mrs. Venture stepped forward and put her hand on Kate’s shoulder. “We’ll be happy to have you stay with us, Katie. Jordy loves having you, and we have plenty of room. When we can get into the apartment, we’ll make some cocoa and try to go to sleep.”
“Maybe we can camp out on the floor. It will be fun,” Jordy added, trying to help. Carina smiled at him as she stood.
“I’m going to talk to the guys at the front desk and see if they can expedite your paperwork. Kate and Jordy, do you want to come with me?”
There were enough military families that had already requested priority, and the level of confusion was high enough, that it was several hours before the Ventures were able to get into their home. News trickled in to Carina from HQ – the enemy had taken full control of the government, but the Commander and the Defense Council would be meeting with the alien leaders shortly. Meanwhile, a high-speed Earth craft had been spotted taking off from Earth Defense Headquarters, and had reportedly left Earth’s atmosphere safely. The Star Force, Carina thought. It had to be. She quietly passed the news on to Mr. and Mrs. Venture, not wanting to excite the children with information she was unsure of.
By the time the Ventures and Kate were safely settled in their apartment, it was well into Thursday morning. As she made her way to the old Earth Defense HQ, Carina realized the sun must be rising over the city on the surface. She was exhausted, but knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep even if she had the opportunity. Reports now were that the firestorm on the surface had stopped, which was a blessing, at least. She found her way to the large communication center at HQ, where a crowd had gathered. A secret camera in the conference room at HQ on the surface was broadcasting the meeting between the Defense Council and the enemy. Carina scanned the room until she spotted Colonel Okajima and the boys from the analysis group, and joined them. They exchanged grim nods with her before turning their attention back to the screen.
The enemy commander, a fearsome looking man, hairless and with blue-grey skin and darkly-lined eyes, blue where the whites should be, was speaking to the council. He referred to the missile which was currently sitting over their heads as a neutron bomb, capable of destroying all life on Earth. Earth would be under the threat of its detonation, he said, unless the Commander revealed to him the location of the Argo and its crew. A murmur ran through the communication room at this news – this new enemy’s fight was with the Star Force? Carina remembered a comment Stephen Sandor had made months ago, that the assistance the Star Force had given Leader Desslok on their last mission may come back to bite them. Was this the same alien force that had caused the destruction of both Gamilon and Iscandar?
She was shaken from her thoughts by the voice of Commander Singleton, who was bravely (and rather foolishly, she thought,) antagonizing the enemy leader, accusing him of being afraid of the Star Force. He refused to give the Argo’s location and told him to find it himself. The alien commander immediately had Singleton taken into custody, calling for his execution. As he was led from the room, a communication officer turned off the camera and the screen went black.
The soldiers turned to each other bleakly. How could they continue the fight without the Commander? Colonel Okajima looked at Carina. “Clarkie, do you know where the Argo is?”
“No, sir. The Star Force wasn’t told where she was docked after their last mission. But I believe it was the Star Force in that escape ship that left Earth during the invasion. I assume they’ve discovered her location.”
“I hope you’re right.” Lieutenant Jim Gilman stood on her other side. “The enemy has taken control of everything on the surface, and with the bases on the outer planets wiped out, the Star Force might be our only chance.”
A marine standing nearby turned to them. “Wait a minute. We’ve still got an arsenal available to us down here, haven’t we? If we play our cards right, we might be able to disarm that bomb and take back the Earth from these sons-of-bitches.”
The colonel nodded. “He’s right. I won’t risk lives needlessly, and we’ll have to find out all we can about that bomb before we do anything, but I don’t see any reason to just give in to enemy rule.”
People were gathering around them, a sense of excitement starting to build. They would organize a resistance – a partisan army that would find a way to take Earth back from her invaders, whether the Star Force had survived or not. The Colonel turned to Carina and Gilman, asking them to hack into the comm system at HQ on the surface. Communication officers would then block certain frequencies, so that the enemy wouldn’t be able to intercept messages between the underground HQ and the Star Force or any other existing Earth Defense ship or base.
As they worked out the back-door codes to get into the system, a cheer rose behind them. They turned quickly and were shocked to see Commander Singleton stumble through the door, disheveled but decidedly alive. He was followed by several members of the Defense Council. Carina breathed a sigh of relief, suddenly feeling the fact that she had been awake for 24 hours, and under extreme stress for 12. The safe appearance of the Commander was a sign – it had to be. They had always survived under his leadership, and they would survive again. She would hear what he had to say, wait to see whether he contacted the Star Force, and then get into her underground apartment, change out of her filthy, bloody uniform and sleep for a few hours before visiting Kate at the Ventures’ and returning to work. She would bring Kate home tonight, after things had settled down a little. Offering up a quick prayer both for those who had survived the deluge and those who had not, she turned back to her work.