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 25, 2202
Earth Defense settled into a sort of uneasy routine. After establishing a communication link with soldiers who had remained on Earth’s surface they had taken stock, determining which EDF employees were underground, which were still topside, and which were among the missing. Carina and Jim Gilman had created a database of this information, and worked out a tentative shift schedule for round-the-clock coverage of communications and radar stations. Specialists in other areas took turns manning the less-familiar stations in pairs. Carina had spent Saturday at the hospital, but most civilians over the age of 20 had at least some medical training, and everyone was eager to volunteer there. She found herself instead at Headquarters every day, feeling more useful here.
She sat in a meeting with the Commander, Colonel Okajima, Gilman, Jenny Greenwood and a handful of marines she didn’t really know (and didn’t care to – after she’d nearly been raped last spring, she’d avoided contact with the marines as much as possible. Some of them blamed her for their comrade’s imprisonment.) The ground units were eager to begin fighting back against the alien invaders. They had been through the arsenal of weapons available to them underground, and were currently outlining a plan of attack. Carina and Jenny looked at each other uneasily. They had spoken this morning and found they both had the same concern.
“Don’t forget, there are still civilians up there,” Jenny cautioned, running a hand through her tight curls. The marines, who had largely been ignoring the women, looked at her.
“We know that. We’re not planning any attacks where civilians might be present.”
“But don’t you think the enemy will retaliate if we hit them?” Carina responded. “Commander, I think we need to get as many civilians as possible underground before we start this operation.”
Jenny nodded. “Agreed. From what we’ve overheard, the enemy isn’t too bright, and they’re no closer to finding the entrances to the underground city than they were the night they landed. They’re enforcing curfew and guarding the military areas and the weapons, but they don’t seem to have much interest in the civilians. They probably wouldn’t even notice if the entire city emptied out.”
A marine grunted. “Evacuating the city could take weeks! We might not have that long – we’ve got to get to that bomb and figure out how to disarm it. It’s a nice sentiment, ladies, but we’re fighting a war here.”
Carina could see Okajima’s and Gilman’s eyes dart toward
her, the corners of their mouths twitching, as her jaw crept forward
stubbornly. One thing she couldn’t stand
was being patronized. Sitting up
straight and fighting to keep her voice even, she said, “I don’t think it would take weeks. Most of the people who stayed on the surface
are either wounded or disabled in some way, or related to someone who is. The entrance through the hospital is still
open – we bring in the wounded, elderly and infirm that way first, then seal it off so the enemy can’t find it. The healthy people we bring in through the
entrances in the country.
The marine shook his head and muttered something that might have been “Stupid broad.” Carina’s chest puffed out, but before she could open her mouth again, Col. Okajima gave her a discreet nudge under the table and spoke.
“Commander, it’s your call.”
After closing his eyes in thought for a few moments, the
Commander made a decision. “It’s
important that we gain access to that bomb, but if we don’t antagonize the
enemy, I don’t believe there’s much chance that they’ll set it off in the next
few days. Clark and
“Yes sir.” The meeting attendees stood and saluted him as he walked away. Following Carina and Jenny Greenwood to Jenny’s desk, the colonel said, “We need a couple of days, anyway, to map out the best areas of attack for the troops. Gilman and I will handle that – you broads focus on getting those people down here.” The colonel winked at her, and Carina couldn’t help grinning.
“Thank you, sir. We’ll do our best.”
When the men had gone, Jenny turned to Carina. “Come on, that was kind of funny. When was the last time anyone had the nerve to call you a stupid broad?”
“I guess. It’s so aggravating, though.” She took a deep breath as they sat, looking at a picture of Jenny and Eager that sat on her desk. “We still haven’t spoken to them?”
Jenny shook her head. “Not since Friday. Homer sends a coded message on a different frequency every night, letting us know they’re still out there.” She picked up the picture. “I miss him so much.”
“I know. This is hard, isn’t it? What were we thinking, falling for Star Force guys? They’re always running off at the first sign of trouble.” Jenny returned the photo to its spot on her desk, nodding, and Carina refocused her attention. “OK. Can you contact the guys at the hospital on the surface first, and then the guys at the hospital underground? After we talk to them I’ll head over there to help with patient transport.”
“Sure.” Jenny put on her headphones and tapped into the secure line.
It was a stress-filled afternoon in the hospital. Carina ran for four hours non-stop, preparing beds for occupation, checking on patients and traveling back and forth to the hospital on the surface. By mid-afternoon they had cleared the above-ground building entirely, and there were enough volunteers so that by 1600, Carina was able to return to HQ. Jenny outlined the plan they had devised to smuggle the civilians underground. “The soldiers are spreading the word, and from what we’ve heard back, most people are willing to try it. The ones who aren’t… Well, we can’t do much about them. They’ve been warned. Oh, and the marines want to start digging a tunnel that will come up under the neutron bomb. That will buy us a little extra time.”
“Good.” Carina pushed her bangs back from her face wearily.
Jenny hesitated. “And there’s something else. We had a communication from the Star Force while you were at the hospital. Everything is fine – they just wanted to be sure we were all right, as well. I’m sorry you missed it.”
“Oh.” Disappointment flooded Carina’s chest. It figured – the one time she’d been away from HQ all week. “What did they say?”
“Nothing much. They didn’t want to leak any intelligence, so they kept it brief. Just let us know that they’re all safe and healthy. Venture wasn’t too happy that you weren’t here, though. Poor guy – he looked like a lost puppy.” Carina tried to smile, but it was one more straw on the camel’s back and she was beginning to get emotional. Jenny scrutinized her face. “You should head home and get some rest before you get sick.”
“Yeah, maybe I will. Do you think I should apologize to the Commander for yelling at the marines?”
“You really didn’t yell at them, but it might be prudent,” Jenny grinned.
Carina knocked and stepped into the Commander’s office. “Sir, with your permission, I’d like to go home for the night. Working in the hospital took a lot out of me.”
“Of course, Lieutenant. Good work today.”
“Thank you, sir. And sir, I apologize if my tone with the marines this morning was out of line.”
The Commander smiled. “Not at all, Carina. When I was your age, I’d have punched that guy in the mouth. A little sarcasm never hurt anyone.” He became more serious. “I’m sorry you missed the Star Force’s call. I hope you’ll be here next time.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you.” She saluted him and exited the office before her eyes could fill with tears. After stopping by Col. Okajima’s desk to say goodbye to him and Lt. Gilman, she turned and left the building. She had barely made it outside when Jim Gilman ran up behind her.
“Hey, wait up. I’ll walk you home.”
Carina groaned. “Gilman, it’s the middle of the afternoon. There are people everywhere. I think I can make it home safe.”
“No way. The marines are pissed at you. That was very impressive, by the way.” He grinned and raised his eyebrows at her. She couldn’t help laughing.
“Yeah. Maybe someday I’ll learn how not to say every thought that comes into my head. That would be impressive.”
“Nah, it’s part of your charm.” They walked in silence for a few minutes, then he spoke again. “You heard that the Star Force checked in this afternoon?”
“Uh huh.” Was everyone trying to make her cry? Gilman looked at her. “He looked sorry that he missed you, too. But they’ll call again soon.”
“I know.” He nodded and let the subject drop. Under his rough exterior, the junior lieutenant was surprisingly sensitive. “How come you never got married, Jim?”
“I almost did once. But she didn’t like the idea of being married to a military guy during the war, and I wasn’t willing to give up my commission during the war. It was too important. I’ve never met anyone else who could take her place. I see her once in a while when I go back to the States – she married some peacenik and had a couple of kids.” He shrugged. “It is what it is.”
They had arrived at the Ventures’ building. Carina nodded and put her hand on his arm. “Well, it was her loss. Thanks for the escort,” she said, kissing his cheek.
“See you later.”
When she entered the Ventures’ apartment, the kids were dancing around the living room, singing. They must be getting tired of being cooped up in here, she thought. They’d have to look for some sort of volunteer opportunity the kids could take advantage of.
Katie ran over and gave her a hug. “Cricket! You’re home early today!” She might be bored, but she had adjusted
quickly enough after they had confirmed that their father and brothers were
“Did you hear from the Star Force today?” Jordy asked as Maria Venture walked in from the kitchen.
“They called, Jordy, but I wasn’t there. Everyone said they’re all fine.”
Mark’s mother was looking at her with sympathy. “Anthony called to let me know he’s going to be late tonight.” Mr. Venture, an engineer, was assisting with structural integrity work in the city. “Why don’t you and Kate both stay for dinner?”
“Can we, Cricket?” Carina hesitated – Mrs. Venture had been feeding Katie most nights, since she never knew what time she’d be finished at HQ. She hated to impose.
“There’s plenty of food,” Mrs. Venture continued. “Anthony said he’d eat in the city.”
“If you’re sure. And if I can help.”
“I was just making a salad. You can chop for me.” The two women retreated into the kitchen and worked silently. “We probably won’t have access to fresh vegetables much longer,” Mrs. Venture said after a few moments.
“No. And we’re trying to bring the civilian population underground, so smuggling operations will be harder to manage.”
Mrs. Venture nodded. “I’m sorry you weren’t able to talk to Mark this afternoon.”
“I am, too.” Here came the threat of tears again. “Mrs. Venture, I want you to know how grateful I am. Your family – you’ve done so much for us. I wish I could repay you.”
“Carina… Dear…” Mrs. Venture turned to her and took her hands. “Call me Maria, won’t you? ‘Mrs. Venture’ sounds so formal. And you have no idea how much you’ve done for us… For Mark. Watching over you and your family is the least we can do. He loves you so much.”
Carina blushed. “Thank you, Maria. I love him very much, too. You must know that.”
“I know. You’ve made him so happy.” She hesitated a moment. “Carina… Did Mark ever tell you that he had a younger sister?”
The question was completely unexpected. Carina weighed her response and spoke gently. “He did. You lost her in the Gamilon bombings, right? He doesn’t like to talk about her, and he told me that you don’t like to, either.”
Mrs. Venture nodded. “She was only four years old.” Carina shifted her feet. “I’m not bringing it up to make you uncomfortable. But I want you to understand… I didn’t handle it well. I suppose no mother who lost a child did. I had a hard time functioning for about a year after it happened… Mark lost his innocence that year, being forced to take care of me. That was when he became so serious-minded.”
Carina considered this. “I can see that.”
“By the time I became pregnant with Jordy I had learned to deal with losing Abbie. Mark regained some of his playfulness after Jordy was born, but I always worried about him. He was very intense, especially when it came to something he felt was his duty, and he focused almost too much on protecting his brother.”
“Mark adores Jordy. He’s devoted to all of you. It’s one of the things I love about him. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”
“No, I agree, but my point in telling you all of this is that, since you’ve been a part of his life, he’s been so joyful. I think I heard him laugh more this summer than I have since he was 12 years old. I think you’re a wonderful young woman on your own merits, Carina, but watching your effect on my son has made me love you. I see the two of you together, and I feel like our little family has grown.”
Carina was at a loss for words. She hadn’t expected this outpouring of kindness and affection from the woman she had privately come to think of as a surrogate mother, and tears filled her eyes again. She also felt a little guilty. Their little family wouldn’t grow any more if she and Mark were together. “Maria… Thank you. That means so much to me – I love all of you, too. But I need you to know something about me.”
“Are you going to tell me that you can’t have children?” Mrs. Venture smiled gently at Carina’s stunned expression. “Mark told me – or, rather, I guessed – just before you finally admitted your feelings for each other. I’m going to tell you now what I told him then: We thought we had lost him last year. That was one of the worst times in our lives, and it put everything into perspective. Grandchildren are a nice thought, but they’re not our top priority. Nothing matters as much to us as Mark’s happiness. We’re thrilled that he’s brought you into the family. All three of us.”
The two women looked at each other for a few seconds before their tears finally overflowed and they fell into each other’s arms. Jordy and Kate chose that moment to burst into the kitchen. “Hey, Mom –“ Jordy stopped suddenly.
“Is something wrong?” Katie looked frightened.
“No – no, guys. Everything is fine. We’re just emotional because we’re tired.”
Mrs. Venture nodded. “We were just talking about how glad we all are that we’ve become such good friends. Sometimes women cry when they’re happy.”
Jordy looked at Kate. “You don’t do that, do you?”
Kate rolled her eyes at him. She didn’t speak, but her expression clearly said, No. Adults are weird.
“What’s up, guys?” Carina wiped her face as she turned to the kids.
“Oh. Nothing. We were just wondering how soon supper would be ready.”
“As soon as you two get the table set and your hands washed,” Mark’s mother told them. As the kids took dishes and napkins from the cabinets, Carina touched her arm.
“Thank you, Maria.”
The older woman smiled and kissed Carina’s cheek before turning back to the salad. “Nothing to thank me for. It’s the truth.”
Carina smiled and went back to chopping carrots.
By the time they returned home after supper Carina was ready to collapse, and fortunately Kate was running out of steam as well. And contrary to what she may have told Jordy, the girl did get emotional when she got tired.
“Can we call Dad tonight? I miss him.”
“I know, but it’s not our night. In a couple of days.” For security’s sake, each household in the city was assigned one hour per week in which they were allowed to open communication lines to overseas locations. “How about we watch a movie?”
“Sure.” Kate was disappointed, but she stifled it. She curled up against Carina on the sofa and was asleep within half an hour. Carina turned off the television gratefully, got her sister into bed and then fell into her own bed.
As exhausted as she was, Carina’s mind was swirling. It had been a long day, with a lot of ups and downs. Maria Venture had given her a lot to think about, and she remembered when Mark had told her about his sister.
It was when he was still in the hospital; she thought it was the day the newspaper had published seemingly compromising photos of them. His mother and Jordy had both pried a little too much for Mark’s comfort; Mark was embarrassed and had apologized more than once after they left. She thought he’d gotten over his embarrassment, but when she had made a joke about his mother’s attitude while they were eating dinner, he had apologized again.
“Mark, I wish you would stop. I enjoy getting a little nosy motherly attention once in a while. I don’t get it very often, you know. It feels good.”
“I know.” He took her hand. “I’m sorry – I know you must miss your own mother. And I’m glad it doesn’t bother you. I think Mom enjoys having a girl to fuss over, too.”
“I’m sure she gets overwhelmed by the testosterone in your house,” Carina grinned.
“I’m sure. And she wishes…” He hesitated, looking away, and she sat silently, waiting. “My mother’s had a hard time, Carina. When I was a kid, I had a little sister. She was much younger than me, and we lost her when she was very young.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry. Was it the war?”
Mark nodded. “The Gamilons started bombing
“Abbie wanted to meet Mom and Dad at the train station when they came home, and I figured, why not? It was getting to be late in the day and she was tired, so I carried her on my back. She was so little.” Carina could see and hear that he was holding back tears, but she let him continue.
“We made it to the train station, but just after we got there we saw the first of the planet bombs approaching. There were four or five of them, I think. They didn’t land right on top of us, but I think they hit less than a mile away. We took cover as well as we could behind the fence, and before we knew it, it was over.
“We thought everything was OK after that – the train made it to the station, we had all survived, everyone was fine. But a few weeks later, Abbie started getting headaches and stomachaches. Everyone had seen and read enough of the radiation sickness by then that we knew exactly what was happening. She didn’t last very long – she was a tiny kid.” Tears were running freely down Mark’s cheeks now.
“After Abbie died, Mom became depressed. It was a long time before she seemed to get better at all. Dad was working hard on the underground cities, and I took care of things at home as well as I could. I can’t help feeling that if I had been better able to protect her, Abbie would have survived.”
“Oh, Mark –“ Carina began, but he interrupted her.
“I know it’s not true. I know there was nothing I could have done. But that 12-year-old kid in me still feels responsible. It was my duty – my job, I mean – to protect her, and I failed. Even if no one else could have done any better, I failed.”
After a few seconds he turned away from the window and faced Carina. “Anyway, I think that’s part of the reason my mother takes such an interest in you. She doesn’t have her daughter to fuss over, and boys aren’t interested in that kind of attention. I don’t think she knows she’s doing it.”
Carina kissed his forehead tenderly. “I’m so sorry your family went through that. The war destroyed so much – so many people, so many families.”
Mark nodded, wiping his face. “Please don’t tell Mom I told you. She doesn’t like to talk about it.”
“I wouldn’t. I won’t say anything.”
He nodded again. “I don’t talk about it much, either. I think Wildstar is the only one on the Star Force who knows the story. But it was a long time ago – there’s no point in bringing up old ghosts. We remember her on holidays and on her birthday, but she’s been gone a long time.”
They hadn’t spoken of his sister again. Carina had always figured it wasn’t her place to bring her up, but she would tell him about her conversation with his mother. The next time they spoke privately, she thought. However many months from now that would be.
Carina sent her thoughts out to Mark before going to sleep, as she did every night. Sometimes she thought she sensed him thinking of her, as well. Good night, my love. I miss you – you can’t imagine how much I miss you. There’s so much I want to talk to you about… And every night without your arms around me feels like an eternity. Hurry home. Please. She snuggled into her pillow with a sigh, pretending he was there holding her.