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!
September 22, 2202
Central Hospital, Underground City
Carina had been awake at some point, she knew, but now she drifted in and out of consciousness, between what she had come to think of as her “other world” and what she supposed was the “real world.” Her sister was always there waiting anxiously for her when she woke up in the real world and some part of her knew that she needed to return there permanently, but she was never there for more than a few moments, and besides, she liked it in her other world. It was beautiful – every day was like a warm Spring day, with flowers blooming and birds singing. And besides, her mother was here, and Daniel, and, to her surprise and delight, Jazz, the dog they’d had when she was growing up. The little mutt stuck close to her heels and jumped on her lap whenever she sat down.
Someone else was also in the “other world:” Trelaina. She was the one who made Carina think this place might not be real. Trelaina’s voice was, in a word, ridiculous. Surely Carina’s fevered brain was making it up, adding a flaw to this otherwise perfect creature to quell her insecurity. Mark couldn’t be in love with someone who sounded like that. But then, if Carina was aware that she might be hallucinating, didn’t that mean it wasn’t a hallucination? She knew there were times when she had normal dreams, too, and while she never questioned whether those dreams were real as they happened, when she was conscious she knew they were only dreams. The things that happened in the other world, she wasn’t so sure about.
In any event, whether Trelaina was real or imaginary, everyone Carina encountered gave her the same message: that it was important that she return to the real world.
“Mark needs you,” Trelaina said. “He loves you. I believe he loves you even more than you know, and without you he will lose hope.”
“Thank you, Trelaina,” Carina said with a blush. “You know Mark hasn’t forgotten you. He thinks of you as his guardian angel.”
Trelaina smiled sadly. “Yes, I know that. A part of me will always remain with him, just as a part of your Daniel will always remain with you. But sometimes love is not enough. It was not possible for us to be together. Mark did not understand that; he refused to understand it. But I believe you do understand.”
Carina nodded. “He cares too much about his family and his work for Earth to leave it behind. He wouldn’t have been able to give everything up to live with you on Telezart. And if you had come to Earth, Earth Defense would have insisted on studying your power and you would never have known peace.”
“That is true,” Trelaina said, “and more importantly, they would have wanted me to use my power as a weapon. I promised myself I would never do that again. In the end I did use it to destroy Prince Zordar, and I believe that was the right thing to do, but never again will my power bring death to anyone.”
Carina nodded again, and Trelaina took her hand. “Although I will always love Mark, our love was not meant to be. I know that you helped him to reconcile himself to what happened between us. He belongs with you. Please take care of him.”
“I will,” Carina said, her eyes filling with tears. “I’ll do everything I can to make him happy. I promise you that. I love him too, Trelaina. I always will.”
“Yes. Yes, I can see that’s true. I am glad he found you. Glad you found each other.” Trelaina was smiling now, and the two women hugged. “Good bye, Carina. Know that we are all watching over you.”
She was an unusual person, Trelaina. Carina came away from their conversation feeling better, happy to have Trelaina’s blessing, but also unsure of herself. Trelaina was so beautiful, and good and kind as well… How could Carina hope to ever measure up in Mark’s eyes? Still, there was an air about her that suggested to Carina that Trelaina and Mark simply didn’t fit together. They may have loved each other sincerely, but it was obvious that they were from different worlds. Carina suspected they would have found day-to-day life together quite difficult. She comforted herself with the idea while chiding herself for what the jealous part of her brain was telling her: That voice would have driven him over the edge in a month.
She had an oddly similar conversation with Daniel. Seeing him was wonderful, although her love for him now felt more like the affection of a deep friendship than like the romance and passion she shared with Mark. And while she still felt guilty for falling in love with someone else after promising herself that she never would, Daniel had a different perspective.
“We’ve been over this before,” he said with a gentle smile. “No one expects you to live a cloistered life for the next 60 years. When people experience a loss, no matter how devastating it is, they eventually move on. You’ve seen enough of death to know that. If it weren’t true, mankind would have given up long before the Star Force went to Iscandar.”
“I know, but… I hope you know I haven’t forgotten you, Dan. I never will.”
“I know that. I’ll always be with you, watching over you. But someone else needs you now. He’s a good man – he loves you the way you deserve to be loved, and your love for him is what will keep him strong. Go back, and take good care of him.”
Carina chuckled and put her arms around him. “You’ve been spending time with Trelaina, haven’t you? I’ll go back for good soon. I promise. But I like it here.”
“It’s nice, isn’t it? But you don’t belong here. Not yet.”
They stood together silently, looking across a field of soft pink flowers.
It was good to have Dan’s blessing as well, but why did they all want her to go back to the real world so soon? The hardest person to have the conversation with was her mother.
“I don’t want to go back yet, Mom. I want to stay here with you for a while.”
Her mother stroked her hair. “Your sister needs you, honey.”
“Katie’s seen me awake. She knows I’m going to be all right. The Star Force will defeat the enemy soon and head back to Earth. I’ll go back for good then.”
“Kate’s terrified – she’s just a kid, Carina. She doesn’t understand what’s happening, and she can’t wait until the Star Force comes back. It’s not fair to her. And your father needs you too. He’s not a young man anymore, and worrying about you and Kate is making him sick.”
“Oh…” Carina hadn’t thought about what her being wounded would do to Dad. He wasn’t in the best of health under normal circumstances; the stress of knowing she was in the hospital would be especially hard on him. Maybe it was time to go back. She began to cry at the prospect. “But Mom, I’ve missed you so much. So much has happened to me that I want to tell you about.”
Mom pulled Carina into her arms and rocked her back and forth comfortingly. “I know, honey. I’ve seen everything that’s happened. I watched over you when you lost Daniel, and I watched as Mark Venture made you happy again. He loves you very much, Carina. He’s the other person who needs you.”
“OK, Mom,” Carina sniffled. “If you tell me I need to go, then I’ll go.”
“It’s time,” her mother said, nodding sadly. “But know that I’m always here. I love you all.”
“We love you, too, Mom. We all miss you and think of you all the time.” Carina wiped her eyes as they both stood, and embraced her mother one more time. Her mother whispered a goodbye, and when Carina finally let go she was gone and Carina found herself in the grey fog that always appeared before she woke up in the real world. With a sigh she closed her eyes and waited for the transition.
She woke up several hours later, knowing that she wouldn’t go back to the other world again. As she stirred, her eyes closed, she heard her sister’s voice. “Carina?” Kate’s hand grasped her own, and Carina opened her eyes and turned her head slowly.
“Hi, Kate.” Her throat was dry, a little sore, and she couldn’t focus very well, but she could tell that the girl was crying. Mom was right about how frightened she was. She tried to come up with something comforting to say. “It’s OK. I’m OK – I’m back now. I promise.”
“Oh, Cricket.” Kate leaned over and gently laid her head on Carina’s shoulder. Carina patted her on the back weakly and tried to look around the room. There were tubes in her arms and wires attached to her chest, all connected to a machine that must be monitoring her vital signs and dosing her with (she guessed) antibiotics and pain killers. That would explain her hallucinations, if that’s what they were. There was someone standing at the foot of the bed as well: Maria Venture. She said something about the nurse and left the room.
Carina murmured comforting sounds to her sister and looked toward the window before remembering that they were underground, and the light wouldn’t give her a clue what time it was. Was there a clock on the wall? She didn’t want to push her sister away to check the bedside table. Before she could find one, however, a nurse entered the room. Carina’s vision was blurry, but she thought the nurse looked an awful lot like…
“Nova!” She tried to sit up, shocked, and Kate stood straight, but Nova eased her shoulders back down and pushed the button to raise the head of the bed.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she scolded, but she was smiling. “You know better than that. Welcome back. We thought we might see you today.” Maria Venture gently pried Kate’s hand from Carina’s and led her from the room, closing the door behind her.
“What… How…” The last Carina knew, Nova was among the missing and presumed dead. Nova was checking her vital signs manually now, however, and waved a hand at her.
“We’ll talk later, when you’re a little more awake. I was on the surface, being held by an alien officer,” she said, her face pained. “But I escaped, and we disarmed the bomb. The Star Force is on its way home. Most of them survived – Mark is fine,” she added, anticipating Carina’s next question.
It took Carina’s brain a few seconds to process this information. “Is the war over? When?”
“Well, today is Wednesday. You’ve been mostly unconscious since Sunday. Conditions are unfortunately less hygienic underground than they would be on the surface. You got a nasty infection from that wound” – yes, her abdomen felt sore – “and you were lost to us for a while. But we have you on good drugs, and your blood is almost sterile now.” Nova was now checking the IV drips. “When the end of the war came, it came quickly. Fortunately for us, the Star Force had found the enemy’s planet. They were ready to do their part while we did ours.”
And she had missed it. But – “Still underground?” Was there a problem on the surface?
Nova smiled at her. “People are in the process of moving back topside. As soon as we’re sure you’re stable, we’ll pack you up and get you up there, too. I wanted to keep working down here until you were ready to move.”
It was a lot to take in. Carina was already exhausted. Nova smoothed her hair and said, “Don’t worry about anything, and don’t push yourself. You look pretty good, all things considered. We’re going to keep an eye on you, but you’re strong. We should have you back in the sun by the end of the week. Now I’ve got to move on. Do you want me to send your sister back in, or should I send them home?”
“No – let her come in for a while. I’ll have Maria bring her home when I’m too tired.”
Nova raised an eyebrow at her use of Mrs. Venture’s first name, but didn’t comment as she opened the door.
Kate and Mark’s mother came back in, Kate now smiling and relaxed. Carina assured them that she felt all right, which she did, considering, and got the information she wanted from them: everyone in both families was fine, although her father and Mark were tearing their hair out worrying about her. Nova had reappeared at Earth Defense Headquarters Sunday night with instructions for disarming the bomb, had radioed the Star Force and helped to get it done.
By the time they finished their story, Carina was about to drop off to sleep again. She sent them home regretfully but fell into a heavy sleep as soon as they left the room.
At 1800 hours she was awakened again when Doctor Russo came to check on her. After listening to her heart and lungs and asking a few pointed questions, he confirmed that she was, in fact, conscious and on her way to recovery. “You’re going to have to take it easy, Lieutenant. Don’t expect to go back to work for at least a month, and we’ll have to monitor you for recurrence, but you should be walking within a few days, and as soon as you can walk safely you can go home.”
“Sounds good to me. Thanks, Doctor.”
“OK, well,” the doctor said gruffly as he stood, “you watch yourself. I don’t recommend that you try to take on these adventurous missions anymore. You’re compromised, Lieutenant. Stick to your nice safe data work. Or come to the hospital full-time.”
Carina bit her tongue and saluted the doctor as he left the room. A few minutes later Nova came in. “Can I order you something from the kitchen? I know you probably don’t have much of an appetite, but you’re not under any dietary restrictions.”
Carina asked for a vanilla milkshake and thought about what the doctor had said. She was compromised. Would she be discharged from Earth Defense? She could keep her job as a civilian contractor, but it wouldn’t be the same. As much as she had resisted going to the Academy and joining EDF, she loved her work with them and the camaraderie she had developed with her fellow soldiers. No time to worry about it now, she decided as Nova brought her milkshake. There was enough to worry about. As she sipped, she thought about what had brought her here. Jim Gilman had died less than a week ago – while protecting her – and now the war was over. Was his sacrifice for nothing? Would the war have ended if they hadn’t blown up that munitions warehouse? It had been deemed important at the time, but… Tears ran down her cheeks as she thought about her friend, and she began to feel sleepy again. She buzzed the nurses’ station to come and take her glass away so she could go back to sleep.
It was several minutes before Nova entered her room, pulling a cart behind her. “I know you need to rest, but someone really wants to talk to you,” she said, swinging the cart around. It held a small video phone – rooms in the underground hospital had not been wired for communication. Carina raised the head of her bed a bit higher. Was it Dad or –
When Nova hit the power button, Carina felt a weak smile spread across her face even as fresh tears stung her eyes. His black, wavy hair was disheveled; his dark eyes large with worry. “Hi, Sweetie,” she whispered as Nova backed out of the room, smiling.
Mark’s face relaxed a little when he heard her speak. “Hi, Baby. What happened to you?” His voice was soft and comforting.
“I got hit.” She knew it was a ridiculous response, but it made him smile.
“That much I know.” His face became serious again. “I wish I had been there for you, love. I wish I were there now. And I heard what happened to your friend Jim. I’m so sorry.”
“I wish you were here, too. And Gilman – it’s because of me that he was killed, Mark. He dove in front of me so I wouldn’t take the hit. And then I got shot anyway.”
“Carina, don’t blame yourself. You know the rules of war.”
She did know, and she nodded. He was right, and anyway now wasn’t the time to think about it. Instead she examined his face, and felt herself begin to cry again. “I miss you so much, Mark. I love you so much.”
“I know, baby. I love you and I miss you too. I would give anything to be there with you now, holding you. But I’ll be home by Christmas.”
Christmas? “Why so long?”
“The long-range warps are hard on the ship. We’re doing more cruising on the trip home to give her a rest and treating it as a training mission. But I’ll be there before you know it, and then I’ll never leave you again. I’ll smuggle you aboard the Argo if I have to.”
It was an appealing thought, and Carina wiped her face and tried to smile for him again. “I might be able to fit in your duffel bag if I squeeze.”
“That’s my plan.” The adoring twinkle in his eye made her fall in love with him all over again. She thought she could look at him forever, but in the next moment the screen blinked out of focus. “Oh – we’re losing our signal, love,” he said, holding his hand up to the screen. I’ll try to call in the next couple of days, when you’re feeling better. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she said, putting her hand against his just before the screen went blank. She sat back, her head swimming with emotion. She could never quite understand how she had been so blessed… And yet somehow Mark seemed to think he was the lucky one. She wasn’t sure how that worked.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Nova came in with her night meds. “Feeling better?” she asked. You look like you have a little more life in you after that call.”
Carina smiled silently while she swallowed her pills and then asked, “Nova, did you call him? Or did he call the hospital?”
“I contacted Derek and told him to let Mark know you were awake and that he should call. I thought it would do you both some good. He’s been worried sick.”
“Well, I can’t speak for him, but it did me a world of good. Thank you, Nova.” When she was alone again, Carina lowered her head and said a prayer of thanks as she drifted off to sleep, dreaming of the day she would be reunited with Mark, warm, intimate dreams that made her thankful in the morning that Kate and Mark’s mother were not there to hear her talking in her sleep.