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 19, 2202
When Mark had arrived at Heroes’ Hill and Wildstar had come to greet him, the two had simply clasped arms and looked at each other – words hadn’t been necessary. They both knew that if they worked together, nothing could defeat them. Somehow, the entire bridge crew had known to gather at the war memorial… Mark wondered as he looked up at the statue of Captain Avatar. Captain, have you called us all together to save the Earth again?
The minutes before Homer was able to get in touch with Sandor felt like hours. Nova worried at his arm, checking the wound and rewrapping Carina’s hastily-applied bandages, but after that all they could do was sit silently, wondering whether anything they could do now would help the Earth. Waiting for news without being able to take action was incredibly frustrating. It simply wasn’t how the Star Force handled things. And it didn’t help that Mark was beating himself up for the loss of the automated fleet. He wished he’d had the time to talk to Carina about it. She would have given him some perspective. Carina. He couldn’t allow himself to worry about her now – if he did he was afraid he’d go crazy, or at the very least he’d lose focus, and that could spell the end of everything. He simply had to believe she was safe. He’d know if something had happened to her, anyway – he was sure of it. Their connection went deeper than anything he had ever known. They had speculated that it had something to do with the transfusion Trelaina had given him when he was wounded, but whatever the cause, the two of them had a constant awareness of each other.
He was shaken from his reverie when Homer announced that he had reached Sandor. After that, everything happened so quickly. Mark barely remembered being pursued by enemy foot soldiers while running to the secret hangar at HQ (thanks, Mr. President, for arranging for your own safety while leaving the rest of us to rot,) pushing through the pain of his injury to get there as quickly as possible. There had been a moment of panic when the escape dome wouldn’t open, but Nova knew the code and had run to open it manually. She would have to hurry – damn the automatic settings on these shuttles that couldn’t be overridden – but surely she would make it back to them before the enemy broke through the armored door.
Mark wasn’t sure what was happening now. He could hear Wildstar shouting for Nova, and Homer was yelling too, but he couldn’t investigate – he didn’t want to hand the controls of the escape ship over to either IQ-9 or Eager while they were still in range of the enemy ships. After what happened to the automated fleet, he wanted complete control of this ship.
The door of the shuttle closed, and Mark was better able to hear what was going on behind him. Homer was shouting at Wildstar. “What are you doing? We can’t do this without you, Wildstar! It will be hard enough without her!”
Without her? Mark felt his blood run cold. Something had happened to Nova. Had she been hurt? He didn’t have time to ask, as the next thing he heard was the sound of Wildstar’s fist connecting with Homer’s jaw. “I don’t care! Nova was injured! She – she needed me, and I could have saved her! Damn you Homer, why didn’t you let me go?”
“Wildstar!” Mark shouted over his shoulder, turning just in time to see his friend throw Homer across the room and into the opposite wall. Wildstar had an explosive temper and was always ready for a fight, but Mark had only seen him come this close to losing control once before, when they had captured a Gamilon prisoner during the trip to Iscandar and Wildstar had been reminded of the violent death of his parents. Mark had needed to restrain and calm him more than once over the years, and when Wildstar approached Homer again and grabbed his collar, he knew he’d better move before Homer suffered some serious injury. He was about to turn the helm over to IQ-9 when Doctor Sane stepped in.
“Wildstar, stop it!” The tiny man’s shrill voice cut through Wildstar’s anger enough to distract him from hitting Homer again. “Homer is right. Earth needs you – now is not the time to lose your head!”
Wildstar still sounded furious. “Doc, that was Nova down there! Doesn’t anybody care? She was hurt, and now who knows what’s happened to her? She may have been captured, or worse!”
Doctor Sane’s voice was commanding as he approached Wildstar. “Of course we care, Wildstar. We’re all worried about Nova. But our top priority now has to be reaching Sandor.” Mark was shocked to see him suddenly grab Wildstar’s arm and plunge a syringe into it. Wildstar cried out in intense pain for a moment before collapsing to the floor. The entire crew stared, stunned. Wildstar didn’t move – he didn’t even appear to be breathing.
“Doc, what the hell? What did you do to him?” Mark was frightened and angry, but the doctor stood his ground.
“I’m sorry I didn’t have time to explain, Venture, but Wildstar’s behavior was putting us all in danger. Take a look at the video panel.”
The entire crew directed its attention to the screen. Eager gave a cry. “Enemy ships! A whole slew of ‘em!”
The doctor nodded. “While Wildstar was distracting us trying to kill Homer, those ships were able to sneak up on us.”
“This shuttle is unarmed. We’re completely unable to defend ourselves!” Dash sounded panicky, but still Dr. Sane was in control.
“If the enemy detects human life aboard this ship, they’ll blow us to pieces. The serum I just gave Wildstar slows heart rate, breathing, even body temperature to the point where they’re almost undetectable. If we all take this shot, the ship will appear to be devoid of human life. It’s our only chance for getting past the enemy.”
The crew looked at each other warily. Mark didn’t want to do it, but as the Star Force’s second-in-command, he knew it was his duty to step forward. “OK, Doc, if you’re sure it’s safe.” He looked around, thinking quickly. “Kill the power, and IQ-9, take over piloting duties. Head for Icarus base as fast as possible.” He was relieved that his voice sounded normal – it wouldn’t do to let the others know how nervous he was.
Rolling up his sleeve, he approached the doctor and braced himself for the pain he was sure was coming. “Good man, Venture. You could see from Wildstar that it will hurt like hell for a few seconds, but you’ll be fine when you wake up. Why don’t you sit down so you don’t fall?”
That was a good idea. He sat beside Wildstar’s motionless form and extended his arm. The pinch of the needle wasn’t too bad, but a second later he felt icy lead running through his veins. The pain was intense, his body incredibly heavy as he collapsed to the floor. With his last conscious thought he reached out to Carina. If something goes wrong, I’m so sorry, my love. I did what I thought was best. I will always love you. If we’d been able to –
He didn’t see how quickly the doctor worked after that, how the crew lay as still as death on the floor while the enemy scanned the ship, finding no sign of life as IQ-9 sat unmoving at the helm. The doctor’s plan worked – believing the ship to be deserted, the enemy allowed it to pass unhindered into space.
The men lay comatose, without dreaming, and awoke feeling surprisingly healthy and well-rested mere hours later as the shuttle approached the asteroid belt. They weren’t kidding when they called this shuttle “high-speed,” Mark thought. They had landed on Icarus Base, thrilled to find themselves aboard the Argo, and after a quick station check her new captain, Yamanami, had granted them half an hour to check their quarters and change into their crew uniforms. Since they had come aboard without supplies, it took Mark only a few minutes to dress and verify that any supplies he needed were in his cabin. Having time to relax, he wandered back to the aft observation deck. It didn’t matter that the ship was encased in stone – he was always drawn there when he needed to think. He was only mildly surprised to see Wildstar already standing by the darkened window. Mark was already feeling his separation from Carina deeply – he could only imagine what Wildstar was going through.
“Derek,” he said gently as he approached his friend, resting his hand on his shoulder, “Nova’s strong. She’s probably stronger than any of us. She’ll be all right.” He was trying to convince himself, too.
Wildstar nodded. “You’re right, Mark. She is strong. But she was wounded, and she fell so far. I feel like it’s my fault. If I had managed to shoot that enemy soldier before he shot her…” He broke off.
“Wildstar, you did everything anyone could have done. How many of those soldiers did you take down? It’s only because of you – you and Nova – that we were able to escape from Earth at all. Without the two of you, they’d have brought us down for sure.”
“Thanks. I know you’re right. I just need to keep telling myself she’s OK.” Wildstar shook his hand, the ghost of a smile on his lips. “And I guess I’d better apologize to Homer.”
“Yeah.” As the two men turned to return to the bridge, the doors opened and Sandor joined them.
“Wildstar. I’m so sorry about Nova. But you have to believe she’s alive. She’ll be there when we get home.” Wildstar nodded and thanked him. True to form, Sandor didn’t dwell on personal matters. “I heard that the fleet was destroyed, Venture. What happened?”
Mark hung his head. “I wasn’t quick enough, Sandor. I was focused on attacking the enemy ships close to Earth, and by the time I tried to defend against the ships coming up behind our fleet, it was too late to turn.”
Sandor stroked his chin, thinking. “Hmmm… Their ships came up directly behind our fleet? You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself, Venture. You know Earth Defense ships have that radar blind spot directly astern. I’d be willing to bet that the fleet reacted slowly to your command because the enemy wasn’t on its radar. The ships were programmed to react to what they could sense first, and your telling them to look to the rear when they could see the enemy in front of them confused the computers. That’s what Carina was talking about when she said there might be bugs in the fleet that you wouldn’t discover until there was an attack.”
“He’s right, Venture.” Wildstar was nodding. “Remember when we left Earth heading for Telezart? The Andromeda was right behind us trying to stop us, and we had no idea until Conroy looked out the window of the head and saw her. We wouldn’t have been ready to defend ourselves if it hadn’t been for his naked eye.”
Mark considered this. Maybe they were right – it did make a certain amount of sense. “Thanks guys. That makes me feel a little better. Anyway, we’d better get to the bridge. We need to take off for Earth.”
Being back on the bridge of the Argo felt so good – it made Mark much more optimistic about Earth’s plight, and he was sure Wildstar and the others felt the same way. When Homer, who seemed to bear no ill will toward Wildstar, announced that they had received a message from the Earth, the crew breathed a collective sigh of relief. That relief was soon replaced with dread, however, when the first piece of news the Commander gave them was that he hadn’t seen Nova. Rather insensitively, Mark thought, he told Wildstar he believed she must be dead. This was followed by the upsetting news that Alex Wildstar had sacrificed his life to save the Commander from execution. So much bad news for Wildstar at once – Mark’s heart broke for him. He put his hand on Wildstar’s shoulder and murmured, “Derek, we don’t know what’s happened to Nova. Have faith.”
Wildstar nodded, but didn’t have time to answer as the Commander spoke again. They looked up, stunned, while he transmitted the horrifying image of what Sandor called a “hyperon bomb,” capable of destroying the brain tissue of all living creatures on Earth. Mark’s heart sank a little when the decision was made to travel to the enemy’s home planet to destroy the bomb’s triggering device rather than returning to Earth to fight. They had a vague idea of the direction and distance to the enemy’s home, and it was farther than any Earth ship had ever travelled – much farther than the distance to Iscandar and back. Carina. When will I see you again?
As they saluted a farewell to the Commander, several more officers gathered on the screen at the old underground Earth Defense Headquarters. Mark spotted Colonel Okajima, Carina’s boss, first, and just before the Commander signed off, she appeared at his shoulder. For a second or two they looked in each other’s eyes, each nodding slightly to let the other know that things were all right. Then the screen went blank.
There was no time for any of them to dwell on personal matters now… It was time for the Argo to take off. Mark settled into his pilot’s seat, feeling as though he had come home. “OK, guys, the sooner we take off, the sooner we’ll get back to Earth. Yamazaki, start the main engine.”