Concept by Neil Burns
Story written by Neil Burns with assistance from Frederick P. "Freddo" Kopetz
STAR BLAZERS/YAMATO is owned by Leiji Matsumoto and Voyager Entertainment, et al and is (c) 2002 by these concerns.
Earth was at peace.
Derek Wildstar, still a Captain, was now teaching at the Earth Defense Space Naval War College. He was reiterating to new officers the lessons that they had learned in all of the battles they had fought, especially the recent hell of the Second Bolar War, in which almost two hundred thousand Terran civilians on Earth and her colony worlds had died.
Commodore Nova Wildstar had completed medical school, and she was now practicing out of the late Dr. Sane's old office in Central Hospital. She wore glasses now, but still looked ravishing at the age of forty-five. She and Derek were both respected figures in interstellar affairs, even having offered testimony to Bolar war crimes in the recent war at the joint Terran-Gamilon tribunal on Desslok's homeworld.
Nova had suffered another sadness in the past year when her mother Terri had unexpectedly died of cancer at the age of sixty-nine. The good-byes had been tearful, with Terri even hugging Captain Derek Wildstar and asking his forgiveness for the way she had treated him in the past. The bitter past...when he had been acting like a bitter man when Nova had been unable to conceive children and he had been getting into brawls and other trouble because of it. That terrible year was now only a footnote in their history. Nova was personally in charge of her mother's chemotherapy regimen, and had been able to get little Alex and Starsha, their children, in to see their grandmother before she became too incoherent to speak to anyone any longer.
Terri died on a windy, rainy night in early June with Derek, Nova, two nurses, Karl, and their children at their bedside.
Little Starsha looked on with fear and sadness as her mother, aware that the EKG was flatlining on and off, still sat with her now white-haired grandmother, listening to the final heartbeats through her stethoscope. Even though she was only sixty-nine, Terri looked to be eighty-five...such were the ravages of the disease that had wound through her fragile body.
"Mommy, you look very sad," said Starsha. "What's wrong?"
"My mommy's sick and I can't do anything else to fix her," said Nova in a husky voice.
"Nova, are you sure the kids should see this? Aren't they...too young?" whispered Derek in his wife's ear.
Nova tearfully nodded. "They have a right to say goodbye, Derek. Would we serve them well if we lie to them?"
"Daddy, isn't it wrong to lie?" said little Alex.
"Where's grandma going again?" asked Alex as Karl Forrester wept.
"Heaven," said Derek. "We also call it The Other Side. Her body will stay here and sleep because it's too sick and damaged for grandma to be with us any longer," said Derek as tears ran down his cheeks while he tried to console Nova. "She'll leave and go on to a place where she can be at rest without her body. She'll see her friends there, and God."
"Derek," whispered Nova. "Get them to hush, please. Her heartbeat's fading."
Derek nodded, looking at the children and raising a finger to his lips. The tousle-haired little boy with brown hair in a little red and white Star Force style t-shirt, denim shorts and bright red sneakers and the little blond girl in a white sundress and sandals immediately quieted down. They're such obedient children, said Derek to himself. Maybe they know how much we value them because Nova couldn't have them until a few years ago. Derek hugged his wife, holding her free hand as Nova's white medical boot tapped out the last heartbeats on the polished hospital room floor. Karl Forrester wiped his tears and looked on with a resigned expression. Nova and the other doctors had told him after the chemo had failed late last year that it was only a matter of time now. It was still heartbreaking to watch, though...the sad spectacle of the daughter ushering her own mother out of this world.
Finally, Nova's tapping boot went quiet. Everything stopped as Nova listened quietly through the stethoscope. The EKG began to bleep as the line of Terri's heartbeat was now flat.
A nurse turned it off.
Nova looked up with tears in her eyes. "Nurse Dalland, the time of death was eleven hundred on the nose. The date is June 2, 2225. Please give me the certificate to sign."
Nova stepped away from the still body after tenderly closing her mother's eyes to sign the certificate while Derek consoled their children. When she was done, she covered her mother's still body with a sheet and hugged both her bereaved father and her little immediate family.
Karl ran up to his wife. He pulled away the sheet and held her, crying like mad. "Forty-nine years! Forty-nine years together with your mother, Nova! I can't take this! I can't!"
He began to cry, comforted first by Captain Wildstar. Derek had always been like a son to him, the only son-in-law out of Nova's five marriages that he had truly liked. He had thought that Nova's second husband Brad was an okay person, but was as bland as oatmeal compared to Derek. He had sometimes shuddered a little, thinking that if Brad had lived, his daughter might have become nothing more than a housewife watching the soap operas. Brad had made no secret to him of the fact that he wanted Nova to resign her EDF commission and not re-enlist when her term ran out after they gotten married. His premature death had meant that the issue had never had to be tested. Nova had always thought that she could get Biff to see things her way so she could pursue her career.
"Dad, I'll be right back," said Nova. "Derek, can you watch him? I'll take the kids for a minute," she sniffed.
"Sure." Derek knew what Nova needed to do. As a doctor and surgical department administrator here at Central Hospital, Nova couldn't display too much emotion out here on the floor. She needed to find a quiet place where she could let out her grief and console the children. "I'll...meet you in the lounge in about two minutes, honey."
"Thanks," said Nova as she suppressed a sniff. "I love you."
After Karl wept over Terri's body for a while the nurses disconnected the instruments, he stood back and held Derek's hand. "Treasure Nova as much as you can while you've got her," sobbed Karl. "Except for the hair color, when your mother was young, she looked just like her daughter. She even wore her hair the same way when she had Nova. Daughter and mother are the spitting image of each other. They even have a few of the same mannerisms, and the same sort of high intelligence. Terri was a pain at times, God forgive me, but I'm gonna miss her."
"I know," said Derek. "I liked her cookies. The pumpkin juice she made up...even the scarf she knitted for me after she and I reconciled. And Nova loved the help she gave with the kids when they were babies. C'mon, Karl. We have to leave her."
"Goodbye, Terri," sobbed Karl as he kissed the quiet face again. "I'll...I'll see you again at the funeral home, I guess."
When they got into the waiting lounge, Nova was on a couch screaming her sobs into a cushion while the children consoled her with hugs.
"Mommy, gramma's in heaven now," said Alex with a hitch in his voice. "You said that."
"I miss her so much," sobbed Nova. "And I wish I could have done more for her. More!"
"Mommy, please don't cry so hard," sniffed Starsha. "It might make you sick. I don't like it when you're sick, mommy."
"Thank you, Starsha," sniffed Nova as Derek hugged her, too. "Thank you for taking care of a mommy who's no good as a doctor."
"Karl," asked Derek after they held each other for a while as Nova keened, "could you please take the kids out for a little while. I need some time alone with Nova."
"Sure," said Karl. "C'mon, kids."
"Daddy, please make mommy better like you always do when she's sad," pleaded Alex. "You're such a good daddy and she's a good mommy. I don't like seeing her cry like that."
"I will. Say bye to the kids, mommy," he said in Nova's ear.
"Bye, Starsha, bye Alex," said Nova in a husky voice. "It's okay to be sad today. Be good for grandpa and make him feel a little better if you can."
"We will," said Starsha with all of the conviction of an innocent child. "We'll tell him daddy's stupid knock-knock jokes."
When Derek and Nova were alone, Nova said to Derek. "Why is it that everything I touch dies?"
"Nova...every doctor loses patients."
"But my own mother?"
"Nova, she had a very virulent and painful form of bone cancer. When they found it, even you said that treating her with chemo and radiation was a crapshoot at best. The dice just...didn't come up as a seven this time, and God wanted her home."
"I wish God would have waited until the children grew up a bit more," said Nova. "Sixty-nine years is too young for someone to die at in peacetime in these times, when we can make people live to be a hundred...thanks to what we learned from our allies in space. And why couldn't I have just stepped on that damn brake a bit harder many years ago? I took two innocent lives for the most stupid reason...being late to a meeting. No wonder you hated me for ten years."
"Nova, don't blame yourself over that. I forgive you."
"Knowing them, Elizabeth, Denise, and my mom are probably talking about what a bitch I am right now," sobbed Nova. "And they're right. I was not a good person."
"Nova, neither was I for a while. I was a drunk who treated you like crap and I know it. It's a miracle you forgave me."
"It's a miracle you forgave me," said Nova. "I don't deserve you. You're...so kind now that you've sown your wild oats. And our children adore you."
"They adore you, too, Nova dearest. I don't know what to tell them when you get depressed about the accident and blame yourself."
"Tell them the truth. Their mommy killed their half-sister!"
Nova began to wail again. All Derek could do was hold her.
"Ashes to ashes...dust to dust..." said the priest a few days later while standing over the very pale green casket containing the body of Terri Forrester. "We now commit our sister, safe in the care of Christ our Lord, unto the Earth. I ask those present to join me in saying the "Our Father"
The day was pleasant and sunny at the cemetery, but Nova's heart was as black as a cloud. She wore a black dress, stockings and pumps with black prescription sunglasses to match her mood. Derek stood beside her, wearing a plain grey civilian suit with a white and red tie. Alex wore a little suit with shorts, while Starsha wore a blue frilly dress. Karl stood nearby in a black suit near Terri's youngest surviving sister, Louise.
As Nova held Derek's hand and prayed, "...and deliver us from evil..." she felt a tap on her shoulder.
She turned and her heart dropped a little when she realized that Dan Wordsworth was standing behind her in sunglasses and an expensive pinstriped suit. Dan was her ex-husband after Brad, who had been her second husband. Nova's other two husbands after Brad had truly been duds. She had married an oil tycoon named Dan Wordsworth in 2211. Nova had had a mansion to live in with a pool, beautiful grounds, and maids and other servants. Wordsworth had said he would treat her like a princess.
"Hi, how's the princess?" asked Dan.
Nova smiled a wan smile. She was on distant but friendly terms with Dan, even though his third and current wife, Danielle detested Nova.
"The princess is trying to pray, Dan," whispered Nova.
"I liked your mother," said Dan, who then went silent as the prayer ended. Beside him stood Danielle, who was silent. She wore an ivory-white suit to match her platinum-blonde hair, along with ridiculously strappy heels that sunk into the grass. "Would you and Derek like to come to Park Fork later tonight?" He was referring to his mansion. "I don't think our good Captain has ever seen it."
"Dan...I'm not sure this is a good time," said Nova.
"C'mon," said the mustachioed, distinguished-looking grey-haired tycoon who was a good fifteen years older than Nova and Derek. "Heck, I might even let you fly the Jetstream again."
Nova huffed to herself. She and Derek knew about Wordsworth's private plane. When she had been married to Dan, Nova herself had taken to piloting his small private jet on weekends when she had gotten bored. It amused Dan to think that Nova had such a "middle-class" skill, as he put it.
Derek knew about the plane because, once, when he was on his "I hate you" trip, Nova had (as he had put it at the time) actually had the sheer nerve to fly up alongside his Cosmo Zero at one point back then in 2213. Wildstar had been shocked to hear the pilot of the plane identifying herself and saying hello over the radio. Nova's motive was simply to chat over the comlink as they both approached the Tokyo Megalopolis. It was one of her attempts at being friends; she knew damn well he was married to Elizabeth at the time and she had no interest in trying to actually revive their romance then (even though her heart longed for it). Derek's response, with all the "charm" he had in those dark days, had been to tell Nova that he hoped she crashed the jet like she did on Beemira in 2200 so she could swim out of a swamp and ruin her dress if she lived. She wished him well and cut off the comlink while hitting the dashboard of the plane in frustration. Nova wasn't sure she if she ever wanted to see the damn plane again, let alone fly it.
"C'mon," said Dan. "It might be worth it for fun."
Nova looked at Derek. They had planned to leave the kids with Karl and Louise that night anyway so they could go out and hit some nightclubs and get a little bit of a respite from all of the sadness they had been thorough lately. He nodded, and Nova said. "All right. But we won't be there for more than an hour, Dan."
"Good. I take it you remember the address."
That night, a black sports aircar drove along a highway on the outskirts of the Megalopolis. It was Nova's, with just enough room for two adults in front and the two kids in the back seat. Nova wore party clothes, that is, a glittery royal blue minidress that exposed her shoulders, with matching shoes, with her hair done up in a puff and contact lenses on instead of glasses. Derek was in his EDF blues and Captain's peacoat and polished brown boots, and he looked both young, sexy and distinguished to his wife, who occasionally turned down the sound system to touch Derek and whisper endearments as she drove. At a long light, she put the car into "park" momentarily so she could slip her backless evening sandal off to play footsie with him for a moment. The young-looking doctor drove herself and Derek up to the gates of Park Fork in an isolated region of the Megalopolis. The Dark Nebulans' bomb had once landed not far from here, so Nova obviously knew the topography quite well.
"You used to live here?" said Derek.
"This place is beautiful," he teased. "You are nuts."
"It was full of corruption, I was bored, and you weren't there," said Nova. "Believe me, the place was hell." She used the cardkey that Dan had given her before they parted at the cemetery to open the gate. They drove in, with Nova manuevering their black 2225 Mitsubishi Starlet aircar deftly around the huge curved driveway to stop where a robot valet and a human valet in a waistcoat waited.
Nova stepped out of the car after Derek shushed away the valet and helped Nova out.
"Hello, Mistress," said the robot formally with a bow in a soft, cultured electronic voice. "It's good to see you back again, milady."
"Thank you, RP-25," said Nova softly.
"Would you consider purchasing me?" asked the robot. "You really were very good conversation. You were the only one around here who treated me like a person."
"Yeah, and you were a better person than most of the people around here," smiled Nova. The human servant cleared his throat. "Your keys, please, milady. He needs to park the car," he said in a very condescending voice. "The Master and current Mistress await you inside with their guests. Is this military man invited?"
"Oh, yes, he's my famous husband," said Nova. "Meet Captain Derek Wildstar, Worthington. He's saved Earth many times and he is a true hero."
"Ah," said Worthington as he shook Wildstar's hand. "The man she's so smitten with that she had to go two rounds with you, eh, old bean? Tell me, how long do you think it'll last?"
"The rest of our lives," said Derek while Nova beamed at him.
"Ah, yes," he said as Nova went to make sure that RP-25 parked their car properly. While she was occupied, Worthington whispered to Wildstar, "Are you aware she's unbalanced, sir?"
"The Master always had to keep her entertained. Her whims were both bizarre and strange," said Worthington with a smile. "Beautiful, but as emotional as a fishwife. Knows nothing about keeping a stiff upper lip."
"Do you always insult your guests?" snapped Derek.
"My pardon," said Worthington as he opened the door of the mansion for them. Nova came up beside Derek a moment later.
"Your wrap, lady? Did you leave it in your car?"
"I don't have one tonight," said Nova. "It's hot out. That's why I'm not wearing stockings, either."
"A pity. Danielle always said that a wrap would complement your shoulders."
"I don't take Danielle's advice any longer," said Nova. "Derek, let's go in."
Nodding curtly to the butler, Derek walked Nova down a long entrance hall that looked like something out of a fairy-tale palace.
"What was it like living here again?"
"Lonely. Dan was never here most of the time, and all of those servants always looked down upon me."
"What was it like?"
Nova paused to lean against a small stone fountain in the middle of the hall. "Well, he was never there half the time when I was home from my EDF duties at Headquarters. I never liked the overly-opulent surroundings, I think you can see why."
"Where did you hang out, then? The master bedroom reading your novels?"
"No. Even that was a tomb. The bed was big, cold, and usually empty and without passion. Did I ever tell you he only slept with me four times in our marriage? I spent most of my time in this mansion in a small office I had fitted with a little bed and fridge for myself, almost like a cabin on a warship. That's why the servants think I'm crazy. Except for the nice robot. I just don't like conspicuous consumption. It's such a waste."
"What else did they think of you?"
"Well, they bought me these designer clothes from America. I never wore half of the designer clothes he had his personal planner buy for me. I preferred to make my own clothing choices, largely from French or Japanese fashions.'
"Who was this planner?"
"The current Mrs. Wordsworth. Then, she was named Danielle Cortland, and she was both his secretary and my personal planner. She insisted upon buying me things from Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Texas, tacky stuff. I like classic, Derek. Leather miniskirts and fake fur coats and wraps aren't my thing at all."
"Oh, God, I could just picture you dressed like that," chuckled Derek. "You must've looked stupid."
"I did," said Nova sadly. "I don't know what I saw in him at all. I was very depressed when I met him at a ball and he danced with me. He worshipped the ground I walked on, but...He wanted me around as an ornament, not a person. Look at that fountain, Derek. I'll give you an example."
"Okay...there's statues of mermaids there...sea nymphs, little naked cherubs with water squirting out of them...and who's that in the center lying there with the water pitcher? God, she looks familiar," said Derek with a wink. "She looks adorable like that in her birthday suit. Kinda looks like you."
"Yeah, that is me," grumbled Nova. "See the dimple in her hip?"
"I never knew you posed...nude for him like that," said Derek with a raised eyebrow.
"I did, for his gay male portrait painter. Dan said that the portrait he did of me like that would never leave our bedroom, like I'm sure you never showed anyone the pictures you took of me like that on our first honeymoon."
"I never did. I threw them away after we split, sadly. But the pictures of honeymoon #2 make up for those."
"They sure would," said Nova with a deeper blush. "That portrait...it was supposed to be a first-anniversary present and kept confidential. I got back from a trip and instead found reproductions of me in the raw all over the mansion in various places. I asked him to put them away or change the face...and he refused. That's one of the reasons why we split up."
"What's the other reason, again?"
"He was in Danielle's bed more than in our bed. Like five times a week more. When I found out about Dan's cheating...with Danielle, of all people... I was relieved to file for divorce, and so was Dad. Poor Mom thought I was throwing away the best life I had ever had and had actually considered having me committed for a short time."
"You see why I don't like this place much. Around here...I'm just part of the furniture."
They went inside, listening to a chamber orchestra playing all around them. The dance floor was filled with couples doing the waltz. Derek took Nova by the hand and they waltzed around passionately for a while, with Derek carefully avoiding Nova's feet as she gracefully danced around in her heels. They looked both cute and passionate, but most of the couples ignored them. A few around the ballroom tables noticed them, though, and made muttered comments.
"That's the former Mrs. Worthington?"
"Cute dress, but too short. Not the current thing from Dallas."
"Her shoes are tacky."
"Where'd she get the military officer from?"
"That's Derek Wildstar."
"Oh, is that him? He looks like he combs his hair with an eggbeater."
"Most unassuming bunch."
"She has a simple charm."
"I'd stress the simple part, Kazuko."
Nova and Derek had no idea what the laughter was about when they got off the dance floor and the comments from the idle rich stopped.
"Hor' d' eourves?" asked a servant robot who carried a tray.
:Thanks," said Derek. He and Nova took some tiny hot dogs and sushi, munching at them with their toothpicks.
"Where's Dan?" said Derek.
"Occupied, as usual," said Nova.
Nova was proved wrong when Dan and Danielle showed up. Dan wore a tux now, and Danielle wore a long, showy silver sheath and very expensive heels with glittery things all over them.
"Oh...they're here," said Dan. "Hi, Nova. Happy?"
Nova smiled and spread out her hands in an "I don't know" gesture.
"Where'd you get the mini?" asked Danielle. "It's so cute."
"I made it," said Nova. "It took a while, but I hope you like it."
"The halter top looks a bit silly, it's a bit short for formal, and your sandals aren't showy enough. Only four straps? You have to have at least eight, like mine," she said, holding out her foot for a minute. "Have some sense of style, would you? And who did your pedicure? Mine cost two hundred credits."
"I was at a funeral this morning," said Nova. "Derek did my nails for me before we went out. He's usually the only man I let play with my hands and feet."
"How romantic," said Danielle with a little sneer. "Daniel here pays you good alimony money and you live like a commoner. Maybe you don't need the money any more?"
"Danielle," said Dan. "She's a friend. I intend to live up to our agreement."
"Thank you," said Nova.
"Like to dance, once, for old time's sake, Nova?"
Nova looked around, until Derek whispered in her ear, "Humor him. One dance, then off we go."
Nova nodded and went off with Dan. As they danced (with Nova getting her toes stepped on three times, forgetting that Dan was a terrible dancer) Dan murmured. "I never got over you. I heard you complaining to Derek about the fountain."
"How would you know that?"
"Remember, the place is bugged for security reasons. You know how many kidnapping threats we had to live with. And most of the servants were not trustworthy. They still are not."
"Because you treat them horribly, Dan? I drew the line that one time you asked me to hit one of your Hispanic maids with a stick when she didn't do the bed right. I don't strike anyone unless I'm in physical danger or out of control of myself."
"It's common enough to beat the lower classes. That's the only thing certain ethnic types listen to...physical force."
"You live here in Japan and you have to berate people for where they come from? This has been one of the world's centers ever since 2200."
"Wilful child...maybe I should have used the stick on you, once," laughed Dan. "We also understand you're a...uh...terrible driver? With a taste for playing bumper cars with people? So decadent."
Nova bit her lip hard. "Dan, I don't want to dance with you any more. It's clear you've had far too much to drink."
"Come by again, sometime," said Dan as Nova gathered up her clutch bag and grabbed Derek by the arm.
"Thanks, but no thanks," said Nova. "Derek, let's go. That puts closure to this chapter of my life."
Confused, Derek let his wife lead him out through a back passage she obviously knew about from having lived in this mansion. Behind them, the snooty laughter could be heard again.
"What the hell are they saying?" said Derek. "If I was younger, a few heads would be rolling."
"It's not worth it, honey," said Nova.
"I agree with ya a hundred percent. Let's get our car."
As they waited outside, a long-haired man in a black suit came up, smiling in their direction before he began to talk with some girl in a black leather minidress. "Oh, no," whispered Nova as she cuddled up to Derek. Let's go somewhere else to wait for the robot valet?"
"Who's he?" asked Derek.
"Someone I want to see even less than Dan right now, " said Nova as she clutched Derek, kicked off her heels, and ran down the driveway to underneath a maple tree. "That's Mick Contrail of Contrail Enterprises. He was a cousin of Flash's dad and he inherited the business. He was also...my last husband before you. Flash was nice..."
"Wasn't Flash the pilot who died back when we had the Sun Crisis?" said Derek.
"I hope he's still with Queen Guardiana off on The Other Side."
"I'm sure he still is. This man, though...he's going the other way when he dies. I'm sure of it."
"I met Mick at a party." said Nova as she leaned against the tree, putting her shoes back on. "He was so charming and cool that he swept me off my feet. I married him after a whirlwind romance. Then, on the honeymoon, he tried to beat me up as part of his...intimacy."
"What?" said Derek. "Nova, that's sick."
"Mick is a very sick man," whispered Nova. "He has two sides, a charming side, and an evil side, and he's richer than Dan is. I'm a good counselor, and can usually read people pretty well, but he completely conned even me."
"What happened to you on the...wedding night?"
"He hit me while we were coupled," whispered Nova. "I got a black eye and a broken finger before I could react. It's not easy to fight a man when you're in nothing but a black negligée on his estate. I ran from him, got up into a treehouse, and tried to make a weapon out of a tree branch. When he went after me, I clouted him, got some clothes and uniforms, and ran the hell out of the estate with my new green car and some of my books and pictures. I...I was in such a rush to get out of there that I drove away in...only my underpants. Luckily...it was the middle of the night."
"My God," said Derek. "Did you ever get yourself...decent?"
"I stopped at an isolated picnic area a few kilometers down the road to get dressed, and then I went back to the EDF Bachelor Officers' Quarters, showing up there in just a t-shirt, shorty coveralls, and thongs. Got thing I had my ID card, or I wouldn't have been able to check into the BOQ. There, I filed for divorce from there on grounds of physical cruelty."
Derek felt sickened at this, and, inside, he asked God to forgive him for ever wishing Nova would end up with someone abusive. It seemed she had, but the facts were never known. "How come this never got into the press?" said Derek. "If it had...even with the way I felt about you, I would've sought you out and helped you. It was right before Elizabeth was killed, but nothing was ever out about it."
"He paid off the press to hush up the true reasons for the divorce, Derek," said Nova as their car came out, driven by the valet. "Let's get in. I'll talk as we drive. You drive. I'm too upset, and I want to get into this car fast before he sees me."
Derek and Nova made their escape in their car before Mick saw them. They continued to talk as Derek drove.
"What about the divorce?"
"He also countersued me for mental cruelty and physical abuse. He said I hurt him in his...sex dungeon and threw me out. "
"Bullshit," said Derek. "That's not you. I know that now. Why were you at the BOQ again? I thought you had your own house...you know, our place now."
"In the countersuit, all of my assets were frozen except my EDF salary and I couldn't even get back into my own house for a bit. I had bill collectors after my butt trying to meet the bills I ran up on a Captain's salary again. I lived on instant ramen soup and macaroni and cheese for a short while before the Court ruled on the divorce while the EDF had my meal ticket at the base wrapped up in bureaucracy. When they decided on the divorce and the alimony, he appealed. That held up my money...the press reported I won my alimony but I didn't see it for six months afterwards. I didn't even tell my parents, but I was on the verge of having my green car repossessed when I was rushing to the meeting that day."
"Oh, shit!" said Derek. "Nova, how come you never told me this?"
"The only time we exchanged civil words with one another...of a sort...was at the funeral. After what had happened, I couldn't bring myself to ask you to help me."
"I would have helped you," said Derek. "Had I known. Had I been...willing to get past my anger and listen. No wonder you looked so upset that day. You really were upset...over so much. Oh, God, Nova...I'm sorry to hear you were both physically and mentally suffering then."
"And hungry. I spent all my pay that week on the outfit I wore to the funeral so I'd look respectable. Luckily, I had some ramen laid in."
"Nova...how can you forgive me for being so vicious?" asked Derek. "If I hadn't been such an angry prick, I would have taken you right home with me that night and at least given you a decent meal, clothes, and a decent place to live in my house. Who helped you out of this?"
"I finally confessed everything to my father and Sandor. Sandor was the only one from Yamato who would help me. At first, everyone else thought...I had murdered Elizabeth and Denise. I even had Homer hang up on me when I called him up to ask for help. Dr. Sane wouldn't speak to me for three months until the truth came out and I was cleared. My Dad and Stephen Sandor saved my butt. They helped me, and they got my alimony money and assets unfrozen. That's why I have our house now. That's the only thing that kept me in that house. I had all that money in the bank, but...could not touch it."
"I'm so sorry for you," said Derek, who felt like crap himself, now. "There you were, suffering like that, and I just made rude comments and refused to talk to you in a civil fashion. And, Sandor must have been worried. Steve called me up not long after the funeral, said he had seen you, and said he had to meet with me urgently about something regarding you. He kind of hinted that you were in troubles of some kind other than the accident. I refused to speak to him about you, of course. But, later on, I sat down with your dad one night at a bar. We talked a bit about you...not that I wanted to hear, but he never told me about your financial problems or let me know you needed that much help. Why?"
"I swore Dad to secrecy about that. I was hoping to get through to you through Steve. But, when that didn't work, I asked my dad again. By the time you saw him again, the assets had been unfrozen and the appeal settled. I'm so sorry about that divorce. If I hadn't listened to my mother...maybe none of this would have ever happened."
"Thanks," said Derek. "And to reassure you, I forgive you again for the accident and everything else. Do you forgive me, Nova?"
Nova nodded. "I did a long time ago. And now our life will be a lot better. We have our kids, I have you, you have me. I wish Elizabeth would forgive me, though. And little Denise. Then, and only then can I have closure."
"I guess you don't want to hit the clubs tonight after all."
"No. I just want to go home, get the kids, and watch TV with all of you around me and fall asleep in a chair in my old clothes and have you carry me to bed."
"That sounds like a plan. I love you."
"I love you, too, Derek."
TWO MONTHS LATER, IN AUGUST OF 2225...
It was a warm afternoon and Nova was sitting on the porch swing watching Derek play with the children. Her slender dancer's frame was adorned with a tanktop and sweatpants. Her bare feet casually rested on the balcony as she puffed on a Marlboro. Thanks a lot, Mark. I always wanted to start smoking. Suddenly, she felt a presence next to her and turned, seeing Elizabeth Wildstar...or her ghost?.
"Elizabeth," Nova mused.
"Hi, girlfriend," the deceased Mrs. Wildstar smiled.
"What are you doing here?"
"Just wanting to see how things are going. And to let you know that Denise and I forgive you for the accident."
Nova reached out a hand and found the apparition solid. The Cutey Honey lookalike with reddish-blond hair smiled as she gave the Commodore a friendly kiss and pat on the cheek.
"I just want to say thank you," Nova smiled, "for not holding the accident against me. That means a lot."
"Hon," Elizabeth smiled wickedly. "You're talking to someone who wrote the book on shitty driving. Who am I to judge. I must have violated every law in existence."
"Hell, no. I had over 100 grand in unpaid tickets and must have smashed more cars than I could count."
"Well, that makes me feel a lot better."
Elizabeth chuckled as she watched Derek play with Alex and Starsha. A tear ran down her cheek as she thought about the short time she did the same with Denise.
Nova noticed this and put a comforting arm around her.
"I miss him," Elizabeth said softly.
"He misses you as well," Nova replied.
"I'm glad he has someone like you. You do make a perfect couple."
"That's what Mark says."
"I met Mr. Venture. Quite a character."
"That he is. He and Derek had known each other from the Academy."
"I understand you were sterile for a while."
"Yes. Starsha neglected to say that the Cosmo-DNA would have an effect on the reproductive system, but it was cured."
Elizabeth rose to her feet and embraced Nova who gladly accepted.
"I gotta go," she said. "The Other Side is waiting. Just wanted to come and personally say that I don't hold your driving against you at all."
"Thank you," Nova replied. "It's nice to feel closure at last."
"Say hi to Derek for me. Look forward to see you when you come to the Other Side."
"We'll be looking for you."
Elizabeth smiled as she vanished. Nova stood for a moment, regarding her man and children in loving silence. She then descended the stairs to join them.