THE TALE OF A POWDER-BLUE DRESS….
An Alternate Reality "what-if" Story taking place one and a half years after Final Yamato
Story, Concept and Idea by Neil Burns
Story written by Neil Burns with assistance from Frederick P. "Freddo" Kopetz
SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (STAR BLAZERS) is owned and copyrighted by Leiji Matsumoto, Voyager Entertainment and et al. ...and is (c) 2002 by those companies. No infringement upon their copyrights is intended.
The original character of Bryan Hartcliffe was created by Freddo Kopetz for his own Star Blazers fan fiction and is (c) 2002 by him. He is used here by permission.
Please note: This is an alt-reality "what if" story which takes place about one and a half years
after FINAL YAMATO, which is set in March of 2206 in this alternate reality.
It was the Year 2207…
The Month was August...
Lieutenant Commander Nova
Wildstar was kneeling in her garden tending her flowers. It was rather late in
the day on this sunny, hot summer day at their shared home on
Derek advised me I should take either this job or go to Medical School, she thought with an amused grin as she picked at some weeds around the base of a tomato plant with a small hand hoe. Some dirt flew onto her leg, but it didn't matter much to her. She had gotten out of her green summer uniform upon arriving home and was doing her gardening in an old t-shirt and even older gym shorts. She went barefoot in the warm dirt of her garden, with a pair of very elderly rubber soccer sandals thrown off to one side in the grass. Since part of me is still hoping we can beat this…congenital illness and have a family…I opted for the latter assignment, she said to herself. Can't be pregnant and in medical school with Baby on the way…if the pregnant part ever happens. But, I'm bored. Derek's bored. I wish Sandor would get the wreck of the Yamato refitted and rebuilt again after Aquarius. Girl, I believe you're beginning to go rammy stuck here on earth. And so is Derek, stuck with that fighter squadron of screw-ups he has to command. Poor dear. I hope he's not getting into another fight again. He's been reprimanded twice already by Priceman for fighting. I know he's trying to defend my honor against those mean cracks the other pilots make, but this is starting to get ridiculous!
Nova's head tilted up as she heard Derek's aircar pulling in. "Right on time," she murmured to herself. "There he is...and let me get changed and get our dinner ready...and..."
Nova stopped in her tracks as soon as she saw her husband. He was dabbing at the bottom of his mouth. Blood ran down his chin, and his forehead was bandaged.
Nova's fists clenched. As she walked up to her husband, she asked, "Okay...did you get into yet another fight? Tell me the truth!"
"I did. Defending your honor, Goddamnit!" he snapped.
"I wanted to have a nice dinner with you. I had a new recipe for Beef Stroganoff prepared. And what do you have to do? You have to spoil it by fighting again! Who was it this time?" said Nova. "If it was Hartcliffe or Sakamoto...well, those jerks almost deserve it."
"Hardy," said Derek.
"One of our best friends?" cried Nova. "Derek, what's wrong with you?"
"Okay...maybe it was an innocent comment; but it still rankled, " said Derek as Nova, nonetheless, began dabbing at his wounds with a clean hanky she had pulled out of his pocket. "It was in the locker room. Talk was going on...guy talk...about birth control methods. Most of it was really crude."
"I'm a nurse, I've heard worse, Derek," said Nova in a very irritated tone of voice. "What did Hardy say?"
"Well...okay...we were talking about condoms. From the machine. Hardy looked at me, nudged me, and said, 'Pity about Miss Nova havin' an oven that's burned out. Youah neveah gonna need to use these now, Wildstah!' Everybody laughed, and I lost it. I punched one of my best friends right in the mouth. He was half-conscious when they pulled me off him. And I'm on report again. It might be extra duty...might even be brig time. I don't know what they're gonna do to me, now, Nova! Why?"
Surprisingly, Nova held her husband, even though she was as mad as hell at him. "Hardy should've kept his lip buttoned. But you shouldn't have slugged him."
"What was I supposed to do, damnit...take the squadron laughing at me? At us? That's what it feels like."
"Oh, I know," said Nova. "But, still...it's not right what you did. I want an apology from Hardy, but I also want you to apologize to him. Promise me that."
"What? Me apologize to the man who dishonored you?" snapped Derek. "Get some reality through your damn blond head. I'd never do that!"
"Get some reality through my damn blond head?" retorted Nova. "You know, buddy, you're coming close to insulting my intelligence."
"Sure...they can call you sterile, but they can't call you a bimbo. Isn't that what you mean?"
"I never heard that word out of your mouth in terms of me in our life together, Derek Wildstar," yelled Nova. "Go wash your mouth out with soap!"
"I get beat up defending you, and this is the thanks I get?" barked Derek. "Nova, go shove your beef stroganoff up your ass! I'm going down to McLaren's!"
"You're rejecting my cooking to go to a bar and eat greasy hamburgers and get drunk again?" snarled Nova. "Derek, what's gotten into you for the past month? You're not the man I married any more!"
"That's what I am, Nova," yelled Derek. "Part of me is still a very angry man! If you don't like it, then go trade me in on a new model! See ya later! Bye!"
He stalked off, and jumped in their car. "Derek, please wait!" called Nova. "Derek!"
With fire in his eyes, he shot his wife the bird and zoomed off.
A moment later, with a loud, banshee-like scream, Nova threw her hoe into the grass point-down, fell on her stomach in the grass, and began to cry her eyes out.
They said I could've died that day on the Cosmo-DNA, she thought miserably. Maybe I should've! Maybe I should've just died rather than survived the gas and the machine going off under me and making me unable to have children! thought Nova in rage. He doesn't appreciate me anymore! What's wrong with my love with Derek? Maybe I should...just get out of his life...the quickest way possible. With six guys carrying me out of his life in a box, that is.
With her mind made up, a miserable Nova Wildstar decided she was going to go into her house, find every pill she could, and take the whole lot of them.
If he finds me unconscious or dead, that'll serve him right, she thought in rage.
Nova found that, once she had her mind made up, planning one's own demise wasn't that much unlike baking a cake. "Wrote the note," she murmured out loud. "Sealed it with a kiss, and now, ten Demerols, ten Novocaines, ten Dilyaudids, ten codeine tablets. Grind them up, put them in a quart of applesauce, and have a nice lethal dinner. Maybe I should have a cherry with this, too?"
Nova began to grind up her concoction with a mortar and pestle. Surprisingly, she was humming to herself.
At that moment, her phone rang.
"Hello?" she said. She was halfway expecting it to be Derek. Instead, it was her mother, Terri Forrester. "Nova? You look like a mess."
"Working in the garden, Momma. I'm not too happy, either. We had another fight."
"Oh. What was it this time?"
"He beat up a friend of ours at work. He might be seeing brig time over this."
"Oh, that's terrible. I told you...I..."
"Had my doubts about him," said Terri while twirling a strand of her hair that had come loose from its bun.
"Yeah...I've got them, too. I'm taking care of this one way. It'll be quick, but..."
"Thank God, you're leaving him!"
"No, Mom, it's not that...I..."
"An old friend of yours is in town. Remember Biff?'
"Biff? From school?" Nova blushed a little, remembering her first boyfriend. "How can I forget? But I grew up and out of him."
"Well...considering what's going on, maybe you want to meet him for dinner tonight?"
"Uh...Mom...I can't. Derek will be home from the bar in a while...and I'd better be here to..."
"Why not? It'll be fun, and it'll get you out of the house. It's completely innocent. It's not like you're cheating on him or anything..."
"Oh...all right...just to make you happy," sighed Nova.
"Great! I'd put on a dress or pantsuit if I were you. And shoes. You can't forget about shoes, Nova."
"Oh..." said Nova weakly. She had had her legs up in the chair and her mother had evidently seen that she was both barefoot and dirty. "Okay. Tell him I'll meet him for dinner at your place at eight."
"Wonderful. Take care..."
At that, Nova dumped the concoction down the sink. "If I want to end it all, I can do it tomorrow night," she said out loud. "Now, I'd better find myself something to wear, and leave Derek a note."
"My wife...she don't understan' me," said Derek Wildstar with a slurred voice as he leaned over the bar. "Look at this, Maria. Look at this, Liz. I got meself me own fan club."
"You're upset and sick," said Liz, looking at him with true concern. "If you like, I'll drive you home, explain things to Nova, and make sure we get you into bed."
"I don't want that...don't wanta to go home t' her tonight..."
"Well, why don't I take you?" said Maria. "I'll take you to my place." She winked at Liz, who gave her a very disapproving look.
"C'mon," said Maria DeSantos. "It'll be fun."
"Okay..." said Derek. "C'mon...let's go."
Liz did not like that. When Derek and Maria left, she ran over to a phone to telephone Nova at the Wildstar house.
Now, why isn't she answering? she thought to herself. Wonder where she went?
Nova Wildstar was driving along with angry classic rock by Nirvana playing on her aircar's audio player. She had put on a white sailor top, orange skirt, and orange strap-on flats that looked like a schoolgirl's shoes. She thought it would be interesting to meet with Biff, but she didn't want anything to come of it.
After a bit of a drive, she pulled up at her parents' apartment building at the edge of the Megalopolis. Her parents maintained two residences; one here in the Megalopolis in this apartment, and the other at their ranch house in Boulder, Colorado. She wondered what sort of mood her mother and Biff were going to be in when she got there.
Nova went up the lift, and was tapping at the door of her parents' apartment a few minutes later.
"Come in!" cried her mother Terri.
Nova came in, noticing her father and her old high school boyfriend sitting around a coffee table in the large living room having brandy.
Her father Karl Forrester wore a dark green suit with a turtleneck sweater; what he usually wore to work.
Her ex-boyfriend, Brad "Biff" Maxwell sat there in a white sweatshirt and dark blue jeans with boots. He smiled when Nova came in, and was unable to restrain himself as he got up and gave her a hug. "God, you look gorgeous. Where's the famous Captain?"
"Uhmm...he wasn't feeling well and didn't want to come along tonight," said Nova.
"Too bad. Would've liked to have met him," said Biff as Nova's mother momentarily gave her daughter a slightly dirty look. She had on a lime-green pantsuit and pumps. Nova waved at her mother as if to say, "that's enough". Terri nodded, and said. "Would you two like something to munch on?"
"I always liked your h'or'doureves, Mrs. Forrester," said Biff.
"Pigs in blankets sound good, Mama," agreed Nova.
"Good. I have them made up already," said Terri. "Now I'll let you guys catch up on things and leave you...uhh...alone."
"Okay," said Nova, without much enthusiasm. Her father looked at her with compassion, guessing that she was miserable without the love of her life at her side.
"Let me let you know what I'm doing now," said Biff. "I'm working for an engineering company, doing CAD design work for our latest spacecraft."
"Which classes?" asked Nova.
"The heavy battleships, mostly," said Biff.
"Borodinos or Andromedas?" asked Nova.
"Boy you know a lot about this!" laughed Biff.
"I sort of work with what you design," said Nova. "You could say that Derek and I are end-users of your spaceship designs..."
A while later, after more drinking at the bar, Derek Wildstar found himself at Maria DeSanchez's apartment. They were both drunk. She played him music, and they danced around and around the living room. Finally, without a thought for Nova, he let her undress him, and they fell nude into bed and in a giddy, drunken state, performed the obvious coupling. Then, they drank a bit more and fell asleep.
At 0500 in the morning, Derek realized where he was. He got up, showered, and quickly kissed Maria goodbye. After they had a shouting argument, Derek left to go and see Priceman at the fighter base.
Nova awoke the next morning at her own house. After dinner at her parents', Biff had been a perfect gentleman and had taken her home. She had expected to find Derek passed out in their bedroom when she got back, but when she didn't find him, she began to get worried. She called the police, and then called the fighter base. The duty officer said they would have Derek call her when and if he showed up. Worried sick, and having dark thoughts about where Derek might be, Nova paced the kitchen at 0500, waiting for a call from Derek, the police, or the base.
"Like the Yamato?" Brad asked while he and Nova sat together again later that day at her parents' place looking at a model of her husband's last command, . Now, she wore a favorite outfit of Derek's...a pink romper with nearly knee-high boots. Brad thought she looked damn cute in her outfit.
"That was my baby. My pride and joy. A little 'did you know'. My ancestor was the one who shot down the original commander Yamamoto over the Pacific in 1943."
"You don't say." Nova's eyebrows arched in interest. Brad never mentioned this.
"I'll get it," Karl announced as the telephone rang from the kitchen.
"We have another half an hour until dinner," Terri smiled. "Do tell us more about your brave ancestor."
Maria DeSantos smiled at the sleeping figure in her bed. The Puerto Rican-born nurse had spent several hours with Captain Derek Wildstar engaged in the most passionate, dirtiest sex she ever experienced. So what if he was married to Nova. Maria was the proverbial poor girl from the streets while "Ms. Thing" was the rich spoiled princess who had everything. So what if the marriage was on the rocks. Ms. Thing was damaged goods. Firing blanks. Running on empty. Sorry, Nova dear. He's mine. thought DeSanchez with a lustful expression on her face.
Later that evening, Nova drove home and entered the driveway, seeing Derek's car. Smiling, she entered the house and proceeded upstairs, dropping clothes along the way until she entered the bedroom, her nude athletic frame shimmering in the moonlight. Nova got into bed and leaned over her sleeping husband when a sweet vanilla-orangey smell caught her nostrils. Perfume, but it was not hers.
"Oh, Derek," Nova sighed. "Please tell me you didn't."
Yet, the evidence was clear as crystal as was the lipstick and hicky on his neck. Nova decided to pretend it did not happen. She was just seeing things. When he awoke later on, they discussed Captain Priceman's punishment...extra duty for the next week with his squadron of screwups, the "Wildcards." Then, refusing to discuss the clear evidence, Nova lay nude waiting for him as he showered.
A ton of guilt washed over Derek as he slipped back into his wife's arms. He almost wanted to just confess everything, but, even after they made love, the silence was just as pregnant as Nova could never get. They held each other and fell asleep.
Over the next week, he and Nova grew closer again when he was able to see her accounting to his extra duty. They agreed to a nice dinner that night at the Officer's Club.
To dinner, Derek wore his uniform with his dress peacoat and cap. Nova wore a powder-blue shirtdress that Derek had just got her and navy blue slide sandals. Despite their fight, Hardy smiled as he watched the young lovers talking over dinner. Looks like they made up, he thought. Good. They're too damn cute to split up....
That night, Nova lay in Derek's arms, with the bedroom filled with the subtle scent of the violet perfume she liked. They had just shared an hours' worth of passionate love.
"Nova...I've got some things to tell you..." said Derek in a serious tone of voice. "And...uh...I have to apologize."
"Confession time?" she asked softly.
"You know...I have some things to tell you, too. But...not now."
"Dearest...I don't want to ruin the moment. Oh...Derek..?"
"Am I damaged goods?" she asked in a plaintive voice. "Would you ever throw me away?"
"No...you're not," said Derek. "Nova, I love you..."
As they fell asleep together, an impulse caused Derek to look up at the calendar that hung on the wall. It was a pretty calendar with a picture of a jungle cat on it. The date was September 5, 2207, a Saturday night.
Tomorrow, they would gather at Heroes' Hill to honor Yamato's dead. Derek didn't yet know it, but this night would be the beginning of the end for their relationship...he later asked himself what would have gone differently if they had just confessed their peccadilloes and sins to each other that night.
At Heroes' Hill the next day, the sun was bright. It was hot as they gathered to commemorate the day that Yamato had come home from Iscandar seven years ago. Derek wore a short navy-blue Captain's dress coat over his blue uniform, while Nova wore red shorts, a multicolored tube top, and dark gold platform sandals.
Bryan Hartcliffe came up to them with a leer on his face. "Hey, Wildstar," he said. "How's it hangin'?"
"Fine," said Wildstar. He didn't like Hartcliffe much and was glad that he wasn't in his Flight Group. The long-haired British pilot served with the Jolly Rogers and he had already been divorced once. He and his ex, another pilot, didn't speak to each other.
"How's the damaged goods on yer lap? Too bad she's sterile."
"Hartcliffe," snapped Nova. "You're drunk already at noon and you disgust me. Get out of here!"
"Nova, you know he's been boffin' Maria DeSanchez? I 'eard they found them in a car together one night and the MP's hushed it up."
"You're lying!" said Nova hotly as a cold chill went through her heart. It was only once, that one night we fought, wasn't it, Derek? she said to herself. If it was more...I'd forgive you...if you were just honest with me.
"I ain't lyin''" said Hartcliffe. "And I hear she's been rollin' in the hay with some dude named Brad. Still with him, Nova? Too bad. How's about a roll with me? You got a cute arse, luv."
Nova leapt up and slapped Hartcliffe. Then, Derek waded in and knocked him to the ground with a vicious punch. He knocked his glasses off, and took a blow to his cheek from Hartcliffe as he bent over the miserable pilot. Then, Hartcliffe got up and kneed him in the crotch.
Derek grunted as he staggered. Nova tried to separate the combatants, but Hartcliffe yelled, "Fuck OFF, bitch!" and threw Nova roughly onto her behind by her tube top.
The proceedings stopped for a moment as Derek watched his wife in shock. Her tube top had slipped down, exposing her bosom to the crowd for a moment. She pulled it back up with a snarl. Then, wasting no time, she flung a kick into Hartcliffe's crotch. The thick cork sole of her shoe made sure that the blow hurt real good.
"The next time you put your hands on me, I'll really make it hurt, Hartcliffe!"
"Nova, let me kill him! said Derek in rage. "He can't do that to you! Are you okay?" said Derek as he laid a hand on her bare shoulder.
Nova pushed Derek's hand away. "No, Derek. Don't touch me until we get this straightened out! And don't hurt him!"
"Nova, I hear you've been sleeping around too," said Derek. "Don't tell me what the hell to do, you fine moral example! And there you were praying in church this morning, you...hypocrite! You're as bad as your crazy aunt!"
"I am not!" screamed Nova. She struck Derek across the face in sheer rage. Derek just glared at her and stood aside. We have our problems, he thought. But never, never will I lay a hand on you, Nova. Although right now, I am fucking tempted! I'll take it out on the Goddamn Brit instead!
At that, Wildstar bent down and began to shake Hartcliffe like a rag doll. Nova screamed as the two of them rolled on the flagstones, kicking over Sergeant Knox's memorial plaque. It took Dash, Hardy, Conroy, Homer, Eager, and Yamazaki to pull the two enraged men apart. Dr. Sane and IQ-9, in the meantime, were occupied with trying to keep Nova from getting in there to assault her husband to stop him from killing the pilot. They had never seen her so angry in her life.
That night, Hartcliffe, Wildstar, and, to her intense shame, Nova spent a night in the brig at the fighter base awaiting their court-martial. It just so happened that Nova was in the cell next to Derek's.
Captain Wildstar banged on the bars. "Hey, Nova. How do you like my usual cell?"
"Bug off," she said in a broken voice as she sat on the single bunk in her cute outfit with tears running down her cheeks. "It's all your fault! You and that stinking temper of yours!"
"The brig isn't so bad."
"Derek, I'm a professional officer, even if you're not acting like one any more. When I was strip-searched, I was never so embarrassed in my life!"
"Hear the matron thought you were cute."
"I said, BUG OFF, Derek Wildstar!" cried Nova. "Leave me alone!"
"What about our problems?'
"Derek, I refuse to discuss them here in front of those guards! Good night!"
All three of them were up before Priceman and his special court-martial board the next day in a simulated walnut-paneled military courtroom that looked very grim. Hartcliffe was busted down to Ensign and fined a thousand credits and sentenced to three months in the brig. Derek Wildstar shook his head as Nova was reduced in rank from Lieutenant Commander back to Lieutenant, Senior Grade. She was also fined, but only five hundred credits. She was given a one-month suspended brig sentence and ordered to serve extra punishment duty for a week.
Captain Wildstar was fined two thousand credits. Priceman, now promoted to Commodore, said, "I'm not reducing you in rank, Captain, because, unfortunately, I need you here to continue training, and the EDF needs you in command of Yamato again when they finish rebuilding her wreck, which, as you know, they have just returned to Earth. But, if this ever happens again, I'll take your rank so Goddamn fast you won't know what hit you. I also give you a direct order."
"You're setting a bad example. Go make up with your wife and keep your lovers' spats off of Heroes' Hill. And, remember, both of you, adultery can be considered conduct unbecoming an officer if we find real evidence. I've heard rumors about you two lovebirds. Put a sock on those rumors, Captain! Got it?"
"Yessir," said Derek and Nova together. They then shared a kiss, but there was little passion left in it and they didn't hold their hug for very long. They left the courtroom without holding hands.
There was now plainly a public rift in their relationship. It wouldn't be long before the tabloids found out about it.
Two weeks later, their mutual affairs were still going on and, along with Brad's overhearing Wildstar bragging about it at the diner, it was now clear that Wildstar had grown disenchanted with his sterile wife and was looking for someone else. Nova found comfort in Brad's arms and the ex-quarterback/military architect proved to be a rock of support and a friendly ear to bend. Nova also found that her old feelings for Brad was starting to resurface somewhat, but she would not bring herself to "do the deed" yet as she still had hope.
SOME WEEKS LATER...IN OCTOBER 2207
"Captain Wildstar," Commodore Priceman glowered at the man before him. "This is the third time that you are before this tribunal."
"Yes, sir," Wildstar replied.
"Drunken behavior. Conduct unbecoming an officer. Now this set of charges for negligence leading to the death of military personnel. All over again!"
"I offer no excuses, sir. The responsibility was all mine."
Wildstar had led the cadets, not so affectionately called 'Wildstar's Wildcards', on a training run in simulated combat conditions. He had a shoving match with Dash beforehand about his cheating on Nova and his mind was not focused entirely on the business at hand. Two of the cadets, Michelle Priceman and Kazuo Yamamani, offspring of two of the EDF commanders, collided during the run and were killed when their planes crashed.
"Explain why we don't charge you with criminal negligence," Captain Yamamani growled.
"I can't, sir. Your children were excellent cadets with promising futures. I would've gladly recommended them for the Yamato had the ship not been in refit then. My mind was on other matters. I am truly sorry for their deaths and for not paying more attention."
Nova and Brad watched silently from the gallery as witness after witness gave damning testimony about all of Wildstar's faults, from drunkenness to insubordination, combined with his many physical attacks upon fellow officers. Her heart sank as her husband stood stoically, not offering one bit of defense for his actions. Despite their distance, she still maintained a hope that they could somehow put things right...if they could just bring themselves to sit down and confess everything, that is.
"Captain Derek Wildstar," Priceman intoned, a small iota of pleasure in his voice. "You have been found guilty of all charges. Do you have anything to say in your defense?"
"I do not. Only that I was irresponsible and that, because of it, two of the most promising recruits that I ever had, died because of my stupidity. The only thing I can ask is forgiveness."
"I can't speak for the Captain but I find that rather unlikely. As head of this tribunal, I sentence you to be stripped of your rank and knocked down to Lieutenant Commander and to be confined to the brig not less than nine months."
"I understand and thank you for your leniency."
"Take him down."
Wildstar followed the Military Police out of the courtroom, ignoring Nova and Brad's sympathetic expressions. Later, that night Nova stayed with Brad who consoled his sobbing ex-girlfriend. Suddenly, the two found themselves with their faces almost touching. Nova resisted at first, not wanting to risk her marriage, but after seeing that Derek had no qualms and that he would be incarcerated for almost a year, she found her feelings for Brad returning in a flood and the two found themselves in the throes of mad passionate love. Forgive me, Derek; she thought afterwards as she and Brad lay in bed sharing a cigarette. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
THREE MONTHS LATER....NEAR CHRISTMAS OF 2207
In the brig's visiting room, Maria DeSanchez had a guard pass back to Wildstar the lovers' ring of sapphire (her birthstone) that he had given her.
"Goodbye, Derek," Maria intoned solemnly. "It's over between us."
"Maria?" Wildstar gasped. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"I met someone else. A pilot on the Gideon."
"But what about us?"
"It was just a fling, flyboy. Besides, I have a problem with being with someone who kills their cadets without any pangs of conscience."
"That was an accident!"
"Maybe. But my mind is made up. So long."
Wildstar could only watch as Maria walked stone-faced out the door as Elizabeth walked into the visitors' room
Their first meeting in the brig did not go well. He was at first cold to her because she was friends with Nova since seventh grade. However, a bond slowly formed over the next few weeks as Elizabeth could feel something developing between her and Wildstar. There was something appealing about that boyish figure in the brig. Something vulnerable. Given this fact, Elizabeth could see why Nova loved him.
"I can't believe it," said Derek to Elizabeth one day.
Derek wiped his nose on the sleeve of his drab striped prisoners' jumpsuit. "Nova never comes by to visit any longer."
"We had two meetings while I was here in the brig. Neither of them went well. She writes to me, but hasn't come by to see me in three weeks. I wonder what's going on?"
"I can't say..." lied Elizabeth. She had just spoken to Nova last night at a cafe. She knew how close she was getting to Brad, and she knew that her friend's feelings for the man she had been passionately in love with over the years were fading. However, she didn't want to tell Derek this. He didn't need the bad news, particularly because she knew that Maria had broken up with him. Also...her feelings for Derek were growing, as well. Elizabeth felt as guilty as hell for stealing a dear friend's husband (if it was that), but, she reasoned, How can you steal what is being freely given?
ONE AND A HALF MONTHS LATER
FEBRUARY 3, 2208--NOVA WILDSTAR'S BIRTHDAY
"He isn't worth it, Nova," Terri Forrester intoned solemnly while Nova dolefully ate some of her birthday cake while wiping away tears. Nova remembered sadly that every year since 2200, Derek had given her a nice birthday present, even when he had been away in space. Now, nothing came from him...not even a card, which she knew he could have bought from the commissary in the brig.
"Now, Terri," Karl put in.
"No, Karl. He is a drunk. He gets into fights and mouths off to his superior officers. He got two cadets killed. Nova doesn't need him. They're getting near their second anniversary in April, and she's had enough of him."
"So what are you suggesting?" Nova asked, though she could see the answer coming ten megameters away.
"Divorce him. You don't need that kind of hassle."
"You can't be serious," Karl interjected. "Just because of a lapse in judgement."
"Uh, dad," Nova interrupted. "Mouthing off is a lapse. Getting cadets killed is irresponsible. Derek is lucky that Priceman and Yamamani didn't charge him with murder."
Nova thought a moment. Almost two years that she and Wildstar were married and it was rocky at best because of her sterility and Wildstar getting into fights because of the jokes. Now, her husband had decided that he no longer wanted "damaged goods" so he started to sow his wild oats with a fellow nurse. Of course, she had done the same with Brad, and it felt startlingly good. Derek was special and Nova did not want to lose it although it was becoming more and more likely that the marriage was heading for collapse.
"Very well," she sighed. "I shall file."
"Good girl," Terri smiled. "You won't regret this."
"Are you sure, kiddo?" Karl queried. "After all you two went through?"
"Perhaps it is best. Derek is not behaving like the man I married."
"Couldn't you at least give him an out?"
Nova smiled at that. She decided to do just that-send Wildstar the divorce papers along with a letter proclaiming her love and that if he wanted to fight the divorce, she would back off, calling it a mistake. That way they could still work out their marriage.
ALMOST TWO MONTHS LATER, LATE MARCH 2208.
Commander Derek Wildstar looked at the papers blankly in the brig as Elizabeth watched. She hated being the bearer of bad news almost as much as she hated to be the cause of the divorce, but she lately had been seeing the prisoner and had fallen in love with him. Wildstar took the note and ripped it up and, with a cruel smile, wrote one of his own in his native Japanese.
"Are you going through with the divorce?" Elizabeth asked.
"Well," Wildstar replied. "It does seem to be what she wants."
"But, you're the perfect couple."
"Please. She can't bear kids and can't appreciate me. Her mother can't stand me. The only one I really like is the old man. It didn't even last two years. Being married to her was an utter failure."
"It is up to you, but I would really think about this. Is this what you really want?"
Yet, Wildstar had made up his mind. Elizabeth had been visiting him everyday and their friendship was starting to develop into something more. He thought, What do I need that skinny useless bimbo for anymore? Nova had her ex-high school sweetheart now and was obviously happy. He took the divorce papers, looked them over before signing and gave them and the note to Elizabeth who was feeling more and more like the bad guy in all this mess.
APRIL 3, 2208
FOUR DAYS BEFORE DEREK AND NOVA'S SECOND ANNIVERSARY.
A few days later, Nova stared at the letter with tears welling in her eyes as her parents and Brad watched.
"Nova?" Karl queried. "What's wrong?"
"It's Derek," Nova whispered. "He wants the divorce."
"Let me see," Terri took the note. "It's in Japanese. What the hell does it say?"
"Let me," Brad put in. "I studied in Japan my sophomore and junior year in college like Nova did."
"Well? What does it say?"
"I'll spare you the full letter, but in short, 'I divorce you and I don't ever want to see your face ever again, you dishonorable woman'."
"Damn you, Derek!" Nova sobbed. "I don't want this!"
"Well, he does... unfortunately."
There was a knock on the door. Terri answered it and immediately recognized the man as being a deputy bearing Court papers granting the divorce Nova had filed for on grounds of inhuman treatment. Nova read them blankly, almost robotic as if not believing it. She noticed Brad rather awkwardly kneeling down while pulling a ring out of his pocket.
"She accepts," Terri put in. "Nova doesn't need a drunken troublemaker."
"Terri--" Karl started.
"No, Karl. She needs stability. She needs a man who will take care of her. Biff is that man. Accept him, Nova."
"Very well," Nova smiled, her eyes moist. "I will marry you."
Then, she shocked Brad and her parents by turning tail and running off into her old room, slamming the door as she went.
In seclusion, Nova went through her collection of old 20th to 22nd century music and found the tape she wanted in a moment. She put on track #27 of her album and lay on her bed and wept to the strains of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds". It was quite a while before anyone could talk her out of her seclusion to meet with her new fiancée, who wondered briefly if his fiancé was mentally disturbed, and said so to Karl.
"No, she's not," said Karl. "Can't you see that she's just been through the biggest shock of her life? Give her time, Brad."
"Yes. She will go through with it," said Terri. "I will make sure of it."
"If she doesn't," said Terri. "She is no longer our daughter, no longer welcome in this house, and disinherited. Make that clear to her!"
"Right," said Brad, who shook his head in disbelief.
THREE AND A HALF MONTHS LATER
JULY 16, 2208
Freedom. How glorious that word sounded to him. The fresh air blowing through his unruly mane. The sun shining down on him. Nine months in that hole plus he had recently gotten divorced from his "love" Nova Forrester, which was fine with him. He also heard that she and Brad had gotten engaged. Fine. He thought with bitterness. Let him deal with damaged goods. Wildstar had Elizabeth. She is a very lovely and FUNCTIONING woman, he thought. She was waiting for him outside. The two had decided while Wildstar was imprisoned that they would elope, Elizabeth suggesting the Grand Star Hotel. Derek decided on a simple gray suit and his betrothed a wore simple yet elegant white dress and evening shoes, a lily adorning her hair.
"Outside for pictures, please," the photographer smiled.
The couple followed outside to where a gazebo stood waiting. It was a relatively small reception, only the couple and maybe several of their friends. The group noticed that a couple was already there taking photographs. The groom wore an expensive gray-on-black tuxedo and the bride a cream-colored skirtsuit and pumps, with a corsage on her lapel and her dirty-blonde hair adorned with white flowers.
"Derek?" It was Nova. "Well, this is a nice surprise! Let me wish you luck on your new life and give you my new e-mail address so we can keep in touch. We can be friends, right? We've been through so much together on Yamato."
"Well," Wildstar smiled acidly, venom drenching each word. "Got over me fast enough." he turned to Brad. "Hope you don't mind marrying damaged goods."
"That was uncalled for, Derek!" Elizabeth hissed. She turned to Brad and Nova. "Congratulations, you two. I hope you have a happy life."
"Thank you," Brad replied.
"We can take our pictures later," Wildstar told the photographer with them. "It is obviously occupied right now. Don't forget to fumigate it though."
"Derek!" cried Nova, who was very insulted. "Act like a human being, please? You know I'm a very clean person!"
"Nova, drop dead." he hissed. He turned his back on Nova and walked back to the hall in icy silence, ignoring her tearful face as she regarded him with a mix of sorrow and anger.
"Elizabeth," said Nova. "I just want to be his friend. What we had is in the past now. Why can't he respect that?"
"Nova, I'm not sure what so say. I'm so sorry," said Elizabeth. She gave Nova some quick consolation with a wordless hug before going back inside, leaving the now-not-so-happy-Mr. and Mrs. Bradford Maxwell.
"You were married to him?" Brad asked in disbelief.
"Unfortunately," Nova replied, her voice hollow.
"Well, that is past. You're my wife and I shall treat you with a whole lot more respect that our good Commander."
"Come on, Nova. It's our wedding for Christ's sake. Don't let anyone be a wet blanket. It's our day. Let's enjoy it. Then it's three weeks in Monte Carlo to forget it all."
"You're right." A smile fixed itself on Nova's face. A sad funereal smile. "Let's not keep the guests waiting."
She looked back one last time at Derek and Elizabeth partying in the other hall before she let Brad walk her back to her wedding reception.
TEN YEARS LATER
JULY 20, 2218
Derek Wildstar sat on the porch smiling at his eight-year-old daughter Denise. It had been ten years since he married Elizabeth and it was the happiest ten years of his life. Despite the occasional bump, it was smooth sailing and he would not have it any other way. On the other hand, as he was reading in the newspaper and enjoying a laugh, his ex-wife Nova was having problems with her own matrimonial affairs. She had just finished settling a healthy alimony from her fourth husband (counting himself) who was an arms merchant. Hubby Number two, AKA Brad or Biff, had died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage two years after his marriage to Nova and Number Three, an oil tycoon had cheated on her with his secretary. Karma is a bitch, isn't it, Nova, he thought with a mean grin as he drew a mustache, beard stubble, devil's horns, and missing teeth on her picture in the paper.
At her parents' new house in the Megalopolis that he replaced the apartment that they had sold, Nova was sitting in the living room with Karl in her peacoat. She had just completed the three-year Fleet Officer's program and was now a full Captain, living on her own. The two were sharing a cup of tea while Terri was doing some gardening in the backyard.
"I saw Elizabeth earlier today," Karl started.
"How is she?" Nova replied.
"She is doing fine. Denise is a cutie."
"Takes after her parents." A sad smile appeared on Nova's face
"I know how you feel, kiddo. I like Derek also."
"No e-mail. No calls. No letters. I didn't want Derek shut out of my life altogether. That was his choice."
"Nova?" Terri entered. "What time was your meeting with General Singleton?"
"It's almost ten of now."
Karl and Terri gasped as they looked at each other. In all her thirty-seven years since her birth in 2181, Nova had rarely, if ever, sworn. Nova bolted out of the door and flew down the steps into her waiting hovercar. GODDAMMIT! Fine example I set! she said to herself as she almost fell on her high-heeled service boots while getting into her new lime-green aircar. The shiny hovercar roared down the highway, its driver cursing every four-letter word in the English language mentally and ignoring or violating every traffic edict on the books.
Nova came off the expressway at an off-ramp and roared through a red light. Some truck driver yelled "Crazy bitch!" out the window and gave her the finger. She took a sharp left at an angle that almost knocked the aircar off its suspensor field and roared down a wide street near Earth Defense Headquarters.
Suddenly, three figures crossed in front of Nova at the intersection of Memorial Way and Knox Street. It was man about her age with his wife and nine-year-old daughter. It was DEREK! And she was careening right into them. Nova almost rammed her foot through the floorboard trying to slow the car down but it caught the woman and the girl with a sickening thud at the intersection a few meters ahead of the white stop line, sending them flying. The girl landed with her spine and neck broken; dead before she hit the ground. The woman lay in agony in a pool of blood as Nova got out, scalding tears of guilt burning her cheeks.
"Oh my GOD!" she gasped. "Elizabeth! Denise, they're hurt! Somebody get an ambulance! NOW!"
"YOU FUCKING BITCH!" Wildstar was in hysterics as he held his daughter's broken corpse. "YOU MURDERER!"
"I AM SO SORRY! IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!"
"BULLSHIT! YOU DID IT ON PURPOSE!"
"I DID NOT! I SWEAR TO GOD I DIDN'T SEE YOU, DEREK!"
"LIAR! I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL, NOVA!"
Nova tried to help Elizabeth, but Derek slapped her away. It was the first time he had ever struck Nova in his life.
The bitter, hateful argument continued with both participants sobbing, Wildstar in rage and Nova in guilt. Wildstar had to be restrained as so not to fly at Nova and murder her on the spot. Nova tearfully gave what medical assistance she could to the dying Elizabeth while the ambulance made its way to the scene.
She rode with her friend in the ambulance; Derek followed in a police car behind. The police, wisely, wouldn't let the former couple ride together in the ambulance. So it was that Elizabeth Wildstar died with Captain Nova Forrester holding her hand.
Later, Wildstar stormed to the police station, pressing charges against his ex, but it never went to trial. The funeral was the following day and matters were awkward when Nova showed to express her condolences and barely anyone from Yamato spoke to her. Derek thanked her, but he was like a robot, refusing to look at her as they shook hands near his daughter's closed casket. Nova also laid a flower on Elizabeth's folded hands in her casket. As she looked down at her friend's body, and noticed that Derek had his back turned to her, whatever hope Nova had of reconciliation went out the window.